Delayed funding sees traditional garden houses closed in Hue

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A former garden house in Hue, but the garden has been tiled and two concrete houses have been put up.

Nearly a hundred garden houses, a cultural attraction in the World Heritage town of Hue, have been closed over the past five years with the owners saying they were tired of preserving the heritages without getting paid.

The owners said they could not keep receiving visitors, putting on smart clothes, serving them drinks and answering hundreds of their questions like tour guides without any payment.

Nguyen Thi Minh Trang, owner of a garden house at No.1 Phu Mong Street, told the Tuoi Tre newspaper last week that a preservation project for garden houses in the town had been approved six years ago, but she has not received a single dong.

"I had to close the house to do other jobs. We still have to eat," Trang said.

Nguyen Ngoc Trinh, the 88-year-old owner of a house at No.5 Phu Mong, said he sometimes he had to tell the visitors that the house owners were not at home, since "I cannot be a free tour guide forever."

The Tuoi Tre report said that most other garden houses in the area also refused to receive customers, and some did so very reluctantly.

Many tourists were also frustrated after paying tour operators and not getting any service.

A total of 98 garden houses started to refuse their services after waiting for years for the garden house preservation project to provide them with funding. The project to preserve 150 garden houses was approved by Thua Thien-Hue provincial government in 2006 but the province only decided to establish a fund for the project in 2010.

Ngo Anh Tuan, vice chairman of Hue town government, told Tuoi Tre that the paperwork "took four years."

The Thua Thien-Hue provincial administration has not named the agencies or individuals responsible for the undue delay.

The delay has not only caused 98 houses to shut their doors to visitors, but many have also been modified for different purposes, one of them because people need more room.

The Thua Thien-Hue provincial government said at a meeting in December last year that there were only 52 garden houses remaining in their original form, with a ruong, an ancient wooden house typically found in Hue, surrounded by a big garden.

One of the modified garden houses is located at 38/3 Le Thanh Ton in the town center, built in 1932.

Two years ago, two modern houses for the owner's sons were put up on either sides of the ruong, and the garden was tiled.

One of the sons said "We have more than ten people, we cannot live in the small ancient house forever."

Another garden house nearby at 64 Han Thuyen also saw a two-story concrete house built next to the ruong house.

The owner of another garden house at 66 Doan Thi Diem Street has built a mezzanine inside the house for shelter in case of flooding.

Researcher Nguyen Huu Thong, director of the Hue office of Vietnam Institute of Culture and Arts Studies, told Tuoi Tre that Hue was listed as a world heritage not only because of its temples and palaces, but also to the villages inside the urban zones of the town, which is a special characteristic of Hue.

"Without the garden houses, Hue is no longer Hue," Thong said.

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