Thursday, October 16, 2014

Vietnam's Ho Chi Minh To Hanoi Listed In Top 10 Toughest Bike Rides

The Top 10 toughest bike rides list was taken by Lonely Planet. These are top 10.

Ho Chi Minh to  Hanoi, Vietnam: The bike trip begins from lush plain of Mekong Delta, winding through stunning mountains around Da Lat, with hard climb through the Hai Van pass, then reaching Northern mountainous provinces. Besides absolutely abrupt routes, the searing tropical heat will make cyclists drop back into state of endless water refill. 

Travelers indulging in Vietnam cycling usually challenge themselves to take a biking Ho Chi Minh trails - the Vietnamese famous historical road. Active Travel Asia ( also recommend travelers exciting motorcycling tours (here) on this road. 

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Photography by Nguyen Minh Son
Col du Tourmalet, France: This extremely abrupt distance on the Pyrenees’s highest road is a classical Tour. Starting in 1910, it has been included than any other pass on Tour de France – the famous three-week race. Arriving Col du Tourmalet is possible from two directions. The classic route from the west is 19 km in length, reach a hard climb of 1,404 m. The gradient is up to 7.4%.

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Photography by Cyclingtips
L’Alpe d’Huez, France: This Alpine epic hauls around a seemingly endless series of hairpin bends stretching consecutively 13.8 km on the L’Alpe d’Huez mountain near Paris, will make cyclists choke.
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Photography by
El Camino de la Muerte, Bolivia: As a hard challenging road, “El Camino de la Muerte” means “Road of death”, which sounds less horrifying in Spanish. This bike trip just for pro-cyclists descends a precipitous mountain pass, commencing at 4,700m and winding at 1,200m. Let’s face it. Solace cyclists with the truth that most deaths relates in cars rather than cycles. 

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Photography by Rinconabstracto
Passo di Gavia, Italy: Passo di Gavia, in the splendid Italian Alps, is 26 km in ride length and climb a massive 2621m. The road is closed in winter due to thick snow. However, the climate can also be really harsh even in warm months. Summer is perfect time to conquer this class race’s hardest climbs. 

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Photography by Londonbikers
Manali to Leh, India: This extreme ride through the Indian Himalaya is just only for experienced and sufficiently fit cyclists. Starting in Manali, the route leads through pine forests, ascending rugged and craggy slopes along dirt tracks and sealed trail, before reaching back switchback nearby Leh.

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Photography by Sidnsam
Lake Louise to Whistler, Canada: This journey lasting in many days will take cyclists to an 11km slope in total of 1000 km, traversing the Rockies, heading straight into Canada’s Coast Mountain toward the resort of Whistler. Just thinking about it, travelers may feel backside ache.

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Photography by Beediverse
Cape Epic, South Africa: This off-road classic changes its route yearly, but the theme is always the same. Eight days of ascending mountain cycling through some of South Africa’s the most spectacular and rugged terrain, with 698 km in length and 15 km of slopes, Epic Cape makes La Tourmalet just like a ride in a park.

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Photography by
Three Peaks Challenge, Australia: Try on your own, it’s really hard. Australia’s Three Peaks challenge takes place every year. The road contains 235 km in 13 km, crossing Tawonga Gap, Mount Hotham and Falls Creek. To conquer this trail, it is necessary to have professional riders going alongside.

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Alto de L'Angliru, Spain: Recently, the Vuelta d'Espana has earned a reputation as the most abrupt stage of both famous bicycle races - Tour de France and Giro d’Italia. Alto de L'Angliru, located in the Northern Asturias region, is disputably its toughest climb. It is just only 12.5 km in length, but the average gradient is a creepy 10.13%. 

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Photography by

Thursday, October 2, 2014

Hoi An Sunset Cruise - New Fantastic Experience

Arriving Hoi An of Vietnam – the biggest trade port formerly and a stunning quaint city now, you can take part in many interesting discovery activities like cycling around Hoi An, visiting ancient building, taking a Hoi An cooking class, enjoying street food and particularly, cruising on Thu Bon river.

