Sunday, October 23 2016


Architect uses nature to nurture village

Update: May, 24/2015 - 11:34
Lazy river: Triem Tay Village in Quang Nam Province's Dien Ban District rests on the bank of the Thu Bon River. The village has been recorgnised as a community-based tourism site in the province. A rural villa called Triem Tay Garden, built on the river bank, is one of the most visited eco-destination sites after Hoi An. The garden is just five minutes by boat from Hoi An.

Erosion pushed hundreds of villagers away from their home six years ago, but since then French-Vietnamese architect Bui Kien Quoc has stopped the river's encroachment and turned the area into an eco-tourism destination. Cong Thanh reports.

Hundreds of villagers in Dien Phuong's Triem Tay Village were evacuated six years ago due to serious erosion that had devastated the area over the course of several years. But now the area is thriving.

The river has encroached another 10m onto their soil during flood season every year, and dykes weren't built to protect the village, either.

The endangered sunken river bank section, stretching 150m along the river, has since become a tourism eco-destination – rural-style villa called Triem Tay Garden.

Jungle journey: Tourists visit Triem Tay Village in the shadow of green bamboo and trees. The village, established in the 17th century, preserves its traditional, rural culture. — Photos

The 13,000sq.m site is now protected by a 'green' dyke - a system with combined layers of concrete foundation, soil, grass and water.

It serves as a tranquil weekend destination for families, groups and honeymooners, bursting with greenery and supplying both wooden and bamboo accommodations.

The garden's owner, French-Vietnamese architect Bui Kien Quoc, designed the non-traditional dyke.

He compensated evacuated families to keep their houses and garden as they had existed for years.

"Triem Tay is a very nice village," Quoc said. "It is a good example of rural architecture and lifestyles in Viet Nam. I would really regret it if it disappeared for any reason.

"I was born in Nong Son District in the central province of Quang Nam, and left for France at the age of seven. But I eventually returned to Viet Nam in 1996 to join village conservation projects."

Quoc, 71, said that's why he worked to conserve the village and protect it from erosion.

A five-year course of design, construction and plantation of vetiver and domestic grass varieties created a bio-dyke to prevent aggressive floods from affecting the shore.

"It's a reaction to the river, keeping everything in harmony," he said. "Do not make it angry because it would clear everything with its power. This means I had to build a bio-dyke – a soft, protective wall – to ease the power of the river during flooding season."

The complex's swimming pools even helped balance out the power of the river water, he said.

After a while, all of Quoc's efforts paid off.

Tranquility: Triem Tay Garden is on the banks of the Thu Bon River. The site includes gardens, pools and houses covered by green canopies.

Local authorities decided to stop the evacuation plan along the riverbank, as Quoc's 'green' dyke project had succeeded in protecting the banks from floods and storms – even the Nari storm in 2013. Residents who had evacuated were allowed to return to the village.

"The Triem Tay Garden helps protect the structure and lifestyle of a Vietnamese original village," Quoc said.

"It's been gradually disappearing due to rapid urbanisation and inept natural disaster preparedness.

"I just want to emphasise that Triem Tay Garden is not really a resort, but a house and garden in a rural village. The rooms were made for a comfortable stay for tourists on a weekend holiday with family."

Community tourism

Phan Thai Hoa, chief of community-based tourism in Dien Phuong Commune, called Triem Tay Garden a landmark for boosting tourism in the village.

"We had planned to develop community-based tourism in Triem Tay Village in 2014 and 2015," Hoa said.

"Preparations for launching the service have started to speed up among villagers and administration, with help from the International Labour Organisation (ILO) and UNESCO.

"Residents have been trained with updated skills and education on community-based tourism this year. The village, just 5 minutes on a ferry from Hoi An, is known as a favourite 'green' destination with environmentally friendly opportunities to explore the area on foot."

The village has a population of 800. It was founded in the 17th century. Many residents earn a living by fishing, weaving nets and doing odd jobs.

Chilling out: Visitors cool down at a swimming pool in Triem Tay Garden on a hot summer day.

Villagers farm on their own gardens, while young people find jobs at hotels and resorts in Hoi An.

"We built a tourism centre, which helps all residents stay involved in the services we provide - homestays, cuisine and craft experience on the riverside," said Duong Van Ca, vice chairman of Dien Phuong's People's Committee.

"A 3km road snaking round the village has been built in connection with local houses and gardens. Villagers are taught to welcome visitors."

Nguyen Thi Huyen of the ILO said the organisation worked with local administrators to boost community-based tourism in the village. It also helped renovate the village's cultural house and train locals in the service industry.

"We supported them with technical assistance, including visitor management plans, tourist maps and promotional materials," Huyen said. "We also helped build road signs and information panels, setting up a few attractions for photo tours and small visitor groups."

Village conservation

Quoc, the owner of Triem Tay Garden, said the village originally reserved 1,500m of garden land for timber and bamboo cottages, as Vietnamese houses were built in previous centuries.

"Triem Tay is full of rare Vietnamese-style rural houses that have survived decades of speedy urbanisation in Viet Nam," Quoc said.

"Concreted structure buildings are gradually replacing centuries-old cottages."

Quoc, who graduated from the School of Fine Arts, Paris (Ecole Nationale Superieure des Beaux Arts de Paris–Atelier Lemaresquier) and is a member of the Academy of Architecture of France (Academie Francaise d'Architecture), said these rural homes would disappear soon if the country didn't make the effort to preserve them.

A room with a view: Visitors can watch the sunset from Triem Tay Garden. The garden, which is an attraction in the village, offers greenery with local fruit, trees and bamboo. The garden rests near the river, across from Hoi An. — VNS Photos Cong Thanh

The architect said the community-based tourism model was an effective tool for preserving Vietnamese culture.

"Well-organised tourism in the village will create stable incomes for the locals," he said.

"This can help villagers who wish to work at home, rather than making money away from home. Good incomes will limit uncontrolled migration from rural areas to cities. Young people often do this because they wish for a new life with a better paycheck, but it's a severe loss to culture in small villages like this one."

Triem Tay Garden project employs 85 per cent of local residents.

Mai Van Truong, 46, earns VND5 million (US$238) for carrying tourists on ferries between Triem Tay Garden and Thanh Ha Pottery Wharf.

The garden has four bamboo and wooden houses – the Guru, the Village, the Sunset and the Yoga – for families or groups staying over night.

Each house is cooled by shadows from trees and bamboo. Only three rooms have air conditioners.

Jobs for locals

Duong Thi Khanh, 23, said the residents had experience in bamboo and sedge mat-weaving, fishing, masonry, carpentry and sculpture.

"Unskilled workers can earn VND4 million per month from odd jobs in the garden house, while they take care of their families," Khanh said. "Skilled workers can earn more with tourism service."

The garden tour service manager, Nguyen Hai, said the site could host 150 tourists.

Hai said boats at dock at Thanh Ha Fishing Market, on the way from Hoi An to Thanh Ha Pottery, would carry a group of 20 passengers for VND100,000 ($4.80). There is also a VND50,000 entrance fee for the garden.

"We also offer a fun day-long tour at the garden," Hai said. "Tourists can have a relaxing time in the swimming pool and get a locally made lunch for VND100,000."

Tourist can book rooms from VND800,000 to VND1.5 million per night. Triem Tay Garden also offers yoga classes and wedding parties with a view of the river.

Quoc said Triem Tay Garden and craft villages on the other bank of the Thu Bon River would keep visitors staying longer in Hoi An, as they'd have more chances to explore rural life there. — VNS

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