Wednesday, May 13, 2015

Enjoy Fresh Life in Ba Be National Park

By just staying a few days in Pac Ngoi or any village in Ba Be national park, travelers can come back bustling urban life with a pleasant mood and fresh mind.

Life in Ba Be is so easy-going, where travelers can soak in nature and enjoy an authentic life. With presence of really few modern objects, Be Be is a wonderful place to escape from crowded city and busy life. Wi-fi is erratic, mobile wave and 3G wave are also weak. However, it’s ok. Look at another aspect, everything is still fine. No one and nothing can bother you in this out-of-the-way area. Let try a life without technology and conveniences.

Homestay in Ba Be national park

So as to enjoy this fresh life, you can select a homestay of a Tay family, where you will experience a life at a traditional stilt house. My stilt house overlooks gentle Len stream, a great location to relax in every afternoon.

In this national park, Ba Be lake is the most striking. Boating around the lake, traveler will be contemplated a charming, breathtaking scene. The scenery changes as moving from south to north. 

The southern part focuses several docks. Here, water has a dark green and sometimes green of jade. Short and rank mountains embrace the lake, and trees are luxuriant. Some islets appear among the lake, in which the most well-known one is “Ba Goa” islet (The Widower islet). With tranquil atmosphere, you will just hear the rumble of boat machines. Ba Be is truly like Halong in land. 

The southern part of Ba Be lake

Up to the north, the landscape become different. Water has a light brown, yellow brown or yellow green. Perhaps this is because of alluvium. The two sides are covered with corn fields. Some herds of buffaloes slowly gaze. Some flocks of ducks and chickens forage. A few houses of thatched roofs are scattered, appear intermittently behind rows of bamboo trees. A number of dugout boats go up and down in the still and secluded space.  

The northern part of Ba Be lake

If you want to have adventurous feeling, you can kayak around Ba Be lake and discover it in your own way, or trekking over the hamlets to reveal the indigenous culture and life. 

In the afternoon, travelers can play at the stream in front of the homestay, wading and splashing on cool water, or just sitting on the lovely small bamboo bridge to silently read book and unwind. Every homestay also has some bikes, so you can ask the owner to borrow one and cycle around villages and visit corn, rice fields. 

Len stream - Pac Ngoi village - Ba Be national park

Fresh food in Ba Be is fish, shrimps and vegetables. Fish and shrimps are caught directly from the lake. Locals said that they put lift-nets down to the stream at 4-5 p.m. And at 2-3 a.m, they would pull lift-nets up to gather aquatic products. Most typical vegetable of this area is “bo khoi”, which has a fairly wild taste. A part from “bo khoi”, you can enjoy many other lush vegetables.
Here, there is no place for entertainment. When night falls, the entire space is sunk in darkness, unexpectedly quiet. Then, it is time for a comfortable sleep. Sleep early and wake up early, you will have a good health and cheery mind for activities tomorrow. Get up early, you can also contemplate rustic villages and beautiful fields in sunrise, incredible things that you may rarely see in your life. 

Ba Be national park
 By Xuan Tran (Kimina) - ActiveTravel Asia

Monday, March 30, 2015

Dizzy Passes in Vietnam

With spectacular scenery and craggy terrain, these fascinating passes are ideal destinations for Vietnam motorcycling tours.  

Ma Pi Leng along with Pha Din, O Quy Ho and Khau Pha are deserved as four highest and most dramatic passes in north-western Vietnam, while Trieu Hai is the brand new dirty route challenging any traveler.

1. Ma Pi Leng

Ma Pi Leng pass

Lying on the legendary Happiness Road connecting between districts of Dong Van and Meo Vac, Ma Pi Leng is a majestic pass 20 km long, crossing over Ma Pi Leng peak at an altitude of 2000m above the sea level, belonging to Ha Giang province. Spectacular scenery with massive mountains and dazed hairpin turns, Ma Pi Leng challenges a lot of travelers to conquer on motorbikes.

Happiness Road is the result of extraordinary effort and even the blood and bones of young volunteers during 6 years (1959-1965). Just only Ma Pi Leng pass, the suicide squad hung on sheer cliffs, encroached ever cm of land and completed it in over 11 months.