Hoi An’s architectural constructions are stunning. This is too obvious. Hoi An’s food is amazing. Do not need to argue about this. But Hoi An’s natural scenes and people in countryside are also nice. This is a great thing for discovery. Jumping into a boat and enjoy a Hoi An sunset cruise, this is one of the best ways to obtained a wonderful holiday in this ancient town.

The cruise on Thu Bon river – the heart of Hoi An will offer you diverse experiences and emotions. You can read in some document that Hoi An is situated in banks of Hoai river, and others say that Thu Bon river. The truth is that Hoai river is a tributary of Thu Bon river. 

On a traditional boat, the trip departs from a peaceful nice dock decorated by colorful lanterns. Actually lanterns are hung everywhere in Hoi An. The boat will lead you through ancient streets along two sides of the river. Green moss walls, grey tiles and other archaic images appearing in sunshine may make you imagine the life sights of a big city formerly.   

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The boat gradually floats far away the central Hoi An and take travelers reach to outskirt life. Bring along a camera in hand, you can shoot nice photos as the sun going down behind mountains and all fishing activities on the river. 

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You will observe fisherman catching fish before sunset. You can see many original jobs like casting net, cutting fishing rope and crab hunting. You also probably encounter strange and unique Vietnamese bamboo basket boats along the waterways of water coconut palm paradise. The bustling part in a day of local fishermen is in the late afternoon. When the sun is setting slowly down to the mountain, fishermen also set off their fishing and expect to harvest fish abundantly. The cruise will let travelers have chances to be knowledgeable about daily activities of fishery in Hoi An. If you want to understand more about the local life, you can try working as a Hoi An fisherman.

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The sun is low in the sky and the wind is gentle. All views become effulgent. Romantic and peaceful minutes of the sunset pass slowly. Experiencing total serenity and listen to sounds of waves among splendid nature, these will be fantastic moments. By this excellent calm cruise, you can immerse in nature, relax and admire glorious sunset. 

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When the boat go back to central Hoi An, it is the time the night is coming. Every ancient house along the river lights lanterns at doors and balconies. Dwelling lines and river face become glistening and fanciful, creating absolutely romantic scenery. The trip is still great even in last moments.     

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Thursday, September 18, 2014

Characteristics Of Floating Markets In Vietnam

By Kimina
Floating market is a original feature of deltas of Mainland Southeast Asia, where has thousands of rivers and canals in various sizes. In Vietnam, floating market is a specific cultural part of the Southwest. If you tend to explore Mekong delta, you should not skip a cruise to floating markets

The market is held in rivers, among a vast waterway with hundreds of boat, junk and canoe of residents.

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A floating market in Vietnam
The floating market opens up a whole day, but it is usually the most bustling in the morning, when it is cool. The more it turns to noon, the hottest the weather is, the fewer customers are. So you should visit floating markets in early morning.

Boats are loaded fully of goods. Fruits are the most popular kind of merchandise. The peculiar point of boats is that in each one has several poles. People dangle products which they sell on these poles. Therefore, customers just only look at the poles, they can know whether the boat has things they need or not. By this original marketing way, customers from a far distance can see clearly items.

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Residents hang products they sell on poles.
These are general characteristics of Vietnam floating markets.

- Market is the place where trade and exchange actually local produce of local inhabitants, comprising agricultural products and foodstuff. 

- Stores or boats normally do not have any sign. Sellers hang products which they sell on poles or over prows; sell oranges hang oranges, sell mangoes hang mangoes, sell coconut hang coconut, etc. People call these poles as “cay beo”. These “cay beo” are erected on prows or hang horizontally on boats. 

