A 'dream' village

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A view of the Lang Toi (My village) Tourist Site in District 2 that evokes nostalgic thoughts and images of the Vietnamese countryside right in the heart of HCMC.

It was 17 years and millions of dollars in the making, but the Lang Toi (My village) Tourist Site is finally delivering on its promise to present a rural ambience that is both extensive and authentic.

Just across the Saigon Bridge into District 2 in Ho Chi Minh City, a surprising escape from the riotous hustle and bustle of the nation's commercial hub awaits visitors to Lang Toi.

For its owner, Vietnamese Canadian David Phan Thanh, the village is a realization of his biggest dream, one that has cost him US$7 million.

"In 1984, I came back to Vietnam to do business, and suddenly the idea of building a village that is close to my native hamlet flashed through my mind. My wife called me crazy when I decided to buy seven hectares of slushy fallow land to build my 'little homeland.' So far so good," says Thanh, who is also chairman of the city's Overseas Vietnamese Businesspeople's Association.

While the village has yet to turn profitable, Thanh derives great satisfaction from the fact that Lang Toi has become a familiar rendezvous in recent years for not only Vietnamese expats but also foreigners and local residents.

The most attractive part of Lang Toi is that it offers a nostalgic trip through typically Vietnamese pastoral scenery with buffaloes, paddy fields and peaceful shady nooks under bamboo groves or areca palms.

The plain but unique wooden interiors of the village are particularly noteworthy. There is also a little private carpenter's shop in Lang Toi that makes all the wooden furniture on display.

The end of the year is the period that Lang Toi really comes into its own with market days and stalls selling several rural dishes. The tourist area usually organizes summer camps for overseas Vietnamese students and youth.

"In memory of my hometown in Tra Vinh Province, I built this place for Vietnamese expats and hope to give some bright joy for overseas Vietnamese youth who have had no chance to experience the land of their origin."

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