Thai Hai Village In Vietnam Among World's "Best Tourism Villages" of 2022

The Thai Hai Stilt House Preservation & Ecological Tourism Village is a small village nestled in Thai Nguyen City featuring stilt houses that reflect the distinctive cultural characteristics of the Tay ethnic community. Constructed in 2002 and opened to visitors since 2014, Thai Hai covers an expansive area of 25 hectares, including hills, grasslands and a large water reservoir. Notably, it houses 30 stilt houses that were relocated from Dinh Hoa Safety Zone (ATK Dinh Hoa) and meticulously restored to be preserved and showcased in their original form.

Over 20 years ago, Ms. Nguyen Thi Thanh Hai (head of the village) conceived the idea of purchasing ancient stilt houses from the Dinh Hoa Safety Zone and restoring them to their original condition. Simultaneously, she invited the original owners of these stilt houses to come and live here, collectively building a conservation site for the Tay ethnic community, encompassing both intangible and tangible cultural heritage.

Recently, the World Tourism Organization (UNWTO) announced the list of the "Best Tourism Villages of 2022" worldwide, and the Thai Hai Village of Vietnam proudly made it to the list.

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Tay Woman of Thai Hai Village

What’s Special About Thai Hai Village 

A little back-story.

Over 20 years ago, the Thinh Duc commune in Thai Nguyen was mostly barren hills with poor soil, leading to a sparse population due to the difficulty of making a living. In 2003, many locals dismantled stilt houses to use as firewood or sold them because the government supported building sturdy brick houses. Meanwhile, the younger generation in the area no longer spoke the Tay language, abandoned traditional clothing, and discontinued many customary practices.

Couldn't bear to see stilt houses being removed, many philanthropists have inspired and encouraged Nguyen Thi Thanh Hai, the now village head, to collect stilt houses, hiring workers to transport them here for reconstruction following the original models. By the end of 2003, she had successfully reconstructed 28 ancient stilt houses (now 30 stilt houses in total) and turned Thai Hai village into an ecotourism hotspot. These houses were built with an open, four pillar architecture that reflects the yin-yang concept and the Five Element Philosophy.

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The people of Thai Hai Village

So what is it like in Thai Hai Village?

A typical day in the Thai Hai village begins at 5 when the sound of the wooden bell wakes the villagers. Men kindle fires, sharpen knives, preparing for a day of labor. Women and girls fetch water from the village well, then cook and brew tea.

After breakfast, each member of the community has their own tasks. Children would go to school, adults would collect firewood, do fieldwork, feed chickens and pigs, fish, or welcome visitors. “Our big family share the same communal meals, and drink from the same water source. Everyone cares for each other”, shared Nguyen Thi Thanh Hai.

Best Tourism Village nominated by UNWTO

Thai Hai Village of Vietnam is listed among the 32 best tourism villages of 2022 by UNWTO. On top of that, it is the only village from Southeast Asia that made it in this prestigious list.

The award aims to recognize rural destinations where tourism serves as a driving force for development, creating new opportunities for employment and income, while also preserving and promoting community values and products. The award also honors villages committed to innovation and sustainable development in economic, social, and environmental aspects, aligning with the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs).

Here’s why Thai Hai Village in Thai Nguyen made the cut.

Thai Hai village focuses on conserving and promoting all tangible and intangible cultural heritage of the Tay ethnic group in Thai Nguyen. To enhance the value through tourism services, the village emphasizes three main products: stilt house architecture, traditional cuisine, and cultural traditions of the Tay ethnic group. Tangible cultural heritage includes 30 ancient stilt houses, household items such as grinding stones, rice pounding mortars, large wooden trays, baskets, and bamboo containers. Traditional clothing is worn daily. Coming here, visitors can also experience traditional foods such as Banh Gai or Thorn Leaf Cake (a cake with a black outer layer and a sweet filling made with mung beans), Thit Gac Bep (a smoked meat dish with local spices) and traditional Ruou Men La (distilled leaf liquor).

Intangible cultural heritage, especially the language, is highly valued. All villagers communicate in the Tay language, practice Then singing (hát Then) and play Đàn Tính, a musical instrument of the Tay people. Rituals such as the Long Tong festival (a Tay festival to pray for favorable weather, prosperity and luck), longevity celebrations, and ancestral worship ceremonies are also maintained.

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Young Tay girls playing the Dan Tinh

Visiting Thai Hai Village

Entrance tickets for the Thai Hai ecological tourism village are priced at 30,000 VND for adults, 20,000 VND for students, and free for children. For groups of over 10 people, the price is 30,000 VND per person; for groups under 10 people, the price is 300,000 VND per group.

Visiting Thai Hai Village, you get to choose from a variety of activities such as making tea, brewing liquor, making cakes, brewing traditional medicine, participating in cooking competitions, harvesting, roasting chicken, and participating in team-building activities and folk games.

In addition, Thai Hai Ecological Tourism Village also offers traditional ethnic costume renting, cooking classes where you get hand-ons experiences in making sticky rice cakes, thorn leaf cakes, cooking with firewood, and craft workshops like five-color bracelet braiding.

If you want to spend the night in this beautiful village and experience the authentic Tay lifestyle, you can choose homestays, mini stilt houses, or community stilt houses with rental prices ranging from 500,000 VND to 3,500,000 VND per house.

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Tay people decorating stilt house

How to Get There

The Thai Hai Ecotourism Village is situated between two major cities, Thai Nguyen and Song Cong. From the center of Thai Nguyen city: Head towards the Dan Bridge, drive by Medical College, then turn left onto Thinh Duc street, continue for about 4 km then turn left to reach the entrance gate of Thai Hai Village.

If you’re traveling from Hanoi, you can catch a public bus from the Gia Lam Bus Station in Hanoi to Thai Nguyen. Buses depart regularly, and the journey takes approximately 2 to 3 hours, depending on traffic. Once you get to Thai Nguyen City, you can follow the route above to reach Thai Hai Village

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Thai Hai Village in Thai Nguyen

Final thoughts

Two decades after its construction, Thai Hai Village has become an ecotourism hotspot that attracts both domestic and foreign tourists. If you want to witness authentic Tay culture, experience a rustic, simple lifestyle or simply escape from all the hustle and bustle of the city, Thai Hai Village will welcome you with open arms. Being nominated one of the best tourist villages in the world by UNWTO is an amazing opportunity for more people to know about this village as well as the one of a kind culture of the Vietnamese Tay ethnic minority. Visiting the village is a great way for people to take part in preserving, protecting and maintaining the beauties and heritages of the village. 

 

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