I like old town that is filled with vibrant energy. Old Quarter of Hanoi is a living town full of people running their daily works and lives.
Unlike Ho Chi Minh City (Saigon), we still can see many traders wearing the cone hat. This makes Hanoi more interesting as compared to Saigon (from the angle of heritage perspective).
As usual, my first stop during this short trip to Hanoi was to visit the local market and to roam on the streets.
Cho Dong Xuan Market is a wholesaler multi-storey marketplace. It was famous market and eye opener for the amount of merchandizes.
The more interesting part of this market is the dry food area (rear section), and the wet market behind the building.
If you are adventurous and have a strong stomach, the back alleys filled with street hawker foods.
50% of the traders were photo-friendly, the rest were shy (not unfriendly, just shy). I still take caution when I got the non-verbal permission from this lady holding a sharp knife (that could cut through sugar cane in split second). I have staying away with few arms length away, and make sure she won’t reach out to the knives on her right (just kidding).
The lady who sold fish on her shoulder carrying baskets was a camera shy. The interesting observation was the fish was still alive without water. She cut and cleaned(?) the fish by the road side once the buyer agreed with the price.
There were plenty of shops, but the interesting ones are at the back lane and not on the main street in Old Quarter.
The main streets are mostly selling clothing, silk and expansive arts. In fact, most of the souvenirs and goods are from China, only some are authentic made in Vietnam.
If you like to spend time in the Old Quarter, it is recommended to stay inside Old Quarter. The hotel we stayed was on a small lane (not even on my map) but near to many interesting lanes.
The entire Old Quarter is very accessible on foot.
Many of the old trades already extincted (disappeared) in big cities, but there were still kept operating in Old Quarter.
Vietnam has large population living below the povelty line. So tourists have to beware of the con artist or petty crime. I have lots of respect for those who earn their livings honestly through labour or creativity.
There many charity organizations who selflessly helping the needy. Happiness can be found in work that we have passion, and happiness is not measured by merely by the financial gain from work.