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Lucky Adventure Travel Indochina – Summer Promotion 2013

ACTIVETRAVEL ASIA has launched “Great summer holiday with lucky travels” for summer promotion 2013 in Vietnam, Lao, Cambodia. The program applies for all customers request tour on website from 25 March to 30 September 2013.

Conquering Fansipan Vietnam to be the champion

Fansipan is the highest peak of Vietnam, Laos and Cambodia, so it is called the “Roof of Indochina” while the local people call it Huasipan, which means large tottering rock.

Motorbiking Ho Chi Minh Trail, Vietnam - an unforgettable travel adventure

Riding a motorbike from the North to the South of Vietnam was an amazing experience. Now, while I didn’t ride the motorcycle on myself (Anthony did an amazing job!) it is still something that will remain with me for the rest of my life.

Discover Vietnam by cycling

People who had traveled to Vietnam agreed that it was an interesting experience in general, but the bicycle tours definitely brought more adventurous excitements.

A Look into Beautiful Halong Bay, Vietnam

Halong Bay has been declared a UNESCO World heritage site and it really deserves the designation. It is one of the most exciting unusual places I have been to in my life.

Tuesday, December 30, 2008

Halong Bay, Vietnam in my mind

These days, gas prices are soaring. Roads are dusty, and the weather is unbearably hot and humid. So I decided to plan my summer escape to Halong Bay by computer. What a wise and efficient decision!


One of our greatest discoveries began while conducting research on the Internet. We came across four words that perfectly described what we were seeking: Cruise Halong Bay. Active Travel Vietnam offers various upscale cruises & tours to Halong Bay. What we looked for was a combination of luxury, adventure, and unique experiences.


Photobucket Friendly World Heritage


From Active Travel company’s website, I was able to book a luxury cruise trip to Halong Bay, the UNESCO World Heritage site that lies 175km east of Hanoi. With a simple mouse click, it was done. I couldn’t wait to get out of the city for the weekend even though I had visited Halong Bay before.


Stepping out of the private car in Ha Long City, I was greeted at the private jetty Indochina Sails Junk staff. We then rode a small speed boat to board the junk. I remember that during my last trip to Halong Bay I had to wait at the dock behind a herd of tourists and a traffic jam of boats. Our junk was outfitted with 15 rooms made of aromatic wooden. The cruise itinerary was different from other tours. But I was most impressed by the personal service. We were welcomed with a cocktail, informed of the tour’s program and enjoyed great food and service that combined romantic tradition and modern luxury.


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Indochina Sails


My deluxe room on the upper floor provided everything you’d expect in a five-star hotel. I enjoyed the marble bathroom, and took a blissful shower before going up on deck for a drink at sunset. I lay down and let my mind escape, enjoying the sky in the beautiful and clear afternoon, the sound of the waves lapping on the boat’s hull as we cruised leisurely through a maze of small, rocky islands jutting from the calm and emerald waters.


The junk tour offered kayaking, boating, fishing activities. My travel colleagues and I enjoyed ourselves over a glass of wine while other guests enjoyed swimming on Soysim Beach.


For dinner, we enjoyed a BBQ meal while we exchanged stories with other fellow travelers. Sitting next to me was a British couple who were also the guests of Active Travel Vietnam Company. After a few glasses of wine, they shared their 10-day experience in Vietnam and how they enjoyed the last night of their honeymoon holiday in Vietnam before returning home. “The service we received from Active Travel Vietnam was world class,” said Bernadette Tompar, who can’t wait to share her tales with family and friends in London.


If you also want to experience tours on Halong Bay in style or treat someone else, the place to check is: http://www.activetravelvietnam.com.


Please contact Indochinasails: Email: info@indochinasails.com or visit website: http://www.indochinasails.com


Monday, December 22, 2008

Merry Christmas on Halong Bay

Hello!!!! And Merry Christmas to everyone. Just spending Christmas in Halong Bay!

Merry Christmas with ActiveTravel Asia by active travel vietnam.

So I arrived to Vietnam a few days ago, the 20th to be exact. I took a flight from Vientiane, Laos to Hanoi. The airport in Vientiane has to be the smallest airport in a capital city anywhere! There were only 5 flights in and out all day long!!!! Anyway the flight was uneventful...thank goodness. And I arrived safetly at the airport. I had booked my tickets with two other Britts who I had been traveling with for a few days in Laos...so we took a taxi into the city. But then we went our seperate ways. I went to a guest house and checked in. Hanoi at first glance was nice....I thought I could live there...but after spending the next day walking around all day long, I was exhausted of navigating through the crowded streets, exhausted of hearing the never ending horns blaring in my ears, and scared to death that I would be knocked over by one of the motor bikes as it sailed past me! But other than the mere commotion that happens all the time there, it is a nice city. But I definately had to mentally prepair myself while on the plane to get ready to be ripped off or haggled at everystep of the way now that I am in Vietnam, as oppossed to clam and quite Laos.

The first night I was in Hanoi I went to a water puppet show. It was amazing! It was funny since the puppets immitate daily life, and they say that thousands of years ago this ancient form of entertainment was invented in the rice fields. I thought of this as the puppets were moving in the water, and it was hillarious! The way that they move and are coordinated with the other puppets it was amazing. A nice site to see in Hanoi.

