At home in antique houses

TN News

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Nestled on the bank of the Ngo Dong River in the northern province of Ninh Binh, the Co Vien Lau private museum presents an ancient Vietnamese village with unique architectural and cultural features.

Nguyen Minh Thoa, founder of the museum, said he had traveled throughout northern Vietnam for years to look for and buy antique houses that date back to the 18th-20th centuries.

Then, he moved all of the materials to Hoa Lu District and rebuilt them.

Thoa, now 46, is a famous antique collector in Ninh Binh, who began collecting when he was just 17 years old.

Covering an area of 21,000 square meters in the Tam Coc Bich Dong tourism area, the village is now home to more than 20 antique homes, each bearing the traditional architectural traits of its home village or district.


From downtown of Hanoi, head south along the National Highway 1 A for about 80 kilometers to reach Ninh Binh Town. Turn right and go for another three kilometers to reach the Tam Coc Bich Dong tourism area where Co Vien Lau is located.

Tourists can also take a bus from Hanoi's My Dinh or Giap Bat stations to travel to Ninh Binh Town. From here, take another bus or xe om (motorbike taxi) to reach Co Vien Lau.

The lotus-shaped Nghenh Tan Cac Stilt House where tourists can enjoy Co Vien Lau's antique houses set amidst stunning natural landscapes

The Thanh Liem communal house

For example, the Van Hai house was restored from a home built in 1885 under the reign of King Dong Khanh the 9th king of the Nguyen Dynasty who reigned from 1885 to 1889.

The Van Hai house's curved beams are shaped like the neck of a goose and chiseled with intricate carvings.

The roof of the Tho Xuan house was rebuilt from a home that dates back more than 200 years old in Thanh Hoa Province's Tho Xuan District. It is made of fish fin tiles and its four corners have the shape of curved knives. Inside the house are more than 70 dragon-shaped jars.

Inside the old houses, more than 40,000 ancient objects dating back hundreds or even thousands of years ago are on display. The artifacts include coins, pictures, jars, jewelry, and statues as well as farm tools used in the Red River Delta.

Thoa has also built reconstructed communal homes and wells.

The most striking construction is perhaps the Nghenh Tan Cac Stilt House. It was moved from Hoa Binh Province's Cam Son region where it was first erected in 1820 under the reign of King Gia Long the founder of the Nguyen Dynasty (1802-1945). Nghenh Tan Cac was made of precious, fragrant wood. Its roof features two tile layers with fish fin tiles above, and flat tiles beneath.

The lotus-shaped house has been placed in the middle of a pond. Three bridges named Thien (Heaven), Dia (Land) and Nhan (Human) lead tourists across the lotus pond to reach Nghenh Tan Cac where they can rest and enjoy the fresh breeze.

Visitors to Co Vien Lau can also participate in local folk games and enjoy regional delicacies. Visitors are also welcome to stay, overnight, in the homes.

After visiting the village, guests can walk to the Tam Coc Wharf and take a boat trip along the Ngo Dong River to discover the caverns of Tam Coc (three caves) and Bich Dong (emerald grotto), which have been known for centuries as the inland Ha Long Bay.

Although it is a private collection, entrance to the museum is free.

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