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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, November 30, 2011

Active Travel Asia announced the prizes for the contest “Indochina in Your Eyes”!

First word Active Travel Asia sent to you to joint our competition “Indochina in yours eyes” most sincere thanks!

“Indochina in yours eyes” contest lasted over 2 months (1st Sep 2011 to 20th Nov 2011) and ends on 20 Nov 2011. Organizing Committee has received many entries with unique ideas, deeply felt and very sincere, especially from customers love traveling and traveled to Indochina in a lifetime.

Now is the time to honor the winner. The winner is the person who has the amount of LIKE ranked highest on our facebook page plus 2 travel news sites. It meant that many people had read and liked your story.

The highest prize of the contest “Indochina in your eyes” is Yasmine Khater with entry "South to North Vietnam : An Unforgettable Experience".

The prize is a 3 day 2 night tour costing from 700$ - 1000$ for 2 persons. The winner can choose one of out door activities including Trekking, Cycling, Motorcycling, and Kayaking in wide areas of Indochina plus interesting gifts. 

• Kayaking Halong Bay
• Trekking Sapa and homestay
• Mai Chau Trekking
• Motorcycling the Ho Chi Minh Trail
• Biking Angkor Wat

Besides the highest prize, to encourage the writers ATA awards 3 incentive prizes for the entry which had the amount of “Like” followed by the highest:

Andrew Faulks with entry “Pol Pot’s Clipper”
Raelene Kwong with entry “An expedition to Vietnam’s Son Doong Cave – what could go wrong?”
Manasi Subramaniam with entry “How Saigon Feels”

The incentive prize is a full day city tour for 2 persons. Besides, you will get some extra values as below:

• a couple of sleeping bags by fabric filter.
• a couple of T-shirts with ATA logo.
• 2 water puppet tickets
• lunch included
• 1 hour Cyclo (Xich Lo) around old quarter.

All the prizes will be available in 2 years from the day of award announcement (Nov 30th, 2011.)

Active Travel Asia thank all of your contest whether your felt and shared were not high rank but your sharing for ATA is the most precious. All good thoughts of you for Indochina and ATA will be the core values which always lead to ATA.

Please thank most respectfully to you, wish you good luck and congratulations again!

Please refer any questions about the award to us at: event@activetravel.asia.

Thursday, November 24, 2011

Vietnam - A cultural feast

I envisioned hiking to remote villages to find mountain hill tribes; people living in indigenous villages, untouched by outside influences.

Instead, as we pulled into Sapa, in the northern part of Vietnam, a group of Black Hmong women gathered on the side of the road as our shuttle pulled into the center of town. A welcoming committee, perhaps?

As the van came to a stop, my jaw dropped as the entire group charged at our vehicle screaming “You buy from me!”

This was not the authentic Vietnamese experience I had in mind.

Returning to Southeast Asia was a dream of mine since my last trip to Cambodia, Thailand and Malaysia eight years ago. So when the time finally came for my boyfriend and I to head out for a three-week romp around Vietnam, Thailand and Indonesia this past September, I went with a backpack full of expectations, hoping to get off the beaten path and discover the “authentic” cultures of Southeast Asia.

Traffic flows near Hoan Kiem Lake in Hanoi, Vietnam.

Expectations and reality are hardly ever one in the same, as I was soon reminded. As a tourist, I had as much to do with the cultural changes taking place in the places I visited as the people who live there. The fact is that with tourism spreading rapidly throughout Third World countries, “off the beaten path” is now the most-sought after destination.

East meets West

We began our trip with two days in Hanoi, a city well known for its organized chaos. Hanoi is a perfect blend of Eastern mystery and Western old world charm dating back to the early French colonialists.

The narrow streets were choked with a million scooters driving alongside street-hawkers selling their wares. All the while, the constant smell of delicious Vietnamese food wafted out from the thousands of restaurants and sidewalk food stands. Vietnamese women wearing traditional woven cone hats sold everything from T-shirts and balloons to exotic fruits and chickens (both living and dead) from their yoke-slung baskets. Spend a morning sipping Vietnamese coffee and eating tiramisu at a cafe on the banks of Hoan Kiem Lake and watch the world go by and you could be in an Asian-style Paris.