Yesterday I took a (unfortunatley a small tour group) bus out to Halong Bay. Everyone said to take a small tour since it will cost about the same and the hassle can be massive it you try to organize and hire a boat by yourself once you get out here. But the "tour" hasn't been that great so far, especially for what I paid for it! We got a bus out here yesterday. Then we got on a boat. We sailed through Halong Bay. It was a beautiful day yesterday, sunny and blue skies, so it was nice to sit up on top of the boat on the deck and just watch all the small mountains pass by as we sailed along. The Bay was beautiful. We entered a cave, it was huge...nothing like the small cave I entered in Thailand...this one was completely lit, lit even with colored lights! Nothing to be sweating over here. We got back on the boat and sailed around some more. One hour of kayaking was suppossed to be included in the package deal, but there were only two inflatable kayaks on board our boat. So the guide stopped the big boat and four people at a time could "kayak" around a rock and back. There was only one paddle for each kayak so controlling the kayak was incredibly difficult! But it was nice to do, since there was almost a full moon starting to rise and it lit the bay. Then we slept on the boat last night.

This morning we arrived to Cat Ba Island. Some people from our group stayed on the boat to return back to Hanoi, they only booked a one day tour. But some of us continued on to check into our hotel for tonight. Then we headed out for a short hike. The hike itself was good, but the company was better, hillarious in fact! Three Australian girls returned back to the road after hiking for about 10 minutes, granted one was pretty sick. (Uh oh...guess the rest of this got cut off...I'll try to remember my train of thought!) Anyways, the guide left one girl to hike on her own...she ended up freaking out and screaming until we went to her rescue...don't blame her, I think I would have freaked out too, if I thught the guide sent me on my way to find my way back to the bus! Spent the rest of the day just wondering around...not much to do on the island, and the weather wasn't the greatest.

The next morning, Christmas moring we boarded our boat again, this time it was only me and two other people who had been with me the whole time on the boat. We pulled away from the dock and started sailing out...but 10 minutes later the captain got a call on his cell phone and we headed back to the dock to wait 30 more minutes for about 10 more people to come aboard. Same thing happened again once we got off the boat and back onto the bus....had been driving for 20 min and had to turn around to go back to pick up more passengers!

Lesson from this...I thought I paid a fair amount of money for this tour, but afterwards, having spoken with many other people, it turns out they paid much more for a different and better tour...so I guess the quality just all depends on how much money you fork out...guess I didn't pay enough!

Posted by annawojo on December 24, 2007 02:00 PM

Click here to have more information about tour on Halong Bay read more

If you are interested in cruise on Halong Bay, click here to experience

Friday, December 19, 2008

A Hanoi Christmas

(Michael Brosowski shared his unforgettable Christmas in Hanoi)

The big question on everyone’s lips at the moment is: “Do you miss being home for Christmas?”

Of course, the answer isn’t as simple as a ‘Yes’ or a ‘No’. After all, my home is in Hanoi. I don’t have a home in Australia.


Santa Claus

And as nice as it is to see my family when I go back, there is a very real sense in which I have a family here in Vietnam – albeit a very large, diverse family...

With Christmas on a Sunday this year, we took the opportunity to turn our regular events into special events. Soccer, which kicks off at 8am every Sunday, was played as normal, but at the end all the kids received an armload of presents donated by the United Nations International School. Big thanks to Julian Carey for initiating this, and to her husband David and son William, who drove out with her to the field on Christmas morning to make the Big Delivery!


Vincom Tower

Getting our kids organized is always a challenge, but when it came time for gift giving they all sat down in rows and our volunteers distributed 3 or 4 presents to every one of the 74 street kids. That’s a LOT of presents!

Our good friends Jennifer Davoli from the US, and Catherine DeVrye from Australia were there along with all of us from Blue Dragon to help with giving out the gifts… and to share in the tremendous excitement of the event. The kids were HUGELY thrilled with it all, and the parcels they received were really something. There were toys, books, soccer balls, shampoo, clothes, watches, hats… even a canned wombat (which, I believe, was not a real wombat…)


Hanoi Cathedral

Once the wrapping paper was discarded and the field was deserted, we were all off to more parties for the kids. A couple of dozen came by the Blue Dragon HQ to watch Tom and Jerry DVDs, and then at 11am our volunteer Tarah hosted a lunch for all of the kids who attend our weekly drumming circle. Lots of singing, eating, and making funny faces out of sweets!

I then headed to the home of Robert Gordon, the British Ambassador to Vietnam. His family has been exceptionally kind and supportive over the last year or so, and invited me to join their Christmas lunch. 24 hours on and I still feel full…


Lovely kids on Christmas day

And finally, a quiet evening with just a handful of kids – I wanted to spend some time with the young guys I have known through 4 Christmases, and who are now in full time employment. It was quite special, to share our memories of the last few years and look back on all that’s changed…

After all the excitement, Blue Dragon HQ was closed today (Boxing Day), although there were still a few kids about needing a hand with this or that. One of the Social Workers and I spent the afternoon at a hospital visiting Hung, one of the kids, who has been seriously ill with a lung disease but is starting to recover. He was even able to walk downstairs to sit outside with us, which is a huge leap from where he was just a month ago.


