I. Top 7 interesting facts about Hanoi Ancient House
1. Why is Hanoi Ancient House so narrow?
It is a common question I have frequently come across when exploring Hanoi Old Quarter and especially the Ancient House Hanoi with my foreign friends.
The fact is that the typical shape of Hanoi houses in the old streets is tubular. The old Hanoi houses have a facade of about 3 – 5 meters, about ten meters deep. Usually, these houses had two floors and faced the crowded street.
So, the main question is, why “tube” houses, for example, Hanoi Ancient House have a weird shape like that?
Let me help you explain this fact!
In the past, the government based on the width of your house from the street to determine the amount of tax money. It means that the wider your house was, the higher the money you needed to pay!
It sounds very weird, right? ^^
Therefore, the Vietnamese people were very smart when building thin but deep houses. Thanks to these narrow houses, they could save money a lot and avoid high taxes.
2. Hang the food out in the kitchen
Are you curious about what is in the small basket hung out in the kitchen of Hanoi Ancient House?
Perhaps this fact will blow your mind when you know that Vietnamese people put the food inside it! Their custom was based on an experience expressed through an old idiom – “Chó treo mèo đậy”.
“Chó treo mèo đậy” means that we must be careful and know how to store food and drink when having domestic animals.
If a house has a dog, it must hang the food up high, because the dog cannot climb up.
If a family has a cat, they must use something to cover the food, because cats can climb. So Vietnamese cannot only hang the food up but also cover it. Cats are too weak to take off the cover.
Now, do you understand why old Vietnamese people often hang the dishes up with a cover?
Again, a very interesting fact!
3. The unique bowl of old Hanoians
When exploring the old kitchen of Hanoi Ancient House, you will find out a typical kind of bowl with the unique shape that local people used.
They are called slender-waisted bowl (bát chiết yêu).
Now the slender-waisted bowl is not popularly sold in supermarkets anymore, want to buy the right kind of slender-waisted bowl Hanoi used, must go into the old pottery or traditional pottery villages like Bat Trang.
The bowl had a high foot, a flared mouth, tied in the middle like a girl’s waist, so it became known as “slender-waisted bowl”.
In terms of practical use, the slender-waisted bowl is the perfect item for dishes such as congee, noodle, vermicelli, etc.
Because of the flared mouth, it should help the surface of the dish cool quickly, but the bottom is still kept hot.
The slender-waisted bowl was used for a while because of its aesthetics. The high foot of the bowl makes the tray much more elegant, on the other hand, the rim of the bowl is flaring and wide, enabling the craftsman to carve many intricate patterns on it.
4. Why Hanoians used a hard bed?
When visiting the bedroom of Hanoi Ancient House, perhaps you will be surprised at the wood bed of Vietnamese people.
In the past, Hanoians didn’t use a mattress or covered anything with their beds. They sleep on a very hard bed because Vietnamese people believed that, “The harder you can suffer, the more successful you will be in the future”.
Therefore, a hard bed is a remarkable feature in terms of Vietnamese cultural aspects.
5. A popular material in the life of the old Vietnamese
Bamboo has long been a Vietnamese farmer’s friend.
Dry bamboo leaves are an easy burning material for mothers. Spiky bamboo branches are often fenced by old farmers around the house. Especially bamboo stems, they become the carrying pole to the footsteps of farmers to the field.
Bamboo makes houses and numerous familiar objects in Vietnamese life such as basket, fishing rod, pillows,…
It is the reason why you can see that almost things in the kitchen and other rooms of Hanoi Ancient Hoise are made of bamboo.
6. The clay pot and Vietnamese cuisine in the past
Come to Hanoi Ancient House, you will discover a unique thing – the clay pot. Do you wonder why old Hanoians used these pots instead of other materials?
In the past, earthenware pots were used by people in the countryside to cook many dishes.
The clay pot is porous, allowing heat and moisture to circulate evenly during the cooking process. This helps foods retain a higher nutritional value than foods processed in other utensils.
In addition, meat cooked in a clay pot will be soft and not dry.
