The amazing stone-roofed stilt houses in northern Vietnam

By Ngoc Thanh, Pham Chieu   April 21, 2022 | 06:00 am PT
Hundreds of stilt houses with roofs made of stone that line up along the Da River are a sight for sore eyes in Dien Bien Province's Muong Lay town.
Muong Lay town is more than 100 km from Dien Bien Phu city, located along both sides of the Da River, part of its territory is the intersection of the Da River, Nam Na River and Nam Lay Stream. The town is distinguished by rows of houses on stilts with stone roofs leaning against the mountains, lying close together.This place is home to 9 ethnic communities, in which the Thai ethnic group accounts for 70% of the population, mainly white Thai people.

Muong Lay is situated more than 100 kilometers from Dien Bien Phu Town at the confluence of the Da and Nam Na Rivers and Nam Lay Stream. It is distinguished by rows of stilted houses with stone roofs that are clustered at the foot of a mountain. It is home to nine ethnic groups, with the Thai accounting for 70 percent.

The Thai people here still keep the unique cultural heritages and traditional rituals of the white Thai people such as the boat racing festival, Kin Pang Then ceremony, ancient Thai Xoe..., especially the sticky house on stilts with stone roofs. nature with neat and airy planning along both sides of the river. Normally, houses on stilts in other localities of Son La, Thanh Hoa, Nghe An, Lai Chau... are only roofed with thatched grass, tiles, pro-cement sheets...Previously, at the end of April 2010, the last of the more than 4,000 households in the town whose houses were below the water level of 195 m had to move to a higher position to lead the stream and close the dam to store water for the Son La hydroelectricity.

The town's most notable feature is the stilt house with stone roof.Other provinces such as Son La, Thanh Hoa, Nghe An, and Lai Chau also have houses on stilts, but they typically have roofs made of thatch, tiles, cement, and other materials.
In 2010, more than 4,000 families whose houses were below 195 meters above sea level had to move to higher ground to build a dam for the Son La hydropower plant.

For Thai people, owning a traditional house on stilts with a stone roof is a pride. Each house usually uses more than 4,000 black, brown and five-colored stones.The stone is quarried naturally from the lake bed of the Da River, when newly dug in the seam, the rock becomes soft, easy to split into thin pieces, edit and cut depending on the shape. After a period of exposure to the sun and rain, the stone hardens.

Owning a traditional house on stilts with a stone roof is a source of pride for the Thais here. Each house typically uses over 4,000 stones in black, brown and other hues.
The stones are quarried from the Da River bed. They are easily broken into smaller pieces and shaped when freshly mined. They harden after being exposed to the sun for a period of time.

The stone tiles must be square, each side 20-30 cm. The two vertices of the stone must be cut into an isosceles triangle to fit together. When the section is not an isosceles triangle, when roofing, one tile will be tilted, tilted and the whole row of tiles will be tilted.

The stone tiles must be squares of 20-30 centimeters, and aligned diagonally.

In Na Lay ward, Muong Lay town, Ms. Tong Thi Que, 62 years old, is one of the households with the largest and most beautiful stilt house with a construction area of nearly 300 m2.My house has 5 rooms and 4 main columns. Before building the house, it takes a few years to prepare materials, only a few months to build. The roof uses more than 4,000 pieces of black stone. Black stone is exploited by people in the mountains along the Da River. Stone roofs are very durable, almost never having to be replaced. Often the wood breaks down before the stone, said Ms. Que.

Tong Thi Que, 62, has the largest and most beautiful stilt house in Na Lay Ward measuring a total of nearly 300 square meters.
She says:" My home has five rooms and four main columns. It took a few years to get the materials needed to build the house. But the construction itself only took few months."
"Over 4,000 pieces of black stone were used to build the roof. The black stones are from the mountains slopes along the Da River. Stone roofs are extremely long lasting and almost never need to be replaced. The wood deteriorates before the stone".

The stone roofs are stacked like fish scales, derived from the Thai lifestyle associated with the river environment, as the proverb says: Xa eat by fire, Thai eat by water, Hmong eat by fog. .After decades of use, the stone color does not fade, is waterproof, has good cold resistance, heat resistance and is not corroded by the impact of the environment.

The stone roofs are stacked like fish scales, a nod to the Thai way of life associated with life along rivers.
The color does not fade even after decades.The stones keep out both the cold and heat.

The stone used for roofing on stilts has many colors of black, brown, yellow, five-color... in which the black stone is the hardest.

The stone used for the roofing comes in a variety of colorslikeblack, brown, yellow, and others, with black being the hardest.

Traditional Thai stilt houses used to be on the first floor to raise cattle and chickens, but now all have been moved out. This space is for threshing machines, drying agricultural products... and kept clean and ventilated.

Traditional Thai stilt houses used to dedicated the ground floor to raise live stock and chickens. However, people stopped that practice and now keep the animals outside.
This area is reserved for storing threshing machines and drying agricultural products, and is kept clean and ventilated.

In order to support the stone roof weighing a ton, the frame is always made of dozens of big trees. The system of beams, trusses, columns, braces, pedestals... creates a strong and cohesive connection.

The columns are always made of large trees to support the stone roof, which weighs a ton. A strong and cohesive connection is created by using beams, trusses, columns, braces, and pedestals.

All activities from accommodation, cooking, weaving take place on the second floor which is also the main part of the house. Depending on the condition of the family, this floor is divided into 3 or 5 compartments. The wall is made of wooden panels, the outside is a minimalist patterned railing.

Living, cooking and weaving spaces are in the second floor, which is also the main part of the house. The floor is divided into three or five compartments depending on the family's condition. The wall is made of wooden panels, and on the outside is a simple patterned railing.

The roads around the house on stilts are planned to be paved, with sidewalks and wide canopy trees for shade. Dien Biens climate is not cold in winter, not too hot in summer, Laos wind in April-May, not humid, so the houses on stilts are always airy and have long life.

The roads surrounding the houses are paved and have sidewalks and large trees for shade.
Dien Bien Province's climate is mild in winter and warm in summer but not humid and the stilt houses always have good natural ventilation.

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