In 2001, I got a phone call from my friend in Vietnam Television asking about Tho Ha Village. At that time, I had no idea about this place. Feeling ashamed, I decided to jump on my motorbike the next day and make my way to Tho Ha with my best friend to discover the village. At that time, there were no tourists going there. The only image and information I had about Tho Ha before this trip was the beautiful picture in the Fine Arts Museum in Hanoi. Tho Ha was so attractive in this picture. It was the typical image of a traditional village with a village Gate, Banyan Tree and Communal House.
Upon first coming to this village, I found that the name of Tho Ha was well suited for its location. “Tho” means land, and “Ha” means river. Tho Ha is on a narrow peninsula that is located in the middle of the Cau River, so the village is surrounded by water on three sides. The only way to get there is to take the local ferry to the center of the village. From there, you can see a very interesting local market that only opens in the morning, the authentic gate of the village, the still intact 500 year old pagoda, and the impressive communal house.
Tho Ha is the only village in Vietnam with no gardens. The reason is there are too many people in the village and a very limited amount of land for each family, so there is no space for gardens. The rice field is inadequate for the needs of the village people, so they have had to produce handicrafts to earn their living. For such a long time, Tho Ha was very well known as one of the best villages in the North of Vietnam for manufacturing terracotta products such as big jars, vases and especially the terracotta coffins used for the scary custom of second burials of the people in the North of Vietnam. The quality of terracotta products here is the best because they fire their product in a kiln for 72 hours instead of 48 hours like in other places. The terracotta here is much harder and more durable than the regular product. I was totally shocked on my first trip to Tho Ha upon seeing many local houses there constructed of defective coffins. Instead of discarding the defects, they made use of this terracotta as the brick for building their houses. The defective and broken coffins, vases and other terracotta products have been used in their walls for several hundred years and make Tho Ha unique among all the other villages on the Red River Delta.
Most of the families in Tho Ha Village live in very narrow alleys because they need to save the land for their houses. Since the decade of the 70s in the last century, they have stopped manufacturing the terracotta products, and now we can only see the relics in the walls of their houses. The main income of the village now comes from making rice paper for spring rolls. Visiting Tho Ha, you can see how rice paper is made in any house of the village and you can walk in the shade of rice paper being dried along the small alleys. Many of these alleys are connected to each other so that it seems you are walking in a maze with lots of surprises at every turn.
What Is The Best Way To Visit Tho Ha Village?
The first time I was in Tho Ha, I found a beautiful wall built from some big terracotta vases and tried to take pictures of this wall. As the alley was too narrow, I had to walk into the house opposite the wall for more space. After taking these pictures, I had a chance to talk to the very hospitable man living in this house, Mr. Viet, and I really enjoyed watching how his wife made rice paper in the traditional way. After a short conversation, he invited me to have some tea, and we talked about his family and his life in the village. A picture on the wall showed that he had belonged to the NVA (Northern Vietnam Army) that had liberated Saigon in 1975. Next to the picture, I saw a traditional music instrument hanging on the wall and found that he was the leader of the Quan Ho group, a traditional folk music group in this area which had just been recognized as a World Heritage Organization by UNESCO. At my request, he played and sang some beautiful folk songs for me. I realized that this could be a great experience for our clients to learn about the life of local people in the villages.
As travelers, we can now visit Mr.Viet’s house on our tour to Tho Ha village, and this is a highlight of the trip. First we can learn and practice making rice paper as instructed by his wife. Then we can visit with Mr. Viet and talk to him about his life time experiences in the village and in Vietnam in general. We can have a cup of tea, and then we may have a cup of customary Vietnamese home made rice wine during our interesting talk with him. We can also enjoy some Quan Ho music performed by Mr. Viet. If you have more time, a hosted lunch at his home will surely be one of the best meals on your trip to Vietnam.
From Mr. Viet’s house, we can walk along the narrow alley to the pagoda of the village. This 500 year old pagoda is well preserved despite its age and the changes that have occurred in the country. To me, this is one of the best pagodas I have been to in Vietnam. Most of the time the main gate of the pagoda is closed, and under normal circumstances you will be the only visitors at the pagoda. The peaceful and solemn spirit, beautiful construction from iron wood with sophisticated carving, and the impressive selection of Buddha statues will make your visit to the pagoda worthwhile and memorable.
When visiting Tho Ha, we can walk around the village going from the pagoda through the famous gate and then by the communal house. From the center of the village we will walk through the narrow alleys and have a great chance of interacting with the local people. You can feel and experience the daily life in this typical village of the Red River Delta. Many of the old ladies in the village still wear traditional costumes, and the best place to see them is in the morning market.
Scary but interesting enough, you can take a walk to the end of the village by the cemetery. Amazingly, the villagers put the bamboo frames for drying rice paper on top of the tombs there, and you can even here the crackling sound of the rice paper drying when walking by the cemetery. Walking on the dike, you can see the village from a distance over the lake and the green rice field on the other side of the dyke, and you can feel the open space after spending time in the most densely packed village in Vietnam. From here, you can return to the local ferry for the drive back to Hanoi.
Check details for One day tour from Hanoi to Tho Ha Village and bat Trang Village !
Hereunder some pictures of Tho Ha Village