Hang Giay is right in the centre of Old Quarter, running from Luong Ngoc Quyen to Hang Chieu. Giay means shoes — though with different tones, it means paper -- but nowadays there are very few shoes on sale along its stretch.
There may not be shoes, but pretty much everything else is available. The top two-thirds of the street are given over to shops selling primarily toys, snacks, preserved fruits and alcohol: often all in one store. The road isn’t narrow, but with the wares spilling out onto the street and motorbikes parked erratically — either delivering or shopping — it’s not the easiest of streets to navigate. It’s worth the effort though, as it’s a hive of local activity and a good destination to stock up on crisps and biscuits for the train to Sapa (along with Hang Buom, which it crosses).
The bottom third of the street is a bit more eclectic, yet more spacious and ordered. Tourist services start to appear, such as Ethnic Travel, and eating and drinking spots are sprinkled here. There are also some local “boutique” fashion stores… so they may not appeal to Western tastes (nor fit).
This part of Hang Giay is a good place to go in the evening as well. The shops just north of the junction with Hang Buom, opposite Bach Ma Temple, close and the space turns itself over to a street restaurant. The menu’s quite wide ranging — and in English — and although prices are a little inflated, it’s still relatively cheap grub. There’s also a bittet place at number 22 and pho is readily available (along with vodka Hanoi, but that’s a night I don’t want to remember).
Also look out for Nha Hang Thu Huyen at 36-38, opposite what used to be home to Hair of the Dog but is now a bar called Monkey and Snake. It always seems to be busy and is open late too.
Finally, Hang Giay is the place to go for coffee. A number of shop/cafes dot the bottom half, selling roasted coffee beans as well as freshly brewed cups of the strong beverage. Check out Cafe Pho Co (Old Quarter Cafe) at number 34, Hue Cafe at 26, Vi Lan Cafe next door and, further up Cafe Phuc Xuong. You’ll smell them before you see them.
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