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The art of making basket boats

by Hung Nguyen01 July 2017 Last updated at 15:00 PM

illustration photo (Credit: Dan viet)
illustration photo (Credit: Dan viet)

VTV.vn - Basket boats are an instantly recognisable feature of Vietnam's beaches and waterways.

The breathtaking seascapes of Ha Long Bay. This image of nature, both peaceful and bustling, as basket boats are hauled onto the beach, makes tourists fall in love with the scene. Basket boats will likely catch the eyes soonest when first reaching the bay. They vary in size from one-man boats to those big enough for a team and their gear. How can a lightweight bamboo boat be so essential, and how do local people make this simple yet remarkable means of transport?

40 km from the city, Hưng Học village is one of the oldest traditional craft villages in the region, famous for its basket boats. Hoàng Văn Khanh has been making basket boats his whole life.

Hoang Van Khanh, Hung Hoc Village, Quang Ninh Province said: "My parents taught me the craft when I was small. I continued after I got married until now. I have been making basket boats for 30 or 40 years.

First, we choose bamboo that is mature and straight.  Bent bamboo can be used for the horizontal frame . Large bamboo is split into 6 or 7 laths, while smaller ones are split into 4 or 5

A basket boat is about 5 metres long and 4.5 metres wide. This boat can carry up to 7 or 8 hundred kilograms. Larger boats can even carry more".

The process of making a basket boat involves plenty of weaving skills. The bamboo laths used are highly flexible, and resistant to marine life that affects other hardwood. Despite its light weight, the boat is waterproof and flexes easily against the force of the waves . To make the boat firm and keep its shape, split bamboo forms the rim of the boat.

Nguyen Van Giot, Hung Hoc Village, Quang Ninh Province added: "A basket boat's rim is made from bamboo split in half. The pieces are bent along the woven mats to the two ends of the boat, and secured on the inner and outer edges. Weaving the mat is the beginning stage, while making the rim forms the shape of the boat. The prows  and the oar  steering frame also keep the mats in shape.

After weaving the boat, the bamboo is treated with a protective resin made from coconut or banana trees, although nowadays, tar is often used".

It takes Mr Khanh and Mr Giót half a month to finish one basket boat. The boats are then delivered to places throughout the region. Previously, basket boats were used in the harvest season to carry rice from the fields. However, they are now mainly used by tourists in Ha Long Bay. Viewing limestone cliffs from a basket boat has become a unique experience for visitors.

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