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[Video] A Tour of Saigon's 100-Year-Old Hẻm, Hao Si Phuong

What better way to learn about Saigon’s Chinese-Vietnamese heritage than to pay a visit to one of the city’s oldest residential enclaves?

Seen from the outside, hẻm 206 on Tran Hung Dao Street, better known by its name Hao Si Phuong, could pass for a shopfront with an uncannily huge entrance. However, after taking ten steps inside, visitors may start to feel like Alice after stumbling down the rabbit hole: the courtyard inside the hẻm seems like a separate world.

A typical alley in Saigon can lure first-time guests into a labyrinth of countless dead-ends, piles of dog poop and weirdly shaped houses. This is the product of unplanned urbanization over the years. However, the inside of 100-year-old Hao Si Phuong feels like the communal courtyard of a tight-knit extended family. I mean, how often do you hear of a hẻm in Saigon with its own name instead of a mere number?

Thanks to its unique architecture and homey atmosphere, the alley is one of the most popular places for film crews to take pictures for Saigon-based features. Most recently, Saigoneer wrote about a young couple who decided to have a pre-wedding photo shoot while dressed like their parents' generation. A large portion of the shoot took place in Hao Si Phuong.

According to Hoa Trong Ton, a 68-year-old resident of the hẻm, back in the day, the community only had Chinese-Vietnamese, or Hoa, people; but nowadays, the alley has a diverse mix of dwellers from all walks of life.

“Today every afternoon there are only elders sitting around chit-chatting, but a few decades ago, every day the entire neighborhood came to hang out and talk one another’s ear off,” Ton shared with Thanh Nien.

Have a look at the inside of hẻm Hao Si Phuong through the video below:


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