Small trails and little bent bridges led through the garden of the Crazy House. Outsized spider web worked their way from tree branch to tree branch. Huge mushrooms grew out of the ground and meandered up tree trunks. Strange frog-faces, enormous ants, birds, and no-name mythical creatures nested under native flora and fauna. Gigantic mushrooms did double duty as umbrellas and streetlights. A monster Babushka, obviously a reminder of her Russian days, sat smack dab in the middle of a walkway.
Born into privilege and status - Hang Nga is the daughter of the late Truong Chinh, Vietnam's second President - gave her advantage in education and useful relationships. Newspaper clippings in her family shrine claim that she sat on 'uncle Ho Chi Minh's and Fidel Castro's' knees. She was educated in China and received her PhD in Architecture from the University of Moscow. "I like art and technique, and architecture is art combined with technique," she said.
We met over breakfast in her French colonial Villa. She arrived in her pink morning dress and a little knitted white cap over her muddled jet-black hair. A little hippie, a little Alice in Wonderland - the petite woman in bohemian chic has a soft voice and gentle manners. Her gestures are sparse but poignant. She left her husband and father of her two grown children "because" she says, "Vietnamese husbands are preventing us from success."
Nonetheless, it took the People's Government in DaLat 18 years to really approve her crazy counter cultural construction> and grant her ownership. Her interpretation of free hand curved architecture didn't fit in any traditional description and they didn't know what to do with crazy houses like that. Finally, they found a term to approve the house: "The People's committee have now acknowledged Crazy House belongs to 'expressionism'.
Her Crazy House is a work in progress and strenuous. Eight local workers between 20 and 60 transform her blueprints - paintings not architectural plans - into her work of art. None of the workers are professionals, but all of them are enthusiastic and gifted craftsmen. Everything is sculpted by hand, even the furniture, because it has to fit into the nooks of the rooms without a strait line.
She plans to wrap her colonial house into a tree-trunk as well, and add two more stories on top of the house.
Every building will be connected high up in the air with bridges. A roof top restaurant is planned and an art gallery for Vietnamese artists will be added up "in the air".
Buoyant and with glowing eyes she spoke about the planned water palace, the penthouse in the sky. She wants to buy more property to expand her dream, though there is resistance from the people and the government. But giving up is not written in her stars.
Every day the artificial world of Mme Hang Nga is growing a bit more. "But" she says, "there will be much more water running into Paradise Lake until I am finished. Come back in a few years and I will welcome you in my tree-penthouse."
Since her passion is a huge financial burden, and she is not getting any architectural work from DaLat residents, she had to look for a different source of income. She expanded her art gallery into a guesthouse for tourists and opened her dream world to gawker's for a fee.
Hang Nga Guesthouse & Art Gallery
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