A taste of Hanoi's past
Published/Last edited or updated: 21st September, 2017
Dating back to the 19th century, this special house is a great example of the type of architecture that once prevailed throughout Hanoi's busy Old Quarter.
It might be hard to imagine, but Ma May Street was once located on the banks of the Red River, in the midst of a commercial harbour. The mainly wooden house at 87 Ma May was built at the end of the 19th century, when Vietnam was under French rule, as a shop and residence. It was similar to many others in the area built and used by shopkeepers that were later pulled down and rebuilt into more modern styles. Various families lived at number 87 until 1999, when the house was the first to be restored back to its original state in the Old Quarter. It was renovated again in 2013.
The narrow frontage is typical of the traditional houses from this period, with buildings and courtyards stretching back behind allowing light and air to flow through an otherwise dark space.
The shop was located at the front, with a courtyard to its rear and then another building behind containing the living area. Behind this is another courtyard and then a kitchen and bathroom are located to the rear. Upstairs is the bedroom and ancestor altar.
The house is an excellent glimpse into Hanoi's rapidly vanishing architectural heritage. The downstairs shop space is given over to, well, a shop selling good quality lacquerware, but the rest of the house is set up as it would have been back in the day, with antique furniture and other old paraphernalia.
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