Christmas night

More on Hung in the next blog! For now, a big THANK YOU to everyone who has been emailing me about Ngoc, the young boy who was trafficked – your concern is appreciated.

And a happy Christmas to all!

For more tips on traveling to Vietnam and joining special Christmas season here, you can visit:
travel vietnam, travel hanoi, halong bay, halong cruise, sapa


Thursday, November 20, 2008

The Lost Temples of Angkor


Ruins fascinate people. We fly halfway around the world to marvel at the achievements and mysteries of defunct civilizations, and shake our heads in disbelief that there were predecessors capable of producing structures that would present an insurmountable challenge to modern architects and engineers. We stand humbled.

Strange as it is that anyone would wish to spend a vacation steeped in a feeling of profound humility, the booming popularity of the ruins of Angkor in Cambodia are testament to that fact.

This mind-numbing collection of massive stone temples, built between the 9th and 13th centuries, was rediscovered by French explorers in the Cambodian jungle in the 1860s and enjoyed in popularity with scholars and adventurers early in the last century.

However, from the mid-seventies until just a couple of years ago, Cambodia’s political turmoil made it impossible to go there without risk of being killed or taken hostage by the Khmer Rouge. Fortunately, that tragic chapter in the country’s history has been brought to a close and the temples are now safe and accessible. Suddenly, the site has become the must-see of Southeast Asia.

But unlike a lot of stylish travel destinations, this one lives up to the hype.

Here is the fact about visiting the ruins: There are lots of them, covering an area of 400 square kilometers, though most visit only a handful of temples, which are thankfully very close to each other.

The three most magnificent (and popular) temples are the Angkor Wat, the Bayon and Ta Prohm.

Angkor Wat: An Exercise in Belief

Nothing can prepare you for the impact when you first clap eyes on Angkor Wat. It is a massive square structure covering 500 acres, and as you get closer, it only gets bigger.

The structure represents a Hindu conception of the universe, an earth-bound model of the cosmic world. The center symbolizes Mount Meru, the five surrounding towers form the mountain’s peaks, the main wall portrays the mountains at the edge of the world and the moat the infinite oceans beyond.

It is not just the sheer size that impresses though. The presentation sets your heart a-flutter with anticipation. The long walk up the causeway to the main entrance builds the excitement, and as you enter, you find you have only just passed an outer wall. Going further, distracted and awed by the bas reliefs on every surface, is the first of three concentric chambers with hallways 400 meters long, and covered with thousands of bas relief sculptures.

Venturing further inward and upward, the center section looms overhead leading to the inner sanctum, a central tower shaped like a giant lotus bud more than 200 meters tall.

It’s a cause for reflection. The execution of such a structure would certainly have eaten up much of the Empire’s resources. Indeed, some scholars believe that the building of Angkor eventually led to its downfall. Social necessities would have to be well sorted out before undertaking such a project.

Imagine the coordination of the massive workforce cutting huge blocks of stone from hillsides, dragging them into place, and then of course the logistics of assembling thousands of stone masons, persuading them to chip out identical carvings and then heaving them into place. What on earth were they thinking?

Angkor Thom: City of a Thousand Faces


Within walking distance of Angkor Wat is the former city of Angkor Thom, which rivaled Ancient Rome in size and population. This contains a few significant ruins, including the Terrace of the Leper King, is a huge stone platform probably used for public events, and the Terrace of the Elephants, which is also believed to have served as a stage for large public ceremonies. Both feature meticulously executed stone carvings of both human and mythical figures.

The most fascinating section though is The Bayon, a temple built in the 12th century. Where Angkor Wat knocks you off your feet with its sheer size, the Bayon is eerily different. Its many towers feature more than 200 huge faces of the God-King Jayavarman rendered as Boddhisatva – the Buddha -- staring down through lidded eyes brimming with beatific confidence. It’s difficult not to be intimidated.

The outer walls are covered in carvings depicting vivid scenes of everyday life in 12th century Cambodia – from harvesting to battle. The inner temple is a maze of dark corridors. The lights at the ends of the tunnels open onto elevated courtyards, where that omnipresent face gazes down with benevolent disapproval.

Ta Phrom: Mother Nature Always Wins

While Angkor Wat was preserved by the continuous inhabitation of monks using machetes to keep the jungle at bay, or other structures undergoing restoration, the 12th century temple of Ta Phrom is in the same state as when it was first discovered by the 19th century explorers.

The temple roof caved in hundreds of years back and tree roots have patiently burst through the moss-encrusted stonewalls. Visitors must clamber over fallen blocks the size of Volkswagens.

There’s a lesson in here, and this is why Ta Phrom has been left untouched. Even the most impressive achievements of humans are dwarfed by nature’s relentlessness. However much we may conquer and subdue the earth, it persists in conquering and subduing us back.

If global society were to crumble tomorrow, (and it just might), the historians of some future civilization would sift through the rubble of New York City, marveling at the skeletal ruins of the World Trade Center and the Empire State Building and easily deduce much about the civilization that built them. After all, they were intended to make a statement in the first place.

The leaders of that civilization may even charge admission to look at our ruins, using the money to erect ambitious tributes to whatever it is that summons their own sense of awe.

