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Exploring a Hidden Gem – Alleyways in Vietnam

ABROADER March 15, 2023 5 minute read

Get off the beaten track and explore a vibrant world of street art, culture and cuisine within the alleyways in Vietnam!
Internship in Vietnam Alleyways
Photo Source: Tuoi Tre Newspaper

See this confusing sign of address? That’s right, this address isn’t a prank. It is the actual address of a house in Vietnam and this house is located down 6 alleyways. During your internship in Vietnam, you will notice that people number houses in a tree-root method. Therefore, they determine addresses by how many alleys a building lies from the main street.  In fact, they use a slash (/) to separate each alley number in an address. Because the main streets often develop into different smaller roads, this arrangement created thousands of inter-connected webs of alleyways in Vietnam that bring you into contact with friendly local people, great street food, intriguing architecture, and, best of all, the local life.

Internship in Vietnam Alleyways cgvdt.vn
Local eating out on the alleyway with their neighbors. Photo source: cgvdt.vn

A small and poorly lit alley maybe someone’s worst fear but in Ho Chi Minh and Hanoi – two of Vietnam’s biggest and most major cities where the population outweighs the space, any space is utilized to the fullest. And sometimes, walking into Vietnam’s alley world means you’ll find yourself ‘lost’ both mentally and physically in this maze. Life and businesses tangled into one another, creating a uniquely Vietnam atmosphere that you will find nowhere else.

So what exactly will you stumble upon if you just happen to be living in Vietnam’s abundant and signature alleyways?

The Businesses

You may have already been surprised by the sheer number of shops and stalls stretching over the busy streets of Vietnam. If you think you’ve seen everything? Then think again. In Vietnam, no space is wasted, hidden along the smaller streets and alleyways are some of the more unconventional businesses. Small streets and alleyways are where you can find some of Vietnam’s most exotic and authentic local cuisines. You can find yourself, while walking the street, catching an irresistible smell from a simple bakery stall selling all sorts of Vietnam’s favorite quick snacks and cakes. In case you are in the mood for a stylish hair-cut or beard shape made in Vietnam and in the traditional style, no worries, you can literally do it on the street with single-chair barbershops like this:

Internship in Vietnam huynhthinga.com
These one-man haircut places are often very affordable, the owner often remembers their frequent customers’ favorite style.

And if you are really lucky? You’ll stumble upon one of those hidden cafés that only the locals know and love. These gems are usually hidden down one or two alleyways, in the most unexpected place you can imagine. It can be an independent bakery with passion fruit cheesecake, puff pastries, and fresh chocolate milk. And an upright piano in the corner waiting for courageous patrons to play or it can be a hidden cozy café with retro designs and cushioned benches for two (a date, perhaps?). Either way, you would be ecstatic to find those as long as you spend enough time wandering along.

A simple yet elegant reminiscent style coffee shop in an alley in HCMC. Photo source: Saigoneer

The Atmosphere

Contrary to the winding streets outside in the city, you will actually find some peacefulness in the alleyways. Immediately upon entering an alleyway even from a busy street in the heart of District 1 or the Old Quarter, the chaotic sounds of the urban city will fade into the din and life here will take a slower, more relaxing character. Locals living within alleyways are also more open to neighbors as you can often witness them having doors open, chilling in front of the porch, and exchanging conversations with each other, and with the food stall’s owners and customers.

Small children can comfortably hang out on the street playing games and laughing. All of the different sources of sounds and smells, create a different ambiance to the cozy life of the local inhabitants of small alleyways and showcase a very different aspect of Vietnam’s experience that is not easy to find if you’re living at a hotel or just visiting a tourist destination.

Internship in Vietnam Alleyways 1 a family
Kids buy their favorite snacks from a vendor. Photo source: afamily

If you happen to be on an internship in Vietnam during Christmas time, your adventures down will be particularly special. Vietnamese love to decorate for Christmas. Even businesses will embellish with trees, lights, figures, etc, but the most breathtaking views are the alleyways. It is very popular to line the entire alleyways with lights of all colors. People will set out small nativity scenes along the way.

Internship in Vietnam vietnamnet.vn
Christmas in the alleyways of Vietnam. Photo source: vietnamnet.com

So are you ready to explore every corner of Vietnam? Apply now for our internships in Vietnam!

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