Tuesday, June 29, 2010

Vietnam, Cambodia among World’s Top 30 Honeymoon Destinations

Once synonymous with war and genocide, Vietnam and Cambodia are coming into the second decade of the 21st Century as one of the world’s premier honeymoon hot spots.

Hoi An Beach, Quang Nam - VietnamHoi An Beach, Quang Nam - Vietnam

Virtuoso, a leading luxury travel network in the U.S., recently unveiled the 30 Top Honeymoons chosen by some of its most experienced honeymoon specialists. And Vietnam and Cambodia were prominent on the list.

“We’re in the midst of a remarkable journey,” said Herbert Laubichler-Pichler, general manager of The Nam Hai in the central of Quang Nam province, one of the resorts featured in Virtuoso’s ‘Romantic Southeast Asia’ honeymoon promotion. “From all over the world, people are dropping into this region for a distinguished honeymoon.”

Honeymooners have been in the Caribbean or Greek and done that. Now, they’re raising the bar on their expectations.

In its current honeymoon campaign, Virtuoso looked to TheKnot.com, the No. 1 online wedding planning resource, to create an email and website promotion that will be viewed by millions of registered brides-to-be., the No. 1 online wedding planning resource, to create an email and website promotion that will be viewed by millions of registered brides-to-be.

Angkor Temples, Cambodia


The nine-night escape to Vietnam and Cambodia includes stays at The Nam Hai in Hoi An, Sofitel Legend Metropole Hanoi and Siem Reap’s Hotel de la Paix — three of the premier properties in Southeast Asia — for reasonable price per couple. Renowned regional tour operator, Trails of Indochina, takes care of the ground transportation.

The trip is arranged by TravelCorp International’s Luke Breaux, one of 24 featured Virtuoso honeymoon specialists. The U.S.-based consultant has 15 years experience arranging memorable itineraries for visitors to Southeast Asia.

“Vietnam and Cambodia possess a kind of cultural and exotic appeal that you can’t find anywhere else,” said Laubichler-Pichler. “Between its abundance of UNESCO World Heritage sites, dramatic beaches and world-class accommodation, the region has everything a couple could want.”

Situated on 35 hectares of landscaped tropical gardens, The Nam Hai is an all-villa property managed by GHM and featuring 60 one-bedroom villas and 40 pool villas ranging from one to five bedrooms, each with its own infinity pool.

Opened in 1901, Sofitel Legend Metropole Hanoi reigns as the Grande Dame of Vietnamese hospitality and one of Southeast Asia’s most iconic hotels. In 2009, the hotel became the first in the Sofitel portfolio to acquire Accor’s Legend brand distinction.

Located in the heart of Siem Reap, close to the cultural and historic heart of Cambodia, Hotel de la Paix is a luxury boutique hotel within easy reach of colorful markets, vibrant nightlife and the breathtaking complexes of Angkor Wat, often referred to as the eighth wonder of the world.

Source: Vietnambusiness

Suggestions for traveling:
Hoi An – Quang Nam
Angkor Wat Highlights

Tuesday, June 22, 2010

Indochina's top must-see destinations

Cambodia, Laos and Vietnam offer some outstanding travel gems you may not have considered.

The past decade saw a tourism boom in Vietnam, Cambodia and Laos. High on everyone’s lists were destinations like Cambodia’s Angkor temples, Laos’s Plain of Jars, and Vietnam’s Hoi An and Hue cities. Those sights are fantastic. By all means see them. But much of Indochina’s best still remains off the radar, while many old favorites have begun reinventing themselves since they were first thrust under the spotlight. Below are ten such places that should be on everyone’s must-see list for 2010.

A temple festival at 7th century Phnom Chhnok, East of Kampot.

Oozing French colonial charm, this scenic town nestled on the east bank of Kampot River is Cambodia’s most under-rated destination. If the crumbling French architecture, shady boulevards and riverfront dining aren't cause for love at first sight, visits to Kep beach resort, the ancient Funan Empire-era temple ruins or a hike in Bokor National Park will ensure you're permanently endeared to this Cambodian beauty spot.

A Bahnar communal lodge in Kon Tum, Vietnam.

Guidebooks send tourists to Vietnam’s far northern hill station of Sapa for hill-tribe encounters, long overlooking the architectural extremes of Kon Tum’s ethnic Bahnar suburbs. The provincial capital is surrounded by minority villages; their log homes with white-washed mud walls are raised on poles that encircle towering communal lodges called nha rong.

