I’m home and back to work after a two-week honeymoon through Vietnam via Ho Chi Minh City, Nha Trang, Hoi An and Hanoi. While this trip was all play, I got a valuable glimpse into one of our industry’s biggest sourcing countries; we actually chose to go to Vietnam partly because of the wonderful things I had heard about it through industry friends who have done business there, and I can confirm, they were definitely right.
The Vietnamese people are very, very skilled with their hands — it’s hard not to walk down the street and take notice of the beautiful hand-worked home decor and furniture poking out of shop after shop, not to mention the dreamy architecture that had me doing double takes down every street.
I could bore you for pages with details from this trip (it was that good), but I’ll share some of my highlights as they relate to the industry.
During our first stop in Ho Chi Minh City, we ventured out for a day tour of the Mekong Delta, and for lunch, we stopped at a homestay that was built in 1944. The property still had all of the original woodworking and heavy, ornate, handmade furniture inside — now inhabited by the original owner’s descendants — and although the stuff looked worn, it was breathtaking. Our guide commented that this type of home and furniture isn’t made much anymore because it takes so long to produce, which immediately made me think of the disposable furniture mentality we talk about today. In Vietnam, homes and land are passed down from generation to generation, and it’s common that any money descendants make is used to make improvements on the inheritance for future generations. Food for thought.
We also stopped at many a workshop all over the country and saw everything from lacquered art to bamboo carvings to needlework to pottery and ceramic sculpture being made. One memorable pit stop was in Hoi An’s countryside, where we visited a mat-weaving family on our Vespa tour. We were welcomed into their home, where the husband-and-wife team had been making mats together for 35 years. These mats, which are commonly used for sleeping on in Vietnam, or can be used as rugs or at the beach, are about 5 feet long and 3 feet wide and are woven one straw at a time, taking about three hours to complete. The couple makes three per day, and I purchased one from them for 100,000 VND, or about $4.40 USD. $4.40 for a beautiful handmade creation. I have no idea what I’m going to do with it, but it was worth the purchase!
I can't say enough good things about this trip and the county as a whole, but I'll close with this: I left with a greater appreciation of, and more reverence than ever for, artisans and all things handmade — nothing can compare. This is a lost art, and I was happy I got to see it for myself.