Vietnam Travel > Travel Special Features > Vietnam - The Craft Villages
Vietnam - The Craft Villages
Take a seat at any street-site tea stall in Vietnam and you'll be presented with examples of the country's handicrafts. The teacup will likely be made of blue and white pottery from Bat Trang village, or else of earthenware from Phu Lang village. The stool on which you're sitting may be woven from rattan, or crafted from bamboo. At a nearby table there may be a man smoking thuoc lao tobacco from a bamboo water pipe. Turn to watch the street and you'll notice all manner of handicrafts pass by: men wheeling bicycles precariously laden with flowerpots; women in conical non hats selling fresh-cut flowers; and pedicabs heaped with handmade baskets.
Visit a souvenir shop and the abundance of locally-made handicrafts is more apparent still: bolts of colorful silk, delicately embroidered linens, lacquer ware vases, and statues carved from wood and stone ... There is so much selection that it's easy to forget that each of these items was made by hand, often by people who perform this work part-time, as a sideline to farming.
Now popular with tourists, handicrafts have a long history in Vietnam. Vietnamese civilization developed with the cultivation of wet rice and, even today, the country remains largely agrarian. Around 80 percent of the population still lives in rural areas, where people's lives follow the rhythm of the seasons.
As the seasons shift, so does the demand for fieldwork, allowing farmers some tine to pursue other occupations. Using materials that were locally available, some enterprising peasants turned their hands to making crafts and, over time, specialized craft villages arose. Her, we introduce few of these villages and provide a supplement of handicraft retailers.
Originally made for local consumption or barter with nearby villages, these products were later sold to Vietnam's developing urban centers, where the upper classes demanded ever-finer products. Vietnam's most famous craft villages supplied their wares to the royal court, first situated in the present-day capital of Ha Noi and later in the central city of Hue. For centuries, Vietnam's handicrafts have also been exported, with traders from Southeast Asia, Chine, India, the Middle East and Europe filling their ship's hold with Vietnamese-made silks, ceramics and carvings.
Today, Vietnam has thousands of craft villages, many of which have been turning out the same products for centuries. The next time you pick up a finely painted vase, a brightly lacquered water puppet or a shimmering silk craft, turn your thoughts to how this item was made. You are holding a precious piece of Vietnam's heritage.