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On Saturday David and I decided to head to Hà Nội’s Plant Street to scope out some natural decorations for our patio and home. I had traveled down the street in a bus before, but this is a site best explored on foot. We don’t own pith helmets for head-to-toe khaki. But, thankfully no one needs those items to safely venture into Hà Nội’s urban jungle.
Let me back up a few steps and explain the concept of Plant Street. In Hà Nội, shopping for life’s basics happens in modern malls and large box stores or at small specialized stalls in local markets. So far, I have mostly shopped in malls and at Big C (a Thai-export similar to Walmart). However, when seeking more eccentric or specialized items, customers must often go to areas of town known for selling specific wares. These items are often sold on streets with specific themes like wood furniture, lighting, bamboo, plastic, leather, etc.
Supposedly you can find nearly anything if you are willing to put your fingers to work searching internet for guidance on the street to shop and then pound the pavement for exactly the right do-hickey.
Hoang Hoa Tham – Plant Street
So, on Saturday off we went to Hoang Hoa Tham, better known to English speakers as Plant Street. It definitely lives up to its name. Our cab driver took us to the corner of Hoang Hoa Tham and Lac Long Quan. We walked a few steps and turned right. Instantly, the hectic intersection behind us faded away and the greenest street in town lay ahead of us.
The shop on the corner looked like an unassuming spot to purchase plants and small trees in large ceramic pots. The owner perked up as we took one step inside. His plants were gorgeous and they drew us to continue to wander down the shop’s only aisle. We expected it to be 20 or 30 feet deep, like most small street shops. Instead, the further we went the more the jungle came in around us. Plants got taller and the city slipped further away. It felt like we were Alice entering Wonderland. Soon we were looking over a sunken nursery crammed with hundreds of green plants and trees. Then, we slid down nearly two flights of stairs to the “jungle” floor and took in the fresh air and silence.
We wanted to determine what is available on Plant Street, rather than purchase plants. Therefore, we explored the nursery briefly and asked the shopkeeper for information on the cost of several large plants that were attractive to us. We climbed the stairs back to hectic Hoang Hoa Tham and continued on our way.
All along the street women on motorbikes and bicycles encourage customers to buy smaller plants directly from them. In fact, One woman tried desperately to sell us a lime tree for just a few dollars. I admit, we were tempted!
Dozens of stores, each with their own personality, lined both sides of the street. There are shops selling air plants, succulents, hanging flowers, and gardening essentials. We even saw some selling decorative ceramics with hundreds of bamboo shoots growing in them.
At the end of the day, the most memorable item for same on Plant Street are the bonsai trees. Many of the trees are still in training. I have no idea how to care for them – and yet, it is hard to pass up the charm of a miniature landscape that will fit on a coffee table.
We returned from our trip to the jungle excited about adding some green to our home. Our next quest is to find planters that will fit over the railings of our porch. Will we end up with a lounging shirtless figurine relaxing in the shade of a bonsai tree decorating the inside of our home? Time will tell.
I’m ending this post with a few other images from our stroll through Hà Nội’s urban jungle. Enjoy.