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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.

Friday, December 18, 2009

Christmas in Vietnam

In Vietnam, Christmas was celebrated joyously with people thronging city roads right from Christmas Eve, which is often more important than Christmas Day!

Christmas, Vietnam

Christmas is one of the four most important festivals of the Vietnamese year, including the birthday of Buddha, the New Year and the Mid-autumn Festival. Although the Christians observed the religious rituals of Christmas.

Traditional Vietnamese religions are Buddhism and the Chinese philosophies of Taoism and Confucianism. However, during French rule, many people became Christians, that occupy 8 to 10 percent of whose population. This is because the Vietnamese are a fun-loving, sociable people and the various Vietnam festivals and events are actually occasions for them to a gala time, all together. Christmas in Vietnam is a grand party.

History Of Christmas In Vietnam

Christmas in Vietnam has had a tumultuous history. The Catholics are a minority in Vietnam but they used to celebrate Christmas in Vietnam quite in peace right from the days of the French rule. That is until the Communists took over political power in 1975. The church-state relations soured during that time and the Catholics were relegated to celebrating Jesus’s birthday in privacy.

Since the end of the Vietnam War in 1975, church-state relations have not always been smooth. However, they have been improving since the introduction of economic reforms in the late 1980s. Liberalist policies adopted since the 1980s saw Vietnam warming up to western influences and ideals and Christmas in Vietnam came back triumphantly. Now Christmas is one of the major festivals in Vietnam, celebrated with much fanfare by all religious communities.

Phat Diem Cathedral in Ninh Binh Province is considered the spiritual home for the seven million Catholics who live in Vietnam, a predominantly Buddhist nation. Hundreds of Catholics gather for Christmas Eve Mass in the northern city of Phat Diem. Children staged a nativity play to celebrate the birth of Jesus Christ - or Kito, as he is known in Vietnamese -- in front of the city's cathedral, built in 1891.

Christmas In Vietnam

Christmas in Vietnam is a huge event, especially in Ho Chi Minh City, Vietnam and the Vietnamese Christmas celebrations here are like any other city in the western world. The Christians in Vietnam attend a Midnight mass on Christmas Eve and return home to a sumptuous Christmas dinner. The Christmas dinner usually consists of chicken soup while wealthier people eat turkey and Christmas pudding.

Christmas tree at Fortuna Hotel (Hanoi,Vietnam)


On Christmas Eve, Vietnamese people in Hanoi and Ho Chi Minh City, especially young people, like to go into the city centre, where there is a Catholic Cathedral. The streets are crowded with people on Christmas Eve and in the city centre cars are not allowed for the night.

People celebrate by throwing confetti, taking pictures and enjoying the Christmas decorations and lights of big hotels and department stores. Lots of cafes and restaurants are open for people to enjoy a snack!

Vietnam used to be part of the French Empire and there are still French influences in the Christmas traditions. Many Catholic churches have a big nativity crib scene or 'creche' with nearly life size statues of Mary, Joesph, baby Jesus, the shepherds and animals. In some areas of Ho Chi Minh City, usually in Catholic parishes, people have big crib scenes in front of their houses and decorate the whole street, turning it into a Christmas area! These are popular for people to visit and look at the scenes.

Also like in France, the special Christmas Eve meal is called 'reveillon' and has a 'bûche de Noël' (a chocolate cake in the shape of a log) for desert. Vietnamese people like to give presents of food and at Christmas a bûche de Noël is a popular gift. Other Christmas presents are not very common, although some young people like to exchange Christmas cards.

The Yuletide spirit of giving and sharing has been embraced with an earnest by the Vietnamese. Generous as they are, the Vietnamese give out gifts and presents in plenty during the Christmas celebrations in Vietnam. However, the children are more keen to have their stockings and shoes stuffed in with goodies from Santa’s bulging sack. The European customs of Santa Claus and the Christmas tree were popular and children would leave their shoes out on Christmas Eve.

Merry Christmas in Vietnamese is “Chúc M?ng Giáng Sinh”!

Source: Vietnam-beauty


Recommendation for Christmas in Vietnam:

Ha Noi City tour

Ho Chi Minh City tour

Tuesday, December 15, 2009

Nature & nurture in Ha Giang, Vietnam

They grow their crops on the rocks and walk several kilometers of steep, cold mountain roads to buy and sell small goods, but the Mong families on the Dong Van Plateau are some of the most hospitable in the world.


Ha Giang Travel Vietnam
Family in Ha Giang Province Vietnam

After the long journey, settling into the silence and peace of a stop high mountain road in Ha Giang Province can be an arresting experience.

Vietnam’s northernmost province is located in the northwestern. Hoang Lien Mountains – the Tonkinese Alps as the French called them – near the border with China.

All’s quiet except for the whisper of the crisp breeze and the crunch of a local Mong family’s sandals on the road as they walk carrying large bamboo backpacks filled whatever produce or goods they’ve either just bought or are about to sell at the market.

The language barrier keeps us at a distance in one way, but the simple smiles of the family bring our two very different worlds close together.

Mesmerized by the strength and spirit in their faces, the natural beauty that surrounds us – limestone peaks creeping above a dense mist, vibrant green valleys descending into earth-red rivers – is equally enchanting. I’ve never met anyone who came here and didn’t want to come back.

The sturdy roads on the steep sides of the Dong Van Highlands tower above green corn fields in the summer and colorful valleys of wild flowers in the autumn and spring.

The carpet of colors – even on grey, overcast and otherwise dreary days – is breathtaking.

Life in the slow lane

The journey to Dong Van is not exactly easy, but it’s worth it.

At an altitude of more than 1,000 meters above sea level, the bends are sharp and the passes narrow for hours along the rocky plateau. Drive slow, especially if you go by motorbike, as the safety rails are not very high.

The motorbike is the most intense way to experience the trip, but most rides in Ha Giang are not only gorgeous, but also tiring and at times dangerous.

There is only one road connecting the town of Ha Giang to the smaller towns of Quan Ba and Yen Minh and then Dong Van and Meo Vac districts, the most remote part of the trip.

From Quan Ba, a beautiful road takes you on cliffs beside the Mien River. The road goes through several Mong villages before it lands in Dong Van Town, where the local Tay community has been living for around 200 years.

The French army landed here in the 19th century and there are still several rows of old French tile-roofed homes alongside other Vietnamese homes from the late 19th and early 20th centuries.

The Mong market is open every Sunday, producing a variety of different sounds and smells.

About 20km from Dong Van is Meo Vac Town, the capital of Meo Vac District. Meo Vac is famous for its “Cow Market” where 300-400 cattle are sold every Sunday in northern Vietnam’s largest bovine exchange.

The sellers, who can earn tens of millions of dong per animal, always invite the buyers to enjoy local wine after the transactions.

Meo Vac is near Dong Van, so some people go to both markets on a Sunday morning.

Happy trails

The road between Meo Vac and Dong Van may be one of the most beautiful in Vietnam.

But it has a sad history.

For years in the 50s and 60s, tens of thousands of migrant laborers from six surrounding provinces worked to break the mountain and build the road.

But due to wartime deprivation, many died of diseases and accidents. Now the road is known locally as the “Happy” road, perhaps for its beauty. But there is a monument commemorating the dead workers who built it.

The Dong Van Plateau is made even more beautiful by the Mong people who live there.

Life can be difficult for a poor Mong family, but in my years of visiting Ha Giang, I’ve never heard anyone complain or ask for a favor. The Mong always smile and are extremely friendly to visitors.

All the intricacies and grace of the Dong Van Highlands can hardly even be mentioned in this story alone. More stories will soon follow to elaborate on the culture, history and natural wonder of the area.

REACHING FOR RECOGNITION

The Dong Van Highlands, encompassing total area of more than 574 square kilometers in Ha Giang Province’s Quan Ba, Yen Minh, Dong Van and Meo Vac districts, could eventually be recognized as a UNESCO Global Geological Park.

UNESCO Vietnam has sent an application based on a recent study which concluded that limestone can be found in 11 layers on 80 percent of the surface of the plateau. Two of the layers are sediment dating from 400 to 600 million years ago.

How to get there

The highlands are about 450km north of Hanoi. Visitors can take National Road 2 by motorbike or ride in cars with fewer than 30 seats. A tour from Hanoi to the plateau should take four days and three nights. There are basically-equipped hotels in Ha Giang, Dong Van and Meo Vac.

Source: TN

How to find Ha Giang Adventure tours
- West to East Biking Exploration
- Motorcycling adventure in Northern Vietnam

Smooth sailing in Mekong Delta, Vietnam

My Tho Town offers a welcome respite from the rough and tumble of Ho Chi Minh City.

After five days of shop-till you-drop in Ho Chi Minh City, a splendid place for such activity, we were sorely in need of another short holiday to recover from this one.

“Why don’t you travel to My Tho this weekend?” a Saigon friend of mine, suggested. She described the perfect antidote to our days in HCMC: “It’s a peaceful, riverside town hidden in lush orchards.”


