Vi Khe Village in Dien Xa Commune, Nam Truc District, stands near the Hong (Red) River and is about 5km southeast of the city of Nam Dinh. Most families in the village grow bonsais. The occupation has existed for more than 700 years, and the village once provided flowers and bonsais for the kings, mandarins and people under the Tran Dynasty. There is a temple in the village that worships the ancestor of the craft village. There is also a 300-year-old bonsai that has won a Hue Imperial Palace Award. From Vi Khe Village, bonsais have gone to parks, tourist sites, cities and foreign countries. In particular, bonsais known as the "One Pillar Pagoda" created by Nguyen Cong Phuong and "Temple of Literature" by Nguyen Thanh Van and Nguyen Van Duc and many others from Vi Khe Village were displayed on the occasion of the 1,000th anniversary of Thang Long - Hanoi, contributing to promoting the village's bonsai business.
The wood carving village of La Xuyen in Yen Ninh Commune, Y Yen District, Nam Dinh Province, is almost 1,000 years old. Most villagers are wood carvers famous for paintings inlaid with mother-of-pearl, wood fine-arts, horizontal lacquered boards, pairs of wood panels (on which are inscribed parallel sentences), traditional wooden beds and cabinets. Visitors to the village can see craftspeople of all ages hard at work carving.
Next to La Xuyen is Tong Xa casting village, which is known for copper cast works like the Dien Bien Phu Victory Monument, statues of Buddha for Bai Dinh and Soc Son pagodas and other copper fine arts. The craft village has been in existence for more than 900 years and the traditional occupation has prospered.
Products made in the lacquer painting village of Cat Dang in Yen Tien Commune, Y Yen District, were hung at ancient tombs and imperial palaces in Hanoi and the old capital of Hue. Now, most of these products can be found on Hang Bong and Hang Gai souvenir streets in Hanoi.
Each craft village in Nam Dinh Province has a traditional craft, which is typical of the Vietnamese rural culture and offers an attractive insight to visitors. However, for years, craft village tourism in the province has not developed, due to weak links between craft villages and insufficient experience in managing and making the most of craft village tourism. Visitors to craft villages make up a small percent of all tourists to the province. Promotional activities remain amateur at best. The shortcomings are also due to bad planning, unfavorable transport and insufficient connections with other provinces in developing tourist products.
When it comes to comparisons among craft villages in Nam Dinh, only the bonsai village of Vi Khe has good transport, infrastructure and environment, which makes it possible for the village to host tours. In particular, this is also the only village in the province that has set up a website to advertise its craft village tourism. Nguyen Van Chien, the chairman of the Vi Khe Bonsai Association, said that as a result of many promotion activities in 2009, the village hosted 110 business groups from central organizations, neighboring provinces and foreign countries. This explains why Vi Khe has been able to earn VND180 billion from its bonsai business. About 60 groups, mostly agencies and universities in Hanoi and groups of companies, visited the village in 2010 to better understand the craft there. It is expected that craft tourism revenue in the village will total VND210 billion in 2010.
Nguyen Cong Khuong, the director of Nam Dinh Information and Tourism Promotion Center, said that the province recently launched a tour that travels through Xuan Thuy National Park, Pho Minh Pagoda, Tran Temple, Vi Khe bonsai village and Day Temple, and another from Tran Temple to Thinh Long Beach and Co Le Pagoda.
Chien said that to boost craft village tourism, the province needs to upgrade infrastructure, improve the environment, learn management lessons from neighboring provinces and apply incentive policies to craft villages to help them improve planning, the environment, village culture, infrastructure facilities, focusing on those craft villages with the potential to attract tourists. There is also a need to promote provincial tourism including craft village tourism via the mass media such as tourist publications to make craft village tourism a mainstay in Nam Dinh.