Vang Vieng, Lao PDR

Farm Tourism: Sustainable, Authentic Local Experiences in the Mekong Region

Global Environment Facility (CC BY-NC-SA 2.0)

Farm tourism in the Mekong Sub-Region checks all the boxes of what travel should be: low-impact, sustainable, and spreading tourism revenue beyond the usual tourist hotspots.

Farm tours can be arranged in most Mekong countries; while the creature comforts may not be as good as in cities, the agri-tourism experience compensates with increased authenticity: the feeling you’re seeing the real destination, not just the part that’s been dressed up for tourists.

In Viet Nam, the Tra Que Vegetable Village has long been famous for its organic vegetable crop: cabbage, basil, coriander, and water spinach among them. About 200 local farming families work Tra Que’s fields; experts believe that Tra Que vegetables gain their flavor from being fertilized by seaweed from De Vong River.

Tra Que’s holdings amount to only 40 hectares of cultivated land, but the quality of this Hoi An village’s vegetables and herbs has lent to its long-standing fame, cherished by generations of Vietnamese for over 300 years.

Tra Que Vegetable Village, Quang Nam province, Viet Nam

You can experience Tra Que for yourself: work alongside locals on the fields, hoeing, planting and watering along with the rest, then experiencing dishes made from the local produce. You can take cooking classes, too, to learn to cook Hoi An dishes for yourself (Tra Que Water Wheel is perhaps the farm’s most recommended).

In Laos, Ban Hai Village in Pak-ngum District hosts Phutawen Farm, an experimental agri-tourism site. The farm site covers some twenty hectares producing sunflowers, fruits, vegetables, organic honey, and livestock. From January to March each year, tourists swarm to Phutawen to see the sunflowers in bloom: a truly magnificent sight!

Phutawen Farm combines the scenic landscape and the colorful crops to create a uniquely Cambodian agri-tourism experience: visitors can pick organic vegetables, pose with sunflowers, and cycle around the farmland to get an authentic local experience.

Phutawen Farm champions organic tourism in Cambodia, a reaction to the heavy chemical residues in imported vegetables from the near abroad. The Phutawen Farm Project has partnered with Standards in the Southeast Asian Food Trade (SAFT) to apply Good Agricultural Practices (GAP) standards for the fruits and vegetables production farm, and the Lao Organic standard for the rice and field crops farm.

In Cambodia, the Siem Reap town of Chreav stands some 10km west of the Angkor Wat temple complex. It houses 2,500 families in seven villages, and is home to an organic farm that also connects tourists to nearby attractions.

Tourists to Chreav can meet local farmers and help them grow organic vegetables and fruit; cooking classes can be arranged, to help tourists transform local ingredients into delicious Khmer food. Beyond engaging in the local farming activities, guests can also ride a fleet of oxcarts to check out nearby tourist sites like the Pearaing Biodiversity Conservation Centre, where over 130 species of birds feed and drink.

Chreav community tours start at $25 per person, inclusive of an English-speaking guide, admission fees, sightseeing and drinking water.

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