Friday, January 3, 2014

Farming job at Mu Cang Chai terraced field


By Huu Nghi 

Thirty outstanding farmers in some villages at Mu Cang Trai District, Yen Bai Province, joined a competition at a local terraced field for harvest time.

The contestants are those who are good at farming work and understand terraced field techniques. They had to show their skills in the cutting, threshing and cleaning paddy and ploughing, as well as their adeptness in the use of variety of traditional farming equipment developed by the Mong people.

The agricultural event, held at the terraced field, in Che Cu Nha Commune
Paddy threshed in the field
Wooden bucket used both for threshing and carrying paddy
Paddy cleaned in the field with as little loss as possible
Speed is highly appreciated by judges and spectators
Ploughing at a depth of between 20cm - 25cm.
ACTIVETRAVEL ASIA would like recommend Motorcycling adventure in Northern Vietnam tour.The mountainous area of Northern Vietnam has long been famous for its beautiful scenery and great diversity of ethnic minorities. With our adventure motorcycling trip you will make a big loop to experience all the bests that area can offer. Starting in Hanoi you will explore Northwest before jumping into Northeast, back to Hanoi after a day relaxing in Ba Be Lake. The perfect itinerary and the support crew ensure you get the most out of the trip in terms of comfort, enjoyment and adventure. Along the way we encounter dramatic landscapes and sweeping panoramas as the rural population goes about its business. Highlights include the terraced valleys of Sapa, beautiful Ban Gioc Waterfall and many different colorful minority groups.

Tuesday, December 31, 2013

Cycling through the Vietnamese countryside to Tra Que

Written by Clare
Having recently returned from Southeast Asia on our 15 day Journey to Angkor Wat tour, Clare Bailey tells us about one of the highlights of her trip – cycling through the Vietnamese countryside to Tra Que village where she discovered age old farming practices and tried her hand at cooking tasty local cuisine. 

Cycling to Tra Que in Vietnam
They say you never forget how to ride a bike and that appears to be true. Considering I hadn’t got on a bike over 15 years and my last attempt was an unmitigated disaster I was actually very nervous about the idea of riding from Hoi An to Tra Que village but it turned out to be one of the highlights of my trip.

Cycling to Tra Que in VietnamAfter a slightly wobbly start, I was soon enjoying biking through the bustling streets of Hoi An in convoy with the group, dodging the odd moped or two. Getting out into the countryside, we caught a glimpse of rural life in Vietnam and it made a refreshing change to the hectic hustle and bustle of the Vietnam’s towns and cities. Biking at a leisurely pace through tiny villages and across lush green fields, we made several stops for photos en route, as we passed farmers drying rice on the side of the road and riding on bullocks through streams.

Tra Que watering crops
Tra Que is a quaint farming village on the outskirts of Hoi An. Here we donned conical hats and brown smocks and headed to the fields with the local farmer to learn about traditional methods of farming and have a go at hoeing and watering the fields ourselves. Don’t worry if you have an aversion to manual labour, you’ll get to pose for some wonderful photos in full Vietnamese farming gear and you’re not expected to actually do any work.

After tending the fields we sat down to soak our feet in buckets of warm scented water and there was the opportunity to enjoy a relaxing foot and shoulder massage. Just what all fake farmers need after an easy day’s work!

Cooking in Tra Que
 Replacing our conical hats with chef’s hats we topped off our village experience with a hands-on cooking demo. The highly amusing resident chef taught us how to make some really tasty Vietnamese omelettes and we then had the opportunity to cook up our own lunch, which involved much hilarity, flaming pans and tossing of omelettes with bean sprouts flying in all directions! Definitely a lot more fun than my usual mundane cooking at home.

ACTIVETRAVEL ASIA would like to recommend Family Adventures in Vietnam tour.With its stunning natural landscapes, millennia-old history, exciting cosmopolitan cities, friendly hamlets and mélange of cultural influences, Vietnam has it all. And there’s no better way to become acquainted with this vibrant country than by exploring it under your own locomotion and at your own pace. Walk past pagodas and temples in old Hanoi, kayak amid labyrinthine limestone outcrops in Halong Bay, bike past vibrant green rice paddies, investigate magnificent historic sites in Hue and stroll through the enchanting city of Hoi An, one of Vietnam’s architectural gems. Round out your days of discovery with meals of delicious local cuisine and stays at warm welcoming hotels.

