Bac Lieu was once home to affluent landlords with children whose lavish lifestyles gave rise to many anecdotes about the ‘princes’, including Tran Trinh Huy.
The house of Tran Trinh Huy is located at 13 Dien Bien Phu Street in Bac Lieu Town, the capital of Bac Lieu Province. He was the son of Tran Trinh Trach, a wealthy man who was the largest landlord in the province in the early 20th century, when the country was under the French colonialism. Huy was famously known as a dandy with a reckless lifestyle and spending habits.
The building, built during 1917- 1919, is well-preserved and a very popular tourist destination today. It was designed by a French architect, combining western European architecture and traditional Vietnamese features. Locals often refer to it as the "Big House". Most of its construction materials were brought from Paris.
All patterns on the ceiling were painted by French painters, whose works have lasted to this day.
The 100-year-old house also has several objects that exemplify Huy’s lifestyle. When he returned to Vietnam and landed in Saigon after studying in France, his father used this car, bought in 1930, to pick him up.
Most of the items in the house are intact, including music players and desk phones in working condition.
There are "cold" and "hot" beds in the house. The cold bed was made with fragrant rosewood and marble mosaics for use in summer. The hot bed, used in rainy weather, was made of sandalwood.
All items made of wood carried intricate, carved inlays.
The two floors of the house are connected by a marble staircase with three 9-step segments. The nine steps symbolize permanence. There’s a terrace in the house and the wooden stair that leads up to it was where Trach, Huy’s father, used to hang money on the rails.
One of the anecdotes about Huy that people still share is his burning a 100-dollar bill so he could use the light to find the earrings that his girlfriend Phung Ha dropped.
Pictures of Huy (third from the right) and his wife on the left, Ngo Thi Den, are hung on the wall of the house. The other women were his concubines, including a French woman (second from the right).
The man on the right was one of his sons. Historical records show Huy had eight children with three wives. He reportedly had children with his concubines, too, but their number is not verified.
All of Huy’s children live overseas except Tran Trinh Duc, who lives 3 km from his father's house. Duc comes here every day to talk with visitors and sign the book he wrote about his father.
Bac Lieu is a place with many vestiges of life in early 20th century. Today, the province is home to Vietnam's largest wind farm with 62 turbines. This farm, locaced in Dong A Hamlet, Vinh Trach Dong Commune, is a new tourist attraction.
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