In my history class at school, I learned about the revolution of Mai Hac De and the great victory of Ngo Quyen who defeated the Chinese to gain independence for the country after a thousand years of domination. They both came from Duong Lam – the ancient village in the Red River Delta about 60 kms from Hanoi in Son Tay province. That is why they call Duong Lam the village of 2 Kings. There must be a special Feng Shui in this village. Besides the two kings, many talented people have come from Duong Lam, both in the past and in the present, and have taken important positions in the court and the government of Vietnam.
Someone called Duong Lam the “Hoi An of the Red River Delta.” I really like this comparison, because like Hoi An, Duong Lam has kept all its village character and its ancient houses regardless of time. Located in the middle of beautiful rice fields, it has all the typical features of an ancient village in the North of Vietnam: the village gate, old Banyan tree, public well, communal house, pagoda and especially the ancient houses in the village.
Crossing the beautiful gate, follow the small road to the center of the village where you will see the impressive communal house of Mong Phu. In front of the communal house there is a big square with about eight roads and alleys heading to this square. The amazing thing here is that no road leads directly to the communal house, as this will cause bad luck based on Feng Shui. The communal house of Duong Lam Village is one of the most impressive in Vietnam. It is the meeting place for the people on any special day in the village. The floors of the communal house have different levels which were used for the different classes of people in the village, and in the past the house was used only by men. The Duong Lam communal house is very famous for its beautiful construction from iron wood and its very sophisticated sculpture of a dragon, phoenix and its outstanding altar in the middle. For myself, I was very impressed with the tea shop located right next to the communal house. My first time there, I had a bowl of green tea and talked with the lady in the shop. I was so interested in the story about the construction of this tea shop. It was built from left-over materials from the completed communal house. So the tea shop, like the communal house, is 400 years old and could be the oldest tea shop in Vietnam.
Another beautiful feature of Duong Lam is the beautiful alleys in the village. I was very surprised on my first visit here to discover that no alley connected to another. An old man in the village told me that all of the alleys in Duong Lam were built like fish bones, and each of them leads to a dead end. The reason for this was to protect the village from thieves or unfriendly strangers. When things happened, there was no way for them to run away in this village. Houses have been built attached to each other, and only in Duong Lam, I found that the gate of each house has a very interesting handle which allows guests to open the gate from the outside. Thus the gate can normally remain closed keeping the animals inside.
Duong Lam is very famous for more than 30 ancient houses still existing in the village. All ancient houses in Duong Lam village have been built of wood and laterite stone, a special material found only in Son Tay. The laterite stone is very durable and keeps the houses cool in the summer and warm in the winter. The color and large size of the stones also create very nice patterns and a unique character for the houses in Duong Lam. The people here are so hospitable that you can visit any house on your walk in the village. It is also possible to organize a beautiful home hosted lunch for you at one of these ancient houses.
Unique Way to Discover Duong Lam Ancient Village
The best way to visit Duong Lam ancient village is to walk to the village from the gate, then visit the Mong Phu communal house. After admiring the masterpiece in the communal house, let’s take a seat at the 400 year old tea house and enjoy some hot fresh green tea with peanut candy. The shop keeper of the tea house can tell you lots of beautiful stories about the village. Then we can take a walk around the village following some small but attractive alleys which pass by many interesting local houses. Along the way you can visit which ever house you like. We’ll see the daily life activities of the local people in the village, and then we can stop at a very authentic ancient house for a home hosted lunch. It can be the best way to feel the traditional atmosphere of an ancient house, experience the life of people there, and interact with our hospitable host.
Most of the travelers coming to Duong Lam do not know of the attractive area surrounding the village. The first time I came to Duong Lam, it was harvest time, and the whole village had been covered by a yellow carpet of rice. Local people were busy harvesting the rice, and they even dried the rice straw on the road leading to the village. Watching the activities of local people in the fields and smelling the scent of straw while heading to this well known village I had never been to before, was wonderfully memorable.
Duong Lam is also one of the very few villages in Son Tay having an interesting and thoughtful house in the middle of the field called “the resting house on the field.” Such houses were built a few hundred years ago from laterite stone and can be the perfect place for people working in the fields to rest on hot summer days. Each of them has been built in great locations for Feng Shui; locations that provide the best cooling summer breezes and a place of relaxation. Every time I come to the village, I stop at this house. It is just like visiting my old friend.
Visiting Duong Lam, I found that a trip to the surrounding rural area can be a great balance with a visit to the village. You can walk in the middle of a rice field, visit the resting house on the field, or take a bike ride around the village. Duong Lam also has the famous Mia Pagoda and a beautiful line of “Duoi” trees, mentioned in historical books, that were used by King Ngo Quyen to tie up his elephants a thousand years ago. The trees are still healthy and green today and provide a perfect place for you to visit and rest on your bike ride.
Duong Lam village discovery is included in our Full-day Tay Phuong and Duong Lam Tour.