Float Market in Mekong Delta, Vietnam

A day trip to Tien Giang Province sounded like a great idea to us – me, this northern girl, and two friends of mine from Los Angeles.

On the road to this town, there was a curious sense of homecoming for me as my father used to work here as an engineer during the subsidy period.

My Tho is around 72 kilometers south of HCMC. Since the 17th century, the fertile land in the north of the Tien River has been reclaimed and developed by generations of inhabitants into an area lush and green with rice fields and orchards, and trade has thrived for centuries along its river banks.

As the road became broader and many small canals, green rice fields and orchards came into view, I knew we would be in My Tho before long.

In the town, we started to stroll aimlessly through peaceful lanes with no names, inhaling the fragrances of garden fruits carried by the breeze. Then we entered a small lane leading to one of the tributaries of the legendary Mekong River. It was noon and we could see the sun shining brightly and proudly on the magnificent river with many colorful boats sailing up and down.

Both banks of the river were bordered by water coconut groves and orchards. It was so peaceful it seemed that it was only yesterday I was walking with my father on the green banks of the river to the wooden wharf looking at pretty goby fishes swimming by.

“It’s so beautiful! I have seen this river in a film on old Indochina and I hope one day we can travel along this river up to Cambodia,” said my friend Robert Sheen.

Accepting our tour guide’s suggestion, we took a boat on the Mekong River and later moved to one steered by a woman in a conical leaf hat, through the red canals were shaded by water coconut trees. It was not difficult to blend into the surroundings with our silence broken only by the slapping sounds the boat made as it moved through the water.

“The water here is red because of the alluvial soil which creates fertile islands like Thoi Son, which we are going to visit now,” said Muoi, our tour guide.

On the island, sitting in the shade of the orchard, tasting its fruits plucked fresh off the trees, listening to don ca tai tu (amateur southern Vietnamese Opera) – it was exactly the experience we wanted. Then we walked around some gardens, listening to the crunch of dry leaves under our feet and watching, but not envying, the hard working tiny bees flying from one tree to another to make honey and pollinate flowers.

As the sky got darker, we had to travel back to HCMC. I was a bit jealous as I saw other relaxed tourists coming into the town. But I knew I would come back to My Tho to discover the place afresh, every time.

Reported by Thy Nga

Source: Thanhniennews.com

Recommendation in Mekong Delta, Vietnam:
- Mekong Delta Travel Guide
- Cruise Mekong Delta
- Mekong Explore Tour

Tuesday, December 8, 2009

ACTIVETRAVEL ASIA inspects Hoa Binh lake for new kayaking tour in Vietnam

ACTIVETRAVEL ASIA (ATA) inspects Hoa Binh reservoir, Vietnam to design a kayaking tour in this beautiful hidden area. This new kayaking tour will help tourists to have more options for exploring the Vietnamese natural charm by kayaking.

“We are going to launch this new adventure tour in Jan, 2010” said by Mr.Tony Tran - Product Manager.

Hoa Binh reservoir is located on a section of the Da River which has stream flow from Van nam Province, China to Phu Tho Province, Vietnam with total length is 910km including 383km of chinese territory and 527km of vietnamese territory.

Hoa Binh Lake, Vietnam


In Vietnam, the start point of the Da river is Muong Te district - Lai Chau Province. The river flows through the northwestern provinces of Lai Chau, Dien Bien, Son La, Hoa Binh, Phu Tho and ends at the Da Hong fork, Tam Nong district, Phu Tho province.

When the biggest hydro power plant in Southeast Asia – the Hoa Binh Hydro Power Plant – was under construction in the 1980s, the Da River was stopped up to keep water for a reservoir. The water level then rose and submerged the valley together with hundreds of mountains, turning them into islands.

Today, Hoa Binh reservoir is not only plays an important role in providing a huge of electricity for daily life, but also famous for its significant scenery. The reservoir is surrounded by many limestone hills with height from 10m - 100m above water surface. Islands of different shapes and sizes are embraced by the spacious reservoir. The water also brings out the green colors of the surrounding countryside.

Kayaking Hoa Binh Lake, Vietnam

"There is no word that can describe my feeling when I saw the reservoir. Nothing difference between here and Halong Bay but the geographical name” said by Mr. Tony Tran - Product Manager.

The ATA’s inspection team scans the Hoa Binh reservoir to design new outdoor tours for adventure travelers. The potential outdoor activities can be designed in this area is kayaking.

“If you find somewhere for kayaking, this is where to stop your search” added Tony.

Kayakers are able to have short break to visit temples or discovery caves along riverside.

If you need a light meal on the lake, Muong ethnic people can enchant you with the crispy roasted meat of the Muong boar. There’s a large number of Muong ethnic people living in the region.

ATA plans to launch new kayaking tours to Hoa Binh reservoir early Jan, 2010 and they would offer good promotion rate for first bookings. The new tours will be for travelers as it shows in the company’s motto “Actively exploring hidden lands.”

By Eric Nguyen

Kayaking Recommendation in Vietnam:

- Kayak Travel Guide
- Kayaking Tours in Vietnam

Thursday, December 3, 2009

Can Gio - Vietnam- top venue for nature lovers

About 50 kilometers from HCMC, the Can Gio Mangrove Forest, a world-class biological reserve recognized by UNESCO in 2000, is proving to be a top tourist destination with its system of canals, its spectacular ocean scenery and its tranquility.

Can Gio Biosphere Reserve

From the center of HCMC, there are two ways to the eco-tourist site. The first is biking or motor biking to the Binh Khanh Ferry which crosses the river and lands at Can Gio Street. A short ride down this street gets you to the Vam Sat Ecological Tourist Area in the Can Gio Mangrove Forest. The second, and more interesting way, is to board a canoe at the Bach Dang Wharf and glide down the Saigon, Soai Rap, Dinh Ba and Lo Ren rivers.

Can Gio conforms to the wishes of many tourists who want an easily-reached ecological area with features like history, culture and especially a vast wilderness. The Can Gio Museum displays antiques dating back 2,000 years, the astounding Rung Sac Revolutionary Base which represents a page of national history and an animal circus with tamed and untamed beasts, including crocodiles, excites visitors. There is a troupe of 1,000 monkeys that are always ready to have fun with tourists. Typical dishes of the area can be had at Rung Sac Restaurant and eateries that line the river.

The Vam Sat Ecological Tourist Area is one of the world’s Salt-Marsh biosphere preserves and is ideal for canoe trips to swampland where rare flying foxes and bats live high in the trees and crabs are caught for their succulent meat.

Tourists can also enjoy the local sport of teasing hungry crocodiles with food from the canoe. Floating on a top of a saltwater pool, visitors do not have to worry about drowning because the salt concentration is 10 times higher than seawater and the crocodiles do not come here.

The three-star Can Gio Resort is recommended with its 80 rooms and proximity to 30/4 Beach and is offering couples one night in a superior room for only VND500,000, a 50% discount for a second night and a 60% discount for a third night. Tourists will be discounted 10% entering Lam Vien Park (monkey island) which offers bicycling, tennis, karaoke, body massages and sauna-steambath services. The program runs from June 20 to September 20.

Can Gio Tourist Area is in Long Hoa Commune, in HCMC’s Can Gio District, tel: 3874 3335. The office of Can Gio Ecotourism Company is at 68A Nguyen Hue Boulevard, in HCMC’s District 1, tel: 3829 2969.

Soure: VietNamNet/SGT

Recommendation:

Vietnam travel guide

Tuesday, December 1, 2009

Ho Chi Minh Trail Vietnam, from soldier's road to tourist highway

HO CHI MINH HIGHWAY, Vietnam — If relentless American bombing didn't get him, it would take a North Vietnamese soldier as long as six months to make the grueling trek down the jungled Ho Chi Minh Trail. Today, you speed along the same route at 60 mph, past peaceful hamlets and stunning mountain scenery.

The trail, which played an important role in the Vietnam War, has been added to itineraries of the country's booming tourist industry. Promoters cash in on its history, landmarks and the novelty of being able to motor, bike or even walk down the length of the country in the footsteps of bygone communist guerrillas.

Women on bicycles make their way along a section of the newly built Ho Chi Minh highway near Vinh,Vietnam. David Longstreath, AP

Many sections of the old trail, actually a 9,940-mile web of tracks, roads and waterways, have been reclaimed by tropical growth. But a main artery has now become the Ho Chi Minh National Highway, probably the country's best and the largest public works project since Vietnam War ended 30 years ago.

The highway, more than 745 miles of which are already open to traffic, begins at the gates of Hanoi, the capital, and ends at the doorsteps of Ho Chi Minh City, which was known as Saigon when it was the former capital of South Vietnam.

In between, the route passes battlefields like Khe Sanh and the Ia Drang Valley, skirts tribal villages of the rugged Central Highlands and offers easy access to some of the country's top attractions — the ancient royal seat of Hue, the picturesque trading port of Hoi An and South China Sea beaches.

