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Beach village lures tourists with romantic summer vibes



by Công Thành 

Tourists enjoy the sunset on An Bàng beach of Hội An. The fishing village features pristine soft sand beach and authentic cuisine. Photo courtesy of Lê Ngọc Thuận 

An Bàng Beach, 5km east of Hội An ancient city, was an isolated coastal rural fishing village in the 1980s when villagers passed the time by walking, boating and taking bicycle rides to the town to do business and socialise.

It was a more innocent time when families measured how well-off they were by the number of jars of sweet potato they had in storage.

However, the fishing and farming-intensive community has emerged as a new tourism attraction with its untouched, pristine sandy beach and laid-back lifestyle.

Born in the village, Lê Thanh Đông, owner of An Bàng beach village restaurant, began his living as a bartender before launching a food service at his home in an alley off Nguyễn Phan Vinh Street, the main road of An Bàng beach.

Đông offers tourists authentic food inspired by the childhood memories of his mother’s cooking.

“My An Bàng beach village eatery is a family business where all members join in with the cooking and serving. The main dishes are based on my mother’s cookery. I set it up as an attraction for gastronomes, using my experience as a bartender,” Đông said.

Chef Lê Thanh Đông prepares a menu for a beach food fest on An Bàng beach. An Bàng Village has emerged as a new relaxing destination after the Old Quarter of Hội An. Photo courtesy of An Bàng Beach village restaurant

“It’s a meticulous job where I have to select fresh seafood in the market and from skilled fishermen in the village that I know well.

“The new catch helps the chef cook the best dishes, while fresh fish and oysters are often available from coracles of fishermen returning from Chàm Island sea trips.” 

The 42-year-old chef said he was familiar with seafood sellers in An Bàng market, and they always provided him with fresh fish for his restaurant.

He said charcoal grilled fish in banana leaf was one of the two favourite orders, as well as seafood paste spring rolls.

Authentic food

“My mother used to grill fish in a bundle of fresh banana leaves – the dish that fishermen’s families cooked after fishing trips in the past. Now I cook it for tourists with my childhood memories, and my sibling has also opened a small restaurant next to my house.”

Chef Đông’s father – formerly a fisherman – has retired, but he still makes rice home brew for the restaurant.

“Family service businesses in An Bàng make for a unique tourist magnet outside the Old Quarter of Hội An, a UNESCO heritage site. Travellers can take a short ride on a bicycle or walk to the Old Quarter, in a combined tour of Trà Quế vegetable garden, Cẩm Thanh nipa palm forest and the rural rice farm villages nearby,” Đông said. 

An Bàng Village – some100m from the beach – offers a series of options for visitors, including spending homestay or stretching on the massage deck at the beach all day.

An Bàng beach village restaurant is decorated from recycled material, including shipwrecks, old timber and fishing tools. More than 35 restaurants with locally-made designs were built in the village. Photo courtesy of Lê Thanh Đông

Nguyễn Thị Minh, 45, a food street vendor, said An Bàng beach used to be crowded with tourists before COVID-19.

“My snacks earned me well as tourists found rural food delicious. Mỳ Quảng, Cao Lầu (a local noodle speciality) is the best selling. Almost all families in the village turned to service providers since tourism started booming 10 years ago,” Minh said.

“Although offshore fishing has been fading, fishermen still go to the sea on coracles and catch a small amount of fish daily. Seafood is now reserved for tourists, so the early morning catch supplies enough, while the fishermen can rest in the afternoon.

“About 80 per cent of the population joined family-based services including restaurants, homestay, beer bars and sunbathing.”

A report from Cẩm An Commune shows that at least 1,000 tourists visited An Bàng beach on the weekends in the summer holidays.

A tourist joins a cooking class at a restaurant in An Bàng Village, 5km from Hội An. Almost 80 per cent of the adult villagers have been engaged in hospitality work since 2012. Photo courtesy of Lê Đông

A total of 35 restaurants and 100 villas for rent and homestays have been opened by families in the 4km-long beach village since 2012. Almost all of them were either trained professionally or given a certified course from an education agency in hospitality.

