Wooden shoes recall old days

The sound my neighbor’s wooden clogs produce each morning reminds me of the women of old Sai Gon, now of course referred to as Ho Chi Minh City.

Workers are decorating wooden shoes (Photo: SGGP)

Wooden sabots have mostly disappeared from the city in modern times but those that still wear them provoke “a memory of old times when we were young”, said a woman aged 60 years, who returned recently to Vietnam for the Tet holiday.

The woman, who moved to Europe years ago, wished to have a pair of the traditional Vietnamese wooden shoes. Her sister went all over the city, searching shops and found what her sister wanted at the Ben Thanh Market.

Shop assistants informed her that workers from the Binh Nham craft village, located in the southern province of Binh Duong, still make the old-fashioned footwear.

Local residents welcome visitors hospitably to their village, where hundreds of households once produced the special shoes, back in the golden age of the business.  Now, only 10 families continue to earn their living this way.

The wooden clogs, typically made from the wood of jackfruit or pine trees, and with cotton, plastic or leather, are extremely durable. Customers may select from over 100 designs to satisfy their various tastes. In addition, consumers have the option of having their sabots coated with mother-of-pearl or lacquer.

It is a bit shocking to realize that while Vietnamese people have abandoned wearing the traditional shoes, people from European countries are eager to buy them. Most of the village’s clog workshops sign contracts to import the special shoes to foreign countries.

Visitors to the village enjoy witnessing villagers make a pair of the traditional shoes.  Some have questioned why the government has not converted such workshops into tourism destinations.  Doing so would provide foreign visitors a clear picture of a traditional Vietnamese occupation and artisans would be able to sell their products directly to customers.

By Han Vu - Translated by Uyen Phuong

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