Monday, May 31, 2010

From dawn to dusk, Vietnam thrums with an intoxicating energy

According to some pundits, the balance of wealth and power is going to shift to the east in the next few decades. Spend a couple of weeks in the dynamic nexus of activity which is Vietnam and most people would start thinking the same way in double quick time.

Central post office in Ho Chi Minh city, Vietnam

We started a three week tour of the country in Ho Chi Minh City (HCMC), the largest city in Vietnam and one which many Vietnamese still refer to as Saigon, the title it held before the country's reunification in 1975. The Saigon river it was founded on is still a major transport artery and, over breakfast from the rooftop balcony of our hotel, we watched the waterway come alive each morning with hundreds of boats bearing consumer goods, building materials and people into the city's frantic heart.

All big conurbations are busy but the constant horns of the millions of scooters combined with the restless chatter of the street stallholders give HCMC a crackling, non-stop buzz. Perhaps because all this activity takes place in a hot, fecund atmosphere of incense, drains and street food, HCMC feels more visceral than sanitised cities such as New York or London.

Cu Chi tunnel, Vietnam

While the new high rises and recently opened international luxury brand outlets might point to Vietnam's possible future, old Saigon and the past are never far away. The Vietnamese refer to the conflict fought between 1964-75 as the American War and many of HCMC's most popular attractions are linked to those events. The War Remnants Museum is a sobering and gruesomely graphic testament to the inhuman carnage of the war while, an hour or so outside the city, the Cu Chi tunnels, an underground wartime stronghold, offer very definite clues as to why the Vietcong were the eventual victors.

Any people who are prepared to live and fight in a maze of tight, booby-trapped tunnels for 20 years have a level of determination and tenacity which counts for far more than sheer firepower.

After crawling through a sweaty, airless, 20-metre section of the tunnels, which had been especially widened for westerners, I had had enough. At its peak, the sprawling subterranean complex may have sported hospitals, dormitories and even dance floors but living there is almost unimaginable.

Hoan Kiem lake, Hanoi, Vietnam

About 700 miles north of Saigon, the capital Hanoi is more elegant than its thrusting southern counterpart but it is still a long way from sedate. Once colonial France's administrative centre in Vietnam, parts of Hanoi boast boulevards and yellow painted townhouses and look as though they have been dropped in from Paris. Although Ho Chi Minh's mausoleum, where the Vietnamese queue for hours to see the embalmed remains of their former leader, owes more to Moscow's Red Square than the Champs Élysée.

Perhaps unsurprisingly, there is more fun to be had in the 36 Streets area of the old quarter. Dating back to the 13th century, this warren of streets was the focus for the city's trades and merchants and each street had its own speciality. Even today, there are entire streets dedicated to selling padlocks or towels or mysterious dried roots.

We perched on little stools at a crossroads pavement bar in the old quarter and supped 15p glasses of draught beer while snacking on dried squid heated over a charcoal brazier. Every now and then the police would come along and order all the stools to be moved off the road. Naturally, as soon as they were gone, all the stools moved back into the road with predictably chaotic consequences for the streams of mopeds passing through.

Even at 6am, Hanoi has a bit of pace to it. In the centre of the city is the Hoan Kiem Lake, home to a mythical turtle. By night, the lake is ringed with young, courting couples. Not long after daybreak, it is surrounded by folk doing Tai Chi, playing badminton or keepie-up with a shuttlecock in the city's cool morning air.

H’Mong ethnic girl in Sapa, Vietnam

Outwith the cities, the pace slows even if the day still tends to start early. From Hanoi, we took the sleeper train to Sapa, an old hill station close to the Chinese border. Sapa is an increasingly popular base for trekking in the surrounding mountains. It is also close to the tiny town of Bac Ha, which is notable for its Sunday market.

A social affair as much as a chance to trade, it attracts tribes such as the Black H'mong and Red Tsao from all over the surrounding countryside. Many of the women still wear traditional dress. We pitched up about 7am, around the same time that the locally distilled rice spirit starts being decanted from its five-gallon containers. As well as offering the chance to catch up with neighbours from across the valley, the market is like Tesco's, B&Q and a grooming parlour all rolled into one for the locals.

Everything is for sale at Bac Ha, from ploughs to ponies via python fat which looks like clusters of fat broad beans and is, apparently, good for skin burns. Locally grown tobacco sits in mounds along with pipes for customers who want to try before buying. Piglets are pulled squealing out of sacks. Water buffalo are prodded and haggled over while dogs are on offer as both pets and for the pot. In one corner, four or five barbers had hung their mirrors on a wall and customers were having al fresco haircuts. My beard was a prime target which, happily, I managed to keep intact.

