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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, 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


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.

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.


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?”


“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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Wednesday, October 14, 2009

ActiveTravel Asia upgrades challenging and extends outdoor activities in future.

Leading local adventure specialist, ActiveTravel Asia (ATA) has announced launch of its upgraded and extended adventure products. Focusing on its adventure tours of the area - Vietnam, Cambodia, Laos and Asia, ATA is now expanding further outdoor packages and tailor-made private itineraries in the 2010 and 2011 with the true value for customers.

Motorcycling Ho Chi Minh Trail in Vietnam with ATA
The challenging and outdoor activities of tours with a reasonable level of personal fitness, good health, and interest in the area have been upgraded to be suitable for more customers this year. More cheaply optional tours with adventure guideline and tips have been created for active customers.

ActiveTravel Asia’s local product team has worked hard to create more packages and tailor-made private itineraries through exotic destinations to really experience the culture, history and nature of Asia with local negotiated prices. However, the adventure tours retain their key points of difference without compromising on quality, and provide excellent value for money.

ActiveTravel Asia’s emphasis is on taking travelers to experience the ‘real taste of Indochina and Asia” and, as such, its itineraries stand out from the crowd.

With the active local young team and guide, ATA makes the different outdoor products and activities in Vietnam, Cambodia, Laos and Asia include good standard accommodation and local home stay, thoughtfully outdoor itineraries and reasonable price reductions in 2010.

Bobby Nguyen, ActiveTravel Asia’s director comments” In the current outdoor products, we make a desire to show the hidden lands and bring the real taste of Indochina and Asia to customers thus we have created further different outdoor packages and tailor-made private itineraries with price reductions without compromising on quality”

“With local young dynamic team of ActiveTravel Asia and rich local knowledge, ATA's accumulated expertise ensures that travelers can always trust they are maximized their precious holiday time and to experience the very best of their chosen destination, which can really make a difference to what is usually someone’s only visit to a country.”

For more information visit http://www.activetravel.asia/ or our network:


Tuesday, October 13, 2009

Cu Chi tunnels one of Vietnam's most popular tourist attractions

War's reality closes in when you take plunge into underground passageways - Cu Chi tunnels in Vietnam

HO CHI MINH CITY, Vietnam -- The sound of gunshots pierce the thick jungle air. I'm on my hands and knees, crawling through the subterranean darkness, sweating in places I didn't know I had sweat glands.

"Keep on coming! Keep on coming!" urges a wiry Vietnamese man in fatigues, waving me forward.

Cu Chi Tunnels, Vietnam

A Cu Chi tunnel worker demonstrates how villagers and Viet Cong would enter the hidden tunnels during the war. The openings were incredibly small and hidden by leaves. When tourists visit the tunnels today, they go through segments that have been widened to accommodate Westerners' bodies.

If you go

CU CHI TUNNELS: Open from 7 a.m. to 5 p.m. every day. Admission costs about $5.
We're in the infamous Cu Chi tunnels, the Viet Cong's network of secret underground passageways that proved to be one ginormous thorn in the side of the American military during the Vietnam War.

The claustrophobic tunnel system -- dug by hand -- at one time measured more than 120 miles, stretching from the Cambodian border to the outskirts of what was then Saigon. A virtual city, the web of tunnels was home to local villagers seeking shelter from bomb raids, plus thousands of Viet Cong, the North Vietnamese Army-backed guerrillas who battled South Vietnamese and U.S. forces. Here, right under the boots of American GIs, is where the Viet Cong ate, slept, hid and launched deadly surprise attacks.

It's also where a select group of American soldiers -- a k a tunnel rats -- engaged in what has to be the world's scariest game of hide and seek. These tunnel rats inched their way through the cramped, dark passageways, trying to find the enemy before the enemy found them. Something to think about this Memorial Day.

