Tradition winning out over tourism

Hoi An local Vo Tan Tan and his craftsmen created the Taboo Bamboo Workshop in the middle of the Cam Thanh nipa palm forest as a sustainable bamboo craft and preservation centre in the ancient town in central Vietnam.

Tradition winning out over tourism
ON DISPLAY: A bamboo fish from the Taboo workshop, an innovative centre of the traditional craft. Photo courtesy of Taboo

The workshop's skilled craftsmen make more than 200 unique traditional designs, from furniture and toys to household commodities and decorative items, under a low-carbon emissions model.

“This is the first sustainable, low-carbon production site in Hoi An,” according to Tan. “We create products with our hands instead of relying on mass production via machinery. Our craftsmen design new models every single day.”

Tradition winning out over tourism
AT HOME: A bamboo house built by Taboo, which also offers craft tours. Photo courtesy of Taboo

“Our workshop doesn’t make replicas of the same items, instead creating unique products depicting the village and Hoi An as unforgettable destinations. Our innovative designs and creations are all hand-made; we only use mechanical tools to smooth the finished products

Products from the Taboo workshop have been designed with recycling and environmentally-friendly consumption in mind, and Hoi An has been promoting it as the first “zero” waste site in the country.

“Our craftsmen come up with innovative designs from bamboo, with products including cups, toys, lanterns, electric car bodies, bicycles, furniture, and interior décor,” Tan said. “Traditional production techniques have been passed down through the generations, and most villagers have some level of experience in making handicrafts from bamboo and nipa palm leaves.”

He was the first in Cam Thanh Village to create a bamboo bicycle and also built the first-ever bamboo electric car.

The bamboo craft has been his passion and he hopes to see Cam Thanh become greener and a popular, well-known destination for bamboo crafts.

Most pieces of bamboo can be used in production, by cutting and trimming the tubes as replacements for plastic, rubber, or steel components.

Tradition winning out over tourism
DAY TRIPPERS: Tourists trying their hand at the craft in Cam Thanh Village in Hoi An, a popular eco-tourism site. Photo courtesy of Taboo

Nguyen Xuan Trinh, 37, another local craftsman, said he left the trade a few years ago to provide transport services by coracle but eventually returned to Taboo.

“At least 1,000 coracles were built in the village as tourism boomed,” he said. “But tourism has now been hit by COVID-19, leaving thousands without work. Too many villagers poured money into making coracles for transporting tourists, turning the village into a noisy town rather than a tranquil rural community.”

Conflict began to be seen among coracle owners and travel agencies hoping to lower transport costs from VND150,000 ($6.5) to VND60,000 ($2.6) per trip.

“It all stemmed from poorly managed tourism services in the village, and thousands of coracle paddlers became unemployed when COVID-19 broke out,” he said. “I returned to work at the Taboo workshop, where I earn VND350,000 ($15) a day. We still receive many orders for bamboo handicrafts and interior or garden décor items as well as lanterns and souvenir goods.”

Nguyen Van Tuan, 42, also revived his craft skills after a few years providing coracle tour services.

Tradition winning out over tourism
DELIGHTFUL DESIGNS: Bamboo handicrafts on display on the banks of the Hoai River in Hoi An. Photo courtesy of Taboo

“I thought paddling a coracle and earning $10 for each 30-minute trip was easy money, but the pandemic had a terrible downside for tourism and a lot of people like me became unemployed,” he explained.

The craft helps villagers preserve their culture and lifestyle and earn a stable income. Hand-made products from the Taboo workshop, he said, which are mostly made under order, are priced five-times higher than mass-produced equivalents.

“The higher price of hand-made products is due to the innovation and skill of the craftsmen,” he said. “It’s an art form made by hand and from the heart. Every hand-made product is, by definition, unique.” 

Effects of mass tourism

 

Pham Bien, 65, is one of the oldest craftsmen in Cam Thanh and has been working with bamboo since it emerged as a main material for housing construction.

“Villagers used to build their houses from local bamboo and nipa palm leaves,” he said. “We also make coracles and interior décor items from nipa palm. Bamboo furniture from Cam Thanh became famous in terms of quality, and our bamboo souvenirs and household products are also a source of pride.”

Bien complained, however, that the boom in tourism over recent decades disturbed the economic structure in his tranquil village.