We began a recent car journey in the newly rebuilt city of Vinh, along one of the trail's main branches. Here in "Vietnam's Dresden," every building but one was obliterated by U.S. bombing, which attempted to stop the flow of foreign military aid through the city's port. American pilots also suffered their greatest losses of the war over its skies.

Nearby, in the rice-farming village of Kim Lien, is the humble hut where Vietnam's revolutionary leader Ho Chi Minh was born and a museum dedicated to his turbulent life. Given Ho's standing as a national icon, the village draws an average of 1.5 million domestic visitors and a smattering of foreigners each year.

It was on one of Ho's birthdays, on May 9, 1959, that construction of the trail began with the establishment of Military Transport Division 559, made up of 440 young men and women. Over the next 16 years, the trail, which also wound through neighboring Laos and Cambodia, carried more than a million North Vietnamese soldiers and vast quantities of supplies to battlefields in South Vietnam despite ferocious American air strikes.

"There are some who argue that American victory would have followed the cutting of The Trail," writes John Prados in "The Blood Road." "The Trail undeniably lay at the heart of the war. For the Vietnamese of the North the Ho Chi Minh Trail embodied the aspirations of a people ... hiking it became the central experience for a generation."

At Dong Loc, 18 miles south of Vinh, we stopped at one of many memorials to the thousands who didn't complete that hike — a hillside shrine with the tombs of 10 women, aged 17 to 24, killed in bombing raids. Joss sticks, flowers and the articles of female youth — pink combs and little round mirrors — lay on each of the last resting places.

"School children come here every day. It's important in educating the young about the sacrifices of the old generation," said Dau Van Coi, secretary of the local youth union guiding visitors to what was once a major trail junction. Exhibiting no hostility to American visitors, he noted that U.S. warplanes dropped more than three bombs per 10 square feet on the area.

Farther down the trail, at the Highway 9 National Cemetery, bemedaled veteran Nguyen Kim Tien searched for fallen comrades among the 10,000 headstones. An elderly woman and her daughter wept before three of them — those of the older woman's father, husband and a close relative.

Although it's still a trail of tears three decades after the guns fell silent, Ho's road looks decidedly to the future.

"We cut through the Truong Son jungles for national salvation. Now we cut through the Truong Son jungles for national industrialization and modernization," said former Prime Minister Vo Van Kiet when the 10-year project began in 2000.

The government says the highway will stimulate the economy in some of Vietnam's poorest, most remote regions, relieve congestion on the only other north-south road, National Highway 1, and increase tourism revenue. Besides conventional tours, several companies offer mountain biking along sections of the trail and expeditions on Russian-made Minsk motorcycles out of the 1950s.

However, the highway has sparked domestic and international criticism that it will lead to further decimation of Vietnam's already disappearing forests, attract a flood of migrants into ethnic minority regions from the crowded coast and disturb wildlife at several protected areas. The Switzerland-based World Wide Fund for Nature has criticized the project as "the single largest long-term threat to biodiversity in Vietnam."

So far, little of the officially hoped-for development is evident. In central Vietnam, one drives for long stretches meeting just the occasional Soviet-era truck, decrepit tractor or water buffalo-drawn cart as the highway winds through valleys flanked by spectacular limestone cliffs.

At some places like the A Shau valley town of A Luoi, just a few shacks and farm houses when seen five years ago, a mini-boom is clearly afoot. There's a bustling market selling baskets of fruit, Japanese watches and delicious French bread, and newly built houses abound.

From the highway, which expands to four lanes as it runs through the crossroads town, Dong Ap Bia looms in the hazy distance. American soldiers called it Hamburger Hill because of the number of lives ground up in the 1969 battle on its ridges.

Almost all traces of American presence in A Luoi have vanished. Only the old people can point out the helicopter landing field, now a school playground with a decrepit merry-go round featuring three little airplanes. The laughing youngsters who crowd around the foreign visitors know nothing of the war.

By Denis D. Gray, Associated Press

RELATED ITEMS
Ho Chi Minh Trail Tours: http://www.ridehochiminhtrail.com
Active Travel Vietnam offers motorcycle tours that last seven to 18 days; www.activetravelvietnam.com.

Wednesday, November 25, 2009

Buffalo tours of pottery town, Vietnam

Among the tourist sites surrounding Hanoi, the Bat Trang pottery village with 500 or more years of history, is an ideal place to visit, attracting a large number of people from the city – and foreign tourists. Slow and steady: Japanese visitors enjoy a buffalo cart tour around the pottery village.

Buffalo tours in Vietnam

Just 14km from central Hanoi, the village is easily reached by motorbike – the most popular transport means in Vietnam.

If you’re too lazy to drive yourself or are not game to sit on the back of a xe om or hired motorbike, you can catch a bus at Long Bien Bus Station.

This way takes three times as long, but it’s so cheap! Tickets only cost VND3,000 – about US$0.10. The bus will take you to the village pottery market, where more than 100 stalls present tens of thousands of ceramic and pottery products.

The items include fine celadon from an ancient tradition and other great examples of ceramic arts and crafts. The high quality porcelain is decorated with dragons and phoenix, flowers and images of people and landscapes, all reflecting daily and spiritual activities in Vietnam.

Visitors can spend several hours just browsing among the endless little shops, each with different wares produced in a different family kiln.

According to the head of the market management board, Tran Quoc Viet, the market welcomes a large number of visitors every weekend.

A group of middle-age women look happy with heavy sedge bags containing pottery products they bought in the market.

"Although my family has every household product, sometimes I and other neighbours call each other and go to the village. It’s the way we unwind," a woman cheerfully said.

For these women, beautiful ceramic objects, mostly at surprisingly affordable prices, are the main attraction. "I’ve bought a charming vase with the lotus motifs for just VND20,000," another woman said.

Thuy Linh, a grade-10 student, said she sometimes went to Bat Trang with a group of her friends. "Unlike other people who usually buy ceramic household products, we only pick up cute stationary or ceramic jewellery," she said.

"I’ve just bought a black-and-white Japanese Monokuro Boo pig, plus a keyholder with the ceramic initial ‘L’, the first character of my name, carved on it. My friend bought a wind chime and a cute piggy bank," she said.

There’s more than just searching among the stalls, tourists can also experience pottery artists a work – on the spinning wheel, painting objects when they dry or loading up the kilns.

Visitors can also make their own cups, dish, bowl, vase or animal – and they will receive the finished, fired product within a few days. Many villagers offer this service for VND10,000 to 30,000, depending on the size of product. "I relived my childhood when fiddling with a piece of clay," said Tuan Nam, a first-year student.

Recently, a new and relaxing way to see Bat Trang has been offered. A buffalo cart takes tourists around the village.

According to Nguyen Minh Hai, director of the Minh Hai Ceramic Company, who offers this first-ever service in the village, most who tour the village this way felt relaxed and interested because they could view the scenery at their leisure.

"The idea of using a buffalo cart to carry tourists was initiated when I went to Japan looking for business opportunities for our products. I realised the buffalo was easily recognised as a symbol of Vietnam – a rice producing country. So why not use farm animals to transport tourists around the village?" he said.

Before starting their cart journey, tourists are shown the way ceramic products are made in a workshop. Teams of young men and women work on production lines, baking, sanding and painting.

A journey around the village, a distance of about 2km, takes an hour. The price ranges from VND50,000 to 100,000 depending on the duration of the tour and how many stops are made. There are two buffalo carts working in the village, providing tours for about 100 visitors a day.

Like other villages in the north, the village hold its main festival in the second lunar month. This year, this fell in March. During the three-day festival, many traditional activities were held in and around the village temple, situated close to the steep banks of the majestic Hong (Red) River.

Among the various ritual activities held during the festival, the most important is a boat procession by village elders and monks to the centre of the river to collect the purest flowing water.

Before they set out, the boats made offerings to ask the Water Genie for permission to take the water.

The water was then scooped from the river by two prestigious elders, brought to shore and then paraded around the village before being taken to the communal temple.

Source: Viet Nam News

Related sites:
City Guides in Vietnam
Hanoi tours

Wednesday, November 18, 2009

How Vietnamese People Cultivate Wet Rice?

Some 70 per cent of Vietnam’s population is engaged in agriculture, which uses over 20 per cent of the country’s area and produces 15 per cent of its GDP.


Vietnam has two huge deltas: the Mekong in the south and the Red River in the north. From time immemorial the Vietnamese have known how to build dykes and avoid flooding, creating more land for wet –rice cultivation. Thousands of kilometres of dykes have been built along the Red River to protect this vast fertile delta and its population.

Recently my friend Huong Do and I visited her uncle, who is a farmer in Hai Duong province in the very heart of the Red River delta. The host, Mr. Hien, was very enthusiastic about showing us rural life.
Generally they cultivate two types, sticky rice and ordinary rice. The first is used for special events and ceremonies such as Tet ( lunar New Year) and weddings.

