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Walking among the Old Quarter in the style of Hanoi’s coolest artist.


For one looking for a living place right near the Old Quarter, our serviced apartment building in 11 Ton That Thiep is just a short walk away, just perfect, among other checked checkboxes, the reaction from our latest resident there during his first week was as if Pep Guardiola's reaction when Robert Lewandowski volleyed his 5th goal within 9 minutes.

So let’s talk about the quintessential ways of wandering into the Old Quarter, according to one of the most quintessential artists of Hanoi, a legend during Hanoi’s tough era. 

Nguyen Bao Sinh aka the Street Wanderer, is a well known artist who is an unacknowledged Hanoi urban legend, a poet whose poems spreaded like folklore, a writer, a soul realist portrait painter. He also boasted in his book about how he rose to the top of many Hanoi pastime hobbies in very artful ways. These days the grandpa Street Wanderer himself is pretty much not wandering the streets anymore, but rather chilling in a Hang Hanh street’s sidewalk cafe.

He had a considerably wacky style of wandering around the streets - today’s Old Quarter, but there are indeed interesting aspects to adopt so we can experience the vibe of the Old Quarter.

So here’s the brief.

The Starting Point

 The Street Wanderer lived in a claustrophobic cell deep inside an alley from the facade of the Old Quarter, so he rather called the streets his home. Living behind the facade of the Old Quarter is hard, even by nowaday. But our apartments at the edge of the Old Quarter are often breathtaking to many people, and indeed cool to live in.

Behold, the Tropical House 11 Ton That Thiep, specialized in serviced apartments, there are enough rooms of many demands, utilize the space well with dearing interior designs.The ground hall is striking with dark wooden frames, high ceiling and a vibe only explained by feng shui given it a very good verdict.

A short walk passes the overhead railroad you are right into the west side of the Old Quarter.

Walking out with no apparent motive at all. 

A fine looking weather and a just a spark of let’s have a walk, that’s it, not for the sake of anything else, not for a meet-up, not intent to go to a cafe found on social media. Leave the door behind.

Let the street guide you

The Street Wanderer lived in the Old Quarter, he sometimes forgot his street address, never remember the whereabout of some certain streets, but he always found his way home, no matter where he strayed into, whether all the way to Quan Thanh Temple by West Lake or by the bank of the Red River.

This is relevant up to even now, for one not living in the Old Quarter, generally, in this point of the maze, keep on this direction you would make it to the Hoan Kiem Lake, or this way you’d end up at the roundabout Hang Dau water tower, convenient to walk to the middle of the Long Bien bridge. Walk into anyway in between. When you get lost, go back to the position to escape to the Hoan Kiem lake.

Totally laid-back walking, absorbing the streets’ vibe. 

The Street Wanderer bragged Hanoians walk the slowliest in the country, he bragged himself walk even slowlier than that. He usually got intrigued and followed a vehicle to wherever it was going.

Nowaday walking in the Old Quarter requires some maneuverability, thanks to the obstructed, sometimes very little sidewalk space and the streets, and there are cars and motorbikes. And not to be as weird out as the Street Wanderer, this is about a relaxing pace that suits you, then open up your mind to things around you

The season, the light, the mix of noise, the foliage, the smell, the people doing their things, what’s still there of the OQ’s many years back, 

Just look up to the second floor.

The Old Quarter’s shop houses are covered in banners and the kiosks at the first floor, which leave the second floor open.It’s easy to recognize the many styles of many periods of what clearly are the antique shop houses, here and there at the heart of the maze, though they are pretty rustic.  There are around 1200 of them remain in the Old Quarter, styles ranging from French classic, Art Deco, Indochine, Oriental or just very plain, take it as an Easter Egg hunt.

This Classic French  decor one is remarkable.

Our boss Tien said that even if we wholeheartedly want to restore an old house, heart-to-heart, it will take a freak ton of red tapes and money before we can even lay a finger on it. 

The first floor still has the old custom, a whole street sells the same kind of products, which are baked into the names of the streets. Times fly, so Oil Shops street for example, now all sell shoes, but you can still smell the aromatic herbs walking into the Herb Med Shops street.

Ah the smell of Bun Cha’s grilling.

Spring, a light gust can send a rain of yellow leaves from the big evergreen trees down to the street passing by.

Leaves fall in spring


Stop by upon your curiosity and temptation.

This is why you don’t wander the street with a certain cafe in mind. The street wanderer liked to drop into a random cafe, or tra da (iced tea stall) under the eaves or under the summer’s purple blossoms to see the light through and chilled at the street passing by him.

Or he just remembered an old friend lived right here - a state’s officer, and swooped in to say hi. The friend thought if there was no favor to ask for, why visit? The Street Wanderer thought why need a favor to visit an old friend? Both thought each other gone insane and never met again. 

When you open up to the things around the Old Quarter, there will be more things that into your curiosity - a treat, a good smelling banh my stall, that noodle on an eater’s hand looks wholesome, that cafe on the balcony look pretty, does this sign indicate a cafe deep into this dark, narrow alley?

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I swear I was curious about what inside behind that cafe sign before learning about that super dope cafe among the Old Quarter:

Drop in? Sure/ or nah, let’s keep wandering

Need to go back to the start point? Our serviced apartment is on the west of the Old Quarter, find your way across the streets until you can see the railway bridge, you could naturally go back to our serene place.

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