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Muslim tourists flock to Vietnam for delicious food, cheap prices

More and more Muslim tourists have chosen to visit Vietnam on account of delectable food and cheap prices, with airlines from the Middle East offering direct services to the Southeast Asian country and Vietnamese restaurants improvising to serve their special diners.

The Muslim tourists mostly come from Indonesia, Malaysia, India, and the Middle East. 

One day, a Tuoi Tre (Youth) newspaper reporter followed a group of Muslim visitors from Indonesia, a country where 90 percent of the population practices Islam.

Most of the tourists have visited Vietnam more than once.

Affordable goods, delicious food

The majority of the Indonesian tourists said that they love Vietnam because of its high quality, affordable products, and flavorful food.

An Indonesian man, who was waiting for a car in front of a hotel in District 1, Ho Chi Minh City with a group of people, decided to pay VND100,000 (US$4.72) for a wallet from a peddler.

The man immediately put his money and cards from his old wallet into the new one.

Sartina Kendari from Sulawesi Tenggara, a province of Indonesia, said that she bought some T-shirts at Ben Thanh Market in District 1 on her first day in Vietnam.

“A T-shirt here costs only VND400,000 ($18.83). In Indonesia we couldn’t buy such good-looking T-shirts at this price,” the woman said.

Yanti Makassar, another Indonesian who visited My Tho City, in the Mekong Delta, said that she loves Vietnam more than other countries she has traveled to because it is a good shopping venue, in addition to its beautiful landscapes and delicious food.

Makassar, who has visited Vietnam a few times, added that she even had to buy extra suitcases to fit all the clothes she has bought here.

Nguyen Xuan Thinh, a guide at a tourism firm in Ho Chi Minh City, said that the number of Muslim tourists from Indonesia and Malaysia has risen rapidly in recent years.

Five to six Indonesian tourist groups arrive in Vietnam each month, together with several others from Malaysia, Thinh said.

The Muslim visitors from Indonesia love buying items such as clothes, bags, and cloths at Ben Thanh Market and Saigon Square Center, a small shopping mall in District 1.

They also prefer “banh pia,” a Vietnamese cake filled with durian, shredded lard, salted egg yolk, mung bean paste, and coconut.

“They buy a lot of ‘banh pia’ during their time in Vietnam. They often buy around 10 pockets of ‘banh pia’ each time, but sometimes a person can buy 40 pockets,” Thinh shared.

Vietnamese hospitality

Lam Duy Phong, the owner of a candy factory in My Tho, was seen introducing, serving and selling his durian-flavored candies to tourists in Indonesian. Phong said he learned the language from tour guides to communicate better with his customers.

“Most of the Muslim visitors like candies, so being able to speak their language could facilitate my sales,” Phong said.

Vietnamese restaurants have also put forth great effort to serve Muslims.

Bach Tung Vien, a restaurant in My Tho, has put aside not only an eating area that uses separate drinking glasses, bowls, chopsticks, spoons, and utensils for Muslims but also a praying space in accordance with the minimum standards of their religion, although the food is not Halal, a certificate indicating that food meets Islamic dietary codes.  

Pham Thi Bach Tuyet, a restaurant representative, said that they never serve pork in the designated area, and sometimes they help customers order food from eateries in Ho Chi Minh City – about 70km away – that have Halal certificates.

“The number of Muslim tourists has soared in the last three years. We are finding chefs who can cook meals following the Halal requirements, and are trying to get the certificate,” Tuyet said.

The restaurant also serves such fish plates as ca kho to (fish braised in a clay pot), ca tai tuong chien xu (deep fried gourami fish), andcanh chua ca dieu hong (Vietnamese sour fish soup) to Muslim visitors.

Yanti Makassar told Tuoi Tre that Muslim people are not allowed to eat pork, so she and her friends really like fish dishes.

Vietnam – A shopping paradise

La Quoc Khanh, deputy director of the Ho Chi Minh City Department of Culture, Sports, and Tourism, said that the number of tourists from Muslim countries, especially Indonesia and Malaysia, has gone up considerably in recent years.

“When I talked to 17 Malaysian tourism firms in Kuala Lumpur the other day, they told me that Vietnam is a safe destination and also a shopping paradise, as the goods are cheap, catchy, and easy to buy,” Khanh said.

Most Indonesian and Malaysian tourism firms have said that tourists choose to visit Vietnam because the country offers affordable tours and commodity prices that fit their budget.

Many carriers from the Middle East – including Emirates, Etihad, Qatar Airways, and Turkish Airlines – have opened direct routes to Vietnam, helping to raise the number of Muslim tourist arrivals to the Southeast Asian nation.

A representative from Vietnamese tourism firm Saigontourist said Qatar Airways has even established a division specializing in serving Muslim tourists in Vietnam.

Dato’ Syed Mohd Razif Al Yahya, a representative of Malaysian tourism corporation Sutra, observed that Muslim tourists create a potential market for Vietnam and many other countries, as the Muslim population in the Asia-Pacific region is now more than 972 million people.

“Vietnam is currently considered one of Muslim tourists’ ideal tourism destinations. There will be more restaurants, hotels, and tours that mainly serve this type of customers in the near future,” the Malaysian said.

Source: http://tuoitrenews.vn/business/23027/muslim-tourists-flock-to-vietnam-for-delicious-food-cheap-prices