Aug 12 2012
A search for “Hang Manh” unsurprisingly brings up a raft of sites which mention the well-known bun cha joint at number 1. Well-known it may be, but good value it is no more: the dish under-delivers on flavour and it’s seriously over-priced compared to other bun cha places. Thankfully, there’s a more to Hang Manh than bun cha.
Manh are roller blinds made of thin strips of bamboo and the traditional wares of this street. Now they’re in short supply, although still available at a couple of places, and vinyl flooring seems to have taken over as the household item of choice — just so you know.
What makes Hang Manh a particularly interesting street to visit nowadays are the music shops. Think not of electric guitars and digital drum kits, but of gong bans, k’long puts and khen h’mong. Yes, Hang Manh is the place to go for traditional handmade instruments.
Even if you’re not musically inclined the shops are really interesting and beautiful places to browse, with some great gift options available. How about a frog block for the kids? In ancient times, larger versions of this instrument were used to communicate information over long distances; now they’re just great for annoying parents.
Or maybe a lute or mandolin are more your style? Either to hang on a wall or bring out at parties or fireside gatherings. The bamboo xylophones are particularly beautiful but a bit too large for most rucksacks — still, smaller percussive instruments are available too, as well as a vast array of gongs (anyone can play one of those).
Shops worth a look are Manh Cuong at 1B, a narrow but well-laid out store, and Thai Khue at 1A, a few doors down and next to the bun cha place. Thai Khue has a more chaotic set-up than Manh Cuong but it cries out to be explored, and the proprietress is often outside putting the finishing touches to an instrument — last time I was there it was a tambourine. Further south on the street are a couple of shops selling larger instruments, including xylophones.
Next door to Manh Cuong is a shop selling antiques. Some of the items wouldn’t be out of place in the Museum of History or the Fine Arts Museum — but might not suit your London pad. Still, it’s a unique style and an interesting browse.
Otherwise Hang Manh boasts just the usual souvenir shops, a couple of hotels and a branch of Gecko restaurant, which makes a good food or drink stop if you’re in the area and not up for street food. Combine a visit here with a stop at Yen Thai Street and Hang Gai (Silk) Street.
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Tags: musical instruments