Introduction to Duong Lam
Duong Lam is a village about a 50km drive west of Hanoi. It is famous for being the home of two kings of Vietnamese history. It is also famous for having buildings constructed in the local traditional materials and style. Many examples of this can still be seen today. It is a lovely place for you to visit, and often you will be the only non-Vietnamese visiting.
Entrance to Duong Lam village
How to get there:
- Driving – It is located near to Son Tay. To get there you can rent a motorbike for a day. You can also include visiting Thay pagoda or Phuong Tay pagoda en route without having to deviate too far.
- Bus option – You can take bus 201 from Kim Ma bus station to son Tay, where you can get a xe om (Moto taxi) to Duong Lam village. Sometimes you may need to change at My Dinh bus station to get to Son Tay on bus 71. To get to My Dinh bus station you can take bus 34 from near to the city centre. You should start early if going by bus. Come speak to us at See you at Lily’s for advice.
Arriving by motorbike into Duong Lam from the main road you pass through verdant green rice fields and to the ancient gate to the village. The gate has an ancient tree by it, said to be over 1,000 years old. These trees can be found in different parts of the village, and are said to mark where the land of the king Ngo Quyen was (the villages’ most famous son). You pay your parking and entrance fees and head into the village.
We visited on a long weekend and there were lots of places cooking spit roast meats, and a few places selling their wares (bamboo straw hats, wood carved souvenirs and foods). There were a few foreign tourists (we saw 4 foreigners apart from us), though most were domestic tourists, learning about their cultural heritage and enjoying the long weekend. Though tourism has a role in the village, the community is still very much a rice farming community (as can be seen in the surrounding countryside). You will see people making and selling traditional snacks like Che lam, sometimes tofu, and a strong type of soy sauce that Duong lam is famous for. Also, the people grow a lot of sugar cane here, and this is available in season.
Ladies cutting Che Lam for sale.
The traditional houses of Duong Lam are made from either jackfruit wood or ironwood and the walls are made of laterite. Laterite is a widespread raw material in the region. Some of the houses are over 400 years old. The ancient houses have very impressive wood frames, and some intricate carving relief. They often are somewhere you can get a drink, eat, and even stay. Though remember- they are traditional houses, so you are likely to be sleeping on wood or with fairly basic conditions. Definitely an experience, though maybe not the most comfortable!
There are also homestays here if you are looking to make an overnight trip out of it and want something with a bit more luxury. It is definitely worth ordering a cup of tea and spending a while experiencing the traditional house and courtyard, soaking up the atmosphere and observing the lifestyle. The buildings are constructed to be cool in the summer heat, and warm in the winter time, and are in an eco-friendly style.
Carved beam of one of the ancient houses.
We recommend you to keep an eye out for the traditional roads as well. They are made of brick, often in a fish-bone style. The main roads are now made of concrete as the brick style is not considered as durable with modern day vehicles use, but the smaller roads are still in this beautiful, historic aesthetic.
Quiet alleyway and lake by the entrance
The communal house in the centre of the village is the traditional focal point of the village. The building itself is very impressive with some nice carving work and traditional materials. Some of it has been restored and it has been done using traditional materials. There is a large square in front. Look out for the hanging piece of wood in the shape of a fish, it is hollowed out in the middle and made to be banged with the hands like a drum. Please feel free to give it a try!
The communal house, focal point of the village.
Food & drink
Aside from the spit roasted meats and snacks on offer from the street food stalls, and the ancient houses serving food, there is also a restaurant by the entrance and a few other places you can eat in the village.
There are also some pagoda where you can visit, make offerings to the altar and enjoy the tranquillity! We saw some Vietnamese sitting around a low table drinking some tea with the monk of the pagoda we visited. We were sure that this was a scene typical from anytime in the last 1,000 years!
History & legends of Duong Lam
There is a lot of history and many legends associated with Duong Lam. The two kings who were from Duong Lam are; Phung Hung (761-802), and Ngo Quyen (896-944). Ngo Quyen, the more famous of the two, defeated the armies of the Southern Han dynasty of China in a battle near present day Hai Phong. This ended nearly 1,000 years of Chinese influence over Vietnam.
He has a road named after him in pretty much every city of Vietnam, as well as an area in Hai Phong. There is a small pagoda and tomb nearby to Duong Lam dedicated to King Ngo Quyen. It is easy for you to visit from the village if you have a motorbike or rent a bicycle.
Tomb of Ngo Quyen, near to Duong Lam village.
legend of the well
There is a legend surrounding one of the wells in Duong Lam. Women who are unable to lactate or provide sufficient milk for their newborn children come to drink from the well. When they drink the water it makes them able to lactate. This legend is widely believed and the practice of doing this is still carried out by Vietnamese to this day.
Ancient well of Duong Lam
The Duoi trees of Duong Lam are said to hold healing powers in their leaves. With permission, people can take a few leaves and have a herbal bath and cure themselves of their ailments and detoxify their body. Also, during a funeral procession, the body is often stopped by the ancient Duoi trees. This is to allow the deceased to say goodbye and pay his respects to King Ngo Quyen.
Some residents claim that as the village has a river in front of it and mountains behind it the Feng Shui is very good. People will often return to Duong Lam after working away elsewhere, because they think the aspect of the village will make them prosperous.
Special dates to you to look out for when visiting Duong Lam are:
- the 8th of January (Lunar calendar) for King Phung Hung festival and
- the 14th August (lunar calendar) for the festival of King Ngo Quyen.
If you have any questions about Duong Lam please feel free to come and speak to us at See You at Lily’s hostel and travel.