To dive into Hanoi’s culture headfirst is to master the art of crossing the road and bartering. It’s also a commitment to eating anything and everything cooked on the street, in spite of any Western health warnings. So this is what we did.

In a city where traffic lights mean nothing and the only road rule seems to be to keep moving, we began our road-crossing lesson by subtly tagging along with locals as they crossed. The key is to cross slowly and steadily and trust that the one million scooters, cyclists, cars and other pedestrians that share the road will flow around you — a belief that contradicts all western road-crossing training.

The art of bartering was our next cultural lesson and my boyfriend approached it with game and gusto while I, recognizing his strength and my relative weakness, timidly left all negotiations to him. He proved his mastery after intense, extensive negotiations for a .25 cent Zippo lighter. Eventually, the sales person shoved the lighter in his hands, refused his money and said “go away.”

While haggling was his fortay, eating was my greatest strength. I attacked the street cuisine, inhaling delicious pho noodle soups, rich French pastries and baguettes, and any street-side delicacy set in front of me. I was never disappointed. Hanoi proved to be a foodies paradise, not just for the amazing flavors, but for the whole experience. Eating on the street is a must as, for one, it is usually the cheapest option and two, it will give you the most authentic Vietnamese food experience. Our last day in Hanoi, we were enticed away from shopping to a street cafe where we were the only non-Asian diners. We sat on plastic child-sized chairs and watched as eight small dishes of food, some recognizable, most not, were immediately placed in front of us in dim sum style. Delicious! Next to us a family of servers/cooks rushed around, dishing up trays of food for our fellow enthusiastic diners as they loudly slurped and chatted.

Ha Long BaySapa – Hanoi

From Hanoi we headed east for a two night stay on a traditional junk boat in Ha Long Bay. This UNESCO World Heritage site on the Northeastern coast covers an area of 1,553 km (965 miles) and is made up of almost 2,000 stunning, mainly limestone islets rising from the Tonkin Gulf. Scattered throughout the islets are small floating fishing villages whose inhabitants farm oysters, mussels and fish for food and trade. It is possible at times to be distracted from the allure of the area by the amount and effects of tourism there. The 450 boats anchored in the crowded bay host thousands of tourists a day. The amount of trash floating in the otherwise emerald waters is a sad reminder of how the desire for tourist dollars can become more important than protecting tourist destinations. However as the sun sets on the limestone karst and the last of the water traders ply their goods to colorful tourist filled junk boats, of which you are a part of, it is impossible not to appreciate the obvious beauty and cultural significance of Ha Long Bay.

Next stop, Sapa, a small French colonial town in the misty northern mountains of the Lao Cai provence. Located near the Chinese boarder, it is home to several different ethnic minority groups whose villages are scattered among the rice terrace-covered mountains and valleys. We took a night train to get from Hanoi to Sapa, sleeping in quaint bunk beds that conjured up historic images of an Orient Express experience, to Lao Cai and from there, took a shuttle to Sapa.

Our initial surprise and fear of the welcoming committee was replaced with curiosity on our hikes to nearby Black Hmong villages with our guide, Quong. Traditionally dressed Black Hmong ladies casually followed along, asking a series of basic questions over and over again: “What’s your name?” “Where you from?” “How many children you have?” and inevitably “You my friend?… You buy from me?” as they dug into their woven baskets for both handmade, and Chinese-made goods. The question of why we were hiking to meet the Black H’mong when they had already made the hike to meet us was ever present. Ever the entertainer and salesman himself, my boyfriend asked them to buy his handmade fly fishing flies and individual pieces of chewing gum. He did eventually manage a trade, a piece of gum for a hand-made bracelet, much to the frustration of the Hmong lady who soon realized she didn’t like the taste of the gum.

Despite the never-ending sales pitch, it was impossible to ignore the magnificent scenery surrounding us: waterfalls, rivers and terraced rice paddies in mist-covered mountains.

Our home-stay was a fun-filled night of amazing food and home-brewed “happy water,” which broke down all cultural and social walls and had us convinced we were fluent in local dialects. Our morning headaches reminded us otherwise. Waking before the rest of our group, my boyfriend and I spent the morning with our host, who spoke no English, and her outgoing five-year-old grandson. We got a glimpse into their everyday life, as our host’s son and daughter-in-law puttered around doing morning chores.

