Huge crowds trekked to the remote rice terraces of northern Vietnam on Saturday to see a "crystal cloud" installation featuring 58,000 shimmering beads aimed at boosting beads in a region better known for agriculture than bling-inspired public art.
Local farmers mingled with curious tourists to capture photos of the netting decorated with Swarovski crystals and draped over towering bamboo and steel poles on the top of the terraced hill in Yen Bai province.
Some were in awe of the unexpected display in the far-flung rice field.
"This is very unique, I've never seen any outdoor exhibit like this," said tourist Vu Chi Bao. "When the sun shines and reflects on the crystals... it looks wonderful."
Farmer Lu Thi Ly was amazed at the growing crowds coming to the site.
"We can't believe this many people know about these rice terraces now, these crystals have made them more popular," he said.
But not all were dazzled.
The "crystal cloud" is a netting decorated with Swarovski crystals and draped over towering bamboo and steel poles on the top of the terraced hill in Yen Bai Province, Vietnam. Photo by AFP
Several people took to social media to complain about the flashy installation, saying it tarnished the area's natural landscape.
"I don't know what is beautiful about it, the original nature is already a masterpiece. It's just going to ruin it," Facebook user Luu Bich posted.
Vietnam is racing to develop its tourism sector in a bid to boost its economy and catch up with more popular Asian destinations like Thailand and Malaysia.
But it has also come under fire for forging ahead with controversial tourism projects.
The "crystal cloud" has attracted many locals and tourists. Photo by AFP
A cable car to the country's highest mountain in northern Sa Pa sparked outrage from some locals when it opened in 2016, and a similar project proposed in a remote cave in central Vietnam has drawn scorn in recent months.
Organizers said they hope to tick up tourist visits to Yen Bai and "open dialogue to create arts in public spaces," according to the event's official Facebook page.
Some 500,000 tourists visited the northern province last year, compared to 6.9 million to better-known Ha Long Bay and 2.5 million people to Sa Pa, according to official statistics.
The figures include domestic tourism, which is fast-growing in Vietnam as officials try to draw visitors to sites like Yen Bai on the road less traveled.
The crystal cloud display is open until the beginning of harvest season in October.
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