A lot of young local people looked down on traditional crafts and fishing, opting instead to provide coracle services or work as guides, which are much easier jobs.

“Conflict, unfair competition, and mass tourism services messed up local life,” he said. “Neighbours became bitter rivals, competing for tourists with homestay and boat services. The village was shaken by loud music coming from coracles, as boatmen danced for tips.” 

Its tranquillity and scenery were unique attractions in Cam Thanh, and local lifestyles and culture had been preserved for generations. Concrete buildings now dot the village, he said, with property speculators seeking a quick profit from mass tourism.

COVID-19 then completely disrupted mass tourism and left at least a thousand coracle paddlers out of work.

“I hope that villagers keep working with handicrafts rather than relying on unstable mass tourism, which greatly affected local life and the economy,” he said. “The village was hosting 5,000 visitors a day two years ago, which was far too many and had negative consequences for all.”

“This is why I decided to preserve the local bamboo craft for the young generation. I hope it will play a role in making the village a ‘green’ and unique destination in Hoi An.” 

Local specialties

Tradition winning out over tourism
HANDY SKILL: Craftsmen in Cam Thanh Village making products from bamboo. The village has preserved the trade for generations. Photo courtesy of Taboo

Koi fish-shaped lanterns and reusable bamboo Christmas trees are among the latest designs to come from Taboo.

“Bird’s-nest rocking chairs are also a new innovation for garden décor and among the hundreds of unique designs we make from bamboo,” craftsman Trinh said.

Local craftsmen have also introduced a bamboo craft tour to the Taboo workshop, where visitors can hear more about the craft.

“Tourists can learn how to make their own bamboo souvenirs,” Tan explained. “We give them some help as they try their hand at making different items. They can choose what they want to make, and then take their own products home.”

According to the Vietnam Chamber of Commerce and Industry, the country currently has more than 720 handicraft villages making bamboo products and over 1,000 bamboo and rattan production and trading companies, with annual exports standing at $250 million.

“Bamboo crafts have helped us live sustainably, and could revive the village as a centre of innovative bamboo creations,” Tan said.

VNS

Unique coconut and bamboo-made house in Hoi An

Unique coconut and bamboo-made house in Hoi An

A man from the central province of Quang Nam’s Hoi An Town has made a house from coconut and bamboo.

Unique bamboo root sculptures

Unique bamboo root sculptures

In the middle of Hoi An ancient town, there is a small stall displaying hundreds of strange portrait sculptures carved from bamboo roots. Those are the artwork of Huynh Phuong Do whose nickname is "Do bamboo roots". 

 
 

Other News

.
Vietnamese food: Raw red jellyfish
Vietnamese food: Raw red jellyfish
TRAVELicon  07/04/2021 

Raw fish is often associated with Japan but it's also a very popular street food in Vietnam.

Vietnam Int’l Travel Mart set for May
Vietnam Int’l Travel Mart set for May
TRAVELicon  06/04/2021 

The annual Vietnam International Travel Mart (VITM) 2021 will take place in Hanoi from May 5 to 8 with the theme “New Normal - New Opportunities”, a press conference in the capital on April 5 heard.

Prices drop, people go on vacation before upcoming holiday
Prices drop, people go on vacation before upcoming holiday
TRAVELicon  06/04/2021 

Weeks before the Reunification Day (April 30) and International Labor Day (May 1), the number of tourists visiting the central provinces of Da Nang and Quang Nam has increased, a good sign for the tourism industry amid the pandemic.

Da Nang beach jammed with tourists on weekends
Da Nang beach jammed with tourists on weekends
TRAVELicon  05/04/2021 

The beaches in Da Nang were full of local residents and visitors over the past weekend.

House D67 where history is told
House D67 where history is told
TRAVELicon  06/04/2021 

House D67 is an interesting historical relic to visit in Thang Long Imperial Citadel.

Conquering Da Bia Mountain in Phu Yen
Conquering Da Bia Mountain in Phu Yen
TRAVELicon  05/04/2021 

Located in Dong Hoa District, Phu Yen Province, Da Bia Mountain is one of the highest mountains of the Ca Pass and it takes about two hours of climbing to reach the top.

