Hoi An’s Pottery Village: How to best Experience Thanh Ha
By now you’ve seen ornate Vietnamese pottery at markets all over the country. In Vietnam, pottery isn’t just an art form, it’s a livelihood, world-renowned. The pottery found at the Thanh Ha Pottery Village is especially unique. It’s all manually crafted from terracotta clay taken from the nearby riverbeds and shipped worldwide.
Less than a mile from the Old Town, the Thanh Ha Pottery Village is a great activity for those seeking a more authentic hands-on experience in Vietnam or those just looking to duck away from Hoi An’s crowded markets.
In this article, Hidden uncovers the history of the Thanh Ha Pottery Village and looks into what it has to offer tourists to Hoi An today.
Hidden Quick Guide: Thanh Ha Pottery Village
Location: Block 5, Thanh Ha Ward, Hoi An, Quang Nam – just a mile from the Old Town
Price: 35,000 (1.50 USD) entrance to village. 40,000 VND (1.75 USD) entrance to the museum. Or visit the village, museum, and park on a combined ticket for 70,000 VND (3.05 USD)
Hours: The park is open daily from 8 a.m. – 5:30 p.m.
What is the Thanh Ha Pottery Village?
Web – Address: Block 5, Thanh Ha Ward, Hoi An, Quang Nam – Opening Hours: 8 a.m. to 5:30 p.m, daily. Village Price: 35,000 VND (1.50 USD) Children under 1.2m: Free, Children over 1.2m: 15.000 VND (0.65 USD). Museum & Park Price: 40,000 VND (1.75 USD)
Some call the Thanh Ha Pottery Village a ‘living museum’. Villagers have been making pottery here for over 400 years, and most still use a two-man pottery wheel. The kilns are red brick ovens built in the backyards of simple riverfront homes. So the smell of cooking terracotta permeates through town, thrusting visitors back to simpler times. The village is equipped with all kinds of activities for visitors including a museum with ever-changing exhibits and history, pottery-making workshops, a temple, and hands-on pottery-making experiences.
Legend goes that artisans from the Thanh Hoa province settled in Hoi An at the beginning of the 16th century and established the Thanh Ha Pottery Village. For instance they practised their traditional craft and handed it down through the generations, and over the years, the craft flourished.
Exporting Pottery Worldwide
Pottery makers provided products to provinces from Thua Thien Hue to Binh Dinh. The village also began exporting products overseas to countries such as Japan, China and Spain via the Hoi An Trading Port. Word got out and so during the Nguyen Dynasty, the Thanh Ha villagers were asked to create decorative pieces for the palace. After this, their work became so popular that their reputation spread worldwide, and it has persisted for centuries. Now, Thanh Ha’s entire culture is shaped around pottery.
Founded in 2015, the Thanh Ha Pottery Museum tells the story of the pottery founders, the progression of their craft, and features exhibits of all kinds. For a more in-depth history of ceramics in Hoi An, visit the Museum of Trade Ceramics.
The Process of Crafting Thanh Ha Pottery
All pottery in Thanh Ha is made manually, using traditional clay mixing, moulding, burning and baking techniques.
The clay used to be taken from the nearby riverbeds and the rice paddies. Farmers would remove clay to level the fields and then send it to Thanh Ha. Now, most of the clay is excavated from Quang Nam, which is about eight miles (12 kilometres) from Hoi An. Over several days, villagers continually add water, covering it with tarps for lengthy periods of time to retain moisture.
Burning and Baking Techniques
The burning and baking techniques take a good deal of time too. A jar that might take a couple of minutes for a craftsman to make, takes a day to dry in the sunshine, and then seven in the kiln, depending on size. If they paint the item, which many villagers do but not all, this takes another few days. Heat modulations bring out different colours in the clay. Most are a deep terracotta red that you’ll see all over the village, but depending on the length of time and the temperature in the kiln, the colour changes from pink to red, to light yellowish-brown and even jet black.
Hidden Hint: Hand-crafted pieces usually have an artisan’s unique stamp pressed into the bottom like a signature.
Thanks to the special technique of processing soil and the combination of successive manipulations, the durability of products from Thanh Ha is extremely strong and the pieces unique. These aren’t the same shiny pieces that you see in the markets that say ‘Made in Vietnam’ on the bottom, though these can be found in the village too.
Visiting the Thanh Ha Pottery Village
The Thanh Ha Pottery Village is located in the Thanh Ha ward of Quang Nam province, just off the Thu Bon River, and it’s an activity that can take as little as one hour or up to three or four, depending on how in-depth you want to get.
When to Visit Thanh Ha
The village opens every day at 8.a.m. and takes its last visitors around 5:30.p.m., though they don’t officially close until 6.p.m. Weekdays are better, and to avoid the heat, mornings are best. The tour groups showed up later in the afternoon—around 3 pm—but even at its busiest, the village did not feel crowded. It’s easy to disappear into the homes of the artisans or to duck into another section of the museum’s two floors.
