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Author: news 2/18/2020 5:56:04 PM

Traditional Stilt Houses in Vietnam

The humble Vietnamese stilt house is the postcard image of rural Vietnam. Everything is centred here: family, livestock, tools and handicrafts, each carrying a strong symbol of rural Vietnamese life in the valleys, rivers and mountains. Its residents are usually those of Vietnam’s minority ethnic groups, who have lived a millennia-old and beautifully tranquil existence in some of Vietnam’s most stunning surrounds. Many stilt houses in Vietnam can be found in Mai Chau, where Mai Chau Ecolodge provides some of Vietnam’s best eco-accommodation styled on the traditional housing of the Thai ethnic group. 

What is a Traditional Vietnamese Stilt House?

A Vietnamese stilt home is an abode, usually made of wood and thatched roofing, raised up on stilts several metres above the ground. These houses were originally made to withstand flooding, as the wet season affects every part of Vietnam and can be especially vicious in the countryside.

The history of the stilt house is longer than the history of the country. The first inhabited region of modern-day Vietnam was the fertile Mekong Delta, which was heavily prone to flooding for about 6 months of the year. This meant that its residents had to devise a new type of housing, which is exactly what they did on the banks of the Mekong.

The traditional stilt house in Vietnam is raised from 1 to 4 metres off the ground, with a largely open floor plan in which the family can eat, sleep, play, sew and craft. Across the Mekong Delta, they occupy spots on the riverbanks during the dry season and the rivers themselves during the wet, while those in Mai Chau, Sapa and the north of Vietnam speckle villages and stand high above the rice paddies.

What are the Benefits of a Vietnamese stilt house?

  • Flood Prevention – The number 1 aim of the stilt house is to mitigate the regular floods that sweep through Vietnam. These usually happen in lowland areas like the Mekong Delta but can also occur in the highlands such as Ha Giang province. Houses resting on their 4-metre-high stilts are spared the agony of flooding and the chaos it can create.
  • Predator Evasion – One of the lesser known benefits of a Vietnamese stilt house is to avoid killer predators that historically made their ways into villages. Snakes and tigers were once commonplace in the Vietnamese countryside and posed a serious threat to the security of villagers. The stilt houses of Vietnam’s ethnic Thai once occupied lands where wild elephants roamed, meaning that their stilts had to reach sky-scraping heights in order to offer proper protection.
  • Natural Air-Con – It is a relief, come summer, to own a tall stilt house in rural Vietnam. Air has space to circulate below the floor and cool its residents within, as well as come through wide windows that often feature across most of the wall space.
  • A Room with a View – Stilt houses are often built over a landscape that the owner would like to keep an eye on. Usually, this is the workplace – either the fields of rice paddies under their watch or the lake and river where they catch their meals.
  • Keeping Livestock Close – The space under a house is perfect for livestock, which can roam free in total shade. This negates the necessity for expensive stables or paddocks, but the smell that can arise from this can be quite a scent.

What are Vietnamese Stilt Houses made from?

Countryside housing in Vietnam offers the perfect snapshot of the natural world beyond the village. Materials are collected from the surrounding landscape and fashioned to fit the needs of the people.

Wood is, naturally, the most common building block of traditional houses. It forms the general body of the house including its stilts, stairs, walls, floor and ceiling. The type of wood obviously depends on what is available in the area, but structurally solid bamboo features heavily throughout the north and the water-resistant wood of the jackfruit tree offers flood protection in the south. Vietnamese stilt houses nowadays, especially in the Mekong Delta, are increasingly being made with much cheaper corrugated iron and metal sheets recycled from aluminium cans.

Roofs are usually made of thatched palm leaves, which are readily available throughout the country. The thick interlocking of leaves provides surprisingly effective cover from the lashing rain of the wet season, though modern-day red clay tiles also offer a similar protection. The palm tree is utilised again with its fruit, which offers coconut husks that are perfect for wall insulation.

Who Lives in a Vietnamese Stilt House?

