Traditional villages in Vietnam
Bat Trang village
Separated from the Hanoi downtown by a bridge over the Red River and 15km dike in between green rice paddies and old villages, Bat Trang is worth a half-day visit not only for its wellknown cottage industry but also for the poetic surroundings.
According to historical records, the villagers have featured some kinds of excellent ceramic for domestic use and export since 15th century. From time to time, the Vietnamese overseas people and diplomatic corps have found their products – valuable antiques now – not only in neighbouring countries like China, Korea, Cambodia but in far states including Egypt, France and Portugal. The masters of Bat Trang now are not only supplying a big deal of porcelain for Vietnam but receive numerous orders from Japan, France and USA and are proceeding to recover traditional samples that somewhat have been lost during the war time. Stop-off at the village is an interesting mixture between watching the real production of ceramics and walking around for some light but fine and sophisticated porcelain. You can find in a factory the workmen mixing clay or dipping burnt vases into glaze to highlight their crackled lines, the painting masters, usually young girls with dexterous hands drawing on raw terracotta before they are heated at 900oC to 1,700oC ovens, taking inspiring pictures of coal-dust bakes pasted on the village’s walls. Daily life of the village with a small exciting market and the wharf at the Red River where the products shipped are also very fascinating. You should go with a local guide to discover the family factories behind the shops in front, as it may not easy to communicate with the villagers who speak no English.
Dong Ky village
If Bat Trang say they are proud that about 1,000 households live by traditional job, other cottage industry villages surrounding Hanoi would be shy a bit. Dong Ky village – 30km northeast of Hanoi, has only hundreds of families specialized in handmade wooden furniture with mother-of-pearl and marble inlay. Whilst local people come here for ordering cupboards, tables and wardrobes by their designs or in catalogues’s styles, you would be interested in wooden statues or sophisticated utensils made of ebony, redwood, rosewood and pinewood.
Van Phuc silk village and Le Mat snake village
Another village 14 km West of Hanoi called Van Phuc is famous for the traditional silk and you can find here many families using motor looms weaving silk or washing them after completed. Villagers from Le Mat, 08 km northeast of Hanoi, catch and breed snakes for foods and wine. Serpents can be found hereabout in compounds around the house, in readiness to export or to be dipped in snake wine or traditional medicine. Different kinds of other snakes are to be cooked and served to the people mainly coming from Hanoi, especially men. In Hanoi old quarter sometimes you can also buy medicines made from Le Mat snakes.
Dong Ho folk painting village
Dong Ho village along the Duong river in nearby Ha Bac province produces traditional woodblock prints. In the old time, a picture printed that way is a must to decorate a Vietnamese house in springtime of “Tet” – the Lunar New Year. Some families in the village now change to make paper articles to burn at the Vietnam’s ancestral anniversaries to send “utensils” and “money” from the alive people to their dearest dead relatives, with a hope that those things will be assisting the dead souls to “survive” well in the Hell. As the villagers’ job is somewhat seasonal, a visit to Dong Ho should be combined with a sightseeing to the large But Thap pagoda nearby, which was restored in 17th century with impressive antique statues and stone-carved balconies and towers.