Through this year we will look to feature some of the less common tourist spots in and around Hanoi, as there are a lot of hidden gems in and around the capital of Vietnam. For this first instalment we are featuring Thanh Chuong Viet Palace.
Thanh Chuong Viet palace is a private art collection of paintings and ceramics with various temple and house buildings in the garden & grounds. It is the construction and collection of the artist Thanh Cuong (the namesake for the attraction), who is a famous Vietnamese artist. It was constructed in 2001 in a forested area near a reservoir and a small village. It was built with the purpose of showing the essence of the cultural and spiritual heritage of the Vietnamese people.
It is located north of the airport, which itself is north of Hanoi. It is a bit difficult to get to, you will need google maps and a local sim, or maps.me on your phone and a motorbike to get there, or to take an expensive taxi. By motorbike the journey is about 1.5 hours. There is a bus (number 64) that goes nearby (along provincial road 35), but will still involve a few clicks (km) by foot. To get this bus you need to get to Me Linh plaza, which is north of the city, across the Red river. The number 7 bus goes there, which starts at Kim Ma bus station, which is yet another bus away from the city centre (you see why you need that motorbike now)!
The palace did not fail to impress. It is a collection that the artist has put together to showcase the many different varied aspects of Vietnamese culture and artwork. The artist looks to preserve this cultural heritage for future generations, an important thing in these modernising times in Vietnam.
You enter a medium sized complex where there are a lot of buildings of different sizes and things to see, from the small statues placed in tree trunks that have since had the tree growing around them, to the various buildings, statues, covered seating areas and houses.
The buildings include a house made from mud and bamboo (the aptly named mud house), which is an example of housing in many rural parts of Vietnam from days gone by; to other houses which showed how people lived and still live in Vietnam, including the house on stilts (which is a popular building style in Mai Chau), the fragrant ink house, and the house of Serenity. The pillows in the mock houses were made of bamboo weave, and were actually really comfortable, and make a lot of sense, as they still allow air to get to your head and neck on a hot humid Hanoi night, while giving support to the neck and head, and yes, I am looking to buy one for the summertime in Hanoi!
It also has various temple houses, such as goddess mother house, house of auspicious clouds & St Tran’s Temple. It also has a water puppet theatre, which was not in use during my visit but had a turtle swimming around in front of it, poking his head out and having fun, and there were fish in there too.
It also has a few bigger buildings. One of these has a painting artwork gallery, and various ceramic collections, as well as a great view from the balcony at the top, with a hammock you can chill in. This building also had a section at the back of the ground floor, through a bead curtain. The whole room was painted in white, and quite cold, which I think was on purpose, as the air conditioner was on, and added to the atmosphere of the exhibit. It had quotes and cuttings all over it and was dedicated to the local writer Kim Lan. It had a quiet atmosphere and also clinical feel, very different to the rest of the place.
There is one building which is a restaurant (tip; there is an upstairs where you can sit on a balcony overlooking the complex, which unfortunately I only discovered after I had drunk my drink). There is a big tower, like the one in Ngoc Son temple in the centre of Hoan Kiem Lake. One of the buildings has the appearance of a home (actually quite a few of the buildings have bathrooms, small kitchens with working sinks). The homely building even has a TV/lounge room, bedrooms and a study full of books, and looked as if it was (partly) lived in. A lot of the rooms in the buildings, and some of the covered seating areas have tea sets laid out. I did have some tea leaves on me, but there was no water! I assume that it was for display purposes to show how people would be welcomed into a home. Also to show how tea drinking was, and in many places in Vietnam, still is a traditional way to welcome people into a home or business in Vietnamese culture. I am offered tea, or another drink every time I visit a Vietnamese friend’s house, and get offered it when I go to people’s place of business sometime too.
Visiting it on one of the first sunny Sundays after Vietnamese New Year, it wasn’t quiet, mostly thanks to a 6 year old with a Vietnamese vuvuzela (thanks South Africa), who luckily left within the first hour, but it was well worth the visit. The restaurant wasn’t serving food by the time we went to it (but it was after 4pm), but beer and soft drinks were reasonably priced (and the beer was cold, unlike many places in the countryside, that tend to serve warm beer with ice). Price wise, it is expensive to enter, 150,000 VND (price correct at the time of writing). I spent just under 3 hours here, and enjoyed the experience a lot. I would recommend it to someone who is looking for a different experience, and who has the ability to drive a moped or motorbike, and do so in Hanoi (or fancies a bus adventure).
If you want more information, please do not hesitate to come in and see us in See You at Lily’s Hostel or contact us by email/Facebook/website to ask about it.
Stu, See you at Lily’s