A tourist walks amidst grape vines in Phan Rang Thap Cham, the capital town of the central province of Ninh Thuan /PHOTOS COURTESY OF TUOI TRE
Not far from the famous central resort town of Phan Thiet in Binh Thuan Province, there are several beaches in the neighboring province of Ninh Thuan that have become quite popular.
But, the beaches, like Vinh Hy and Ca Na, are not the only features that make the province's capital town, Phan Rang, a top tourism draw.
Visitors to the town officially known as Phan Rang Thap Cham (Cham Tower) Town usually take a tour of the Poklongarai towers on the Trau Hill. Built in the late 13th and early 14th centuries, the towers are a symbol of the advanced architectural and the sculpting skills of the Cham people.
However, it is rare that visitors know about tours of nearby vineyards. Ninh Thuan grapes are making a name for themselves, not to mention the wine that is made from them.
Of late, the Ba Moi vineyard has been introduced as a destination in Phan Rang tours.
Located about one kilometer from the Poklongarai, the 1.5 hectare farm can easily be spotted from the Mong Bridge across the Dinh River.
Once visitors get there, they would be told everything about Ninh Thuan grapes, their history, how to plant them, how to harvest them, and how to produce wine from the fruit that has sweet and sour overtones.
The tour's guide is none other than Ba Moi, the owner who has spent many years bringing grapes from his hometown to Ho Chi Minh City.
As he takes visitors around his vineyard, they are free to pick ripe fruits and enjoy them without worrying about pesticides and other chemical substances. Moi's vineyard was the first to be certified for the production of "clean" grapes in his province.
Moi says he developed his technique of planting grapes "cleanly," replacing chemical fertilizers, pesticides and other substances with biological products, with the help of the Institute of Agricultural Science for Southern Vietnam.
He said the technique also gave the grape its current sweet-sour taste and the crispiness, instead of the acridness and the small size it had during the 1990s.
Bau Truc Village in Ninh Phuoc District is another destination that local authorities are promoting among tourists.
Founded in the 12th century, it is the oldest pottery village in the Southeast Asia. Eighty-five percent of around 400 Cham families who live here are potters, and they still make pottery the same way their ancestors did centuries ago.
They collect clay from the banks of the Quao River and knead it until it has the desired elastic texture. Instead of using the potter's wheel like potters elsewhere, Bau Truc women put clay on a stone cylinder-shaped platform and go around it, shaping their works with their hands.
After finished with shaping, they dry items under the sun for four to six hours before using ceramic pieces or bamboo sticks to create a smooth surface.
Pottery items are left in the shade for five to six days and all the items are piled up in a large, common ground in the village.
People then place dry tree branches and straws on the items and burned them at temperatures of 500-600 degrees Celsius for five hours.
After baking, each item has a different color pattern some have yellow and red as their main colors while others are black and gray.
Common works are the statuettes of the Poklongarai towers, and the lingam and yoni the symbols of Lord Shiva.
As the village is now open to tourists, local people also act as tour guides, explaining to their guests the traditional pottery making technique and instructing them how to do it.
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