Untouched beach

Lê Ngọc Thuận, head of Quảng Nam Innovation Start-up Club, said almost all staff at restaurants and homestay services had received practice with experienced and senior hotel staff.

“Some youngsters from the village passed training courses working in the hospitality industry during the mass tourism boom in Hội An. They then started family businesses with their experience and skills,” Thuận said.

“About 80 or 90 per cent of villagers join in community tourism-related activities such as cleaning the beach, fishing, and trading and bar services.” 

Thuận said he first launched a homestay service at An Bàng, and the village now hosted great cuisine, sunbathing, music performances, surfing and kite flying.

He said villagers decorated the beach as a colourful, fun and festive site for tourists in the summer.

The village now needs investment in infrastructure, waste recycling and treatment, traffic safety signs and assigned zones (bar, sports, food and performance) for tourists, according to Thuận.

An Bàng beach was voted one of the top 25 beaches in Asia by travel website TripAdvisor and one of the top 100 beaches in the world by CNN Summer Travel since it has been promoted as an attractive beach since 2012.

An Bàng Seaside Village, a homestay complex in An Bàng received the ASEAN Homestays 2016 award from the Việt Nam National Administration of Tourism.

A Việt Nam Architecture Association report says that An Bàng Village shows uniquely preserved rural coastal design, while most homestays and restaurants are decorated with recycled material.

It says villagers dismantled old shipwrecks, coracles and furniture to make recycled accommodation and many restaurants.

Two servers introduce authentic seafood at An Bàng beach. Photo courtesy of An Bàng beach village restaurant

Villagers also named their homestays with lovely summer flavours such as mango, papaya, avocado, banana, ocean dream and ocean breeze, adding to the fun tropical vibes here.

Hội An City Mayor Nguyễn Văn Sơn said the city had been expanding more tourism zones to ease the overload in the Old Quarter, and An Bàng was one of various options for tourists.

The old town is linked with An Bàng beach by an environment-friendly battery-powered car service.

Chef Đông said the beachfront village naturally lured tourists with its original architecture, hospitality, friendly hosts and constantly available fresh seafood, and stories of the ancient fishing community. VNS



Stingray hotpot perfectly for rainy days



By Gia Linh

Just like a glass of soda with ice on a hot summer day, or a cup of hot chocolate in winter, nothing is better than having a warm, delicious hotpot on a cool rainy day in HCM City.

I asked one of my acquaintances for their recommendation for an “unordinary” hotpot among those familiar ones like Thai style or mushroom hotpot, and was suggested to try the Stingray Hotpot 34 restaurant in Thủ Đức City.

Stingray Hotpot 34 in Thủ Đức City is popular for their delicious stingray hotpot and other dishes. VNS Photo Gia Linh

It might sound bizarre at first, but stingray hotpot is originally one of Vũng Tàu City’s specialties. It is common for Vietnamese hotpot to pair any fish with a spicy and sour broth, and this formula applies perfectly on this dish.

As the name suggests, Stingray Hotpot 34 specialises in stingray hotpot with freshly caught stingray and several side dishes. Having opened for more than four years, they have received positive comments and are popular among hotpot lovers.

My family and I found the place appealing due to its claim to use fresh ingredients only and not use MSG in any dishes. It is a bit far from our house, but that could not stop foodies like us to give it a try.

Upon arrival, I had such a nice first impression of the place. Despite being quite a small space, it created a welcoming, homey feeling with yellow walls and bright lighting. Short-leg tables and stools were arranged instead of the usual tall tables and chairs, bringing a street-food vibe to it. The only drawback was that there was no AC inside, but that was not a big deal with the chilly rainy weather that day.

It was only around 6pm when we got there, but it was already filled with diners. The staff was extremely attentive and arranged a table for us immediately.

We ordered a stingray hotpot for four, one portion of boiled river snails, and a plate of Thai style chicken feet. The hotpot was served almost right away, and it didn’t take long for the other two to arrive. They were all hot, steamy, and freshly made. The staff provided us with a portable gas stove to reheat our hotpot and special sauces to pair with each dish.