Phou Khao Khouay National Park, Laos

The development of national parks like Phou Khao Khouay are important for the survival of Muntjac deer, which are hunted for meat and their unusual horns.

Phou Khao Khouay, or ‘Buffalo Horn Mountain' Nature Reserve is Laos’s most accessible protected area, just 40km (25 miles) from Vietniane. Rounding out the attractions are wild elephant herds, Hmong village homestays and cascading waterfalls. The sandstone mountain range hides a further treasure-trove of biological diversity, including white-cheeked gibbons, clouded leopards and green pea-fowl.

Chau Doc, Vietnam

Mekong Delta, VietnamMekong Delta, Vietnam

The Mekong Delta town of Chau Doc sits like an island above endless rice-paddies, rivers, canals and flood-plains. Its atmospheric synthesis of Khmer, Muslim Cham, Vietnamese and French cultures is key to its charm. Take a ferry across the Bassac River to visit Cham villages; their wooden stilt houses decorated with little rooftop spires, crescent moons, and stars, or head to the Buddhist pilgrimage site of Sam Mountain for vast sunset views.

Phnom Penh, Cambodia

Phnom Penh, CambodiaPhnom Penh, Cambodia

Though the pain of genocide will take generations to heal, with the ongoing Khmer Rouge Tribunal, Phnom Penh is turning a new corner and taking leaps toward the future. No longer just a transportation hub between Bangkok, Siam Reap, and Ho Chi Minh City, Cambodia’s booming capital is now a entrepreneur’s playground and a fashionable destination for boutique hotels, international cuisine and trendy shops selling some of the region’s best silk.

Mui Ne Beach, Vietnam

It took a solar eclipse and 15 years to turn an isolated coconut grove into Vietnam’s top beach resort (Mui Ne was the preferred spot to observe the October 1995 eclipse). Though renowned for its kite-boarding, Saharan dunes and year-round sunbathing, the area’s cultural richness is yet unexploited by the tourism industry. Summer brings several fishermen’s whale-worship festivals, while the fall brings the Hindu Cham New Year and a Sorcerer’s festival.

Danang, Vietnam

Da Nang Beach, VietnamDa Nang Beach, Vietnam

Often overlooked for neighboring Hoi An, Vietnam’s third-largest city has quietly blossomed into an off-the-radar resort destination with intriguing attractions like the Museum of Cham Sculpture, Ba Na Hill Station and Monkey Mountain. Danang’s China Beach, namesake of the old ABC television series, now hosts the new Montgomerie Links golf course and the luxurious Furama Resort.

Luang Prabang, Laos

Yes, Luang Prabang has magnificent Buddhist temple architecture and the morning monk procession has erupted into one of Asia’s biggest, and at times circus-like, photo-opportunities. This cultural epicenter’s exalted perch on the banks of Mekong and Khan rivers, surrounded by mountains, doesn’t hurt the ambiance either. What is relatively new however are all the upscale spas, boutique hotels, great restaurants and the ever-expanding handicraft night market. This UNESCO World Heritage City is ground zero for the new Indochina Chic.

Quy Nhon, Vietnam

Warm, dry weather for most of the year, with deep blue skies and clear waters, makes the beach town of Quy Nhon a prime holiday destination. It’s also one of the country’s most archaeologically significant cities, with half a dozen ancient Cham temples and the Cha Ban Citadel ruins all within a few hours’ drive.

Jungle Beach, Vietnam

Nha Trang Beach, VietnamNha Trang Beach, Vietnam

Vietnam’s finest beach is hidden about an hour north of Nha Trang on a remote stretch of the Hon Khoi Peninsula. The boundaries of air and water are indistinct in the crystal sea, where night swimming with bioluminescent algae is on the regular activities list. The most intriguing views from this unique bamboo cabana homestay are the troupes of Black-shanked Douc Langurs, one of Indochina’s rarest primates.

Source: cnngo

Recommendation for travelling in Indochina with Activetravel Asia:
Activetravel Asia's Summer Promotion

Travel Sapa Vietnam - A verdant rooftop

Beyond the well-known and colourful markets of Sapa, Bac Ha and Can Cau, the northwest mountainous area of Vietnam is bewitched with the wild town and market of Sin Ho, the roof of Lai Chau province.

