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One early morning, as we left Tay Giang Town for the district, the fog was more airy and the scene more ethereal than usual. The high and tricky slopes like Khom Lung (hunchback) that we had to navigate on the way kept our feet firmly on the ground, however.
On reaching Tay Giang, which borders Laos’ Sekong Province and Vietnam’s Thua Thien–Hue Province, we could see that the area, once clearly poverty-stricken, now hosted tidy, spacious houses, so much that several villages could lay claim to being dubbed “Singapore Villages,” a la Aur Village in the district’s Ch’om Commune.
This is a welcome lesson to all tourist spots in Vietnam. That it pays to pay attention to keeping the place clean and tidy.
One of the more prominent annual festivals of the Co Tu include dam trau (buffalo sacrifice), held between December and March on the lunar calendar to show gratitude to gods for giving the people a good year. Another festival celebrates or prays for a good rice crop.
In keeping with the new tourism trends, visitors can observe the traditional events as outsiders or choose to live for a few days with the Co Tu people, enjoying specialties that are cooked in bamboo sections, like com lam (bamboo-cooked rice), thit lam (bamboo-cooked meat), and san lam (bamboo-cooked cassava).
Visitors should not pass up on the opportunity to try out famous local beverages like Ta Vac, which is fermented from the extract of a native fruit with the same name. Tasting somewhat like Western wine, Ta Vac is believed to enhance one’s health. It is a precious drink for locals, and with typical generosity and hospitality, they treat with their guests with it.
Not far from Aur is the Zo Ruot Village, which hosts a garden of 5,000 Ngoc Linh ginseng (Panax vietnamensis) roots, said to have life-saving properties.
The garden, estimated to be worth tens of billions dong, or hundreds of thousands dollars, was founded in 2004 when district authorities transplanted them from Nam Tra My District.
No visit to Tay Giang is complete without the obligatory photographs of the long, terraced fields that the farming genius of ethnic minority communities has gifted to the country, as also the world at large. If you do not want to take photographs, the time is well spent just gazing at an unforgettable scene.