|A craftswoman guides a tourist on making a hammock using strings taken from tree bark at a tourism site on Chàm Islands. The craft has helped promote eco-tour services and the value of the traditional culture and lifestyle of the islanders. Photo courtesy of Chàm Islands Cooperative|
Craft and eco-tourism have merged on the Chàm Islands, located off the coast of the ancient town of Hội An. Visitors to the islands can now have hands-on experience in weaving a hammock using strings taken from tree barks.
Nguyễn Nhất Thành, a member of the Chàm Islands Cooperative, has spearheaded the new initiative. The aim is to connect local artisans with tourists and offer an innovative eco-tourism product.
The cooperative has enlisted nine highly skilled hammock weavers to provide demonstrations and guidance on the craft's history. Hammock weaving is just one of the many traditional trades that visitors can learn about on the islands.
Other trades include making cakes from glutinous rice and fragrant leaves, tea from wild medicinal herbs, and harvesting edible bird's nest.
|An old woman splits tree bark into strings for hammock weaving at the Chàm Islands Cooperative. The trade has been introduced as a new eco-tour product of the islands. Photo courtesy of Chàm Islands Co-operative|
He said only six old people, including four aged between 75 and 85 years old, could make the hammock from the bark of the tree called ngô đồng (scientifically Firmiana colorata), also known as the Chinese parasol tree.
Craftswomen often take three or four months to finish a hammock, and only three or four products come out each year, according to Thành.
A hammock is priced from VNĐ15 million to VNĐ17 million each (US$600-680).
Tourists can find the craft experience at Tân Hiệp market in the centre of Chàm Islands.
In the past, the ancient town of Hội An looked at promoting different handcrafted products made from the tree in serving tourists, including oil, cake, skin cream and lipstick.
Three ngô đồng trees, which grew on the island for some 200 years, were recognised as Heritage Trees by the Việt Nam Association for Conservation of Nature and Environment.
The Chàm Islands-Hội An area, recognised as a world biosphere reserve by UNESCO in 2009, hosts around 400,000 tourists annually, of which 10 per cent are foreigners.
|A fruit bag made from tree bark strings. The Chàm Islands, off the coast of Hội An Town, have been promoting the use of environment-friendly products and non-plastic bags. Photo courtesy of the Hội An Essential Oil Company|
The world biosphere reserve site spent $2.6 million on marine restoration and conservation in 2003-14.
It hosted 500,000 visitors per year with annual entrance ticket revenue of $1.5 million in the core zone, and another $1.3 million in the buffer zone in 2017.
The islands are the only location in Việt Nam promoting the non-use of plastic bags and the ‘3Rs’ (reduce, reuse and recycle) programmes since 2011, and the local authorities have been fighting overfishing for decades.
The Chàm Islands-Hội An World Biosphere Reserve, which covers over 33,000ha, including Hội An Town, has 1,500ha of tropical forests and 6,700ha of sea, featuring a wide range of fauna and flora.
The islands include eight islets with 2,400 inhabitants and have been one of the most popular destinations in Quảng Nam Province since UNESCO recognised Hội An ancient town and the Mỹ Sơn Sanctuary as World Heritage sites.
|A pristine white sand beach on the Chàm Islands. The site lures tourists with its well-protected environment and eco-tour services. VNS Photo Công Thành|
The National Office of Intellectual Property of Việt Nam, under the Ministry of Science and Technology, has recognised the Geographical Indication (GI) for Chàm Islands-Hội An edible bird’s nest products. VNS