Halong Bay, Vietnam

If the mountains of the north-west are an anthropological gold mine then the beaches of Vietnam are, for the most part, virgin territory for tourism. With over 1,000 miles of coastline, Vietnam has some stunning beaches, most yet to see the glint of a developer's eye. Yet its most valuable maritime asset for tourism is not a beach but the stunning Halong Bay.

A Unesco world heritage site, it consists of 3,000 limestone islets in the Gulf of Tonkin. Covered in dense green vegetation, they soar up out of the sea in fairy-tale clusters. They are riddled with caves and also play host to a floating village of fishing families, complete with a floating bank and school. Of course, even several miles out to sea, Uncle Ho is still around in the form of a picture which beams down at the schoolchildren from above the classroom blackboard. We did an overnight trip around Halong Bay on a beautifully fitted out junk.

After a seafood dinner, we fished for squid using a lamp and watched the moon cast a glow over the islands. Gently bobbing on the waves, hundreds of miles from the honking motos of the mainland, it was our most peaceful night in Vietnam.

Such tranquillity couldn't last. I woke the next morning and looked out of the porthole onto a flotilla of row boats all manned by women eager to sell their first tourist souvenir of the day. No matter what time of day or where you are in Vietnam, it is always open for business.

Source: The Scotsman - by Jonathan Trew

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Friday, May 28, 2010

Step by step guide to organize your adventure vacations

Last day my friend Gabriele went to Australia for his wedding travel…I told him: “How did you organize your trip?”

He answered: “Sure I’m a travel agent. I know what to do”.

I’ve never been to Australia and I’m not a travel agent, so I’ve decided to do a little search in Google and try to organize it by me…what a confusion!

Trekking Fansipan Mt, Sapa, VietnamTrekking Fansipan Mt, Sapa, Vietnam

Here you are a scheme that can help you in many situations.

You can avoid my mistakes and quickly find what you need to organize your trip.

Trip planning steps index

These are the Steps I follow each time I want to plan a trip.

1. What activities practice?
If you already know what activity to practice, you can skip this step.

If you don’t have a clear idea of what to practice…then answer these questions first:

* What are the risks?
* Do I need a physical training before?
* What is the minimum skill level?
* Where can i practice my activity?
* What’s the best period?

Consider Skiing as an example.

Ski is an intensive sport activity especially for legs. If you plan to do a winter vacation, be sure that your legs are well trained. (So you can prevent leg diseases, muscle problems, etc…)

To help You choose Your activity, here, You can find a list of possible types of adventure tourism activities.

2. Choosing the right destination
Now it’s time to choose the destination. There is not a special way to do this. You can follow friend’s recommendations, advertising, news, your desires and so on…

* Each year the major travel companies release surveys about what’s hot for the next touristic season.
* Here Suman gives a list of possible tips to choose unusual destinations.
* You can also see this pdf report about tips to choose the right adventure travel destination

3. Search for general info
This is the critical point of the planning process. At this point you should know what to do and where to do it.

The first thing that could come up in your mind is to perform a Google search to find more travel info…then good luck!

If you prefer to find unique and clear travel info start a specific search…

Instead of searching for “destination”+Adventures or “destination”+travel etc…search for:

* “Destination”+Tourist board
* “Destination”+wikitravel [Note: Wikitravel is the Wikipedia like travel encyclopedia]
* “Destination”+”Hiking tours” [Or another activity]
* “Destination”+”Adventure travel companies”

At the end of this process You’ll have a general view of what attractions are worth a visit, distances, best period to travel and where find more detailed information.

3.1 Search for destination guides

Be sure to learn at least these simple facts before you land.

* Communications (Internet points, Postal services, Cell phones, Public telephones, Foreign language)
* Transports and transfers (Public transports, Hub points, Freeways, Airports, Railways, Ferries, Buses)
* Documents (Passport and visa, Customs, Baggage)
* Health and Safety
* Converters (Currency, Weight, Length, Temperature, Liquid, Electrical current)

The best way to do this is through a guidebook. The best I can suggest you are:

* The Big Book of Adventure Travel
* The Definitive Guide to Adventure Vacations
* Rough guides to all world destinations

3.2 Search for videos

Video is the fastest way to preview a location. You can watch the other traveler's experiences and see what other think about it. Here there is a comprehensive list of video sharing websites where watch travel videos.

