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Vietnam-Japan festival is for everyone

Park in downtown – Ho Chi Minh City is the venue for the Vietnam- Japan Tourism and Culture Festival, which starts tomorrow and runs until Sunday.

Hundreds of people have been working flat out for 10 days to turn the park into a miniature Vietnam to promote this land as a holiday destination for the Japanese and everyone else.

Thatch-roofed stalls with walls made from a mixture of clay and straw, a common material in the past and even today in some rural areas, fill the park between Notre Dame and the Reunification Palace (it’s split into four by two very busy streets).

Since the point of the exercise is to lure more visitors to Vietnam, tourism is the topic and it’s divided into three categories for the show: the sea, the World Heritage Sites in Central Vietnam, and the attractions of Ho Chi Minh City and the 12 Mekong Delta provinces.

Among other things, the strip of parkland along Pasteur Street will display the prize-winning photos from the “Snapshots of Vietnam” contest, which this time had the subtitle “Seascapes and Sea Tourism”. The contest was launched in May by The Saigon Times Weekly, the Ho Chi Minh City Service of Tourism and tour operator Vietravel.

This area will also house the spruikers of resorts and golf courses in Quang Nam, Khanh Hoa and Binh Thuan, purveyors of handicrafts from these central coast provinces, and an outfit called Danao International, which operates golf courses in Lam Dong and Binh Thuan.

Next door the focus will be river and rural tourism and will have as its centerpiece a replica village market selling real produce and handicrafts from the Mekong Delta. Here the thatch-roofed stalls will display fishing nets, oars and many other tools used by the inhabitants of the watery region.

Visitors to this section of the park can learn how to weave a mat or make a rice pancake, a non la (conical palm hat), or banh tet (a lunar new year savory of glutinous rice wrapped in banana leaves and filled with pork and green bean paste or just green beans).

Food will be everywhere, as always at events like this. As its contribution, Binh Quoi Tourist Village will serve more than 60 southern dishes and 12 types of medicinal wine that were popular several hundreds years ago, when the swampy land of the southern deltas was being reclaimed.

The “Heritage Road” area will feature miniatures of the three World Heritage Sites in central Vietnam: the city of Hue, the town of Hoi An and the ruins of My Son. Musicians from Hue will perform nha nhac (royal court music), proclaimed by UNESCO as a Masterpiece of Oral and Intangible Heritage of Humanity.

Quang Nam Province will introduce age-old occupations like bronze casting and vegetable planting, and there will be 15-minute shows of hat boi (a form of opera from the central region).

The city’s big hotels, travel firms and souvenir retailers will be touting their services in another section of the park. A company called Apex will hand out 1,000 non la, the Bong Sen Hotel will give away 10% discount food vouchers for use until December 31, and Saigontourist Travel will give foreign visitors the same discount on its tours to Ho Chi Minh City’s Cu Chi District and the famous wartime tunnels, and to the city of My Tho in Tien Giang.

The Reunification Palace will be hosting several activities too. From 4 p.m. to 10 p.m. daily, Toyama Hitomi from Japan will be displaying her “Light and Air of Vietnam” collection, which contains more than 100 photographs of Vietnam she took in the past 12 years.

And in return, Dao Hoa Nu, a veteran member of the female photographers’ club Hai Au, will show her photos of Japan and its people.

The programme for the three days includes demonstrations of Japanese-style flower arranging and tea ceremonies by Kiko Tokik, Kiko Chika, Hirahara Keiko, Amano Koshun, Okumra Ichiji and Kshi Toshiko, and displays of Japanese ink drawings and Vietnamese calligraphy.

Other Japanese citizens are getting involved as well. Pop singer Hiramatsu Eri will do a 60-minute show starting at 7:40 p.m. on Friday, and harmonica players and flautists from Japan will perform on the subsequent evenings.

And from the host country, members of the Bong Sen Theatre will perform the Tray Dance and other standards.

ND - (19/11/2004)

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