On a recent trip to Vietnam with Overseas Adventure Travel, this author was exposed to one of the most unique and extraordinary villages in the world, whose sole function is to produce rice paper. This village is one of the largest in the country for the creation and distribution of rice paper and rice noodles. The side trip to Tho Ha is an optional excursion during the Inside Vietnam trip, and is part of OAT’s enhanced itineraries. The village is worth a visit for its uniqueness and glimpse into rural life, since it is like no other a traveler will experience anywhere else in the world. The buildings in the village itself are also unique, with some going back as far as the late 1800’s.
Tho Ha village is approximately 30 miles northeast of Hanoi, It is on the banks of the Cau River in the Bac Giang province, so travelers must traverse the river during a short ferry ride in a rudimentary but stable ferry. Families there number in the hundreds, not thousands, and about half of the families are involved in the making of the rice paper products. Many of the villagers, especially the children, greet travelers as they disembark the ferry and enter the village. When school is out of session or done for the day, the children welcome tourists so they can practice their English, or at the very least, give a welcoming High Five.
he village was once well known for its pottery as well as coffin making (the Vietnamese bury their dead twice, and the second burial is when the coffins are used). In the 1980’s the villagers turned to making rice paper when it became more profitable, and that is now the chief export of the village. .Sheets of rice paper dry in the sun on bamboo lattice for as far as the eye can see. The view of literally thousands of bamboo lattice sheets drying in the sun is the overwhelming takeaway from this visit. Travelers on this exclusion get to take a hand at attempting to make rice paper pancakes after viewing a demonstration of how it’s done. Eating a rice paper spring roll is, quite frankly, never the same after this experience!
The village also has a strong musical heritage, so the tour also includes a visit with a local to both see and hear traditional Vietnamese musical stringed instruments performed. This author also had the wonderful experience of hearing a professional troupe perform these traditional instruments in Hanoi later that night by the “beer corner.”