3.3 Search for maps

Maps are a great tool to plan a vacation. You can use them to learn the distances and see the main transfers points. The best way is to use the Google maps. You can perform a search to find custom maps.

You can see the travel itineraries of other people. For example I’ve created a custom maps of the Top 10 adventure travel spots of Italy

Google has a good list of sights and maps. You can search by category or by keyword.

3.4 Search for weather conditions

Weather is a difficult factor to consider because it’s difficult to find correct forecast for long term periods. So it’s better to search for a climate chart.

3.5 Search for tips, advices and news about your destination

The last (or the first) thing to do is to find real travelers advices. On the net there a lot of trip sharing websites and forums.

Here Guillaume gives a list of the new Travel 2.0 websites where you can find reviews and trip stories

4. Trip planning
You can skip this steps if you decide to book and organized adventure travel package. Here Tim gives some useful tips to travel adventurous on a budget

4.1 How to find cheap flights

There are thousand of flight companies, so it’s very difficult to search for airfares in different websites.

Here Markus provides a list of the best cheap airfares aggregators to save time and money during the search.

4.2 How to buy the right insurance

* The Truth about Travel Insurance
* Travel Insurance is Important!
* Travel safe – some useful tips and advice!

4.3 What to pack: Accessories, gear, digital cameras, etc..

* Make photocopies of important documents (Check, passport, visa, etc…)
* Consider what allowable necessities you can carry-on luggage
* Buy comfortable walking shoes
* Rain Gear
* Photography & Electronics
* Carry with you some medications: Anti-diarrhea medicine, aspirin, extra tampons, travel packages of Kleenex, antibacterial hand cleaning gel
* Bring a long-sleeved shirt or sweater

* Include:
o Shorts/tights
o Quick-drying jerseys
o Drytex socks
o Stiff-soled shoes
o Cycle gloves
o Rainwear

* Traveller’s point offers a list of packing tips and accessories

5. Compare the offers of various travel companies
Here a list of tips to find and choose adventure companies worldwide.

At the end buy your travel package and Enjoy!

Source: tripadventure

Supported by:

How choose the best adventure destinations

The world is big, if you search for unusual travels, you’ll have to search for unusual places…

After the first tutorials on planning an adventure tour and choosing an adventure company, it’s the turn of choosing a destination.

Offroad riding,VietnamOffroad riding, Ho Chi Minh Trail, Vietnam

How to choose the right destination

It’s not easy to choose the right destination. We could talk with our friends, read news papers, internet etc…but generally you’ll find only well known, crowded and “Tourists Shopper” destinations.

Step by step guide to find new destinations quickly

Let me share my experience:

“I live under the Etna in Sicily. When I’ve started my first blog on the Volcano Etna I started to search for new travel info. The results were amazing! I discovered a lot of new places I’ve never heard before.”

So…if I can’t know all the travel destinations in my home country, how can foreign traveler do?
Here 3 simple ways to find new destinations

1. Emotional, getting the right inspiration

Emotional means finding destination while you are not searching for them.

* You can “steal” the ideas of other traveler by following forums or communities
* Take a Globe and choose a random point
* …Or use Random Country
* Go in a travel agency and grab as much as brochures possible. Use them to playing cards
* Sum your date of birth and see what’s the country code result. Mine is 27-April-1983 2+7+4+1+9+8+3=34 Spain
* Subscribe to Google sightseeing
* Be inspired by the blogger
* Subscribe to See before you die place of the day

Place of the day

2. Go Social, do what other people already do

Searching on the web is hardly. There are so much websites to read that it’s very difficult to grab a piece of good information.

You have to register a profile, then deep digger the website and at least read the same info on multiple people’s reviews and stories.

If you trust word of mouth or reviews sharing websites here how to find the right info in the easiest way.

* Ask your friends, family, people you meet in the street and so on…
* Read this list of what’s hot for the next season
* Follow Wikitravel off the beaten paths
* Facebook’s has a good application to see what’s hot among its users
* Travelistic (The Youtube for travel) gives a list of the top destinations
* Browse the popular tags on Flickr to find pictures of places you’ve never heard before

3. How to find and choose scientifically

Here the step by step process

1° Define what’s you traveler your profile

Type of traveler:

* Solo
* Women
* Gay
* Family
* Elderly
* Pet
* Couple
* Honeymoon

Type of activities

* Multi sport
* Adventure
* Trekking
* Mountain Bike
* Cycling

Type of destination

* Mountain
* City
* Beach
* Country
* Sea
* Natural parks

Type of service

* Independent
* Small groups
* Vacation package

2° Mix them all, here some examples…

* Independent adventure travel destination for a couple
* Small groups active trips for elderly
* Family vacation package spots
* Honeymoon adventure travels
* Women only adventure destinations
* And so on…

3° Type a search phrase in Google or other search engines.