It goes to show you. Previous civilizations have built great structures and committed great follies – usually at the same time. Chances are that so are we, and the ruins of the Khmer Empire are a profound reminder of that fact – and perhaps one of the best reasons to go see them.

Here is your chance to experience Angkor Wat:

Adventure tours in Cambodia: Active Travel Cambodia

Active Travel Cambodia: Email: cambodiaadventureguide@gmail.com, http://www.activetravelcambodia.com

Monday, November 10, 2008

Ha Long_ a combination of people and sceneary!

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We arrived at this UNESCO World Heritage site in northern Vietnam's Gulf of Tonkin, we badly needed a break from the mad motor-scooter traffic of the nation's second-largest city, the swarming pineapple vendors and the ceaseless capitalist hustle.

Three days of swimming, kayaking and just chilling on the deck of the Dragon's Pearl, with drink in hand, were the ideal respite and one of the high points of our two-week trip to Vietnam in October.

A fascinating drive


My husband, Dave, and I chose the cruise of Ha Long Bay because of its proximity to Hanoi and its World Heritage designation. Still, the 105-mile van trip takes almost half a day -- Vietnam's highway system is still a work in progress and buses and trucks share the road with darting motor scooters, bicycles and plodding water buffalo.

Ha Long City's harbor, a gateway shipping port supplying this fast-developing region, is on the dreary side. In fact, I was having second thoughts about this trip as we dragged our suitcases along a rutted path past rusting, crumbling buildings to the ship, a deluxe junk.

But once we were headed into the bay, the breeze and the view from the motorized Dragon Pearl's top deck, along with our "welcome" glasses of iced tea, lifted my spirits.

So did our cabin. Our room -- like the others on the junk -- was small but contained plenty of amenities, including a king-sized bed, a minute bathroom complete with terry bathrobes and rubber flip-flops, and air conditioning, necessary to cut through the withering heat and humidity.

The first afternoon, our ship and several others dropped anchor at a deserted beach on the tiny island of Soi Sim, where we swam and lounged away the rest of the day. The water was calm and warm, but apart from the setting, this was the least memorable outing of our cruise.

Escalating tourism in the region, perhaps because of its World Heritage designation, has generated litter and pollution. So, here, miles from anywhere, plastic drink bottles and candy wrappers floated in the water and washed up on the sand.

A couple of hours later, we were back on board. With a school of silvery jumping fish as our escort, our ship headed northeast toward the Hang Luon grotto, where the Dragon Pearl dropped anchor for the night in the company of several other junks.

Before dinner, we hung out on the chaise longues arrayed on the ship's deck, watching as the peaks surrounding us turned a dusky blue and lights on the neighboring junks twinkled on.

Have kayak, will paddle

We were lucky to have gotten tour guide with disarming charm and deep knowledge of the area's geology and culture, as our guide. He was never far away and always eager for the chance to improve his English.

We were also lucky in our fellow cruisers, an amiable bunch that included some friends. Our two evenings out on the top deck, trading stories and watching night fall, were among the few times I relished being outdoors in Vietnam's blistering heat.

But the highlight of the trip was a kayaking tour on the second day. I had been dubious about this -- I had never squeezed into a kayak before, and we were far out in the bay, close to the open waters of the gulf. I feared capsizing, not being able to keep up with the group and getting drenched if the threatening skies opened up.

It was nothing like that. Tour guide led the five kayaks in and around cliffs and through grottoes, pointing out birds, plants and the cliffs where monkeys nest The skies held, and when we beached the boats at noon on an uninhabited island, the sun came out in time for a swim.

In fact, all our meals were extraordinary. Lunch and dinner aboard the ship were multiple-course, white-tablecloth affairs that usually included soup, locally caught prawns and fish, chicken, stir-fried vegetables and terrific tofu dishes. Breakfast was a buffet of fresh fruit and baked goods served outdoors on the ship's middle deck.

That afternoon, we paddled some more, at one point passing a lone fisherman casting his net. His wooden rowboat rocked gently. A teapot perched on the stern. One large fish, Bien told us, would net him about $10, a good day's wages.

The next morning, our ship steamed to Sung Sot Cave, one of the area's largest and most impressive limestone caverns, spanning 12,000 square yards inside. The entrance required a short hike up several flights of stone steps to a spot high above the bay. Here, you can see water at work, dripping from the ceiling and pooling on the floor in ponds so still and mirror-like that it left me disoriented.

That afternoon, we headed to Ha Long Harbor for the return trip to Hanoi. Back in our hotel, as the horns of a thousand motor scooters honked outside our window, I realized the cruise had given me a different impression of Vietnam.

If Hanoi is like 4 million people on Red Bull, Ha Long Bay is where time stops, where the old ways of doing things endure and where it's quiet enough to breathe deeply and hear fish leap from the water.

