If you want to catch the cultural quintessences of Vietnam, first visit Hanoi and if you want to catch the quintessence of Hanoi’s cultures, then come first to the Old Quarter. This area is a warren of valleys with names that could arouse a strong thirst for shoping in you. Just to name a few, Hang Bac means silversmiths, Hang Bong means cottons, Hang Cot means bamboo latices, or Hang Da means leather.
However, the names’ origins are traced back to hundreds of years ago when Hanoi was still Thang Long and many streets no longer provide what their names imply. But what reamains is still the most exquisite items that Hanoi is proud of. You cannot miss designer boutiques in Hang Bong, Hang Ngang streets where Vietnam’s silk is tailor- made into either Vietnamese traditional clothes or latest Western styles. You also should drop by Hang Duong –jam street– where you can taste the most famous candied fruits in Hanoi and Hang Gai street which is lined with series of sourvenir shops.
A little bit far from the Old Quarter, some streets are also very worth your visits. Trang Tien, five minutes walk down from Hoan Kiem lake, is itself an interesting street packed with art galleries and bookstores. Bookstores offer a wide range of writings about Vietnam’s culture in foreign languages. Whereas, art galleries offer an exquisite variety of paintings and watercolors like lacquerware and puppets. Galleries could also be found in the Nguyen Thai Hoc street where young artists who are trying to build their brandnames in Vietnam’s arts showcase their paintings.
In recent years, when Hanoi is opening to global integration, a lot of Western - styled shopping centers are sprouting up. Many of them are extremely superior and luxurious like Parkson, The Garden, Grand Plaza or while the others sell things at reasonable prices such as Big C, Pico Plaza, Intimex supermarket. However, the latter ones still offer you a sense of modern shopping style.
Lastly, as Hanoi is being expanded these days, you could travel to new-born suburbs to experience shopping in traditional handicraft villages. For example, go to Bat Trang village to buy potteries and ceramics, Ha Dong’s silk village to get access to the most original source of Vietnam’ silk or Tay Tuu village to buy yourself fresh flowers at prices one fifth or even one tenth what you are charged in the inner city.