Sapa tours in VietnamEthnic Market in Northwest of Vietnam

My friend said that it would be a pity if you travelled to the northwest mountains of Vietnam without stopping off at Sin Ho market. I didn’t give his claim much credence at first, until I stepped foot into the market—known as Cho huyen Sin Ho, and open every Sunday.

Situated imposingly on the Sin Ho plateau of Lai Chau province, Sin Ho town is located on the highest peak, over 2,000 metres above sea level and surrounded by verdant mountain ranges and clouds.

Locals call it: The Roof of Lai Chau province. The small town is also well-known as the second Sapa of the northwest area. But the climate in Sin Ho is even more sour and scornful than that of Sapa. Suddenly, you can be standing in a sea of white clouds, then, just several minutes later, the rain will rumble down like a waterfall. But right after the last rain drop falls, the sun will rise brilliantly and a cool wind will blow over the small town.

It takes me four hours to drive up the zigzagging road from Phong Tho town, at the junction between National Road No. 4D from Sapa and National Road No.12 towards Muong Lay town. The mountain road has been smoothly paved over, but it’s still a slow and winding drive. Therefore, I decide to spend a night at Sin Ho town and wait for the market until the next morning.

In the late afternoon, Sin Ho town looks small, deserted and gloomy, with simple and sparse wooden houses roofed with dark grey cement tiles and only a few shops and restaurants. It’s lucky that there are several modern guesthouses and mini hotels with reasonable prices. For only VND250, 000 per twin room, I check into the Thanh Binh guesthouse. It’s not an overstatement to say that at such a cost, this is the best hotel outside of Sapa in the northwestern area. It has spacious rooms, good facilities and a friendly staff.

On Sunday morning, the sleepy town comes alive. From all paths up and down leading to the town centre, waves of tribes people walk or ride horses and motorbikes, all loaded with many kinds of farm products, toward the market. These tribes come from many distant villages up and down the mountains. They are Flower Hmong, Blue Hmong, Black Hmong, Lu, Black Dao and Red Dao, among others.

After a morning at the market, I take a trekking tour to Pha Xo Lin II village, just three kilometres from the town centre. The village is home to the Dao Khau tribe, also known as the Sewing Dao, or the Black Dao, who wear black trousers richly embroidered with signature flower, tree and star patterns seen on many Dao costumes. They also wear a front hanging black apron with a wide, plain blue band around its outside, together with a plain black turban.

The village is very beautiful and poetic, with dark wooden houses roofed with black stone tiles and fenced in with stone hedges. This season, the peach and mango orchards are ripening in a riot of red and yellow. It’s mouthwatering to walk in the village, where you can take a seat under the fruit trees to enjoy lovely lanterns swinging in the cool winds and their fresh and sweet tastes. Pha Xo Lin village is very famous for its special golden red mangoes, with their sweet taste and jackfruit-like flavour.

Besides its delicious fruits, Pha Xo Lin village is a shopping paradise of brocades and embroidery products. It’s common to see Dao women sitting at their thresholds in their front yards or under the fruit trees sewing passionately. While you’re there, don’t miss out on buying some clothes, scarves or other decorous things from the tribes people. Their products are very sophisticated and beautiful, as befitting of their name—the Sewing Dao tribe.

Source: Duc Hanh/Timeout

Suggesttions

- Sapa tours & trekking Northwest of Vietnam

Thursday, June 17, 2010

25 killer things to do this summer

Looking for something to do this summer? Places to get away to? Ways to spend a vacation? We've got you covered

Summer is here, spring is gone. In many places it's hot. Really hot. Not surprisingly, we look to the beach for some relief from the sun, or look for the sun after a long winter's hibernation behind a desk. Well, time to strike out a bit and use up some of that vacation time you've been squirreling away. Here are some suggestions that should get you salivating for a little summer fun.

1. Chill out on one of Hong Kong's beaches

While Hong Kong's beaches might not be quite up to Bali or Vietnam levels of awesomeness, they still provide a pretty damn nice way to spend an afternoon. The best overall Hong Kong beach is probably Shek O. While it can get crowded with nearly 4,000 people visiting Shek O Beach on weekends, its still big enough to absorb the crowds without making things too uncomfortable. Take bus 9 or the red minibus from Shau Kei Wan MTR.

