The city of Hue still has many vestiges from the old times. On the way to Thien Mu Pagoda, along the bank of the Perfume River, you can see some old gates of the houses of past Mandarins. In this area, there is a village named Kim Long. This well-known village used to be the residential area for the noble class in the citadel of Hue. Even with the passage of time and lots of changes in the country, Kim Long Village still preserves many Garden Houses – unique relics only found in Hue. The Garden House is a beautiful complex in which the house is just a part of the harmonic combination of garden, pond, and yard. These have been built according to the strict rules of Feng Shui. Located in a big area with green trees, the Garden House was the home of the rich and of the noble class. Thus the furniture, the wood carvings and the altar are always very sophisticated highlights of the house. Living in a garden house, the owner believes that the family can be protected by the Feng Shui setting of the complex and can feel and be exposed to nature in the best way.
We will follow a road along the green canal at Kim Long village in Hue. You can view many old style houses along the walk. Some of them are the typical garden houses of Hue and can be quite visible from the outside. We then turn into a small alley where we can see the very traditional Garden House of the Mandarin named Pham Huu Dien. Built a hundred years ago, this house is still intact, from the beautiful garden to the Feng Shui screen in front of the house with a beautiful aquarium and blossoming water lilies. There are two ladies living in this house. The elder one is 84 years old, and she is the granddaughter of the Mandarin. They are really very friendly and hospitable. You can visit the worshiping hall – the most solemn place in their house. The altar is skillfully done with wood carving, lacquer and mother of pearl inlay. Here they worship Buddha, their ancestors and the Mandarin. Then you can visit their very interesting kitchen, which is my favorite part of this visit. They still keep everything in the kitchen the same as it was a hundred years ago: a wood burning stove and old style cookers covered with soot hanging on the wall. Like every traditional kitchen in Vietnam, they have a small altar for worshipping the three Gods of the kitchen, a basket hanging up in the kitchen in which to keep something dried or smoked, and a food cabinet with four legs standing over a bowl of water to keep ants out of their food. This is really a very unique kitchen that I would never have found in other places in Vietnam.
After visiting the kitchen, we can come and sit in their living room which still has all of its original furniture from the past. The ladies will invite you to have some green tea, cooked from tea leaves in their garden, and some mung bean cake. Sometimes we can also try some other fruits from their garden, banana being the most popular. They don’t speak English, but there are many ways you can talk, interact and even take pictures with them.
The area surrounding the house is also very interesting. There are many different kinds of trees growing here such as Mangosteen, Rose Apple, Banana, Bamboo, different kinds of vegetables, and especially the Dragon Fruit tree. A walk around the garden before saying good bye to the ladies can be a very nice conclusion of our visit to their home.
Upon leaving the house, we can continue walking along the village path. There is a family run Kindergarten where you can say “hello” and talk to the kids from the gate. There is also a house built by the local government for Vietnam’s Heroic Mother – the lady who lost her 2 sons and her husband in the war. She really likes to have people visit her house. Then we can walk further along the path, seeing local people living in their houses, some other garden houses, some local grocery shops, and a big workshop where different kinds of Hue cakes are made for delivery to the city. You can watch the group of more than ten ladies sitting, chitchatting and preparing the cakes. They are always open to greet you to their workshop, and interacting with them is great fun for both sides. This is also one of the great experiences on the walking tour to Kim Long village in the full day Hue Imperial City Tour.