Take a second and think of a bed. Any bed. Your bed.
You’re probably thinking of a sumptuous, thick, comfortable mattress, right? Well, in Vietnam, things are a little different. Your typical mattress here is a thin handmade sleeping mat made out of dried reeds and laid either on the floor or on a raised platform. This helps keep the ‘sleeper’ cool in the tropical heat and ‘beds’ can be quickly assembled and therefore put away to make more cooler space indoors during the day.
Take our ‘Countryside & Islands Explorer’ into the beautiful Hoi An countryside and see for yourself how Mrs Chien, Mrs Thang and their family craft the beautiful reed mats, or take the ‘Rural Villages Experience’ tour and let Mr Oanh welcome you into his family home as he works away on the loom.
Your everyday sleeping mat is made with reeds which are grown in the family’s land and then dried in the sunshine. The dying process involves a huge cooking pot into which the reeds are immersed and boil dyed with bright colors of either red, yellow, green or purple. They are sun dried again and then intricately weaved into patterns, each unique to the families producing these woven works of art. For special occasions or ancestral worship, only the natural colour of the reed is used.
Mat weaving is considered a simple craft, since it takes little training. Yet when you watch the graceful and seemingly effortless teamwork, it is difficult to not be amazed as two people work in harmony, one controlling the shuttle and the other the loom. This is a craft handed down over generations and you will soon realise they make it look easy, even knowing exactly when to change the colours of the reeds to create perfect patterns.
These sleeping mats can be found at most local markets and are easily spotted by their bright colours, and you guessed it – they are transported to market on the back of a motorbike!
Join us and see if you can match the local’s level of expertise at the loom!