A thatched house at the Viet Village in Ninh Binh Province
With both beaches and mountains, the country’s biggest Buddha statue and the Phat Diem Cathedral -- immortalized by Graham Green in The Quiet American -- Ninh Binh Province has become a staple on the Vietnam tourist trail.
The province, around 93 kilometers from Hanoi, is colored by nostalgia with old temples and pagodas lining the area's many village paths, rivers and streams.
A resort has made use of this old beauty by recreating the ambience of traditional rural life.
Simply called Viet (Vietnamese) Village, Tam Coc Bich Dong Resort in Ninh Hai Commune, Hoa Lu District, offers a tourism space in line with Vietnamese traditions. It is a place for pure relaxation.
Dinh Ha from the village’s kitchen said the village is crowded with foreigners during the weekend, especially those from France, Japan, the UK and Germany.
“They visit everywhere in Ninh Binh and come here to rest,” Ha said, cited by Saigon Tiep Thi in a March 4 report.
The "village" is around seven kilometers from Ninh Binh's capital town and not far from Hoa Lu, Vietnam’s former capital before it was moved to Hanoi a thousand years ago.
The resort is home to more than 20 ancient Vietnamese houses built between the 18th and 20th century on an area of more than 22,000 square meters.
The entrance is marked by potted plants, banana orchards, and a small drink shop, all symbols of Vietnamese villages.
Houses are thatched. Parts of the roof above the doors are trimmed, making the rest look like bangs.
There’s a jar of water at each front yard, together with a rice-hulling mill, another mill for pepper, and a stove.
Some visitors said they felt like they were traveling decades back in time. They said what the appreciated most about the place was the silence.
The resort also brings back a three-door gate that is usually seen leading to a northern village, a pond of water-lilies, a communal house, a parlor, and a house for people to discuss arts and literature.
Although many houses are built with soil walls as they were in the past, guests are put to live in wooden houses that are also built in traditional regional styles, including homes from the north central province of Thanh Hoa, or the central coastal province of Khanh Hoa.
Each house has a scenery painting accompanied by a poem.
It provides an open space with windows facing out to the mountains and gardens. All is put closer to nature, except for the toilets that are much more modern and convenient than old-style ones.
One house in the village is an exhibition space for stone, bronze and ceramic items used by Vietnamese people hundreds or thousands of years ago.
The Dong Son culture, a prehistoric Bronze Age age civilization centered in what is now Thanh Hoa Province, was carefully introduced through the exhibits, .
A house on stilts is put in its highlands context, at the foot of a mountain near a stream.
Dishes from yesterday
Visitors to Viet Village will sit at a table familiar to poor rural Vietnamese families, with the fermented white eggplant, known in Vietnamese as “ca phao,” which is usually eaten with crab paste soup, fish cooked with brine, and little shrimps roasted with a little fish sauce.
The place also serves Ninh Binh specialties such as barbecued goat meat, fermented pork pie, salted fig fruits and fish simmered with fermented vegetables.
Performers of popular northern folk music such as “cheo” and “ca tru” are available if the audience are large enough.
To prove that it is old and yet not boring, the village also allows young visitors to set up bonfires and engage in activities such as fishing and bicycle rides to an old embroidery village in Hoa Lu.
Travelers can also take a boat on the Ngo Dong River and buy embroidery items, or they can choose a sunny day to sail to local caves. Musts include visiting “Tam Coc,” meaning three caves, and Bich Dong pagoda, which was built with iron wood from trees around a thousand years old.
Services also include trips to Bai Dinh Pagoda in Gia Vien District, which is the largest in Vietnam, and has Asia’s largest bronze Buddha statue of 100 tons and 10 meters high. As a religious taboo, skirts and shorts are not recommended at the pagoda.
The resort managers said customers should feel comfortable to bargain, for an embroidery item or for a motorbike or boat trip, as waves of foreigners coming have prompted local service providers to hike their prices.
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