Arrive in Hanoi, you are now considering where to chill out in several days here. You are often recommended by family and friends to the most popular attractions like Ho Chi Minh Complex, Temple of Literature, Museum of Ethnology and do not miss the Old Quarter with Sword Lake inside it… However, if you need a new way of exploring Hanoi and its local life, a tour to craft village nearby Hanoi is not a bad choice. Let me introduce some to you, here are list of top 3 craft villages without entrance fee that you will regret not knowing earlier. Tours of Indochina
Bat Trang ceramic village
ceramic product is being decorated colorfully
the tourists are making their own product
“I wish I could marry you/ I will buy Bat Trang bricks to build our house” is a nice folk song showing the great honor to Bat Trang ceramic and pottery quality. For people who are familiar with this famous product, they are not surprised to know these high quality ceramic and pottery products are exported worldwide including dishes, vases, bowls, cups and many other kinds of ceramic.
The village was documented to be established since the 14th and 15th century at the bank of Red river, however, local people state that this may appear earlier. Its own history was told in two different ways. The first one tells that under the reign of Ly dynasty in 1100, when the nation was in peace and development, there were 3 scholars who returned from their mission trip to China, brought along the ceramic craft industry learnt there and taught this job to Bat Trang people. In the second story, when King Ly Cong Uan relocated the capital city in Hanoi in the 10th century because of its good location for trading and commercial. There are many businessmen, crafters from nationwide coming to settle down in Bat Trang village for their business. In this area, there was a lot of white clay so many potters came and built the kilns here. Gradually, Bat Trang has changed from a normal ceramic and pottery village into a famous one until now.
If you are curious to know the way workers make these ceramic by hand, let’s come and join them for only 13 kilometers south east of the Old Quarter.To get there, you cross the Chuong Duong Bridge, turn right at the end of the bridge and go straight ahead until you see the sign leading to Bat Trang village. The other way which is quite interesting is to take a bus no. 47A from bus stop close to Dong Xuan Market. Right at the stop for your car or motorbikes, you will be greeted by many women who offer you a short class in their houses of making the pottery and paint the ready-made products after that. The price for 1 person is from 40 000 VND for making a stuff with the help of the owner and pay 20 000 VND more for a painted product to bring home. Be aware that this is a manual job with clay and colors so you should wear casual clothes for your comfort. If you find it too difficult to complete your creative product, do not hesitate to ask for their help. After you finish making your ceramic stuff, it’s time to shop around in the porcelain ceramic market nearby while waiting for your product to be dried.
This market is a paradise of ceramic including ceramic tile painting, flower vases, tea pots and cups, bowls, plates, spoons, even ceramic animals like dogs, cats, ducks. The price is very reasonable comparing to exported products from the same brand name. Do bargaining for some great deals while shopping. I guess you do not need to leave without any souvenirs.
One other choice for someone who love peace and tradition, go deeper into the village, you can meet many big ancient houses making ceramic and their more unique products than stores in the market. You also have chance to see the procedure of making the ceramic in which the potter must follow these stages: selection, land preparation and processing, create designs, create patterns, enameled and finally calcined product. Experience traditional village life of Bat Trang is “Best bones, second skin, third “dac lo”. It means, the clay chosen must be of great quality to make the sustain product, then the technique to make the color must be skillful and last but not least, “dac lo” refers to the burning skill to release the best product after all. On the way out the market, you can see many nice cuisine with great flavor such as banh troi, banh chay, banh te (all are different taste of rice flour) or refresh yourself with sugar cane or coconut. Do not forget to come back to the first house to paint your ceramic and collect them home. I hope you can get your most creative hand-made gift after all.
Van Phuc silk village
Van Phuc Silk village or Ha Dong silk village is situated at the bank of Nhue River, 10 kilometers southwest of the centre of Hanoi, which is renowned for its traditional weaving and premium quality silk products since the ancient time. Van Phuc village has reputation for being the most ancient silk village providing the best silk in Vietnam for the past 1200 years. To reach this ancient village, you can travel on your own car/motorbike following Nguyen Trai road until reach the border of Ha Dong district then turn right for 3 kilometers or catch the public bus 02, 21 then walk 500m to the village.
