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An old carpentry village by the Thu Bon River

Young craftsmen make woodcarvings at

The pleasant clattering of chisels hitting wood, the smiles of carpenters and their handicrafts draw travelers to Kim Bong Carpentry Village, which is believed to have existed in the ancient town of Hoi An for centuries.

Many tourists from parts of Vietnam and elsewhere in the world are coming to the old craft village in Cam Kim Commune not only to enjoy the clattering sound but also to learn on-the-spot lessons about the hard work and the simple life of local carpenters.

Local tour guides say Kim Bong villagers often get up in the wee hours of the morning to do their daily work of carving logs, stumps and even pieces of discarded wood into handicrafts of high value for export and sale to holiday-goers in Hoi An.

The handicrafts made in the commune’s largest workshop Huynh Ri, where tourists are often taken to when visiting the village, and other places there vary from traditional furniture as well as statues of the Christ, the Virgin Mary, the Buddha, the God of Earth and the God of Wealth.

Visitors can also find woodcarvings, statues of Vietnamese women in their traditional costumes, statues of buffaloes and other animals, and home-use wares.

The owner of Huynh Ri is pleased to see visitors lying down for a free short rest on the foldable wooden beds in the workshop before they leave no mater what they buy. The processes of making a wooden product also attract visitors to workshop, where many craftsmen demonstrate cutting, seesawing, carving and polishing wooden handicrafts.

Huynh Ri is not the only place for visitors to learn about carpentry as they can see villagers chopping stumps and doing their carpentry work along roads of the village. In recent years, many villagers have turned to repairing and restoring old houses in Hoi An, and making fishing boats for fishermen from different parts of Central Vietnam.

Local tour guides say the ancestors of Kim Bong villagers made the old buildings in Hoi An during the years when the town was a busy commercial port. The ancestors were skillful craftsmen and people will know how excellent they were when seeing their carvings on altars, tables, chairs, beds and the columns, rafters and pillars of old buildings.

In Kim Bong Village today, there are many experienced carpenters, who inherited the skills, technique and secrets from their ancestors so the woodwork they produce are also as beautiful as those made in the old port town in the past.

Woodwork is not the only handicraft line of the village as visitors can buy purses, handbags and other souvenir items made of tho cam (ethnic fabric), silk and brocade at Kim Chi Shop, which is near the Huynh Ri. Every day, women sit by sewing machines in the Kim Chi Shop to tailor souvenir items for both retail and wholesale.

Remember that souvenirs made of silk, tho cam or wood in Kim Bong are cheaper than those in the heart of Hoi An. For example, a set of three purses costs only VND 15,000 (less than US $1) in Hoi An but visitors can have two sets of purses with the same amount. So, they should think of Kim Bong if they want to buy souvenirs and wares of the types.

To attract more tourists to Kim Bong, local authorities are exerting every effort to develop the village into a tourism complex to make it easier for villagers to earn more income and to help reserve the old carpentry village at the same time.

Showrooms are underway and expected to be open near the entrance of the village on the other side of the Thu Bon River to showcase the traditional carpentry items of Kim Bong and the artworks of Hoi An. Guesthouses and restaurants are also planned to service visitors, and there will be music performances and traditional festivals for them to enjoy.

Tourists can take a 15-minute boat trip from Bach Dang Street to Kim Bong Carpentry Village. Otherwise, they can book the open tour that takes in My Son complex of towers and two craft villages at the tour operators like An Phu, Mr. Chinh and My Son in Hoi An or Camel Travel on Le Loi Street in Danang.

The open tour costs from US $4-5 for traveling by road and boat on the Thu Bon River plus lunch from the heart of Hoi An. The Kim Bong Village is open for free. But, participants of the open tour have to pay an additional VND 60,000 (US $4) for the ticket to My Son complex of towers, some 50 kilometers from Hoi An and VND15,000 for a visit to the old pottery village Thanh Ha, which is near Kim Bong Village.

Nhan Dan - (21/07/2005)

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