Villagers want to shed “ancient” status
  • | dtinews | February 13, 2011 10:31 AM

The villiage of Duong Lam has been recognised with the title “Ancient Village”, but, ironically, the residents are not happy.

The “Ancient Village” of Duong Lam is not untouched by modernity
Communal house or restroom?
Untidy streets

The status comes along with a ban on buildings taller than one storey. Despite the social and economic development the area has seen, the people in Duong Lam District, Son Tay Town of Hanoi have the problem of limited living space for a rising population. Some feel they’ve been made to sacrifice their living conditions for tourism.

Title brings trouble

The village was the first in Vietnam to receive such a status from the Ministry of Culture and Information in 2005. Although it may sound like an honour, some of the residents say, “Becoming an ‘Ancient Village’ has brought us nothing but trouble.’”

Soon after the new recognition, the visitors started to come. Since then, residents say that the roads have become dirty, crowded and noisy. It has come closer to resembling urban places elsewhere. The character of the neighborhoods has also changed, since there are now disputes over tourism revenue.

A “WC” plate has been hung in front of a communal house, a place considered to be sacred and architecturally beautiful.

Local authorities charge sightseers VND15,000 (USD0.75) per person, and VND20,000 (USD1) per vehicle. The people who live there, however, see little in return. The owners of eight of the oldest houses receive a bit of money to open their homes to tourists. The remaining 400 families are left with nothing but bad feelings. They’re forced to preserve their homes the way they are, but do not share in the benefits.

On the other hand, visitors will find it hard to take photos resembling a truly old village, because new houses have been cropping up to support the growing population. The new buildings sandwich the old ones, so that, despite the official recognition, it might be difficult to recognise an old village.

Inconsistent policies

The lack of clear regulations has resulted in Duong Lam taking on a sort of slapdash atmosphere. Some families hang signs outside of their historic homes saying “Rice Shop” or “Guest House”.

Some people have even tried to build houses with more than one floor, ignoring the regulations. Instead of moving to stop the construction before or during the process, authorities wait until the home is finished and then tear it down. This happened with one resident named Ha Thi Thanh.

This sort of thing has bred resentment among the locals.

There are over 20 other buildings in the village that may violate building codes. Some of the residents are quite fed up, and are asking for clearer policies and enforcement, as well as allocation of new land in order to build houses that suit their lifestyles.

An expectation of respect

What most locals dislike is not their status as “Ancient Village”. Many support the preservation of their historic homes. Their complaints center around the unclear policies and the unfair use of their homes as tourist attractions, with little to no consideration for their best interests.

It is expected that the municipal Department of Culture, Sports and Tourism will have a public discussion with locals in order to find solutions that will fair to everyone.

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