In London, Brick Lane is famous for its Indian food; in Hanoi, it used to sell bricks. Ngo (lane) Gach (brick) is a small road that runs between Hang Giay and Hang Duong and is one of those streets very easy to miss, but a shame not to visit.
While there’s nothing unmissable along its 200 or so metres, a few things are worthy of note — and a good photo. Firstly, look out for the temple tucked back off the street about midway along; politely walk past the vendors and have a peek if you’re suitably dressed.
Next door to the temple are a couple of shops selling wicker and cane goods. As well as the mandatory baskets, there are wind-chimes, walking sticks and hula hoops, just in case you want to keep fit while away from home.
Across the road, at the Hang Giay end of the lane, is Olympia Gym. I’m not suggesting you go in, but I liked the sign. Well, when I say liked, I mean it made me smile. Apparently it’s also home to a salsa dance studio, a new one to me in Hanoi.
Another “not that you’ll need it but it makes for a nice photo” are the paint shops — paint of the powdered variety. A few shops at the western end of the street are full of colourful bags of powder, and they even stock glittery options. And continuing the variety of wares this street hosts are a few shops selling swimwear and swimming aids — you may want to go for a dip at one of the pools in Hanoi now the weather’s getting warmer.
Ngo Gach is a really interesting street for people-watching, so stop at one of the coffee shops or bun dau spots for a drink or lunch and a spot of just gazing.
The Travelfish newsletter is sent out every Monday and is jammed full of free advice for travel in Southeast Asia. You can see past issues here.