Located more than 70 km away from Hanoi, the Conservation Area of Thai Hai Ethnic Eco-Stilt Village (also known as "Thai Hai Village" or "Thai Hai Family") lies in My Hao Hamlet, Thinh Duc Commune, Thai Nguyen City.
Unlike any other village in Vietnam, this particular community doesn't adhere to the concept of individual ownership. Families here share meals, pool finances, collectively nurture children, and engage in community-based tourism. Each individual's produce is gathered and then distributed according to the needs of both individuals and the village community.
All production activities in Thai Hai are self-sufficient.
According to Mrs. Nguyen Thi Thanh Hai, the Village Head and Director of the Conservation Area of Thai Hai Ethnic Eco-Stilt Village, each person specializes in one task. Those skilled in animal husbandry take care of livestock, while proficient communicators handle external relations, and experienced herbalists focus on medicine production.
Every day, starting at 5 a.m. after morning prayers, families begin their day. While men tend to the kitchen, lighting fires, and sharpening knives for a day of labor, women head to the village well to fetch water, preparing tea.
After breakfast, everyone disperses to carry out their respective tasks. Some gather firewood, tend to crops, raise poultry, fish, greet visiting tourists, or attend classes.
On special occasions like the first and fifteenth day of the lunar month or during festivals, the village observes traditional rituals. All village activities, from farming and child-rearing to bottled water production, tea cultivation, and alcohol distillation, are ecologically minded to ensure minimal environmental impact and sustain a clean food source.
All income earned by villagers from production, product sales, and hosting tourist groups is deposited into the village's communal fund. Expenses, from personal needs to essential requirements like medical care, education, including university and overseas study, are overseen by the village head. The village head makes all significant decisions concerning Thai Hai Village.
Living Amidst Nature
Amidst the lush greenery along shaded forest paths are stilted houses. Thai Hai Village boasts 30 stilt houses, each serving different functions and roles.
The "Medicine House" preserves traditional herbal medicines, responsible for harvesting, storing, and supplying herbal remedies to villagers and tourists alike.
The "Distillery House" specializes in brewing and preserving ethnic alcohol.
The "Weaving House" crafts household items from bamboo and rattan for village use and sale to tourists.
Enthusiasts of culinary exploration may delight in the Cultural Preservation House, where traditional Tày ethnic cuisine and various traditional cakes are showcased. Particularly notable is the house dedicated to preserving the Tày people's 'Hát then' cultural heritage, which houses all 30 traditional stilted houses brought from the revolutionary base of Định Hóa, ranging from several decades to nearly a century in age.
Visitors to Thai Hai Village are welcomed by locals as if they were family. Upon arriving at the village entrance, guests head to the communal well to cleanse themselves. The village well, fed by a fresh stream and surrounded by cobblestones, serves as the vital source of vitality, providing water for the entire village. Villagers believe that washing in the village well purifies the soul, warding off misfortune.
Tày people are known for their hospitality. A wooden gong and a fence typically stand at the village entrance. Upon arrival, guests strike the gong. The sound echoes throughout the village, signaling to residents that the distillery prepares liquor and the tea house prepares tea for esteemed guests.
Embracing the Difference
The uniqueness of Thai Hai Village stems from the determination of village chief Nguyen Thi Thanh Hai. Twenty years ago, witnessing the Tày people abandoning their traditional stilt houses for brick and cement structures, Mrs. Hai mortgaged her property in Sông Công City to return to Thinh Duc, buying forested land to conserve the Tày ethnic stilted houses.
Mrs. Hai purchased and transported stilted houses, hiring craftsmen to rebuild them according to the original design. By the end of 2003, nearly 30 traditional stilt houses, following the structure of both the Tày people in general and those in Định Hóa revolutionary base in particular, were relocated to Thinh Duc.
Mrs. Hai's aim was not merely to preserve the physical structures but also the essence of stilted houses—their way of life, cultural traditions, and livelihoods.
Initially, Thai Hai Village was established not for tourism but to preserve traditional culture. However, its scenic beauty and delicious cuisine have attracted many tourists. In 2014, the village was officially recognized as a tourist destination by the Department of Culture, Sports, and Tourism of Thai Nguyen Province.
Thai Hai Village offers three main products to tourists: stilt house architecture, traditional cuisine, and the cultural heritage of the Tày ethnic group.
Material culture includes 30 ancient stilt houses, household items such as mortars, wooden dining trays, rattan baskets, bamboo utensils, and traditional clothing, medicinal herbs, and various ethnic foods such as chung cake, gai cake, lam tea, dried meat, and traditional distilled liquor.
Non-material culture is highly valued in Thai Hai, especially language. In this village, everyone communicates in the ethnic language, practices singing 'Hát then', 'đàn tính' music, and upholds family traditions.
Moreover, spiritual and religious ceremonies such as lồng tồng festival, longevity celebrations, ancestor worship rituals are preserved.
Head of the village Thanh Hai hopes for investment and support from Thai Nguyen Province, cooperation from entrepreneurs, and the sharing spirit of the community, along with the affection of tourists for Thai Hai Village.
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