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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.

Wednesday, September 28, 2011

Four seasons in Sapa, Vietnam

The four seasons are distinctly felt in Sa Pa, Vietnam when nature changes her costume.

The four seasons are distinctly felt in Sa Pa when Nature changes her costume. Spring in the season of pear, peach and plum flowers. Summer comes blooming with Gladioli, Pancies, Dahlias, Sun-flowers and numerous temperate fruits. Autumn is the time for perfume mushrooms, woodears and plenty of specious medicinal plants such as Black Ginseng, Amomum,Cinnamon, Anise etc.

The sky is the vividly brightened with golden sun-rays and playful white clouds which seem to land on the ground, over the heads of people or on tops of trees. In Winter, the forest is almost whitened with snow, making the landscapes look more attractive.

But Summer is said to be the most charming season in the year. It is extremely interesting to experience all the four seasons within a summer day time: spring in the morning, summer at noon, autumn in the afternoon and winter in the evening and at night.

Sa Pa, with its surprisingly wonderful and orginal nature, the sky, the air, the clouds, the flowers and fruits there is openly inviting…

Source: Sapabeauty

Recommended Tour By Active Travel Asia: Sapa Trekking & Homestay

Night 1: Night train to Lao Cai

Transfer from your hotel to Hanoi Railway Station for the night train to Lao Cai. Overnight in AC soft sleeper cabin.
Transfer hotel – railway station: AC vehicle
Accommodation: Soft sleeper in AC cabin

Day 1: Transfer to Sapa – Trek to Giang Ta Chai Village

Arrive in Lao Cai around 5.30 am. We will take 1hr bus ride uphill to the beautiful town of Sapa. The ride give you a glimpse of the stunning vistas and impressive rice terraces. Upon arrival in Sapa Town we have breakfast in local restaurant and prepare for a great trek down to the picturesque valley of Muong Hoa.
You will commence your journey from Sapa by car to Lao Chai village, a Black Hmong ethnic minority village. You will then be able to walk from Lao Chai to Tavan village where the Giay ethnic minority hill tribe lives. After lunch the walk continues through a bamboo forest to Giang Ta Chai, a Red Dao ethnic minority village where we will have unique homestay experience among hill tribe people. Pinic lunch on the way. Dinner and overnight in the local house.

Transfer Lao Cai – Sapa: 45 mins
Trekking: 5-hr trek/dirt paths/downhill
Accommodation: Homestay
Meals: Breakfast, Lunch, Dinner

Day 2: Trek Giang Ta Chai – Su Pan – Thanh Kim - Thanh Phu Village

After breakfast, we start the trek through the rice terraces to the village of Su Pan then continue to Thanh Kim for lunch. After lunch time, we will trek along a narrow valley downhill for 2 hour to the Ngoi Bo River, then uphill for 1 hour to Muong Bo Village at the center of Thanh Phu Commune - a village of Tay minority. We will have dinner and stay overnight in a wooden Tay stilt house.

Trekking: 7-hr trek/dirt paths/downhill
Accommodation: Homestay
Meals: Breakfast, Lunch, Dinner

Day 3: Thanh Phu Village - Sapa

After breakfast, we walk down hill to Thanh phu bridge to take a beautiful drive back to Sapa. Upon arrive in Sapa we take shower and spend the rest of the day exploring Sapa town. 5.30 pm we will be transferred to Lao Cai for the night train back to Hanoi.

Trekking: 3 km - Introductory grade ( 1 hours trekking)
Transfer Sapa - railway station: 1-hr
Meals: Breakfast
Accommodation: Soft sleeper in AC cabin

Day 4: Back to Hanoi

Arrive in Hanoi around 5 am. Tour ends at Hanoi Railway Station.

For more information and booking this tour, please access ATA's website or contact us through ATA's email: info@activetravel.asia

Sunday, September 25, 2011

Bike Tour of Vietnam

On the first day of our bike tour of Vietnam, we took them for a spin to brave the chaotic traffic of Hanoi.  It was pretty intense riding alongside dozens of motor bikes and cars and other bicycles. Plus the inhaling of constant exhaust fumes kinda makes you feel like you’ve smoked a pack of cigarettes by the end.  We were ready to get out into the countryside and explore.

A crowded street in Hanoi’s Old Quarter (Photo by Lisa Lubin)

Our first day of real cycling we cycled 37 km to Cuc Phuong, Vietnam’s first National Park.  Inside the park we visited the Endangered Primate Rescue Center. The center, run by German biologists and local Vietnamese, rescues and cares for primates that are often hunted and traded for eventual medicinal ingredients.  There are several different species cared for here including the long-armed Gibbon, the long-tailed Langur monkey, and Lorises—smaller nocturnal primates.

Monkey at the Primate Rescue Center in Vietnam (photo by Lisa Lubin)

After a tiring first day of riding, we then did a ‘mini-trek’—up about one thousand steps in the forest…quite possibly harder than the cycling trip we had just done. 

