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.
Hanoi Ancient House is one of 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.
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 house is typical of traditional architecture in the Old Quarter: it has 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 provide 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.
Wooden pantry at the back of the house
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.
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.