2. Lounge on Vietnam's finest beach -- Jungle Beach

Vietnam’s finest beach is hidden about an hour north of Nha Trang on a remote stretch of the Hon Khoi Peninsula. The boundaries of air and water are indistinct in the crystal sea, where night swimming with bioluminescent algae is on the regular activities list. The most intriguing views from this unique bamboo cabana homestay are the troupes of Black-shanked Douc Langurs, one of Indochina’s rarest primates.

3. Go super luxury at one of these Thai resorts

Thailand has dozens of supremely luxurious resorts that will easily allow you to spend a month’s salary in a single night if you want to, from pool villas overlooking the Andaman Sea to tiny boutique hotels so exclusive they don't even want you to have heard of them. But hey, you've seen one run-of-the-mill luxury villa, you've seen them all. If you’re looking for some next level pampering and opulent surroundings, check out these extraordinarily fancy digs.

4. Take off on a golf getaway

Whack a ball on a course in the Himalayas, play a course at an UNESCO world heritage site in Siem Reap, Cambodia, or enjoy the five star treatment like the former French Colonialists in Vietnam. Golf is a sunshine sport, so get out there while the gettin' is good.

5. Have a romantic tropical vacation at Le Taha'a Island Resort and Spa, Tahiti

Yes there are a lot of beaches on this list, but hey, it is summer time and Le Taha's golden beaches, turquoise water and perfume of native vanilla plants in one of the prettiest resorts in French Polynesia make Le Taha a great place to go for a "hot" summer getaway. Resort activities range from diving and snorkeling to jet-skiing and whale watching.

6. Have a long luxury weekend in Luang Prabang, Laos

Luang Prabang, Laos Luang Prabang, Laos

Luang Prabang’s hip restaurants and buzzy bars are no longer a secret, but the town -- along with its surrounding caves, waterfalls, jungle and Mekong river villages -- is yet to be discovered by the masses. Languid and laid-back, its intimate scale is ideal for a long weekend. Read more about Luang Prabang.

7. Picnic in Hong Kong

Many Hong Kong country parks have rest areas that are ready-made for picnics. So if you're living in or visiting Hong Kong this summer, pick a day where it's not raining and thaw out those air-conditioner frozen limbs in the sweet, humid Hong Kong sunshine.

8. Dive in Pulau Redang, Malaysia

Heaven underwater? Sounds cheesy, but apparently this place is as close to perfection as it gets for diving. Redang Island (locally known as Pulau Redang or just "Redang") off the east coast of Malaysia, is one of those places where you'd expect a shiny-chested James Bond to come dripping out of the waters and stride down the sands for a martini.

Fine white sand, clear blue waters and colorful marine life -- it's almost a cliché of the Blue Lagoon type tropical paradise, but it's real and it's just a short ride or flight away from Singapore. Stay at Laguna Redang Island Resort -- a beautiful expanse of classic buildings, filled with wooden structures and lush greenery -- which offers various packages to visitors, of which numerous snorkeling trips are included.

9. Experience Japanese summer culture at Enoshima

Enoshima is a core sample of Japanese summer culture, a mini-mountain of rock, stone and wood rising steep and green from the Shonan surf. It is one of Eastern Japan's favorite summer destinations, visited by families, courting couples and visitors to the area looking to get away from the beach for a while.

10. Sleep on a beach in Goa, India

Or relax with the Goa hippies, or eat out at the numerous restaurants or motorbike through the countryside. Goa has your summer fix. If the heat proves too much, there's always the air conditioned confines of a five-star hotel to cool you off after a day of biking.

11. Go native -- Tibetan style -- in Jiuzhaigou

Jiuzhaigou, Tibet is home to a pristine national park chock full of Alpine lakes and waterfalls located in northwest Sichuan province. Many tours equipped with flag-bearing guides depart from Chengdu by bus (11 hours) or plane (one hour) and after the trip, return to the originating city. But you can ditch the flag and tour guides and get to experience the real Jiuzhaigou by participating in home-stay programs.

12. Visit one of Asia's next gen tourist hot spots

Phu Quoc Island, Vietnam Phu Quoc Island, Vietnam

The Ho Tram Strip in Vietnam, China's Hainan Island, Phu Quoc in Vietnam, and Marinduque in the Philippines are all up and coming tourist hot spots. They're also amazing summer destinations, each for unique reasons.

