Traditional houses hundreds of years old that stand among picturesque fruit and flower gardens are a striking feature of Tien Giang Province's Cai Be District.
But there is another striking aspect about these homes that has been a recent development. They do not welcome Vietnamese tourists.
Starting this August, travel agents' offices at Cai Be Tourism Wharf avoid taking Vietnamese tourists to these houses as part of the tour to the floating market and orchards in the region. But this is not because villagers have lost their famed hospitality. It is, they say, because their hospitality has been abused.
Phan Van Duc, who owns the famous Ba Duc ancient house in Cai Be's Dong Hoa Hiep village, said, "We only accept foreigners and Vietnamese tourists who book tours through prestigious companies."
Duc said his house usually welcomed both foreigners and local visitors, but whenever the place was visited by Vietnamese tourists, they left piles of trash on the ground, and the orchards were left ragged as branches and green fruit were plucked thoughtlessly.
In addition, Vietnamese visitors often order the hosts to cook tortoise and snakes, leave litter under tables and make a lot of noise drinking and getting drunk, said Duc. "There's no problem cleaning up the place, but we are afraid that this kind of thing could discourage foreign visitors."
Le Thi Chinh, owner of the Ut Kiet house, considered one of the most beautiful old houses in Vietnam by Japanese archaeologists, said: "It is hard to serve local visitors who are too demanding and always make a mess. Foreign visitors don't order in bits and snatches, but make reservations in advance. Their dining tables are always clean and they always say sorry if the food spills on the floor.
According to local tour guides, foreigners always pay attention to every detail of the house and this encourages the house's owners and the tour guides, while Vietnamese tourists are interested in taking pictures and don't display a proper attitude toward the precious artifacts.
Nguyen Van My, director of the Lua Viet travel company, said most Vietnamese spend their holiday on massage services and drinking, or the tour just includes sightseeing, eating, resting and sporting activities.
Huynh Thanh Huu, manager of the department of tourism operations under Tien Giang Province's Department of Culture, Sports and Tourism, said that the house owners now refusing to accept Vietnamese tourists will change their behavior if visitors change their attitude and appreciate the need to protect and preserve the architectural and historic relics in all parts of the country.
Tour guides should also inform and remind tourists about these issues before taking them to such places, Huu said.