Bustling Nga Nam Floating Market
Bustling Nga Nam Floating Market
TRAVELicon  06/04/2021 

People in Soc Trang are proud to preserve their over a hundred year old tradition of trading at Nga Nam (five-way intersection) Floating Market. 

Most stunning coastal road in Vietnam
Most stunning coastal road in Vietnam
TRAVELicon  05/04/2021 

The central province of Ninh Thuan attracts tourists with long and charming beaches. Especially, the road stretching about 80km from Ca Na beach to Binh Lap peninsula is considered one of the most stunning coastal roads in Vietnam.

Travel agencies seek changes to cope with Covid-19
Travel agencies seek changes to cope with Covid-19
TRAVELicon  04/04/2021 

Travel agencies are attempting to be more creative as more people are choosing backpacking.

“Vaccine passport” hoped to support resumption of international fights
“Vaccine passport” hoped to support resumption of international fights
TRAVELicon  04/04/2021 

In Vietnam, domestic flights have been resumed and the Prime Minister has asked relevant agencies to study the use of “vaccine passports” and gradually reopen international flights.

Northwest beauty leaves visitors in awe
Northwest beauty leaves visitors in awe
TRAVELicon  05/04/2021 

Mother Nature has given the Northwestern region of Vietnam so much, with beautiful scenery that can’t be put into words. 

VNAT to post “Travel to love - Seas beckon” video to spur tourism
VNAT to post “Travel to love - Seas beckon” video to spur tourism
TRAVELicon  04/04/2021 

Vietnam’s seas and islands will be brought to domestic and foreign visitors with Vietnam National Administration of Tourism posting the “Travel to love - Seas beckon” video on YouTube on April 6 as part of its “Discover Vietnam” programme.

Vietnam Food Travel Map project announced
Vietnam Food Travel Map project announced
TRAVELicon  03/04/2021 

The Vietnam Food Travel Map project, the first of its kind and developed by culinary artisans and experts, was unveiled during a ceremony in Ho Chi Minh City on April 1.

Domestic tourism heats up as major Vietnamese holidays approaching
Domestic tourism heats up as major Vietnamese holidays approaching
TRAVELicon  03/04/2021 

Domestic tourism places high hopes on the upcoming holidays of the Reunification Day (April 30) and Labor Day (May 1) will be bustling with travel activities.

HCM City to digitise 100 tourist sites
HCM City to digitise 100 tourist sites
TRAVELicon  02/04/2021 

The HCM City Department of Tourism aims to promote the application of digital technology at 100 tourism sites in the city to enhance the experience of tourists as well as locals.

Hoi An hospitality turns trapped foreign tourists into goodwill tourism ambassadors
Hoi An hospitality turns trapped foreign tourists into goodwill tourism ambassadors
TRAVELicon  03/04/2021 

Being stuck in Hoi An in the central province of Quang Nam due to the COVID-19 pandemic, thousands of foreign tourists have received assistance from the local government and tourism community to overcome difficulties.

Tour guides excited to get back into the field
Tour guides excited to get back into the field
TRAVELicon  02/04/2021 

With the COVID-19 pandemic now largely under control, Vietnam’s tourism scene is warming up and getting back into full gear for the upcoming national holidays at the end of April. 

Lang - Hanoi's beautiful pagoda of exuberant greenery
Lang - Hanoi's beautiful pagoda of exuberant greenery
TRAVELicon  07/04/2021 

With a large architectural complex in an open space, Lang Pagoda, one of the most popular pagodas in Hanoi, was considered the most beautiful pagoda in the midst of exuberant greenery in the west of ancient Thang Long Imperial City.

Exploring Phu Quy Island
Exploring Phu Quy Island
TRAVELicon  03/04/2021 

In recent years, Phu Quy Island has become a more popular destination on the tourist travel list. 

Foreign YouTubers help promote Vietnam tourism
Foreign YouTubers help promote Vietnam tourism
TRAVELicon  01/04/2021 

Vietnam meets Dustin, Max McFarlin, CeeJay, HanQuocBros, Cheri Hyeri are YouTube channels run by foreign YouTubers that have gone viral among Vietnamese netizens thanks to their attractive videos featuring Vietnamese culture, cuisine, and tourism.

 
 
 
Leave your comment on an article

OR QUICK LOGIN