In Ben Tre, tourists have a chance to look at fine handicraft items made from coconut materials such as sandals, dolls, small baskets, bed lamps and vases. They can also watch how coconut candy is made and taste it right at the workshops. The province is also well known for other candies making villages, ornamental trees and ancient houses. Please check below list of attractions in Ben Tre
1. Coconut handicraft villages
Coconut Handicraft Villages - Making fine handicraft products is one of the characteristics of Ben Tre, because this is the home land of coconut, which is used as the only materials for this kind of handicraft products. In the hands of the dexterous worker-artists here, any single piece of coconut materials may turn into fine items with great charm and fantasy, such as animal statuettes, human face statuettes…
2. Coconut candy
Coconut candy is another kind of Ben Tre specialty and a traditional product, which is sold both in domestic stores and exported to many countries around the world. Tourists can find these products mostly in Chau Thanh District (Con Phung, Con Quy, An Hoa) and Giong Trom District. For coconut candy, tourists can go straight to buy directly from the makers on Dong Khoi Boulevard in the Township downtown.
3. Rice paper cakes villages
Rice paper cakes villages - The “Banh trang”, “Banh phong” - (rice paper cakes) in My Long and Son Doc, Giong Trom District are still best known for their fine taste. Despite the main materials to make these cakes are husked rice and sticky rice, the makers of the cakes seem to hold their know – how in secret and are very resolute to keep them from being leaked to outsiders. They are also keen to renovate such know-how secrets to produce finer and finer cakes to serve up to modern consumers. By the way, they not only sell the stuffs but also help spread their local identity out to other regions and the world.
4. Van Ho Bird Sanctuary
Van Ho Bird Sanctuary is a submerged region in Ba Tri, Ben Tre, which is located 52 km east of Ben Tre City and 120km south of Saigon. This spectacular place contains many wild forests with a great variety of trees including water coconut, mangrove, reed and Avicenna. Vam Ho has long become a favorite destination for many animals, especially birds, to which the region is dedicated. There are about 84 species of birds in 35 classes, including 500,000 storks. From April to October is the best time to see the storks, as this is time when they take refuge in Vam Ho garden to produce and raise their young.
The birds can be seen during the day, but early evening after 5.00PM is the most exciting time to watch them. At sunset, great flocks of storks fly over the Ba Lai River to turn around under a glowing sky and land within the green forest. The sound of thousands of birds mixing and playing, dancing and whooping becomes the enchanting song of the jungle. In addition the son of the storks are the varied rhythms and calls of other wind birds mixed with the sound of leaves, which makes a silent summer’s night shimmer with excitement.
Inside the Vam Ho Bird Sanctuary, visitors have a chance to travel around by boat, penetrate the submerged forest and step along narrow bamboo bridges to fill their chests with the purified air of a well-preserved wetland. Also, travelers can rest under the shadow of the forest or visit relics of resistance from the Vietnamese – American War
5. Brick factory
Brick Factory - As one of the popular industries in Mekong Delta, brick factory. In the past, Vietnamese used many natural materials for building house such as clay mud, timber and water palm leaves. Especially, Mekong Delta got a friendly weather all year round, it rare to have strong storm or typhoon, people tended to make their house simple and temporary. Till the late of nineteen century, French governors built palaces and houses which were more solid and strong and use to be made by cement and brick. Vietnamese quickly learnt from French techniques and gained more skills to make brick. With large of clay resources around Mekong Delta and full of natural fuel such as rice husk, char coal and mud coal, local people have fulfilled demand of bricks in constructions.
There are many brick factories in Mekong in general and Ben Tre in particular. During state economic system, brick factory belonged to government but since 1990, most of brick factories are private own, this one is private own. There are 15 workers working in here and capacity of each kiln from 8000 to 12000 bricks. For the worker, there are 3 types of worker, from simple work to complicated work, simple worker is carry brick for drying and load and unload brick before and after heating, the worker also moving brick from factory to truck and they are paid by per day work. Skilled workers are people operate cutting machine and look after kiln during heating time. Brick is used for popular construction works such as building house, building, pavement and even house for animal for pig, chicken or cow. At the moment, there is great demand of new house built.