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"Cay beo" is erected on the prow.
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"Cay beo" is hang horirzontally
- If wanting to know the area which a boat belongs to, just regard into a side of the boat, which is written a province code abbreviated by two first letters. For instance, “Tien Giang” province is written as “TG”.

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Vinh Long province wass abbreviated as "VL" on this boat
However, there are still three circumstances:

1. “Hanging things which are not for sale.” They are just clothes. Residents of the floating market commonly live in boats, so their clothes are also dried in sun on boats.

2. “Things are for sale but not hung.” These boats are food or beverage stalls. That goods cannot be hung.

3.  “Hang one thing but sell another thing.” If you see only a few pineapples hung on a boat, this means that the owner want to sell this boat. So, hang pineapples, but sell the boat.

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Hang pineapples, but sell boats
Some famous floating markets you can visit are Cai Be (Tien Giang province), Phung Hiep (Hau Giang province), Chau Doc (An Giang province), Can Tho and Phong Dien (Can Tho city).

Any Mekong delta tour also set an excursion to floating markets for you. You can choose biking around Mekong countryside to discover the cultural life of local residents.

Friday, September 5, 2014

Backpacking Vietnam - Sapa

By Canadian Veggie
Sapa is a popular tourist town in the northwest corner of Vietnam that serves as a gateway for visiting the ethnic hill tribes that live in the area. Around Sapa there are rolling hills covered in rice terraces and many small Hmong and Dzao villages, where people still follow their traditional ways of life (although western influence and tourist money is slowly changing that).

trekking Sapa 1

Our guide, Mao, was excellent and we got a much more personal experience. After a quick bowl of pho in the market, we were off trekking Sapa. I thought it was going to be an easy trek when I saw Mao in big purple boots, but I was wrong – it wasn’t easy, it was just muddy. Mao took us off the main trail and along tiny trails used by the locals. Even though we had a guide, we also had two other women follow us, helping us whenever the trail became slippery or steep.

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I enjoyed the scenery along our Sapa trek, even though the hills were shrouded in fog. The highlight of our hike though was talking to Mao about her life and discussing the interesting cultural differences of life among the hill tribes. Most of the tribes in the area originally migrated from China hundreds of years ago. The women seem to be the bread winners and still dress in traditional clothing, while the men are a bunch of slackers. Mao told us the guys have trouble learning English, so all the guides are women. The women also do a lot of the daily work and cooking.

The most interesting thing we learned from Mao was about the marriage customs. According to her, she’s been ‘married’ to her husband for a year (she’s only 17) and they live together, but they haven’t had a wedding yet. She was hoping that during the new year celebrations, both of their families would give their blessing and then they could have a wedding.

Our night in Sapa was spent at an intimate homestay in a small village. There were 12 other people and enough bed’s to sleep 30, so it was more of a rural hostel. However, the other guests were friendly and it was good to get advice on places to go on the rest of our trip. We had an excellent, candle-lit (the power went out) dinner and afterwards our hosts brought out “happy water” – home-brewed rice wine. It was served from a water bottle, and even though it was remarkably strong, it was also very smooth.

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The next morning we got up early to come back to Sapa town and then a trip to Bac Ha, home to a popular Sunday market. The hill tribes (mostly Flower Hmong) converge on the city to swap fabrics, foods, and livestock. Unlike most of the other markets we visited in Vietnam, the Bac Ha market is largely geared at locals, with only a small section selling souvenirs. While we wandered around taking pictures, Mao went off shopping for dried beans and a purse.

Sapa trek 1

Sapa trek 2

Sapa trek 3

Sapa trek 4

Thursday, September 4, 2014

A Beautiful Trekking Cat Ba National Park With Incredible Things

By Dbandhertravelbug
When our boat arrived at Cat Hai, Hai Phong City (a district that includes Cat Ba) our group (about 18 of us) was then transported by van to the Cat Ba National Park.

