Visit Van Phuc Village in Ha Dong Town (Ha Tay Province) for a taste of Vietnam’s traditional craft villages and also for surprisingly good bargains on high-quality silk. Van Phuc, traditionally the nation’s silk manufacturing hub, is only ten kilometres from central Hanoi on the border between city and countryside. The silk-production facilities in the village include both small factories and home workshops. Most of the silk looms, which fill entire rooms of local homes, are constructed on site. The noise of shuttles clacking back and forth is overwhelming in such small spaces.
The homemade products are quietly beautiful. According to the commune’s records, Van Phuc started making silk in the late 4th century and was famous for the craft by the eleventh century, when King Ly Thai To moved the capital to Thang Long (present-day Hanoi). He used Van Phuc silk for royal costumes. In its peak days under the Nguyen Dynasty (1802-1945), Van Phuc produced seventy different kinds of silk, including the (silk with tiny holes), gam (thick silk with embossed flowers), and van (thin silk with woven and embossed flowers).
Mr. Do Van Loi, vice president of the Van Phuc Commune People’s Committee, notes that 1,000 out of 1,300 households in the commune are involved in silk production. A large manufacturer might have up to twenty looms and employ twenty workers. Each year the commune produces from 800,000 to one million metres of silk.
The main street of the village has about thirty shops with a wide range of products. Prices are anywhere from 20-50% cheaper than on Hang Gai or Hang Bong Streets in Hanoi’s Old Quarter, depending on your skill at bargaining. Most silk- producing workshops are in the commune’s more remote streets.
To reach Van Phuc Commune from Hanoi, take a bicycle, xe om, or taxi along Nguyen Trai Street until you reach the Ha Dong Bridge (the border of Ha Tay Province). Take the first turn right into Chu Van An Street. Keep going for nine hundred metres, and you will see a large sign, “Van Phuc Traditional Village.” The Van Phuc Communal House will be on your right.