Talking about wet-rice-cultivation, Mr. Hien recites a Vietnamese proverb:’Nhat nuoc, nhi phan, tam can, tu giong’. This translates as ‘First one needs water,then manure,then diligence, and finally high quality seed’. ‘In the north we have two rice crops and one subsidiary one, according to the weather’, he said.

The winter –spring crop begins in the 12th lunar month and finishes in the fourth. The summer –autumn one lasts from the sixth to the 10th lunar month. After these crops there is time for the land to heal and we plant maize,taro, potato and sweet potato’.

To Start a crop we have to prepare the land. We empty the water from each field. Then we plough deep and rake it carefully with the help of the buffalo. The buffalo is well cared for and respected in the same way that many foreigners care about dogs’.

There are three things that are critical to every Vietnamese farmer’s life: purchasing a buffalo, getting married and building a house.

‘In order to prepare the land we put down fertiliser, either natural or chemical.water is constantly needed too’.’Different varieties of rice are very important.

Normally we select the best species from previous crops, using techniques passed down through generations. “In order to germinate it we put the paddy in a jute sack and soack it in water for 24 hours. We then take it out of the water and arrange it in a dark, damp place to facilitate germination. After 12 hours we repeat the process.
In cool winter weather straw ash is mixed with the paddy in order to keep it warm. When the roots reach two to three centimetres you can sow rice in a small prepared area.

During this period the young rice plants need water, but not too much. After one month you pick the young shoots and transplant the rice seedling to another field. ‘Working the fields requires diligence, During the three- and-a- half months of rice development you have to constandy watch your field! You need to pull out any weeds growing with the rice. This work is normally reserved for women.

There has to be water in time for each period of development of the rice’.
The ethnic minorities in mountainous areas practice wte- rice-cultivation on terraces.

It is not until you actually take off your shoes, roll up your trousers and muck in that you really appreciate the skill and energy required to harvest rice.

As Mr Hien says,’when the rice is mature the whole family has to work. We cut the rice with sickles and bring it home by ox cart.

Fortunately, machines are now used for separating the paddy and straw. Last year we had a big harvest. This year we have had to work very hard due to floods’.

With a trace of sadness Hien adds that the farmer’s life is till difficult. ‘We depend on rice but if the price is too low there is no profit. The government should pay more attention to our life, to build processing zones for agricultural products and find markets for us’.

Famers in the south harvest three crops a year and the wet-rice-cultivation technique is also different.

Source: thingsasian
Recommendation in Vietnam:
- Travel Guide in Vietnam
- Trekking tour in Vietnam
- Adventure travel in Vietnam

Tuesday, November 10, 2009

Phu Quoc, Vietnam: the coast is clear

Phu Quoc island in Vietnam offers chances to relax on the beach, explore fragrant countryside, marvel at wildlife – and enjoy sumptuous seafood. Just get there before mass tourism, says Sam Llewellyn.

The plane crawls high above the Mekong delta – flooded paddy, intestinal loops of river, roads crammed with Honda 50s and lined with shops selling rice and Marlboros. Then suddenly there is sea, muddy at first, then a cheerful turquoise. The propellers change pitch. The nose drops. A green mountain flicks past the wing, then a white beach. We bank steeply, lining up with a runway on which two people seem to be riding bicycles. And down slams the plane on the pockmarked concrete of Duong Dong airport, gateway to the Vietnamese island of Phu Quoc.

 

Phu Quoc beach, Vietnam - Photo by Getty


Outside the terminal a little group of drivers are whisking red dust off Japanese four-wheel-drive taxis. In Duong Dong high street, our driver carefully skirts a cow and calf, who regard us with soulful Jersey eyes. "Manchester United," says the driver, using the universal language of south-east Asia. He grins. His English gives out. So does the tarmac. Towing a lofty plume of red dust, we pass a memorial bearing a star and the likeness of Uncle Ho, and jounce into the interior.

Phu Quoc is the biggest island in Vietnam. It sits in the Gulf of Thailand, minding its own business. Until recently, this consisted of the manufacture of a world-beating nuoc mam fish sauce, the cultivation of black and white pepper, and the maintenance of a nature reserve occupying most of the northern part of the island. The fish sauce is so pungent that Vietnamese Airlines is reputed to have installed special sniffers to prevent passengers taking it in their luggage and endangering the purity of the baggage hold; the pepper is undeniably delicious, growing in palm-shaded vineyards in the sandy interior. During the Vietnam War, a camp on its east coast held 40,000 North Vietnamese prisoners, but little trace now remains. As Ho Chi Minh's tanks drove into Saigon and Americans scrambled into choppers on the Embassy roof, the population of Phu Quoc got on with its farming and fishing.

The island's northern extremity lies less than 10 miles from Cambodia, and in 1975 it was briefly invaded by the Khmer Rouge. Soon after the Khmer Rouge had been chased away, backpackers started to arrive. A few hoteliers followed. The four turboprop flights a week became four 64-seater turboprop flights a day. And there they seem to have stuck, for the moment. "We are roughly where Phuket was 25 years ago," said one of the co-proprietors of the Mango Bay Resort, leaning back in his armchair as the sun plunged into the sea.

Phu Quoc now has many hotels, mostly of the beach-bungalow type. Most are concentrated on Long Beach, a 12-mile strip of white sand running south from Duong Dong. Those closest to the town back onto a dusty dual carriageway studded with melancholy hawkers' stalls selling cans of green tea and the aptly-named Harpoon Gin. A safer distance down the beach is La Veranda, an elegant air-conditioned establishment with a swimming pool, cooled towels and sorbets delivered to sunloungers at noon. La Veranda is the poshest spot on the island and appeals to colonial nostalgics with deep pockets. A charming hotel at the opposite extreme is the Bo Resort, on Ong Lang beach well to the north of Duong Dong. Bo is a group of cottages dotted around a beautiful garden on a headland with splendid views over wild sea and empty shore, and knock-down prices.

Somewhere between la Veranda and Bo in both style and location lies Mango Bay. This is an eco-friendly straggle of elegant cottages with verandas, sprawled along three quarters of a mile of wooded coast. More than half the Mango Bay's guests do not leave the resort, and as you lie in the warm, glass-clear water watching a squid boat on the horizon, it is easy to see their point. The restaurant is simple and excellent, the cocktails cheap and powerful, the massages deeply relaxing. One of the three owners has started a butterfly breeding programme and a propagation scheme for endangered orchids that grow wild in Phu Quoc's jungly interior. The cottages are not air-conditioned, but they are made cool and airy by the sea breeze. We lay in the gauzy cloud of our mosquito-netted four-poster, breeze wafting in at the linen-curtained windows of the hardwood bungalow, watching a fat lizard patrolling the bamboo ceiling for stray mosquitoes. The only sounds were the brush of waves on the beach, the distant thud of a fishing boat engine and the hoot of an animal in the far wooded distance. It might have been one of Phu Quoc's resident gibbons. Whatever it was, it was calling us forth to look at the world beyond Mango Bay.

There are rumours (unsubstantiated by recent sightings) that Phu Quoc is one of the few places in the world where dugongs still live. I asked the French hotel manager. "Dugong? Non," he said. "They keep very much to the deep forests of the nature reserve." Suppressing a well-founded suspicion that the dugong is a marine mammal, I asked how we could visit the nature reserve. "You cannot," said the Frenchman, with powerful Gallic finality. "It is for nature, not people."

This was a good point, and unanswerable. So we rented a Honda 50 from one of the Mango Bay's gardeners and set off into a land without tourists.

Red dust rose behind us. Peppercorns wafted spice from the roadside, where they lay drying on blue tarpaulins watched over by Buddhist shrines. The road narrowed to a five-foot path. It wound behind the beach, threaded fishing villages studded with reeking piles of anchovies, crossed causeways through mangrove swamps, passed mile after mile of empty beaches. Farmers had limed their mango orchards with shell-sand. Fish pens the size of kitchen gardens lined the sides of creeks. A watchtower stood in the forest, flying the red flag of the People's Republic, the guard keeping an eye on things from a hammock strategically slung in the gun emplacement. We paused to let two wild bulls fight it out in the middle of the road. A feathery-trousered eagle sailed out of the clouds on the mountains and sat gigantic in a tree, regarding us with a fierce yellow eye.

In the early afternoon we arrived at Cape Ganh Dhau, the island's northwesternmost corner. Howling and clanging emanated from a rickety building overhanging the beach. This turned out to be the proprietor of the local restaurant, a noted poet and electric guitarist. He laid down his guitar to show us to a table on the shaky terrace. Five miles across the sea, the first islands of Cambodia loomed out of their thundercloud. This is smuggling country. Some of the islands in these seas are no-go areas, full of drugs and guns, gangsters and brothels. Another is one of at least six islands on which Captain Kidd is said to have buried his treasure. Lunch arrived.

