Saturday, October 31, 2009

Exploring water lifestyle of Mekong Delta Vietnam

When the conversation is about the Mekong Delta, people immediately think of tropical rivers, interlacing canals, immense rice fields and the floating homes

A view of floating Market in Mekong river, An Giang province.

Lazing on a small sampan, tourists can feel they are so tiny on the boundless river and under the shade of countless trees. Witnessing the trade on the floating markets surely makes an impression on those in the delta for the first time.

Upon reaching the raft village, tourists are introduced to the structure of the rafts which are designed as homes and as floating fish farms. Tourists can catch a view of farmers feeding fish and can be served indigenous dishes made from local fish.

Tourists should not miss a visit to a weaving village of the Cham people. Here, tourists can witness the dexterity and talents of Cham ladies who painstakingly weave on looms by the riverside.

On the way back, tourists should not miss the floating restaurants to enjoy specialties of the Mekong Delta in tide-water season. Floating on the immense rivers and taking a look at the lifestyle in the delta are unforgettable experiences.

Chau Doc town is about 300 kilometers from HCMC where one way bus fare is VND80,00-105,000.

VietNamNet/SGT

Related to Mekong delta, Vietnam:
- The Mighty Mekong Delta (Vietnam) adventure

Preserving ancient Kon Tum village Central Highland of Vietnam

Eight kilometres from the centre of Kon Tum city lies the Kon K’Tu eco-tourist village which attracts both domestic and foreign tourists keen to enjoy its unique culture.

Tall order: Nha rong – a communal house of ethnic groups living in the region – is a symbol of Central Highlands’ culture.

Kon K’Tu, which means “native village” in the Ba Na ethnic minority language, is the oldest village of the ethnic group to continue preserving the most original characteristics of the group’s culture.

From 1867-69, about 100 houses made up the village, but an epidemic wiped out many of the villagers and left only three families alive. It wasn’t until 1920 that the village was re-established and thriving once again. Currently there are approximately 530 village residents, all from the Ba Na ethnic group.

Upon arrival in Kon K’Tu, the first image that amazes any visitor is the unique and primitive natural beauty. To the east lies the imposing Kong Muk Mountain, and a stunning sand bank stretches along the Dak Bla River.

Along a path to the ecological forest, tourists have a chance to take in the fresh air and the beautiful scenery of H’Lay and Map (Fat) Falls. Paddling along the peaceful Krong Bla River in rubber boats or dug-out canoes is another enjoyable activity.

Kon K’Tu also attracts visitors with its traditional long houses and houses on stilts.

“We are very proud of our traditional houses. They were designed by native Ba Na people a long time ago,” says village patriarch A Xep.

Four to six kitchens serve the multiple generations of families that live together in each of the houses.

There is one door located at each end of traditional long houses, but the main door is located in front, right in the middle.

“It takes us nearly two weeks to cut down the trees and other plants required to build such special houses, which are warm in winter and cool in summer,” says A Xep.


Say pho mat (cheese)! A group of foreign tourists pose in front of a communal house in Kon K’Tu eco-tourist village.

When night falls, visitors are captivated by wonderful tunes coming from the traditional gongs, which have been recognised as an intangible heritage of humanity by UNESCO, while enjoying the particular and delicious taste of ruou can (wine drunk out of a jar through pipes).

“What a wonderful piece of heaven! I love the unspoiled natural beauty and friendly people here. Even though I can not thoroughly understand all the traditional songs and dances, I still find them beautiful. I’ve also enjoyed watching the local children swim in the river and play on the sand,” says 65-year-old American veteran James Michener.

Although many traditions have disappeared over time, the annual K’Lang T’nglang Festival is one of the rare celebrations that the Ba Na people have preserved.

The festival, its name meaning “to catch the water drop,” is held on the first two days of every first lunar month.

On the first day, people prepare cay neu (New Year trees) to purge evil spirits. The next day, offerings of buffaloes, cows and gongs are made. Ba Na youth, in home-made tho cam (brocade) costumes, perform mua xoang, a traditional Ba Na dance, to express their wishes for favourable weather, abundant crops, health and solidarity.

“We are trying our best to preserve Ba Na’s cultural characteristics. Two groups for traditional performances continue to perform, including an 18-member gong group and a 30-member mua xoang team,” says the village leader with happiness evident on his face.

About 10 years ago, Kon K’Tu began attracting tourists who wanted to experience its wild and unspoiled beauty. Construction of the Kon K’Lor suspension bridge in the 1990s made travel between Kon K’Tu and Kon Tum city more convenient.

Kon K’Tu receives 40-50 foreign visitors per day, proving its undeniable attraction to tourists, according to A Kheo, who has been the village leader for 35 years.

However, something saddens village patriarch A Xep. Ever since Kon K’Tu was turned into an eco-village and its road was upgraded, the lives of the people have improved while the original culture has been gradually lost. Communal houses, once unique tourist attractions, have been replaced by concrete versions.

A Xep’s eyes are full of intensity as he raises the difficult question: “Will the original culture of the village survive?”

Local authorities and visitors alike share his concern, both wondering what will happen to its unique characteristics and natural beauty if no preservation efforts are implemented.

VietNamNet/Viet Nam News

Friday, October 30, 2009

Bach Ma National Park boasts diverse ecosystem in Vietnam

Bach Ma National Park protects a unique natural forest stretching from the East Sea to the Vietnam-Laos border. Located at the end of the North Truong Son Mountain Range, Bach Ma's highest mountain peak is 1,450 metres above sea level. Other mountains over 1,000 metres include Nom (1,259 metres) and Truoi (1,154 metres).


Long, narrow valleys with complex stream and river systems surround the mountains. The eastern part of the national park has a large system of salt-water lakes and lagoons offering spectacular scenic view.

During the 1930s, the French used the site for a resort, which had 139 villas, a swimming pool, tennis courts, a market, post office, and a road system connecting the mountain range to National Highway No.1. Today, Bach Ma remains an ideal holiday resort, thanks to its natural beauty and cool climate with summer temperatures between 18-23°C. The park has Vietnam's highest rainfall - nearly eight metres annually.

Bach Ma National Park boasts a diverse ecosystem, including species endemic to both northern and southern Vietnam. It has 1,406 recorded plant species, of which 30 are listed in Vietnam's Red Book. These include Fokienia hodginsii, Adenia banaensis, Aquilaria banaensae, Erythrophloeum fordii, Dipterocarpus hasselti, Dipterocalpus and even several species new to science, such as Elaeocarpus bachmaensis and Cissus bachmaensis.

The park also has a diverse range of fauna: 83 large mammal species from twenty-three families and nine orders. Among the species, 68 appear in Vietnam's Red Book, including the Sao la (Pseudoryx nghetinhensis), Vu Quang muntjac (Megamuntiacus vuquangensis), Truongson muntjac (Muntiacus truongsonensis), and the white-cheeked gibbon (Hylobates gabrillae).

Other animal species include birds (333 species), amphibians (21), reptiles (31), fish (39), butterflies (256), beetles (178), and termites (28). Data on small mammals is still incomplete.

Surveys conducted last year show that Bach Ma has an especially diverse composition of bat species compared to other Vietnamese reserves, with 59 species recorded (not including some other unidentified specimens). Eight of its species appear in Vietnam's Red Book 2000, and five are listed in the International Union for Conservation of Nature and Natural Resources (IUCN) red list of threatened animals 2000.

Among these species, the long sella horseshoe bat (Rhinolophus paradox-olophus) has only about five populations, with at most only from 150 to 250 bats per population. Captured bats include a Thais evening bat (Thainycteris aureocollaris), recorded only for the second time in Vietnam. Scientists first recorded this species in 1999 in southern Vietnam.

Other species include the Old World fruit bat family (Pteropodidae) belonging to the suborder Megachiroptera. The Bach Ma fruit bats (with 10 species and seven genera belonging in its family) have the most diverse species composition compared with Vietnam's other national parks or nature reserves.

With its advantages in biodiversity and natural beauty, Bach Ma is becoming an important eco-tourist destination in central Vietnam.

Friday, October 23, 2009

The bright smiles of mountain kids - Vietnam travel tips

If you visit Vietnam’s northwestern region – alongside the wonderful scenery you can’t fail to miss the warm, natural smiles. Dan Tri newspaper visited Dien Bien, Lai Chau, Ha Giang, Yen Bai and Lao Cai provinces to bring you pictures of these young children from ethnic minority groups.