13. Surf in Hainan, China

Speaking of Hainan, why not go surfing? Hainan Island, sometimes called, perhaps generously, “China’s Hawaii,” is a growing tourist destination off the country’s southern coast, just east of Vietnam. It’s famous for hosting Chinese beauty pageants, but is also home to a small but growing community of surfers -- both Chinese and foreign. Each November, Sanya, the island's capital, hosts the second annual Surfing Hainan Open.

14. Relax like a rock star at Amanpuri Resort in Phuket

Make no mistake about it, a visit to Aman Resort's Amanpuri in Phuket, Thailand is an eye-opening experience. Vacation like a rock star this summer at Amanpuri.

15. Escape on an affordable last minute getaway

Party hard in Dubai or conquer a mountain in Japan among other things. Living in Asia affords many destinations close at hand. Some affordable, some not so much.

16. Dodge military ordinance and hit the beach at Sarushima Island, Japan

Sarushima is the rock that guards the entrance to Tokyo Bay, otherwise known as Monkey Island even though there's not one primate to be found. What makes Sarushima a hot commodity to Tokyoites is that its located 1.7 km off Yokosuka, and is the only bit of land in the bay that does not have cliffs and beaches made of concrete.

17. Explore Laos all along the Mekong River

Mekong River, Vietnam Mekong River, Vietnam

The Mekong River is a one of the great rivers of the world, weaving the countries of China, Myanmar, Thailand, Laos and Vietnam into a web of interdependent ecosystems and indigenous cultures. The Mekong’s meandering journey through Laos is one of the most pristine, diverse and accessible routes along the entire river. Read how to explore the Mekong River.

18. Kick back on one of Asia's most idyllic beaches

Life's a beach, and in Asia there's a whole lot of good living to be had. We've researched and uncovered the top beach destinations to be found in the region. We've even broken them down into three categories -- secluded beaches, action beaches and local flavor -- so all you need to do is decide exactly how much coastal paradise you can handle.

19. Get minimal at Koh Kood, Thailand

Thailand’s Koh Kood is possibly one of the very few places that can live up to the myth of the unpeopled Asian beachy paradise. It’s got the necessary props -- a rainforest, quaint fishing villages, coconut plantations, snorkeling spots, and a population of less than 2,000. It’s also sufficiently out-of-the-way. Getting there requires an hour’s plane ride from Bangkok’s Trat airport, or a train and boat expedition from Bangkok. The Koh Kood experience is like taking a step back in time: minimal electricity, scarce Internet access and few cars. The accommodation on the island ranges from wildly expensive resorts to homestays.

20. Hammocks a-plenty at An Bang Beach, Vietnam

Hoi An beach, Vietnam Hoi An beach, Vietnam

Coastal old town Hoi An in Central Vietnam is best known for its bespoke tailors’ shops, excellent beaches and fresh seafood. Most tourists head to Cua Dai beach at the end of Cua Dai road, some four kilometers out of town. Although it’s a lovely spot, it can become crowded and is prone to police surveillance.

An Bang, a beach at the end of Hai Bai Trung street outside town, is a great alternative. It’s mostly a hangout for local holiday makers but recently foreigners have opened a few beach shack bars. There’s good food, hammocks a-plenty and the odd film night at these locations. The watering holes can get blown away during the violent storm season, but rest assured -- they’re usually rebuilt in a flash.

21. Enjoy the surf at Lombok Kuta, Indonesia

Lombok, the large hill-humped island to Bali’s east, boasts bountiful jungles and awe-inspiring volcanoes. The further south one ventures, the drier the land becomes. But it is the swells off the craggy coast that draw visitors to Kuta, a sleepy seaside village frequented by surfers looking to tackle some of Indonesia’s best breaks.

22. Cool off on the beach in Port Dickson, Malaysia

The attraction of Port Dickson is not so much the town itself, but the 18km of nearby beaches against a backdrop by palms and banyan trees. Kuala Lumpur isn’t missing much, but one thing it lacks is a beach to cool off at. The only sandy beaches close enough for a day trip are the ones that stretch out along the coastal road south of Port Dickson.

