Ben Tre to celebrate the coconut

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Local merchants trading coconuts wholesale by the Ham Luong River, Ben Tre Province.

Known as "the coconut land," the Mekong Delta province of Ben Tre will launch a week long festival featuring its characteristic fruit from April 4-10.

One of the key activities at the 3rd Ben Tre Coconut Festival is a food and beverage festival that offers dishes made from coconuts such as coconut candies, coconut rice cakes and mứt dừa (slices of coconut meat coated with sugar).

However, since locals use coconut not only to make desserts, more than 40 food stalls are to offer visitors a variety of coconut-based main dishes which include the fruit's water, buds and meat in their recipe.

Tép rang nưá»›c cốt dừa (shrimps roasted with coconut water), tôm luá»™c nươc dừa (prawns boiled with coconut water), bánh xèo (rice pancakes with batter mixed with coconut water), and gỏi củ hũ dừa (pork and prawns mixed with coconut buds and vinegar) are among the specialties.

HOW TO GET THERE

From Ho Chi Minh City: Take bus from Ben xe Mien Tay (Western Region Bus Station) at 395 Kinh Duong Vuong Street, An Lac Ward, Binh Tan District. Or, book tickets through private transport companies:

Mai Linh: (08) 3 929 2929. Hot line: 098 529 2929

Minh Tam: (08) 3 830 6106 - 3 830 8822 3 833 9760

Thao Chau: (08) 3 835 1917 3 833 9954. After 9 p.m. call: 093 930 5755

Thinh Phat: (08) 3 830 3042 - 3 839 3625

All the services operate daily.

In addition to the variety of recipes, an exhibition of furniture, handicrafts and other products made from coconuts is expected to show visitors how local people make clever use of the fruit whose trees take up more than 30 percent of the province's agricultural area.

Another main feature at the annual festival is an installation exhibition placed on a 250-meter long road which presents typical images of from the Vietnamese countryside like boats, river wharfs, rice fields and coconut trees.

It also displays traditional houses of the Ben Tre people like those which were built in accordance with the Chinese character ding (丁). Visitors will have a chance to learn more about traditional trades like the manufacture of rice paper and coconut rice cakes, as locals will reproduce the tasks involved in their daily jobs at the exhibition.

To those visitors wanting to indulge further in observation of provincial coconut trades, the organizer will offer tours of coconut orchards and places where coconut products are made during the festival.

Interested visitors can take free buses from the festival's venue in Ben Tre Town to attend fieldtrips to Mo Cay Nam, Mo Cay Bac and Chau Thanh districts.

Other festival activities will include creative contests for local students, a coconut-inspired fashion show, and a seminar on coconut values.

WHAT TO DO

Exhibition of coconut products and Trade fair 2012: at the Sao Mai Residential Area, Ward 7, Ben Tre Town. Begins: 6 p.m., April 4. Ends: 10 p.m., April 9

"Coconut Road" installation display: at Hung Vuong Park, Ward 7, Ben Tre Town. Opens: 9 a.m., April 5. Closes: 10 p.m., April 9.
Coconut Food Festival: at Hung Vuong Park, Ward 7, Ben Tre Town. Starts: 9 a.m., April 5. Ends: 10 p.m., April 9.

Tours of coconut orchards: Free buses will leave from the food festival every hour each day from April 5-10. The first trip leaves at 9 a.m. and the last one leaves at 2 p.m. Return trips are scheduled between 11 a.m. and 4 p.m.

* Ben Tre - Mo Cay Bac - Mo Cay Nam Tour: visit a garden of green coconuts -a coconut candy and handicraft manufacturer - a maker of coconut fiber threads - back to Ben Tre

* Ben Tre - Chau Thanh Tour: visit a coconut candy manufacturer - a garden of aromatic coconuts - a traditional coconut candy maker and a fruit garden - Tan Thach communal house, built in 1841 and recognized as a national relic site in 2001 - back to Ben Tre

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