And we cannot skip a fact that clay is a very cheap and familiar material to the ancient Vietnamese people. It is a big reason to answer the question, “Why clay pots were so popular in the old days”, right? ^^
7. The ancestral altar in Hanoi Ancient House
Vietnamese believed that if one forgets to worship his or her ancestors, it means he or she forgets the origin.
Therefore, the ancestral altar always is in the most solemn place in a Vietnamese house whether they are rich or poor, they are in lowland or mountain, in the city or countryside. When contemplating the altar in Hanoi Ancient House, you can see a very typical Vietnamese altar.
It consists of ancestral tablets, familial records or portraits of decreased grandparents or parents, incense and offerings are also placed here.
In the Vietnamese culture, the altar is the place where ancestors are invited back to the home and witness their respect or prayers.
Therefore, don’t skip the chance to know more about Vietnamese cultural features with your local guide when exploring the ancestral altar in Hanoi Ancient House, guys!
II. Basic Information Needed When Visiting Hanoi Ancient House
Hanoi Ancient House (Ma May Ancient House) at 87 Ma May Street, Old Quarter is a very well-preserved house that prevailed throughout Hanoi before the concrete egg-carton style took over. With the constant shift towards a more metropolitan and modern lifestyle.
Outside Ancient House Hanoi
Hanoi Ancient House is one of the very few old houses where tourists can have a better understanding of lifestyle and daily activities of ancient Hanoians. This is one of the cultural addresses that tourists cannot ignore when visiting Hanoi Old Quarter.
Ma May Ancient House was constructed around the 19th century and identified to be about 110 years old. Shopkeepers’ families lived there selling rice successfully until 1945 when a family from the north bought it to sell herbal medicine. After the Northern family moved out, there were 5 families living there until 1999 when the government bought the house, restored and kept it as a tourist attraction.
The whole ancient house covered with many plants
It is now one of the few houses in Hanoi which are preserved and kept as attractions and exhibitions providing information about the culture and history of Hanoi.
The total area of the house is 157.6 square meters, though not wide but very deep. The house was restored in late 1998, under the cooperation of Hanoi city and Toulouse city (France). All structures of architecture, building materials (mainly wood and brick) and items in the house are kept the same as they were before.
The second-floor balcony
The house is typical of traditional architecture in the Old Quarter: it has a narrow facade and a succession of buildings and courtyards, highlighted with the tubular shape. The house consists of two main blocks linked together by a square yard in the middle of the first floor and a small balcony on the second floor.
The yard is included at the center of the building to moderate air and provides the house with sunlight and cool winds. The balcony above is an ideal place to relax and put small plants or flower pots.
The family’s shop is located in the first building overlooking the street. On the second floor are the living room and the ancestors’ altar, the most sacred place for the family.
Ancestors’ altar on the second floor
The second building is dedicated to the living area. The kitchen and bathroom are located at the far end of the house. All the walls in the house were painted with typical yellow color like other ancient houses, and all furniture and decoration items are reserved in good condition.
At the far end of the house is the place for kitchen, washroom, and storage. This part is relatively flat, only has the ground floor and no roof for direct sunlight into the house.
Old kitchen on the first floor
Tourists get the chance to see rusty and timeworn items that ancient Hanoians used in everyday life. There are also Vietnamese traditional decoration items and souvenirs sold in the front building for tourists to buy.
87 Ma May Street, Hanoi.
Visit Ancient House Hanoi with Hanoi Free Walking Tour!
Hanoi Ancient House Opening Hours
- Morning: 8:00 – 12:00;
- Afternoon: 13:30 – 20:00
Hanoi Ancient House Entrance Fee
Ticket price: 10,000 VND per person.
If you want to enjoy folk music, please come here in the evening. There is a 60-minute folk music performance (Ca Trù) at 19:00 every evening. Performance every evening at 19:00
Regarding transportation, the house is in walkable distance from Hoan Kiem Lake, about 6 minutes by walking. Tourists can park their vehicles at Hoan Kiem Lake parking lot and walk to the house.
Let us help you make the most of your time in Hanoi with a customized itinerary!