Cua Van Village lies in a calm bay surrounded y a thousand green isles, about 30km away from Bai Chay Harbour.
However, it is totally different from other villages. It has no busy lanes or streets, no electric lines and no houses or high buildings; instead, there are groups of little boats and rafts bobbing up and down on the waves.
Visitors here are lured in by the beautiful fishing village images – little houses on boats, groups of boats tied together to defend against storms and typhoons, the simple and honest fishermen and the sunburnt faces of the innocent little children. It is all peaceful and charming.
Cua Van Village is home to about 200 households with nearly 800 people. They all earn their living through fishing and aquaculture. For one hundreds of years, the residents have settled here.
Together with three other fishing villages in the area: Vong Vieng, Cong Tau and Ba Hang, Cua Van has built up a distinctive native culture among the fishing communities that can’t be mistaken with any other. Cultural products from the village are all very colourful, from hat giao duyen (provincial love duet songs), hat cheo duong (songs along the way), hat dam cuoi (provincial wedding songs) and ho bien (songs sung out to the boats), to home remedies for sea travellers, unique nautical experiences and other typical manners and customs of the fishermen.
With an outstanding lifestyle and the most crowded population in the fishing zone, Cua Van Village is considered the “capital” of the World Heritage Area. That’s why it was selected as the location of the first “floating cultural centre” in Vietnam.
Covering an area of over 300sq.m, the Cua Van Floating Cultural Centre was the first project launched in the village.
Implemented by the Ha Long Ecological Museum and funded by the Norwegian Government, the centre is regarded as the Government’s initial effort in preserving the village’s intangible heritage. And after three years of construction, the centre was finally opened in 2006.
Since its opening, the Cua Van Floating Cultural Centre has done well in collecting and introducing hundreds of archaeological items, including the tools ancient people used to catch sea products, along with photographs and documentary films concerning the village’s folklore and the lives of the fishermen living on Ha Long Bay, presently and in days past.
However, the centre is still very limited in comparison with the hundred-year history of Cua Van Village. This is the reason for the start of a new project.
Approved by Quang Ninh People’s Community in May, the project of preserving and developing Cua Van’s intangible culture will be built with the total estimated cost of VND1.7bil.
The new project will have two main purposes, the discovering, preserving and developing of the traditional customs of the Cua Van people, and the carrying out of archaeological activities at Tien Ong Cave – a new discovery in Ha Long Bay.
“This is just an expansion of the first project, and one among a series of projects that have been or will be launched in the future. Their top priority, besides conserving the intangible heritage of Ha Long Bay, is to provide facilities for job creation among local communities and to promote the participation of local residents in Ha Long Bay,” said Nguyen Ba Can, vice director of the Marine Culture Preservation Centre. Can is also head of the project’s Management Board.
The Marine Culture Preservation Centre, where Can and his colleagues work, is the successor of the Cua Van Floating Cultural Centre. It was established two months ago, following the approval of the project, and is now responsible for its implementation.
Although implemented by the Marine Culture Preservation Centre, the project is managed by the Ministry of Culture, Sports and Tourism, and its success depends on a decisive factor: the participation of the local people.
According to Can, no preservation project can exist without the co-operation of the local residents. Thus, a list of residents engaging in this project has been built up, and there are also specific policies to encourage their contribution.
As scheduled, the short-term project will end at the beginning of next year. It is hoped that it will contribute economically and spiritually to the life of the residents, and also help to turn the Cua Van Floating Cultural Centre into an attractive place for visitors.
And hopefully it will help many people discover and vote for Ha Long Bay as one of the new wonders of the world.