A bit of a mystery.
What we say:
Try as I might, I can’t find out what “Ta Hien”, one of Hanoi‘s 36 streets, originally sold, although according to a friend’s father, it sold food when he was young and during his parents’ generation — whether that was the original wares sold here or not, I’m not sure. Perhaps this lack of information is because it’s now best known for bia hoi corner and the bars that line its narrow alley, perhaps it’s because its name has changed — I don’t know. Despite not being able to give you any background on the street, it seemed too important a place to be excluded from my 36 streets series.
Ta Hien runs south to north, from Hang Bac to Ma May, and is an extension of Dinh Liet street which goes down to the north of Hoan Kiem lake — or would if there wasn’t a huge building in the way.
It has two distinct sections. Let’s start at the bottom. From Hang Bac to Luong Ngoc Quyen it’s a standard, Old Quarter tourist street. It’s the place to head for rip-off DVDs but is also home to a couple of tiny bike rental places, including Duc Chi at number 37 which I can highly recommend, and Boo Skateshop and Bo Sua, where even Western sized bodies may be able to find T-shirts, hoodies and shoes to fit. You’ll also find some good souvenir shops along here, including a tiny shop selling lamps and mugs decorated with propaganda poster images, and a couple of hotels, such as the new Asian Ruby Hotel.
The junction with Luong Ngoc Quyen is bia hoi corner, where you can while away the hours sipping cheap beer and people-watching.
North of the junction, the road narrows and has recently been refurbished: the first 100 metres or so of the road has been paved and the buildings all look the same. It’s very neat and tidy, although perhaps a bit out of place in the jumble that is Hanoi’s Old Quarter. This is where you will find a number of small bars, including long-termer Mao’s Red Lounge (No. 7) as well as Tet Bar (good late night toasties I hear) and Cheeky Quarter.
There are also two branches of Little Hanoi Restaurant. I was always a fan of this place, although I’ve heard some less positive reviews recently. Still, it’s cheap and the food’s plentiful and tasty. Plenty of street food stalls are open, during the day more than at night, along this stretch as well.
What makes this part of Ta Hien more interesting are the specialist shops. There’s a little stamp shop, which will make you a stamp with your name and a picture on for about $10 — pricey but a great gift for kids — and a watch shop stocking some lovely old timepieces. There’s also a new clothing shop at No 17 — Unnui — with a limited but unique range of men’s T-shirts, sweaters and jackets, and a souvenir shop called Emotion.
Ta Hien is a must visit street if you’re in Old Quarter, bringing together a good mix of shops, bars and other services, albeit in a very tourist-orientated way.
Duc Chi Motorbikes
37 Ta Hien, Hoan Kiem
T: (0915) 066 096
24D Ta Hien, Hoan Kiem
T: (04) 6657 8086
Mao’s Red Lounge
7 Ta Hien, Hoan Kiem
2A Ta Hien, Hoan Kiem
T: (04) 3926 3050
1 Ta Hien, Hoan Kiem
T: (0904) 032 829
9 & 14 Ta Hien, Hoan Kiem
T: (04) 3926 0168
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