Dirty hands in Da Lat

Thanh Nien News. Original Vietnamese story by Tuoi Tre

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A group of tourists from Ho Chi Minh City participate in the harvest of potatoes / PHOTO COURTESY OF TUOI TRE
A bus arrived at Thai Phien, a flower village about seven kilometers northeast of downtown Da Lat, and dropped off 30 tourists wearing boots and gloves.
The tourists immediately boarded farm vehicles bound for Mai Van Khan’s farm.
As the vehicles made their way up Hon Bo Mountain, the visitors yelled joyfully upon spotting a valley full of flower greenhouses and farms.
As soon as they arrived at the farm - a ten-hectare plot of flowers, cabbages and tomatoes - Khan instructed them to weed the land and showed them how to do it with hoes.
After weeding, the visitors watered vegetables and removed rotten leaves under Khan’s instructions. Then it was time for the flowers.
All the livelong day
It was around 9 a.m. and it was cool outside, but inside the greenhouse, the farming apprentices began to sweat immediately. Still, laughter and jokes could be heard all around as they worked.
Two hours later they were taught to pick the best vegetables for their lunch.
After a day of hard work, the tourists slept soundly that night and the next morning rose at 4 a.m. to harvest cabbage.
“Who says farming is easy?” said one tourist. “Eight of ten cabbages I cut were unusable [due to improper cutting].”
At around 7 a.m., the group of mostly youths from big cities sat down in the vegetable beds and had their breakfast of mainly cooked cabbage.
Everyone looked tired after working so much, but they did not fail to enjoy the meal made with the fruits of their labor.
Customer’s always right
Le Kim Phuc, a tour operator with Da Lat-based camping and travel company TAT, said the company had started organizing farming tour because customers kept requesting them.
“Short tours around vegetable and flower villages did not satisfy tourists’ curiosity; they wanted to join all procedures from multiplication to planting and tending trees, so they could understand the farming job’s hardships and respect it more,” he said.
Under TAT’s tours, tourists are also taken to Thai Phien’s largest tissue culturing lab, where they wear white coats and observe the entire process of flower culturing. They even do some culturing themselves under the instruction of lab owner Nguyen Van Hai.
Khan, who is working with many travel companies to host the tours, said that although the tours have cut into his farm’s production output slightly, he now sells vegetables to tourists and often receives more orders from them later.
Moreover, the tours have helped promote his produce, he said.
According to Phuc, the tours, which began more than a year ago, are attracting many people under 30 years old from big cities who love new discoveries and experiences.
He said that since tourists stay at locals’ houses or in tents on the farm, the tours’ accommodation fees are cheaper than other tours.
A tour for a group of 10 people is now priced between VND900,000 and VND1.4 million (US$42.3-65.7) per person, depending on the location of the farm and tourists’ demands.

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