A far cry from the towering spires that Prague is known for, Marissa Tejada ventured to Prague’s outskirts to find an authentic Vietnamese community known for tasty pho, colorful bubble tea and all the knick-knacks you (don’t) need.
Prague’s Little Hanoi, known as Sapa, doesn’t show up on those classic postcards adorned with gothic spires and majestic castles. There isn’t a skyline at all in Sapa. Behind a strip mall exterior is a market district built by the Czech Republic’s Vietnamese community over the past three decades. It’s a maze of stalls carved out of an old industrial factory site that breathes the essence of a busy, gritty Asian market. Its buildings are literally rusting around the edges void of any fancy touches.
Once a small bedroom community, Sapa has evolved into a trading center and market. Politics brought the Czech and Vietnamese communities together during their communist regimes where bilateral agreements encouraged Vietnamese to migrate to Prague to work. Today, the Vietnamese are the second largest ethnic minority in the Czech Republic, gaining official status in 2013.
Don’t expect to find any maps to help you discover Sapa. One local advised me best when he shook his hand out to say: “You just go and you find everything.” Lining Sapa’s connected parking lots are shops and business stalls surrounded by piles of wholesale knick-knacks – straight from Asia. Everything from plastic dolls, metal cans, stuffed animals, flower pots, garden statues, cheap clothing, cheap shoes, cheap gadgets, wigs and mops can be found stacked in colorful heaps.