Located 20 km west of Hanoi on the bank of the Nhue River, Cu Da is one of the few villages in Vietnam that has both traditional houses and French-style two-story houses approximately one hundred years old.
Like most villages in the northern delta region, Cu Da has a banyan tree, a river wharf, a communal house yard, and a mossy village gate.
But what distinguishes Cu Da is its combination of old houses in the ancient Viet style and more recent villas in the French style.
Villager Vu Van Bang said, “The oldest houses in the village were built between 1890 and 1945. In 1975, Cu Da had about 100 ancient houses and French-style villas. Half of them in both styles remain relatively undamaged. Cu Da’s houses in the traditional style of the northern delta contain 5 rooms and 2 lean-tos.”
Cu Da, like any Vietnamese villages, is laid out like a fish skeleton. From the village’s main road radiate dozens of alleys that lead to small hamlets. The traditional-style houses are built of ironwood, roofed with shoe cap-shaped tiles, and have delicately carved gates, beams, and pillars.
The house of Trinh The Sung’s family is one of the most impressive houses in the traditional style.
He said, “My house was built in 1874, mainly of bead-tree wood, covering an area of 200 square meters. It has 5 rooms and 2 small lean-tos. My family is the fourth generation to live in the house. We haven’t made any changes other than a rearrangement of the house’s tiles every decade.”
Visitors to the village are impressed by the French-style houses. Situated in a favorable geographical position for trade, Cu Da was once a busy trading hub that reached its peak in the late 19th and early 20th century.
In that period, a number of wealthy merchants in the village constructed 2-story villas imitating the French architecture.
Nguyen Van Bao, a villager who lives in a French-style villa, said, “My house was built 100 years ago. A house with French architecture usually has a balcony, an archway, and decorative flower patterns on the doors and walls. My two-story villa has a small front yard and a vaulted gate on which we planned to put a clock. Bricks, enamel tiles, marble, and steel were all imported from France. Foreign visitors from France, the US, and the UK often visit my house and TV crews have filmed my house.”
A village elder named Vu Van Than said, “Cu Da is a suburban village with a 400-year history. Many temples, shrines, and pagodas here are still intact and have been recognized as national historical relic sites. There are 300-year-old pagodas, 200-year-old shrines, and an ancient well called “Water well of the King” which contains pure, safe drinking water.”