That’s it!…Good luck and happy vacations!

Supported by:

The 5 Must-See Beaches In Vietnam

By Justin Calderon from theexpeditioner

Vietnam, a country reminiscent of a war-torn epic that rang of rock-and-roll, decadence, and destruction­ was, up until recently, visited by only the adventurous traveler. Though late in its arrival as a member of part of the Southeast Asian travel belt, today this crescent-shaped land with innate tropical beauty has attracted international appeal, leading to an influx of budget tourists and luxury travelers alike from across the globe.

Cheap, tropical, mysteriously alluring — Vietnam’s climate provides the perfect beach vacation, while offering ample opportunity to peek down one of history’s infamous alleyways. Travelers will find a gamut of beaches dotting the coast including chill backpacker hangouts, luxurious resort getaways and sleepy fishing villages. From Central Da Nang to the southern capital of Saigon — north to south — lie five beaches every traveler should check out in their quest for the perfect beach in Vietnam.

1) Hoi An

Hoi An Beach and Resort Vietnam
Hoi An is an enclave of beautifully preserved yellow and blue buildings that makes you feel like you just stepped back in time into an 18th-century trading post. Sapphire waters lie on the other side of a 10-minute bike ride north through stagnant rice paddies, old French colonial villas, and the occasional propaganda billboard. The beachfront of the famed China Beach — the beach where soldiers were sent for R&R during the war — makes up the southern stretch. Recently named one of the most luxurious beaches in the world by Forbes, this white sand beach is home to comfy resorts and secluded swaths of sand.

Hoi An, however, has much more to offer than just a beach. Declared a UNESCO world heritage site in 1999, this coastal village was once known as the premier trading post in Southeast Asia for the Chinese and Japanese. A bike ride around town takes you back to life in a small far-flung trading settlement. However, since the influx of visitors, shoppers are more likely to come across trinkets and “made-to-measure” one-day tailors than authentic goods.

Market life is still prevalent next to the river where you will find fishermen paddling along in their boats, stirring up their catch of the day. For a sense of life before modern times, head into select buildings in the Old Quarter where you can view 200-year-old interiors that have been preserved for public viewing.

2) Quy Nhon

If you decide to include Quy Nhon in your itinerary, expect to encounter only a trickle of foreigners stopping by on their way to Nha Trang. In a country besieged by tourism, Quy Nhon can truly be described as an authentic experience. Crowds of Vietnamese gather on the beach to play volleyball at sunset and offer hearty “hellos.” A few large hotels graze the southern beachfront, but since the Vietnamese aren’t keen to sunbathing, you’ll likely find the beach to yourself.

A relatively small coastal city in Central Vietnam, Quy Nhon embodies a relaxed tempo not likely to be found in other Vietnamese cities. Grab a bike and slip along Nguyen Hue Road where a number of grins will greet you from people sitting in colorful plastic chairs. The longer you stay in Quy Nhon, the more you will appreciate the carefree lifestyle here.

3) Doc Let

This tranquil and secluded beach just north of popular Nha Trang offers a few small, hard-to-find, resorts. As Lonely Planet enticingly puts it, “the resorts on the beach are fairly isolated. If you’re staying here, be prepared to do nothing but lay around.”

When I was there I stayed at Paradise Resort, a small, 25-bungalow resort run by Mr “Chere,” a French expat who has lived in Vietnam for over 20 years. You can rent a bungalow for the night, and the price includes three meals a day. The gregarious owner is very inviting and keen on getting all his guests to have a great time, making this resort seem more like a stay at a friend’s than a hotel.

The resort is flanked by a small fishing village that proves an interesting excursion when not baking on the beach. During the midday you’ll find hawkers rocking in hammocks to escape the sun while children run a-muck between farm animals and the streets.

4) Nha Trang

Nha Trang Beach & resorts Vietnam
Nha Trang has always been popular with the Vietnamese, but lately more and more backpackers and affluent travelers have been making their way here. The busy southern strip of the city is crammed with restaurants, SCUBA schools, and tour companies ready to take you out to sea and to one of the numerous islands scattered just off the coast. For those not ready to take the full plunge into the world of SCUBA, snorkeling is a great way to get intimate with the ecological kaleidoscope beneath the surface (and even copious amounts of alcohol found on the boat ride out).