Our third day was a rain and mudfest into the town called Hoa Lu and possibly my favorite ride of the trip. It drizzled all day and the roads were dirty so when you are going fast through puddles there was no helping the Jackson Pollock effect of mud splatter all over your body.

Muddy legs after a day of riding (Photo by Lisa Lubin)

Despite the free mud wraps (you’d pay about $100 for a spa treatment like that in Chicago), we rode about 70K through some of the most charming and tiny, stone-walled villages and mysterious misty mountain towns  For lunch some of us tried a ‘hot pot’ goat soup for lunch…somewhat tasty, but a little gamey for me.  After replenishing our energy we rode further into the city of Ninh Binh where good tour planning allowed us to check in to day rooms at a local hotel to shower and relax with a beer in the rooftop bar before hopping on the overnight train to the town of Hue.

Goat Stew for lunch (Photo by Lisa Lubin)

Hue was a charming cultural town of pagodas, temples, and a citadel. We did an easier cycle tour around the city checking out the sights. The following day we tackled our first major hills. The first one was a four-km, uphill mountain climb. It was super hot and humid out and the salty sweat was dripping into my eyes as I huffed up the mountain pass. I stopped mid-way for a breather and some water. I was happy and proud to reach the top as this was probably the biggest hill I’d ever climbed. Not only was my rear sore, but my thumb was a bit chaffed from the constant downshifting of my 24-speed bike.  But it was only the beginning. 

After a fun beach lunch and refreshing dip in the ocean we were faced with the infamous Hai Van Pass, an 11 km, 10 percent grade uphill climb of curvy road and switchbacks. I use the term ‘we’ loosely, since myself and two other gals skipped the bike ride up and caught a ride with Loi on the bus.  It just didn’t look fun to me and a bit too intense for my leg muscles.

Making up the Hai Van Pass (Photo by Lisa Lubin)

The other tough mountain bike-trained girls peddled up the winding mountain pass road. It took them about an hour to an hour and a half. For many it wasn’t the climb, but more the heat that made if difficult.   When I did my hill that took about 20 minutes for me and I felt proud of myself and called it a day. Coming from the Chicago ‘flatlands’ I have no training with hills and pretty much despise them. But I will say that after five days of riding all day, I was certainly getting better. Back at home I’ve done long rides (about 70K or 40 miles), but never intensely or as consecutively as this.

It was fun stopping along the side of the road to take photographs and cheer on the others as they climbed the mountain pass. It was like we were part of a triathlon or something.
The wonderful pay off of the pass was heading down the 11 km on the other side. We hit speeds of close to 30 mph, which is pretty fast on a bike and cruised down the mountain with a wonderful cooling breeze in our faces. This time I was one of the first to the bottom….love the speed.

Now, on our way to Hoi An, we cruised past the infamous China Beach where U.S. soldiers went for a little ‘R & R’ during the Vietnam War (or American War as they call it here—makes sense, I guess).
Charming pagoda of Hue (Photo by Lisa Lubin)

Inevitably I always ended in the back of the herd, many times because I would stop and take photos while many of the girls raced on by, but mostly because I just wasn’t as fast as them. Many of these girls were on a mission to be number one. Whereas I was on a mission to just get good exercise and see the country from this unique perspective.

Another thing that inevitably slowed me down were these amazingly adorable kids that we would pass on the way. As we cruised by, eager kids greeted us with excited ‘hellos’ every few yards the entire way. I’ve never seen such innocent smiles as the kids would run out of their homes and drop anything and everything just to be able see us and to shout their one English word, “hello.”  I’ve never heard so many “hellos” shouted at me in my entire life. Plus from all the cyclists that go this route over the years they have learned to do hand slaps.  I would slow down and give them a “high five” as I whizzed by. And then I would hear their chuckles as I continued down the road to the next group of excited kids.

Vietnamese boys in the countryside on the way to Hoi An (Photo by Lisa Lubin)

These are incredibly poor kids, that couldn’t look happier.  It always made me smile to see them, even if bugs were getting in my teeth. And I did my best to wave and say hello to each one …

Source: http://www.britannica.com

Friday, September 9, 2011

A sweet little mystery in the highlands

If you set off from Hanoi in the early morning, you can be in another world by the afternoon – Dong Van town sits over 1,000 metres above sea level in a green valley surrounded by rocky mountain ranges in the awe-inspiring province of Ha Giang, one of the most spectacular rural destinations in all of Southeast Asia – truly, a far cry from the bewildering heat and hectic streets of Hanoi at the height of summer.

The town is the capital of Dong Van district, one of four districts surrounding the Dong Van Geopark, a karst plateau featuring large tracts of limestone with many fossils of creatures that walked the earth 400 to 600 million years ago.

The plateau’s average elevation is 1,400-1,600m above sea level. The route up the mountains to the town is precipitous and slow-going, but the views of the imposing rocky mountain ranges make the trip a constant pleasure.

