Wednesday, January 13, 2016

Visit to Lo, a beautiful village between Hanoi and Hai Phong

The new bridge that opened while we were there.  After 2000
years the peasants from Lo will cross the river by bridge instead
of just by ferry boat.  This will spur change and open opportunities for
the people of Lo to be more business with Hai Phong, China, and
the north of Vietnam without first having to boat across, slower than a
highway, or go around by bridges farther away.  We felt so great
being here for the event.
The week end past, Saturday the 9th of January and Sunday the 10th, our friend Thiep and his wife/partner Yen took us out to their home village of Lo to meet their families, stay a night (we were invited to stay at one point until TET but had to decline as our Visas are only good till 1-15), and just enjoy the family life, walk their village, visit their pagoda, walk by the river: you get the idea.  But something that we never expected happened.  On Sunday morning a "brand New Bridge" across the river was dedicated and opened so that the folks from the villages and communes in the area can now cross the bridge and take the main, new highway to Hai Phong or Hanoi -- this is a big deal as we are talking an event that will change village/commune life now and into the future.
One of the old watch houses used to keep the village safe in event of floods, now no longer used but keptlocked and secure.

This horse is grazing on the edge of an incline leading up to the ridge where we parked.  This narrow ridge with its one lane road (someone backs up or pulls off when oncoming traffic meet) is one of the dikes that protect the farm land and the villages from the flooding by the rivers of the Red River Delta.  These are the dikes that the US bombed during the 1960s up through '73 to flood the fields, destroy the crops, and starve or drown the village peasants including children, women, grandparents.  Now, with the newly opened bridge the dikes will still be used for water control and as local transportation lanes to get to the big bridge. 

Incidentally, now there are flood control dams and the peasants do not have to stand guard at the watch boxes along the top of the dikes to give warning in case of flooding.  The sleeping/office rooms are still there but they are locked.

Kids and TET decorations.

TET decorations made at one of the arts workshops in a village we visited.

The nail-less wood work holding up the roof of the house - this is a traditional construction that has been used hundreds or thousands of years. The village is probably more than 1000 years and perhaps up to 2000 years old.

The front of the BIG drum in the pagoda.

A ceremonial drum all decorated in the village pagoda.

Thiep, Yen and their son pose for a family portrait under the picture of their wedding.

Well used along with a rainwater cistern, not pictured, that are used by the family for water for cooking, and other household needs.

Folks ready and waiting for the opening of their new bridge.

A nice father and son who waved to me and gave me a chance to get a nice picture at the new bridge opening.

While on our two day running and going trip we also visited other villages that have special arts or crafts workshops or industries.  This "specialized craft" has developed on many years because in this area there are only two rice crops each year.  In order to both have additional income and protect against a poor rice crop (or flooding in the earlier days), villages developed these crafts.  In one we saw how bamboo is worked into practical bedding, furniture and beautiful art pieces and in another metal work with bronze creating art works.  In a third village earlier the village was famous for making beautiful paper used to make traditional  woodblock paintings.  Over time these traditional paintings  became less popular, so the majority of the village now makes the paper offerings for the kitchen gods and for ancestor worship.  A few families in the village maintain the traditional paper and woodblock art.  It was really fun to see both the traditional paper and artwork as well as visit all the workshops making offerings for the kitchen gods -- fancy shoes, cars, motorbikes, houses, clothing.

Thiep and Yin were happy to pose under the wedding photo in their family home!  Hope you can see the beautiful carvings and woodwork we tried to photograph.  It was interesting to get to visit with Thiep's father, grandfather, great uncles and Thiep's mother.  We scared Thiep's young son -- looked way too different with our glasses and "loudness".  Eventually he decided we were safe, but we never did get a kiss.

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