Recommended vessels for Halong cruises
The Indochina Sails Email: info@indochinasails.com, http://www.indochinasails.com/
More cruises on Halong Bay - Active Travel Shop, #31, Alley 4, Dang Van Ngu street, Hanoi, Vietnam, (844) 3573 8569.
Adventure tours on Vietnam - Active Travel Vietnam









Thursday, October 23, 2008

Kayak Halong Bay tours: The World’s Nature Heritage of Vietnam

Ha Long Bay (also “Halong Bay”) is in northern Vietnam, 170 km east of Hanoi. The bay is famous for its scenic rock formations

If you thought the hideout in the James Bond film “The Man with the Golden Gun” was spectacular, imagine a place where there are 3,000 such limestone islands clustered together in the East Sea of Halong Bay. Paddle through caves into secret lagoons, drift down channels surrounded by cliffs and forest and sail out into the open sea. Relax on the deck of our luxurious double-sailed junk and look forward to seafood bought straight from passing fishing craft. Swim alone amongst the limestone islets under the stars and take a breather at a floating village hidden amongst the islands. Our fiber glass sea kayaks make for satisfying travel, whether you are an Olympic champion or first time enthusiast.

GETTING THERE

The best way to get to Ha Long Bay is to rent a car from Hanoi from a tour opganizer as ActiveTravelVietnam (ATV). It costs approximately US$100-US$120 return. There is also a tourist open bus service offered by travel agencies around the Hoan Kiem Lake in Hanoi. Cost is around US$8 net/person/way.

Public buses leave from Long Bien Station to the Bai Chay Station (other side of Red River, 5km from Hoan Kiem Lake) every 30 minutes from 6AM to 6PM and cost 50,000 dong/person each way. This is not recommended for foreign travelers, as these buses are often crowded, slow and unsafe.

THE POPULAR TRAIL (starting from Hanoi)

Day 1: You leave Hanoi for Halong Bay at 8.30am with a short break for refreshment at a handicraft centre. Upon arrival in Halong City you will board a Chinese-style wooden boat (locals call it “Junk”) for a fine seafood lunch and a short cruise to one cave. After a short exploration of the cave you start the kayak exploration of the bay, paddling through an amazing area of limestone islets, passing a floating village to reach Luon Cave, which is a tunnel thrusting through a mountain. Paddling through the tunnel to explore a beautiful secluded lagoon. End of the first with dinner and overnight in AC, private junk’s cabin.

Day 2: This kayaking day starts from Van Chai Floating village and then continue paddling to Dark Cave. The cave is a 200m long, dark tunnel thrusting through a limestone mountain. The tunnel is the only entry to a secluded and beautiful lagoon. You can also explore some other caves nearby. After lunch you paddle to Ba Trai Dao Lagoon, along a stunning and fairly rough sea channel, to explore its beautiful beaches. Then continue paddling to Lan Ha Bay, which is smaller than Halong Bay but much more interesting with lots of secluded beaches.

Day 3: Breakfast is served on the junk and you will enjoy the sundeck while the Junk navigates amazing rock formations of Bai Tu Long Bay to get back to Halong City. Lunch on the junk before heading back to Hanoi by bus.

WHEN TO KAYAK

You can do kayaking on the bay all year around but great time is between October and June. A typical kayaking day starts at about 8.00 am after breakfast. Lunch will be served on support boat. At the end of a kayaking day, we would return to the junk by 5 pm or 5.30 pm.

TRAVEL GEARS

On this trip ATV use hard-cell, tandem kayak. Paddle, life-jacket and dry bag are available. We recommend you to bring some extra gears such as Sun block, hat, anti-insect repellent, sunglasses, rain coat. The kayak tour with well-trained and experienced tour guide is always recommended for a best exploration.


For more information about kayaking on Halong Bay, visit these websites

vietnam travel, vietnam tours, Kayak Halong Bay, Halong Bay Kayking tours, Halong Bay junks,

Wednesday, October 22, 2008

Sapa Overview

Sapa Overview magnify
This article offers main Sapa travel information, including Sapa history, Sapa travel tips, weather and ethnic minority people such as H’mong, Dzao etc… And other helpful guide likes orientation, maps, internet access, money, post.


The Queen of the Mountains, Sapa sits overlooking a beautiful valley, lofty mountains towering over the town on all sides. Welcome to the destination in northwest Victual way to another world of mysterious minority cultures and luscious landscapes. The spectacular scenery that surrounds Sapa includes cascading rice terraces that spill down the mountains like a patchwork quilt. The mountains are often shrouded in mist that rolls back and forth along the peaks, offering tantalizing glimpses of what lies in wait on a clear day. The valleys and villages around Sapa are home to a host of hill-tribe people who wander town to buy, sell and trade.



In a beautiful valley close to the Chinese border, Sapa is a former hill station built in 1922. History has not always been Sapa, and the series of conflicts that swept over Vietnam nearly saw it wiped off the map. From WWII, successive wars against the French and the USA, not forgetting the more recent border skirmish with China in 1979, took their toll. The old hotels built by the French were allowed to fall into disrepair and Sapa was forgotten by all but a handful of residents.

With the advent of tourism, Sapa has experienced a renaissance. Bad roads have been upgraded, many streets have been given names, countless new hotels have I up, the electricity supply is reliable and the food has improved immeasurably. Inherent in all of this prosperity is cultural change for the Montagnards, many of whom are now well versed in the ways of the cash economy and are reaping the financial rewards of the tourism influx. The downside is a building boom that has seen one hotel after another raise the roof in a continual quest for better views. Height restrictions are rarely enforced and the Sapa skyline is changing for the worse.

