While Saigon has a popular Nguyen Van Binh Book Street, Hanoi launched its own version named 19/12 in 2016.
The 19/12 book street as it is known today has a much more thrilling mysterious long history to learn than you might imagine. Formerly used as a public graveyard burying dead people of the National Resistance War against French colonialists, which occurred in Hanoi in 1946, this cemetery turned into a flea market by 1986 as all the corpses were brought to another place. Although the market was then named 19/12, hardly did any merchants and the locals use that one. They, instead, called it Chợ Âm Phủ – Hell market!
Considered as one of the most popular streets in Hanoi, 19/12, also once known as Rue Simoni St, cannot be home to any Trade centres, which is due to the very Oriental belief of the “Otherworld” that all the dead spirits of the war still rest in peace here, making it a wise thing to follow – do not disturb them under any circumstances! Scary and gloomy as it might seem, Chợ Âm Phủ was on the other hand just like a supermarket with all variety of goods that normal customers will look for – vegetable, seafood, poultry, herbs, haberdashery and so on. The most interesting feature was, however, the main good sold here was nothing other than Dogmeat – Thịt chó. People believe that the very dish along with shrimp paste and white wine would avoid dark spirits entering the market.
Sadly, 2008 saw the closing of the market to make room for a park in memory of the war victims. And on May 1, 2017, the park was one more time reconstructed into a book street, welcoming all the locals and foreigners. Tuoi Tre Newspaper reports that the opening caught so much public attention since thousands of people came to celebrate. However, after six months, the street started to see a decrease in visitors. The bookstores used to earn more than 100 million dongs in the first few months, but recently they gained less than 50 million dongs. They are now trying hard to survive in 19/12 street.
19/12 book street opens daily from 8:00 am to 22:00 pm. It is equipped with electronic information boards introducing Vietnam’s history. There is also a lovely flower store on the left and a Nhã Nam bookstore on the right at the street-door; many benches are situated along the path for visitors to rest or take a selfie.
Fun fact: If you go to 19/12 Street, you will find it as a photoshoot area rather than a book area.
Come by and enjoy the city’s fresh outdoor destination! And now, check out our vibrant photo album!
Photo Album Flickr
(Please use the left/right arrows to navigate in the files of the open album)
Words by Thao Mai
Photos by Phuong Hoang