Near Dong Van town we came across a group of H’Mong people preparing for a local music contest that was to be held in the morning. Some of them were playing a khen (pan-pipe) and a ken la (leaf-horn) while others were harmonizing their sweet voices.

The town’s old quarter was lit up with red lanterns hanging from the window ledges of houses along every street and all around the market. As night fell, the town took on a wonderfully fanciful light in the midst of the mysterious rocky highland.

The locals always celebrate the full moon nights on the 14th, 15th and 16th of the lunar calendar to preserve and promote the town’s cultural heritage and customs. During these festivals, cultural and artistic activities take place in the old market. Visitors can taste the local cuisine, watch musical performances, or check out some of the traditional handicrafts, and much more.
Dong Van Market
In the evening, an ebullient crowd of H’Mong begins to gather. Soon there are more than 300 artisans and artists from all corners of Ha Giang province ready to perform. A small stage has been set up for the occasion and there is music and dancing; everyone is happy to be part of the show. We listen to the melodies as well as the sounds of the valleys, forests and mountains, and everyone smiles.

There are 40 houses in the centre of Dong Van’s old quarter, which are most beautiful at sunrise or sunset when the dark grey houses are suddenly brightened by golden sunlight.

The town was built in the early 20th century and, in the beginning, mainly Tay and Hoa people lived here. During the 1940s and 1950s, the Kinh, Dzao and Nung tribes also settled in the area. The two-storey houses are a combination of architectural styles and there is influence from the Zhongnan region of China. The houses are built with tick earthen walls, dark brown wooden frames and stairs and dark grey Chinese yin and yang tile roofs. Each house has a yard and three-step staircase made from bluish limestone pillars. The houses are designed according to the principles of feng shui, balancing the natural and structural energy that courses through the environment.

By nine in the evening, the old quarter is empty and quiet. The ceremony is over; the winners have been awarded their prizes and almost everyone has wandered off home. I stroll over to the old market which was built in 1920 as a central trading place for local tribes to exchange clothes and tools. At night, the market is closed for business, but open for romance. Some of the young women are beautifully dressed and the young men do their best to woo the ladies by playing their khen or ken la.

Leaving the young ones, I step into Pho Co Café, which is located in one of the oldest houses in town; the owners claim it was built in 1890. By a flickering oil lamp I sit sipping my hot tea and gazing out at the street through the faded wooden window bars. I can hear the sound of a khen and a ken la playing in response.

 Pho Co Cafe
The café stays open till midnight and I am perfectly consent to sit there, soaking up the sense of mystery exuded by Dong Van town. As I walk home through the shadows in the still night, I am already looking forward to the first rays of golden sunlight that will herald the dawning of the day.

Source: Dtinews

A very good trip with Active Travel Asia

Our first trip with Active travel was the Sapa valley trek homestay with ecolodge option. Everything was handled very professionally for this by Active Travel Asia.

We were picked up by an agent at our hotel exactly on time and they actually escorted us right onto our train for our night trip to Lao Cai. The train station at Hanoi can be somewhat intimidating and getting tickets can be frustrating so this was really appreciated.

Sapa, Vietnam
Our guide and driver were waiting for us when we arrived in Lao Cai. They drove us to Sapa where we had breakfast and then our guide, Duc, took us on a walking tour around Sapa. Duc spoke very good English and he was very informative and receptive to all of our questions and needs. We then did a short drive to a trailhead and our trek began . If you want to get away from the tourist horde then you really need to go with a guide and be prepared do some walking. The tourists really thinned out after a couple of hours. Our first night of homestay was excellent, great food, nice sleeping quarters and even a hot shower! Duc prepared all of our meals for us and was an excellent cook!

Our next day was 7 hours of walking. I would not recommend this trip to people unaccustomed to long walks in hilly and sometimes unstable terrain. We hike in the mountains at home a lot so it was no big deal. Very beautiful views. We had lunch in a local village house, and then pushed on to our next homestay. Again, decent enough sleeping quarters and a delicious meal prepared by Duc.

Our last day was a stay at the Tapas ecolodge and was this ever worth the money! Beautiful accommodations, great food, and 5 star views.

We were picked up the next morning and returned o sapa by van. Duc met us there and we did a trip to cat cat village and saw H’mong dancing. Duc arranged some cheap scooter rides for us back to Sapa as he could tell that we were pretty worn out. (Thank you Duc!)

The ethnic Mong girl
Duc and driver then escorted us back to Lao Cai and we had extra time so they drove us to see the Chinese border! Cool! Duc then took us to the train station, waited with us, and personally escorted us to our compartment for the night trip back to Hanoi.

As I stated in other reviews, we usually shy away from guided trips as we don't like being part of the herd, but seriously this trip was the opposite of that. We left the tourists behind in the sapa valley and I really don't see how you could do this without having a guide.

Other big thanks to our guide Duc who made the whole experience very memorable. I would very much recommend Duc and Active travel.

Supported by: ActiveTravel Asia

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