Residents in grasslands and open swamps throughout the Mekong Delta are working full steam to deliver the best rustic experiences to tourists
Vacationers from many parts of the country have flooded open swamps and mixed forests in Vietnam’s Mekong Delta during the Tet (Lunar New Year) holiday. Officials in several swampy hotspots in Ca Mau, Kien Giang and Dong Thap provinces have reported that the number of visitors has seen a sharp rise compared to that of normal days.
As per common Vietnamese practice, people generally visit their relatives on the first and second day of the Lunar New Year and will start their trips on the third and fourth day.
This year’s Lunar New Year begins on January 28 with preparation and celebration commonly taking place one week before and after the date.
Le Van Dung, director of the Tourism Promotion Information Center under the Ca Mau Department of Culture, Sports and Tourism, gladly said tourist spots in cajuput and mangrove forests have received a 20-percent increase in holidaymakers compared to the same period last year.
Holidaymakers keep flooding in from major cities for a one-of-a-kind taste of the idyllic landscape and locals’ lifestyle in the middle of nowhere, he added.
The seasonally flooded grasslands and riverine forests also appeal to vacationers for alluring stories of the land reclamation which took place in the area hundreds of years ago.
Dung noted the provincial administration has engaged local households tasked with forest care in community tourism instead of investing in large tourist complexes.
Visitors to the province’s signature U Minh cajuput forest are pampered with a wide array of pastoral delights including casting nets to catch fish, roaming into the vast woody expanses to fetch bee honey with natives and savoring rustic delicacies.
They can also enjoy their stay in bungalows, unwinding to UNESCO-recognized don ca tai tu (traditional southern music) pieces and locals’ stories on how they make their living.
Similarly, the province’s mangrove forests have also become a magnet for holidaymakers since the Ho Chi Minh Trail, the country’s backbone that runs along the Truong Son mountain chain, extended to Ca Mau Cape. Local homes are gaily decorated to usher in the Lunar New Year and welcome guests who will follow natives to scavenge for snails, clams and ba khia (small crabs) on alluvial and muddy grounds.
According to Pham Quoc Dan, director of U Minh Thuong National Park, nestled in Kien Giang Province’s namesake district, the site welcomes approximately 1,200 tourists, mostly from Ho Chi Minh City and its neighboring provinces, on a daily basis during Tet.
The park officially became the world’s 2,228th and Vietnam’s 8th Ramsar site on February 22, 2016.
A Ramsar site must follow the Ramsar Convention, which is an international treaty for the conservation and sustainable utilization of wetlands recognizing the fundamental ecological functions of wetlands and their economic, cultural, scientific, and recreational value.
Dan added visitors will also be indulged with fishy specialties and memorable encounters with mischievous monkeys, gorgeous waterfowls and bats as they venture deeper into the park’s bird sanctuaries.
Meanwhile, Xeo Quit Relic Site, located in Dong Thap Province’s Cao Lanh District, has also emerged as a much-loved tourist destination in recent times.
Statistics revealed the site received 2,600 tourist arrivals on January 28, the lunar new year day, or a 30-percent surge compared to normal days.
The arrivals on the second day tended to surpass that on the first.
Xeo Quit was where the Party Committee of the former Kien Phong Province, now Dong Thap Province, was based from the 1960s to 1975 to lead local revolutionary campaigns.
Entrance costs VND5,000 (US$0.2) for adults and VND2,000 for children as normal.
Vacationers can choose to row sampans along crisscrossing canals or do trekking through the spacious cajuput forests, while relishing fresh breezes and birds’ twitters.
U Minh Thuong National Park, about 364km southwest of Ho Chi Minh City, is one of the two most important areas of peat swamp forest remaining in Vietnam (the other is U Minh Ha in the southernmost province of Ca Mau).
It is also recognized as one of three areas of the highest priority for the conservation of wetlands in the Mekong Delta. According to the Ramsar Convention’s website, the park is dominated by mixed forests and Melaleuca forests of peat that cover around 3,000 ha (approximately 37 percent) of it.
Tourists can reach the park by going along National Highway 61 from Kien Giang’s Rach Gia City before turning right into Tac Cau at the Minh Luong T-junction and then taking on National Highway 63.
On the way to the park, approximately 50 kilometers from Rach Gia City, visitors can also drop by for specialty Tac Cau pineapples from shops beneath Cai Be and Cai Lon Bridges.
An increasing number of vacationers have been drawn to southernmost forests for refreshing air, idyllic greens, and delectable rustic specialties Photo: Tuoi Tre
The idyllic, picturesque spring-time scenery Photo: Tuoi Tre
Many youths choose to spend their Tet holiday at Xeo Quit Relic Site Photo: Tuoi Tre