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Interview: Liz and Deb | Simply Saigon

Boy with water buffalo in the highlands of Sapa, north Vietnam

Boy with water buffalo in the highlands of Sapa, north Vietnam

Isn’t this a beautiful view of the highlands of north Vietnam?

Sorry to say, it wasn’t me who took the photo nor am I about to offer an insight into travelling the country. Visiting Vietnam is still on my bucket list!

No, this was taken by Sydneysiders Liz Foulkes and Debra Hade who have a small business importing beautifully made jewellery and handcrafts from Vietnam and, by default, get to travel to this wonderful Asian country twice a year.

I first met the friends and business partners at a local market where they were showcasing their range and was instantly smitten by their wares. Apart from purchasing some of their pieces for gifts and then for our store I was interested in the story behind the water buffalo and their travels to Vietnam.

Please introduce yourselves – what are your backgrounds and how have you ended up with your business Simply Saigon?

We come from varied career paths including teaching, sales and marketing and operating a small, successful business. Most importantly, we are great mates and both have a love for Vietnam and her people. Our business was born as a result of a holiday some years ago when we realised that the crafts and jewellery of Vietnam weren’t readily available in Sydney. We started importing on a small scale and now travel frequently to Vietnam.

Why did you choose products from Vietnam?

Vietnam offers unique arts and crafts, ranging from colourful lamps, bamboo bowls, embroidered textiles, jewellery and custom-made clothing.

Jewellery and bowls made from buffalo horn

Jewellery and bowls made from buffalo horn

Can you tell me about the area and the people in Vietnam where the homewares and jewellery are made? 

The water buffalo is a bovine animal similar to the common cow that is used throughout Asia as a plough animal, particularly for flooded, muddy rice paddies as they can easily walk through mud. In Vietnam, the water buffalo is highly regarded as a work animal necessary for the small scale family propagation of rice, the staple food throughout much of the country.

Our jewellery is made from the horns of domestic water buffalo from the north. Horn is a keratin-based growth similar to the human fingernail, so it regenerates itself and animals are not harmed specifically for materials used in the jewellery. Buffalo horn comes in a variety of colours – sometimes with white streaking and sometimes with areas of lighter brown to honey coloured. Horn is commonly used for a large variety of jewellery, home wares and other products for export from Vietnam.

Our lacquered coconut shell bowl are 100 per cent handmade in Vietnam using environmentally friendly and century old processes and eco-friendly coconut shell material. It is hand-lacquered and inlaid with mother of pearl inside. Importantly, both products are made under fair trade conditions and all of our products are crafted responsibly.

How long have you been visiting Vietnam; how often do you go?

We have been visiting Vietnam for three years now and travel there twice a year.

What do you love most about the country/people/culture?

The Vietnamese are a loving nation and despite the years of unrest there and the hardship they have suffered, they have an inner calmness about them. The structure of the family is hierarchical and patriarchal. Elders are given respect and education is of utmost importance. The geography of Vietnam is varied with terraced rice paddies in the north to rich flood plains in the south of the Mekong Delta. The diverse country offers stunning scenery, ornate temples and heavenly food.

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