Another inconvenience that will not change is the weather. If you visit off-season, don*t forget your winter woollies. Not only is it cold (like 0oc), but winter brings fog and drizzle. Quite why the French alighted on this spot is difficult to comprehend: it must have been one of those rare clear days when the views are to die for. The chilly climate does have its advantages, however. The area boasts temperate zone fruit trees bearing peaches and plums, and gardens for raising medicinal herbs.

The dry season in Sapa lasts from around January to June. January and February are the coldest (and foggiest) months. From March to May the weather is often excellent, and the summer is warm despite the rains between June and August. The window from September to mid-December is a rewarding time to be in Sapa, though there is a bit of lingering rain at the start and the temperature dips by December.

Sapa would be of considerably less interest without the H’mong and Dzao people, the largest ethnic groups in the region. The billowing red headdresses of the Red Dzao are visible all over town, a surreal sight amid the accelerating development. The H’mong are more numerous and canny traders. Their villages may look medieval but most will have a mobile phone and an email address to stay in touch. Traditionally, they were the poorest of the poor, but have rapidly learnt the spirit of free enterprise. Most of the Montagnards have had little formal education and are illiterate, yet all the youngsters have a good command of English, French and a handful of other languages.

If possible, try to visit during the week, when Sapa is less crowded and more intimate. Crowds flock to Sapa for the Saturday market, but a smaller market is held every day. There is plenty to see on weekdays, and there are lots of interesting villages within walking distance of the centre.

Orientation

There is some confusion regarding Pho Cau May and D Muong Hoa. Note that places on the western side use Pho Cau May as their address while locations on the eastern side use D Muong Hoa.

MAPS

The Sapa Tourist Map is an excellent 1:60,000 scale map of the walking trails and attractions around Sapa, plus an inset of the town. The Sapa Trekking Map is a nice little hand-drawn map showing trekking routes and the town, produced by Covit. Both cost 20,000d.

Information

INTERNET ACCESS
Internet access is available in countless hotel and travel offices around town, usually from 5000d per hour.

MONEY
The banking situation has improved considerably in Sapa, with a real bank complete with an ATM. Most hotels accept US dollars, but expect a worse exchange rate than in Hanoi.

BIDV Tel:872 569; Ngu Chi Son Str – Open: 7-11.30am & 1.30 - 4.30pm Currently the best all-rounder in town, with an ATW, plus exchange of travelers cheques and cash. It is by the lake in the new part of town.

POST Main post office Ham Rong Str International phone call can be made here, but for postal services ifs better to hang on and consign things from Hanoi, as it is much faster. Internet access is also available.

If you are fond of discovering an insividual Sapa, please visit the website:

activetravelvietnam.com

Thursday, October 16, 2008

Boat trip in Halong Bay, unforgettable!!!

Once in the north of Vietnam, we had to decide whether going to Sapa or to Halong Bay because our one month tourist visa was running out soon. Two factors determined our choice: on one hand, the bad weather conditions in the northwest region of Vietnam, on the other hand, a tropical storm which had flooded and incomunicated the northern region of Sapa, leaving hundreds of deads and homeless people behind. We could only go then for a boat trip in Halong Bay. As it is usual on our trip, we asked for advice in many different travel agencies and checked the internet to make our move independently with all the info available. This is how we found Indochina Sails, a tour operator based in Halong bay, who offers tailor made boat trips for independent travellers.

halong-bay2.JPG

We booked a 3 days/2 nights trip and paid about 200USD each. We arranged more or less the plan for everyday: sail in the morning to a nice spot, go on the kayak for a while to hidden lagoons and caves and have a swim, then eat and do the same in the afternoon in another spot. Overall we wanted to avoid tourist places and crowds. We wanted to go further away than the normal tours go. We wanted to be alone most of the time and sleep in a different secluded place every night. We wanted many things and almost all of them were accomplished. You can contact Mr Tony, the operator, through his website or under info@activetravelshop.com.

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Halong Bay is spectacular and the weather conditions were great (sunny, cloudy and few big storms during the nights, which gave a feeling of adventure to the whole experience), as well as the arrangements of the organizer. Basically we had a wooden and bamboo sail boat for four people –we were travelling with two other spanish guys together- entirely at our service. We could decide where to go and where not to go, if we wanted to stay longer or not. We could stop the boat and take the kayaks or just jump off the boat for a refreshing swim in the middle of nowhere –with some restrictions, of course. The crew, Tim and Hum -at least this is how their names sounded to us- were great although we had kind of communication problems sometimes, when we had the feeling they had not understood what we were asking for. They cooked so well and so much that we are missing their food a lot now –we have to say that we ate the same lunch and dinner during the 3 days with slightly variations, but still great food!

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If we sumarize the trip, it was awesom!Just some tips if you are planning to do a similar tour: fix the route and what you are interested in seeing –it is enough to have an approximate idea, you can change plans once in the boat-. Insist on it once onboard. Ask for a map to be able to locate yourself at anytime –we didn’t do it and missed it- and corroborate you are doing what you were promised to. Ask in advance any question you may have and above all, enjoy the experience!!!