Vietnam adventure tours

Vietnam adventure tours

Vietnam adventure tours

Vietnam adventure tours

Vietnam adventure tours














Source: dantri

Recommended itineraries
- West to East Biking Exploration of Vietnam

Wednesday, October 21, 2009

SaPa, Vietnam, a natural mosaic

Boasting sublime unspoiled beauty, from rolling verdant hills to spectacular terraced fields, Sa Pa is a mix of natural wonder.

Pa Cheo farmers cultivate rice

Near the Chinese border in the northwest province of Lao Cai and around 376 kilometers from Hanoi, Sa Pa, founded as a scenic resort by the French in 1903, is best known for its wild, unspoiled landscapes.

Sa Pa’s scenic highlights include Hoang Lien Son National Park and the awe-inspiring 3,143-meter-high Mount Fan Si Pan – the highest mountain peak in Indochina. Every year, the area attracts thousands of tourists from all over the world who come to marvel at Sa Pa’s lush vegetation and spectacular scenery.

Nestled around 1,600 meters above sea level, Sa Pa is cloud-covered and cool year-round, with occasional snowfalls in the winter.

It is said that visitors who come to Sa Pa in the summer can experience up to three seasons in a single day. In the morning and afternoon, the weather is cool like that in the spring and autumn, while at noon, it is as sunny and cloudless as a warm summer’s day.

Visitors often travel to the city of Lao Cai by train before heading by coach to Sa Pa. Upon arrival, tourists can learn about the area’s sprawling rice paddies and observe the ethnic H’Mong and Dao peoples who wear a brilliant array of colorful, traditional clothing.

Stunning terraced fields

According to a survey carried out by US-based Travel and Leisure magazine, Sa Pa’s verdant terraced fields were ranked among the seven most beautiful in the world.

The most beautiful terraced field area is Suoi Thau, which is cultivated by the Dao people.

The other fields voted most beautiful by the magazine’s readers include those in Banaye (the Philippines), Yuangyang (Yunnan, China), Ubud (Bali, Indonesia), Annapurna (Nepal), Mae Rim (Chiang Mai, Thailand), and Longji (Guilin, China).

Sa Pa’s terraced fields belong to the ethnic H’Mong, Dao and Giay people, and are located in the Muong Hoa Valley of Lao Chai District. The area totals around 10 square kilometers and tourists can visit to learn about the process of rice planting and cultivation.

The fields were described by Travel and Leisure as “Ladders to the sky” because of their astounding natural beauty.

“It’s the best place in Vietnam with a rich cultural heritage and splendid landscape,” said a Singaporean tourist.

“The scenery and people were amazing,” echoed a tourist from the UK.

Lao Cai’s Department of Culture, Sports and Tourism also proposed that provincial authorities and the culture ministry should carry out research and compile information on Sa Pa’s terraced fields, Hoang Lien Son National Park, and an ancient rock bank to submit to UNESCO for recognition as world cultural heritage sites.

“This is a difficult task but we are trying to turn Sa Pa’s terraced fields into a world heritage site for the many foreign travelers who love Sapa and Vietnam,” said Tran Huu Son, the department’s chief.

Cultural diversity

Home to several ethnic groups like the H’Mong, Red Dao, Kinh, Tay, Giay, Hoa, and Xa Pho, Sa Pa is a mosaic of cultures and traditions. Many visitors enjoy learning about the ethnic people’s daily activities, traditions and beliefs.

H’Mong ethnic girl brings the young rice plants to the fields

Tourists are often astonished by the many billowing red headdresses worn by women of the Red Dao minority, visible all over town.

The H’Mong and Dao people make up the largest ethnic groups in the region. Their villages may appear simple and old-fashioned from afar, but many people now own mobile phones and regularly access their email from communal computers.

While some of the older generations of the ethnic minorities have had little formal education and are illiterate, most of the younger generations receive schooling and have a good command of English, French and a handful of other languages.

Tourists can also choose to go on two treks while staying in Sa Pa. The first is a 7 km journey, which takes about four hours and includes a stop for lunch. The other is a full-day adventure, covering around 17 km and following the perimeter of the rice paddies, through forested areas, past the doorsteps of tribal people’s homes, and across rivers and waterfalls.

Watching the locals go about their daily business is also an interesting experience. The children in Sa Pa work extremely hard-tending buffaloes, working in the fields, and caring for their younger siblings. Many of the young girls learn the timeless art of embroidery from their mothers.

The ethnic girls often marry young, at around age 14, and depend on the skills learned from their mothers to start new families of their own.

Sa Pa is also famous for its “love market,” which takes place on Saturday evenings. This cultural tradition once served as a way for ethnic locals to meet, socialize, and find a partner to marry.

In the past, young girls from the Red Dao hill tribes used to come to Sa Pa and sing songs to find partners. The girls would sing while hidden in the dark and when a boy found them – if they liked each other – they would disappear into the forest for three days and would then marry at a later date.

But with the development of tourism, the original love market, with its purpose of uniting young couples, has faded away. Visitors can still visit the area on Saturday nights, however, and be treated to a lively market atmosphere.

With its astonishing beauty and diverse peoples, Sa Pa is a remarkable travel destination and well worth a visit.

Reported by Hoang Kien/TN news

Recommended Itineraries:
- Sapa trekking tours
- Sapa tours & excursions
- Fansipan trekking tours, Sapa

Monday, October 19, 2009

The real dirt bike on the northwest Vietnam

Bike tours to the rugged region of Vietnam offer a more direct experience of the life of its people.

Motorcycle tours in Northwest Vietnam

It is probably not everyone’s cup of tea, but discovering Vietnam’s rugged and scenic northwest on a motorbike is more than an exhilarating experience.

Those who have undertaken it say it enables them to see “life as it truly is for the Vietnamese people.”

Dramatic landscapes and sweeping panoramas become more direct and intense when the visitor is not enclosed within a vehicle. Watching the rural population doing about its business also becomes a more intimate affair.

“We started the itinerary to four mountainous provinces – Hoa Binh, Son La, Dien Bien, Lao Cai – in the northwest region with a 130 km ride to Mai Chau,” said Andre Prince, who took the 7-day journey with six friends from Canada.

Together with a tour guide, they left Hanoi at 8:30 a.m. and rode the dirt-bikes (175cc and 250cc Yamahas and Hondas) west to Mai Chau, home to the Thai ethnic minority.

They traveled on road No. 6 passing expansive rice paddies and scenic villages and stopped for refreshment before tackling 70km of undulating roads with great views of mountains and valleys before reaching Mai Chau at noon.

“We were really impressed by the traditional stilt-houses, the dances and meals at Pom Coong, a village of the White Thai ethnic minority,” said Andre.

The group left for Son La Province the next morning.

Kien, the tour guide, said the motorbike trip of about 1,000 km is wonderful for those who have good health and like more adventure in their travels. The tour is also great for finding several vantage spots for photography, he added.

Besides the tea plantations in Moc Chau Plateau – the destination of the best green tea in Vietnam that grows along the roads on the hillsides in Son La, the valley of Dien Bien Phu also offers magnificent views.

Here “the ride is more adventurous with more winding roads and longer passes, while offering more colorful minority groups and more stunning scenery,” said Andre, adding that the highlight of Dien Bien Province could be the impressive Pha Din

Pass, which means Heaven-Earth. According to local legend, it was the frontier between Heaven and Earth. Pha Din is some 1,000m above sea-level.

“Climbing and descending the slopes with their many bends and deep gorges is a really unforgettable experience,” Andre said.

The fourth day was scheduled for Lao Cai, where stops at H’mong and Dao villages refreshed the crew after a 225 km ride along stunning gorges and the Nam Na River.

Fittingly, Sa Pa was the pinnacle of the trip, where the group stayed for two days and visited several ethnic minority villages deep in the forest.

“Sa Pa is a paradise for trekking lovers. It has so many routes with views of beautiful terraced fields, diverse minority groups and the highest peak in Indochina, the Fansipan.”

