Story: Thuy Trang
Photos: INDIECHINE

A new shop in Hoi An mixes handicrafts with history

A kaleidoscope of Vietnamese culture 

Nestled on Nguyen Thai Hoc Street in Hoi An, The Art Center of Indichine mixes a nostalgic air with a modern vibe. Indichine is housed in one of the finest and most spacious old houses in Hoi An, once the famed trading house of Phi Yen. Here, visitors can enjoy daily shows of traditional music, marvel at this architectural treasure and learn more about the traditional handicrafts of Hoi An.

“The handicrafts are the result of cultural layers that keep evolving and moving,” says Indichine’s deputy managing director, Mr. Nguyen Phuoc Trung Bao. “The handicrafts tell stories about the culture of the new Vietnam,” continues Mr. Bao. Handicrafts on offer include silk sashes that are handwoven and dyed by ethnic Dao and Thai people. Visitors will also find My A Silk from An Giang, Bat Trang ceramics from Hanoi, Truc Chi paper crafts and wood carvings
from Kim Bong. Mr. Bao claims that no other place in Hoi An offers a comparable selection of handicrafts. Rather than offer the same stereotypical wares found everywhere, Indichine has focused on innovative designs.

“The merchandise of Indichine reflects the technology, aesthetics and daily life of contemporary Vietnam. Using traditional materials such as ceramics, bamboo, wood and silk, the products are renewed with fresh perspectives,” says Mr. Bao.

Indichine’s owners want this former trading house to capture the soul of Hoi An. “Hoi An is no longer  characterized by particular products,” says Mr. Bao. “Hoi An is a product.” The product is a place of “crisscrossing canals and busy boats” that was once a busy port town and a cultural melting pot. The locals have a long history of commerce.

In Indichine, visitors can learn about the history of Tonkin and Cochinchine, and learn more about Lord Nguyen Hoang, whose portrait hangs in the house. More than just a shop, the house is also a venue for theatrical performances an exhibitions of both traditional and contemporary arts. It will serve as an assembly hall in Hoi An – the very heart of the former Cochinchine.

Visitors can enjoy traditional music and dance shows and take part in hut card games. Champa dances will also be staged here. Visitors can take classes to learn how to make lanterns, paint masks, make clay masks, mix essential oils and embroider. More than a shop, Indichine is a cultural space in the heart of Hoi An, arguably the most charming city in Vietnam.