Like we’ve said before, bamboo makes a lot of stuff in Vietnam. There’s a massive furniture industry that churns out a ton of bamboo stuff. People use bamboo cutlery on the daily. If you’ve read our other posts, you’ll know Vietnamese instruments are also made out of bamboo. But what’s one of the biggest uses, and definitely one of the most common symbols of Vietnam, would be the nón lá. Even if you don’t know the Vietnamese for it, http://www.hanoitimes.vn/my-hanoi/heritage/2017/07/81e0b461/hunt-for-the-truly-vietnamese-iconic-hat-non-la/I can guarantee you know what I’m talking about.
A Conical Hat
The nón lá, or conical hat, is worn by loads of people in both the countryside and the city. It’s without a doubt one of the most common sights around the country. As with most traditional things in Vietnam, there’s a special story that explains the origin of the hat. The story is deeply linked to the rice-growing history of the country. It’s no wonder: one of the main reasons people wear them is to protect from the blazing sun whilst working the rice paddies.
Once upon a time, Vietnam was afflicted by a non-stop, mud-churning downpour that lasted an age. It destroyed countless houses and generally buggered up everyone’s life. That was until one day a helpful goddess, who felt sorry for everyone, came down to Earth. She was wearing a giant hat made of four different leaves, all of them held together on 16 round bamboo sticks. The hat was so bloody huge that it protected everyone from the rain. The goddess even cleared away the clouds; all in all a pretty good service!
When the goddess ascended back to heaven, the people traipsed into the forest to find leaves like those of the goddess’s hat. They figured that as a sign of how thankful they were, they’d start to make their own.
Nowadays the nón lá is worn all around Vietnam. It’s even pretty common to see people biking around the cities selling their bits and bobs with a nón lá firmly stuck on their heads. It can be used as a fan for when the heat gets too much and even as a basket for when people go to the market. As we’re a bunch that’s pretty into reducing our plastic (as you might’ve guessed!) we think this is another great example of bamboo being much better than plastic. You can use a nón lá, if you’ve got one, and save on using up those horrible plastic bags when you head down to the market!