A new craft village site, the Minh Hai ceramic village, which has been built near the Bat Trang ceramic village, began welcoming tourists last month, and offers more choice for tourists looking for a day out from Ha Noi.
Theme park: A craftsman makes a clay jar at Minh Hai craft village in Gia Lam District, Ha Noi. Tourists can practice pottery-making skills during a visit to the site.
Bat Trang Village is a well-known half-day tour from Ha Noi, but the new site will offer travellers more choices in exploring a large natural site with folk performances and a backdrop modelled in the typical style of craft villages in the northern delta region.
The 10-ha Vietnamese art village displays different traditional handicraft trades, such as ceramics, silk, woodwork and bamboo.
A lake stage has been set up at the site to feature traditional Vietnamese folk performances such as cheo (traditional opera), chau van (spiritual music), quan ho (love duet) ca tru (ceremonial singing), and water puppetry twice a day every Saturday and Sunday.
Visits cost from VND150,000 (US$7.5) to VND300,000 ($15) for a day-time tour.
The cost includes pottery practices, cultural performances, lunch and fishing from the lake.
What's for dinner? Different galleries in the Minh Hai craft village display tri-coloured ceremic products, a unique ceramic product of northern Viet Nam. — VNS Photos Hoai Nam
The site is situated near Bat Trang Village, near the foot of the Red River dyke, and is a 20-minute bus journey from the city centre. The No 47 bus leaves from Long Bien station to Bat Trang Village every 15 minutes from 5.30am to 8.20pm daily.
The bus route winds the 12km river dyke from Chuong Duong Bridge to the east and runs across the site gate, which is 300m from Bat Trang.
Visitors can explore both the site and Bat Trang Village over a few hours.
Hanoian Nghiem Huyen Trang and her friends visited the site as soon as it opened last month.
The 19-year-old student said she preferred taking a motorbike rather than the bus along the river dyke road, but the unfinished road was particularly dusty. However, the Hanoian had a perfect day at the site after touring the ceramic village on a buffalo-drawn cart.
The group also saw water puppetry shows, pottery, reading and fishing with lunch on a raft.
Trang, who grew up in the Old Quarter, said she enjoyed the peace and quiet of the place, just 20-minutes from the crowded city centre.
"I still remember the dust and smoke emitted by the kilns in Bat Trang Village a few years ago when I first visited, but I'm excited by the new craft village site," Trang said.
"I was clumsy when trying the pottery and fishing, but it was interesting to give it a go as I'm a city girl. It was great when we caught some fish from the raft," she said.
Nguyen Minh Hai, the owner of the Minh Hai craft village, designed the gate of the site in the shape of a pottery-kiln, while pavilions and stilt houses surround a big lake.
The passageway imitates a stream with dotted stepping-bricks in the middle.
Hai, 40, who has 20 years of experience in the tourism and pottery industries, wanted the site to offer a new look at traditional ceramic villages.
"Bat Trang Village has been long-known as a pottery centre, but it's not easy to promote it as a charming destination due to its polluted environment. Although villagers have introduced gas furnaces to replace coal-fired kilns," said Hai.
"I launched the cart-buffalo service 10 years ago, but I want to lure tourists with a new tourist product," he added.
The site has different galleries showcasing silks from Van Phuc Village in Ha Dong town; brocade weaving from Sa Pa; wooden furniture, rattan and bamboo products, terracotta from Bau Truc in Ninh Thuan Province and precious stone from Yen Bai Province.
"It's like a miniature centre for Vietnamese craft villages. I even made myself a flower pot with the help of a craftsman in the ceramic workshop," said Tran Thanh Van.
Van, 28, a shop assistant from Ha Noi, said she was glad to make the clay pot within half an hour.
Craftsman Nguyen Van Doanh, 36, instructs visitors practising with porcelain clay.
"I teach them how to form thing with hands and a slab-roller. It lets them do a bit of handicraft," Doanh said.
"Tourists can take home unfinished things that they make themselves. We want to let visitors have a bit of fun for a few hours."
The tour closes with cultural performances. — VNS