The group also got off their bikes to take a jeep ride downhill to the Muong Hoa Valley, where they trekked on dirt paths through pine forest, terraced fields and H’mong villages. En route they stopped to visit minority schools and had a picnic lunch by the river.

video

Dirt bike trip in Vietnam

TOUR INFORMATION

Hanoi – Hoa Binh – Son La – Dien Bien – Lao Cai – Hanoi
7-day trip with 5 days of motorcycling
Motorcycling grade: Moderate to Challenging
From US$546 per person
Contact: Active Travel Vietnam
Head office: 31 Alley 4, Dang Van Ngu St., Hanoi
Operation office: 367 Ngo Quyen St., Son Tra Dist., Da Nang
Operation office: 50 Bis Co Bac St., Dist. 1, HCMC
Support number (24/7 service): (04) 3 573 8569

Reported by Hoang Kien

Source: Travel News : http://www.thanhniennews.com/travel/?catid=7&newsid=53186

Sunday, October 18, 2009

Sapa’s terraced fields in Vietnam suggested for world heritage recognition

The northern mountainous province of Lao Cai has proposed the Ministry of Culture, Sports and Tourism ask for UNESCO’s recognition of Sapa’s terraced fields as a world heritage.



Sapa’s terraced fields in Vietnam

The terraced field is a form of cultivation in the mountainous topographies of many ethnic groups in the world, such as the Inca people in Peru, in Yunnan, China, and in Banaue, the Philippines, which was recognised by UNESCO as a world heritage.

Seven most magnificent terraced fields in the world as voted by Travel & Leisure: Banaue (Philippines), Yuangyang (Yunnan, China), Ubud (Bali, Indonesia), Annapurna (Nepal), Mae Rim (Chiang Mai, Thailand), Sapa (Lao Cai, Vietnam), and Long Ji (Kuei Lin, China).

Sapa’s terraced fields were recently recognised as one of the world’s seven most beautiful and magnificent terraced fields in the world by US-based Travel & Leisure magazine. This was only a vote of readers of a tourism magazine but it is good news for Vietnam.

Dr. Tran Huu Son, Lao Cai provincial Department of Culture, Sports and Tourism’s chief, said that the department proposed that provincial authorities and the culture ministry make a survey and compile files on Sapa’s terraced fields, Hoang Lien national park and the ancient rock bank in Sapa to submit to UNESCO for recognition as world cultural heritages.

“This is a difficult task but we are trying to turn Sapa’s terraced fields into a world heritage for the many foreign travellers who love Sapa and Vietnam,” Son said.

The Thao & Van Hoa talked with Son about Sapa’s terraced fields:

Do you think that it is good luck Sapa’s terraced fields were voted one of the seven most magnificent terraced fields in the world by Travel and Leisure?

I think that with the natural beauty of that landscape, it is not at all surprising they were recognised as one of the seven most magnificent terraced fields in Asia and the world by Travel and Leisure.

There are some terraced field tours in Sapa, including two major tours: From Sapa town to Ly Lao Chai – Ta Van and Sapa town – Ly Lao Chai – Ta Van – Ban Ho – Thanh Phu – Suoi Thau.

Terraced fields in Sapa are a product of H’Mong and Dao people. This kind of terraced field is different from the fields of Ha Nhi people in Yunnan (China) or in the Philippines because each ethnic group has its own cultivation techniques.

The owners of terraced fields in Sapa have abundant folk knowledge. Their fields are as beautiful as terraced fields in Mu Cang Chai (Yen Bai, Vietnam) or in the Philippines.

Could you tell us more about terraced fields in Sapa and in your opinion, what aspects of Sapa’s terraced fields can be considered outstanding in the world?

Terraced fields are the most popular in the following areas: on abrupt mountain slopes along roads in Trung Chai commune, along the road from Lao Cai city to Sapa town. These are terraced fields of H’Mong people.

Terraced fields owned by H’Mong, Dao and Giay people are located in Muong Hoa valley. This is the combination between cultivation of wet rice in narrow valleys of Giay people and cultivation on high mountains of H’Mong and Dao people.

In Muong Hoa valley, Lao Chai district, visitors can observe a complex of terraced fields from Muong Hoa stream to the middle of the mountain, totalling around 10sq.km. In this area, the beauty of terraced fields is outstanding thanks to the vast space. Another beautiful terraced field area is Suoi Thau, which was created by Dao people.

Terraced fields appear in many provinces in Vietnam. The field in Mu Cang Chai, Yen Bai province was recognized as a national relic in 2007. How about the fields in Sapa?

Terraced fields in Sapa are very beautiful. We are making surveys and preparing documents to ask for recognition as a national heritage. We also proposed that competent agencies ask for UNESCO’s recognition of the complex of the terraced fields, the ancient stone bank and Hoang Lien national park as world heritages.

What is the role of terraced fields in today’s farming?

Terraced fields are H’Mong, Dao and Giay people’s farming techniques for sloping topography. It is an achievement in terms of culture and folk knowledge. Terraced fields help maintain food stability in mountainous areas.

VietNamNet/TT-VH

Recommended Itineraries:
- Sapa trekking tours
- Sapa tours & excursions
- Fansipan trekking tours, Sapa

Tuesday, October 13, 2009

ActiveTravel Asia upgrades challenging and extends outdoor activities in future.

Leading local adventure specialist, ActiveTravel Asia (ATA) has announced launch of its upgraded and extended adventure products. Focusing on its adventure tours of the area - Vietnam, Cambodia, Laos and Asia, ATA is now expanding further outdoor packages and tailor-made private itineraries in the 2010 and 2011 with the true value for customers.



Motorcycling Ho Chi Minh Trail in Vietnam with ATA

The challenging and outdoor activities of tours with a reasonable level of personal fitness, good health, and interest in the area have been upgraded to be suitable for more customers this year. More cheaply optional tours with adventure guideline and tips have been created for active customers.

ActiveTravel Asia’s local product team has worked hard to create more packages and tailor-made private itineraries through exotic destinations to really experience the culture, history and nature of Asia with local negotiated prices. However, the adventure tours retain their key points of difference without compromising on quality, and provide excellent value for money.

ActiveTravel Asia’s emphasis is on taking travelers to experience the ‘real taste of Indochina and Asia” and, as such, its itineraries stand out from the crowd.

With the active local young team and guide, ATA makes the different outdoor products and activities in Vietnam, Cambodia, Laos and Asia include good standard accommodation and local home stay, thoughtfully outdoor itineraries and reasonable price reductions in 2010.

Bobby Nguyen, ActiveTravel Asia’s director comments” In the current outdoor products, we make a desire to show the hidden lands and bring the real taste of Indochina and Asia to customers thus we have created further different outdoor packages and tailor-made private itineraries with price reductions without compromising on quality”

“With local young dynamic team of ActiveTravel Asia and rich local knowledge, ATA's accumulated expertise ensures that travelers can always trust they are maximized their precious holiday time and to experience the very best of their chosen destination, which can really make a difference to what is usually someone’s only visit to a country.”

For more information visit http://www.activetravel.asia/ or our network:
http://www.activetravelvietnam.com/
http://www.activetravelcambodia.com/
http://www.activetravellaos.com

Monday, October 12, 2009

Exploring the Central Highlands, Vietnam

Gia Lai province in the Central Highlands is famous for its splendid scenery, magnificent waterfalls, poetic lakes and endless forests and mountains. Taking a trip to the Central Highlands to discover the wonders of nature is a worthwhile experience in the fall, according to baogialai.vn.

Vietnam biking tours Waterfall in Central highland, Vietnam

The most impressive poetic scenes of the province that are recommended for a visit are the Kon Ka Kinh and Kon Cha Rang tropical forests, the Ayun Pa and Phu Cuong waterfalls, Da Trang and Mo springs and Ayaun Ha lake, an extinct volcano.

Topping the list is Ayun Ha lake with its cool air, blue waters and romantic surroundings.

Located in the region between Phu Thien and Chu Se districts, about 70 kilometers west of Pleiku city, Ayun Ha lake is a man-made lake supplying the Ayun Ha area and Pleiku city with a big source of aquatic products.

Coming to Ayun Ha, tourists will have a chance to intermingle with romantic scenery and enjoy wild nature and pure air. The atmosphere is jubilant when taking part in water sports or cruising on the lake on holidays or at festivals.

