The brick-lined alleys of Duong Lam Village look much like they did hundreds of years ago.
Bicyclists in a narrow alleyway lined with antique houses, against a backdrop of new modern homes that are changing the soul of the village.
The village covers nine hamlets, including five – Doai Giap, Dong Sang, Cam Thinh, Cam Lam and Mong Phu – that are interconnected with one another. Mong Phu is the most renowned hamlet, hosting a total of 13 historic residences.
According to some residents, the village’s unique architecture originates from its proximity to two laterite deposits in the Red River Delta, specifically in Ha Tay Province and Bac Ninh Province. The soil is very hard to excavate, but when used for construction purposes, grows thicker and stronger as time goes by. Villagers built their houses, temple walls, gates and wells out of laterite.
A typical laterite house in Duong Lam has a gate constructed resembling the curves of a basket. On rainy days, water would pours into the front yard before reaching the drainage system.
House owners believe the water brings good fortune.
Many of the village’s alleyways are cul-de-sacs, designed to prevent thieves and robbers from escaping. Each residence includes a secret door that leads to the hamlet’s communal house.
Today, urbanization has gradually replaced these ancient structures with high-rise buildings and apartment blocks, as the number of laterite houses in the village continues to decrease. According to Ha Tay Province’s Department of Culture and Information, Duong Lam Village had about 800 historic houses left as of May 2006, of which 140 are more than a century old.
Another report by the village People’s Committee released recently announced there are only 300 laterite residences remaining, with two being at least 300 years of age.
Some families in the village have tried hard to preserve their laterite houses, save the symbolic soul of the community.
Among the local activists are the relatives of Ha Nguyen Huyen, an editor who works for well-known literary journal Van Nghe newspaper.
Though he works in Hanoi, Huyen makes weekly trips to the village to visit his mother and four siblings who make a living selling a kind of sweet soy sauce – a traditional local cuisine.
Living in one of the ancient laterite residences, the family offers tourists home-stays, homemade meals and bicycle rides to visit the area’s famous destinations: Mia Pagoda, Phung Hung Temple and the tomb of King Ngo Quyen.
However, while most residents know their houses’ historic values, several emphasize how living in antique homes poses awkward difficulties.
“With some houses seriously deteriorated and suffering problems ranging from dim lighting to termites, it is a question of safety for those who live inside,” a resident named Phuc said. “Our children want newer houses.”
Phuc also emphasized that it is somewhat awkward for tourists to see residents of these ancient houses use modern appliances; for example, a desktop computer.
Moreover, residents complain they have received almost no support from the government to preserve their ancient houses, while it’s estimated that between 300 and 500 tourists visit the village daily. Tourist tickets cost about VND15,000 per head.
“It doesn’t make sense for us to stay at home, greet tourists daily, prepare tea and receive nothing,” another resident said, adding that only a handful of ancient houses have been renovated with outside help.
Recently, the local government designated the five interconnected hamlets as top priorities for preservation efforts.
But while images of laterite houses in small alleyways and residents draining water from the hamlets’ wells conjure an idyllic view of Vietnam’s countryside, they may all soon disappear.
Reported by Thu Hien
Source : thanhniennews.com
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