This consisted of a saucepan of boiling broth on its own gas stove, and slabs of raw fish to cook in it. After a mighty repast of squid and sea snails I waddled onto the beach. Small boys were walking past, eating white berries off sprigs of greenery. A polite child gave me a handful to try; they tasted a little like myrtle. At this point the restaurateur picked up his radio mike and launched into a poem for the benefit of our five fellow lunchers. They clapped politely when he had finished. "What was that?" I said to the slightly bilingual waitress.

"Hymn to Sea Insect," said the girl, watching apprehensively as her boss headed for his guitar.

We drove back to Mango Bay and soaked off the road dust in the warm sea, watching a remora trying to attach itself to a bather until it was time for cocktails at sunset. It had been a day fraught with interest.

Naturally, there are plans to make Phu Quoc even more interesting by bringing in mass tourism. A government minister appeared recently and inaugurated the building of a new international airport capable of accommodating full-sized airliners. Completion is promised for 2012. "Which means 2015," said an Australian in the bar. "If at all." Before the world financial system caught flu, tourism entrepreneurs had parcelled up the island into lots and erected billboards showing vast developments with canals, marinas and thousands of villas. These schemes are now in abeyance, but they may return. Phu Quoc is one of the world's great islands. Go now, while the going is good.

Best time to visit

Between October and April. May and June can be ferociously hot. In July, August and September there is a slim chance of good weather (and a high chance of cut rates in hotels) – but torrential rains turn the roads to red slime and the sea to soup.

How to get there

Vietnam Airlines flies from Ho Chi Minh City and Rach Gia; then get the fare from Ho Chi Minh to Phu Quoc. It is wise to get return tickets, as the small number of daily flights makes it possible to get stuck on the island.

Singapore Airlines offers London to Ho Chi Minh return inc tax from March 3 to April 3. Less frequent ferries are also available from Rach Gia (six hours, daily) and Ha Tien (four hours, every other day). Both these mainland ports can be problematic of access.

Source: by Sam Llewellyn/Telegraph.co.uk

Recommendation in Phu Quoc, Vietnam
- Hotels and Resorts in Phu Quoc
- Beaches in Vietnam


Monday, November 2, 2009

Exploring water lifestyle of Mekong Delta Vietnam

When the conversation is about the Mekong Delta, people immediately think of tropical rivers, interlacing canals, immense rice fields and the floating homes.


A view of floating Market in Mekong river, An Giang province.



Lazing on a small sampan, tourists can feel they are so tiny on the boundless river and under the shade of countless trees. Witnessing the trade on the floating markets surely makes an impression on those in the delta for the first time.


Upon reaching the raft village, tourists are introduced to the structure of the rafts which are designed as homes and as floating fish farms. Tourists can catch a view of farmers feeding fish and can be served indigenous dishes made from local fish.

Tourists should not miss a visit to a weaving village of the Cham people. Here, tourists can witness the dexterity and talents of Cham ladies who painstakingly weave on looms by the riverside.

On the way back, tourists should not miss the floating restaurants to enjoy specialties of the Mekong Delta in tide-water season. Floating on the immense rivers and taking a look at the lifestyle in the delta are unforgettable experiences.

Chau Doc town is about 300 kilometers from HCMC.

VietNamNet/SGT

Related to Mekong delta, Vietnam
- The Mighty Mekong delta Vietnam

Tuesday, October 27, 2009

Hoi An, Vietnam is one of Top 10 Old Town districts - theatre of the streets

Heading to the oldest parts of a city delivers the richest rewards, writes Kerry van der Jagt.

You have arrived in a new city and don't know where to start. Tempting as it is to hop on a sightseeing bus with a two-kilogram guide book in one hand and a list of "must-sees" in the other, there is a better way. Get off the bus, tear up the list, pull on your walking shoes and head to the oldest part of town. Yes, you will get lost. And yes, your feet will hurt. And yes, you'll be stuffed by the end of the day. But I guarantee you will be richly rewarded. The sights, the sounds and the tastes will linger long after the blisters have healed. And, as a bonus, with all that walking and climbing, you can eat guilt-free from one cobblestoned alley to the next. Here are my 10 favourite cities with Old Towns.

Hoi An, Vietnam



The Old Town, with its narrow cobblestone streets, low tile-roofed houses and ancient wells, is a spicy wok-full of Vietnamese, Chinese and Japanese styles. Cars are banned, pedestrians rule and conical hats are the order of the day.

Hoi An was relatively untouched during the Vietnam war and the old buildings, with their wooden fronts and unique "yin" and "yang" roof tiles, are now protected as a UNESCO World Heritage site. The faded houses are ageing gracefully, old ladies carry their produce across their shoulders in cane baskets and the damp smell of the river lingers in the air.


INSIDER TIP On the 14th day of each month residents switch off their lights and hang paper lanterns on their verandas and windows. Strolling through the lantern-lit streets is like stumbling into a fairytale. More info at: Hoi An Travel Information

Seville, Spain

Seville is the very heart of Andalucian culture. Think Don Juan and the lusty Carmen. Think sequined matadors and dark-eyed beauties. Think palm-burning flamenco and neck-craning architecture.

Better still, don't think, just surrender.

El Arenal is an historic neighbourhood in the centre of Seville, lying between the Guadalquivir River and the old Jewish quarter, Santa Cruz. Some important sites include the Torre del Oro, the Reales Atarazanas and La Real Maestranza, Seville's famous bullring.

But to be honest, it's the gut-busting tapas (or better still, their larger cousin, raciones) of El Arenal I love the most. Start with plump olives and creamy potato croquets, move on to calamari and grilled red peppers and finish with Andalucian ham (Jamon iberico) and Spanish omelet.

INSIDER TIP Avoid the middle of summer. Seville isn't known as the frying pan of Spain for nothing.

Dubrovnik, Croatia

Croatia's jewellery box is the World Heritage-listed old city of Dubrovnik. In October 1991, during the Croatian War of Independence, Dubrovnik was tragically bombed and shelled for eight months by the Yugoslav People's Army.

Today, the dust has settled and the city has been rebuilt but on the two-kilometre walk atop the ancient city wall, the patchwork of bright new terracotta tiles hints at the city's dark past.

Culture vultures will love the Franciscan monastery with its 14th-century pharmacy, Onofrio's Fountain and St Saviour's Church. Penny pinchers will hate the exorbitant restaurant prices. Unless you plan to rob a bank, don't eat inside the city walls.

INSIDER TIP Walking the wall is fun but for a unique perspective hire a kayak from the beach at Fortress Bokar and paddle around the walls at sunset.

Old China Town, Shanghai

As Shanghai races to reinvent itself before hosting the 2010 World Expo, Old China Town, with its colourful street stalls, traditional shops and teahouses, is an unexpected surprise. (Though, to be honest, finding out that China has a Chinatown was an even bigger surprise). Old China Town, surely, is Shanghai's attic.

It's where this modern metropolis stores its trash and treasure.

Chinatown includes the Old Town Bazaar, Yu Garden, Shanghai's old city wall and the famous Confucian temple. The red lacquered buildings, the curved roof tiles, the old men playing mahjong are all present and accounted for in this exciting theatre on the street.

INSIDER TIP Huxinting Teahouse, near Yu Garden, is said to be the source of inspiration for the famous Willow pattern porcelain.

Edinburgh, Scotland

The Old Town district is the thumping heart of Scotland's capital city. The Royal Mile, with its branching side streets of Grassmarket and Candlemaker Row, is its lifeblood. For lovers of kilts, whisky and pubs, this is your mile-high club.

Geoffrey (Tailor) Inc. can run you up a kilt faster than you can say "Braveheart", Royal Mile Whiskies is the place for a drop of the amber liquid and, for lager lovers, try the Ensign Ewart the highest pub in Edinburgh. As the locals say, "Going home after a big night is all downhill from here."

INSIDER TIP The Doors Open Days event in September gives visitors an opportunity to get inside some of the historic buildings in the Old Town. www.cockburnassociation.org.uk.

Cordoba, Spain

Cordoba will seduce you faster than the legendary Don Juan himself. The leading lady is the Mezquita, originally a mosque built in the 8th century but now a Catholic cathedral and one of the world's great architectural wonders. The first glimpse of the cathedral's spacious interior, with its forest of columns, is overwhelming.

Next to the Mezquita is the Jewish quarter, a delightful maze of narrow streets, whitewashed buildings, trickling fountains and intimate courtyards. During May the annual "Festival of the Patios" is in full bloom but if you're not of the floral persuasion, you can always bare all for a beating in a bathhouse or puff on a hookah in a teteria (tea room).

INSIDER TIP The early bird gets free entry to the Mezquita before 10am.

Lisbon, Portugal

Lisbon, the city of seven hills, is one of the most enchanting cities in Europe. Its sense of weathered grandeur set within a natural amphitheatre of hills, together with its breathtaking views across the River Tagus is hard to match.

The old Arab quarter, also known as the Alfama, is located on the south-east slope of the hill crowned by Castelo de Sao Jorge. Moors, Christians and Jews have all lived here.

The Alfama retains its medieval layout, with winding alleys, steep steps and wrought iron balconies.