Mama Hahn’s Booze Cruise runs daily tours to four islands under the sails of their two lanky dinghies: the “lazy boat” and the “party boat.” Steadfast swimmers up for socializing with other international miscreants and an accompanying jovial Vietnamese guide should bee-line it to the party boat. As long as you stay buoyant and don’t swallow too much salt water, you’ll be sure to make it back to nurse that lingering hangover by nightfall. Don’t say you haven’t been warned.

5) Mui Ne

Mui Ne Beach and resort Vietnam
Mui Ne, in Southeastern Vietnam, is a notable backpacker and resort beach, especially for those interested in kite surfing. On those windy days so common in Southern Vietnam, throngs of kites can be seen making polka-dot patches in the sky. The resort side of the beach is heavily subtitled in Russian to cater to the growing amount of tourists escaping the Russian winters. A manager at one of the multitude of seafood BBQ restaurants that checker Mui Ne road astutely observed, “[The Russians] are coming here a lot. I think it’s because it’s hot and very cheap.”

Though not easy, you can still find budget accommodations on the resort side of the beach for about $10-15, which is great considering that the backpacker side of the beach has lost nearly all its beachfront to erosion. A grey, impending concrete wall is now slammed by waves during high-tide leaving any idea of beach strictly to the imagination. There are a few bars and generic sit-downs here, and the low volume of traffic makes a motorbike tour up the 6-mile street safe and the best way to scope out the rest of what the area offer.

The resort side of the beach, lying on the southern end of Mui Ne, still has its sand, and the restaurants and bars there enjoy a party atmosphere well into the night. Just remember, Vietnam is not nearly as rife as Southern Thailand when it comes to beach parties, bean bag chairs, and fire twirlers — not that you’ll miss any of those things when you’re here.

Wednesday, May 26, 2010

Tips for choosing the best adventure travel companies of Asia

This is a quick guide on how to find and choose adventure companies worldwide.

You can read a series of resources and find the right places to start you search…

Trek Babe,  VietnamTrek Babe, Vietnam

Have you ever tried to do a Google search for “Adventure travel companies in Asia” or similar?

The last time I did this I’ve found only a Jungle of websites with thousand of offers for packages, discounted tours, etc…

How could I choose the best one between a so big list of agencies and trips in quick way?

Sure! (I said) The traveler's review of the best adventure tour operators of Asia provided by the Nation Geographic, Lonely Planet or tripadvisor will help!

I have to say that the directory is really good and comprehensive.
You can browse the companies by:
  • Quality score
  • Type of activities
  • Destination
  • Price
I’ve to say that maybe it’s to much detailed. It lists agencies that have travel itineraries around different countries.

But there is a problem. If you try to do a search, you’ll find the same tour companies in the top of the list.

Search n°1 (Search for Overall quality + Biking / Cycling + Africa)
Search n°2 (Search for Overall quality + Biking / Cycling + Europe)
Search n°3 (Search for Overall quality + Biking / Cycling + U.S. and Canada)

In the top of the list there the same 3 tour companies

Make the URL of the page changing so I send a page with my search or save it for the future
It’s not possible to browse by country but only for continent.

Tips to search and compare Adventure companies

The greatest thing you can do is to search following these 3 simple steps:
  • Set the country of interest (ie. Adventure travel companies in Italy)
  • Set the type of activity (i.e. Bicycle tours, Trekking trips, etc..) or specialty (family, small groups, women only, etc…)
  • Mix up the words and make a list to search on Google (synonyms are good ways to find new concepts)
More specific means exactly results.

For example you should search for:

Vietnam adventure travel companies
Adventure travel agencies in Vietnam
Bicycle tours company in Vietnam
Company specialized in Trekking tours in Vietnam
Directory of Adventure travel packages
Tour operator that organizes small group tours
And so on….
Once you do the searches You’ll have a list of companies…and now?

How to rate the tour operators

To valuate them you can:
  • See if they are listed in the National geographic directory and traveler's reviews in Lonely Planet or Tripadvisor
  • See if they provide information to trip participants
  • See how environment friendly they are
  • Evaluate the level of customer service (chat, mail timing, etc…)
  • See how effective adventurous they are
  • Search for traveler reviews or similar (Word of mouth, etc…)
  • If they are registered with the Adventure Travel Trade Association

Wednesday, May 19, 2010

ACTIVETRAVEl ASIA recommends kayaking and cruising places in Vietnam

ACTIVETRAVEL ASIA (ATA ) aims to advise travelers places to kayak and cruise in Vietnam. Travelers have the chance to discovery the breathtaking landscapes, remote scenery and get exciting experiences.

