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Discover a different Quang Nam to the West

The central province of Quang Nam is often known for its sunny Cua Dai beach, tranquil Hoi An Ancient Town and the mysterious My Son sanctuary. However, by travelling westwards, there is also a different Quang Nam where tourists can discover the nature and culture of the Co Tu ethnic minority group.

An appeal from colours of Co Tu ethnic group’s culture

There are many ways to reach the west of Quang Nam. No matter which means of transport they chose, all travellers can enjoy the picturesque views of blue mountain ranges, vast sky and Guol communal houses of the Co Tu people, which loom under the shade of trees and along springs in the forest.

Co Tu people, also known as Ca Tu or the Ha ethnic group, are a member of Viet Nam’s great family of ethnic groups. Living for generations along Truong Son mountain range, they have a unique spiritual life with their cultural values kept intact.

Guol houses are unique buildings of the Co Tu people, connecting people in the community through cultural activities. The structure serves as a museum preserving the architectural and sculptural value of the Co Tu people, as well as a place for communal meetings and traditional festivals of villagers.

Located in the middle of a mountain range beside Mo Tua spring, Bho Hoong ancient village in Song Kon commune, Dong Giang district is a highly recommended cultural and ecovillage in western Quang Nam.

Visitors are invited to taste signature dishes of Co Tu people, including ‘zo ra’ (vegetables, meat or fish cooked in a bamboo tube), ‘zo rua’ (pickled pork), ‘com lam’ (rice cooked in a bamboo tube), and ‘ta vat’wine (wine made from the sap of ‘ta vat’ – a tree in coconut family).

During the daytime, adults go to the fields, leaving children in the village, who often play around Guol house; when night falls, people gather around the fire to play gongs and join the traditional ‘tung tung da da’ dance.

Dressed in traditional costumes, Co Tu men and women enter a circle created by villagers and visitors to celebrate the ‘tung tung da da’ dance, which is an indispensable part of community activities, festivals and the daily life of Co Tu people.

‘Tung tung’, which means ‘rise up’ in the Co Tu language, is a dance dedicated to men to represent human’s strength and spirit to conquer nature, and determination to protect their village. Meanwhile, ‘da da’ is a dance for women to express people’s gratitude to God and pray for favourable weather conditions, health and peace.

Aside from Bho Hoong village, the western area of Quang Nam also has many other interesting venues for tourists, such as Dho Roong brocade making village in Ta Tu commune, Hang Gop ecological tourist site in Ma Cooih commune, A Nong tunnel in A Nong commune, and C’noonh pottery village in Axan village.

Community-based project awakens potential for tourism development

The development of such community-based tourism and culture villages in the west of Quang Nam aims to preserve, promote and connect the traditional values of ethnic groups in the locality.

Launched at the end of 2012 under sponsorship of the Japan Foundation for International Development / Relief (FIDR), the project on Co Tu Ethnic Minority Community-Based Tourism in Nam Giang district initially saw positive outcomes by improving incomes for local residents while raising locals’ awareness of safeguarding their indigenous culture.

As of October this year, Ta Bhing commune has received around 65 groups of visitors - most of them booked for a one-day tour. During their 24-hour stay, the tourists are invited to take part in cultural community activities of the Co Tu people, enjoy local dishes and folk dances, and try brocade weaving.

According to Briu Hanh in Dho Roong village in Dong Giang district, villagers have taken advantage of their traditional handicraft of brocade weaving to attract tourists. Tourism has helped generate a monthly income of 350,000 VND - 400,000 VND for women there. Although it is not a large amount of money, it has helped improve their livelihood.

Local weavers have asked for consultations from artisans in Hoi An in reforming and updating designs and patterns, thus making their products more eye-catching and attractive for tourists.

Meanwhile, Bho Hoong villagers in Dong Giang district please both domestic and foreign visitors by reenacting the locals’ cultural practices, such as the buffalo stabbing festival, the ceremony to celebrate a new crop season, and gong performances.

By hiring local tour guides, the tourists can go trekking in the mountains, go fishing, or try playing musical instruments.

Many communes and hamlets in the area have set up art troupes to deliver regular performances for visitors.

The project cannot obtain such encouraging results without the positive and direct participation of the Co Tu people. As the owner of these cultural heritages, they thoroughly understand their culture’s beauty and how to vitalise their cultural practices.

Artisans, elders and patriarchs in the community also play an important role in the success of the project. One of them is Alang Bay in Song Kon commune, Dong Giang district. He joined the revolutionary movement at a very early age and shot down US aircrafts five times. At the age of 85, he was praised as ‘the elder of culture’ of the village. He has collected traditional musical instruments and taught younger generations how to play them. He also made huge contributions to the development of Bho Hoong tourism village.

Another example is elder Y Kong in Ba commune, Dong Giang district, who turned his private house into a miniature museum displaying hundreds of objects featuring the cultural and spiritual life of Co Tu people. His house-museum has become a must-visit address for visitors.

For a long time, many localities with rich potential in tourism development in the west of Quang Nam have not been promoted to visitors, thus local residents have not fully benefited from tourism. The implementation of community-based tourism development projects has succeeded in moblising all available resources to reduce poverty and improve the livelihoods of the locals.

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