Highlights: 
  • Kayaking in the amazing Halong Bay
  • Biking in the majestic former capital of Hue
  • Charming ancient town of Hoian
  • Floating market of Cai Rang


Friday, December 27, 2013

Da Lat really is the “City of Flowers”

Da Lat, in the province of Lam Dong, in the central highlands, has had unusually cold weather all year, but this is very favourable for the flowers.

When spring finally comes, Da Lat will be resplendent with colours of all types of flowers. Many flowers have already turned up along the streets and roadsides, welcoming Tet.
Some images of Da Lat:
Myrtle flowers herald Tet
Oxalis flowers
Early peach blossoms
Light becomes them
Wild flowers so colourful on mountain side
Mageurit daisy already in bloom near Bao Dai Palace 2
Beautiful flower in rare winter sunlight
Flame vine covers Bao Dai Palace 2
Source:dtinews 
ACTIVETRAVEL ASIA would like recommend Jungle Fever - Trekking Dalat tour.Trek the first day down from Dalat to Tuyen Lam Lake. The trail is moderate on the first day and goes over Pinhatt Mountain through pine forest and ends at a campsite on the shore of the lake. The second day puts you in the jungle for the whole day as you trek further south. This moderate trek involves about 4 to 5 hours of hiking each day.

Tuesday, December 24, 2013

Vietnam’s most thrilling mountain pass

Ca Pass is a high and winding mountain pass with dangerous roads in central Vietnam which offers a serene view of Vietnam’s landscapes.

A 10-km road running along the pass is located between Phu Yen and Khanh Hoa provinces. It is some 30km south of Tuy Hoa City in Phu Yen Province.

Travelling on the pass road, passengers can enjoy the beautiful spots of Vung Ro Bay. During war time, Vung Ro was a base to receive weapon transport ships from the north to support the southern battle. Vung Ro is also recognised as a national cultural and historical relic.

The road has bending and winding sections that are a challenge for the abilities of drivers. At this time of year, huge mountains are covered with mist and fog. From the road, visitors can enjoy countryside landscapes with paddy fields surrounded by mountains, creating a wonderful picture.

Deo Ca with bendy road sections
Large stones located near the road
Vung Ro Seaport during a misty morning
Stones rise up from the sea

Paddy fields surrounded by mountain ranges
A small island viewed from Ca Pass
Source:dtinews
ACTIVETRAVEL ASIA would like to recommend Motorbiking the Ho Chi Minh Trail - Complete Challenge tour.The legendary Ho Chi Minh Trail was the supply line used by North Vietnam to link North and South Vietnam during the American War. Soldiers, ammunition, weapons and supplies were carried by hand, bicycle and truck for hundreds of kilometers through the otherwise impenetrable jungle that covered Vietnam’s mountainous border with Laos. A testimony to the ingenuity, fortitude and commitment of the northern Vietnamese, the trail slipped from use at the end of the war and was taken back by the jungle. Recent road work that follow original sections of the trail have changed this. Besides incredible driving, deep in the Vietnamese countryside, this ride takes in the charming ancient trading town of Hoian, Khe Sanh battle site and DMZ. We also take time to stay overnight in a traditional Thai hill tribe and visit to some tribal villages on the way.

Friday, December 20, 2013

Travelling Northern Vietnam

Lao Cai province of northern Vietnam borders the Chinese border and is home to a number of different ethnic minorities that have lived in the area for centuries. I came to Vietnam with very few expectations as our time was relatively short and our tickets were bought over six months ago. The original purpose of this trip was a mini-vacation of sorts and out of necessity to leave the Philippines for my visa renewal. We flew into Hanoi and decide to head straight to Lao Cai Province after a couple of days in this fast pace city. Parts of Lao Cai are fairly popular tourist destinations because of the beautiful landscapes and colorful minorities that live there, especially the mountain city of SaPa. Because my initial inclination is always to go as far away from tourist hotspots as possible, we decided to first head to a town called Bac Ha. Bac Ha is well known for it’s large Sunday market, where locals and minorities come to sell their goods, but during the week the town is really low-key and a great place to start exploring the mountains of Lao Cai.

