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Vietnamese men recreate ancient voyages on bamboo rafts

Saturday, May 11, 2019, 19:07 GMT+7
Vietnamese men recreate ancient voyages on bamboo rafts
An old-style bamboo raft on the voyage from central to southern Vietnam. Photo: Bamboo Raft Team

A group of Vietnamese men with a shared interest in sailing recently sailed along the coast of Vietnam in an effort to recreate and experience the sea migration of the ancient Vietnamese.

The seven-member “Bamboo Raft Team” set sail on two bamboo rafts from central Vietnam en route to Vietnam’s southern region at the beginning of January.

The group’s sea journey started in the north-central province of Thanh Hoa and planned to stop at Phu Quoc Island off the coast Kien Giang Province.

However, several difficulties forced them to cut their journey short, with Ben Tre Province being the final landing point.

Do Nguyen Ai, the team’s leader, sat down for an interview with Tuoi Tre (Youth) newspaper after the voyage to discuss the group’s inspiration.

Do Nguyen Ai, the leader of Bamboo Raft Team. Photo: Bamboo Raft Team
Do Nguyen Ai, the leader of Bamboo Raft Team. Photo: Bamboo Raft Team

Ai said their original idea came from a book by Tim Severin where he recounted his voyage across the Pacific Ocean, mostly using a bamboo raft, in 1994.

In that book, Severin praised traditional Vietnamese bamboo rafts which inspired Ai to make a similar journey.

“We were motivated by how great our forefathers’ had been despite the undeveloped boat construction techniques during their time,” he proudly told Tuoi Tre.

Prior to their departure, the team researched ancient techniques of creating bamboo rafts and combined traditional methods with modern approaches in order to make vessels that would last the entire journey.

They also contracted experienced boat makers in Thanh Hoa to build a bamboo raft using the same methods as their ancestors in order to compare how their updated raft fared against the traditional version.

Surprisingly, the raft built using ancient techniques outshined the newer model - obvious proof that Tim Severin’s opinion of the ancient Vietnamese’s seafaring abilitities holds water.

A photo of an old style bamboo raft (left) next to a modern raft. Photo: The Bamboo raft team
A photo of an old style bamboo raft (left) next to a modern raft. Photo: The Bamboo raft team

Old style bamboo rafts are far safer than modern boats because the thousands of bamboo shoots they use enable them to float easily on the water’s surface without the aid of technology.

Each raft consists of three masts whose flexibly makes it easier for sailors to adjust their angles based on the direction of the wind, allowing the crew to keep their rafts from drifting off course, according to Ai.

Thanks to the team’s love and passion for sailing, they were able to make it to Ben Tre despite difficulties and hardship along the way.

“We took away valuable experience from the trip and hope it’s used to remind younger generations about the abilities of our elders,” said the team leader.

A close-up of an ancient bamboo raft. Photo: Bamboo Raft Team
A close-up of an ancient bamboo raft. Photo: Bamboo Raft Team

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