We had so much anticipation for the hotpot that we turned on the stove and added in the vegetables right when it started to boil. There were fresh vegetables and rice vermicelli included with the hotpot.

Sour stingray hotpot with fresh vegetables is perfect for cool rainy days. VNS Photo Gia Linh

The vegetables were very fresh, consisting of water spinach, taro stems, shredded banana flower, and okra. There are no such “rules” on which vegetables to choose when enjoying hotpots, but I personally love this combination since they do not have a strong taste and absorb the broth really well. All of the hotpot components could be ordered separately.

We dived right into the hotpot. The umami from fish bones simmered for long hours, fragrance from cilantro leaves, together with fried garlic bits strongly hit our palate. The pickled bamboo shoots brought some tanginess to the broth, making it so addicting that we sipped continuously.

With such an affordable price of VNĐ280,000 (around US$12) for a hotpot portion for four, we did not expect it to have so many fish chunks inside, which were very well-prepared since stingrays usually have a not very pleasant smell to them. All the components combined together made it hard for us to put our chopsticks down.

After devouring the hotpot, we moved on to the two side dishes. The Thai style chicken feet were more like a Thai papaya salad. It consisted of shredded green papaya, carrot, cilantro and bite-sized chicken feet, mixed with a special spicy and tangy sauce, and topped with roasted peanuts. As a person whose spice tolerance is not that great, I can say that it did not taste as spicy as it looked. 

Thai style chicken feet is a great palate refresher. – VNS Photo Gia Linh

The chicken feet were so crunchy and fresh and went so well with the sweet, spicy and sour sauce. The shredded papaya and carrot really levelled up the crunchiness and refreshed our palate. This dish together with some cold beer would be a perfect combination.

Our last dish was boiled river snails with lemongrass. The snails were, again, fresh and well-prepared. The flavour from lemongrass, ginger, fresh peppercorns, and Vietnamese basil hit the tip of our tongues right away, but not unbearably strong. The dish paired perfectly with a special sauce of minced lemongrass and sweet, spicy fish sauce. It is another simple yet perfect dish for a cool rainy day.

Boiled river snails with lemongrass and fresh peppercorns bring warmness on cool rainy days. – VNS Photo Gia Linh

Side dishes like Thai style chicken feet and boiled river snails are great to pair with cold beer. – VNS Photo Gia Linh

Our family enjoyed the last bit of everything. Every dish was perfectly seasoned, and the portion size was relatively large for such affordable prices.

The price for a hotpot portion for two is VNĐ180,000 and VNĐ280,000 for four. Extra hotpot condiments and other side dishes are mostly under VNĐ100,000, which is totally worth it for such great quality and service.

If you want to have something hot and soupy in this ongoing rainy season in HCM City, I highly recommend Stingray Hotpot 34 for their high quality food and service. – VNS

Stingray Hotpot 34

Address: No 18 Street 15, An Khánh Ward, Thủ Đức City

Hotline: 0848 899 934

Opening hours: 10:30am to 1:30pm, 4pm to 10pm

Comment: A delicious hotpot place with fresh ingredients and great service.


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Marine tourism needs more focus on full exploitation



In its tourism development strategy by 2030, Vietnam identified marine tourism as one of the four main groups of tourism products, but there remains much to be done to fully tap into marine tourism potential.

Marine tourism needs more focus on full exploitation hinh anh 1Ha Long Bay in Quang Ninh province is a favourite destination of domestic and foreign tourists. (Photo: VNA)

Hanoi – In its tourism development strategy by 2030, Vietnam identified marine tourism as one of the four main groups of tourism products, but there remains much to be done to fully tap into marine tourism potential.

With more than 3,260km of coastline, about 3,000 islands of all sizes, hundreds of beautiful beaches, and pristine bays, Vietnam boasts rich resources for developing sea and island tourism.

During 2010 – 2019, before the COVID-19 pandemic broke out, the number of visitors to coastal localities increased faster than the average growth in the total tourist number, at an annual rate of 13.6% for international arrivals and 12.3% for domestic ones.

