Ooh- Ah! Exploring The Old And New Of Hanoi Streets

“I’ve been living in Hanoi so long that I ‘forgot’ to be curious about this city”, Đại Hoa said as she walked. “I want to try exploring Hanoi through the eyes of a tourist, to see what I would find”. Đại Hoa, aged 39, is one of the participants in the city walk presented by Friends of Vietnam Heritage (FVH) on November 14.


Basked in the gentle sunshine and chilly winds as the season begins, the group excitedly strolled along the central streets of Hanoi with the familiar guide, FVH Vice Chairwoman Stella Ciorra. The itinerary started from Hanoi Opera House, to Tràng Tiền, Hàng Khay, then Bà Triệu, Hàm Long, taking a turn at Hàng Bài and ending at Tràng Tiền. A trip back in time, tracing memories instilled along the century-old streets, alleyways, buildings and structures.


The journey was filled with surprised exclamations every time the group discovered something “new”: the site of Hanoi Opera House was once a swamp, which is why underneath the building are thousands of bamboo stakes; the establishment of the first cinemas in Hanoi… The “secret” of a village nestled deep inside Alley 29 on Hàng Khay street is probably the most surprising discovery for the group.


Many participants said they walked around Hoàn Kiếm Lake so many times and had no idea this alley existed. “Vũ Thạch Village is the most amazing discovery for me today, I can’t imagine there’s a whole village inside, a peaceful place as such right in the centre of the city”, Đại Hoa excitedly said.


Imke Boerner, a German currently based in Hanoi, said that it seemed like “stepping into another world, with pagodas, temples, old communal houses, a whole relic area. I would have never known of this place if it wasn’t for this tour.”


Stella shared that she created this tour as she wanted to present something new and different, because many FVH members are Vietnamese people in Hanoi, or expats who have been living here for a long time. “I think It’s very important to investigate new routes. You know, this route is never on any tourism.”


Tràng Tiền area exploration walk is Stella’s favourite itinerary. “Here, there are many historical stories, with the French’s influences and impacts. Many structures still exist in their present form.” Some places may seem uninteresting, but they have tremendous stories to tell.


“Everything has its story, you know”, said Stella as we were standing in front of Tràng Tiền Plaza, the final stop, marking the end of FVH’s second city walk in VFCD this year. Đại Hoa also joined the previous tour around Hanoi Old Quarter. “I was reluctant to go out when I’m at home. But thanks to these walks, I gain more knowledge and new experiences, it is an absolute joy.”


Written by Hải An

Photos by Đan

Translated into English by Đinh Vũ Nhật Hồng


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