Hanoi Old Quarter is called as “36 streets” or “36 streets and guilds” because each street is recognized with its own commercial activity and product. The Hanoi Old Quarter was formed in the fifteenth century, each street took a commercial product: drums, silk, hat, rattan, etc.. Although some streets now have opened up to other occupations, Hanoi Old Town still keep its ancient beauty.
The houses are seen today carrying the architecture of the nineteenth century. Typical house of this period: width of 2 to 3 meters and a depth of ten meters. For this reason they are also called the “tube houses.”
The most fantastic corner of Hanoi is the Old Quarter, the heart of ancient Thang Long Capital. The quarter is bordered by Hang Dau street to the north, Hang Gai-Hang Bong-Cau Go streets to the south, Tran Quang Khai-Tran Nhat Duat streets to the west and Phung Hung street to the east. It was founded more than one thousand years ago and became the country’s most vibrant commercial centre from Ly Kingdom (1010-1225) through Le Kingdom (1428-1788). This period, Hanoian people still used Red River waterway as the main traffic to transport and exchange goods with the outside.
Locals and foreign merchants used to call this area the “36 guilds and streets” or “pho co” in Vietnamese, as there were around 36 streets in the area, each selling one kind of goods, ranging from silk, basket, mat, silver to sail. The quarter is now an important historical site with numerous old houses, one attached to another. Most of them are kept in original structure with small frontages and very long chambers inside. Interestingly, they have no windows due to ancient rule that inhabitants are forbidden to see their King passing by. Other houses have been rebuilt and converted into restaurants or new shops.
It is fantastic to wander around all these buzzing streets to explore Hanoi culture, to enjoy Hanoi specialties, to practice some bargaining and even to get lost. Some places you should not miss are O Quan Chuong (the Old Citadel Gate at the end of Hang Chieu St), Hanoi Old House (a little museum at 87 Ma May St), Communal House (38 Hang Dao St), Ho Chi Minh Commemorative House (48 Hang Ngang St) and the Ceramics Road with its impressive mosaic mural along the Red River.
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