Kayak Halong Bay, VietnamKayak Halong Bay, Vietnam

In the northern Vietnam, Halong Bay is the most spectacular sea kayaking destination. The bay’s name means “descending dragon”, and the mythical beasts are said to have created the rocky islets that form a maze of protected waterways. Guests will explore the sea arches, caves and hidden lagoons in this vast archipelago, swim in the jade-colored water and relax on beautiful sand beaches.

The scenery isn’t the only thing that makes Halong Bay amazing. It is home to Cat Ba langurs, the rarest primate on Earth. There are only a few dozen of them left, but sometimes they emerge to feed in a hidden cove, and we catch a glimpse of them from travelers’ kayaks.

Kayak Babe lake, VietnamKayak Babe lake, Vietnam

The next destination is Babe Lake. Ba Be is Vietnam’s largest natural lake and is now the centerpiece of an extensive National Park. The park and the surrounding area is limestone country, so lakes, waterfalls, caves and unusual rock formations abound. The whole area is richly forested and is home to many ethnic minority communities. Ba Be National Park has been recognized as a Natural World Heritage Site by UNESCO. Kayakers will explore peaceful river, beautiful lake, daily life, local market...

Mekong Delta, Vietnam - Float MarketMekong Delta, Vietnam - Float Market

In the southern Vietnam, cruising Mekong River means exploring narrow channels, floating markets, daily life, and orchards in the Delta. Floating markets, magnificent sunrise and sunset are highlight for cruising in Mekong River. The favorable conditions of calm water, light current, good mother-boat are also to enable to build kayaking tours in Mekong River.

These are some main destinations for kayaking and cruising in Vietnam in which tourists definitely have fun and challenge!!

Recommended in kayaking and cruising in Vietnam:
- Kayaking tours in Vietnam
- Cruise in Vietnam
- Summer Promotion 2010 in Vietnam and Cambodia with ATA


Monday, May 17, 2010

Phu Quoc Island is a quiet place to get some rest in Vietnam

Mango plantations, sandy beaches - perfect after 10 days of cycling

Phu Quoc Island, Vietnam - my outdated Vietnam guidebook devoted a scant two columns on its last page to obscure Phu Quoc Island, but it was enough to assure me that it was the perfect place to put up my feet and do nothing after 10 days of cycling around Vietnam.

Phu Quoc Island, Vietnam

Phu Quoc, less than an hour's flight from Ho Chi Minh City - formerly Saigon - is just 15 miles off the coast of Cambodia. A teardrop-shaped island roughly the size of Singapore, it was a surprisingly untrammeled gem that reminded me of Thailand's Phuket and Koh Samui in the 1970s, before they were besieged by development.

Blanketed with the largest remaining swath of tropical rain forest in Vietnam and trimmed in sandy beaches, it is home to only 75,000 people.

A battered taxi picked me up in a blast of tropical heat outside the airport, which was almost in the center of the main city, the tiny fishing village of Duong Dong.

We headed 5 miles north to secluded Ong Lang Beach over a spectacular potholed road. When we bumped through an old mango plantation and arrived at a string of beachside bungalows amid palms and banyan trees, I knew I'd found the epicenter of tropical idleness.

Phu Quoc Island, Vietnam

Mango Bay is a laid back eco-resort. My rammed earth bungalow was naturally cool - and rustic but stylish: white cotton, wicker and terra-cotta.

Breakfast was high-octane Vietnamese espresso and baguettes with jam - a legacy of French colonialism - and the open-air restaurant/bar tempted at lunch and dinner with waft scents of sautéed garlic and a blackboard menu promising marinated and grilled black kingfish and green papaya salad with shrimp.

Ong Lang Beach is great for honeymooners and travelers looking for seclusion, but for more action - though not much more - the island's main attraction is Long Beach, 17 uninterrupted miles of white sand.

There is one sizable two-star resort called Saigon Phu Quoc that clearly focuses on the tour bus set, and a chic new five-star resort called La Veranda. Otherwise, a dozen or so signs point down narrow lanes through tropical bush to guesthouses, cottages and bar/cafés.

