Best Traditional Craft Villages in Vietnam: Part 1

By: Lien Nguyen

Vietnam is not only known for tourist meccas like Hạ Long Bay or Sapa, but also for its handmade craft villages.

These villages have existed for centuries and have been preserved for generations. A big number of high quality products from these craftspersons are exported abroad. The customs, cultures and traditions of the Vietnamese are expressed through the art and images of these handmade goods.

Without further adieu, here are the best craft villages of Vietnam. Don’t miss them if you’re in the area.

1. Gốm Xứ Bát Tràng (Bát Tràng Pottery)

Bát tràng pottery is an old traditional craft village near Hà Nội about 13km from the capital centre. This is the oldest and most famous pottery village in Vietnam. Bát Tràng pottery dates back to the Lê dynasty (which ended circa 1400 AD). If you’re in the capital, go! It will be fantastic opportunity for you to experience the pottery making process. Some clay studio owners offer pottery workshops where a host will help you carefully manipulate the clay and wheel so that you can make a piece on your own. They will even dry your production and colour it for you. Expect to pay around US$5, a humble amount to become a real pottery artist.

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2. Làng Lụa Vạn Phúc (Vạn Phúc Silk Village)

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Although it is not far from Hà Nội centre (10km), this village has preserved the elements of a traditional Vietnamese village: banyan trees, wells, and a marketplace under the tree in front of the village temple. When you first step into the village, you can hear the sound of looms from the textile factories. There are many kinds of silk, nearly 70 weaves. There are broadly four different kinds of silk patterns: animal, plants, objects and art.

The silk is used to make clothes like the traditional áo dài. You can watch them make the silks and clothing as well as buy them.

Interestingly, this village’s silk artists joined a fair Marseille, France, in 1931 and were top rated in a ranking of silks from Indochina. Afterwards, their products were exported to Eastern European countries and elsewhere, a trade route which continues today.

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3. Làng Tranh Đông Hồ (Đông Hồ Painting)

This is a village famous for its paintings that have existed for a long time in Vietnam, since around the sixteenth century. It’s located in Đồng Đông Ward in the Bắc Ninh Province. There are many subjects of study which appear in Đông Hồ paintings: the locals’ daily activities, dreams of a good life and happiness and the customs of Vietnamese. Because the images are simple, easily understood and depict iconic images, the paintings leave an impression on viewers.

The surface material is a traditional paper called giấy dó (Nepal paper). It may be the canvas of choice for its colours, which are blanched from naturally occuring whites: seashells, specific leaves or even bamboo.

It can be said looking at a Đông Hồ painting is like reading Vietnamese literature. Artists who make the pictures create visual poems on a range of subjects and interests.

There is a busy painting market on 6th, 11th, 16th, 21th, 26th of Lunar December. In 2018, that’s the 22 and 27 January; and 1, 6, and 11 February. Look here for lunar calendars from other years.

The painting market attracts a great number of people who come here to visit or to buy paintings.

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4. Rượu Làng Vân (Làng Vân Rice Wine)

It’s made in Vân Hà Commune in the Việt Yên District of Bắc Giang Province. Wine from Làng Vân is a special drink famous inside as well as outside the country. It’s a nice present to give to family members and friends when coming here.

Just as red or white wine is a typical dinner drink in the current age, Làng Vân wine was once a mainstay of banquets in dynastic times. It was considered a proper gift for the king.

The main ingredients are glutinous rice. A kind of special sticky rice is chosen very carefully, a secret yeast and pure water from the well in the village. All of them are mixed to make the special Làng Vân drink.

Surprisingly, the locals in Làng Vân have striven to keep the traditional trade of their family. Làng Vân wine has developed a following not just in Vietnam but in other countries.

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5. Điêu Khắc Đá Non Nước (Non Nước Stone Carving Village)

Huỳnh Bá Quát founded this stone carving village in the eighteenth century in the Thanh Hóa province in the coastal city of Đà Nẵng. Stone carving is a valuable skill that’s still a source of stable employment and income as it was when the first artisans learned it.

They harvest stones from Ngũ Hành Sơn marble mountain to make the artifacts that range from the useful to the beautiful: flour grinders, dragons and Buddha statues of different sizes and shapes. If you have a chance to visit Đà Nẵng, don’t forget to come to this village at the foot of the Ngũ Hành Sơn marble mountains. You’re sure to find a nicely designed sculpture by the local artists.

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