For obvious reasons, not a lot of soldiers wanted to set foot in these booby-trap-filled hell holes. But these days, the Cu Chi tunnels are one of Vietnam's most popular tourist attractions. Some 1,000 visitors flock daily to the site, located about 45 miles from downtown Ho Chi Minh City (formerly Saigon).

Only a few short sections of the tunnels are accessible today. They've been expanded a bit to accommodate Westerners' super-sized bodies, but that didn't keep me from struggling to hunch low enough so my back wouldn't scrape against the dirt ceiling.

"Are there snakes in here?" I ask my Vietnamese guide, who seems almost comfortable in these ridiculously confined quarters.

"Not anymore," he answers with a big grin, followed by a few more rounds of "Keep on coming!"

Tourists can make their way through three sections of tunnels ranging from 150 to 650 feet in length. If you're claustrophobic or have a bad back or knees, you're probably better off staying above ground -- at least when it comes to the longer tunnels.

And don't worry: There's plenty to see above ground. A display of horrific spiked contraptions once hidden under trap doors in the jungle floor, craters left by bombs dropped from B-52s, abandoned U.S. tanks you can climb in, mannequins of North Vietnamese soldiers and Viet Cong guerrillas -- it's like the Disneyland of Death and Destruction.

The whole experience gave me a better sense of what American soldiers went through. It's one thing to stand in front of a war memorial or monument; it's another to get down and dirty in the proverbial trenches, especially with the eerie sound of assault rifles blasting in the distance.

"If you want to shoot gun -- AK-47 or M16 -- you can do it ... $13 or $14 buys 10 bullets," says Nguyen Cao Van, my above-ground tour guide at Cu Chi. "If you don't want to shoot gun," he adds, "you can buy ice cream next door."

Just like Disneyland.

Nguyen's uncle was a colonel for the South Vietnamese army. After the war ended in 1975, his uncle spent seven years in a re-education camp.

"And he was a quick learner," Nguyen says.

Nguyen's wife is from North Vietnam. They tied the knot in 2005. Marriages between people from the North and South have become more common in the last few years, Nguyen says, now that animosity between both halves of the country has finally started to die down.

Before I arrived in Vietnam, I was a little worried that I might face lingering animosity over the American War, as they call it. When you carpet bomb a country and spray its landscape with Agent Orange, people might hold a grudge.

But the only accosting this Yank got was from overeager Vietnamese street vendors desperate to sell their bamboo bowls and other tchotchkes.

"What happened has happened," Nguyen says, adding that most people in Vietnam are too young to even remember the war. Some 55 million of the country's 87 million residents were born after Saigon's fall in 1975.

"We don't look to the past," he says. "We look to the future."

Source: suntimes.com/lifestyles/travel/asia/

Related to Cu Chi Tunnels
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Friday, October 9, 2009

ACTIVETRAVEL ASIA hosts a group of Burrows Red Spider Travel Vietnam in Jan 2010

ACTIVETRAVEL ASIA (ATA) will host a group of Burrows Red Spider to take the motorcycle trip in Ho Chi Minh Trail, Vietnam. This trip will start from Hanoi and finish in Saigon (Ho Chi Minh City) in Jan 31, 2010.

Motorcycle tours in Ho Chi Minh Trail, Vietnam

With 10-day motorcycling tour in Ho Chi Minh trail in total 16 day trip from Hanoi to Saigon, this motorcycling grading of tour is considered as Moderate to challenging by ATA

Recent road work that follows original sections of the trail has changed this. Besides incredible driving, deep in the Vietnamese countryside; this ride takes in the charming ancient trading town of Hoi An, Khe Sanh battle site and DMZ. Travelers also take time to stay overnight in a traditional Thai hill tribe and visit to some tribal villages on the way.

Burrows Red Spider is group of American motorcyclists and love motorcycling travel especially travel to Vietnam War in the past by motorcycling.

