|Making headway: Tourists spend time looking at artwork at the art studios. — Photos courtesy Arttour Vietnam.
by Thuy Binh
If tourists come to Viet Nam with hopes of experiencing something truly special they should design their own tours, says Tran Dan, a tour guide and founder of Art Tour Vietnam.
The still nascent Art Tour Vietnam, created less than two years ago, offers tourists two itineraries called "Natural Eye" and "Art".
The tours have been provided free of charge to a total of about 20 visitors since they began to fine tune the service. However, this is expected to change in the near future.
The tours focus on looking at the work of Vietnamese artists and crafts people in traditional handicraft villages.
They also provide trips to museums, galleries and historic sights.
"One of the great frustrations for tourists in Viet Nam is the difficulty in finding more about the things they see in cultural and historic places," Dan said.
|Say cheese: Tourists take photos of a local elder in Sui Village in Gia Lam District.
"There are usually captions in English, but they generally contain only the most basic information."
"I want to discover more about the culture and art of Viet Nam. I try to find cultural histories and stories that are not well-known to share with customers."
The itinerary includes a trip to Bac Cau Village in Gia Lam District, home to about 100 artists who left their hometowns to live and work in the peaceful environment.
Art Tour Vietnam partnered up with the village artists as part of a cultural and art exchange. Artists receive tourists and talk about their work in progress. If tourists have more time, they may have a chance to see the artists at work.
Ancient Phu Lang Pottery Village in Que Vo District of the northern Bac Ninh province is another stop on the itinerary.
There, tourists can learn about traditional pottery handicrafts.
"If tourists have enough time, they can make their own art products under the supervision and guidance of these skilled artists," said Dan.
|Carefully crafted: A foreigner enjoys artwork by local artists during the art tour.
In Ha Noi, Art Tour Vietnam works with lacquer artists, such as Chu Viet Cuong and Tran Tuan Long, and body artist Phuong Vu Manh.
"Visiting artists' studios give tourists a chance to see improvised and unfinished artworks. Visitors have given a lot of positive feedback about the tour," Dan said.
Yu Araki, a tourist from Japan, said, "I think it was quite amazing get away from the city and I enjoyed visiting the old, historic temple in the village. I also remember witnessing farmer guys killing moles."
Araki came to Viet Nam through a project connecting Japanese and Vietnamese artists in 2012. During a one month trip, he went to many places not normally visited by tourism agencies.
"I was able to meet many wonderful people and was introduced to the art community. The tour can take you to some of the coolest and quirkiest places in Viet Nam," said Araki.
For tourists who want to capture beautiful landscapes through art, they should book the Natural Eye tour, and quickly.
The Natural Eye tour guides tourists through Viet Nam's natural beauty and the Vietnamese life, studying old houses, old village gates and local people at work.
"For one month, I travelled Viet Nam from North to South with three friends. We met wonderful people in Sa Pa, Ha Noi, Cat Ba Island, Ha Long Bay, Hue, Hoi An, and Phu Quoc. It was the best country I've ever seen because there are such diverse landscapes and moods," said Leo Bigiaoui, a French tourist. — VNS