100-year-old alley in town

13/08/2017 20:50

While Hanoi has been famous for its 36 old streets attached to the history and culture of the 1,000-year-old capital, Saigon, the former name of HCMC, can take pride in an age-old alley that has maintained its original architecture and special traits for decades. The 100-year-old alley in the city’s District 5, better known as Hao Si Phuong, is worth visiting as tourists can take a close look at Chinese-influenced unique architectural features and gain an insight into daily lives and spiritual values of the Chinese community there.

Separated from the hustle and bustle of modern city life, the alley that can be found at 206 Tran Hung Dao B Street in District 5 mostly inhabited by the Chinese Vietnamese community, boasts a harmonious combination of the past and present features with a row of old houses in Chinese-style architectural designs but repainted with vibrant colors to pray for luck and success.

The old residential blocks have narrow paths and limited living space.

First-time comers might be captivated by the peaceful and tranquil ambience and the slow pace of life in the alley which is home to more than 60 households. Most of them are Vietnamese of Chinese descent and it is no wonder visitors to the alley can listen to timeless Chinese songs and capture images of elderly men sitting to read newspapers in the Chinese language in front of their houses every morning.

The Chinese community in Saigon, including those residing in the alley, credited their business success and happy life to religious beliefs. Therefore, every family here has altars dedicated to the Gods of heaven and earth, or Than Tai (God of Wealth) and Quan Cong, an ancient Chinese historical figure worshiped for his loyalty and sincerity with spiraling incense smoke, arousing curiosity of first-time visitors about Chinese culture.

A view of the alley is captured in this photo

According to local residents, the city authority is mapping out a plan to tear down the long-established alley in the coming time as the houses in the area have seriously deteriorated after many years of use. 

Born into a Chinese family that migrated from Chaozhou to Vietnam a long time ago, Lieu A Minh, a 75-year-old man who has been living in the alley since he was five, told the Daily how he loved and treasured the alley. “Never imagine one day I will have to move to another place as the alley is attached to my childhood and tons of good memories with family, relatives and neighbors. I have experienced many ups and downs in life and I only wish to live in peace with my family in the alley until my last breath. That’s enough for me.”, Minh says. 

Ton Gia Van, who is running a stall selling drinks at the entrance to the alley, says Hao Si Phuong was originally a convergence point of Chinese families  but over the past 10 years many Vietnamese have also rushed to the area, making life more colorful and lively.

His stall has been known as a meeting point for local neighbors every morning who want to have a cup of coffee while talking about daily life and the future of the age-old alley in the coming years .

Unlike other popular sightseeing spots in District 5 such as Lady Thien Hau Temple, Binh Tay Market, Soai Kinh Lam fabric market, Hao Si Phuong is regarded as a hidden gem in the modern city life and the fast pace of urbanization by its timeless architectural features and unique cultural traits of the Chinese Vietnamese community in Saigon that are still preserved for decades.

The 75-year-old Minh is seen enjoying the peaceful atmosphere of the alley - PHOTOS: HOANG PHONG