tours to ‘milk’ profits
dairy farmers in Son La Province open tours to counter recent losses.
|Do I really look like
that?: A foreign tourist shows her pictures to Mong ethnic men at
the Mong traditional festival in Moc Chau. — VNA/VNS Photo
|Simply bovine: A
herd of Lam Thanh Tran, known as the "King of the Cows" dot
the landscape of new tours to Moc Chau. — VNA/VNS Photo Ngo Lich
While northern dairy
producers in Ha Noi, Tuyen Quang and Quang Ninh are dealing with fallout from
the recent "melamine storm", farmers in Son La Province’s Moc Chau
plateau – the nation’s leading dairy region – have found a unique way to
promote sales and tourism by offering "fresh milk tours".
"This may be the
perfect long-term economic orientation for local farmers," said Moc Chau
Dairy Joint Stock Co deputy director Pham Van Nhan.
The idea occurred to
leading local farmer Lam Thanh Tran – known as "King of the Cows"
– when he recently received some unexpected guests, a group of young people
from Ha Noi who wanted to stay overnight at his farm, help him milk his dairy
herd, and then buy fresh milk.
"We aim to offer
visitors a chance to taste fresh milk just out of the cow and other fresh dairy
products like butter," Tran said.
Another farmer in the
area, Pham Van Te, also hosted Tran Tien Lam and his two young sons from Nam
Dinh with the same purpose.
"We have travelled to
a lot of places," said Lam," but this time I wanted to come here to
let my children see cows being raised."
Rather than get a hotel
room, Lam asked Te if he could camp on the farm. Te agreed, and the family
cooked their dinner over a campfire and slept in a tent.
Town is surprisingly bustling and urbanised in light of its location on
a grassy, windswept plateau. But it’s well worth a visit every
September 1, when the Love Market takes place.
Part of the traditional festival of the Mong ethnic people, the Chau Moc
Love Market brings together members of various Mong groups like the Mong
Do (Mong wearing white), Mong Du (black), Mong Si (red), and Mong Lenh
(flowery). Other ethnic groups, like the Dao, Kinh, Kho Mu, Muong and
Thai also come to enjoy the festival.
Similar to the Khau Vai Love Market in Meo Vac in the northern province
of Ha Giang, many Mong youth gather in the hopes of meeting their mates,
while older people look forward to the market for an opportunity to say
hello to old friends.
Young people change into traditional clothes and take along cassettes,
playing recorded songs to lure partners. Men wait in a long queue for a
haircut, while others invite women to eat with them or pose for
Many Mong families arrive at the market together, but, once reaching the
market, each family member goes his or her own way. They stay into the
night meeting, chatting, eating, drinking and singing with their
Although the market is thronged with drinkers and carousers, there are
no quarrels or conflicts, which is surprising in light of the Mong
saying, "After the market, if you are not drunk, you are not
Early the next morning, families meet up again and head home together.
In the morning, the boys
got up early and took buckets to follow their host to milk the cows.
Tasting the fresh, raw
milk, Tran Duc Thang, 10, squealed with delight. "I have never tasted such
a sweet glass of milk. It’s so delicious and fatty!"
recently have asked to camp on the grass like that," Te said, noting than
as many as 50 local farms have begun hosting tourists ... and making a
profitable side-business out of it.
"King of the
Cows" Tran said he gets an average of VND200,000 (US$11.8) from visitors.
According to Nhan, Moc
Chau Plateau, at about 1,050m above sea level and with a mild climate, offers
expansive pastures, hills under cultivation with tea, and mountains and caves to
explore, and is beginning to combine dairy-farm tourism with other plans to
It may not be as romantic
or alluring as Sa Pa in the northern province of Lao Cai, or Da Lat in the
Central Highlands province of Lam Dong, but Moc Chau Plateau is verdant with
grass, tea and, in the spring, colourful apricot and plum blossoms.
With white spots like snow
in the trunks of plum trees and lonely houses nestled in valleys, Moc Chau
offers its own atmosphere of dreamy mystery.
Nguyen Minh Duc, head of
the Moc Chau Ecological Project Control Department, told Viet Nam News
that a 442ha area had been allotted for development of a resort area with a golf
course blended into the Moc Chau dairy farm area.
The area’s Bo Nhang site
would include a multi-purpose sports training centre and a healthcare centre, he
said, while the Chieng Yen site would offer hot mineral springs and a cruise on
the reservoir of the Hoa Binh hydroelectric project.
A 4.7km road into the area
was about half-complete, he added, and over 20 domestic partners have registered
to invest in various aspects of the project.
"The province aims to
preserve a certain area for agriculture and avoid disrupting the lives of local
people while, at the same time, encouraging more farmers to take advantage of
tourism," Duc said.
Sinh Cafe’s Tran Cong
Trinh, who oversees northern routes for the tourism company, said the area was
still only a stopover for tourists exploring more established tourist
destinations in Hoa Binh, Dien Bien, Cao Bang and Lao Cai provinces.
"Although the area
has rich tourism potential, the various sites are located rather far away from
one another," Trinh said. "For instance, the mountains and caves are
far way from the notorious Son La Prison ruins, where the French held Vietnamese
A guide from the Ha
Noi-based Vinatour company also noted that few foreign tourists have shown
special interest in Moc Chau.
"The area is not
well-promoted and local infrastructure is not good enough for developing
tourism," she said. — VNS