FIELD OF DREAMS: Visitors walk around the Crystal Cloud art installation on top of a hill in Yen Bai province

PUBLIC ART INSTALLATION AIMS TO BRING TOURISTS TO REMOTE VIETNAM HILLS HUGE crowds trekked to the remote rice terraces of northern Vietnam to see a “crystal cloud” installation featuring 58,000 shimmer­ing beads aimed at boost­ing tourism in a region better known for agricul­ture than bling-inspired public art. Local farmers mingled with curious tourists last month 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 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 the rice terraces now. These crystals have made them more popular,” he said. Organisers 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 Halong Bay and 2.5 million people to Sapa, according to official statistics. The figures include do­mestic tourism, which is growing fast in Vietnam as officials try to draw visitors to sites like Yen Bai on the road less travelled. 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. The crystal cloud display is open until the beginning of harvest season in October.