Sea-going & sturdy

The tradition of producing thuyen thung (round boats) in southern Ba Ria Vung Tau province began in the 1980s, following the flow of people immigrating from the central region to the province.

on October 21,2017 02:12 PM

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Plastic moulds for a round boat

Most of its round boat makers are from bamboo weaving villages in Quang Binh province. The trade thrived for decades until the last few years, when fishermen started to prefer high-powered boats, which help them fish offshore. In Long Hai town, Long Dien district, however, there are still some families who have continued their ancestors’ line of work.

Driving along Provincial Road No 44, passing through Long Hai town and heading towards beaches and tourism complexes in Long Dien, Dat Do, and Xuyen Moc districts, visitors may notice small lanes covered with bamboo pieces and baskets. The work of weaving round boats requires many skills. It takes a group nearly a week to complete one round boat with a diameter of 2 to 3 metres made from bamboo. To increase the lifespan of a boat and to meet technical requirements, the bamboo selected has to have decent hardness and age (not too old and not too young), and only the lower half of the bamboo is used. The whole process is done by hand.

Depending on customer’s request on the thickness or thinness of the boat’s body, workers split the bamboo and keep the hardest part and then weave a section called me. This section is dried under the sunlight until it turns a yellow colour, and is then formed into a round shape. Each village has its own method for this stage. To make the boats harder and protect them from the sunlight and sea, the body of the boat is coated with preservatives made from fresh cow dung and sap from a tropical tree called dau rai, which belongs to the Dipterocarpus alatus family.

According to experienced workers, if round boats are well maintained they can last for ten years.

There are now plastic round boats available at markets, but traditional bamboo round boats are still preferred.

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