Bright washing flaps in front of colourful house fronts, Fado music drifts from bars and blood-red geraniums drip down whitewashed walls.

INSIDER TIP To rest your legs and your lungs, catch the smiley-faced, yellow tram 23 or 28.

Kyoto, Japan

Kyoto guards its secrets better than any geisha. Arriving at Kyoto Railway Station the first-time visitor is treated to a magnificent view of the city's backside drab flats, building works and traffic congestion.

Yet planted among this unattractive concrete forest are 1700 temples, 400 Shinto shrines, dozens of gardens and a handful of palaces but even Marco Polo wouldn't be able to find them all.

A good place to start your own exploration is in the Gion district, on the eastern bank of the Kamo River. Stroll the narrow alleys at night and you will pass charming teahouses and traditional shops and restaurants, many of which are exclusive establishments for geisha entertainment.

INSIDER TIP If you wish to go on a geisha walking tour or have a private engagement with a geisha, see kyotosightsandnights.com.

Venice, Italy

Venice, the city of reflections, will seduce you even before you cross the lagoon from the airport. The shapes, the silhouettes, the dazzling light. Oh the light. And that's before you set eyes on your first gorgeous gondolier.

There really is no "old" part of town, it's all equally ancient. And it's all made for walking. Night is best the day trippers have fled and you can cross ancient footbridges and twist and turn through the labyrinth of alleyways behind the Grand Canal with only your shadow for company.

INSIDER TIP The three-day vaporetto (water bus) ticket for about $60 is good value. Buy them where you see the "helloVenezia" sign.

Source: The Sun-Herald

Recommendation

Hoi An Tour

Hoi An Hotel

Monday, October 26, 2009

Celebrating the New Year 2010 at the Dalat Flower Festival, Vietnam

The 2010 Dalat Flower Festival will be held in Dalat from January 1 to 4. This is one of the biggest festivals to start those celebrating the 1,000th anniversary of Thang Long-Hanoi.

Dalat Flower Field, Vietnam

With the theme ‘Dalat-the Kingdom of Flowers’, the festival is expected to become an international event, so the organizing committee has invited famous flower-growing countries Japan, the Netherlands, the U.S. and China to be part of the festival. Ben Thanh Tourist is offering four day/three night tours to Dalat to experience Flower Festival 2010 that leave on December 31 and January 1.


Tourists pose for a photo at the Dalat Flower Festival in 2008.


Dalat is a place of beautiful waterfalls, tortuous mountain roads and unique architecture in villas hidden under the pine trees. It is popular at Christmas and New Year as the atmosphere here is cool all year round. Moreover, it is the most attractive resort and tourism hub in Vietnam. Coming to the Flower Festival, visitors have the opportunity to see many valuable and rare kinds of flowers.

On the way to Dalat, the tour stops for sightseeing at Damb’ri Waterfall in Bao Loc. This is one of the most beautiful and impressive waterfalls in Lam Dong province. After Damb’ri, the tour takes in Thien Vuong Co Sat Pagoda with its three Buddha statues made of agarwood. After arriving in Dalat and checking into the hotel, Ben Thanh Tourist will hold an evening party with flowers and red wine to celebrate New Year 2010.

On the second day, the tour visits Lat Village at the foot of Langbiang Mountain to conquer the peak and take a panoramic view of Dalat City in the mist. In the afternoon, the tour visits Domain de Marie Church and Hang Nga Villa. Then tourists will share the joy with local people at Flower Festival 2010 at Xuan Huong lake.

The following day, the tour moves to Truc Lam Monastery, Robin Hill, Tuyen Lam lake, Phoenix Mountain and the Valley of Love to contemplate the mystery of Da Lat Su Quan. Tourists will love the horse-drawn carriage ride around Xuan Huong lake. The final stop is the Dalat Market to buy specialties for relatives.

Source: Ngoc Minh/Saigon Times

Thursday, October 22, 2009

The real dirt bike on the northwest, Vietnam

Motorbike trip is wonderful for those who have good health and like more adventure in their travels. Bike tours to the rugged region offer a more direct experience of the life of its people.

It is probably not everyone’s cup of tea, but discovering Vietnam’s rugged and scenic northwest on a motorbike is more than an exhilarating experience.

Motorcycle tours in Northwest Vietnam

Those who have undertaken it say it enables them to see “life as it truly is for the Vietnamese people.”

Dramatic landscapes and sweeping panoramas become more direct and intense when the visitor is not enclosed within a vehicle. Watching the rural population doing about its business also becomes a more intimate affair.

“We started the itinerary to four mountainous provinces – Hoa Binh, Son La, Dien Bien, Lao Cai – in the northwest region with a 130 km ride to Mai Chau,” said Andre Prince, who took the 7-day journey with six friends from Canada.

Together with a tour guide, they left Hanoi at 8:30 a.m. and rode the dirt-bikes (175cc and 250cc Yamaha and Honda) west to Mai Chau, home to the Thai ethnic minority.

They traveled on road No. 6 passing expansive rice paddies and scenic villages and stopped for refreshment before tackling 70km of undulating roads with great views of mountains and valleys before reaching Mai Chau at noon.

“We were really impressed by the traditional stilt-houses, the dances and meals at Pom Coong, a village of the White Thai ethnic minority,” said Andre.

The group left for Son La Province the next morning.

Kien, the tour guide, said the motorbike trip of about 1,000 km is wonderful for those who have good health and like more adventure in their travels. The tour is also great for finding several vantage spots for photography, he added.

Besides the tea plantations in Moc Chau Plateau – the destination of the best green tea in Vietnam that grows along the roads on the hillsides in Son La, the valley of Dien Bien Phu also offers magnificent views.

Here “the ride is more adventurous with more winding roads and longer passes, while offering more colorful minority groups and more stunning scenery,” said Andre, adding that the highlight of Dien Bien Province could be the impressive Pha Din

Pass, which means Heaven-Earth. According to local legend, it was the frontier between Heaven and Earth. Pha Din is some 1,000m above sea-level.

“Climbing and descending the slopes with their many bends and deep gorges is a really unforgettable experience,” Andre said.

The fourth day was scheduled for Lao Cai, where stops at H’mong and Dao villages refreshed the crew after a 225 km ride along stunning gorges and the Nam Na River.

Fittingly, Sa Pa was the pinnacle of the trip, where the group stayed for two days and visited several ethnic minority villages deep in the forest.

“Sa Pa is a paradise for trekking lovers. It has so many routes with views of beautiful terraced fields, diverse minority groups and the highest peak in Indochina, the Fansipan.”

The group also got off their bikes to take a jeep ride downhill to the Muong Hoa Valley, where they trekked on dirt paths through pine forest, terraced fields and H’mong villages. En route they stopped to visit minority schools and had a picnic lunch by the river.

TOUR INFORMATION
Hanoi – Hoa Binh – Son La – Dien Bien – Lao Cai – Hanoi
7-day trip with 5 days of motorcycling
Motorcycling grade: Moderate to Challenging
From US$546 per person
Contact: Active Travel Vietnam
Head office: 31 Alley 4, Dang Van Ngu St., Hanoi
Operation office: 367 Ngo Quyen St., Son Tra Dist., Da Nang
Operation office: 50 Bis Co Bac St., Dist. 1, HCMC
Support number (24/7 service): +84 (04) 3 573 8569

Reported by Hoang Kien/Thanhniennews

Related sites:
Motorcycling Vietnam Travel Guide: http://www.motorcyclevietnam.com/category/motorcycle-trails-guide
Motorcycling tours in Vietnam: http://www.motorcyclevietnam.com/category/motorcycle-tours

Tuesday, October 20, 2009

Hanoi Autumn, Vietnam


Hoan Kiem lake, Hanoi, Vietnam


There are hundreds of songs and poems written about Hanoi in autumn, which talk about the beauty of Hanoi and I agree with these poets. Between September and November is the best time to discover Vietnam, especially Hanoi.


Milk Flowers, Hanoi, Vietnam

Walking along the streets and lakes and you can enjoy breathing in the beautiful sweet flavor of Hoa Sua flower(Hoa Sua means Milk Flower in English) and the willow trees hanging low. Autumn turns Hanoi into a really romantic place. It affects the people, too. Lots of young couples walk together or sit down alongside the lakes to exchange their kisses.


Hoan Kiem lake, Hanoi, Vietnam

The weather in Hanoi during autumn is cool, a little bit sunny with a nice breeze that makes everyone much more active after the long hot summer. I love hanging around Hoan Kiem Lake and Truc Bach Lake on these days, looking at people and taking some photos or sitting down with a beer waiting for the sunset.


Milk flowers, Hanoi, Vietnam

A warning - don't breath the milk flowers in too deeply as this might give you a headache.

