Sunday, September 11, 2011

Planning Hanoi Trip - Shopping Guide to Hanoi's Old Quarter...

The travel mags and books tell you what each street used to sell, which influenced their names.

However what they do not tell you is what kind of principal products that the streets are primarily selling now, which is so much more useful. 

Based on my one day of traversing the streets, I have come up with a new map on what to buy:
[pic source: travelfish]
Hang Dao - Jeans and trendy clothes (you need to be super small size though, if you are a chick)
Cau Go (stretching to Hang Be) - Fake bags, specifically Crumpler and Kipling. It will cost more to have the gorilla. Also excellent for backpacks (e.g. The North Face, Deuter). Remember to get those with rain guards/ backpack covers.
Hang Gai - this remains Silk (local friend and CoH buddy recommends Tan My, but it is EXPENSIVE)
Hang Giay - Coffee and the local drip coffee percolator (price for one cup percolator is ~15KVND - 20KVND. 3 cups percolator will be 40VND)
Hang Bo - Millinery, e.g. sewing scissors, lace, zippers (I bought some stuff there).
Hang Bo
Luong Van Can - toys, mostly MIC (made in China)
Luong Van Can
Hang Quat - Religious artefacts, e.g. altars
Hang Quat
Hang Hom - Wall paints
Hang Bac - jewellery (mostly)
Lan Ong - rather bewildering, towels (on one side) and medicinal herbs (on the other side)
Thuoc Bac - Hardware stores selling locks and torches
Thouc Bac
Hang Dieu - Upholsterers and bedsheets (mostly). The shop at 38 Hang Dieu I ordered my cushion covers from was pretty shit, they got the measurement wrong even though I gave them a sample. Wasted my time and then on top of that, they wouldn't give me the scraps. And they obviously did not employ any intelligence or QC when sewing. Why would a cushion be 4 cm thick, and why didn't they check against the sample which I left with them?

Note: you must speak passable French or English, as most of them would rather not work with you. Or buy ready-made from them. Much wiser thing to do.
Gia Ngu - groceries and fresh meat
Hang Dau - Shoes (buy slippers, and sport shoes. The women shoes are *ahem* a bit too classic for my taste).
Thrang Thi (technically French Quarter) - Electronics
There was a street selling cloth but I lost the location, can someone comment and tell me which street it is please?
Do not be intimidated by this. The seamstress shop is right down this dark alley to the extreme right.
Ethical Seamstress (found by someone in VietBank, when I couldn't find a seamstress shop in Quang Trung, as recommended by Ductuan):
There was a super friendly lady located at 37 Lo Su Street (shop is hidden behind this innocuous entrance) whose son was as friendly and can speak & understand decent English. She said she couldn't do the furniture covers for me but she offered me alternative locations instead.

Other recommendations:
- You can find some reproduction art and propaganda posters at Dinh Liet and Lyong Ngoc Quyen streets.  
- At the intersection of Hang Buom and Hang Giay, there is the famous Bach Ma temple.
Bach Ma Temple Entrance
- There is a weekend night market from the Hang Dao street (lake entrance) all the way to Dong Xuan Market.
- Instimex supermarket's entrance is next to Playboy, but its actual location is behind the latter. If walking from the Old Quarter, you will pass by ANZ bank before it, and Fanny's ice-cream after it. Excellent for buying local coffee and teas (if you are as cash strapped as me). Else buy them at Hang Giay, where you can get Civet Cat coffee (for some reason, they call it Weasel coffee here).

Best Pho Bo (according to Ductuan and soundly agreed  by me) - Pho Gia Truyen, 49 Bat Dan Street
2nd Best Pho Bo - 31 Hang Buom street (unfortunately remains untested by me).

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