For the last 20 years, Son has been travelling and collecting objects from Ha Noi and several provinces, including Bac Giang, Ha Tay, Hung Yen, Hai Duong and Thai Binh.
It all began in 1985 when he went to Bac Ninh, his wife s native province, to commemorate the death of a family member. He heard that the owner of the house wanted to dump an old mortar used for grinding rice in a nearby bamboo grove. He was surprised. The owner of the house told him that the mortar was no longer needed because rice was now ground by machine. Son said he felt saddened by the news, and asked if he could have the mortar.
"At that time, I simply thought it would be good to display in my house like a statue or a painting. As a Hanoian who rarely travelled to the countryside, I was interested in such kinds of objects," he said.
It ended up being the start of an obsession.
At that time his house had only two floors. Every time he brought back another rustic tool, his wife would complain about the clutter and he would have to store it in the bathroom or under the bed.
After retiring from his job at a book publishers in Ha Noi in 2003, he built two additional floors to his house. The fourth floor became the Museum of the Song Hong (Red River) Delta s Farmers. On display are 200 artefacts from the country ranging from bamboo ploughs and rakes, to beds, cupboards, crab pots and jars.
An altar to an ancestor occupies a large space in the room.
Entrance to Son s museum is free. He also acts as a complimentary guide to those unfamiliar with the old ways of farming.
Some of his most valuable artefacts include an ancient bell dating from the 18th century and estimated to be worth US$3,000, and a copper tray dating to the 17th century, which was used to hold fruit served to the king. He also owns a set of bowls from the Tran dynasty dating back to the 15th century.
"I hope my museum gives the public a better understanding of how a typical middle class farming family in the Hong River Delta lived," Son said.
"With the industrialisation of the countryside, rural objects have disappeared. I want to preserve them so I can teach my children and grand children what rural life was like.
"For me it s like a game, a search for my origins that helps me relax. It also gives me something to do now that I am retired."
When I look at the objects on display in the museum, I find myself drifting back to my childhood and my grandmother s house.
Here is the palm-leaf raincoat that my grandmother used to wear when she went to the paddy field. There is the bamboo hammock that I slept in.
And there, is the pot of slaked lime that my mother used to make betel while chatting with the neighbours.
Some visitors are moved to tears when they visit the museum, said Son.
I left the countryside 50 years ago, and suddenly one day, in Ha Noi, I encountered my childhood again," said Khac Tue, 80, with tears rolling down his cheeks.
Son added that it was not uncommon to see gnarled war veterans moved to tears, particularly when they see the rice mortars.
In 2005, Son donated more than 200 objects to the Nguyen Du Library in central Ha Tinh Province. Nguyen Du (1766-1820) was the author of the famous epic poem Truyen Kieu (The Tale of Kieu).
"For me the objects are invaluable but when I die, if my children sell them, they will become worthless," Son said.
A French photographer named Martine is writing a book on the museum, which he expects to publish in 2010. Hopefully, the museum will continue to inspire fond memories, long after the younger generations have forgotten the meaning of rustic idyll. VNS