Trips offering tourists the experience of working the land as a farmer have found favour all around the country.

By Story: Le Diem on October 17,2017 09:55 AM


Beautiful terraced rice fields on mountainsides near the hill town of Sapa, in the northwestern province of Lao Cai, have become something of a symbol of Vietnam in the eyes of many tourists. When in the area, they can not only see the fields as tourists but also work in them as farmers, thanks to new tours giving people the chance to experience agricultural work. This new type of travel is increasingly popular among Western tourists and is offered all around the country. 

New experience

Under the sun in a field near Lao Chai village in Sapa, Christopher Barrett from Australia sloshed through the mud trying to control a plough led by a buffalo. Despite the sweat, he insisted on continuing until he made the plough lines straight. But his friend, standing nearby, was eager for her turn, and behind her was a line of other foreigners queuing up for their chance behind the plough. So he handed over the reins, remembering to tell her to not be worried about the buffalo. ‘Surprisingly, he seemed to understand English,’ he said. ‘He followed what I told him. It really was fun; I’ve never done this before.’


The buffalo, in fact, seems to also understand directions in French, Spanish, German, and perhaps other languages, even though his owner can’t. There are no magical classes producing multi-lingual animals, simply a fully-tamed buffalo chosen to work with and for tourists. ‘He’s used to the work, and knows what to do,’ said Giang A Pao, a local man involved in the tours.

Not only the buffalo but also a ‘specialised’ field is prepared for tourists, which is not for seeding or harvesting but just for tourism. Each month, Pao welcomes groups from different countries, which earns him a higher income than growing rice or corn.

New work in an old field and the promise of a better income has encouraged more local people to become involved, and similar tours are available in other villages around Sapa.

Farming tours first began in the central city of Hoi An. ‘Plough and Harvest with Farmers’ is the most popular ecological tour offered by Hoi An-Eco Tour, whose owner began to take foreign tourists to see and do farming work in his homeland of Hoi An when he was still at university, to help them enjoy the natural surroundings and gain real experience in the daily lives of local people, interacting with them, creating jobs, and promoting the area’s tourism.

After the success of Hoi An-Eco Tour, ecological packages began to spread around the country.


Diverse days

Also in the northwest, Moc Chau Plateau has become a popular spot among tourists thanks to recently-launched tea-picking tours in vast green plantations in a fresh mountain climate. ‘I thought it would be easy, just picking leaves from trees,’ said Abella Leroy from France. ‘But I was wrong. The leaves need to be classified and picked while others are left for the health of the tree. It has to be done during the day, under the sun, to ensure humidity for the leaves. Now I know the work takes a lot of time and energy. My back was sore after half an hour.’

The process of tea making was interesting to Abella and her friends, as they saw how the tea leaves are dried in the sun before being rubbed and added with aroma. They were also introduced to the right techniques for making a good cup of tea. ‘Sipping the hot tea in the fresh and peaceful nature, with breezes and birds twittering, was really relaxing,’ she said. ‘The tea here is strong but good.’


Together with tea, vegetables are another plant catching the attention tourists. In Tra Que village in Hoi An and in Cu Chi district in HCMC, local people have opened up their fields to visitors interested in learning about different types of vegetables and planting. After seeding, watering and taking care of the plants by themselves, while learning their names, features and health benefits, the new ‘peasants’ can also learn some new cooking styles. What they harvest is processed for a daily meal for local people under instructions from the host. Lessons in Vietnamese dishes are also provided, by international chefs.

Luong Viet Tan, the owner of the farm in Cu Chi and also a pharmacist, said he offered the trips in order to give tourists a new experience as well as a basic understanding about the daily lives of local people. The number of tourists on each trip is limited, so they have the best experience possible. Tan met a lot of difficulties in the beginning, but then more and more tourists started to come to his farm, after hearing about it on social networks. ‘It’s been a positive response,’ he said. ‘We now welcome about 1,000 visitors each month and I’m very happy.’

Meanwhile, taking advantage of its title of ‘kingdom of flowers’, farmers in the central highlands city of Dalat offer tourists visits to their gardens of colourful, blooming flowers, where they can study the dozens of types and planting techniques, both manual and with advanced technology, and join in the different stages of planting, watering, trimming, and, finally, arranging. ‘It’s a very nice escape from the busy city life, being in the beauty of nature with a lot of new things to learn,’ said Kellie Morris from the US.


Other farming tours are also available in Dalat, such as visiting herbal gardens for medicine and weasel coffee farms, with their well-known coffee, where weasels are fed coffee beans, which they digest and ferment with enzymes that changes the taste and flavour of the ‘discharged’ coffee beans.

Local people in the Mekong Delta have also tried to make a different type of living from their land. Picking coconuts is offered in Ben Tre, the kingdom of coconuts, while tours catching fish can be found in My Tho, Vinh Long, and Can Tho, where there are networks of rivers, lakes and canals among forests.

But picking coconuts and catching fish can be quite difficult. There’s normally a lot of excited shouts and laughter among the tourists. Their effort is then compensated by their own harvest of fresh fruit and tasty fish. ‘It’s not only a fun experience of something new, but also interesting to learn about the work and daily lives of the people, with many cultural stories as well,’ said Kellie. ‘The people are also very nice and friendly.’

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