PRLog - March 22, 2010 - HANOI, Viet Nam -- People often refer to Hang Gai as Hanoi’s “Silk Road”, but knowledgeable Hanoians know that Hang Dao is the capital’s original “Silk Road”. The “Dao” refers to the pink apricot blossoms, a symbol of the Lunar New Year. But in French times, the street was actually called Rue de la Soie, which means the “street of silk” in French.
So why “Hang Dao?” On the first and sixth days of the lunar month, you would find an open market flogging all kinds of silk products and other fabrics. As early as the 15th century, Hang Dao street was home to silk-dying guild from Hai Hung province, whose trademark was a deep lustrous pink colour – similar to the colour of pink apricot blossoms. Demand for silk in this special colour was always high and production was often outsourced to other guilds to meet demand.
In the 18th century, the range of colours was diversified – blood red products were popular, as were Chinese ink coloured ones. In the early 20th century Indian silk traders from Bombay arrived in the area. These Indian textile merchants opened shops for trading silk and wool products imported from the West until the mid-1960’s when Hanoi declined as a business centre because of the Vietnam-American war.
Today the quality and luxury of goods is not so consistent from shop to shop. But this is still one of the busiest shopping thoroughfares in the city.
For the culture vultures
Hang Dao is also home to a number of cultural attractions. Perhaps the most famous is Bach Ho Temple at 47 Hang Bac. The temple worships ‘Bach Ma’ (The White Horse Genie). The Hoa Loc Temple at 90A Hang Dao was built by villagers from Binh Giang district (now in Hai Duong province) in honour of the village tutelary god, Trieu Xuong and his wife Kim Dung, the patron saints of dyers. Sadly the temple is obscured by the residential housing around the structure.
This area wasn’t always so densely populated. Previously, there was once a lake called Thai Cuc (also known as Hang Dao Lake) here but it disappeared in the middle of 19th century. The only evidence of its existence can be seen at Dong Lac Shrine at 31 Hang Bac street.
Dong Lac Temple at 38 Hang Dao was built in the 17th century in honour of Dieu Huyen, who first designed yem dao the traditional Vietnamese women’s undergarment. A yem dao is made from silk making it cool and comfortable in the Hanoi climate.
From 1955 to 2000, this temple was requisitioned by a trader who used the upper floor for his store. In February 2000, the temple changed hands again and now owned by the State, the bottom floor is a tourist destination while the upper floor is home to the headquarters of the Management Board of Hanoi Old Quarter.
The house at 10 Hang Dao used to be the Tonkin Free School (Dong Kinh Nghia Thuc), which was established in March 1907 by the renowned patriots Luong Van Can, Phan Boi Chau and Phan Chu Trinh. This name refers to the movement of the same name, which aimed to forge an independent Vietnamese society by applying new theories from the West and Japan.
These scholars and intellectuals hoped to help Vietnam leave behind the backwardness of the feudal system and promote patriotism and educate the masses. They also hoped to popularise the modern Romanised-Vietnamese script Quoc Ngu in place of the Chinese Han-influenced-
Accommodation Seranade Hotel, 58 Hang Dao
The Serenade Hotel is considered one of the most stylish three-star hotels in Hanoi’s Old Quarter. Right in the centre of the city and within walking distance of Hoan Kiem lake, the location is ideal. The hotel features 45 graceful and tastefully decorated rooms. All bedrooms feature modern and comfort equipments. You can choose from Deluxe, Junior, City View, Serenade Suite. The staff is extremely professional enthusiastic and friendly, catering for your every need. Head to the Panorama Bar Café on the top floor and enjoy a stunning view of the city. The modern sauna and massage services are also excellent.
Hang Dao is now famous for being the main artery in Hanoi’s weekend night market. This relatively recent attraction has proved highly popular with locals and tourists. The market goes down Hang Dao street to Dong Xuan market.
The market is open on Friday, Saturday and Sunday nights from 7pm. You can find handicrafts, souvenirs, clothes and food stalls selling traditional Hanoi dishes such as bun oc (Snails and tofu served in a broth on top of rice noodles) or Banh cuon (rice crepes filled with woodear mushrooms and pork).
All along the street you will find shops selling jewelry, wristwatches and clothes. For watches you can find brands such as Cartier, Casio G-shock, Gucci, Longines, Movado, Omega, Patek Philippe and Vacheron.
At 51 Hang Dao you can have your portrait drawn by skilled artists, who really put great attention to little decisive details and capture the soul of the subject.
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