Phu Cuong waterfall, 45 km southeast of Pleiku city, with its height and smooth rock walls, is imposing amid the green jungle carpet. Buses come to the foot of the waterfall and tourists continue their trip on elephant.

Lying on the current of the Ia Pech stream, the waterfall shows off its beauty with a height of 35 meters as a silver carpet amid the green forest.

On the tour visiting Ayun Ha lake and Phu Cuong waterfall, tourists should not miss Ayn Pa which is endowed with attractive landscapes such as Pink Valley-Violet Horizon, Dream Beach and Stone Stream.

Gia Lai province has a long-standing history as an ancient culture bearing traits of the ethnic groups of Giarai, Ba Na, Gie Trieng, Xo Dang and K’ho. This is manifested through the architecture of the communal rong (long house), stilt houses and burial grounds. Visitors to this windy and sunny land can not only admire the splendid landscapes but can see the unique architectural style of the statues in funeral houses, investigate local customs and ethnic cultural features and hear some of the folklore. Another attraction is the performance of gongs, soul of the highlands.

One day/one night tours are available to these sites at the travel center at 215 Hung Vuong street, Pleiku city, Gia Lai province, tel: 059 3874 571.

Gia Lai province is 550 kilometers from HCMC. Tourists can book return flights from HCMC, Hanoi and Danang. By road from HCMC, tourists can book at travel agencies in downtown HCMC. Heading on National Road 13 to National Road 14, or on National Highway 1A to Quy Nhon and then to National Road 19 or to Tuy Hoa, National Road 25 leads into the province.

VietNamNet/SGT

Related to Centre Highland, Vietnam
- Biking Adventures Mekong & Centre Highland
- Ho Chi MInh & Mekong tours
- Mekong Delta and Angkor Wat

Saturday, October 10, 2009

Follow the Mekong - Vietnam travel guide

With time to watch the ebb and flow of a river's life, Graham Reilly floats from Vietnam to Cambodia.

I stare from the riverbank at this astonishingly vast and lively world of water. Here, in the charming provincial city of Can Tho in the heart of southern Vietnam's Mekong Delta, it is as if the land is merely an afterthought. Everything is about the river and the way of life it sustains.


Cai Rang floating market, Mekong delta, Vietnam

It is a world of colour and movement, of a comforting spray of cool water on your face as you are rowed back to your hotel at night in a slim stick of a boat, of the sleepy glint of dusk as you trail your finger across the river's surface, of the cough and splutter of a small passenger ferry as it crosses the river to Vinh Long, of the throaty gurgle of a rice boat as it slowly motors to Ho Chi Minh City or Cambodia.

The Mekong begins its 4500-kilometre journey to the sea in Tibet and winds its way through China, Burma, Laos, Thailand, Cambodia and finally into the Mekong Delta. The Vietnamese call the river Cuu Long, or nine dragons, and it is easy to see why, for here the Mekong spreads in great tentacles into nine exits to the sea.

Can Tho sits on the banks of one of these tributaries, the Hang Giang river, also known as the Bassac, an impossibly broad, bustling expanse of brown water. It is a pleasant capital of 300,000 people, with tree-lined boulevards, cool grassy squares and 19th-century buildings that are remnants of French colonial days.

One of the great pleasures of Vietnamese provincial towns such as Hoi An or Nha Trang is the local markets and Can Tho is no exception.

Selling vegetables, fruit and seafood, its large market spreads over an entire city block on one side and follows the curve of the river on the other. There is much to do here and it is a good place to organise a home stay with a farming family. It is also a good place to do nothing much at all. Gazing out from the pleasant promenade, I see boats of all shapes and sizes, one of which takes my friends and I early next morning to the famous Cai Rang floating market. Boats from all over the region – from Bac Lieu, Vinh Long and Camau – come here to sell what seems like every fruit and vegetable ever imagined: jackfruit, oranges, rambutan, bananas, longans, pineapples and sweet potatoes.

An, 30, is our guide. It is her father's boat and her husband navigates it safely through the shifting mass of craft on the river. "He is a good husband," she says, smiling. "He is happy to cooking and washing with me at night." We nod in agreement. A good husband can be hard to find.

I explain to her that we want to travel to Cambodia by boat, from Can Tho to Chau Doc, across the border and up to the Cambodian capital, Phnom Penh, and then on to Siem Reap, home of one of the great wonders of the world, the temple complex of Angkor Wat. We've got six days for the journey of more than 400 kilometres. An offers to arrange the journey and a few phone calls later we agree to meet at the Can Tho dock at 2pm the next day.

I tell her I have visited these places before but always by road or air. This time I want a gentler, more romantic mode of transport along the mighty Mekong and its tributaries. I want to hear the gentle slap of the water against the boat, feel the tropical breeze on my skin and watch people go about their lives on the riverbanks. I want to be part of the landscape. I want to make the journey as important as the arrival.

Can Tho has several restaurants along the waterfront and that night we decide on the Thien Hoa. We settle happily at a pavement table in the evening balm, show no restraint and order a feast – fried snake with onions, sea bass soup with tamarind, prawns steamed in beer, catfish hotpot and coconut ice-cream. It is a meal to remember and a harbinger of culinary experiences to come.

Loaded up with fruit and sandwiches we've borrowed from the sumptuous breakfast buffet at the Victoria Hotel, we board the "fast boat" to Chau Doc, a journey An tells us will take about three hours. She says the slow boat, which leaves at 6.30am, takes about eight hours.

The fast boat is a long, relatively sleek, metal-hulled craft that does not go particularly fast, which turns out to be a blessing, given the pleasure of being on the water and lounging on the deck and watching the world go by. Most of the passengers are part of a package run by Delta Adventure Tours that includes a night at the company's floating hotel in Chau Doc. As we are travelling independently, we each pay $US20 ($23) for the trip.

The boat seats about 30 people in something more or less resembling comfort. Sitting on the deck munching on a bag of rambutan, it becomes immediately clear to me that this is a working river. Large boats, washing fluttering in the breeze and overloaded with bananas, take their produce to market. Other boats dredge silt from the riverbed to be used in the construction industry. The weight of their cargo lays them so low in the water it is as if just one more grain could tip them into the muddy depths.

The riverbanks jump with activity. A line of brick kilns several kilometres long puffs smoke as families stack freshly baked bricks or load them on to waiting boats, the children straining under the burden. The smell of fermenting fish sauce wafts from factories onshore. Much of the riverbank is lined with sandbags to protect stilted houses from the river, which swells dramatically during the wet season.

There is so much of interest to observe on the water and the riverbanks that the journey passes quickly and before I know it we are approaching Chau Doc, a journey of 5 hours. The river seems to settle in the dusk and takes on a kind of dreamy indolence, as if it has done enough work for the day. Meanwhile, I have been lulled into a sense of well-being I've never experienced when travelling by road or air.

Impressed with our stay at the Victoria Hotel in Can Tho, we decide to spend a few nights at the Victoria in Chau Doc. It is another elegant, splendidly positioned, colonial-style building perched on the banks of the Bassac. The view from our room across the spreading river takes my breath away.

Chau Doc shuts down early and we are lucky to get to the Bay Bong restaurant while it is still serving dinner. The restaurant forgoes interesting decor for delicious Mekong cuisine. It's another feast. We start with canh chua, the local sweet-and-sour fish soup, and follow this with steamed fish and prawns, including ca kho, stewed fish in a clay pot. It's so good we return the next night.

Chau Doc is another attractive and welcoming provincial town of about 100,000 people with an enormous market that snakes along the riverfront. The fish section alone – which has not just fresh fish but dried, spiced, marinated and salted – is wondrous.

We're close to the Cambodian border here and the people are more obviously Khmer, with their fuller features, darker skin and a preference for a chequered scarf over the ubiquitous Vietnamese conical hat. It is also home to a sizeable community of Chams, a Muslim minority of Malaysian appearance who live on the other side of the Bassac river.

We hire a boat and motor across to the Cham village. On the main street, dotted with stalls selling fruit and vegetables and snacks, women chat in the shade of the verandas of their wooden houses. Little girls sell waffles and simple cakes to visitors. I meet the caretaker of one of the two mosques. He shows us a short film about the history of the Cham but it is in Vietnamese so we leave none the wiser.