Sunset in the mountains of Lao Cai Province, Vietnam.
We ended up finding a really good local guide in Bac Ha who was willing to take us to some mountain communities via motorbike. Because of the language and cultural barrier having a guide who understood what we were looking for was key to getting a little more off the traditional path. We spent a week around the area of Bac Ha exploring the north and south and sleeping at homestays. The mountains in this region are grande and the landscape is covered with corn, tea, rice and other agricultural crops. My first impression of the area was that it looked centuries old. The fields looked like they had been tilled for many years and the homes made of wood and mud added to the uniqueness of the landscape.

Indeed, this area has had it place in history primarily as a historic trading post between the Chinese, Vietnamese and different ethnic minority groups. Today, a number of the 54 recognized ethnic minorities of Vietnam still live in Lao Cai province, including the H’mong, Tay and Dzao people.

H'mong women weeding their corn crops near the town of Bac Ha in northern Vietnam
Most of the agricultural crops in the area are grown on steep hills or the sides of mountains.H'mong girls in the mountains around Bac Ha. It seemed like almost all of the Hmong women we encountered had a basket on their backs for carrying goods. These girls told us they were out collecting food to feed their pigs.
A Tay women collecting tea leaves in a field near her home.
Like in most subsistence-based cultures a good portion of the day is spent tending to crops and preparing food. From our limited time in Lao Cai we got the impression that the women are the hardest workers and are often the ones doing these jobs. It was always the women we saw carrying the heavy loads and working in the fields. Although the men have their roles as well and often help in the fields, it’s the women we saw doing the bulk of the work. We were told that the men are fairly shy so it’s also the women who interact with tourists and sell their products in the market.

A H'mong women and her child heading to their field to work. It's the women that are often the ones who carry the heavy loads when transporting produce or other goods.
H'mong women taking a short break and a smile as they work in the field during the heat of the day.
A Flower Hmong women distilling corn wine. Corn and rice wine are very popular drinks with the minorities and very potent as well. From what we gathered they drink socially and it's hard to say no when they keep pressuring you to drink. I myself fell drunk on a few occasions.

One of the most striking features of the minorities in northern Vietnam is the colorful and elaborate dress the women wear. Each group has it’s own dress and the women told us it makes them feel beautiful. Some of the pieces are bought in the market, but the most intricate portions are all hand-made by the women. Our guide told us it can take her up to a year to make a new top because of all the elaborate embroidery that she has to do. The men tend to wear more western style clothes, however, they also have a unique dress they sometimes wear. I myself found the mens dress to be intriguing, particularly the old military style that many of them wear.

We ended up heading over to the more popular destination of Sapa, a mountain retreat town frequently visited by foreigners and local Vietnamese. The mountains around Sapa felt larger than those in Bac Ha and I can see why Sapa has become a popular destination. The city itself is lined with travel agencies, hotels and western style restaurants, but the scenery is beautiful. We ended up trekking into a local H’mong community about three hours outside of Sapa after meeting a local guide in town. Sapa had a much different feel than Bac Ha, likely because of tourism there. Upon arriving into Sapa we were constantly asked to buy stuff by the local minorities even when we got outside of the main town. I had some idea that this is how it might be and that’s why we waited to go there towards the end of our trip. On that note we had a great guide that brought us into her home to sleep and took very good care of us. However, once people from her community knew we were there they all tried to sell us stuff. Much different that in the rural communities around Bac Ha.

The scenery around Sapa is covered with rice terraces and huge mountains
ACTIVETRAVEL ASIA would like to recommend Motorcycling adventure in Northern Vietnam tour.The mountainous area of Northern Vietnam has long been famous for its beautiful scenery and great diversity of ethnic minorities. With our adventure motorcycling trip you will make a big loop to experience all the bests that area can offer. Starting in Hanoi you will explore Northwest before jumping into Northeast, back to Hanoi after a day relaxing in Ba Be Lake. The perfect itinerary and the support crew ensure you get the most out of the trip in terms of comfort, enjoyment and adventure. Along the way we encounter dramatic landscapes and sweeping panoramas as the rural population goes about its business. Highlights include the terraced valleys of Sapa, beautiful Ban Gioc Waterfall and many different colorful minority groups.