For first-time tourists, you may feel surprised at its typical manner of an ancient village in the North of Vietnam with banyan tree, well, communal house, and the sound of power-looms everywhere. Walking on the main road in Van Phuc, tourists will be lost in the world of silk with various products like shirts, ties, crafts, dresses… made of silk available in the village. Vietnam travel packages
According to the history, there was a woman named A La Thi Nuong from Cao Bang who was skillful at weaving of Van Phuc village. She then brought the secret weaving technique from China to teach the villagers there. She was honored as tutelary deity of the village when she passed away.
Van Phuc Silk village became famous since the Ly dynasty. Until the reign of Nguyen, it was brought to Hue imperial citadel for royal costumes and became extremely precious handwork for a long period of time. From 1990, Van Phuc silk product was exported to many countries in the world for its high value. The special beauty of Van Phuc Silk stems from its smooth, light weight, and elegant appearance. Especially, one type of Van Phuc silk can make the wearer feel cooler in the hot weather and warmer in cold weather. Nowadays, to satisfy the various demands of customers, the producers have expanded their silk and garment goods like embroidered silk, wrinkled silk, double layers and more colors for silk products.
Walking along the “town of silk” which is so eye-catching and hustling, you may find yourself and friends the most suitable high quality silk products after the trip to Van Phuc village.
Dao Thuc Water puppet village
Water puppetry is one of the typical stage arts of Vietnam culture showing the intelligence, creativeness of farmers; being specialty of Vietnam wet-rice civilization. Water puppetry includes two basic components: Puppets and water.
Water puppets are seemed to be simple and rough sculpture-works, solid lines, poor colour, and zigzag movements; they evoke the general conception of human beings and other things to the audiences… However, the liquid feature and reflection of water creates the fickle. On water stage mirrors, everything becomes sparkle, flexible, changeable in front of the audiences’ eyes.
The water puppetry guild in Dao Thuc village, 10 kilometer from Dong Anh (Hanoi) is well-known for its water puppet performance both in Vietnam and abroad.
From Hanoi to Dong Anh, take highway no.3 then turn right for 10 kilometer, you arrive at Thuy Dinh – the name of water puppet stage in Dao Thuc village. This one includes 3 parts: Water pavilion – locating in the middle of the pond where the artists stay behind the scene to control the puppet; Stage – where the puppet characters perform whose shape is a square water stage of 4x4m and the space for audience is at the edge of pond.
According to history, the ancestor of the career was Nguyen Dang Vinh, under the reign of Le Y Tong (1735-1740). He was an artist performing art puppetry to serve the King. He came to the village and taught the Dao Thuc villagers how to perform water puppetry
and process to organize a show. A team often includes about 20 people: actor puppeteers, musicians playing flute, drums and vocalists.
When coming here, you will have a chance to be a real actor/ actress who have to stand under waist-deep water, be hidden behind bamboo screen blinds to perform. At first it seems a bit difficult and tiring, but you will certainly feel happy after experiencing that moment. While performing with the wooden puppet characters, singing is also important during a water puppet performance. The artist must understand a lot of the traditional folk tunes such as “cheo”, “tuong”,.. These puppets on the water are very versatile and lively. Melodies from the traditional folk bring a unique feature to national music. As usual, each show includes 10 – 15 skits such as fire crackers, flag raising, dragon dances, frog catching, swimming competitions and more in festivals.
If you can spend more time here, you should go to the village and see the artists make their wooden puppets which accounts for much of their time besides the farmwork and performance. These character are often carved to resemble famous figures in Vietnam legend stories and then lacquered to be water proof.
After the show, I believe that lovely melody, colorful puppets and skillful artisans will leave you the great impression of the traditional puppetry art of Vietnam.
Enjoy your trip !