This part of the Bassac river, where it meets the Mekong, is home to an extraordinary concentration of floating houses, each of which is a self-contained fish farm. In the centre of each house is a large cage submerged in the river, in which families raise local bassa catfish, thousands of tonnes of which are exported to Australia every year. The fish are fed a kind of meal made from cereal, fish and vegetable scraps in cauldrons that rumble and roil. The smell is challenging.

At eight the next morning, we board another fast boat for the journey to the Cambodian capital. On another steamy, insanely hot day, we are looking forward to spending the trip on the deck, savouring the breeze. But a gaggle of young American backpackers with newsreader voices storm the boat and secure the outdoor area as their headquarters. It is their world. We just live in it.

As we travel towards Cambodia, the river begins to change. Gone is the frenetic boat activity and on the riverbank life takes on a less industrial, more bucolic demeanour. As we rejoin the Mekong, the river widens and soon the factories on the shore are replaced by cornfields, banana trees that shift and flap in the breeze and ragged, palm-thatched huts. Families bathe in the shallows and children scrub and splash their wallowing buffaloes. One-and-a-half hours later, when we reach the border at Vinh Xuong, Vietnam, and Kaam Samnor, Cambodia, we're in a different, more lush, more languid world.

We disembark at the border post and after an hour or so filling in various forms and questionnaires, we say goodbye to the Vietnamese boat and board the altogether less salubrious Cambodian craft for the rest of the journey. But in the end the boat's state of rugged disrepair matters little and most people spend the afternoon sitting on the rear deck or lounging on the bow and impairing the vision of the driver.

It is all too idyllic and, as it turn out, too good to last. Low water levels in the Tonle Sap river mean we have to complete the final leg of the journey by bus. But even this is fascinating, if cramped, as we hurl through the countryside and the sedate outskirts of Phnom Penh. As we arrive in the busy heart of the capital, I check my watch. It was just over seven hours ago that we boarded the boat in Chau Doc.

At our hotel, the owner tells us the water levels in the Tonle Sap are too low for us to go by boat to Siem Reap and that we'll have to take the bus or fly. He dismisses our disappointment, saying the boat has a karaoke machine on board. "Very noisy."

But we won't decide what to do until after dinner – perhaps some steamed fish in coconut milk or fried squid with green peppers. As we hop into a tuk-tuk to take us to the waterfront, a young girl, brown as a nut and cute as a button, implores us to buy some bottled water.

"What's your name?" I ask.

"Cosmic," she replies, beaming. "Where are you from?"

"Australia."

"Do you know Kevin Rudd?" she asks.

"Of course."

"Well, he is my father."

I look puzzled and she giggles. We are smitten and it's bottled water all round. As we putter away, she yells to us: "Tell Kevin his daughter says hello."

I wave and promise I will.

Source: brisbanetimes.com.au

Related to Mekong delta, Vietnam

- Explore Mekong Delta & river tour
- Mekong biking tours
- Family tours in Vietnam
- Mekong Delta & Angkor Wat tours

Stalking in the great outdoors, Vietnam

Tram Chim National Reserve is in Tam Nong district in the Mekong Delta province of Dong Thap.

Vietnam National Parks
Tram Chim National Reserve, Vietnam

The wetland reserve covers a total area of 7,512 hectares and is home to over 200 kinds of birds, ducks, chickens and more than 150 kinds of fish, 130 species of plants and various kinds of amphibians, reptiles and insects.

The area is also famous for its Redheaded cranes, which come back to the wetlands in dry season, from roughly January to June and leave at the onset of wet season.

A recent fire in Tram Chim burned up 21 hectares of cajuput forest and grass fields, further depleting the cranes preferred habitat.

According to Huynh The Phien, director of the Tram Chim national Reserve, a wide area of co nang grass, the crane's favourite, has been re-planted in the reserve to try and ensure the cranes continue to come back.

At this time of year, with the cranes, the immense capujut forest covered with pink lotus flowers and ponds filled with purple water-lilies the wetlands are simply breathtaking.

You will need a pair of binoculars to see the cranes and the optimum time to go crane-watching is at sunrise or sunset.

Related to Vietnam:

- VietNam travel guide
- Tours in VietNam
- Short Excursions in VietNam

Friday, October 9, 2009

Cu Chi tunnels one of Vietnam's most popular tourist attractions

War's reality closes in when you take plunge into underground passageways - Cu Chi tunnels in Vietnam

HO CHI MINH CITY, Vietnam -- The sound of gunshots pierce the thick jungle air. I'm on my hands and knees, crawling through the subterranean darkness, sweating in places I didn't know I had sweat glands.

"Keep on coming! Keep on coming!" urges a wiry Vietnamese man in fatigues, waving me forward.


Cu Chi Tunnels, Vietnam

A Cu Chi tunnel worker demonstrates how villagers and Viet Cong would enter the hidden tunnels during the war. The openings were incredibly small and hidden by leaves. When tourists visit the tunnels today, they go through segments that have been widened to accommodate Westerners' bodies.

If you go
CU CHI TUNNELS: Open from 7 a.m. to 5 p.m. every day. Admission costs about $5.
We're in the infamous Cu Chi tunnels, the Viet Cong's network of secret underground passageways that proved to be one ginormous thorn in the side of the American military during the Vietnam War.

The claustrophobic tunnel system -- dug by hand -- at one time measured more than 120 miles, stretching from the Cambodian border to the outskirts of what was then Saigon. A virtual city, the web of tunnels was home to local villagers seeking shelter from bomb raids, plus thousands of Viet Cong, the North Vietnamese Army-backed guerrillas who battled South Vietnamese and U.S. forces. Here, right under the boots of American GIs, is where the Viet Cong ate, slept, hid and launched deadly surprise attacks.

It's also where a select group of American soldiers -- a k a tunnel rats -- engaged in what has to be the world's scariest game of hide and seek. These tunnel rats inched their way through the cramped, dark passageways, trying to find the enemy before the enemy found them. Something to think about this Memorial Day.

For obvious reasons, not a lot of soldiers wanted to set foot in these booby-trap-filled hell holes. But these days, the Cu Chi tunnels are one of Vietnam's most popular tourist attractions. Some 1,000 visitors flock daily to the site, located about 45 miles from downtown Ho Chi Minh City (formerly Saigon).

Only a few short sections of the tunnels are accessible today. They've been expanded a bit to accommodate Westerners' super-sized bodies, but that didn't keep me from struggling to hunch low enough so my back wouldn't scrape against the dirt ceiling.

"Are there snakes in here?" I ask my Vietnamese guide, who seems almost comfortable in these ridiculously confined quarters.

"Not anymore," he answers with a big grin, followed by a few more rounds of "Keep on coming!"

Tourists can make their way through three sections of tunnels ranging from 150 to 650 feet in length. If you're claustrophobic or have a bad back or knees, you're probably better off staying above ground -- at least when it comes to the longer tunnels.

And don't worry: There's plenty to see above ground. A display of horrific spiked contraptions once hidden under trap doors in the jungle floor, craters left by bombs dropped from B-52s, abandoned U.S. tanks you can climb in, mannequins of North Vietnamese soldiers and Viet Cong guerrillas -- it's like the Disneyland of Death and Destruction.

The whole experience gave me a better sense of what American soldiers went through. It's one thing to stand in front of a war memorial or monument; it's another to get down and dirty in the proverbial trenches, especially with the eerie sound of assault rifles blasting in the distance.

"If you want to shoot gun -- AK-47 or M16 -- you can do it ... $13 or $14 buys 10 bullets," says Nguyen Cao Van, my above-ground tour guide at Cu Chi. "If you don't want to shoot gun," he adds, "you can buy ice cream next door."

Just like Disneyland.

Nguyen's uncle was a colonel for the South Vietnamese army. After the war ended in 1975, his uncle spent seven years in a re-education camp.

"And he was a quick learner," Nguyen says.

Nguyen's wife is from North Vietnam. They tied the knot in 2005. Marriages between people from the North and South have become more common in the last few years, Nguyen says, now that animosity between both halves of the country has finally started to die down.

Before I arrived in Vietnam, I was a little worried that I might face lingering animosity over the American War, as they call it. When you carpet bomb a country and spray its landscape with Agent Orange, people might hold a grudge.

But the only accosting this Yank got was from overeager Vietnamese street vendors desperate to sell their bamboo bowls and other tchotchkes.

