Hang Tre Street
In the mid-19th century, the guild of bamboo raft makers was located on this street outside the My Loc gate, one of the many sturdy gates to the city. There were 12 to 15 wide bamboo poles in the cai mang raft, lashed together by strips of green bamboo bark. By heating the wood, their front was slightly elevated, and the aft was rigged with three quadrangular sails of coarse linen painted with extracts of sweet potato skin.
Bamboo rafts is suitable for the shallow rivers, lakes and swamps of Hanoi, which can not provide strong anchorage or natural storm shelter. The seasonal typhoons that lash the northern part of Vietnam have been better weathered by the flat architecture and are better suited to coastal and river fishing. The bamboo poles from which the rafts were made were sold on Hang Tre Lane, one block east.
Cau Go Street
Cau Go Street is situated one block north of the Lake of the Restored Sword, meaning “Wooden Bridge,” and was originally the site of a wooden bridge. The bridge crossed a thin stream of water about 150 years ago, linking Thai Cuc Lake with the Restored Sword Lake. Next to the bridge, dyers from neighboring Silk Street set out their silk to dry or bleach their fabric. Under the French occupation, the lake and stream were filled as health measures and to increase buildable land. The little wooden bridge became a regular street.
Women in large brimmed hats on the edge of the lake once sold armfuls of flowers for a few coins to the French. There is now a flower market where the Cau Go alley intersects with the main street. The underground headquarters and hiding place of the 1930-45 “Love the Country” resistance movement are other historical places on Cau Go. Today, Cau Go is a commercial street specializing in accessories for women.
Hang Dao Street
One of Vietnam’s oldest streets is this street. It functions as a main axis, splitting the Old Quarter in half, going from north to south. Hang Dao Street was a center for trading silk goods during the French Colonial period. There were fairs for the selling of silk products on the first and sixth days of the lunar month. Shops also sold other types of fabric such as gauze, brocade, crepe, and muslin. Almost all the non-silk products were white.
This street was the site of the silk dyer guild of Hai Hung Province at the beginning of the 15th century, which specialized in deep pink dyes. The street name Dao refers to the pink apricot blossoms, indicative of Vietnam’s Lunar New Year. The demand for this special color was so high that it was also appropriate to dye the fabric at other locations.
The color of the dye diversified in the 18th century. The author wrote that “Hang Dao guild does dying work. It dyes red as the color of blood, black as Chinese ink, and other beautiful colors.”
Hang Dao was bordered by about 100 houses in the 19th century, of which only 10 or so were made of bricks. The rest was made of thatch. The foundations of the houses have clearly sunk lower than the road on the side of the street opposite the now filled-in Hang Dao Pool.
Dong Xuan Street / Market Street
Originally, this street belonged to two villages: the village of Nhiem Trung occupied even numbered houses, and the village of Hau Tuc occupied odd numbered houses.
Half of the street is occupied by Dong Xuan market, Vietnam’s oldest and largest market.
By supplying a system of waterways that fed the city and markets, river networks established Hanoi’s economic center. The Dong Xuan market, located at the confluence of the To Lich and Red Rivers, was once one of Southeast Asia’s busiest urban areas.
In order to encourage tax collections, the French needed merchants to carry their goods inside the fenced perimeter of the market. The market was expanded as the number of merchants swelled. A building was constructed above it in 1889, and five gates were built leading to it. Each of the five market gates was used for stated goods only. The market was redesigned in 1992 and a new facade was erected.
Hang Mam Street
The union of two old streets is Hang Mam: an eastern offshoot named Hang Trung and the original Hang Mam. The name derives from the different types of mam, or fish sauces, produced and sold here, as well as other products of the sea. Originally, the street was on the riverside, similar to catching a day.
Nuoc mam, or fish sauce, is made from fish that are too small to be sold individually which are placed in clay vats with water and salt. Boiled water is poured over the fish and weights are placed on top of the mixture to compress it. The brew is fermented for days, resulting in a pure amber juice rich in protein, vitamins and minerals. The fierce ammoniac odors of the fish become mellow with aging, and the taste improves, like brandy. Nuoc mam nhi, or prime, is considered the first press, which is the clearest and purest. In barrels made on adjacent Hang Thung Lane, the sauce was processed.
On the street, new specialties emerged in the 1940s. Together with those of memorial stone etching, coffin and tombstone makers, a small ceramics industry emerged.