In 2019, foreign tourists coming to the 28 coastal provinces and cities accounted for 71.9% of all international arrivals in Vietnam while domestic visitors 59% of the domestic travellers. The tourism revenue in these cities also made up 67% of the total. The number of rooms at their accommodation establishments was also equivalent to two-thirds of that nationwide. Most of four- and five-star hotels are also located in these areas, according to the Vietnam National Administration of Tourism (VNAT).

However, many experts said that such figures have yet to match Vietnam’s marine tourism potential.

Addressing a recent workshop, Deputy Minister of Culture, Sports and Tourism Doan Van Viet perceived that the country has just focused on tapping into the values of inshore maritime resources, and there haven’t been many services other than such traditional activities as relaxation, sightseeing, or bathing.

While the duration of tourist stays in coastal and insular destinations is still short, marine tourism, especially in the northern region, is highly seasonal, and there is a shortage of high-end marine tourism products, Director of the VNAT’s Institute for Tourism Development Research Nguyen Anh Tuan pointed out.

Marine tourism needs more focus on full exploitation hinh anh 2An aerial view of May Rut Islet, one of the most beautiful of its kind in the island city of Phu Quoc, Kien Giang province (Photo: VNA)

Pham Ha, founder and Chairman of Lux Group, said that in the post-COVID-19 period, travellers tend to select natural destinations to improve their physical and spiritual health, so marine tourism products should be diversified to meet that demand. However, existing policies have yet to create truly favourable conditions for investors in marine tourism services.

Besides, there remains much room for Vietnam to attract cruise ship tourists, but the country still lack vessels large enough to carry several thousand holidaymakers, he noted.

Ha took the case of Lan Ha, Ha Long, and Bai Tu Long bays an another example, elaborating that the three bays are adjacent to one another but it is hard to launch tours linking the bays since they belong to two localities – Quang Ninh province and Hai Phong city.

He underlined the need to issue a strategy for developing marine tourism more sustainably and harmoniously. Policies should be revised in a way further facilitating sea, island, and bay tours. Environmental issues, particularly plastic waste control, also need to be taken into consideration as travellers are paying more attention to responsible tourism.

Vu Duy Vu, a representative of Saigontourist, said some popular destinations of international cruise ships still lack specialised terminals for those vessels. Vietnam should invest more in facilities capable of handling giant cruise ships without having to use small boats to carry tourists from those liners to destinations.

It is necessary to cooperate with other countries so that Vietnam can become an official player in the regional cruise tourism market, he said, also highlighting the need for localities to support and encourage cruise companies to choose Vietnam as a destination of their journeys.

Tuan said that to develop marine tourism sustainably, it is important to conduct zoning to align tourism development with specific advantages and target markets of each region, locality, destination, and the country as a whole.

He also recommended more investment be poured into infrastructure, particularly tourist ports, diversify and improve the quality of tourism products to meet different markets’ demand, and pay due attention to environmental protection and tourist serving capacity./.


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Ninh Binh promoting cultural values for sustainable tourism



As an ancient land located in the southern reaches of the Red River Delta, Ninh Binh is a treasure trove of tangible and intangible cultural heritages, that enable the province to develop various forms of tourism and contribute to socio-economic development in Vietnam’s northern region.

One significant event showcasing unique local culture is the Trang An Festival 2023, which included a wide range of traditional art and cultural activities.

Visitors were particularly drawn to the exhibition displaying more than 30 photo negatives highlighting unique local culture. 

Many exhibitions, cultural festivals, and art exchanges have been held in Ninh Binh, highlighting the richness and diversity of the local culture and promoting solidarity in the community.

To boost sustainable tourism development, Ninh Binh has implemented various projects and plans to preserve and promote its cultural heritage, which has become a vital resource and soft power for local development. More than 200 traditional festivals have been held around the province so far.

It has also been successful in creating unique tour packages that incorporate traditional craft villages and spiritual-historical relics.

With its unique blend of cross-cultural influences and natural wonders, Ninh Binh is well-positioned to become a significant tourist destination in Vietnam. UNESCO’s recognition of the Trang An Landscape Complex as a World Cultural and Natural Heritage Site in 2014 has put Ninh Binh on the map and made it the first mixed natural and cultural property in Vietnam./.


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