Related to Hanoi, Vietnam

- Hanoi tours & excursions
- Hanoi hotels

Sunday, October 18, 2009

Exploring the Central Highlands, Vietnam

Gia Lai province in the Central Highlands is famous for its splendid scenery, magnificent waterfalls, poetic lakes and endless forests and mountains. Taking a trip to the Central Highlands to discover the wonders of nature is a worthwhile experience in the fall, according to baogialai.vn.

The most impressive poetic scenes of the province that are recommended for a visit are the Kon Ka Kinh and Kon Cha Rang tropical forests, the Ayun Pa and Phu Cuong waterfalls, Da Trang and Mo springs and Ayaun Ha lake, an extinct volcano.


Topping the list is Ayun Ha lake with its cool air, blue waters and romantic surroundings.

Waterfall in Central highland, Vietnam

Located in the region between Phu Thien and Chu Se districts, about 70 kilometers west of Pleiku city, Ayun Ha lake is a man-made lake supplying the Ayun Ha area and Pleiku city with a big source of aquatic products.

Coming to Ayun Ha, tourists will have a chance to intermingle with romantic scenery and enjoy wild nature and pure air. The atmosphere is jubilant when taking part in water sports or cruising on the lake on holidays or at festivals.

Phu Cuong waterfall, 45 km southeast of Pleiku city, with its height and smooth rock walls, is imposing amid the green jungle carpet. Buses come to the foot of the waterfall and tourists continue their trip on elephant.

Lying on the current of the Ia Pech stream, the waterfall shows off its beauty with a height of 35 meters as a silver carpet amid the green forest.

On the tour visiting Ayun Ha lake and Phu Cuong waterfall, tourists should not miss Ayn Pa which is endowed with attractive landscapes such as Pink Valley-Violet Horizon, Dream Beach and Stone Stream.

Gia Lai province has a long-standing history as an ancient culture bearing traits of the ethnic groups of Giarai, Ba Na, Gie Trieng, Xo Dang and K’ho. This is manifested through the architecture of the communal rong (long house), stilt houses and burial grounds. Visitors to this windy and sunny land can not only admire the splendid landscapes but can see the unique architectural style of the statues in funeral houses, investigate local customs and ethnic cultural features and hear some of the folklore. Another attraction is the performance of gongs, soul of the highlands.

Gia Lai province is 550 kilometers from HCMC. Tourists can book return flights from HCMC, Hanoi and Danang. By road from HCMC, tourists can book at travel agencies in downtown HCMC. Heading on National Road 13 to National Road 14, or on National Highway 1A to Quy Nhon and then to National Road 19 or to Tuy Hoa, National Road 25 leads into the province.

VietNamNet/SGT

Related to Centre Highland, Vietnam
- Biking Adventures Mekong & Centre Highland
- Ho Chi MInh & Mekong tours
- Mekong Delta and Angkor Wat

Thursday, October 15, 2009

Sapa tourists walk on the clouds, Vietnam


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Tourists visiting Sa Pa this weekend will have the chance to learn about local ethnic people's courtship and marital life, through the Sa Pa love market and kidnapping wife ceremony of the Mong group.

The ceremony will begin this Saturday and is part of a five-day festival, titled Festival on the Cloud, to mark the beginning of the Sa Pa 2006 tourism year, in the northern mountain township of Sa Pa, in Lao Cai Province.
Held by the Sa Pa Trade and Tourism Department (STTD), the Festival on the Cloud will also feature photo exhibitions to showcase the most impressive pictures of Sa Pa from both today and the past. The Festival will also sell a variety of orchids that originated in the Hoang Lien National Park.
Climbing up Ham Rong Mountain visitors will enjoy singing and dancing performances by five ethnic groups including the Mong, Dao, Tay, Giay and Xa Pho.
The ethnic groups are scheduled to compete in traditional sports, for instance tug of war, walking on stills and archery.
Sa Pa, which is 400km north-west of Hanoi, is now one of the most popular destinations in the country.


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Cruise tourism ‘needs strategic plan’ in Vietnam


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Poor port facilities have contributed to an alarming drop in cruise tourism to Viet Nam, according to Vu The Binh, a senior official of the Viet Nam National Administration of Tourism.











A Viet Nam Shipbuilding Industry Group cruise ship with foreign visitors on board, docks at Hon Gai Port, Ha Long City, in the northern province of Quang Ninh.



Since the beginning of this year, only 52,300 visitors came to Viet Nam by sea, Binh said, a fall of 54 per cent from the same period last year.


This number was equivalent to 2.11 per cent of the total foreign visitors to the country, against a peak of 12 per cent.


"The number of cruise tourists coming to Viet Nam has still been low despite the fact that the country has great potential to develop cruise tourism with its 3,260km of beaches," Binh said.


Other than the economic crisis, poor infrastructure was a key reason for the downturn, he said.


While other regional countries such as Singapore have built modern ports for cruise tourists, Viet Nam only had industrial ports.


Nguyen Anh Tuan, a senior official of the administration, agreed. He said cruise tourists were well-heeled so their demand for service was high.


Nguyen Thanh Binh, director of Tan Hong Tourist and Trade Company Ltd’s Ha Noi branch, said the fact that ports and their service roads were clogged with street vendors didn’t help – they made cruise tourists feel uncomfortable.


Also, cruise tourists liked shopping and cuisine, which was not up to the standard in many parts of Viet Nam. Added to that was the poor condition of roads from the ports to the main attractions.


The experts agreed that upgrading infrastructure was necessary. Specialised ports must be constructed with high services in some or all of the most attractive places, such as Hue, Da Nang, Sai Gon, Phu Quoc, Ha Long, Con Dao and Nha Trang.


Provinces needed to re-organise their services by developing craft villages and entertainment around the tourist centres.


Promotion also was important, such as boosting co-operation with other countries in the region where cruise ships stop, such as Singapore, Malaysia and Hong Kong.


Viet Nam is a transit place for cruise ships. The ships stop for a short time, only two or three days, which makes the exploitation of this type of tourism difficult.


Travel companies should forge relationship with foreign tourism companies so that they could visit Viet Nam to study its cruise destination potential, they said.




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Vietnam: Vietnam’s Quan Ho songs recognised as world intangi...


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Vietnam’s Quan Ho folk songs were recognised as “Intangible Cultural Heritage” by UNESCO on September 30. UNESCO declared the list of “intangibles” at the 4th session of the Intergovernmental Committee for the Safeguarding of the Intangible Heritage, which took place in Abu Dhabi, United Arab Emirates (UAE).

Vietnam’s Quan Ho songs

From Abu Dhabi, Dr. Nguyen Chi Ben, dean of the Culture and Art Institute and member of the National Heritage Council said that this is a great news for the two provinces of Bac Ninh and Bac Giang - the home to Quan ho folk songs - and for Vietnam in general.


Ben said on October 1, Vietnam’s Ca Tru singing was also be considered as intangible heritage in need of urgent safeguarding.

Quan ho folk songs stand alongside 76 additions to UNESCO’s list of Intangible Cultural Heritage. These 76 were decided by 24 member states of the Intergovernmental Committee for the Safeguarding of Intangible Heritage.

To date Vietnam has had three such intangibles recognised by UNESCO. They are the Hue royal court music, the gong area Central Highlands and now the Quan ho folk song.


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Vietnam: Long Bien Bridge Memory Festival opens, Hanoi, Vietnam


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The Long Bien Bridge Memory Festival opened in Hanoi on October 10 to mark the 55th anniversary of the Capital’s Liberation Day and the 10th year Hanoi has been recognised as a City for Peace by UNESCO.

Representatives from ministries, the municipal administration, ambassadors, international guests and about 50,000 local people attended the opening ceremony that included a wide range of activities at the bridgeheads and along the historical bridge.
Long Bien Bridge, Hanoi, Vietnam
Before the opening ceremony, a vintage train carrying passengers from Gia Lam station over the bridge to Long Bien Station to attend the ceremony.
Long Bien Bridge, Hanoi, Vietnam
Long Bien Bridge, Hanoi, Vietnam
The 1,628-meter bridge is divided into 12 sections representing the 12 decades of its existence (1890-2009). Each section is covered with images from the Long Bien Bridge Memory Exhibition that represent its decade.
Long Bien Bridge, Hanoi, Vietnam
After the opening ceremony, participants joined a “Walk for Peace”.
During the two-day festival, there will be a programme to introduce traditional crafts, a traditional fashion show, firework displays and flute kite flying show. The release of 999 lanterns down the Red River will be included as a prayer for peace and prosperity for the city.
Long Bien Bridge, Hanoi, Vietnam
Proudly spanning the Red River for more than hundred years and having withstood several attacks during wartime, Long Bien Bridge has been a witness of the bravery of the Vietnamese people and deserves to be a symbol of Hanoi in the present era of peace and integration.


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Follow the Mekong - Vietnam travel guide


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With time to watch the ebb and flow of a river’s life, Graham Reilly floats from Vietnam to Cambodia.

I stare from the riverbank at this astonishingly vast and lively world of water. Here, in the charming provincial city of Can Tho in the heart of southern Vietnam’s Mekong Delta, it is as if the land is merely an afterthought. Everything is about the river and the way of life it sustains.


