Bird cage village

A journey to remember

Tune into the mellifluous songs of birds in many a Vietnamese household, for raising birds is a national pastime.  

The artisans who painstakingly build birdcages by hand once had to know each variety of bird and its characteristics. Why? To ultimately fashion beautiful yet suitably durable homes for our feathered friends.  Yet is this still the case today?

You can watch these craftspeople hone their incredibly niche skills in Hanoi’s Vac Village, where more than 400 households make bird cages. It was here about 22 years ago we had the pleasure of first meeting award-winning artisan Nguyen Van Nghe. Then in his early 30s with a newborn child, he showed us a staggering 50 different styles of birdcages that he’d crafted.

We returned recently to find his baby had grown up into a dedicated 21-year-old man helping his father expand the business to adapt to the new millennium and its demands.  The father-and-son duo has branched out into creating birdcages for interior design purposes.

But has the original purpose for these exquisite looking birdcages died out? Not so. Retired Vietnamese gather with friends in pagoda courtyards, bringing their birdcages to practice Tai Chi to the calls of their favorite birds.  They quickly become highly competitive over who has the most exquisitely carved birdcage and bird with the sweetest sounding song...

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