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If you interested in a wonderful trip like this you can visit Halong Bay cruises, Halong Bay junks, vietnam travel for more information.

Thursday, October 2, 2008

Trek Mai Chau - The heart of a beautiful valley

Trek Mai Chau tours by you.

Mai Chau Valley



Mai Chau is the heart of a beautiful valley that is a world away from the hustle of Hanoi. The modern village is an unappealing sprawl, but as you emerge on the rice fields and rural living is transformed into a real paradise. It’s a stunning area, and the most people here are ethnic White Thai, distantly related to tribes in Thailand, Laos and China.

Although most local no longer wear traditional dress, the Thai women are masterful weavers who ensure that there is plenty of traditional – style clothing to buy in the village centre. You will see women weaving on looms under or inside their houses in the village. Much of the silk looks similar to that seen in Laos. The Thai of Mai Chau are less likely to employ strong-arm sales tactics than their H’mong counterparts in Sapa: Polite bargaining is the norm rather than endless haggling.

GETTING THERE

Mai Chau is 135km from Hanoi and just 5km south of Tong Dau junction on High Way 6. There’s no direct public transport to Mai Chau from Hanoi; however, buses to nearby Hoa Binh (25,000 d, two hours) are plentiful. From Hoa Binh there are several scheduled buses to Mai Chau (20,000d, two hours) daily. Usually these stop at Tong Dau junction; a xe om (motorbike taxi) from there to Mai Chau proper will cost about 15,000d.

Theoretically, foreigners must pay a 5000d entry to Mai Chau. There is a toll booth at the state-run guesthouse on the “main” road. More often than not, there is nobody there to collect the fee.

THE POPULAR TRAIL (Departing from Hanoi)

Day 1: You leave Hanoi for Mai Chau at 8.30 am. After 4-hr beautiful bus ride you will reach Pom Coong, a village of the Thai ethnic minority in Mai Chau valley. After a lunch in Pom Coong Village, you take light walk on village road to Xo, a village of the Thai ethnic minority. Dinner and overnight in a local house.

Day 2: After breakfast at the home stay you say goodbye to the host and walk to Buoc Village. On the way you would see villagers working on rice paddies and children going to school. Lunch on the way and in the afternoon, you will reach the beautiful village of Van. Homestay overnight.

Day 3: After breakfast at the home stay, you will walk on village roads which run between mountains and rice paddies. Reaching place for lunch stop, Van Mai village, around 11:30am. Lunch in a local house before taking a bus ride back to Hanoi. You would arrive in Hanoi around 5.30pm. Trip completes in Hanoi.

WHEN TO TREK

The best time to visit Mai Chau - Pu Luong is any time. One of the principal tourist lures of the area is its equitable climate. There aren’t any extremes of climate here, nor are there extremes of temperatures here. What you have are three principal seasons, hot, rainy and cold, with variations in temperature and the rainfall.

THE TREKKING DAY

A typical trekking day start at about 8.30 am after breakfast. Lunch times can vary depending on the terrain. We aim to reach the next overnight stop by 4.30 or 5. During the trek we will have short breaks for rest, snack and photographing.

Source: Trek Mai Chau vietnam travel, Trek Fansipan & Sapa Travel, Halong Bay cruises

Sunday, July 27, 2008

Halong Bay: The World’s Nature Heritage of Vietnam

Ha Long Bay (also “Halong Bay”) is in northern Vietnam, 170 km east of Hanoi. The bay is famous for its scenic rock formations

If you thought the hideout in the James Bond film “The Man with the Golden Gun” was spectacular, imagine a place where there are 3,000 such limestone islands clustered together in the East Sea of Halong Bay. Paddle through caves into secret lagoons, drift down channels surrounded by cliffs and forest and sail out into the open sea. Relax on the deck of our luxurious double-sailed junk and look forward to seafood bought straight from passing fishing craft. Swim alone amongst the limestone islets under the stars and take a breather at a floating village hidden amongst the islands. Our fiber glass sea kayaks make for satisfying travel, whether you are an Olympic champion or first time enthusiast.
GETTING THERE
The best way to get to Ha Long Bay is to rent a car from Hanoi from a tour opganizer as ActiveTravelVietnam (ATV). It costs approximately US$100-US$120 return. There is also a tourist open bus service offered by travel agencies around the Hoan Kiem Lake in Hanoi. Cost is around US$8 net/person/way.
Public buses leave from Long Bien Station to the Bai Chay Station (other side of Red River, 5km from Hoan Kiem Lake) every 30 minutes from 6AM to 6PM and cost 50,000 dong/person each way. This is not recommended for foreign travelers, as these buses are often crowded, slow and unsafe.
THE POPULAR TRAIL (starting from Hanoi)
Day 1: You leave Hanoi for Halong Bay at 8.30am with a short break for refreshment at a handicraft centre. Upon arrival in Halong City you will board a Chinese-style wooden boat (locals call it “Junk”) for a fine seafood lunch and a short cruise to one cave. After a short exploration of the cave you start the kayak exploration of the bay, paddling through an amazing area of limestone islets, passing a floating village to reach Luon Cave, which is a tunnel thrusting through a mountain. Paddling through the tunnel to explore a beautiful secluded lagoon. End of the first with dinner and overnight in AC, private junk’s cabin.
Day 2: This kayaking day starts from Van Chai Floating village and then continue paddling to Dark Cave. The cave is a 200m long, dark tunnel thrusting through a limestone mountain. The tunnel is the only entry to a secluded and beautiful lagoon. You can also explore some other caves nearby. After lunch you paddle to Ba Trai Dao Lagoon, along a stunning and fairly rough sea channel, to explore its beautiful beaches. Then continue paddling to Lan Ha Bay, which is smaller than Halong Bay but much more interesting with lots of secluded beaches.
Day 3: Breakfast is served on the junk and you will enjoy the sundeck while the Junk navigates amazing rock formations of Bai Tu Long Bay to get back to Halong City. Lunch on the junk before heading back to Hanoi by bus.
WHEN TO KAYAK
You can do kayaking on the bay all year around but great time is between October and June. A typical kayaking day starts at about 8.00 am after breakfast. Lunch will be served on support boat. At the end of a kayaking day, we would return to the junk by 5 pm or 5.30 pm.
TRAVEL GEARS
On this trip ATV use hard-cell, tandem kayak. Paddle, life-jacket and dry bag are available. We recommend you to bring some extra gears such as Sun block, hat, anti-insect repellent, sunglasses, rain coat. The kayak tour with well-trained and experienced tour guide is always recommended for a best exploration.
Source: Kayak Halong Bay
Active Travel Asia # 303, 3rd Floor, Building 30 Nguyen Du Street, Hanoi, Vietnam
Phone: +84 4 9446230 | Fax: +84 4 9446231 |
VIETNAM | CAMBODIA | LAOS |MYANMAR | TRAVEL SHOP