6. Coconut workshop
Coconut Workshop - Ben Tre is well-known as coconut island because it has a largest coconut growing area in Mekong Delta. A thousand of people are living on 40,000 hectares of coconut tree. First is the farmer, who has land and grow coconut trees, they sell co coconut fruit to middle man. Second is basis processing workshop where we visit now, people separate coconut flesh from coconut and sell them to manufacturer. Third is coconut candy and many people working for making candy, most of processes are making by hand so it requires number of workers. Ben Tre has not got a fertile land as other prince of Mekong Delta. Soil is not good if famer grows other fruit trees such as mango or orange. That is why, hundred years ago, farmer grows coconut for many generations, and therefore they are most experience in growing this type of tree. Coconut tree grows up to 3 years before having fruits, root of the tree going very deep and large in land, and so can not grow other type of tree. However, coconut fruit can be harvested all year round. From flowering time to fruit time it takes about 30 days and only some coconuts of one bunch could be picked at a time, people have to climb up the tree and pick by hand or they uses a long bamboo stick, they throw coconut into the irrigation water way so it not broken. Local also uses a string put around their legs so they can climb up easy but require strength. Coconut when it still green, the juice is sweet and refreshable and it is got very highe nutrition and more than energy drink you have at home. When coconut become brown, lighter which we call “dry coconut” the flesh inside thicker, harder and the juice is sour, we don’t drink the coconut at this age instead we use the flesh to make coconut milk, oil from which we can make candy, cooking or perfume.
Coconut is sold to the workshop, where people open the soft shell to take fibber (xơ dừa). Fibber uses to make chair, mattress, sound roof wall or rope. After separating the soft shell, we open the hard shell by special knife with a hook, the coconut need to be chopped evenly and roundly with small techniques; you have to use your two fingers putting on “coconut eye” and just one strike only. Putting the juice into a can. Coconut juice uses to make coconut jelly.
On this side we can see how coconut flesh is separated from the hard shell and then, coconut flesh is moved to the house behind for cleaning and female worker slices off the brown thin layer to get the white meat only, coconut white meat is soaked into water again for washing off all dirt that finishes for sale product. What do they do with the hard shell? It is also quite pricy for this part because it is very good quality char coal, we use this char coal for any cooking that requires very good heating for example making candy. The brown stuff is sold to make fertiliser after getting all oil. If you make candy you do not have to slice off this part. There are several of coconut trees in coconut family. Some type of coconut for drink only with a smaller size and with different colour, green, yellow, red…etc. The juice is much sweeter and tastier than coconut for oil. However, coconut for drink requires more fertile soil such as in the middle of Mekong Delta. Drinking coconut tree is shorter than oil coconut. Oil coconut tree is higher and the colour of fruits changes from green to brown and the size is bigger.
In here, people count coconut by “dozen” and a dozen not 10 coconuts but 12 coconuts. I don’t know how they count like that but it has been tradition for century or a good way to offer promotion in old days. In the market, a dozen cost at 120,000 Vietnam dong.
Besides buying half -processed product, sometime, many business people buying raw coconut for export and mostly they are Chinese at the moment. Price of coconut is up and down also and decides by the need of market and supply of the locals.
Vietnamese food are cooking with coconut milk is quite popular in Mekong Delta. Local dishes such as pork meat cook with coconut milk, shrimp cook with coconut milk is delicious but coconut milk uses for making cake, sweet soup and candy is most popular. Coconut harvestmen is also some time good year but some time bad year, specially, Ben Tre has got 2 months water is brackish in Feb and March, if the brackish time is longer than 2 months and will affect on the crop, a side from that, insects also attack coconut make its leaf falling down and then the tree die out. Sometime, coconut are eaten by rat although it quite rare in the country side.