We returned to Hanoi from Sapa the same way we arrived, by sleeper train, and spent one more night in the energetic city, surprised to see capitalism thriving so well in this still communist country. The next morning we headed off to our next stop, a whirlwind two days in Bangkok.
Source: darianculbert

Tuesday, November 8, 2011

Vietnam: gems of the north

Vietnam is increasingly becoming a popular destination for travellers each year. Its large chaotic cities are popular stop-offs for young travellers, and a great place to spend a few days. However, it can be nice to get away from the hustle and bustle, and northern Vietnam boasts fantastic scenery for those able to pull themselves away from the captivating capital of Hanoi.

Northern Vietnam boasts fantastic scenery

Hanoi is a bustling city, riddled with motorcycles, bright lights, and street vendors; it can be hard to keep up with. There is much to see in and around the city and plenty of culture to absorb in the ancient architecture which is dotted throughout the vibrant city.
Although everyone advises you to try the street food, be careful what you order as Vietnam is notorious for its taste for dog, and locals prefer boiled eggs with developing chicks in to dunking eggs with toast soldiers...

Amid the shops selling richly-coloured, handmade clothing and ornaments you may also find propaganda art shops selling reprints of posters from various areas of Vietnam culture and the Vietnam War.
If you have a few days to spare however, it’s worth going a bit further afield, as northern Vietnam has some fantastic varied landscapes; the two most popular being the protruding rock formations of Halong Bay, and the terraced farms of Sapa.

Halong Bay is a UNESCO world heritage site and consists of over 3,000 islands scattered across the sea. You can choose to stay a number of nights on a trip to the bay, but two days one night is plenty of time. Make sure to visit the famous cave; with three increasingly large chambers to walk through, it is quite a sight to behold. There is also an opportunity to go kayaking which I would recommend.

If offered the choice of staying on land or boat, I would advise you stay onboard as the sea is calm and it’s quite an experience waking up and walking out of your cabin to such a spectacular view. Unfortunately, the ever-increasing number of tourists means the ocean is usually scattered with other boats making it a slightly less unique experience but it is worth a trip none-the-less.

From Halong Bay, you will need to detour back through Hanoi in order to get a night train to Sapa (pictured below). These trains are very different to the sleeper trains of Thailand, in which you are bundled into bunk beds lining either side of the carriage, as most trains running this journey have four-bed carriages which seem quite luxurious in comparison. You may either book a tour or decide to freestyle on arrival (which will often get you a cheaper trekking trip), however due to lack of time on my trip, I decided to book a tour.

From the train station in Sapa it is a dodgy drive up through misty mountains; the morning I arrived you could barely see the white markings in the road six feet ahead of the minibus! The somewhat frightening experience seems even more surreal when you glance out the window to see the lush green hills and terraced farms that almost give the impression of an optical illusion.

On my trip I was unfortunately greeted by torrential downpour, and with only my canvas plimsolls I resorted to plastic bagging my shoes, so be warned - the weather is unpredictable, particularly in rainy season (May to September).

A trek is a great way to take in the scenery and if booking a tour beforehand, most travel agents will offer the opportunity of a homestay, which if you are willing to rough it, I would highly recommend. The place I stayed was very basic, a cement building with curtains separating the beds from the main living area, and an upper terrace with mattresses and mosquito nets for the guests.

The family spoke very little English, but our guide stayed over and was happy to translate. The food was delicious traditional Vietnamese cuisine, and despite the basic facilities of the homestay, the location was fantastic in the dip of a valley by a river in which you could view local children fishing, and at walking distance from local villages.

The local saleswomen are persistent, and be warned that they will walk alongside you for the duration of the trek until you buy something from them unless you make clear at the start that you are not going to make a purchase. Back in the town at Sapa, there is also a large market selling many different things, but always be prepared to barter as they will normally ask for almost twice above the selling price.

Embrace the overland travel, that’s when you’re likely to see the most unspoilt landscapes and the towns that are really representative of the country’s economy and lifestyle. Vietnam is a country with varied landscapes, and although the big cities are great to spend some time in, it’s well worth a trip to some of the farther stretches of land to get an understanding of just how diverse the country is.

By Alice Woodward

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