23. Get Naked in the Moganshan Hills

Early last century, wealthy foreigners living in Shanghai went to Moganshan to lounge away the summer in stone villas, play tennis and swim in the municipal pool. Today, Moganshan is making a comeback, thanks in part to Naked Retreats, a collection of restored farmhouses. (Don't be fooled by the name -- any nudity should probably be confined to your bungalow.) Upon arrival, guests are taken on a 'decompression walk' and encouraged to spend a few minutes in awe of the scenery. Activities include cycling, bass fishing and mountain hikes. Visitors can wander through dewy tea plantations and bamboo forests, or swim in a reservoir to the buzz of cicadas. Accommodation is basic -- the wooden floors creak and there's no air-conditioning -- but bungalows come with Western-style kitchens, flat-screen TVs and wireless Internet.

24. Explore the hilltop tribes of Vietnam by motorbike

Despite breathtaking mountain scenery and a rich diversity of hill tribe cultures, Vietnam’s Central Highlands remain one of the least 'tourorized' areas of Southeast Asia. This region of pine tree forests, waterfalls and coffee plantations is far from the coastal beach resorts where most tourists flock, and this remoteness is all part of the charm. Read about motorbiking among Vietnam's hilltop tribes.

25. Camp out in the Great Wall of China

There's nothing better to refresh the lungs and reinvigorate the spirit than a trip out of the city and into the wilderness. Hikes along the Great Wall are a relatively simple option, easily accessible from Beijing, and can be done leisurely over several days or in a power-trek over just one or two days.


Source: CNNGo

Friday, June 4, 2010

Cycling Highway 1 In Vietnam

There’s no Southeast Asian road more iconic than Vietnam’s National Highway 1. Running the length of the narrow, coastal country, it connects the major cities of Hanoi and Ho Chi Minh. After decades of conflict that threatened to tear them apart, the Vietnamese now see the highway as a symbol of national unity.

Cycling Highway 1 unlocks experiences most travelers miss. You’ll discover rural hamlets far removed from the modern world, and famous guidebook sights will seem all the sweeter when earned through your own pedal power.

Cycling in VietnamCycling in Vietnam


WHAT YOU NEED TO KNOW

No cycling test required—this adventure is open to people of all abilities.

Supported

For those seeking a structured, less-demanding trip, many agencies conduct vehicle-supported group rides. These typically involve a mix of cycling and van transport.

Be sure to research your tour company thoroughly, paying particular attention to itineraries and testimonials. Prices, distances, and accommodation all vary, and no traveler wants to get locked into a situation that fails to live up to expectations.

On Your Own

Of course, many set their wheels to the tarmac without signing onto a supported tour. Cycling independently gives you complete control over where you go and how fast you travel.

Most visitors fly into Hanoi or Ho Chi Minh City. Starting off in the big city can be intimidating (and a bit dangerous), so busing it a few dozen miles up the road doesn’t hurt. Alternatively, domestic flights will quickly shuttle you to the middle of the country.

Cycling the entire highway is alluring, but time constraints mean you’ll likely opt for a shorter route. The scenic southern half is more popular, passing many points of interest. Spanning roughly 700 miles, it can be done in two weeks, though stretching it to three is recommended.

It’s also possible to skip segments by hopping a bus or train. A small fee will be levied for the bike, but the cost is negligible when time is of the essence.

Basic Necessities

Services and supplies are plentiful along Highway 1. Services and supplies are plentiful along Highway 1. It’s always advisable to carry lots of water and some spare calories, but even the smallest of villages will have a vendor who can restock you.

Accommodation (tourist accommodation, that is) isn’t as frequent. In the south, there are some 70+ mile stretches between major centers, with longer ones in the north. Once you hit your stride, you shouldn’t have trouble knocking out these distances—just know your limits.

New bypasses and extensions are being added to Highway 1 all the time, which can either save you time or get you lost. Make sure to take along an updated map. Great Journeys sells some, or you can pick one up in Hanoi or Saigon.

Timing

Heat isn’t much of a problem on a bike because you create your own breeze as you move. Instead of temperature, consider the seasonal rains when choosing your dates. Summer can be quite damp, and you’ll need to keep abreast of typhoon warnings in the fall and early winter. Traveling on either end of the high season (November–March) translates to cheaper hotel rates.

Which Bike?

Despite what you may hear about cycling in the developing world, there’s no need for a mountain bike on this ride (unless that’s your preference). The pavement is smooth, and on skinny tires you’ll really fly.

Packing your own tools and spares is a good idea. Bicycles and repair shops are ubiquitous in Vietnam, but mechanics won’t necessarily be equipped to work on your setup, especially if you’re sporting an unusual frame or high-end components.