Once there we were given the option of going on a hike, renting a bike, or exploring a nearby cave. While it was an incredibly hot day already, given it was only mid morning, people really weren’t certain as to what to do. A flashback to the tour of the caves the day before made me immediately decide that I was going on the trekking Cat Ba national park, regardless of the heat and humidity. My newly minted friends, the Australian Triumvirate, weren’t up for the trek but I decided to go anyway. And it was a great decision.

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We trekked with a large group of people – not even sure how these many new faces joined in – and while it was a bit annoying in the beginning, as time went on, we seemed to spread out more and more. We were never introduced to any formal guides but one man was clearly just that. Perhaps he was leading a group of people that we ended up with – or not? – and it still remains a mystery. For the remainder of this post we will call him the monkey (you’ll see why in a minute).

Cat Ba National Park is apparently known for several dozens type of animals – wild boar, deer, langurs, hedgehogs, just to name a few – and many different species of birds. Unfortunately, I didn’t see any of these forms of wildlife except for the LARGEST spider I have ever seen in my entire life (see photo). After doing some research, it appears that when you book a trekking tour (and a much longer and arduous one) with the park rangers, you have a much better chance of seeing these animals as they know where to take you.

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While no wildlife was seen by me (or anyone else, I think), it was still a beautiful hike with many trees, hundreds of types of plants (and some with humongous leaves!) and many that are used for medicinal purposes. We weaved through canopies of trees, rocky paths, and up steep inclines, several times having to use ones hands to pull yourself up the rocks. How some people were only wearing flip flops I will never understand!

This was obviously a piece of cake for the monkey and to watch him scamper up the trails and dart around the many bikers was a sight to be seen. It was hot, really hot, and the monkey knew it. He would run back and forth from different groups of people and fan them with his traditional bamboo, handheld fan. While it doesn’t seem like this could truly make a difference, it did and was hysterical as well. He also took to hanging from the trees and often requested that we take photos of him. Clearly, a man, er monkey, who enjoyed what he did for a living.
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Once we reached the top of the mountain a couple of hours later, we faced a massive metal structure in front of us. We already had a magnificent 360 degree view of the mountains but climbing higher would obviously be even better. While some opted not to go further, I began the ascent on the metal stairs that wrapped around until you hit the tippy top. I still don’t know what this structure is or what if any significance it holds, but it’s a great viewing tower for those brave enough to go up. I must admit while the many stairs going up seemed sturdy enough, the platform and rails at the top were…let’s just say, rusting terribly and by no means up to any kind of code. But it did afford an incredible vista!
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I got to know a few people while on the hike and it turned out to be a really pleasant morning. When we all reconvened, I can’t say that I wasn’t a bit envious of the Australian Triumvirate. They had ended up going to one of the caves – the Hospital Cave – which was a secret, bomb-proof hospital during The Vietnam War. It was a perfect trip for them being nurses and seemed fascinating from how they described it. One traveler’s post that I just found online describes it as follows:

“My personal opinion is that the Hospital Cave in Cat Ba Island is one of the most fascinating sights (and lesser known) of the Vietnam war era– hospital was constructed initially by the Chinese. Access to the hospital is not through some road that ambulances or cars could use, but through a mountain donkey path surrounded by thick vegetation, which I would imagine would be quite a task for two soldiers carrying a stretcher to walk on. Injured North Vietnamese officers would be arriving by boat via Halong Bay and eventually carried in the “hospital”. The hospital “entrance,” barely visible even today, is less than 5 feet high (1.52m) and about 4 feet wide (1.21m). On the left, immediately after entering, was the x-ray department, to x-ray the incoming casualties. The operating theatres, recovery rooms, and other spaces were primitive by today’s standards, but the sheer size of the place–where and how it was actually constructed–is incredible and made the place secure and impenetrable by enemy fire.”

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Had I not been with a group, there’s no question that I would have visited it after hiking through the National Park. However, one more reason to return to travel Northern Vietnam!

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