Oct 27 2011
Coming through the arch of Hanoi’s Old City Gate, the road straight ahead is Hang Chieu. A dozen or so shops have stayed reasonably true to the street’s original wares — Vietnamese grass tatami mats — and sell all manner of mats and rugs, such as welcome mats and room-sized wool effect numbers. Some would make practical souvenirs, but might not fit so well in your rucksack.
As well as mats and rugs, Hang Chieu is also the place to go for plastic and other synthetic items — come on, you know you want to. Piles of sellotape fill shop entrances, shopping bags hang from rafters and large balls of nylon string abound. Okay, so this may not be of great interest to tourists, but it came in rather useful when I needed 200 polystyrene food trays.
Continue along Hang Chieu and it turns into Hang Ma. “Ma” refers to the paper replicas of items that you’ll see people burning to send to those in the afterlife, such as money and household items.
Hang Ma is the place to go around festival times as it sells whatever’s relevant to that season: at the moment it’s the place to go for Halloween masks and polystyrene pumpkins – in limited supply — but before we know it it’ll be full of Christmas trees, Santa hats and decorations.
Even outside of festivals it’s a colourful street for a wander, full of bright red lanterns, balloons, tinsel, ribbons, cards and wrapping paper. There are also a few toy shops around too, including a shop full of cuddly toys near the junction with Hang Luoc. It’s like a one-stop present shop for kids — get the sellotape on Hanh Chieu.
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