Hanoi (VNA) – Four years after launching its community-based tourism programme, Da Bac district in the northern province of Hoa Binh has thrived like a young girl in her most beautiful age.

Da Bia village in Tien Phong commune of Da Bac is quiet at night with only the sound of singing insects and the breeze, accompanied by the smell of pomelo flowers.

Sleeping in a strange place, I dreamt of Muong girls dancing around a camp-fire that lighted up the innocent faces of children with their candies, as well as wild flowers with butterflies and bees flying around.

After four years, the land has changed a lot thanks to community-based tourism. Local farmers with their new livelihood from tourism have created a facelift for the land, while foreign visitors also give it a new atmosphere.

In order to become one of the three villages receiving the ASEAN Community Tourism Award, local residents, especially women, have gone through a tough path.

Da Bac farmer success with community-based tourism hinh anh 1Tourists to Da Bac (Photo: VietnamPlus)


It’s the first step that counts

Like many other Muong girls who are born and brought up in Hoa Binh, finishing her high school, Bui Thi Nhem (owner of Ngoc Nhem Homestay) got married and gave birth to two children. In the most difficult years, her husband took a literacy course, leaving her alone with the work. Hardship made her so skinny.

Her youth was full with poverty and busy routine work with two children. Only about 10 years ago, hunger still haunted the village. Never did they imagine of learning English to communicate with foreign visitors.

Women in the village like Nhiem have never thought about such future until the Australian Foundation for the People of Asia and the Pacific Limited (AOP) brought a community-based tourism model to the village, supported and trained them to run the model.

Da Bac farmer success with community-based tourism hinh anh 2Accommodation at Ngoc Nhem Homestay (Photo: VietnamPlus)

According to Vu Tuyen, an AOP official, the project explored and chose Da Bac for the project as the land owns a pristine beautiful landscape like a Ha Long Bay in the mountain.

However, both local residents and the project faced great challenges as at that time, the name of the land was still strange in the Vietnamese tourism map, with tough road from the downtown to villages taking two hours for 30km of mountainous road.

Moreover, four or five years ago, locals still hesitated to change their economic model as they did not see the future of the community-based tourism and feared that they would not be able to do the job. The most serious problem was a lack of capital.

Da Bac farmer success with community-based tourism hinh anh 3Da Bac lures increasing number of tourists (Photo: VietnamPlus)

When women take key role

Meeting Nhem again after several years, I found that she has made giant progress. Getting through lessons on decoration of her home stay, cleaning it or designing menu or food safety and doing accounting, today, Nhem has become the major manager of the homestay who can cover all tasks.

Showing me a new tilt house in her upper garden, Nhem said that she has built it to expand accommodation for visitors.

“This is my third house,” she said proudly.

Nhem passionately talked about the plan that she and her husband are thinking of, as well as difficulties ahead. Still skinny as she was, yet her eyes were sparkling.

Da Bac farmer success with community-based tourism hinh anh 4After four years, Da Bac has become one of the three community-based tourism village recognised by the ASEAN (Photo: VietnamPlus).

It is weird that in Tien Phong commune, among the nearly dozen of new homestays, men are better at cooking than women, while women perform external relations task. Nhem often receives customers, inviting them to drink wine and talking with them.

The woman is now a confident figure with wise calculation for her homestay’s development, as she is studious and creative. She even explores new tourism routes for trekking. Her spirit is an example for many other locals./.