Amongst the 54 ethnic groups living in Vietnam, each has their own style of housing and has adapted to the specific demands of their individual environments. Naturally, the H’mong of the northern mountains and the Cham of the southern river delta have enormously different requirements between their houses.

Who?
Where?
Style
The H’mong
Northern mountain regions such as Sapa, Son La, Yen Bai and Ha Giang.
Low stilts or even no stilts, due to the normal lack of flooding in mountainous areas. Simple wooden slats for walls with roofs made of palm leaves or ceramic tiles.
The Thai
Northern valley regions such as Mai Chau, Nghe An, Lai Chau, Son La and Yen Bai.
High stilts to avoid the flooding of valleys and to provide views over the stretching rice fields. Thick wood used throughout and an open area within where the family eat, sleep and socialise.
The Xo Dang
Central provinces such as Kon Tum, Quang Nam and Quang Ngai.
The Xo Dang community house is one of the most iconic stilt houses of Vietnam. It has thick tree trunks for stilts, a low body, but an incredibly tall thatched roof for air circulation. Access to the house is via ladder rather than stairs.
The Ede
Central highland provinces such as Dak Lak, Gia Lai, Phu Yen and Khanh Hoa.
The Ede live in longhouses up to a staggering 100 metres in length. They are very low to the ground but still require a ladder to enter. The Ede are a matriarchal society and demonstrate that through their architecture, which is flecked with many motifs of fertility and womanhood.
The Cham
Southern provinces such as Ninh Thuan and An Giang
The Cham live in stately stilt houses which can rise as little as a foot off the ground. This is Vietnam’s Muslim ethnic group, so wooden partition walls and curtains are used to accept male and female guests in different areas of the house.

 

Where to see Traditional Stilt Houses in Vietnam?

Those looking for the best places to see traditional Vietnamese stilt housing can find them across the length of the country. While they are usually dotted around villages in off-the-beaten track destinations, there are a few hotspots of housing located in or very near to Hanoi.

The Museum of Ethnology, Hanoi

Not only does this fabulous museum in Vietnam’s capital contain comprehensive information about its different ethnic groups, but it also has some full-scale replicas of wooden Vietnamese housing at the back. Visitors can see the housing of the Cham, Ede, Thai, Xo Dang, Nung and many others in the museum’s garden, all fully equipped and explorable within.

Thai Hai Ethnic Village, Thai Nguyen

For visitors to Vietnam with no time to travel to its underrated northeastern regions, Thai Hai ethnic village in Thai Nguyen has you covered. This village is about 80km from Hanoi and covers 70 hectares of gorgeous gardens, quaint paths and traditional Vietnamese architecture at its finest. The village is a recreational space created to showcase ethnic Tay and Nung customs, comprising 30 houses moved from an at-risk area in the mountains.

Mai Chau Ecolodge, Mai Chau

Nestled in a green valley about 3 hours southwest of Hanoi, Mai Chau Ecolodge offers up 43 ethnic Thai stilt houses taking the form of luxury and eco-conscious accommodation in Vietnam. Each building has been built with materials from the nature beyond its doorstep: the fabulous valley region of Mai Chau, where the greenery of the forested mountains is matched by that of the fields of rice. Like the Thai houses of our neighbouring villages, the rooms of Mai Chau Ecolodge are made of wood, bamboo, stone and palm leaf, and are placed high, overlooking the spectacular scenery on offer.

Inside each room, guests can find 4-star facilities and truly unique amenities. The private, outdoor shower in the back courtyard keeps guests close to nature, while a large double bed, open veranda, plunge pool and freestanding bathtub made of jackfruit tree wood keeps them in luxury. Motifs of the Thai ethnic group are found across the wall décor and the gorgeous embroidered bedspread, which joins the outside architecture as the perfect experience of Vietnamese stilt house accommodation.

If you would like to find out more about what Mai Chau Ecolodge can offer you through our award-winning traditional Vietnamese housing, please click here. Thanks for reading!

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