The House of Hoi Traditional Handicrafts is a well-known tourist stop in the intriguing city of Hoi An. It is an intriguing city for its well-kept 17th Century Old Town, which is now drawing in tourists from all the world. Inside and around the Old Town are relics and artifacts that clearly tell about this city’s past culture and way of life. Visiting these sites is surreal, as though one just entered a Hollywood set for a movie about 17th Century Vietnam or China.
Many people around the world especially North Americans equate the country of Vietnam to the Vietnam War. Behind people’s minds are old images of a city devastated from heavy shelling and explosions. It seems as though the decades-long Vietnam war (and the publicity in books, documentaries and movies) has etched deep into the minds of everyone, a silent reminder of the ugly face of war that should never show up once again. Modern Vietnam has long “graduated” from the war and is now clearly on its way to modernization, economic stability and international prominence.
Amazingly, Hoi An was never affected by neither the war nor modern urbanization. This city was once the major trading center for silk, porcelain, cinnamon and medicinal plants in Vietnam. What used to be a bustling port in the 17th Century, the city suddenly went into virtual hibernation and stopped any forms of development or decay. It is now what it was centuries ago. Ancient houses and structures remain standing today and one such house is the House of Hoi Traditional Handicrafts.
Located on LeLoy Street, the house is more than two centuries old and was owned by Phi Yen, a well-known Chinese merchant during his time. Definitely, he must have traded silk and today his work continues. The house is simply a silk shop but with a very unique twist.
On the ground floor are 17th-Century silk and machine-powered cotton looms that are still operational today. But what’s truly unique is what’s on the second floor. There are trays of actual silkworms feeding, being “fattened for the kill”, a section where worms incubate, and then a tub with water that is always hot so that the pupae’s soft covering could be rinsed off and then pulled strand by strand. Right before the awed eyes of visitors a skein of pure silk is collected. Guests may try pulling the strands and forming the skein if they wished to participate in the process.
Sold here is a wide array of authentic quality silk in different colors, fine or raw, and that may be used to spin clothes and house linens. Hoi An is popular worldwide for its silk and perhaps the most sough-after silk is that which is produced in this house. Not only are tourists given a treat observing how silkworms are actually cultured and silk linens produced, they are also given a choice of the best quality silk in Vietnam.
The House of Hoi An Traditional Handicraft also sells all sorts of traditional handicrafts, such as woven sleeping mats, intricately designed textiles, unique pottery and artistic lacquer ware.