They are not tourist destinations but only the household-sized economic models of two farmers in Lam Ha District in the Central Highlands province of Lam Dong. However, tens of thousands of foreign tourists visit these sites annually. Why?
Motorcycles are a favorite vehicle used by foreign tourists to travel to the countryside.
Until now, though several years have passed, Mr. Nguyen Quang Huy, 29, in Village 2, Me Linh commune, Lam Ha District still feel surprised when everyday his house opens for foreign tourists and Huy himself becomes a "professional Vietnam Holiday Tour Guide" at his cricket farm. Huy feels surprise because this is not the initial purpose of this work towards but now it has become his everyday job.
Cricket farm entices foreign tourists
Things coming to Nguyen Quang Huy were unexpected. Just because of poverty, Huy was pitiful to leave the university in the middle to come home to assist his parents to do farm work. But then he became the boss of the first cricket farm in Lam Dong.
The brand "Huy cricket" with the Thien An cricket farm has been widely known at home and abroad. From empty hands, Huy currently has a 200 m2 cricket farm, breeding hundreds of kilos of crickets and sells to restaurants about 3kg of crickets per day, at the price of VND200,000 ($10) per kilo.
Huy recalled: "In 2006, I only accidentally raised crickets as a hobby. I did not think that crickets have become closely attached to my life and help my family escape poverty. I thought that I would focus on commercial farming of crickets but unexpectedly, my farm has become a tourist destination in the last few years and I have had a new job – a tourist guides.”
Huy said roughly 3, 4 years ago, one day he saw some Vietnamese and foreign people coming to his cricket farm by motorcycles. "They visited my farm and were very interested in cricket breeding. They asked me everything about crickets. I had to answer a lot of questions and then introduced them to the process of raising crickets, processing crickets into food. I also made fried crickets and invited them to taste before they left. Several days later, many foreign visitors dropped at my house again and also asked me about crickets. I have gradually become a Vietnam Holiday Tour Guide at my farm,” Huy said.
Since then, his farm welcomes several dozens of foreign visitors each day. When they come, Huy’s family makes fried crickets for them and they gave the family VND5,000 each ($0.25).
Mr. Tran Van Minh, Director of Nhat Dong Trading and Services Co., Ltd., based in Da Lat City, who constantly takes foreign visitors to Thien An cricket farm, said: "A few years ago I accidentally discovered the Thien An cricket farm so I took foreign visitors there. At the beginning, I only introduced the cricket farms to individuals and then big groups of tourists. Each year I took a few thousands of visitors there. Foreign tourists are very interested in this model. They prefer to learn the business model of the farmers in the rural areas like this."
Make yourself at home!
About 1 km from the Thien An cricket farm is Kiet Tuong rice brewery, which also processes weasel coffee. This brewery is run by Mr. Nguyen Van Loc, 58 and it has also become an attractive destination of many international travelers.
Mr. Loc said: "My family lives by making both coffee and wine for decades. In 2005, several Vietnam Holiday Tour Guides accidentally took foreign tourists by motorcycles through this road (DT 725 Road connecting Da Lat city to Lam Ha district). They saw the chimney of my brewery so they took visitors to my house. And since then my family has welcomed thousands of visitors."
Photo: This place is a very interesting destination on the journey to explore the Central Highlands of Vietnam. It would be boring if visitors are only taken to hotels, restaurants and amusement parks in the city, said Italian tourist Vita Lotito.
Loc said, a few years ago, many visitors asked him about weasel coffee so his family learned about this kind of coffee and began raising weasel to produce weasel coffee (he has 15 weasels at present).
The closed process of cooking rice wine with the production and processing of weasel coffee are the two major products to attract foreign tourists to Loc’s house.
The day we visited this brewery, we saw dozens of foreign tourists with guides on heavyweight motorcycles stopping in front of the house and going straight into the brewery and the weasel breeding area without asking the owner’s permission.
"We're used to it. Visitors are advised to make themselves at home. Thus, both the host and the tourists feel comfortable," a guide explained. Following this group of tourists, we knew that they are Italian, Dutch, and Australian, who were carried to this site by motorcycle drivers of the Easy Rider group.
Loc does not collect entrance fees but he places several tables and chairs on the yards to serve weasel coffee. He also arranges several shelves to display his wine and weasel coffee products.
After visiting the brewery and weasel coffee processing area, they can taste coffee on the spot or not. The price for a normal cup of coffee is only VND10,000 ($0.5) and VND50,000 ($2.5) for a cup of weasel coffee. Visitors can also purchase powdered coffee, VND1.2 million ($60) for a kilo of raw weasel coffee and VND6 million ($300) for a kilo of processed weasel coffee. Similarly, they can buy rice wine or not.
"Our family cooks rice in all 365 days in a year, even in the lunar New Year. Normally, our house welcomes several tens or hundreds of tourists each day. For a few years my family has not raised the price of any product while the quality of products is still ensured," said Loc.
Mr. Nguyen Van Huong - Director of the Culture - Sports and Tourism Department of Lam Dong Province, said: "I applaud these models because they have created agricultural products attracting foreign tourists. This is good sign for the development of tourism, which must be encouraged. However, the authorities should cooperate with these families to find the best way to help the sustainable development of these models."
While many resorts are invested with a lot of money, they fail to draw tourists, the models of the two farmer households in Lam Dong must be encouraged and expanded.
"Wow, this place is great!"
Mr. Tran Van Song, a motorcycle taxi driver of the Rider Nha Trang Vietnam group, said: "I have transported foreign tourists by motorcycle to tour around for 13 years. They like to come to visit the countryside to learn about the life and the traditional trades of our country. Every year I take international visitors to these sites 50-60 times a year and many of them have returned the second time."
Mr. Gianloigi Cammillebi, an Italian tourist, was very excited after drinking four glasses of rice wine: "Wow, this place is great! I’ve just learn how to cook wine, to make weasel coffee of Vietnamese people and drink a few cups of rice wine. I like your rice wine!"
At the same time, a girl in his group - Vita Lotito said she enjoyed the motorcycle tour and the visit to Kiet Tuong brewery. "This is a very interesting destination on a journey to explore the Central Highlands of Vietnam. It would be boring if we just go to hotels, restaurants and amusement parks in the city," she said.