Hidden Hint: Bring a portable fan. Nestled between buildings, there’s a little breeze to provide respite from Hoi An’s scorching heat. Villagers have electric fans on their shaded porches, but having your own is also handy.
Getting to the Thanh Ha Pottery Village from Hoi An
Ride a Bike
The Thanh Ha Pottery Village is a mere mile from the Old Town, so if you’re able, bikes are the way to go. The ride is a lovely, easy pedal, along the Thu Bon River that takes less than half an hour.
Take Hung Vuong Street out of town until you see the river on your left. At the fork, keep left. Continue for about 1 km and turn left at Pham Phan – the Terracotta Pottery Park and Pottery Village are about 15 metres further down on the left. Once there, park your bike along the fence, or if walking between sights isn’t your thing, ride around the village.
A motorbike is also a great option for getting to the village. With a motorbike, skip the parking lot and leave the bike right beside the ticketing booth for free.
If you’re driving to Thanh Ha, there’s a parking lot a good distance from the entrance. However, the village provides a free electric shuttle bus in. These shuttles are frequent, so you won’t wait long.
A taxi to the village costs less than 80,000 VND (3.50 USD). But be sure to get your driver’s number or ask him to come back at a certain hour. There weren’t taxis available when we were done. The Grab app wasn’t useful, as drivers weren’t willing to backtrack to pick us up. The ladies at the ticketing booth were happy to call a taxi for us, but it did take some time to arrive.
A private boat from the Old Town takes about half an hour, and it’s likely a lot cooler than some of the other modes of transport to the village. The boats leave at all times of the day from along the river in the Old Town then head downstream, giving visitors a unique view of Hoi An. Prices are negotiable, but we were quoted 500,000 VND (21.70 USD) for three people or 150,000 VND (6.50 USD) for one.
Your entrance ticket to the Thanh Ha Pottery Village costs 35,000 VND (1.50 USD) and includes exploring the village, the Nam Dieu Temple, making pottery with artisans in their homes, and collecting a souvenir. It does not include entrance to the Terracotta Park and Museum, which is an additional 40,000 VND (1.70 USD). Children under 1.2m get free entrance to the village, park and museum, and children over 1.2m are 15,000 VND (0.65 USD) to enter the village and an additional 29,000 VND (1.26 USD) for the museum.
There are a variety of tours available, many that include a day full of other activities around Hoi An, but it’s easier (and cheaper) to visit the village, museum, and park on your own. Entrance to all three costs 70,000 VND (3.05 USD) plus the purchase of a gift from one of the craftsmen or women when trying your hand at the pottery wheel.
The Thanh Ha Terracotta Park
From the outside, the Thanh Ha Terracotta Park looks like just another sculpture park, but it’s not. It’s a lilliputian display of the architectural wonders of the world. Take a spin among the terracotta sculptures and you’re bound to recognise a few. There’s the Taj Mahal, the Leaning Tower of Pisa, and the Sydney Opera House. Even Lady Liberty makes an appearance. There are also those less familiar, like St Peter’s Square, Notre-Dame de Paris, China’s Temple of Heaven, and more. See who can name the most without reading the plaques!
Part of this village’s charm is exploring a craft that is ancient and yet, interminable. These villagers tell their family histories through the art they create and the stories echo in the crumbling walls and rustic landscape.
Like many sculpture parks, you can’t touch much of the art here, but some pieces you can. Take them in your hands and imagine what it took to create them, what they’ll look like when they’re still here, 50-, 100- years from now like in some other parts of the village where things look much, much older.
“Terracotta is like glass, especially the small parts of miniatures,” a plaque in the garden explains, “A slight touch causes damage. However, most visitors want to touch the ceramic products for a real feeling. So do we! Therefore, this product is touchable for all visitors’ real experience.”
The Thanh Ha Pottery Museum
Founded in 2015, the Thanh Ha Pottery Museum is a new, well-kept open-air building full of activities for everyone in the family. Inside, the museum is a two-story open-air building complete with a workshop, gallery, history, the terracotta market and gift shop and more.
Hidden Hint: With kids, head directly downstairs where there are mask painting and pottery making and smashing activities. Clutching their treasures, your little ones might more patiently explore other parts of the museum.
The pottery smashing and making activities each cost 30,000 VND (1.30 USD).
The museum houses ceramic pieces from ancient Vietnamese cultures as well as modern paintings and sculptures. Its unique layout incorporates small bridges and open-air overlooks that peer into hidden nooks and crannies, setting it apart from other more ‘normal’ craft museums.
There are exhibits that provide a thorough insight into Hoi An’s pottery history and ‘poetic ambiance’. “At Thanh Ha, you can see the dance of ceramics in jars, pots, stalls, statues, lanterns; the spirit and soul of the clay and can hear old stories and tales of ancestors. If you want, you can sit down and find the soul of the land…”
Exhibits change all the time. While we were there, craftsmen were carving intricate drawings into the side of a totem-Esque cylinder several feet tall. Between the workshop and the kiln are rows of pedestals that bear the heads of the pottery founders with plaques telling their stories.