This pass is surrounded by towering mountains piercing the sky with diverse bizarre shapes, some upright, some skew, some highly green with trees while others covered fully by a gray of bare rocks. Mã Pí Lèng means “nasal bridge of horse”, implying the abruptness of this pass such an extent that horses also breathe their last when climbing here. The pass protrudes from back of colossal mountains. Somewhere there are several small villages perching on high.

Under colossal mountains, Nho Que river valley appears as a highlight of landscape around the pass. Many H’Mong people walk on this pass. Some men get drunk, sleep naturally on side of road and ignore everything around.

2. Pha Din 

Pha Din pass
Located in Highway 6 and 32km in length, Pha Din Pass is the connection between 2 provinces: Son La and Dien Bien. Its highest point is 1,648m above the sea level. This pass has craggy topography, with one side is cliff and the other is chasm.

Pha Din is fanciful in cloud. The name “Pha Din” is Thai in origin: Phạ Đin, Phạ means “the heaven” and Đin means “the earth”, implying that this is the boundary between the heaven and the earth.

This winding road is really dangerous with numerous hairpin turns, zigzag turns and A turns; but also wonderful with tranquil scenery of green corn and yellow rice fields. From the back to the summit, floating white clouds embrace Pha Din, creating the feeling of a wonderland. Some parts are covered completely with fog. On the top, seemingly both means of transport and people are standing on bobbing and drifting clouds. But from 8h30 to 9h, dew will be disappeared.

Villages on valleys below are poetic peaceful, whereas it is hard to find a hamlet on the summit. Just only blue sky and imposing forests blend into one.

Pha Din pass is also a historical place name, where was incurred a lot of bombarding battles by airplanes of colonial French, where witnessed hardship and strong will of Vietnamese people, and where to recall heroic moments of the country.

3. Khau Pha 

Khau Pha pass
Located in the border area between two districts of Van Chan and Mu Cang Chai of Yen Bai province with barely 40km in length, Khau Pha is the second dramatic pass in northwestern Vietnam. It passes over some famous place name such as Mù Cang Chải, Tú Lệ, La Pán Tẩn or Chế Cu Nha. Khau Phạ means the “Heaven Horn” in Thai language, referring that the pass juts up to the heaven.

Khau Pha pass crosses over the highest mount in Mu Cang Chau, Khau Pha. This windy pass is covered in hazy mist. Two-thirds of the road’s parts are rough, full of gravels. At two sides of the pass, travelers can contemplate layered mountains, pristine old jungles and breathtaking rice terraces of Thai and H’mong tribe.

Over Khau Pha pass, there are about several tens of hairpin turns. On foggy days, the pass is extremely dangerous because it does not have any crash-barrier for safe or sign for warning.

Khau Pha is the most fabulous on September and October as rice terraces are golden.

4. O Quy Ho

O Quy Ho pass
This pass lies in highway 4D crossing Hoang Lien Son, which connects two provinces: Lao Cai and Lai Chau. With the length of 50km along with the ruggedness, O Quy Ho is dubbed as The King of Passes in mountainous Northwestern Vietnam.  

Known as the heaven gate to Hoang Lien Son Range at the altitude of 2000m, O Quy Ho is actually craggy by its zigzag curves. To conquer this pass, there are two way: from Tam Duong (Lai Chau) or from Sapa (Lao Cai).

O Quy Ho makes travelers truly terror-stricken. The road meanders, cars have to nestle closely cliffs to avoid each other. Towering mountains, interlacing roots, tottering “taluys” and deep valleys are misty in clouds. In some part, the road is just only 2m wide, one side is cliff and the other is deep chasm.

Despite being dangerous, many adventurers dream to once reach this pass thank to its mysterious beauty. Clouds cover thickly around imposing layered mountains. The endless road looms among spectacular scenery, lurking in cliffs. From the pass, travelers can take a turn to discover stunning rice terraces, Bac waterfall or conquering Fansipan mount. In winter, it can be snowy in O Quy Ho.

5. Trieu Hai

This is a new route captivates a number of adventure travel group in recent time.

Trieu Hai Mountain Pass crossing Nam Cat Tien forest from Da Teh to Dambri waterfall area, Bao Lam District, Lam Dong Province, is a brand new route full of harsh and exciting that motorcyclists are passionate to conquer. This Pass was opened for serving the construction of dam; hence, after completed, it became abandoned.

There are 2 ways to conquer this Pass, the easier way is going from Bao Loc city center to Dambri waterfall and at the Tam Chau Junction, turn left to Dambri dam.

