Vietnam delta’s tourism festival wins foreigners with rural snacks

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Foreign tourists at Can Tho’s “Special Dishes from Villages” festival in the Mekong Delta January 22. Photo courtesy of Saigon Tiep Thi

Foreign tourists were attracted to the variety of tastes on display at a festival promoting rural tourism in the Mekong Delta hub of Can Tho Wednesday.

The tourists were allowed to help decorate booths and try 50 dishes prepared by locals and tourism agencies in the city and the delta provinces of Soc Trang, An Giang, Ben Tre, and Tra Vinh, Saigon Tiep Thi newspaper reported. Participation was free for tourists.

Sebastian Laux from Germany said he enjoyed his first bites of banh it, a typical sweet snack from the delta. It is a pyramid-shaped sticky rice cake stuffed with ground mung beans or coconut flesh and wrapped in banana leaves.

Bananen Boxer and his wife who owns a fruit shop in Belgium also said there were many kinds of foods that they got to try for the first time.

They said the festival managed to appreciate traditional values and it needs to be developed into an annual event for the reference of later generations as well as foreign visitors. 

The festival, “Special Dishes from Villages,” was an initiative launched with the cooperation of travel agents, local farmers, food producers and business research experts to promote the less-known destinations in the delta by pressing the value of traditions and creativity.

Vo Thi Le Hang, a representative of Quoc Hai, a Can Tho-based producer of Vietnam’s leading fish sauce brand Phu Quoc, joined the festival for free.

“I joined several chefs to prepare delicious dishes representing some destinations to make them friendly to the visitors,” Hang said.

Quoc Hai also joined with Can Tho Sugar Company and the city’s rice exporter Thot Not General Commerce Company to sponsor a competition at the festival, which had students telling stories of the best rural dishes.

Vu Binh, an orchard owner in Can Tho's Phong Dien District, brought to the festival cakes he made with fruits from his garden.

“Many foreigners ate my cakes and they really liked them. So it made me realize that I need to be more proactive.”

Binh said he sought cooperation from travel agents three years ago but it didn’t work out, “though my fruits and dishes are not worse than at other places.”

Nguyen Ngoc Na, deputy director of Ke Sach District Culture Center of Soc Trang Province, said the festival helped guide rural businesses in creating unique differences for each destination.

Na introduced Soc Trang’s home stay tourism at the festival by letting visitors pick snails and cook with hosts.

He said visitors can do the same on tours to Soc Trang during the Lunar New Year Festival late this month.

Vo Thanh Tam, director of the Phong Dien District Tourism and Commerce Investment and Promotion Center, said the festival offered some ground rules for local tourism destinations to double check their services and adjust them to fit visitors’ preferences.

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