"What happened has happened," Nguyen says, adding that most people in Vietnam are too young to even remember the war. Some 55 million of the country's 87 million residents were born after Saigon's fall in 1975.

"We don't look to the past," he says. "We look to the future."

Source: suntimes.com/lifestyles/travel/asia/

Related to Cu Chi Tunnels
- Biking Adventures Mekong & Centre Highland
- Ho Chi MInh & Mekong tours
- Mekong Delta and Angkor Wat

Thursday, October 8, 2009

ACTIVETRAVEL ASIA hosts a group of Burrows Red Spider Travel Vietnam in Jan 2010

ACTIVETRAVEL ASIA (ATA) will host a group of Burrows Red Spider to take the motorcycle trip in Ho Chi Minh Trail, Vietnam. This trip will start from Hanoi and finish in Saigon (Ho Chi Minh City) in Jan 31, 2010.

Motorcycle tours in Ho Chi Minh Trail, Vietnam

With 10-day motorcycling tour in Ho Chi Minh trail in total 16 day trip from Hanoi to Saigon, this motorcycling grading of tour is considered as Moderate to challenging by ATA.

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, 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 follows original sections of the trail has changed this. Besides incredible driving, deep in the Vietnamese countryside; this ride takes in the charming ancient trading town of Hoi An, Khe Sanh battle site and DMZ. Travelers also take time to stay overnight in a traditional Thai hill tribe and visit to some tribal villages on the way.

Burrows Red Spider is group of American motorcyclists and love motorcycling travel especially travel to Vietnam War in the past by motorcycling.

Travel Tips
- Motorcycle tips: Vietnam motorcycle travel tips
- Motorcyle guide & trail: Ho Chi Minh trail & travel guide
- Motorcycle tours: Motorcycle tours in Vietnam

Wednesday, October 7, 2009

The little dragon - Halong bay, Vietnam

Often called the baby of Ha Long Bay, beautiful and diverse Bai Tu Long Bay holds its own.


Bai Tu Long Bay hosts hundreds of large and small islands of various charateristics.

The Vietnamese nation was invaded so often in ancient times that God was moved to send a dragon and its child to fight the enemies.

After the fighting was over, the dragon refused to return to heaven. The mother became Ha Long Bay (Descending Dragon) and her children, Bai Tu Long Bay (Dragon children cheering their mother). The children are beautiful, like the mother, but not as well known.

Located around 200 kilometers to the northeast of Hanoi, Bai Tu Long Bay includes the seas off Cam Pha Town, Ha Long Town and Van Don District.

The bay hosts hundreds of large and small islands of various characteristics. One island looks as if it were made by piling up stone bowls. Locals call it Dong Chen (Bowl Pile). Yet another, called Dua (chopstick), is like a giant chopstick lying on the water surface.

Quan Lan Island does not have a particularly striking shape like its neighbors, but it has sandy and rather wild beaches, like Ngoc Vung and Minh Chau, alongside a 300-year-old primeval forest.

The sixth lunar month is festival season on the island. No locals are allowed to leave, but visitors are welcome to join the festivities.

Other islands carry different flavors. Ban Sen Island, for instance, brings to tourists cups of tea produced from trees whose seeds were first sowed hundreds of years ago. Meanwhile, Minh Chau Island presents the pristine lifestyle of a fishing village.

Like its mother, Ha Long Bay has several caves such as Dong Trong Cave and Hang Quan Cave. The latter served as a Vietnamese army base during the Vietnam War.

Other attractions at the bay include temples dedicated to famous generals during the feudal period and seafood specialties like snout otter clams (Lutraria Rhynchaena), locally known as tu hai.

National ‘water park’

Covering nearly 16,000 hectares of land on 30 islands, Bai Tu Long National Park boasts considerable biodiversity with mangrove forests and coral reefs that are home to rare flora and fauna.

The park also has considerable archeological significance with scientists finding traces of people who lived there 14,000 years ago.

Located at the end of a mangrove forest, Doi (Bat) Cave is the home of thousands of bats and other animals like foxes and otters, while the Cai De Cave, about one kilometter away, goes through a range of mountains for about 500 meters at a maximum width of 60 meters.

Although the cave is decorated with stalactites and a plentiful source of marine life, visitors can only enter when the tide is low.

Cai De was proposed to be introduced to visitors in 2007, but nothing has been done so far to make this happen.

Related to Halong Bay, Vietnam

- Halong bay kayaking tours
- Halong Bay tours

War veteran turns dead bomb zone into lively tourist village in Vietnam

It’s taken 18 years for a veteran of the Vietnam War to turn a heavily bombed swamp into a showcase of Vietnamese culture.



War veteran turns dead bomb zone into lively tourist village in Vietnam

A Little Vietnam occupies 22 hectares of land near the Saigon River in Cu Chi District, Ho Chi Minh City that used to be five meters lower than the surrounding area and so devastated that neither rice nor fish could survive.

The woman behind the ambitious project is 65-year-old Tran Thi Tuyet Nga, who grew up in the fertile land of Cu Chi and fought there until it became an unlivable fire zone.

When she returned to build a school after the war, Nga suddenly thought of something bigger she could do for her homeland.

Since then, nearly half a million cubic meters of soil has been used to fill the swamp and create a solid base for A Little Vietnam.

On the crowded opening day last week, Nga frequently burst into tears as she showed off the centerpiece of her craft village - an earthen altar made of soil from all over Vietnam, including a place in Hanoi where the monarchs of old would make their supplications to the gods.

The ash in the middle of the altar came from the altars at Truong Son Martyrs’ Cemetery in the central province of Quang Tri and Hoa Yen Pagoda in the northern province of Quang Ninh.

This is Nga’s way of expressing the unity of Vietnam.

The country’s history and culture are on display everywhere at A Little Vietnam.

One exhibit tells of the three stakes that were driven into the bed of the Bach Dang River to skewer approaching enemy ships in three important battles in the tenth and thirteenth centuries.

Nguyen Van My, director of Lua Viet Tourism Company, thinks A Little Vietnam should be on the itinerary of every tourist and recommends it for Vietnamese families and students too.

“There are valuable antiques. The way the village portrays the culture of Vietnam’s different regions is so authentic,” My said.

“Real craftsmen and women demonstrate how to make do (poonah) paper, silk, woodcuts, pottery, china and so forth,” he said.

So far Nga has spent nearly VND100 billion (US$5.6 million) on A Little Vietnam, so it’s unsurprising that money has been her biggest problem.

“We sold all the valuables we could, borrowed money anywhere we could, sometimes from loan sharks,” she said.

Few banks and businesses were willing to finance the project as they doubted its commercial viability.

The people who helped make it happen spent four years in “misery and disgrace”, to quote Nga, until they gained the title deeds to the land purchased from more than 50 households.

With a certificate of ownership in hand, it became much easier to borrow money and find financial backers.

The prime lender in the past three years has been the Khang Thong Construction, Commercial and Service Company with a VND1-billion loan. The North Asia Bank has also lent money, and donated some as well.

“Now I only wish to make enough money to pay off the debts and develop the village into a place fully deserving of its name,” Nga said.

Source: Thanh Nien

Tuesday, October 6, 2009

Active Travel Asia Co-operates with NGO’s to Promote Responsible Travel in Vietnam

ATA and some owners of Adventure Tour Operators in Vietnam have a meeting with NGO’s representatives such as FFI and SNV with the purpose to support and promote responsible travel projects in Vietnam.


Meeting at Vu Linh, Thac Ba lake, Ha Giang, Vietnam

Fauna & Flora International (FFI) was established in 1903, it was the world’s first international conservation organization and the pioneering work of its founders in Africa led to the creation of numerous protected areas, including Kruger and Serengeti National Parks.

SNV is a Netherlands-based international development organization that provides advice to local organizations in developing countries. SNV have 30 field offices and 1200 staff working mostly in poor and marginalized communities in Africa, Asia, Eastern Europe and Latin America.

With 3 day meetings in Vu Linh, leaders of tour operators and NGO’s representative have found the co-operated way to create responsible travel package and support the rural and ethnic community in travel industry such as house building, clean the rubbish on trails or in Halong bay.

