Most visitors go to Phan Thiet City’s Thuy Tu Temple to witness the hundreds of whale skeletons but they forget there is also a lot of life in the nearby basket boat making craft village, the silent corner of sea life.
Basket boat (Thuyen thung) has been used by fishermen in the Quang region for over a century in central Vietnam. Due to the high demand of fishermen, the craft of making basket boat also developed, but these days just a few households preserve the craft.
Other crafts are seen as basic but making a basket boat is no plain sailing. Firstly, artisans have to cut bamboo trees in the forest them soak them in water for a day. The next important step is to slice them into regular, light and straight strings. This step influences the quality of the boats which are soft, leathery and solid. Bamboo strings also need to be dried for one day.
The artisans then weave them into round planks and finish the boat with a stable hoop also made by bamboo. The boat needs to be covered by a form of glue made of rai (a kind of tree) oil and cow droppings.
A craftsman with 50 years of experience of making bamboo boats, Do Van Luong, said: “To have a good boat, you have to find a good bamboo tree that is not too old or too young; it needs to be straight and should not have many sections. The job requires you to be patient, meticulous and of course talented.”
Also keeping the tradition alive with Luong’s family is Ngo Phuoc. Phuoc said: “The boat is not only for fishermen plying their trade but also a very important part of the traditional boat race festivals, and of course for tourists to experience. So we have to preserve the tradition.”
Luong and Phuoc and their families also have to hire workers to help meet the demands of local fishermen.