Waking up Vietnam cultural tourism
For a long time, the cultural value of Vietnam’s ancient villages seems to have fallen into oblivion. Vietnam is considering restoring their cultural value in order to build up more attractive tourism products; however, the work proves to be not so easy.
About 60 km from Hanoi, or one hour by coach, the ancient houses and laterite-made walls of Duong Lam ancient village has made the place well known among tourists from far and wide.
The first ancient village listed as a national heritage also has important historical value as it has a history of about 1,200 years with many houses dating back 400 years. It is the only place in Vietnam where two kings came from.
However, the local residents of the attractive land with cultural and historical value have been criticised for lack of professionalism in developing tourism.
Nguyen Tuan Viet, Director of Hanoi Branch of APEX Vietnam, related that on the occasion Duong Lam organised the ceremony to receive the title of ‘national heritage’, local authorities made a market in front of Mia Pagoda with an iron frame like a place for weddings in rural areas, which was surrounded by canvas and nylon. In the market, colourful commodities were displayed in disorder, most of them made-in-China, while salesmen all wore European-style clothes. A leader of the province also said that he felt ashamed to see such careless preparation for such an important event.
Viet said that he returned to Duong Lam recently, and he found out that the ancient village is in no way ancient. A lot of houses there are built in modern style have inox-made water tanks. On the main road of the village, motorbikes run at all times and honk their horns. APEX Vietnam’s tourists could only enjoy the ancientness of the village when they visited some houses on small back streets.
Viet said that there exist problems in the way of thinking of local tourism developers. “They think that they only need to make some investments to be able to attract tourists. However, the reality is far different from their thoughts,” he said.
In order to preserve and restore historical and cultural values, local residents must not treat cultural and historical values carelessly. Duong Lam is compared to a precious gem; however, it needs refined talent to become bright.
“Every tourism product consists of cultural value, but not every cultural value can become a tourism product,” Tuan said.
According to Dao Duy Tuan, from the Research Institute for Tourism Development, there are now 8,902 festivals, including 7,005 traditional festivals, 1,399 religion festivals, 409 historical-revolutionary festivals, and 25 festivals imported from overseas countries.
Twenty four provinces and cities nationwide have more than 100 festivals, which prove to be an important factor in helping to diversify Vietnam’s tourism products.
In Ha Tay province, a neighbouring province of Hanoi, for example, there are 1,180 trade villages, according to Deputy Director of the Culture, Information and Tourism Department Truong Minh Tien. Some 10 trade villages in Ha Tay have regular visitors, including the silk village of Van Phuc, Phu Vinh village, famous for bamboo and rattan-made products, and Chuyen My, specialising in pearl-inlayed products. Last year, the said trade villages alone received more than 350,000 tourists.
(Source: Vietnamnet, URL: http://english.vietnamnet.vn/travel/2008/04/779866/)