Each weekend, Hai Phong swells in size as tourists from neighboring provinces visit the famous port city in northern Vietnam to photograph its landmarks and unique cuisine.
Cat Bi Market in Thanh To Ward, Hai An District, Hai Phong is recognized as the port city's 'culinary paradise' and has become a favorite for such tourists thanks to its banh da cua (Vietnamese crab noodles), gia be xao (stir-fried gia be), a vast selection of sweet desserts, and so on.
Gia be or gia bien is a mollusc that inhabits the sands of the seashore.
This animal's legs resemble bean sprouts in their slenderness and curvature, hence its name, the sea sprout.
Many of these unique dishes became big hits amongst tourists thanks to a map of local delicacies published by the Hai Phong Department of Tourism.
According to food and beverage merchants, the map has helped increase their visitors by two or three times, even on days that are not weekends or holidays.
Pham Minh Nhung, a stall owner at Cat Bi Market, said that the majority of her customers in the past were from Hai Phong, but now about two-thirds of her customers are from other provinces and cities.
Information on the Internet touting the city has also helped give a major boost to tourism in Hai Phong.
To guarantee that tourists receive quality and safe service, the Hai Phong Department of Tourism invited Nhung and a number of other food and beverage stall owners to attend a training session on communication, civilized behavior, and appropriate response to food hygiene and safety issues.
A bowl of 'banh da cua' (Vietnamese crab noodles), a famous delicacy in Hai Phong. Photo: C.K. / Tuoi Tre
Nguyen Phuong Loan, a student at the Hanoi University of Pedagogy II, and her friends traveled to Hai Phong for a weekend getaway after reading about the city’s famous cuisine on Facebook.
Loan and her friends took a train to Hai Phong and then rented motorbikes in the city to visit Cat Bi Market.
Cat Bi Market is one of the most popular eating venues in Hai Phong thanks to the city’s Foodtour map, Loan said.
Vu Huy Thuong, deputy director of the Department of Tourism in Hai Phong, stated that introducing tourists to local cuisine is a major tourist activity in many localities, including Hai Phong.
However, up until now, the introduction of traditional cuisine has been relatively widespread and unplanned, frequently coupled with other tourism products, such as in Hai Phong, where visitors often couple their food experiences with visits to the Cat Ba tourism area.
Recognizing the growing demand for traditional Hai Phong street foods from tourists, especially youngsters, the Hai Phong Department of Tourism felt that focusing on the city’s food would be a great way to develop inner-city tourism products.
To make it on to the map, the department requires that local shops and dishes meet certain criteria, including one that they are representative of Hai Phong cuisine, ensure food hygiene and safety, and provide attentive and professional service.
After the sucess of the city's map of local delicacies, authorities in Hai Phong are preparing to publish 'Hai Phong Long Vong Check-In' (Wandering around Hai Phong) – a map meant to guide visitors through the city’s most photogenic landmarks.
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