Meditation and yoga eco-tour helps ease COVID woes

August 07, 2022 - 09:32
Spending eight years decorating a 5,000sq.m shrimp farm in Cẩm Thanh nipa palm forest in Hội An, local resident Võ Bá Quốc has turned it into a meditation, vegetarian and yoga retreat forming a tranquil eco-village to calm the mind, body and spirit.

by Hoài Nam

Visitors begin a morning tea on a bamboo raft at the Quốc Linh eco-village in Cẩm Thanh nipa palm. Photo courtesy of Võ Bá Quốc

Spending eight years decorating a 5,000sq.m shrimp farm in Cẩm Thanh nipa palm forest in Hội An, local resident Võ Bá Quốc has turned it into a meditation, vegetarian and yoga retreat forming a tranquil eco-village to calm the mind, body and spirit.

Hội An-born Quốc has been working in tourism for years and wanted to create a peaceful rendezvous for families to escape stress, so created the serene site near Hội An's Old Quarter.

Cẩm Thanh Commune, home to a 140ha nipa palm forest and an essential shelter for aquatic species of the Chàm Islands-Hội An world biosphere reserve, had allocated part of the area for shrimp farming in past years but has gradually turned into a profitable eco-tourism service.

Veg only is the major option at the yoga-meditation eco-tour site in suburban Hội An city. The isolated site offers a fresh, relaxed space for families and groups at the weekend. Photo courtesy of Quốc Linh eco-village

The nipa palm forest-based tour programme including a coracle ride experience, rice farming practice, exploring local farmers' lifestyles and a bike tour in rural villages has been developed in suburban areas in Hội An since the ancient town was recognised as a UNESCO world heritage site in 1999. However, the COVID-19 lockdown over the past two years has hurt the industry.

"More tourists prefer visiting nature-based sites to relax and recover health that had been badly affected by the pandemic and are scared of being infected with the coronavirus. The post-COVID-19 recovery tourism programmes have been built for that reason," Quốc said.

"A vacation with mediation, yoga or mental recovery service in the forest or fresh air in villages – where are almost isolated with urban noise and pollution – will help visitors ease their stress with a slow life experience with a balanced mind and diet."

Quốc said he cleaned up the shrimp farm and decorated it with a lake to relax the mind and a water space for meditation and yoga. The lake is used for swimming, coracle rides, bamboo rafting and tea drinking.

Võ Bá Quốc makes tea and food from natural materials and organic farms' produce for visitors. Photo courtesy of Quốc Linh

"Fish breed in the lake for fun, not food. All visitors to the Quốc Linh eco-village are vegans as organic food, and homegrown herbs are used as healthy nutrition. A clean and fresh-air environment plays a key solution in easing tiredness and bringing more joy," Quốc said.

The tour operator said that eco-tour visitors could take a two-day and one-night package at the site in the centre of a nipa palm forest.

He said a day at the eco-village begins with vegetable soup and a tea meditation before a rafting challenge and meditation time in the lake.

"More talks and discussion on meditation and yoga while reading a book or enjoying artisan kefir coconut or kombucha and fruit are included. It's a time for friends to get together in a tranquil space to kill their pain and relax," he said.

"Yoga strengthens the body, while meditation and free discussions help cure trauma related to COVID-19 for both the coronavirus infected and non-infected people. Home-grown vegetables and organic food from assigned farms in Hội An, including macrobiotics violet rice, create a balance in nutrition and a change from meat-based meals."

The 43-year-old eco-tour site owner Quốc is also aware of environmental protection and actions that are less toxic to habitat, such as waste recycling and energy saving.

Gentle and low noise ambience is required at the yoga and meditation site. Photo courtesy of Quốc Linh

The site also reserved a night camp and bungalows for group stays and exploring the nipa palm forest – in the buffer zone and low river of the Hội An-Chàm Islands world biosphere reserve – he said.

Cẩm Thanh – 5km away from Hội An's Old Quarter – has been building a zero-waste site to promote waste classification and recycling of plastic waste.

The 140ha nipa palm forest, which acts as a shelter for fish and other aquatic species for breeding before moving back to the Chàm Islands, is a favourite attraction of the eco-tour site, hosting about 5,000 visitors at weekends.

Cẩm Thanh Commune's more than 2,000 residents benefit from the wetland forest by earning much of their living from eco-tour services and handicrafts.

Quốc hopes that the community will boost the preservation of the nipa palm forest by launching a more sustainable tour service that aims at promoting environmental protection with 'green' manners, including less plastic waste and noise and planting more trees in the wetland forest.

Cẩm Thanh nipa palm is one of the favourite community-based tour options for tourists visiting Hội An, including farming, fishing, boat rides and biking.

Quốc said the meditation tour service at Quốc Linh eco-village offered a new product for the post-COVID era in Hội An as the town hosts the National Tourism Year - Quảng Nam 2022. VNS