From Tam Chau Tea Hill onwards, roads becomes smaller and rougher with a lot of big stones. Travelers will encounter the hydro lake, which has a strange and unique blue color, winding below.

From the lake to Da Teh, there is a giant expanse of rocks on the left created by nature since million years ago. The outstanding feature of this pass is small, dirty stages, some are flooded in mud. Motorcyclists have to concentrate completely. Even they have to carry motors when passing over high, sloping banks of streams. But the scenery is really picturesque and untouched.

The road is dirtier, slopes are steeper in later stages. Wheels fall into dry-mud drains, then stranded into wet-mud. Motors cannot move and travelers have to carry them.

Standing on the top of these passes, travelers will break into emotion. The journey conquering the dizzy passes urges the dream about adventures of many travelers. Once reaching these passes, surely you will desire to come back.

Monday, March 2, 2015

Types of Motorbike for Vietnam Motorcycling Tours


  • A tour around a city (Hanoi, Sai Gon) or outskirt, you can opt a fully automatic or semi-automatic motorcycle (scooter and semi-scooter).
  • For a trip lasts from 2 – 3 days you can choose a semi-automatic motorcycle.
  • With a long journey and off-road, should think of an off-road motorcycle (4 strokes and over 230cc).

  • ActiveTravel Asia recommend you several motors can be chosen in Vietnam motorcycling tours from basic to challenging driving grade.

    WAVE S

    Vietnam motorcycling tip 1

    With new version of Wave S, you may look pretty elegant in style. The advance in technology with the engine meeting Euro-2 standard makes it very environmentally-friendly. Although being simple, it’s still quite impressive, an appealing and eye-catching beauty. If you love elegance, Wave S can assure that for you. 


    Vietnam motorcycling tip 2

    The model of new Nouvo Automatic seems to attract all attention. Attempt to look into its new graphics and colors, you will find aggressive and bold sweeps making it distinctly different from any other automatic motors. Yamaha has gone a further step in redesigning several key elements of a scooter. Nouvo actually appears strong and is truly powerful with a four-stroke automatic engine. So it can move smoothly on rather demanding terrain. 

    Vietnam motorcycling tip 3

    Future Neo is the top model of the 125CC motorbike line about design and quality in Viet Nam. Honda Vietnam has applied the modern technology in production that results in success of Future Neo. It differs from the prior motor model both in structure and shape. With conspicuous features, Future Neo certainly persuade even the most hard to please customers.


    Vietnam motorcycling tip 4

    If you want to show an elegant, fashionable and eye-catching style, let try a Vespa. Designed with the idea of a bike that can move easily through all narrow and out-of-the-ways of city but also save energy, this scooter is a wonderful choice for a Vietnam city tour, especially in vibrant city like Hanoi and Ho Chi Minh. Particularly suited to women, you will see stylish ladies on these Vespa scooters in Vietnam and many other countries.


    Honda XR series are designed to specialize in beaten tracks and winding mountainous roads. These series are a range of air-cooled single-cylinder four-stroke off-road motorcycles that were designed in Japan but assembled everywhere in the world. Some later models were also manufactured with a few special features different from previously traditional specifications. For instance, the XR 650R and XRV 650R are water-cooled and the XRV 650R is a twin cylinder engine.

    Some of the XR series were launched with two versions, R and L. With knobby off-road tires fitted, the R version motors were professional ones for off-road riding, but not always street legal. The L version models were dual sport bikes, fitted with the indicators, lights, horn, tyres and mirrors appropriate for public road. A number of R version models had these as well.

    In its successful period, the XR series enclosed 10 models, but now only the dual-sport XR 650L is available. All remaining XR models were replaced by the CRF series. In the history of motorbike, the Honda XR650L is one of the longest running that has kept its constant production models and still continues today precisely as the 1992 model specifications.

    XR 125 L

    Vietnam motorcycling tip 5

    Born in 2003, the XR 125L has a 124cc engine producing 11.13 HP (8.1 kW) at 8,500 rpm. Solely the 2012 XR125L owns both an electric starter and a kick starter.

    XR 250R
    Vietnam motorcycling tip 6

    In 1996, the XR 250R, which is the mainstay of the XR range, was updated with a new 249 cc air-cooled four-stroke Radial Four Valve Combustion Chamber (RFVC) that generated 19 HP (14 kW) at 8100 rpm. Although it was relatively heavy and both front and rear suspension were quite simple, the XR 250R proved reliable and was successful as an entry-level off-road machine. The X250R was stopped its production in 2004.