Tour operators and NGOs have agreed to establish the club gathered by Tour Operators who support responsible and sustainable travel and NGOs who support poor communities and preserve flora and fauna in Vietnam National Parks and Reserves by funding responsible tourism projects in Vietnam.

ATA expresses a desire to promote Vietnam as Responsible and sustainable travel destination as well as become the leader of Tour Operators in Vietnam, Cambodia and Laos. ATA hopefully contributes to develop and promote responsible travel products in Vietnam, Laos and Cambodia.

For reference, please review some tours as below:

- Trekking tour in Pu Luong Reserve
- Biking tour in Pu Luong
- Sapa trekking & Home stay tour

Monday, October 5, 2009

ATA makes the difference in Vietnam with “Sapa Trekking tours and home stay”

Luxury Travel Vietnam is not only stay in luxury standard hotels and enjoys international food in expensive restaurants, Active Travel Asia (ATA) recommend travelers different luxury tour with trekking trip and homestay in Sapa, Vietnam.

At an elevation of 1,600 meters, Sapa is a delightful former French hill station situated in the mountainous region of Vietnam’s northwest, close to the Chinese border.

The region is home to many ethnic minority groups, each wearing traditional and colorful attire. This trip includes a trek through the hills and valleys of the Sapa region, discovering several different minorities along the way. Travelers will experience overnight accommodation in the hospitable villages of Giay and Tay ethnic minorities. The apparent hardships are worth it though as travelers walk through some of the most spectacular scenery that Vietnam has to offer and experience unique villages culture.

First day Travelers transfer from hotel in Hanoi to Hanoi Railway Station for the night train to Lao Cai.

Second day, Travelers will take 1hr bus ride uphill to the beautiful town of Sapa. The rides give travelers a glimpse of the stunning vistas and impressive rice terraces. Upon arrival in Sapa Town travelers have breakfast in local restaurant and prepare for a great trek down to the picturesque valley of Muong Hoa. Travelers will walk on small paths and trails to reach Tavan Village, where travelers will have unique homestay experience among hill tribe people and overnight in the local house in ethnic minority.
Third day, travelers will have breakfast in the local house before embarking upon another day of adventure. Today, travelers will trek across mountains, bamboo forest, terraces and streams to reach Ban Ho Village, a beautiful village at lotravelersr altitude and overnight in local house in ethnic minority.

Last day, travelers leave Ban Ho for Sapa. Travelers will trek shortly to the dirt road for a jeep ride back to Sa Pa. Back to the town travelers can take shower and change clothes in hotel.

Free at leisure in the afternoon. Travelers can explore the town on foot and have great shopping time in Sapa market. In the late afternoon, travelers transfer to Lao Cai for night train back to Hanoi.

Related to Sapa tour:

- Sapa Trekking tours and home stay

Saturday, October 3, 2009

Eight Wonders of Vietnam

UNESCO lists five World Heritages in the country, but Adventure Beat editor Christian Kallen's list presents a more varied picture: the Eight Wonders of Vietnam.

If many of a certain generation tried to avoid going to Vietnam at all costs, now these same travelers may be tempted to explore a densely textured destination as historic, culturally rich and scenically stupefying as any country on Earth.

Adventure Beat editor Christian Kallen's "Eight Wonders" of Vietnam:

1) Ha Long Bay



Halong Bay, Vietnam

Legend has it that the dragon that created civilization dove into these waters (Ha Long means "descending dragon") to his rest. There is a mythic, supernatural quality to this bay on the Gulf of Tonkin, east of Hanoi, that must be experienced to believe. Limestone "haystack" islands draped in jungle foliate erupt from the placid bay, fishermen in dragon-headed boats lay their nets, caves both above and below water level invite exploration. There are some 700 islands in the bay, and nowadays you can sea kayak among them with local tour operators — although in ancient times the Vietnamese general Tran Hung Dao outwitted the Chinese navy here.

2) Hanoi's Old Quarter

Hoan Kiem Lake, Hanoi, Vietnam by you.

Hoan Kiem lake, Hanoi's Old Quarter, Vietnam

Few capitals necessarily qualify as "wonders" — Paris comes to mind — but Hanoi belongs in that class. It was first made capital of Vietnam in 1010 A.D., along a bend in the Red River, and even today, 996 years later, it's still a rush of urban energy and pastoral ease. Walk around the central district's Hoan Kiem Lake in the cool morning hours, while the locals do their daily tai chi; shop in the narrow streets of the Old Quarter where tradesmen have practiced in the same shops for up to 25 generations; dine European, Asian, or fusion at one of the many restored colonial mansions.

3) Cao Dai Temple

Cao Dai Temple

Even knowing in advance that the Cao Dai religion counts among its saints Victor Hugo, Louis Pasteur, and Sun Yat-Sen does little to prepare the visitor for the psychedelic splendor of its Holy See. Primary colors run riot over plaster dragons, flowers, and figurines crawling up the pillars and walls, while the all-seeing eye (a Masonic symbol also found on the US Great Seal) is everywhere. The temple is just a short drive from Ho Chi Minh City, and elaborate services and ceremonies are held almost daily.

4) Mekong Delta

Float market Mekong River, Vietnam by you.

Mekong Delta, Vietnam

The Mekong's route begins 2,500 miles upstream in Tibet, and its course through China, Burma, Laos, Cambodia and Vietnam is a waterway through the exotic. It flows into the South China Sea through a delta of many streams (its Vietnamese name, Cuu Long, means Nine Dragons), a fertile region known as "the ricebowl of Vietnam." The highlight for most visitors are the floating markets of Cai Be and Vinh Long, where you can get everything from fruits, flowers, and handicrafts to exotic snakes — and dishes as memorable as the “elephant's ear” fish (not endangered).

5) Tonkinese Alps

trek Fansipan, Sapa, Vietnam by you.

Fansipan Mountain, Sapa, Vietnam

The Tonkinese Alps create the barrier between Vietnam and China to the north, and their highest peak is Mount Fansipan (10,312 feet). Most people don't think of going to Vietnam to go mountain climbing, but consider this multi-day trek anyway, not only for its spectacular views into China but for the hilltribe villages you pass through en route. The route begins in Sapa, a popular tourist center in the midst of hill country, then forges through valleys of terraced rice fields into ever more remote villages peopled byanimistic minorities, such as the Dao, Hmong and Nung. Frommer's Guide on the Tokinese Alps.

6) Endangered Wildlife

Tram Chim National Park, Vietnam by you.

Tram Chim National Park, Vietnam

With its centuries of warfare and commerce, napalm and revolution, it's hard to think of Vietnam as a wildlife hot spot, but it is becoming increasingly recognized as such. Exotic creatures such as several rare species of langurs, gibbons and monkeys; wild boars and the extremely rare brown-antlered deer vie with lizards, snakes and birds for life listers. Although habitat loss in this growing country is a problem, an even bigger one is the catholic appetite of the Vietnamese palate – and the illegal trade in endangered species and restaurants that serve them.

7) Phong Nha-Ke Bang

Phong Nha cave, Quang Binh, Vietnam by you.

Phong Nha cave, Vietnam

The most recent of Vietnam's World Heritage Sites is the Phong Nha-Ke Bang National Park. Travelers to Southeast Asia are well aware of the widespread karst formations of the region (Ha Long Bay is one such). Karst topography is limestone-based, riven with caves and cracks, given to weird shapes and striking vistas. The formations in Phong Nha-Ke Bang are among the world's oldest, 400 million years old; its geomorphology is complex and a motherlode for earth sciences.

8) Hoi An Village

Hoi An lantern, Vietnam by you.

Lanterns, Hoi An, Vietnam

Designated a World Heritage Site in 1999, Hoi An is the former main port of Vietnam in the 16th century, and today 844 of its historic structures are preserved as landmarks. You can walk down the crooked streets surrounded by the atmosphere and odors of times gone by, take a sampan ride down the Do River or the streams that lace the town, hunt the traces of the foreign traders – Japanese, Chinese, Dutch, and Indian – who made Hoi An the center of culture in old Vietnam. Helpful hint: visit during full moon, when the shop owners turn off the lights and illuminate the streets with candle lanterns.