On the palm-lined beach, a few sunbathers splayed on towels were being attended to by a clan of masseuses who stroll the strand. No touts, no crowds, just beachside cafes where you dine on world-class seafood for $10 a couple. It's something akin to a miracle that one of Asia's most beautiful beaches still exists so untouched within an hour's flight of a metropolis of 7 million.

Source: By Margo Pfeiff, Special to The Chronicle -

Recommendation in Vietnam:
- Vietnam adventure travel
- Phu Quoc active beach break 

Tuesday, May 11, 2010

ACTIVETRAVEL ASIA Promotes Vietnam & Cambodia Motorcycling Tours in Summer 2010

ATA promotes two motorcycling tours in Vietnam and another one in Cambodia. These blazing hot promotions guarantee more activities and bigger adventure for the same price. Travelers will get incredible driving and deep in the countryside and historical trails.

Motorcycling on Ho Chi Minh trail, VietnamMotorcycling on Ho Chi Minh trail, Vietnam

In Vietnam, travelers will ride through the historical trail named Ho Chi Minh Trail. The legendary 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 follow original sections of the trail have changed this.

The first one, “Taste of Ho Chi Minh Trail” is organized for first time rider and easy adventure, offers a stunning motorcycling route with great exploration of nature and culture of northern Vietnam. Travelers will spend 3-day motorcycling with homestays in villages.

Joining in this tour, the special offer is a free of charge add on boat trip on Ma river in the afternoon of the first day. If rider group up to 6 persons, a free traditional Thai musical show will also be offers.

The second tour called “Motorcycling the Ho Chi Minh Trail - Half Challenge”. This 11-day trip with 7-day motorcycling takes in the charming ancient trading town of Hoian, 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.

Taking this tour, after a long trip, in the tenth day, riders will get a free body massage in Hoian. Moreover, for any pre or post trip in Vietnam, travelers will receive a 10% discount for the trip.

Besides, in both tours, if riders upgrade their motorbikes to dirtbike 175CC or 250CC, they will get the 40% discount for bike rental fee. Especially, to make the trip more comfortable, a free silk sleeping bag will be provided for each traveler.

In Cambodia, riders spend 14 days with 11 days motorcycling through the country. This is the best way to get to the remote and hidden corners of Cambodia. The adventure starts in the capital city and we will travel on 250cc dirtbike northward through scenic villages, mysterious temples. Highlight of the tour is the amazing Angkor Wat Temples. From Angkor Wat we head east to the hidden land of Mondulkiri, the land of exotic ethnic minorities and great nature scenery.

Booking this tour, tourists will get free Visa-on-arrival to Cambodia and a body massage in Phnom Penh. Moreover, a welcome diner in Phnom Penh will be offered for the group from 6 persons. Traveler will be provide 5% discount on any pre or post trip to Vietnam or Laos.

This Hot Summer Promotion validity is from 1 May, 2010 to 30September, 2010.

For more information and details of this promotion, please visit: Summer Promotion with ATA

Or contact:
#31, Alley 4, Dang Van Ngu street, Hanoi, Vietnam
Tel: +84-4-35738569 | Fax: +84-4-35738570
Email: | Website:

Monday, May 10, 2010

Vietnam: Great First Trip to Asia

Larchmont families considering a first trip to Asia might want to think about Vietnam. Given its small size, you can visit the main highlights easily over a 10-12 day spring vacation break. And the pricing is very attractive, even for the best hotels, private guides, and private transportation.

Given our history, Americans tend to think it’s still 1969 there, but 40 years have passed. Peace means that the beautiful landscapes, Buddhist temples, rice paddies, water buffaloes, and farmers with conical hats now dominate the images, along with the motorbikes.

Saigon carries echoes of the war of course, but you can focus on that as much or as little as you wish. The Cu Chi tunnels outside the city demonstrate the human cost of the war for both sides and there is a stark War Museum as well. But there are also the rooftop bars at the Caravelle Hotel and at the Rex. These favorite haunts for the US officers and journalists still bathe you in the tropical breezes that provide a welcome relief from the heat of the day. You can invoke Graham Greene as you gaze down at the Hotel Continental, cited in The Quiet American.

For a glimpse of traditional rural village life, take a daytrip to the remote island of Ben Tre in the Mekong Delta. Women sit under canvas awnings making coconut candies. Others manufacture rice paper, dipping the flat round iron in the batter and rolling it out to dry in the sun on bamboo mats. Perhaps a small musical trio will play while you sip honey tea in a simple pavilion.

