| Tourists visit Tam Cho orchards (Photo: Thu Hoa/VOV5)
Since 1998 Thoi Son Island has been a popular-tourist destination in the Mekong Delta. Hinh Thanh Khoa, a tour guide with Vietnam Adventure Tours, is guiding a group of foreign visitors to Thoi Son.
Arriving at Thoi Son Island after a scenic boat ride, you walk along winding gravel road, breathing the fresh, cool air of lush green orchards in an atmosphere of utter tranquility.
The island’s houses retain their ancient beauty. Tam Cho’s house is a typical southwestern house. It’s furnished with a carved altar, delicate tables and couches, and other antiques and is surrounded by strange, beautiful bonsai trees. Mr. Tam's house is a famous attraction on the island. Mr. Tam has worked with travel agents in Ho Chi Minh City to attract domestic and foreign visitors who, during a 30- minute stopover, are served tea and fruit, and enjoy a performance of Don Ca Tai Tu, a traditional form of music of southern Vietnam recognized by UNESCO as an intangible cultural heritage.
| Drinking tea served with honey in Le Hoang Son’s garden. (Photo: Thu Hoa/VOV5)
Leaving the garden of Mr. Tam Cho, you come to the lush orchard and house of Le Hoang Son. Son’s orchid garden covers 2,700 m2 and contains 10,000 trees.
Son recalls: “In the past, it used to be a ‘Xuong com vang’ longan garden. Then my daughter suggested growing orchids, and cutting branches for sale. It wasn’t very profitable so we decided to do tourism. We suffered a loss for 3 years. The high tourism season is from September to April when fruit gardens are at their most beautiful. When you are hosting tours, you have to take care of your orchid garden carefully.”
In addition to the orchid garden, Son has a honey production workshop called Lan Thao Nguyen, where visitors can smell the flowers, take photos, and taste some forest honey.
| Le Hoang Son, the owner of Thao Nguyen orchid garden. (Photo: Thu Hoa/VOV5)
Son explained further: “500 hectares of Thoi Son is under cultivation. The locals mainly grow different varieties of longan and sell dried longan. Using new farming techniques the farmers can now make longan trees bear fruit all year round, which is good for the bees.”
Son has lived on Thoi Son Island half his life. He says local living standards have greatly much improved thanks to eco-tourism. Many households there are now keeping bees, providing services like operating ferry boats, or making fine arts souvenirs. Eco-tourism on Thoi Son attracts half of the tourists who visit Tien Giang, 1,500 to 3,000 people each day.