Related sites:

- VietNam travel guide
- Tours in VietNam
- Short Excursions in VietNam

Friday, October 2, 2009

Getting the most out of Sapa travel Vietnam

Located in the northwestern mountains of the country, Sapa is a modest town nestled within the Hoang Lien Son mountain range in Lao Cai Province. Sapa is an excellent destination to enjoy outdoor activities with stunning landscapes that attract both domestic and foreign tourists.


Terraced paddy field, Sapa, Vietnam

Travelling in Sapa, few tourists miss an opportunity to trek to mountain villages and majestic waterfalls.

Cat Cat Village sits atop unspoiled landscapes and is a desirable destination for trekkers seeking to spend full days walking in a world of natural charm and tranquillity.

Visiting the village, tourists will discover various traditional trades of the local people such as weaving, jewellery manipulation, metal work and stone carvings.

The road from Sapa winds through hilly terrain, past terraced paddy fields. A sign reads "Welcome to Cat Cat Cultural Village", greeting visitors as they arrive at the entrance of the village.

A leisurely walk within the old village provides visitors with a better understanding of the traditional customs and practices of the ethnic Mong people that live here.

While wandering around the village, I continually asked the locals about their crafts and houses. I was curious about everything and the locals were friendly and ready to help. They also politely asked me to buy some hand-made souvenirs.

Visitors in Cat Cat have an opportunity to admire and watch locals sit with looms and create colourful pieces of brocade. When these pieces of brocade are finished, they are dyed and embroidered with beautiful designs of flowers and birds. Interestingly, Mong women use plants and leaves to dye the fabrics. After dyeing the fabric, they then roll a round, smooth piece of wood, covered with wax, over the material in order to polish. By doing this it helps to make the colours more durable on the fabric.

In addition to their weaving craft, many residents in Cat Cat are good at making gold and silver jewellery. Their products are quite sophisticated, especially the women’s jewellery.

Further into the village are waterfalls along with a stream that weaves its way around boulders, hills and mountains. The pristine stream is spanned by a suspension bridge, which offers a good view of the waterfalls and mountains.

The path after the bridge passes through bamboo forests filled with wild flowers and past tranquil brooks.

Another must-see village is Ta Phin, a remote village located 12km from the centre of Sapa, which still retains traditional customs and lifestyles of the Dao, Tay and Mong ethnic groups.

It’s recommended for tourists to catch a local xe om (motorbike taxi) at price of VND180,000 (US$10) in order to get there. Another option is to rent a motorbike for VND100,000 ($5.50) a day, which provides a convenient and interesting way to discover the landscape and villages.

Despite the winding road to the village, tourists can see picturesque rolling hills and terraced fields on the way. Much of the Sapa valley has been cultivated into verdant rice paddy fields equipped with irrigation systems.

Ta Phin Village seeks to capitalise from tourism and thus causes local children and adults to constantly follow visitors, in an effort to persuade them to buy wallets, hats, bags or fabric. However, these sellers tend to be friendly and hospitable.

The villagers often invite tourists to visit their homes, where they show them how they live and what they have, and tell about their families. Their living standard is still low, but their lives have been improved by the expanding tourism industry.

"We women are so active – not only do we grow vegetables and raise pigs and get wood for the fire, we also try to learn English so we can talk to tourists," said a 25-year-old Dao woman. "Before there were tourists we were very poor, but now we can make handicrafts, make money and meet people."

Ta Phin Village is able to win tourists’ hearts thanks to the beautiful sights that surround it. Lavie Waterfall is a common destination for trekkers. After trekking through forests, maize fields and mountains, tourists often enjoy soaking in Lavie Stream and sunbathing on flat boulders.

After a long day of walking on the curvy roads and hills around Sapa, it was pleasant to soak my bones and muscles in a traditional Dao herbal bath at Ta Phin.

The price was reasonable, VND60,000 ($3.30) for a one-hour bath. Soaking in medicinal waters may make you feel a little tipsy. When you start feeling dizzy, it’s time to get out of the wooden bathtub. After the soak, I finally felt relaxed. The herbal bath was good for my health, mind and bones.

I was very happy to have a chance to travel to Sapa. I will never forget how it felt to stand in front of imposing, beautiful mountains. — VNS

Source: Minh Thu/ Vietnamnews

Related to Sapa, Vietnam:

- Hotels in Sapa
- Trek Fansipan, Sapa tours
- Trekking Tours in Vietnam

Cu Lao Cham island, Vietnam - The Vietnamese Hawaii

The winds roar and the waves surge, as our boat departs Cua Dai port in Hoi An Town. A few anxious passengers ask if it might be wise to return, others are thirsty for an adventure to a remote island.

Cu Lao Cham island, Da Nang, Vietnam

Our fearless guide stands firm on the bow and tells us about the islands 20 kilometres away off the shores of Cua Dai beach.

“You might say, the archipelago is the Hawaii of Vietnam,” Dinh Cong Trung, a 27-year-old tourist guide of the Hoi An Sports and Tourism Centre, says with a smile. “Scientific surveys show Cu Lao Cham’s waters have the same clarity and salinity as Hawaii.”

Of course, on such a grey morning, it’s hard to picture this scene in the Pacific Ocean but Trung insists on comparisons. Cu Lao Cham is home to eight islands and Hawaii has the same number, he tells us.

Nearly two centuries ago, Cu Lao Cham almost became a Hong Kong-style colony. Historian Nguyen Van Xuan said early in the 19th century, the British asked the Nguyen Dynasty rulers for the right to build up a trade base on the islands so as to have better access to China’s Guangzhou province and other countries in the region.

After the Opium War took place from 1839-1842, the British colonised Hong Kong, thus diverting attention from the Vietnamese archipelago. That partly reduced traffic in the waters from Cu Lao Cham to Hoi An, which during the 16th and 17th centuries had been one of Vietnam’s busiest trade centres.

As our boat edges closer to Lao Island, the biggest of the Cham islands, we see red and green forests set off beneath a grey sky. We are lucky, as in July only, thousands of the ngo dong trees (sterculia platanifola) are in bloom across the island.

On the island, a tourist promotion called “Cu Lao Cham and valuables from the seabed” is on. Pottery objects salvaged from wrecked ships on display reveal the beauty of an illustrious past.

There is also an introduction to the fauna and flora of the archipelago. According to the figures of the Cu Lao Cham Nature Preserve Project, which started in 2003, there are about 200 coral species, 202 fish species, five lobster species and 84 mollusc species in Cu Lao Cham.

The cua da (the Stone Crab) is particularly special as Cu Lao Cham is the only region in Vietnam where these creatures with violet and orange coloured shells are found. They live under stones in the forests, eat only medical herbs but reproduce in the sea. At a nearby fishing village, some of the locals are selling the crabs for only VND45,000 (nearly $3) per kilogramme.

The islands’ population is now nearly 3,000. Despite the islands’ rich potential for tourism the locals still lead a poor life. Cu Lao Cham has a temple where the tradition for worshipping the whale in Vietnam’s central coastal areas began in the 19th century. The story goes, Nguyen Anh, the first King of the Nguyen Dynasty was rescued by whales at Cu Lao Cham while being chased by the soldiers of Tay Son. So he built a temple to worship these huge mammals and even made them honorary officials at his court.

At Hai Tang Tu we find a small but beautiful pagoda for worshipping the Sea Deity. Constructed three hundreds years ago, it looks like an ancient house in Hoi An with two “house eyes” on the main door.

To my surprise, in the small room behind its main room, there is an altar with a statue for worshipping Dat Ma, a Buddhist monk, who crossed the sea to China and set up a Zen cult there. I wonder if Dat Ma visited Cu Lao Cham on his slow boat to China.

At the pagoda, the custodians offer us packs of herbal medical called “Nuoc la Lao”. With around 10 medical herbs collected from the islands’ forests, the water is said to be very good for digestion and boosting the body’s immune system.So, reinvigorated by the potion we take two small boats down to Lao Island’s southeastern shores. The weather is calm and peaceful, blue waters are opening up. Coral reefs can be seen beneath the boat.

Unlike diving in Nha Trang, Phu Quoc or Con Dao, you can enjoy the coral world in Cu Lao Cham with only a snorkel. So one by one we plunge into the sea, carefully watched by Trung, who tells us he once swam 22 km from Lao Island to Cua Dai Port in a competition held with Japanese participants. This precious unspoilt island must also be watched with a careful eye.
Source:timeout

Adventures to Hoian: