Tourists burn down rare old house in Vietnam with fire for grilling

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 The charred remains of a century-old ethnic Muong house in the northern province of Hoa Binh after a fire destroyed it October 24 / PHOTO COURTESY OF MUONG CULTURAL SPACE MUSEUM

A century-old ethnic house believed to be the only one of its kind in Vietnam has been accidentally burned down, allegedly by a group of Vietnamese tourists, in the northern province of Hoa Binh.

The fire broke out at the Lang house at the privately owned Muong Cultural Space Museum Thursday night, destroying the 150-square-meter wooden building along with a collection of nearly 200 original Muong cultural relics, according to a press release the museum issued Friday.

It said two men and two women visitors lighted a fire to grill corn while waiting for their dinner to be served by the museum staff. The museum used to serve food for visitors inside the Lang house.

When the fire broke out, they were "scared" and fled in two cars instead of calling for help.

The four, who are yet to be identified, raced past three employees who tried to stop their car.

The museum staff tried to extinguish the fire, while firefighters arrived only half an hour after being informed since the road to the museum was being repaired.

Lawyer Truong Anh Tu, who is advising the museum in the case, told Thanh Nien that the museum's regulations prohibit visitors from lighting fires, but the employees were busy cooking dinner and so were unaware of what was happening.

They had learned that the cars used by the suspects carried Hanoi and Hoa Binh license places.

Bui Duc Son, director of the Hoa Binh police, told online newspaper VnExpress that the suspects have not ben identified yet.

But since "many other people were also at the site when the fire broke out, so we cannot conclude who the culprit was yet," he said.

Irreparable loss


The inside of the Lang house before it was burned down / PHOTO: QUYNH TRANG

Vu Duc Hieu, director of the museum, said in the release that the destroyed house was over 100 years old and was the last house of Lang, a term for the nobility which formerly ruled the Muong in Vietnam.

He said the house originally belonged to Ha Thi Loi, a Lang descendant, and her family, in Tan Lac District until he bought it in 2007 for restoration and preservation at the museum.

In the last 15 years he had collected numerous Muong items like gongs, hunting guns, and bronze objects like trays and jars.

But everything was gone now.

"It is a serious loss ... because the uniqueness of the house and its items cannot be reproduced.

"Works and items that have been kept, protected, and cared for by the whole society for many years have suddenly turned into ashes simply due to the ill-informed actions and attitudes of some individuals," Hieu said.

Other researchers and historians also mourned the loss.

Luu Anh Hung, deputy director of the Vietnam Museum of Ethnology in Hanoi, told Thanh Nien that it almost impossible to find another Lang house given that the tradition ended as long ago as in 1954.

In fact, when the Lang rule ended, almost everything related to it was gone as well, Bui Huy Vong, a researcher into Muong culture, said.

According to Vong, though Hieu's house was small compared to other Lang houses, it was the last of its kind.

"There is no other Lang house now. It is truly sad news for Hoa Binh culture."

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