Traffic

Cycling a main highway in Vietnam, where traffic rules are taken more as suggestions, might seem a perilous prospect. But remember that many locals get around by bicycle themselves, so the infrastructure is set up to accommodate two-wheeled travelers. Highway 1 provides generous shoulders, making it arguably safer than less-traveled roads that have none.

That said, traffic can be heavy. Keep in mind that the right of way is always yielded to the largest vehicle. Horns also take some getting used to—Vietnamese drivers use them liberally.

Read up!

It never hurts to prepare for any trip, and there are tons of resources out there for this one. For general advice on cycle touring, consider these 8 steps.

The information you’ll be looking for as a cyclist might be hard to find in conventional travel guides, so why not go straight to the source—firsthand accounts? The website crazyguyonabike offers dozens of journals from the road, the best giving detailed route and mileage information.

Though outdated, Lonely Planet’s Cycling Vietnam, Laos & Cambodia includes information on the southern half of Highway 1, much of which is still relevant.

A good book to take for the road is Catfish and Mandala, written by a Vietnamese-American who returned to his homeland to cycle the highway.

WHAT NOT TO MISS

Biking in VietnamBiking in Vietnam


A few of the best destinations on or near Highway 1—don’t pass them by.

North

The 1,969 limestone crags punctuating Ha Long Bay are enchanting to say the least. Unfortunately, there may be 1,970 tour operators eagerly waiting to show them to you and take your dong. Get the lowdown from fellow travelers before booking a boat ride through this stunning locale.

Central

The imperial city of Hué retains much of its grandeur, and its sights are easily accessible by bike. Tours of the old DMZ to the north can be arranged here, and the Hai Van Pass to the south is one of the most rewarding sections of Highway 1.

Nearby Hoi An is perhaps Vietnam’s most unique destination. Its history of international commerce lives on in many Chinese shop houses, and the narrow streets, colorful lanterns, and well-preserved architecture make for unmatched ambiance. The Cham ruins of My Son are less than 30 miles away.

South

Sandy beaches run along much of Vietnam’s coast, and touristy Nha Trang is home to a particularly pleasant one. It’s a nice spot to unwind for a few days, though some will find the city’s hyper-development trying. Many water activities are available here and elsewhere

For a break from the balminess of the coastal plain, steer off Highway 1 and head to Dalat. The artistic vibe of this city is as refreshing as its highland climate. You have to earn it though, as both roads into town require substantial climbs.

Source: matadortrips.com

Thursday, June 3, 2010

Vietnam – A Beautiful Paradise

Vietnam is a paradise for all travel lovers as it provides popular destinations that can be enjoyed by everyone. This country is located in south east of Asia and has pleasing locations both on land and sea that can rejuvenate your mind, body and soul. This country is considered to be one of the most visited destinations of the world.

Top rated attractions

Vietnam is a treat for all vacationers as it has so much to offer to its travelers. Following are some of the top rated attractions of this nation that are a must visit for all:

Halong bay: This place is the most visited place in this country. It has around 1000 limestone karsts as well as islands of many sizes. On the other side, its water is home to large diversity of the ecosystem and has swamp forests of fresh water, sandy beaches, mangrove trees, freshwater lakes as well as coral reefs. Hanoi: This is the heart of Vietnam and is capital of this country. This city is located at the delta of the red river. It is a rich blend of culture and modernism. This city is also considered to be the shoppers paradise for all shopping freaks as it has a chain of retail outlets and shopping malls. On the other side, old streets, traditions as well as houses can provide you with a breathtaking experience. Phu cuong waterfall: This place is located 49 km away from pleiku in Vietnam. This is another major attraction of this country. This is a mighty waterfall. The best part is that you can view a colorful rainbow almost every noon. The scenic beauty is absolutely spectacular and can mesmerize you completely.

Vietnam has scores of night clubs and they can add to the factor of fun and excitement of your entire trip. You can have a rocking experience that will comprise of some of the most unforgettable moments of your life.

Travel packages

There are numerous travel packages for Vietnam that are cost effective including air travel, hotel accommodation, travel guides, food and drink services, cruising and commuting services among others. The biggest advantage of these travel packages are they offer huge discounts on all of these services and also provide world class services to their customers.