Travel Tips
- Motorcycle tips: Viet Nam motorcycle travel tips
- Motorcyle guide & trail: Ho Chi Minh trail & travel guide
- Motorcycle tours: Motorcycle tours in Vietnam

Thursday, October 8, 2009

Eight Wonders of Vietnam

UNESCO lists five World Heritages in the country, but Adventure Beat editor Christian Kallen's list presents a more varied picture: the Eight Wonders of Vietnam.

If many of a certain generation tried to avoid going to Vietnam at all costs, now these same travelers may be tempted to explore a densely textured destination as historic, culturally rich and scenically stupefying as any country on Earth.

Adventure Beat editor Christian Kallen's "Eight Wonders" of Vietnam:

1) Ha Long Bay

Halong Bay, Vietnam

Legend has it that the dragon that created civilization dove into these waters (Ha Long means "descending dragon") to his rest. There is a mythic, supernatural quality to this bay on the Gulf of Tonkin, east of Hanoi, that must be experienced to believe. Limestone "haystack" islands draped in jungle foliate erupt from the placid bay, fishermen in dragon-headed boats lay their nets, caves both above and below water level invite exploration. There are some 700 islands in the bay, and nowadays you can sea kayak among them with local tour operators — although in ancient times the Vietnamese general Tran Hung Dao outwitted the Chinese navy here.

2) Hanoi's Old Quarter

Hoan Kiem Lake, Hanoi, Vietnam by you.

Hoan Kiem lake, Hanoi's Old Quarter, Vietnam

Few capitals necessarily qualify as "wonders" — Paris comes to mind — but Hanoi belongs in that class. It was first made capital of Vietnam in 1010 A.D., along a bend in the Red River, and even today, 996 years later, it's still a rush of urban energy and pastoral ease. Walk around the central district's Hoan Kiem Lake in the cool morning hours, while the locals do their daily tai chi; shop in the narrow streets of the Old Quarter where tradesmen have practiced in the same shops for up to 25 generations; dine European, Asian, or fusion at one of the many restored colonial mansions.

3) Cao Dai Temple

Cao Dai Temple

Even knowing in advance that the Cao Dai religion counts among its saints Victor Hugo, Louis Pasteur, and Sun Yat-Sen does little to prepare the visitor for the psychedelic splendor of its Holy See. Primary colors run riot over plaster dragons, flowers, and figurines crawling up the pillars and walls, while the all-seeing eye (a Masonic symbol also found on the US Great Seal) is everywhere. The temple is just a short drive from Ho Chi Minh City, and elaborate services and ceremonies are held almost daily.

4) Mekong Delta

Float market Mekong River, Vietnam by you.

Mekong Delta, Vietnam

The Mekong's route begins 2,500 miles upstream in Tibet, and its course through China, Burma, Laos, Cambodia and Vietnam is a waterway through the exotic. It flows into the South China Sea through a delta of many streams (its Vietnamese name, Cuu Long, means Nine Dragons), a fertile region known as "the ricebowl of Vietnam." The highlight for most visitors are the floating markets of Cai Be and Vinh Long, where you can get everything from fruits, flowers, and handicrafts to exotic snakes — and dishes as memorable as the “elephant's ear” fish (not endangered).

5) Tonkinese Alps

trek Fansipan, Sapa, Vietnam by you.

Fansipan Mountain, Sapa, Vietnam

The Tonkinese Alps create the barrier between Vietnam and China to the north, and their highest peak is Mount Fansipan (10,312 feet). Most people don't think of going to Vietnam to go mountain climbing, but consider this multi-day trek anyway, not only for its spectacular views into China but for the hilltribe villages you pass through en route. The route begins in Sapa, a popular tourist center in the midst of hill country, then forges through valleys of terraced rice fields into ever more remote villages peopled byanimistic minorities, such as the Dao, Hmong and Nung. Frommer's Guide on the Tokinese Alps.

6) Endangered Wildlife

Tram Chim National Park, Vietnam by you.

