Kim Bong Village is known across Vietnam for its artisans who specialize in carpentry. We explored the village today to learn more about the craft, and to participate in UNESCO’s Export-led Poverty Reduction Program.
Since the 16th century, three types of carpentry in Kim Bong have become renowned : ancient architectural construction, furniture, and shipbuilding. The carpenters follow the traditional guild system where young people start out as apprentices and eventually achieve the rank of master after years of honing their skills.
The village is located on an island, so we took a 20-minute ferry ride to get there. It was a cool experience to ride the ferry with locals on a small wooden boat whose decks were filled to capacity with bicycles and scooters.
Our first stop was to watch ship building, but there was only one fishing boat being worked on as we passed through. Having grown up in a pulp and paper town, the smell of sawdust was familiar and it was interesting to see the types of tools used.
We then visited a temple, and biked to a family’s home to see how people make rice paper and noodles as another way to make money. We all took a turn at pouring the rice paste on the stove and removing the “paper” to cool. The fire was produced by burning rice husks, and the ashes would later be placed in the garden as fertilizer like they do in Sapa.
We visited another home where the family weaves sleeping mats and place mats to earn an income. When we arrived on the Sunday morning, the family’s daughter was hard at work. She showed the girls how to weave the dried grass into a mat, and each took a turn at the craft. They then decided to feed the chickens (no slaughtering this time!)
The morning was was a window into the lives of ordinary Vietnamese who live in the countryside. There is a lot of poverty in Vietnam, and not many ways to make money.
In 2002, the Vietnam National Administration of Tourism began the community-based tourism project in Kim Bồng, along with help from the United Nations. Tourists are taken to the island by volunteers who help explain the villagers’ way of life. In return, tourists leave a small amount of money to say thanks.
The venture has been succesful and is now considered a case model for future sustainable tourism projects in SE Asia.