The Old Quarter as well called Pho Co Ha Noi with is 36 streets has a long history and unique and distinctive character of tradition, culture and modern influence. Looking at the architectural structures, you can already notice at many places that the authenticity of the area is changing dramatically.
As I had planned a photo walk with two different photogroups her in Hanoi it came to my mind to write a little bit more about this exeptional part of the city.
The original structure of shop houses is a wooden frame with steep beams. The oldest pattern is found at 47 Hang Bac, having low-rise upper floors, down-curved ridge beams and they all have a narrow width and a tiled roof which nowadays is topped with a metal to prevent rain leaking.
And thee are the more modernized reinforced concrete structures built in the colonial period, estimated in 1940s or 50s, accommodating spacious void and Art Deco style.
Besides shop houses there are as well communal buildings like Bach Ma temple, Hoi Quan Quang Dong Chinese congregational hall, Cantonese school, and Quan Cong Mieu temple. All of them except Bach Ma Temple once belonged to the Chinese community as Hang Buom flourished as China Town of Hanoi.
Some, like Bach Ma temple is already restored others are still under construction. Each of them is a unique example and characterizes the original urban landscape. Newer houses aren't as deep as the old ones which a really going a wide into the depth to the back.
The street names nowadays still reflect the specialization in former times, although few of them have remained exclusively for their original craft and commerce. The area is famous for its small artisans and merchants, including many silk shops.
You can find different local cuisine specialties as well as clubs and bars for the night active traveler. A night market (near the old Đồng Xuân market) in the heart of the Quarter opens for business every Friday, Saturday, and Sunday evening with a variety of clothing, souvenirs and food.
Hectic, noisy, chaotic, bizarre, wild and different than any other Asian city and you need much more adjectives to describe a place like this. It is actually nearly impossible to describe Hanoi's oldest district. Making a plan where exactly to go in the Old Quarter is possible but just exploring the weaving and winding streets depending on your mood is much better.
It is like one of the old Zen words of wisdom. No destination. No pre-planned route. Just left, right, or straight ahead.
The way is the goal.
There is nearly no quiet or remote road without heavy traffic. The scooters, cars, bikes and people are fascinating to watch. It is incredible how the traffic is going on and on even in the narrowest alleys.
And not only the streets are busy as well the sometimes not existent sidewalks if you can notice them under the heavily use as parking lot for scooters.
Hanoi is hot and humid if you are not visiting in the time from November to April be prepared to sweat a lot. But you can replenish with pho (soup) bier at a Bia Hoi and a lot of different other things. Have fun!
more images can be found here