HCM City's coastal Can Gio District revives economy by launching eco-tourism tours, opening night markets
The outlying district of Can Gio in HCM City is becoming an ideal eco-destination for stressed-out urbanites to visit on two-day, one-night tours as it is considered one of the safest places in the city amid the COVID-19 pandemic.
|Tourists on a bicycle ride in Thieng Lieng Hamlet in the Thanh An Island Commune of Can Gio District. Photo baotintuc.vn|
HCM City authorities have recently been developing tourism activities in Can Gio District to help revive the local economy after a long hiatus due to social distancing restrictions.
Can Gio, the only coastal district in the city, has advantages to develop a night economy, according to many tourism companies. Despite the potential, though, most commercial activities in the district stop at 7-8pm, with only 3-4 per cent of the total number of visitors staying overnight in the area, according to Truong Tien Trien, deputy chairman of Can Gio.
The district has long been famous for fresh seafood, eco-tourism sites and the Can Gio Mangrove Forest, a biological reserve recognised by the UN cultural agency UNESCO. It also has many traditional craft villages.
Ecotourism is becoming increasingly popular here and Can Gio's combination of beauty, wilderness and adventure means it will likely become a travel magnet in the next few years.
Tourism businesses have asked the HCM City government to develop a support policy for businesses to invest long-term in Can Gio District tourism.
Vo Anh Tai, deputy general director of Saigon Tourism Corporation (Saigontourist Group), said that it started tours in Can Gio after the lockdown was lifted, but noted that more investment would be needed for transport infrastructure as well as commercial and service development.
One of the first efforts to revive the tourism sector this year was the Saigontourist Group's river tour on October 24 from Bach Dang wharf in downtown HCM City to tourist attractions in Can Gio District.
Fifty tourists left for Vam Sat Ecological Park and Thieng Lieng Island in Can Gio on a Greenlines high-speed ferry. They cruised on the Sai Gon River and explored the Can Gio wetlands and sampled the area’s signature dishes.
|Tourists ride bicycles in Thieng Lieng Hamlet, Can Gio District. Photo baotintuc.vn|
Jean Philippe Lovotti, who joined the tour, said he was excited to be able to travel again after the lockdown period in the city.
Earlier, in September, the district welcomed the first tour after months of social distancing. It was a closed model arranged for frontline medical staff to honour their hard work amid the pandemic.
The district is famous for its vast mangrove forests and wildlife sanctuaries, and was named the first Mangrove Biosphere Reserve in Vietnam in 2000 by UNESCO.
Nguyen Thi Anh Hoa, director of the city's Department of Tourism, said the river tour aimed to diversify safe travel products and revive the tourism industry.
The department is working with travel firms and local authorities to run more river tours, including tours for Bach Dang-District 7-Can Gio, and Bach Dang-Cu Chi-Binh Duong.
|A view of Can Gio Mangrove Biosphere Reserve in HCM City’s Can Gio District. VNS Photo Thu Hang|
Last month, the authorities of the district and the city discussed a new site for the Can Gio night market, which is expected to open in the first quarter of next year.
The district has selected two location options for the night market. The first option would include a night market at Hang Duong Market, with a total area of 615sq.m. The second option would be an area for a night market food along the coast in Can Thanh Town.
The night market would operate from 4pm to 11pm on weekends and holidays, and open in the first quarter of 2022 before the Lunar New Year.
According to the Can Gio People’s Committee, the district received over 10.3 million visitors between 2015 and 2020, with the number growing at 31.4 per cent a year on average, but only 3-4 per cent of them stayed overnight because there were few attractions.
Can Gio has interesting landscapes, and historical and cultural sites that could attract more tourists. Besides its six famous tourism sites such as Monkey Island, Hang Duong Seafood Market, the Vam Sat Ecological Tourist Area, and Rung Sac, there are now 18 accommodation facilities with a capacity for 1,400 tourists, along with 10 high-quality restaurants and 49 local eateries.
According to the city's Department of Tourism, Can Gio is a strategic location for tourism since it is a hub connecting HCM City with neighbouring provinces like Ba Ria-Vung Tau and Long An. The tourism industry in HCM City has identified the district as a place to welcome mid-income and upscale tourist segments in both the short and long term.
The director of the department suggested that the district first concentrate on the integration model between dining and shopping and other river cruise models. They should also try to attract more investment in transport infrastructure.
Many businesses in Can Gio have asked the city authorities to develop a stable support policy for investors, and promote production of specialties to attract more overnight stays and spending.
From the central HCM City, there are two ways to get to the eco-tourist site.
The first is biking or motorbiking to Binh Khanh Ferry which crosses the river to Can Gio Street. A short ride down the street is the Vam Sat Ecological Tourist Area (Khu du lịch sinh thái Vàm Sát) in the Can Gio Mangrove Forest.
The second, and more interesting way, is to take a boat at the Bach Dang Wharf and glide down the Sai Gon, Soai Rap, Dinh Ba and Lo Ren rivers.
Can Gio, which has a natural area of more than 75,000ha, is the only district bordering the sea in HCM City with 23km of coastline.
The district has eco-tourism advantages such as forest resources (especially mangroves); marine resources, rivers and canals; traditional craft villages such as the salt village of Thieng Lieng Hamlet, the bird farming village in Tam Thon Hiep Commune, and the fishing village in Long Hoa Commune; and many worship places.
|Tourists take a boat trip around the mangrove forest. VNS Photo Thu Hang|
Located 50km southeast of the city centre, the Can Gio wetlands can be visited easily by speedboat, car, motorbike or bus.
Known as the "green lung” of HCM City, the Mangrove Biosphere Reserve contributes to improving air quality in the city.
The reserve of more than 75,000ha was recognised in 2000 by UNESCO as the first Mangrove Biosphere Reserve in Vietnam and is a member of the global biosphere reserve network.
Wildlife such as bats, birds, saltwater crocodiles and macaques are found at the Vam Sat Ecological Park, a section of the Mangrove Biosphere Reserve.
The 600-hectare Vam Sat natural bird sanctuary is home to 70,000 birds of 26 species. Visitors can observe thousands of birds flying around during the nesting season from April to October.
At Vam Sat, tourists can also board rowboats to explore the bat swamps where fruit bats nest.
The Rung Sac Guerrilla Base, Dan Xay Mangrove Park, Monkey Island and the city-level architectural site Ong Thuy Tuong Temple (Temple Worshipping the Whale) are also appealing tourist attractions in Can Gio.
To diversify tourism products and create more income for local people through tourism, the Thanh An Commune People's Committee has set up a cooperative in Thieng Lieng Hamlet that offers services for dining, accommodations and sightseeing for guests participating in tours.
|Can Gio District welcomes back tourists after months of social distancing. Photo nld.com.vn|
Last year, the People's Committee of Can Thanh Town established a cooperative group for ecotourism with 20 tourism business members that provide services such as garden tours, dining, fishing and national 'Đờn ca tài tử Nam Bộ' (Southern amateur music).
The district plans to survey the resources and potential of each commune and town to determine suitable tourism models for each locality. It will also focus on training local human resources in tourism skills such as communications, sales and customer care, and will set up connections to other tourist destinations and upgrade transport infrastructure.
Source: Vietnam News
After nearly 20 years of restoration, Can Gio Mangrove Biosphere Reserve has become the "green lung" of HCM City, contributing to improved air quality and reduced environmental pollution in the city.
Can Gio District, recognised as the first Mangrove Biosphere Reserve in Vietnam by UNESCO, is a perfect day trip from HCM City.