Walking around Hoan Kiem lake – the heart of Hanoi – on weekend nights, it is easy to notice a crowed night market, known as Dong Xuan Night Market. With its recent expansion, Hanoi’s Old Quarter Walking street (formerly Hang Dao – Dong Xuan walking street) is the biggest walking street in Hanoi and a wonderful place for both locals and foreigners to explore and enjoy Vietnamese culture.
It has been over a decade since its opening, Dong Xuan Night Market is a 3 kilometers long pedestrian street from Hang Dao street to Dong Xuan market. With the aim of promoting Vietnamese culture in foreigners’ eyes and Vietnamese new generation, the night market represents Hanoi’s cultural life and activities in the past. This walking street opens from 7p.m until 11p.m on Friday, Saturday and Sunday night and consists of over 3000 stalls from numerous small traders selling foods, clothes, accessories, daily goods, souvenirs and handicrafts. All the stuff are pretty cheap here, however, bargain is still an interesting aspect in Vietnamese market culture so make sure to do it when you are about to buy something. Along the street, you can easily find many artists who are able to sketch a portrait. Just wait for a few minutes, with a reasonable price; you will receive a perfect picture of yourself drawn by a street artist. Moreover, visitors can also have chances to taste several types of Vietnamese street food along the street and enjoy cultural activities while having fun in the market. It is no surprised to meet foreigners and locals from all ages in this crowded market as they all come there to experience real Hanoi’s sense with the images of antique architecture, the sounds of Vietnamese folk music, the subtle taste of delicious food and the atmosphere of Hanoi’s old market.]
Recently, Dong Xuan pedestrian street has been expanded to Level 1 reservation area in Hanoi’s old quarter street, namely Hang Buom, Hang Giay, Ta Hien, Luong Ngoc Quyen and Ma May. Especially, Hang Buon food street includes about 40 food stalls selling many kinds of traditional food from Hanoi and other provinces. Fresh juices, sweet soup (che), sweet rice cake, spring rolls (nem cuon) and Vietnamese salad (nom) are the popular ones. There are also foods from other countries, which are popular in Vietnam, such as Korean food, kebab, Taiwanese bubble tea and French cakes.
Vietnamese traditional music concerts can also be seen at walking street. ‘Ca tru’, which is on the list of Intangible Cultural Heritage in need of Urgent Safeguarding, ‘Cheo’, ‘Hat xam’, ‘Chau van’ are performed along the street and in front of small temples by professional artists. For both locals, especially youngsters, and foreigners who like to discover the country’s traditional fork music, it is a great opportunity to experience various types of Vietnamese traditional art and these concert are all free.
Moving to Ta Hien street, which is also know as Western street, it is time to enjoy the modern world. Live performances from music band plays instrumental, from the popular US – UK songs, European classical music to Vietnamese latest songs in the central square of this street. Ta Hien street is crowed, but it is not like the atmosphere in the market but it is covered by groups of youngsters sitting around small table, drinking tea/ lemon tea, eating street/ junk foods, chatting around and enjoy the music. In another corners, somewhere, you can see foreigners sitting next to plastic table, holding beer bottles, smiling and saying ‘Cheers’. It might seem to be a modern place but you can still feel the sense of a old Hanoi there. Probably, it is something that only Hanoi owns!
By Pham Hong Anh, ASEAN Correspondent from Vietnam