Known as the “Western Capital of Vietnam”, Can Tho, the largest city in the Mekong Delta, is a beautiful area drawing influences from many places. As a commercial and educational center, it pulls in students and workers from neighboring provinces.
Earlier in its history, the region was known as “Kampuchia Krom” belonging to the Khmer (Cambodian) Empire in the 11th and 12th centuries. The Kingdom of Champa (now represented by the Cham minority group) also expanded into the Mekong Delta in the 13th century.
In the 17th and 18th centuries, Chinese refugees settled in the area after the fall of the Ming Dynasty. And in the 19th and early 20th centuries, French colonists and soldiers were regulars in these parts.
One home that embraces many of these cultures is the wonderfully colorful “Ancient House of Binh Thuy”.
Located just a few minutes from downtown Can Tho, this 6,000 sq m (64,500 sq ft) home is in Binh Thuy Commune. “Binh Thuy” means “peaceful waters” in Vietnamese, so named after a local canal where a provincial chief sought refuge in a big storm.
Construction on the home started in 1870 by the Duong family who settled in the region in the late 18th century. Originally conceived as a place to worship their ancestors, the home was built by two generations of the family, finally finished in 1911.
Today, the home is an outstanding example of Western and Oriental architectural elements.
The interior is divided into three parts. The front (in a European style) was used as a living room. Beautiful colonial-era tiles right at the entrance welcome guests.
The front room also has vintage furnishings…
and a lovely hand-painted sink, a throwback to gorgeous craftsmanship.
The plantation-style shutters can be thrown open to let in sunlight.
The middle section is for ancestor worship and features altars and statues. A wooden screen intricately carved with animals and vegetables separates the front and middle sections.
The back third of the house is used for living quarters, as multi-generations of the original family still share the home (not open to visitors).
The home was famously used in the movie “The Lover” directed by Jean Jacques Annaud, telling the story of a young Marguerite Duras, set during Indochina times.
Outside, there is a lush orchid garden.
A visit to the Binh Thuy Ancient Home is a wonderful look back in time to how the upper-class of the Mekong Delta lived in the 19th and early 20th centuries.