Halong Bay Vietnam
A short flight will bring you to ancient Hue which served as the imperial capital for over 100 years. The citadel with its beautiful temples and court buildings evoke the luxury of life for the “haves”. After your visit, catch a boat ride along the Perfume River to absorb the slower pace of life here. You can stay at the French Governor’s digs, now converted into a beautiful boutique hotel. The infinity pool, lit by torches at dusk, offsets the shimmering river beyond for an ethereal atmosphere.

Next is Hoi An, reached by a gorgeous three hour drive over the mountain pass. Originally a trading post for Chinese and Japanese merchants, Hoi An nestles along the riverfront. A 2-3 night stay will let you enjoy a town full of excellent restaurants, myriad shops for all kinds of local handicrafts, and lovely resort hotels.

A short boat excursion brings you to a small village where the locals carve everything from knickknacks, to laughing Buddhas, to king-size beds. Nearby, another village is full of pottery makers, working their small kilns as they have for hundreds of years. Pots, whistles, wall fountains, plates, bowls and more take shape under the skilled hands of the villagers.

Perhaps the biggest surprise for Americans is Danang, no longer an airbase but rather the site of an incredible explosion of luxury hotels and houses along a beautiful shoreline. You’ll see the marker showing the spot where the Marines came ashore in 1965, but you’ll probably goggle more as you pass hotel after hotel under construction. China Beach is now particularly “hot” for second homes, and as a result, there are golf courses, too.

Archaeology buffs will want to stop by the local museum to see the first-rate exhibit of ancient artifacts from the Cham people, some of which are currently on display at New York’s Asia Society.

Another easy flight will bring you to Hanoi, city of lakes. The center of this busy city offers a respite from the cacophony of the motorbike in a beautiful central park with its lakes, temples, and an ancient Turtle. Nearby, a unique water puppet show performs throughout the day. You might also catch an impromptu performance at the ethnic museum. The beautiful Temple of Literature with its topiary, pagodas, and reflecting pools harks back to the ancient respect for education and knowledge.

One last word about the motorbikes: This writer saw a man carrying 18 large porcelain jars strapped all over him as he drove a motorbike on a highway. She also saw a live pig strapped to the back of a motorbike passing by. I don’t know who was more surprised: the pig or me. Anything goes!

Source: Larchmont Gazette

Saturday, May 8, 2010

Vietnam tourism growth ranked fourth in the world

Vietnam stands fourth in the world in terms of tourism growth in the first four months of this year, according to a new report by the World Tourism Organization.

Halong Bay, VietnamHalong Bay, Vietnam

The United Nations group said very few countries have been able to record double-digit growth in tourism this year.

But Vietnam grew 36 percent, just after Sri Lanka, Arab Saudi and Israel.

Vietnam had attracted 1.8 million visitors by the end of April, up 35 percent year-on-year, including 432,600 last month for a 31.3 percent increase over April last year, according to the National Administration of Tourism.

Malaysia’ minister of tourism Ng Yen Yen was recently quoted by the country’s Star Online as saying Vietnam and Cambodia are emerging as fearsome tourism opponents in Asia.

The World Tourism Organization ranked Malaysia ninth among the countries attracting the most visitors in 2009.

France topped the list.

Source: VNA

Wednesday, May 5, 2010

Vietnam offers much in Halong Bay tours

According to ACTIVETRAVEL ASIA’s tours to south-east Asia, travelers want to visit some marvelous places in Vietnam that have been recommended by travel experts and reporters.

kayaking in Halong Bay, VietnamKayaking in Halong Bay, Vietnam

Jocelyn Abraham in has listed a number of attractions to be found in Ha Long Bay as great beautiful islands includes Rooster Island, Incense Burner Island and Lonely Island, all named after their shapes.

Ms Abraham described Heaven’s Cave as an "enormous grotto" that gets its name because a spiral of sunlight shines in through the rooftop, revealing "a labyrinth of giant stalactites and stalagmites" that makes the attraction "look like a Hollywood movie set".

She added that people might also wish to take a multiple-day tour of the bay, which can include kayaking in lagoons and trekking through the National Park on Cat Ba Island.

In a bid to attract more tourists to Vietnam, the country’s government recently announced that it is to waive the visa fees of all foreign visitors who are going to arrive there in August and September. If you need to get free visa arrangement support, please contact Active Travel Vietnam.

ACTIVETRAVEL ASIA also offers Special Promotion in Summer 2010 for kayaking tour in Vietnam, Please visit: Kayaking Halong Bay 3 days.