Monday, July 14, 2008

Crazy Luxury cruises Summer Promotion in Halong Bay Vietnam

Exploring the world heritage site and overnight on board - 2 DAYS 1 NIGHT
( VALID FROM 15 JULY – 31ST AUGUST 08)


1. Superior cabin: 135 USD/ Twin shared – 210 USD/ single supplement
2. Deluxe cabin: 155 USD/ twin shared – 260 USD/ single supplement

INCLUDED •Superior Double/Twin (Twin shared)
Shuttle bus return Hanoi - Halong Bay – Hanoi
• Candlelight Dinner BBQ Seafood dinner with Big choice of fresh local sea foods and others dishes
• Welcome Drink
• Entrance and Sightseeing Fees.
• Luxury en-suite air-conditioned Cabins
• Vietnamese Set Lunch Menu
• International Breakfast Buffet
• Onboard Insurance
• Tax and Service Charges
EXCLUDED• International Wine tasting - A select wine list for 1 hour free flow from Spain, Chile,US, Italy
• Kayaking on Halong Bay
• Visa Arrangements
• Beauty Spa Services and Massage
• Kayaking
• Beverages
• Tips and Personal Expenses
• All other services not clearly mentioned above
Terms & Conditions
• Cruise rates based on group of two adults
• This promotion applies for new bookings made and paid directly by guests
• This promotion could not combined with other promotion
• Advance reservation required
• Supplement cabins for normal walk-in rate without extras
• Other terms and conditions apply
• Available on Indochina Sails I and II only
Cruise Itinerary and program for 2 days on Halong Bay

For reservations, Please email info@indochinasails.com
More information at: http://www.halongbay-cruises.co.uk/
Supported by Active Travel Shop, Active Travel Vietnam, New 7 wonders 2008





Tuesday, February 19, 2008

Ha Long Bay: the heavenly castles on earth with Victory Cruises

Ha Long Bay: the heavenly castles on earth

Halong Bay is the jewel in the crown of Vietnam cruise travel destinations. Located 165km (102 miles) East of Vietnam's capital Hanoi, the 150,000 ha (370,658 acre) Halong Bay lies on Vietnam's Northeastern coast in the Gulf of Tonkin. Not only are Halong Bay's approximately 1,600 limestone islands and statuesque pillar islets and outcrops breathtakingly beautiful, the bay is deeply entrenched in Vietnam's history and mythology, and the folklore of the surrounding regions.

The Sino-Vietnamese "Ha Long" literally translates as "Descending Dragon". The true origins of the name are shrouded in mystery. Some say the name comes from a traditional Vietnamese legend; others say that the bay was given the name by the French during their colonial rule of Vietnam. Whatever the truth, there is no disputing Ha Long Bay's unique beauty. The World Heritage Foundation even says "Apart from Halong Bay, there are no equivalent sites on the World Heritage List …".

The Halong Bay World Heritage site is universally recognized worldwide for the value of its exceptional geology and distinctive biodiversity. The captivating seascape vistas, tranquil azure waters, diverse marine life and the rich culture of the local people only add to the charm and enchantment of cruising Halong Bay.
Halong Bay cruises have been a Vietnamese favorite for centuries. The restful waters, expansive skies, abundant aquatic life and the serenely majestic outcrops, islands and islets captivate all who experience them.

One of famous luxury brand name, Victory Star Cruises are now cruising on Halong Bay.

Vote for Halong Bay to be one of the New 7Wonders of Nature. Supported by Victory Cruises - Halon Bay, Active Travel Vietnam & Active Travel Shop

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