Travel Travel

20/09/2017 - 15:19

Clean tourism in Thuy Bieu

Holding a large guest book, several hundred pages thick and filled with notes, Mr. Ho Xuan Dai said that after four years of doing tourism business, his family garden has welcomed visitors from 52 countries. Garden tourism is also a new direction in Thuy Bieu.

In the Thuy Bieu greenery

The ‘clean’ criteria

We came to Mr. Xuan Dai’s garden house in the early morning of this late summer, when he prepared to welcome two tourist groups: a small group of two guests from Australia and a group of nearly 15 students of many nationalities. On the large and cool yard, Mr. Dai's son, Ho Xuan Viet Nam carefully dried the bikes, which had been washed. The bike is a means for visitors to visit Thanh Tra pomelo gardens in Thuy Bieu during the harvesting season. In the clean kitchen, his wife and two elderly women were preparing lunch for the guests. Fresh ingredients were picked from the home garden for local dishes such as figs salad, fish, spring rolls, etc.

“Hello! Hello!...” From the gateway, the greetings of the guests resounded. Mr. Dai rushed to warmly welcome and invite the guests into the house. In the over 150-year-old ruong house with the intact ancient look, the owner served his guests tea and Thanh Tra pomelo jam. The talk between the owner and the guests through the help of a tour guide was warm and fun, just like between people in the village. Then, he led the visitors to the 1000 square meter garden with more than 20 kinds of fruit specialty of Hue, interwoven between the old and fruiting Thanh Tra pomelo trees.

Before lunch, Mr. Ho Xuan Dai gives an introduction on the dishes to the tourists 

Before going to lunch under the shade of mangosteen trees, the guests soaked their feet in wooden baskets filled with warm water and fresh herbs such as lemon grass, lemon leaves, ginger ... At the time guests were having their lunch, Mr. Dai said, initially his garden only received a few dozen guests every month. Now, the number has increased, sometimes reaching several hundred visitors each month. About the secret to do garden tourism, he said: "Nothing is difficult. We only show the guests what we have. The essence is in the heart, not making it superficial and fake. It is doing clean tourism: clean house, clean garden, clean vegetables, clean village and clean people," he made a witty explanation.

The potential is encouraging

Ho Xuan Viet Nam is the youngest of Mr. Dai's eight children. In the 3rd year of Hue College of Economics, he decided to drop out of college and stay at home with his parents to start up his own business. "The current services at Xuan Dai’s garden house have just started. Thuy Bieu has a lot to do," Nam said. In addition to taking guests cycling to experience the countryside, visiting the historical and cultural relics such as Luong Quan communal house, Ho Quyen, Voi Re temple, visiting incense stick making families, etc., Nam is building new services in the Xuan Dai garden house: home stays with contracts signed with a foreign travel agency.

It seems his family garden will not be able to keep up with the many ambitious plans of Nam and his family. "I want to network with neighboring houses to work together to create a product chain, but people are afraid and do not dare to enter. It is the most difficult thing to develop community tourism in Thuy Bieu," Nam said.

The landscape and environment in Thuy Bieu is very favorable for the development of clean tourism

According to Mr. Dai, the current income from his family's garden tourism is not very much. What he hopes is that the Xuan Dai Garden House will be a nucleus, gradually spreading and connecting to build garden villages of Luong Quan, Nguyet Bieu to become community tourist attractions. This man, who is over 75 years old, thought Thuy Bieu's most valuable assets were the garden, the fruit trees, and the honest people. Only by doing community tourism in the right direction would they be able to keep the village and the gardens in a sustainable way. With clean criteria, it will be a tourism brand for Thuy Bieu.

Mr. Dai also worried that if the direction was not right, the spontaneous development of tourism could break the pristine beauty of the ancient village. This was also the reason why the Xuan Dai owner had declined the offer to rent this garden for 30 million VND per month from a tourist company.

And the networking need

Mr. Vo Dang Thai, Vice Chairman of Ward People's Committee affirmed that Thuy Bieu is a place still preserving the typical garden village with Thanh Tra pomelo specialty, with beautiful rural quality and with people, who are hospitable and living in harmony. With the nice green space and the close proximity to the city center, Thuy Bieu is so popular with tourists. Currently, there are three tourism projects in the area, forming three ecotourism resorts. Villagers started to do community-based tourism with 4 participating garden houses. However, according to Mr. Thai, the development of tourism in Thuy Bieu is slow due to the limited infrastructure and difficulties in planning. It has not attracted large businesses, and there is still the psychological hesitation of the local people. "Bui Thi Xuan street, leading to Thuy Bieu, has deteriorated and is narrow. Long Tho bridge alone leads into the ward with a load of only 10 tons. The infrastructure is weak, so it is very difficult for passenger busses. Only a few hundred meters from the people's homes and the resort, guests have to transfer to motorbikes or taxis," Mr. Thai explained the difficulty in infrastructure.

Nguyen Hai Thanh, a tour guide who often take tourists to Thuy Bieu, said that besides the advantages of garden houses, tourism products in Thuy Bieu are monotonous and lack supporting services. "If in the long run, there is nothing but biking in the countryside, having lunch at the villagers’ home, attending cooking classes and visiting some local relics, guests will get bored," the tour guide said.

With regard to additional products, Thuy Bieu’s leaders said that some travel agencies have come to study to suggest new services. However, the difficulty is partly in the local people who are not enthusiastic about switching their business and the procedures relating to land-use planning are still complicated.

"Tourism in Thuy Bieu is inseparable from the local community and long-established home garden culture. So there should be a link between people and people, between people and businesses to create product chains. If there is no link to support each other, the products will overlap, and there will be unhealthy competition and spontaneity-related consequences," Vice Chairman of the Ward People's Committee Vo Danh Thai expressed his worries. Thua Thien Hue should have policies to preserve the garden houses in Nguyet Bieu, Luong Quan and support people to do community tourism. Without an early protection and a proper development direction, when land price increases, it will be impossible to keep the intact thousands square meter gardens here from the demand for land transfer, parceling out, concreting. And as stated by Mr. Thai, gardens are the soul of Thuy Bieu. If you the gardens are not preserved, it is difficult for specialty tourism here to survive long.

Story: Kim Oanh - Photo: Vo Nhan