Taboo Bamboo has a dense green jungle-like atmosphere reminiscent of a tropical oasis. Its remarkable bamboo constructions include a two story-house, an electric car and a rotary telephone! If this wasn’t Hoi An I’d swear I’d landed in an episode of Gilligan’s Island. Taboo Bamboo is a truly inspiring setting for making your own bamboo creations.
Vo Tan Tan’s World of Bamboo
Sitting on the outskirts of the Coconut Palm Village and tucked away, down a quiet, dead-end street, the Taboo Bamboo Making Workshop sits within the lush, leafy property of the homestay of the same name. There’s no big showy sign to indicate where it is, just look for the bamboo car parked out front. The area of Cam Thanh was once known for its bamboo homes, but recent generations have wanted modern; and for them, bamboo is not modern. Enter Vo Tan Tan, a third generation bamboo builder who thinks outside of the box. At a time when his community is turning to concrete homes, he’s built an incredible two-story homestay, workshop and car to show what bamboo can do.
If anyone is going to kick bamboo inventions and construction up a notch, it’ll be Tan. He’s even made a functioning rotary phone out of bamboo. And, if that’s too old school for you, he’s also created a bamboo cellphone case! In a corner of the living area, hanging from the ceiling, you can see the beautifully crafted bicycle frames Tan is most famous for and, if you like, you can make your own bamboo bike by booking into one of his five-day workshops.
The Taboo Bamboo Workshop
After viewing the inspiring pieces in Tan’s home, I was champing at the bit to get going, especially as my selected ‘invention’ was to be a Father’s Day present for my environmentally minded hubby; a super cool iPhone speaker/natural amplifier. Like I said, Tan is kicking things up a notch with his creations.
As the group was confined to Tan’s well-used workshop by the rain, I had an opportunity to snoop around. Sure, there were some electric tools to help make the magic happen, but rugged saws of varying sizes, chisels, small bowls of bamboo sawdust, sheaths of sandpaper, and crazy glue dominated. As I eyeballed all the bits ‘n’ bobs it made me think that just maybe all those Gilligan’s Island inventions weren’t so impossible after all.
The workshop is slated to take about one and a half to two hours. Although I really wanted to make my speaker from scratch, Tan had skillfully cut the bamboo pieces ahead of time and it was just as well. After gagging on the bamboo dust that got kicked while drilling holes and remembering that high powered tools do freak me out a bit, I realized it was probably for the best that most of the hard work had already been done. Bamboo is not an easy material to work with, even if Tan makes it look like it is.
Tan also demonstrated how to tightly weave decorative bamboo twine into our pieces. While some of the kids battled with the weaving we were all heard muttering curses under our breath as we glued our fingertips together.
Out the gate, let me say I loved this workshop. I enjoyed wood-working class when I was in elementary school, so this made me feel like a kid again. And I’m not going to lie. I did gave myself a little pat on the back as I drunk in the praises Tan and his assistant Tran who lauded me on my weaving skill. Come the end, my iPhone speaker turned out pretty great.
I came away from the experience with a great appreciation for Tan’s motivation, care and skill. I also now find myself looking at bamboo differently, and considering the workshop is relatively inexpensive, I can see myself stealing away to try my hand at another bamboo invention – I’m sure my mother would love the bamboo vase, and my daughter would thoroughly enjoy the bamboo train. After a little more experience with the tools I may just take Tan up on his whatever-you-can-make-in-a-morning for 300.000 VND (13 USD). My mind is positively reeling at the thought of all the wonderful things I could make!
As a final bonus, I learned that if I were ever shipwrecked on an uncharted desert isle, as long as I had some bamboo, I think I’d be okay.
**At the time of posting this my hubby has since received his speaker and LOVES IT.
Price: 600,000 VND / 26 USD (1-2 people); 450,000 VND / 19.50 USD (>2 people)
Revised and updated September 2018