Duong Lam Ancient Village
One of the many pleasures of a Vietnam holiday is meeting the people and learning more about their daily lives. You may well begin your Vietnam travel package in Hanoi, the capital, because it has one of the two most popular international airports. You just fly in, pick up your Vietnam visa on arrival and off the go. Hanoi is a mixture or traditional and modern and as soon as you leave you are in the countryside, villages whose main activity is farming. One of the villages that is often on a Vietnam tour itinerary is Duong Lam that is known for more than its farming. You will certainly learn more about daily life here.
It is within the Red River Delta 60 kilometres from Hanoi. It is known as the village of 2 kings because Mai Hac De and Ngo Quyen who defeated the Chinese a thousand years ago came from the village. You will be impressed by the traditional houses that have been retained within Duong Lam. The village itself is surrounded by rice fields so there is always plenty of activity.
There is the Entrance Gate, Pagoda and Banyan Tree, typical of North Vietnamese villages. Villagers draw from the well and special events are held in the Mong Phu Communal House, one of the most famous communal houses in the whole of Vietnam. The communal house made of ironwood is central to the village but none of the roads lead directly to it; Feng Shui suggests that straight roads are bad luck. The communal house is on different levels that reflect the structure of society at one time. Previously only men used the house incidentally. There are impressive sculptures, dragon and phoenix with an altar in the middle.
You can drink green tea in the teashop next door, perhaps with some peanut candy as well; the shop is over 400 years old and was made from what was left over when the communal house was finished. Duong Lam is not very big so you cannot get lost but its interesting alleyways are all dead ends and none connect to another. It seems it was designed with alleys like fish bones. It was seen as a form of protection and a way to prevent thieves from escaping.
There are over 30 traditional houses and the gates can be closed from the outside to keep the animals in. The houses were constructed in wood and laterite stone that is peculiar to Son Tay Province. It means the houses are warm in winter and cool in summer. Many of the families are more than happy to offer you lunch which is a unique experience during your time in this lovely country.
If you visit during harvest time there is a chance you will see the floor covered in a yellow carpet of rice. It is left to dry after cutting and certainly this is an interesting time to be in the north of Vietnam in general.
Nom Traditional Village
Hanoi has so much to offer during a Vietnam holiday that it demands inclusion in all Vietnam travel packages. It not only has a number of landmarks such as the Temple of Literature, the museums and pagodas but there are also the narrow streets with vendors selling delicious food from their stalls and then of course there are the market people in the old city. There is much more just a short journey out of the city through the rural countryside with farming villages along the way. One such trip is to Nom Traditional Village
To get all you can from a Vietnam tour, you should get to know the locals. They are naturally hospital even though daily life is usually fairly hard. Nom is in Hung Yen Province and is just 40 kilometres from the bustle of Vietnam’s capital. It is typical of many Vietnamese villages; a market, pond, traditional houses, some grand and belonging to the richest families in the village.
The highlight of nom is the pagoda which will be among the most beautiful you will see during your holiday, wherever your itinerary is taking you. Few pagodas in the whole of the North are bigger than the one in nom. It has 122 clay statues, Buddhas and other deities. Remember that although Vietnam is primarily a Buddhist country, the locals worship more than just Buddha including their ancestors and many gods relating to the harvest, land and the elements.
Each of the statues have great expressions and are gesturing in different ways. The setting of the pagoda is great as well, towers, ponds, trees providing shade and stone bridges. You will have a day to remember with the sights, sounds and the people of Nom and you are no real distance away from the bustling city of Hanoi.
Tho Ha Traditional Village
The Red River Delta east of Hanoi has a long and rich history. Everyone that books a Vietnam tour should check that there is at least some time in the region. Hanoi and the Halong Bay are in most Vietnam travel packages so it is definitely convenient to visit the Delta Region as well, if only for a day trip. It is only in recent years with the growth of overseas tourism that some of the gems of the Red River Delta have been revealed to foreign eyes; Tho Ha is one of those treasures.
There is a photograph of Tho Ha in the Fine Arts Museum in Hanoi showing a typical traditional village with a Gate, Banyan Tree and of course the Communal House. In Vietnamese ‘’Tho’’ means land, ‘’Ha’’ means river and the village is situated on a narrow peninsula in the Cau River; water on three sides. It is accessed by ferry that takes you to the centre of the village where you will see the morning market where the local women are likely to be dressed in traditional costume.
The village’s pagoda is 500 years old, made of ironwood and finely carved and the communal house is equally impressive. The Buddha statues in the pagoda are especially good.
It may not strike you at first but there are no gardens in the village. Because land is so valuable, the alleys are very narrow and you will be walking around similar to if you were in a maze.
All the available land is used for farming; there is insufficient to grow all the rice the village needs. As a result, the villagers needed to earn a living. Their main produce used to be terracotta, large jars and vases though they also made coffins. The village earned a reputation for real quality because they fired their kilns for 72 hours, 24 hours more than in most other places. If something did not turn out as expected, the material was used in construction. Some of the walls in the village are made from terracotta produced 500 years ago.
These days, the villagers make rice paper for spring rolls. It dries in the sun as you walk around the village. During your time in the village you will be able to see how rice paper is made. The villagers are very hospitable in general and it is likely you will be invited in for tea, perhaps lunch and even better rice wine. The village is a great place to watch and to hear about daily life as well as the history of the region.
In the area there are traditional folk songs and instruments; UNESCO has recognized the regional music. If you ask you may be treated to a performance.
All in all, visiting Tho Ho is a lovely contrast during your Vietnam holiday to the bustle of Hanoi or Ho Chi Minh City in the South. You are sure to leave the village with wonderful memories.