Tram Chim National Park, Vietnam

With its centuries of warfare and commerce, napalm and revolution, it's hard to think of Vietnam as a wildlife hot spot, but it is becoming increasingly recognized as such. Exotic creatures such as several rare species of langurs, gibbons and monkeys; wild boars and the extremely rare brown-antlered deer vie with lizards, snakes and birds for life listers. Although habitat loss in this growing country is a problem, an even bigger one is the catholic appetite of the Vietnamese palate – and the illegal trade in endangered species and restaurants that serve them.

7) Phong Nha-Ke Bang

Phong Nha cave, Quang Binh, Vietnam by you.

Phong Nha cave, Vietnam

The most recent of Vietnam's World Heritage Sites is the Phong Nha-Ke Bang National Park. Travelers to Southeast Asia are well aware of the widespread karst formations of the region (Ha Long Bay is one such). Karst topography is limestone-based, riven with caves and cracks, given to weird shapes and striking vistas. The formations in Phong Nha-Ke Bang are among the world's oldest, 400 million years old; its geomorphology is complex and a motherlode for earth sciences.

8) Hoi An Village

Hoi An lantern, Vietnam by you.

Lanterns, Hoi An, Vietnam

Designated a World Heritage Site in 1999, Hoi An is the former main port of Vietnam in the 16th century, and today 844 of its historic structures are preserved as landmarks. You can walk down the crooked streets surrounded by the atmosphere and odors of times gone by, take a sampan ride down the Do River or the streams that lace the town, hunt the traces of the foreign traders – Japanese, Chinese, Dutch, and Indian – who made Hoi An the center of culture in old Vietnam. Helpful hint: visit during full moon, when the shop owners turn off the lights and illuminate the streets with candle lanterns.

Related sites:

Viet Nam travel guide

Tours in Viet Nam

Short Excursions in Viet Nam

Monday, October 5, 2009

Ha Giang - A geological park of Vietnam

Dong Van Plateau in Ha Giang province consisting of Quan Ba, Yen Minh, Dong Van and Meo Vac Districts contains great geological values, suitable to developing a model of sustainable socio-economic development.

Ha Giang - A geological park of Vietnam

Vision of a project

Professor, Doctor Jan Masschelein from Leuven University, Belgium has researched geology of caves and grottos in the mountainous areas in Northern Vietnam for over 15 years. He said discoveries on Dong Van Plateau by scientists showed that the plateau is a world’s natural heritage that needs to be preserved. Therefore, not only local people but also nature lovers should take responsibility for preserving, embellishing and developing it for benefits of the people.

Ha Giang - A geological park of Vietnam

Professor Michiel Dusar, Director of the Belgian Geological Department was very interested when he set foot on this superb plateau. He said that he had visited many places in the world but no other place had left such a strong impression on him like this area. It boasts a system of caves and grottos as well as a fantastic and poetic landscape. At many international seminars and field trips, the scientists had a common idea that the optimal model for Dong Van Plateau was to build it into a geological park of national and international stature.

Ha Giang - A geological park of Vietnam

I still remember a field trip to Lung Cu area with Professor Okke Batalaan from Brussels University (Belgium). Standing at a height of 1,800m above sea level he looked very delighted while contemplating ranges of mountains and hills of the plateau below. He said that with painting-like landscape and many customs which are very attractive to visitors, Dong Van Plateau is worthy of being a geological park. In the eyes of the scientists, Dong Van Plateau is beautiful and mysterious but it has slept for years. Moreover, it is in danger of desertification and human devastation. Therefore, the protection and preservation of its discovered values is an urgent task. The establishment of the Vietnam-Belgium Geological Park project on the basis of co-operation between the Vietnam Institute of Geosciences and Mineral Resources, the Kingdom of Belgium and Ha Giang Province (Vietnam) is a sound decision to preserve and protect the geological and geomorphologic heritages and valuable landscape, and promote the socio-economic activities and sustainable development. Nguyen Truong To, Chairman of Ha Giang Provincial People’s Committee said that the Vietnam Institute of Geosciences and Mineral Resources and its partners in the country and from Belgium are helping Ha Giang Province work out a document to build Dong Van Geological Park on an area of 2,300km2 and submit it to UNESCO for consideration to be recognized as a global geological park.