    XR 250L
    Vietnam motorcycling tip 7

    Manufactured from 1991-2007, the XR 250L is the street version of the XR250R. It possessed road legal lights and tires, a metal fuel tank, keyed ignition/steering lock, plus other trivial changes. Some 40 lbs heavier, it had diminished off-road ability. Similar to XR250R, it had a RFVC 249 cc engine too, but with a different carburetor and 3 mm smaller exhaust headers to meet emissions requirements.

    ActiveTravel Vietnam offer a wide range motorcycling tour from moderate to challenging grade in both hot spot of motorcycling in Vietnam: the North and Ho Chi Minh trail. To understand more about these our delightful tours, you can view here.

    Wednesday, January 21, 2015

    Market in Ha Giang's Highland: Cultural Market, Not Commercial Market

    Lies in the northernmost Vietnam, Ha Giang appears in mind as a spectacular land with colossal layered mountains, sheer cliffs, dizzy hairpin turns and specially, strange colorful minor tribes. Breathtaking scenery and unusual culture that are not less than in Sapa. But due to craggy terrain and hard roads, tourism has not developed in here. However, just because of this, the traditional lifestyle has been kept almost completely. Locals still like wearing their traditional costumes, speaking their language, including kids.

    Ha Giang market 1
    Ha Giang recently has been well-known in Vietnam for “tam giac mach” flower farms, majestic Hoang Su Phi terrace field, Dong Van stone plateau – hidden Himalaya and dramatic zigzag roads. It also become a challenging destination for motorcycling adventure in northern Vietnam. Even so, custom and belief, another charming point hidden in just locals here may be not known a lot.

    Ha Giang market 2

    Roam around rotating markets, observe inhabitants trading, and talk to them, you will find many interesting things. Truly, many minor people in Ha Giang are not good at Vietnamese, and English is impossible. But it is possible to hear strange and funny stories from someone, who look more modern than many other native people but really love this land.

    As many travelers and residents who has become fond of this region commend, market in this highland is cultural market, not commercial market.

    Going to a rotating market is a pleasure. So they wear really beautifully with colorful long dresses, brocade shoes and jewelry.

    Ha Giang market 3 Many locals live on high and steep mountains that are far away from central market. Poor traffic infrastructure, most roads are soil trails, and needy life condition, numerous inhabitants move by walking. Not only that, they have to pass craggy cliffs and beaten trails. So they get up extremely early to be in time the rotating market, which is only held on a few fixed days in a week or month.

    Ha Giang market 4
    Some women inhabit far away on abrupt mountains, they have to cross rocky cliffs and steep path. Dressing nice clothes is inconvenient. Thus, they usually wear normal clothes as walking through mountains. When approaching the market, they just change their clothes into pretty costumes.

    Ha Giang market 5
    Today, the life is better. Locals also use motorbike for moving. But in many upright mountain area, there is no paved road for motorbike and people usually hike on soil trails.

    Going to the market is simply to meet, talk and exchange small stories between people of different areas.

    Early morning go to market, they carry under their arm a chicken or a small pig. It is good if they sell things that they have brought along. But it’s still ok if they cannot sell anything. They still come back home with a happy face, happy mind and without a shred of thought. Even if they sell something, they can spend all money from the sale to drink wine and return home in a blind drunk state. Wine in Ha Giang is primarily homemade corn wine. To men of ethnic minorities, getting drunk is the happiest time.

    Ha Giang market 6 There is a funny case sometimes happening is told by the locals. An indigenous man was going to buy wine. He would taste wine at all wine stalls, from beginning to end of market. Specially, he had got drunk before deciding to buy wine at some stall. Did not need to know whether he tended to buy wine or just pretending in order to be drunk, sellers still let these strange customers taste wine in an easy-going way.

    Ha Giang market 7
    Ha Giang – the remote region of Vietnam with unaffected ethnic minorities is uncharted much. But once you overcome a hard adventure to Ha Giang, then amazed at this unusual rocky mountain area, you will remember a lot.

    By Xuan Tran (Kimina) – ActiveTravel Asia

    Wednesday, January 7, 2015

    Unusual Story in Hoi An: Farmers’ Life Better Thanks to Teaching Western Tourists to Farm

    With a plot of over 1,000m2, two buffaloes and farming tools like plows, harrows, firewood cookers, rice mortars and others, for last 10 years, farmers in Cam Thanh commune of Hoi An have taught Occidental tourists to farm, collected thousands of dollars.