Pottery Making at Thanh Ha Village
Pottery making here is a family affair, passed down through the generations. Villagers make all sorts of useful pieces such as cups, jars, bowls, pots and the like. Along with more decorative pieces like replicas of pigs and frogs or small whistles shaped like snakes and tigers. Many shops also create little figurines called to he – pottery figures of the 12 animals of the Chinese zodiac calendar.
The Homes at the Thanh Ha Pottery Village
The most unique and interesting part of visiting Thanh Ha Pottery Village is how intimate it is. Each home is equipped with a pottery wheel and shelves of handmade creations on the front porch. Beyond, you might see kids playing in their living room or people watching football. It’s free to make the pottery. Stop and an artisan will pop out of their home and invite you to sit at the wheel. Artisans are more than welcoming to families traveling with children, displaying a generous amount of patience that will leave parents grateful.
We slipped into Hoa’s home where she has a pottery wheel and robust pottery selection on the front porch. She’s been making pottery for eighteen years and inherited the shop from her parents, who are still here helping. Hoa and her daughter make the pottery while her husband manages the kiln and her father does the fine acrylics. Hoa’s daughter, Hue, joined us as Hoa guided our hands along the clay, and her husband kicked the pottery wheel round and round. Despite being very pregnant, Hue told us that she spends half her week in Hoi An where she and her husband have a clothing shop and the other half here, helping her mother with the pottery.
Free Pottery Lessons
The lesson is free, but artisans ask that you buy a souvenir afterwards. Pieces start at 20,000 VND (0.86 USD). Most shops offer similar items—incense burners, ash trays, tea sets, and more. But look closer to find more unique items with a creative flair like the piggy bank of a pig reading or boobs on a pedestal we found at the Sen Pottery Production House in the middle of town.
Thanh Ha Pottery Village Souvenirs
At G.O.M Cafe located at the end of the first road through town, each visitor receives a handmade souvenir. So show your ticket to the ladies working, and they’ll give you a clay whistle from one of the baskets at their feet. Keep an eye out and you’ll see villagers all over making these whistles, some are dogs, chickens, tigers and more.
However if you’ve got time, order a smoothie from the cafe—a sheek cart with chalkboard signs and heaping plates of fruit—and enjoy it from the chairs along the railing overlooking the river.
Nam Dieu Temple of the Pottery Founders
The Xuan My Communal House and Nam Dieu Temple of the pottery founders are located in the same place along the Thu Bon River. With their open-air structures pastel yellow and blue, it makes for beautiful photographs. But you won’t want to stay here long. It’s not as impressive as some of the other temples around Vietnam and by now it’s likely time to duck out of the heat. We recommend hitting this on your way out.
Suggested Route for Exploring the Thanh Ha Pottery Village
Once there, although the little arrows on the map provided suggest visitors head to the water and then west toward the temple. However Hidden recommends hitting the museum first. After that turn right at the first road through the yard by the pottery smashing activity, and navigate the village counter-clockwise. This direction takes you past artisan’s homes and then to the G.O.M Cafe where you can stop for a delicious fruit smoothie and collect your souvenir.
Thanh Ha Pottery Village Tours
Hidden recommends visiting this village solo. But if you’re looking for a tour, there are many offered. All of them include multiple sights. With Hoi An Express, for example, go by boat on a journey that stops first in the Thanh Ha Pottery Village and then goes on to the Kim Bong Carpentry Village for 650,000 VND (28 USD) per person.
Hoi An Express also offers a bicycle tour that explores a number of Vietnam’s handmade crafts, first taking folks to a lantern craftsman’s home and a local farm known as the Tra Que Village, and then after lunch, the tour goes by boat to the Thanh Ha Pottery Village and the Kim Bong Carpentry Village. This somewhat lengthier tour costs 1,140,000 VND (49.50 USD) and includes lunch. The most up-to-date information can be found through your hotel or at one of the Hoi An Express booking offices in the Old Town.
Hoi An Adventure is a similar tour service offering a motorbike tour through six different villages, including the Thanh Ha Pottery Village, a visit to the rice paddies, and more. This tour costs 990,000 VND (43 USD) and includes a motorbike, lunch, and all entrance fees. They also have several booking offices in the Old Town.
To find out more about other day tours around Hoi An, Hidden made a handy guide. For more in-depth information read craft workshops in Hoi An.
Visiting the Thanh Ha Pottery Village, Terracotta Park and Museum is a great activity for those looking for a cultural experience just outside of Hoi An. It’s easy to get to and fun to see villagers in the intimate setting of their own homes.
We recommend this outing for those with children eager to get their hands dirty and those interested in the history of pottery in this area. If you have space in your luggage, the pieces on offer are beautifully crafted, durable, and much more affordable than you’ll find in most places around the world.