 



Cai Rang floating market, Mekong delta, Vietnam



It is a world of colour and movement, of a comforting spray of cool water on your face as you are rowed back to your hotel at night in a slim stick of a boat, of the sleepy glint of dusk as you trail your finger across the river’s surface, of the cough and splutter of a small passenger ferry as it crosses the river to Vinh Long, of the throaty gurgle of a rice boat as it slowly motors to Ho Chi Minh City or Cambodia.


 The Mekong begins its 4500-kilometre journey to the sea in Tibet and winds its way through China, Burma, Laos, Thailand, Cambodia and finally into the Mekong Delta. The Vietnamese call the river Cuu Long, or nine dragons, and it is easy to see why, for here the Mekong spreads in great tentacles into nine exits to the sea.


Can Tho sits on the banks of one of these tributaries, the Hang Giang river, also known as the Bassac, an impossibly broad, bustling expanse of brown water. It is a pleasant capital of 300,000 people, with tree-lined boulevards, cool grassy squares and 19th-century buildings that are remnants of French colonial days.

One of the great pleasures of Vietnamese provincial towns such as Hoi An or Nha Trang is the local markets and Can Tho is no exception.

Selling vegetables, fruit and seafood, its large market spreads over an entire city block on one side and follows the curve of the river on the other. There is much to do here and it is a good place to organise a home stay with a farming family. It is also a good place to do nothing much at all. Gazing out from the pleasant promenade, I see boats of all shapes and sizes, one of which takes my friends and I early next morning to the famous Cai Rang floating market. Boats from all over the region – from Bac Lieu, Vinh Long and Camau – come here to sell what seems like every fruit and vegetable ever imagined: jackfruit, oranges, rambutan, bananas, longans, pineapples and sweet potatoes.

An, 30, is our guide. It is her father’s boat and her husband navigates it safely through the shifting mass of craft on the river. “He is a good husband,” she says, smiling. “He is happy to cooking and washing with me at night.” We nod in agreement. A good husband can be hard to find.

I explain to her that we want to travel to Cambodia by boat, from Can Tho to Chau Doc, across the border and up to the Cambodian capital, Phnom Penh, and then on to Siem Reap, home of one of the great wonders of the world, the temple complex of Angkor Wat. We’ve got six days for the journey of more than 400 kilometres. An offers to arrange the journey and a few phone calls later we agree to meet at the Can Tho dock at 2pm the next day.

I tell her I have visited these places before but always by road or air. This time I want a gentler, more romantic mode of transport along the mighty Mekong and its tributaries. I want to hear the gentle slap of the water against the boat, feel the tropical breeze on my skin and watch people go about their lives on the riverbanks. I want to be part of the landscape. I want to make the journey as important as the arrival.

Can Tho has several restaurants along the waterfront and that night we decide on the Thien Hoa. We settle happily at a pavement table in the evening balm, show no restraint and order a feast – fried snake with onions, sea bass soup with tamarind, prawns steamed in beer, catfish hotpot and coconut ice-cream. It is a meal to remember and a harbinger of culinary experiences to come.

Loaded up with fruit and sandwiches we’ve borrowed from the sumptuous breakfast buffet at the Victoria Hotel, we board the “fast boat” to Chau Doc, a journey An tells us will take about three hours. She says the slow boat, which leaves at 6.30am, takes about eight hours.

The fast boat is a long, relatively sleek, metal-hulled craft that does not go particularly fast, which turns out to be a blessing, given the pleasure of being on the water and lounging on the deck and watching the world go by. Most of the passengers are part of a package run by Delta Adventure Tours that includes a night at the company’s floating hotel in Chau Doc. As we are travelling independently, we each pay $US20 ($23) for the trip.

The boat seats about 30 people in something more or less resembling comfort. Sitting on the deck munching on a bag of rambutan, it becomes immediately clear to me that this is a working river. Large boats, washing fluttering in the breeze and overloaded with bananas, take their produce to market. Other boats dredge silt from the riverbed to be used in the construction industry. The weight of their cargo lays them so low in the water it is as if just one more grain could tip them into the muddy depths.

The riverbanks jump with activity. A line of brick kilns several kilometres long puffs smoke as families stack freshly baked bricks or load them on to waiting boats, the children straining under the burden. The smell of fermenting fish sauce wafts from factories onshore. Much of the riverbank is lined with sandbags to protect stilted houses from the river, which swells dramatically during the wet season.

There is so much of interest to observe on the water and the riverbanks that the journey passes quickly and before I know it we are approaching Chau Doc, a journey of 5 hours. The river seems to settle in the dusk and takes on a kind of dreamy indolence, as if it has done enough work for the day. Meanwhile, I have been lulled into a sense of well-being I’ve never experienced when travelling by road or air.

Impressed with our stay at the Victoria Hotel in Can Tho, we decide to spend a few nights at the Victoria in Chau Doc. It is another elegant, splendidly positioned, colonial-style building perched on the banks of the Bassac. The view from our room across the spreading river takes my breath away.

Chau Doc shuts down early and we are lucky to get to the Bay Bong restaurant while it is still serving dinner. The restaurant forgoes interesting decor for delicious Mekong cuisine. It’s another feast. We start with canh chua, the local sweet-and-sour fish soup, and follow this with steamed fish and prawns, including ca kho, stewed fish in a clay pot. It’s so good we return the next night.

Chau Doc is another attractive and welcoming provincial town of about 100,000 people with an enormous market that snakes along the riverfront. The fish section alone – which has not just fresh fish but dried, spiced, marinated and salted – is wondrous.

We’re close to the Cambodian border here and the people are more obviously Khmer, with their fuller features, darker skin and a preference for a chequered scarf over the ubiquitous Vietnamese conical hat. It is also home to a sizeable community of Chams, a Muslim minority of Malaysian appearance who live on the other side of the Bassac river.

We hire a boat and motor across to the Cham village. On the main street, dotted with stalls selling fruit and vegetables and snacks, women chat in the shade of the verandas of their wooden houses. Little girls sell waffles and simple cakes to visitors. I meet the caretaker of one of the two mosques. He shows us a short film about the history of the Cham but it is in Vietnamese so we leave none the wiser.

This part of the Bassac river, where it meets the Mekong, is home to an extraordinary concentration of floating houses, each of which is a self-contained fish farm. In the centre of each house is a large cage submerged in the river, in which families raise local bassa catfish, thousands of tonnes of which are exported to Australia every year. The fish are fed a kind of meal made from cereal, fish and vegetable scraps in cauldrons that rumble and roil. The smell is challenging.

At eight the next morning, we board another fast boat for the journey to the Cambodian capital. On another steamy, insanely hot day, we are looking forward to spending the trip on the deck, savouring the breeze. But a gaggle of young American backpackers with newsreader voices storm the boat and secure the outdoor area as their headquarters. It is their world. We just live in it.

As we travel towards Cambodia, the river begins to change. Gone is the frenetic boat activity and on the riverbank life takes on a less industrial, more bucolic demeanour. As we rejoin the Mekong, the river widens and soon the factories on the shore are replaced by cornfields, banana trees that shift and flap in the breeze and ragged, palm-thatched huts. Families bathe in the shallows and children scrub and splash their wallowing buffaloes. One-and-a-half hours later, when we reach the border at Vinh Xuong, Vietnam, and Kaam Samnor, Cambodia, we’re in a different, more lush, more languid world.

We disembark at the border post and after an hour or so filling in various forms and questionnaires, we say goodbye to the Vietnamese boat and board the altogether less salubrious Cambodian craft for the rest of the journey. But in the end the boat’s state of rugged disrepair matters little and most people spend the afternoon sitting on the rear deck or lounging on the bow and impairing the vision of the driver.

It is all too idyllic and, as it turn out, too good to last. Low water levels in the Tonle Sap river mean we have to complete the final leg of the journey by bus. But even this is fascinating, if cramped, as we hurl through the countryside and the sedate outskirts of Phnom Penh. As we arrive in the busy heart of the capital, I check my watch. It was just over seven hours ago that we boarded the boat in Chau Doc.

At our hotel, the owner tells us the water levels in the Tonle Sap are too low for us to go by boat to Siem Reap and that we’ll have to take the bus or fly. He dismisses our disappointment, saying the boat has a karaoke machine on board. “Very noisy.”

But we won’t decide what to do until after dinner – perhaps some steamed fish in coconut milk or fried squid with green peppers. As we hop into a tuk-tuk to take us to the waterfront, a young girl, brown as a nut and cute as a button, implores us to buy some bottled water.

“What’s your name?” I ask.

“Cosmic,” she replies, beaming. “Where are you from?”

“Australia.”

“Do you know Kevin Rudd?” she asks.

“Of course.”

“Well, he is my father.”

I look puzzled and she giggles. We are smitten and it’s bottled water all round. As we putter away, she yells to us: “Tell Kevin his daughter says hello.”

I wave and promise I will.




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