    Increase income from farming

    “Every Vietnamese people also belittle this agricultural vocation toiling and moiling in the fields, I don’t understand why Western tourists to Hoi An fascinate it. They are willing to spend money to apprentice.” – said Nhi Pham, an old farmer lives in Cam Thanh, Hoi An.

    Over nearly 10 years, thanks to the field, two buffaloes, farming tools, and a firewood cooker in the cottage in the middle of Cam Thanh field, he has earned thousands of dollars.

    The work of teaching Western tourists to farm of Mr. Nhi and the young man Khoa Tran Van, as he said, was not similar to anyone, but helps their family have a good life thanks to the income higher than 10 times, about 5-7 million VND per month (235 – 330 USD), compared to just only cultivating on this alum field.

    Hoi An travel 1
    Hoi An travel 2
    Teaching Western tourists to bail out by four-stringed bucket ('gau dai" or "gau song")
    “If growing two rice crops per year on this 1,000m2 field, minus the cost, I will collect just above 4 million VND. However, over last 10 years, we has earned average more than 60 million VND (2806 USD) per year, which has been just “school fees” that Mr. Khoa brought for us by teaching Western tourists to farm.”

    Not only Mr. Nhi, Mr. Khoa also has taken Occidental tourists to tens of farming households in Cam Thanh commune so as that they teach these tourists the agricultural occupation. The short-term farming courses within 6 hours are opened frequently by Khoa and these farmers that makes Western tourists to Hoi An flock to register. For each 6-hour-course, foreign tourists pay 50-60 USD/ person.

    Beside learning farming, tourists to Hoi An also learn the work of a fisherman. View here.

    Pay to win jobs of farmers

    Many households planting vegetables in Tra Que village told, in the peak season that numerous foreign tourists travel to Hoi An, beside income from planting vegetables, they also earn extra income (about 3-5 million VND/ month) owning to teaching Western tourists to grow vegetables.

    Mrs. Thuy Nguyen Thi, a farmer in Tra Que village said, she started the work of teaching to plant vegetables in a highly unexpected way. One morning as usual, she was hoeing the field to prepare to plant a few bed of vegetables. Suddenly, Khoa took a group of overseas tourists to her field and asked her for help to teach them how to hoe on soil, put manure on beds, plant vegetables. 

    “Mr. Khoa spoke English to Occidental tourists, then they rushed down the fields, asked for working with me. I instructed them. At the end, Mr. Khoa paid me 100,000 VND as wage. Since then, I became a teacher.” said Mrs. Thuy.

    Hoi An travel 3
    Hoi An travel 4
    Mr. Nhi Pham teaches the tourist group how to transplant rice seedlings
    Thanks to this, the tired works of hoeing up ground, growing vegetables and watering of Mrs. Thuy as well as other farmers in Tra Que village has been less strenuous during several years recently.

    “In the previous time there was no Western tourists, I alone tried my best to hoe all the field also took me several days. Now also the same field, in just only a morning I work with tourists, my hoeing job complete. I do not spend a lot of power but still earn more money.” She said.

    The wife of Mr. Nhi related: “When I was very busy in the kitchen to prepare for the lunch meal, I saw a Western tourist group at the field rush into my house. They contended for washing rice, lighting a fire and cooking rice. Saw me stupefied, Mr. Khoa told me to instruct them the way of making a fire and steaming rice. Since then, I has become a reluctant teacher.”

    In addition, she also teaches Western tourists how to pound rice, mill flour and make “banh xeo” (rice pancake folded in half). She has done these jobs for several decades so there is nothing difficult to her.

    “Teaching Occidental tourists to pound rice by hand, I worry the most that they can be injured due to carelessness and lack of harmonious coordination. Because one person pounds rice, other mix rice by hand inside the mortar.” said the wife of Mr. Nhi

    Hoi An travel 5
    Teaching tourists how to pound rice by hand
    Hoi An travel 6
    Western tourists learn how to wash rice, make a light and steam rice by a firewood cooker
    Hoi An travel 7
    A tourist is blowing to make the fire bigger
    Hoi An travel 8
    Western tourists learn how to rake the field before transplanting rice seedlings
    ActiveTravel Asia via