Northern Vietnam village the Eden of ground orchids
Growing sword-leaf orchids, scientifically known as Cymbidium, has become a new livelihood among ethnic villagers in Phong Tho District in the northern province of Lai Chau.
Sin Suoi Ho Village is nestled in a namesake commune in Phong Tho District, at one end of Hoang Lien Son Range, which is one of the most spectacular mountain chains in the northwestern region, spanning the provinces of Lao Cai, Lai Chau and Yen Bai.
Over the past three years or so, the village, dubbed the northwest’s Eden, has grown in visitor appeal.
The area, whose population is mostly made up of Mong and Dao ethnic minority groups, has so far remained untouched by the influx of backpackers and trekkers who are often held responsible for damage to the environment and landscape.
Sin Suoi Ho Village earned its name thanks to its dazzling ground orchids, or sword-leaf orchids, scientifically known as , which are in abundance throughout the hamlet.
Paths snaking across the village brim with mostly yellow blooming and budding orchids.
Cheo Quay Hoa, chair of the Sin Suoi Ho Commune People’s Committee, told (Youth) newspaper that the Mong ethnic people have earned a decent living growing the plants in recent years.
Tubs of ground orchids, comprising 10 twigs each, are sought after by traders and fetch an average of VND2 million (US$ 89) apiece.
A farmer sold his 50-branch orchid pot for VND 10 million ($446) last year, Hoa revealed.
The price would likely rise tenfold when sold in Hanoi, he added.
Unfortunately, the expensive tubs of orchids are scattered throughout the village day and night without protection, making them easy prey for thieves.
“Initially our tubs did get stolen, until we [village elders] enacted a ‘law’ to deter potential thieves,” Hoa explained.
The ‘law’ stipulates that if caught red-handed pinching orchid tubs, the offender will have to pay for all of the stolen tubs within the village over the past three years, regardless of it being a first or repeated offense.
No more plants have been stolen since the ‘law’ was enforced, he said.
Vang A Chinh, head of Sin Suoi Ho Village, puts hundreds of orchid tubs around his home, offering a gorgeous vista to behold.
He is also one of six local households to offer homestay services on a pilot basis.
Chinh said that a few years ago he and another local came upon some wild ground orchids in a paddy field and brought them home as ornamental plants.
The frail plants thrived on their meticulous care and grew robustly, with their branches measuring up to 80 centimeters in length.
Some of Chinh’s guests later insisted he sell the orchids to them.
The perennial flowering plants, which take a long time to wither, instantly cast a spell on the guests, who later rushed to buy them from Chinh’s garden at a handsome price.
Grabbing the business opportunity, Chinh then took even better care of his orchids and germinated them from seed.
His success quickly inspired many other villagers to follow suit.
Currently 103 local households have taken on the practice.
The severe cold spells of February 2016 hampered the orchids’ growth this year and kept them from blooming in time for Tet (Lunar New Year), which ended in the middle of that month.
Farmers, however, found solace in that they had earlier earned a total of VND2 billion ($89,148) from the sale of the flowers.
The ‘immense orchid garden,’ which promises vast business opportunities to Sin Suoi Ho villagers, has also inspired residents from neighboring villages to try their hands at the orchid variety.
Six families in Sin Suoi Ho Village who currently pilot homestay services for tourists have ingeniously made use of environmentally-friendly materials and turned their homes into tasteful retreats to draw tourists.
The village has increasingly appealed to vacationers with its tranquil landscape, rustic ethnic people’s lifestyle and guaranteed security, evidenced by no thefts happening over the past three years.
“Tinh Yeu” (Love) Cascade, not far from the village, is a must-see as well.
Holidaymakers are welcome to spend a few days with locals in Sin Suoi Ho Village, relish traditional home-cooked meals prepared by the Mong and Dao ethnic hosts or simply stroll along winding paths and behold the orchids waving gently at them in the breeze.
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