Making a clean break

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An Giang Province has gone to some trouble to ensure a getaway opens doors to a different cultural experience

You wake up to the rooster's crowing, not an alarm clock.

You walk along unpaved, earthen pathways shaded by trees, nudged constantly by a gentle breeze.

You work in the fields, go fishing, or learn these and other skills including cooking a few dishes, made all the more enjoyable by the effort you put into it.

If this sounds good, especially compared to the drudgery of crowded, noisy streets, air-conditioned offices and stressful work, you should go ahead and take a break without further ado.

And one of the places you would do well to choose is An Giang Province in the Mekong Delta, about 250 kilometers southwest of Ho Chi Minh City.

In September 2006, the Vietnam Farmers' Association opened a special tour in the province's My Hoa Hung Commune that offers more than what you can get from a usual home-stay visit.

Here, you can stay with residents for as long as you want, try your hand at cultivation, ably helped by local experts.

"Local families taking part in the farm tour project have all been assigned to take courses in advanced cultivation and foreign languages so they can receive tourists," said Nguyen Thanh Tung, one of the project executives.

For those inclined to go fishing, it will be worth their while to visit floating fish farms on the Hau River where they can learn the intricacies of breeding fish in a safe and hygienic way.

Ton That Dinh, one of the farmers who has joined the project and owns a house that is almost 100 years old, said visitors are given all the needed comforts


6A, Le Loi Street, My Binh Ward, Long Xuyen Town, An Giang Province
Phone: (076) 3 955 931 - (076) 6 271 931

A tourist carries newly-harvested rice in An Giang Province

Over the years, he said, "Most visitors have been happy to tend plants by themselves and walk around the islet."

One of the special treats of staying with the locals is the chance to enjoy special dishes like the traditional banh canh (southern noodle soup), lap xuong (Chinese sausage), and mam (fermented fish sauce), that never fail to please, Tung asserted.

During the rainy season, tourists can join locals in harvesting dien dien (sebania sesban) flowers, also known as Egyptian peas, and water lilies.

My Hoa Hung is not without places of historical interest. It hosts the house of Ton Duc Thang, known also as Bac (Uncle) Ton, successor to former president Ho Chi Minh. The house was built in 1887 and recognized as a national heritage site in 1984.

Next to the house is a memorial dedicated to Vietnam's second president, which is a veritable museum that opened in August, 1998, on the 110th birthday of Uncle Ton. Covering 160 square meters, the area houses many items attached to his life and work.

Van Giao Commune in the Tinh Bien Area is an added-value attraction to the farm tour project in An Giang, offering visitors the chance to experience and be part of the ethnic Khmer community.

"If they are lucky, tourists can take part in Khmer people's weddings or traditional festivals and learn more about their life and religion," Tung said.

A historical military blacksmith workshop founded in 1867, a workshop producing the renowned My A silk, are value-added-attractions. The silk-making facility in Van Giao is the only one producing the special fabric that was once an exclusive preserve of the wealthy.

In fact, other than the My A silk, Van Giao also has Khmer shops weaving brocade on the premises.

"Tourists can choose to sightsee or try their hand at learning these traditional trades," Tung said.

Another place not to be missed is Chau Doc Town, where various architectural styles are presented by pagodas, temples, tombs and markets.

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