There is nothing like walking to get the feel of a country. A fine landscape is like a piece of music; it must be taken at the right tempo. – Paul Scott Mowrer
After a morning walk around Hoan Kiem Lake and a bowl of delicious “pho bo” (beef noodle soup), now let’s take a walk together in the Old Quarter of Hanoi, which celebrated its millennial anniversary in 2010. It embodies a characteristic charm of Asian cities: old houses, narrow streets, buzzy traffic, food stalls and people doing their daily activities on the street.
The Old Quarter, which is located north of the Hoan Kiem Lake, is the historic heart of the city. It is best explored on foot. Crossing the streets can be head-spinning for some due to chaotic traffic, and walking on pavements can be overwhelming because of parked motorbikes and disorderly stalls. But as soon as you get used to it and forget about the buzz and noise, you will be fascinated by the charm of Vietnamese culture around you.
Lined with old houses, shops and temples, the streets in the Old Quarter of Hanoi are a great place to observe the local life. You will see people chatting leisurely with their friends and neighbors on the street, sitting on small plastic stools and enjoying food at cooking stalls on the pavements.
For many people, who visited the charming old district of Hanoi, one of the sights that shall remain in their memory is that of Vietnamese street vendors wearing conical hats (“non la”), who selling fruits, vegetables and flowers on their bicycles.
Like in many Asian cities, streets in the Old Quarter of Hanoi do not serve only for walking for the public. But local residents also use them as working space. Fruit and vegetable stalls or even barber shops are set up at many corners on the street.
A walk in the Old Quarter of Hanoi may take an hour or even a whole day, depending on your pace. If you have time, allow yourself to get lost in the labyrinth of this centuries-old district. It will provide you a glimpse of Vietnamese culture, which comes in all senses: sight, sound, taste and smell. Simply unforgettable!