Hanoi is surrounded by hundreds of so-called craft villages; communities which have historically dedicated themselves to a particular craft. Though they’ve lost much of their prominence in the modern age of industrialization and mass production, and many have been consumed by the expansion of Hanoi, some of them are still plugging away. One such place is the forging village of Đa Sỹ, thirteen kilometers to the southwest of the capital.
This wasn’t the first craft village we’d attempted to visit. Shortly after arriving in Hanoi, we went to investigate the “Incense Village” of Yên Phụ, an excursion which had been a total failure. Any incense-makers in this neighborhood must have left long ago. We asked a few locals about incense and they all looked at us like we were crazy. Finally, one older guy’s face lit up, and he asked us to follow him. But the spark of hope was snuffed out, when we ended up in front of a massage parlor called “Incense Palace”.
So when we set out to explore Đa Sỹ, we were braced for a similar failure. It might well be that the days of craft villages are over, except for those plodding on strictly for the amusement of tourists. And when we stepped out of the taxi, it looked like our fears were justified. There was simply nothing to see, if you didn’t count the creepy locals staring at us from behind their dog-meat stands.
But at the edge of the town square we found a gate. On that gate were engravings of forgers. And past the gate, we could hear the unmistakable sounds of metal being struck. Let’s check it out.
We passed through the gate into a neighborhood of complex alleys. The houses all had their doors open, and out of almost every single one rang the clanking and whirring of metal-working. We stopped at one of the first houses past the gate, and watched an entire family, from teenager to grandma, engaged in producing blades. Almost every other house offered a similar scene.
And they were all incredibly welcoming. Every time we poked our heads inside a garage to get a closer look, they would invite us inside. The workers were not at all annoyed by our presence; they just went about their business as though we weren’t there at all. It was the best atmosphere possible for taking pictures and observing genuine local life.
The knives produced here are highly prized throughout the country; one Vietnamese girl we met later said that every house in Hanoi has a Đa Sỹ knife. This trip forced me to revise the conclusions I’d come to after our botched excursion to Yên Phụ. Đa Sỹ proved that craft villages aren’t a thing of the past, after all.
Because it’s so close to Hanoi, Đa Sỹ is easy to reach. We took a GrabTaxi there, for about $5, then hopped on a local bus back into the city. If you plan on visiting yourself, time your visit for the morning, when the shops are more active.
Forging Village Photos