$160-million 'culture village' rots in Hanoi

Thanh Nien News

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A village meant to showcase the architecture of Vietnam's ethnic minority people's has fallen into disrepair despite untold millions being spent on its construction.
The Ministry of Culture opened the VND3,200 billion (US$160 million) park in Hanoi four years ago.
Now, it looks like a ghost town.
“I came here to see what was described as a gathering place for 54 ethnic groups,” said Nguyen Anh, a tourist from the north-central province of Nghe An.
“But there is nothing but some decaying houses with trash scattered on the floors.
“I will never come back here again,” he concluded.
At the entrance to the "cultural village," lies a stilt house modeled after those occupied by the Phu La minority people.
A tourist was recently seen walking on his tiptoes and holding his breath as he crossed the bamboo floor, which groaned creaked under his every step.
Broken reeds have left dangerous gaps in the floor and electric wires hung chaotically here and there.

A traditional house of Chut ethnic people in the park was destroyed in a fire in 2013, but has not been repaired. Photo courtesy of Bao Tiep Thi.
Nearby model homes meant to reflect the architectural styles of other ethnic groups lay in even worse shape, covered--as they were--with large blue plastic tarps.
Many of the tarps failed to conceal the devastation below, since the plastic itself had been ripped to tatters.
All of the structures were closed, forcing curious tourists to peek in through windows.
A few no longer existed.
An electrical fire reportedly reduced a traditional home built in the style of the Chut people to ash last year.
It remains unclear why no one has cleaned up the charred remains of the home.
Grass and shrubs find their way to cover most of the concrete roads that lead to what used to be a northern highland market.
Deserted and downgraded tram stations and toilets, along with a piles of idle building materials completed the overall picture of utter stagnation.
A Tuoi Tre reporter, who visited the village two months ago, was greeted by a friendly officer of the cultural village.
“You just drive your bike to wherever you need [to go], we don’t have a bike attendant here,” said the officer who was gossiping with her colleagues.
Another tourist guide at the village sincerely advised the tourist to turn around and leave.
“If you want [to have] a tour, go search other places. There is nothing here.
“Traveling around under this broiling sun [is] so strenuous.”
The head of the village's management board, Toan Thi Huong, said the office was following the right guideline of “building and making profit at the same time”.
Toan said that the stilt houses were built with bamboo, which is easily damaged in Son Tay district's harsh weather.
Such decay, he said, was “inevitable.”
“The management board has a conservation team who are in charge of such repairs. However, the process of assessing damages and hiring contractors to make repairs can take a long time.
“Therefore, sometimes we finish repairs here when something's utterly destroyed over there. It’s unavoidable,” said Huong.
Meanwhile, another deputy head of the village'e management board, Nguyen Dinh Loi, blamed a lack of funds for the village's advanced decay.
"The scheduled budget was VND 3,200 billion, but we have only received between 25 and 30 percent of the funds, which must be approved every year by the Prime Minister."
Loi said that the board is asking private investors to pump more money into the project, but it's such a tough task.
He added that in on major holidays and during festivals, "the village gets jammed with visitors".
To prove this point, Loi said that the number of village workers increased from 30 in 2010 to more than 100 today.
The village was opened to the public to celebrate the Millennial anniversary of Hanoi in 2010.
Many other structures were carelessly built for the inauguration, only to fall into disrepair after the big celebration.
The Hoa Binh park, a 20-hectare project, reportedly began falling into disrepair just one year after it went into use, while the VND2,300 billion ($115 million) Hanoi Museum is now partly used as a wedding hall.

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