Tuesday, May 11, 2010

Gaudi Meets Alice in Wonderland

In Dalat, Vietnam, we were brought to a place called Crazy House. Because I was busy chatting with the rest of the girls on the bus, I didn't pay much attention to what the guide was saying, so had no idea what this place was all about. Apparently it's one of the more popular tourist destinations here, as well as a place to stay for the more adventurous folk. For 100,000 Dong, or US$5, you can visit it like visiting a museum.

Crazy House is a totally unconventional structure, and parts of it are still under construction I think. At first, I found it too quirky. I was exploring the outer grounds and was wondering what the fuss was all about. It just looked like some ill-constructed Disneyland structure from outside, and didn't bother to look inside. As I was headed for the exit (we only had 20 minutes to explore) I happened to peep through a passageway and a chandelier caught my attention.  I was drawn into the house.

At once I liked the contrast of the kitschy exterior, and elegant interiors--even if the only things that gave it a bit of elegance were the crystal lighting fixtures. That was the "hook" for me. I quickly went in since I only had a few more minutes.

The fixtures are not anything spectacular, but it is the contrast that is attractive-- outlandish but civilized, rustic but elegant, new but old. There were a few simple chandeliers and wall sconces, but I think that made all the difference.

You get to the bedrooms upstairs through narrow winding but easy to navigate staircases. I think there should've been more crystal fixtures in the bedrooms. Maybe small chandeliers in one corner, or even more wall sconces.
There are no straight lines in this building, and all I could think of was Gaudi. The kids would haven had a heyday exploring these structures I thought, but then my friend Edna, who is scared of heights told me got 'stuck' in the middle of one of the narrow bridges that connect the buildings to each other. The side railings are too low in some areas, and she was momentarily paralyzed. I didn't get to the other two buildings in the compound.
The view from the topmost room in this building, looking at the other two structures, and the narrow bridges with low side railings 

There are many other bizarre things about the Crazy House and I regret wasting time outside. On the way out, I snapped a photo of a message from the owner/designer. It was posted together with other letters and photos in a little gallery up front (note to self: don't do a tour backwards again!)  We were  told that she was inside the room behind the ticketbooth, if we wanted to ask her questions. It would have been interesting to meet her, sayang, but I wasn't prepared.

I admire the designer Hang Nga for what she did--not that it fits my aesthetic, but because she set out to design what she wanted without caring what other people thought.  Then when she realized she caught the people's attention, she was even able to turn it into a business right away. Being different certainly has its advantages. That's one of the things we always tell the kids--being different is good, don't try to conform and be like everyone else (hoping to teach them to avoid peer pressure this early!)

Our visit to Crazy House was too short. I'm reminded again not to be too quick to judge and dismiss--I would've seen everything had I been more open-minded. My interior design take away from this experience? I will hang that small unimportant-looking chandelier that I already own, somewhere in the beach house.  I think the contrast will make it look important and give the room a needed point of interest.


Sam Nepomuceno said...

Wow, How strange!! Why didn't we go there when we all went?? Now I regret not doing my research before going to Vietnam. But no worries-that always opens a new page in my book for my second trip to Vietnam! :)

vicki said...

Because we didn't go to Dalat at that time. We went to Hanoi and Saigon. Saigon to Dalat is like Manila to Baguio by car, or a 30-minute plane ride. Weather is also similar.


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