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Plush wooden houses showcase VN talents

Update: August, 04/2013 - 14:21

Happy home: Nguyen Van Binh (R) welcomes visitors to his wooden house, which he believes that has brought him many good luck. — File Photos

by Bui Huong

Arriving at Thuy Trieu Village in the northern province of Hai Phong, visitors will be astonished by nearly a hundred sophisticated wooden houses, as modern as any tube house.

"I like wooden houses", says villager Tran Van Vien. "They resemble villages in northern Viet Nam. It is also respectful to worship ancestors in wooden houses."

Vien's house has 14 pillars, three apartments and three main doors. Although humble in size compared with other wooden houses in the village, it took 14 months of meticulous craftsmanship to build.

"Only recently was I able to achieve my dream. Every year, my family has saved, little by little, for me to purchase wood imported from Laos. After five years, I finally had enough wood to build an 80sq.m house worth VND one billion (US$50,000)."

The trend of choosing to build wooden houses is catching on and more Vietnamese families are choosing to build houses from scratch.

Nguyen Duc Tuong, who initially intended to build a villa using money sent from his daughters in South Korea, built his house in Lap Le Commune after seeing his friend's wooden house in Thuy Trieu Village.

Months were spent traveling back and forth between the northern provinces of Hai Phong, Nam Dinh and Ninh Binh to the central province of Nghe An to study architecture and meet with builders. Finally, he hired local joiners to begin construction.

"I had to study very carefully because the house took a fortune to build. I have traveled to many places but in the end I decided to ask Tran Van Ca for help. Even though he asked a higher price than other joiners, his profound knowledge of building and feng-shui made me confident."

Tran Van Ca's house is arguably the most beautiful in Thuy Trieu Village. Wooden, double storey and of an imperial Hue design, it cost over VND3 billion ($150,000). The lower story serves as a joiner's workshop while the upper story boasts three apartments with pillars, three main doors and intricately carved beams.

Money does go on trees: Building a wooden house can often cost a lifetime's worth of saving for a farmer in Hai Phong Province.

Invariably, a study of wooden housing will show that the design of wooden houses depends on the size of the wallet. A wealthy family will be able to afford a lavish house with decorated features compared with more modest designs in poorer households.

Few in Thuy Trieu Village lead a wealthy life. Their income is derived primarily from agriculture and fishing, but many still manage to save enough money to build wooden houses. As a result, Thuy Trieu is fast becoming the cradle of ancient wooden houses.

According to Ca, a 50-year-experienced joiner in the village, building wooden houses is far more difficult than flat-roof housing, because it requires knowledge of feng-shui and top notch builders.

"Wooden houses are becoming the trend in the northern villages. Each year, joiners from Thuy Trieu Village build 50 to 60 houses in Hai Phong and nearby villages", he says.

"The source of iron wood comes from traders who import it from Laos or South Africa. Each piece of iron wood (4m long and 25cm in diameter) costs VND25 million ($1,250) ".

From the beginning, building wooden houses requires following strict rules, Ca adds.

"Joiners are extremely fussy about the wood that is used and they won't use wood that has been struck by lightning, wood with two piths, or twined with creepers."

Each pillar has to be built from the wood of one tree and erected in line with the feng-shui code, so that it will bring good luck to the house owners, he adds.

Building an empire

Nguyen Tat Na from Thuy Duong Commune works as a chung cake producer. He has been saving most of his life to build a two-billion-dong ($100,000) wooden house.

A shy over 70, he is proud of his fortune. Since the house was built, the value has significantly increased his family's wealth. Although, the greatest source of happiness is that his seven children have followed in his footsteps.

"It is true that a good shelter can lead to a good career, like in my case. After finishing my house, I have received more and more building contracts and my employees have never run out of work", Ca says.

Nguyen Van Binh in Hai An District agrees. He says that both his family life and business have reaped the benefits of his 100sq.m wooden house - marrying at the age of 32. He is adamant that the house Ca built him has brought his good fortune.

He has even asked Ca to build a wooden house for his uncle. Smiling, Binh says "My uncle visited my family and loved my house so much he has decided to build one."

For now, it seems, there are more wooden houses on the horizon. — VNS

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