These travel tour operators also provide insurance to all their customers. They cater to the needs as well as tastes of all their customers in the most suitable manner. That is why most of the travelers love to avail their services. This way, they get both flexibility as well as convenience to their vacations.

So, what are you waiting for? Avail the services of these online tour companies and have top class experience of traveling to this beautiful country of Vietnam. Happy holidays!

Wednesday, June 2, 2010

8 Steps for Successful Self-Supported Bicycle Tours

Cycle touring = freedom. Forget letting bus and train routes dictate your schedule. Forget settling for tour operators’ carbon-copy itineraries. On a bicycle, you’re in control. Life slows enough for you to digest every sight, every smiling face, every facet of “place.”

This unique form of travel involves unique demands, however. A successful tour is the result of thoughtful preparation, and these 8 steps will help you get there.

1. Know what you’re getting into.

It’s essential to realize how cycle touring differs from conventional travel. The cliché proclaiming the journey to be more important than the destination really applies. You’ll need to enjoy the long stretches of empty prairie as much as the temple ruins you’re headed to. And yes, at some point you’re going to get tired, sore, wet, and discouraged.

That caveat notwithstanding, don’t psych yourself out by dwelling on any perceived hardships. Cycle touring is a very feasible and rewarding travel option; you simply need to be mentally prepared for what it takes.

2. Tailor your gear.

What kind of self-supported tour are you interested in? Two basic categories are credit-card touring (eat at restaurants and sleep in hotels) and fully loaded tours (camping equipment required). Which you choose will shape your gear needs.

Where are you going? Do you have your sights set on a multi-state trail ride along the Great Divide ? Or perhaps you want to trace the length of Vietnam’s National Highway 1. The bicycle you opt for depends on the surface you ride on. Mountain bikes with front or full suspension are preferable for off-road treks, while a touring-specific model is best for pavement. Visit www.adventure-cycling-guide.co.uk for more thoughts on this.

3. Understand your limits.

When mapping your route, set realistic distance and time expectations. Can you honestly pedal 120 miles in one day? Will you really enjoy cycling for a week straight? After all, this is supposed to be fun! Scheduling low-mileage and off-the-bike days will give both body and mind a rest. Plus, you’ll be able to more thoroughly explore your surroundings.

4. Seek out firsthand advice.

How much information specific to cycle touring does your typical destination guide include? A couple paragraphs? You need more. It’s good to know that Cambodia’s Highway 6 turns into a lake in the wet season, or that riding west on Australia’s Great Ocean Road puts you at odds with prevailing headwinds.

No matter where you’re going, chances are someone’s already been and has written about it on www.crazyguyonabike.com Another good resource is www.bikeforums.net, which also has a helpful maintenance forum. Do as much research as you can, and fine-tune your route plan and equipment list accordingly.

5. As in all travel, put safety first!

Staying safe and healthy is the best way to ensure a good tour. Beyond the commonsense measures any traveler should take, it’s recommended that you have a contingency plan in case you need to end the tour early. How will you get you and your bike home safely if this happens? Also, since cycling can place you in situations of increased vulnerability, stay abreast of information concerning crime or unrest in your travel area.

6. Get fit…if you want.

Each cyclist has his or her view on training for a tour. For an idea of how complex it can be, check out this .pdf document. Personally, I’ve found that nothing prepares you for sitting in the saddle all day like…well, sitting in the saddle all day. While you shouldn’t expect a magical transformation from full-time couch potato to super-tourer, the importance of a pre-tour training regimen is often overstated.

7. Test it out.

You have your bike. You have your racks, your panniers, and a respectable stash of travel-friendly tools. But do you know how everything works? How do you change a flat tire? What should you do if a shift cable breaks? And what the heck is a Hypercracker? The more familiar you become with issues like these, the less likely you’ll encounter a serious problem on the road.

Finally, throw everything together and go for a ride, even if only a short one. Learn how your bike handles under load, how best to pack everything, and whether or not it’s all going to fit!

8. Keep a record.

When completed, your tour will represent a point of pride, perhaps even a once-in-a-lifetime accomplishment. So before you start, consider documenting your journey. Many travelers keep a daily journal, but why not do more? Internet access is easy to come by in much of the world, and blogging from the road is an excellent way to record your experiences. Your family and friends will enjoy following your progress, and all of us out here in cyberspace will share in your adventure as well!

Source: thetravelersnotebook