Promoting economic and tourist development

Ha Giang - A geological park of Vietnam

Doctor Tran Tan Van, Deputy Director of the Vietnam Institute of Geosciences and Mineral Resources, who has been attached to geology for dozens of years, said that the geological park project is aimed at hunger elimination, poverty reduction and sustainable development, on the basis of educational and training activities for preservation of nature and reasonable use of natural resources. The establishment of Dong Van Geological Park will have a great significance in popularizing the values of this rocky plateau, especially developing the economy and tourism.

Ha Giang - A geological park of Vietnam

Standing on the peak of Ma Pi Leng Mountain which connects the districts of Dong Van and Meo Vac we had a feeling of being in a vast windy park. This area has beautiful scenery and unique geology. In front of us, there is Pai Lung Mount which is called a geologic monument by scientists. The Nho Que River looking like a silk band snakes through rugged cliffs which are 800-1,000m high. From this height we could contemplate peaks of mountains that look like pyramids running one after another.

Love story

The market is not only a rendezvous of men and women who can not become husbands and wives but also a meeting place of young people. The market has become an attractive destination for domestic and foreign visitors. Stones are available everywhere, in the terrace fields and in the home, where rice mortars, beds and horse stables are made of stones. The most beautiful feature is the earthen-walled houses surrounded by a stone barricade of the Mong ethnic people.

Ha Giang - A geological park of Vietnam

Dong Van, a border area of Vietnam, is home to 17 ethnic groups including the Mong, Tay, Lo Lo, Pu Peo and Giay. Through many years they still retain their traditional cultures, such as the going-to-the-field festival, the new rice-worshipping ceremony, the panpipe dancing festival, etc. In particular, Dong Van Market is very impressive. It is not only a place for product exchange but also for cultural activities. Young Mong ethnic men express their feelings by playing the panpipes while young women in charming brocade dresses sing songs in response. Couples and friends sit around a large pot of Thang co to enjoy the food and drink maize wine. The ancient city of Dong Van has the shape of a bow stretching several kilometres. The house in the city has the architectural style of the mountainous area, with stone-paved floor, earthen walls and a yin-yang tiled roof. The local people are optimistic and hard-working. To grow maize on rugged mountains, they have to carry baskets of soil to the mountain and place the soil into the hollows on the rock before sowing the seeds.

We visited Dong Van Plateau several times and each time we had a different feeling due to its distinct seasons. It is warm in winter and cool in summer. In the rice ripening season, the terrace fields in Hoang Su Phi constitute an emotive artistic work. The weather is favourable for growing fruit trees, such as peach, pear, plum and apple as well as precious medicinal plants, such as Eucommea, Tsaoko, Duong quy, Slipper plant, Job’s tears and Shan tuyet tea. These products have created the potential for the plateau to develop.

Visit Dong Van Plateau you will enjoy and never forget its beauty bestowed by nature.

Dong Van Plateau is one of the special limestone areas which are connected with the development of the earth’s crust and have outstanding natural values, such as sediments with imprints of palaeobiological fossils including thousands of species, 120 varieties and 17 groups of creatures. Layers of limestone totalling up to 4,000m dated from the Cambri Age about 545 million years ago. Scientists have discovered hundreds of valuable heritage sites, including 4 reference cross-sections, 8 important geological events of regional and global dimension, 25 geomorphologic heritages, 23 structural-tectonic heritages, 11 paleontologic- stratigraphic heritages and hundreds of caves and grottos, of them many have tourist values.

Torry by Hoang Chuong (Nhandan)

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