Thursday, December 22, 2011

ACTIVETRAVEL ASIA launches New Year Promotion 2012

Human Christmas and New Year approaching, ACTIVETRAVEL ASIA (ATA) sends to all travelers of the faithful, heartfelt words to wish a peaceful Christmas and New Year exuberant grace of God. With the approaching of Christmas and New Year 2012, ATA is providing discount up to 7 % for all loyalty customers to buy ATA’s tours during the period from Feb, 1 2012 to Apr, 1 2012.

ATA runs the most adventure tours available in Indochina and Asia. ATA’s active trips are designed for all levels of outdoor enthusiasts, real people seeking real fun and adventure. Of course, a reasonable level of personal fitness, good health, and interest in outdoor activities is advisable, but the customers don't need to be a tri-athlete or be an expert in any of the activities you will undertake.

Monday, December 19, 2011

There be dragons – Halong Bay

The legend goes that the islands of Halong Bay were formed by dragons who spit out jade and jewels into the sea to help the Vietnamese build a barrier to defend against would be invaders. After attempts to conquer the area were thwarted, the dragons fell in love with the bay and took eternal residence there. One look at these giant, limestone karsts, and I couldn’t help but be overtaken with the sense that we were sailing among the sleeping beasts.

Traveling three hours east of Hanoi, we arrived in Halong City and boarded a traditional Vietnamese junk for a three day, two night tour of Halong Bay. Words can’t described how ethereal the bay is – emerald waters… giant, jungle topped islands… ancient boats… it was a different world.

Off the boat, we got to explore the bay and travel to island caves by kayak. Our main boat pulled into a small sheltered “lagoon” between the karsts that served as protection for some floating homes that had kayaks available for us.

Swimming in the Pacific, on the other side of the world, proved absolutely magical. Splashing around in Halong Bay, I couldn’t get it out of my head that I was swimming on the other side of the world.

Wednesday, December 14, 2011

Zooming Through Vietnam

The Vietnamese bus tout are convinced they’ll get business from us. “Bus to Sa Pa” they call as we tuck away our passports, re-attach helmets and roll bicycles down a short but sheer ramp from border control into Vietnam proper. “We go by bicycle,” we reply. They shake heads. “No…. you go bus.” I look the youngest and most hopeful tout in the eyes and assure him that we’re very strong. He shakes his head in response: “Sa Pa? You go by bus?”

Cat Cat village rice fields

We cross into the country with Mirko, an Italian cyclist who is also headed up to Vietnam’s premier hill top town. He (perhaps wisely) opts for the bus, leaving us to conquer the 28km climb alone. Pedalling away from the river, the border town of Lao Cai passes by in a blur of motorcycles and baguette stalls before the climbing really begins about 5km in. We’re soon in thick jungle interspersed with roadside shacks selling beer and food, following a road which heads relentlessly up. The heat is a new challenge and almost instantly the sweat factor is so high that the water is rolling off my cheeks.

Tuesday, December 6, 2011


Attractive eco-friendly valleys, terraced slope attributes as well as tribes nevertheless subsequent their own historic customs — encouraged in order to Sapa.

Situated 350kms north-west associated with Hanoi, simply timid from Chinese language the edge may be the Lao Cai Land exactly where you’ll discover Sapa. It’s environment as well as amazing scenery tend to be about the reduce inclines from the Hoang Lien Boy hill variety, that additionally features Vietnam’s greatest hill Fansipan, having a elevation associated with 3142 metre distances.

Sapa is actually filled with a varied number of cultural minorities like the Hmong, Yao, Tay as well as Giay organizations. Considered to possess lived on the region because the 1800′s, these types of Sapa slope tribes continue to be close to these days ongoing their own life-style as well as customs because they did for hundreds of years.

The elements is extremely periodic, throughout the summer time it is very reasonable as well as wet. Throughout the winter season it may be chilly, misty as well as obtain the unusual compacted snow.

Friday, December 2, 2011

Amazing rocky walls in Cham Islet

When touring Cham Islet, or Cu Lao Cham in the ancient city of Hoi An in Quang Nam Province you are bewitched by splendid landscapes with wonderful sandy beaches, forested hills and the glorious clear, blue sea.

A view of Cham islet in Hoi An ancient town, Quang Nam Province
The location is a popular spot for tourists to go camping, swimming and scuba-diving to explore coral reefs and beautiful marine life.
However, with a small boat you can take a cruise around the islet and travelers will discover it is enhanced due to its rocky mountain walls.

Forested hills and the glorious clear, blue sea

Cham Islet, 20 kilometres offshore of Hoi An, has been named a global biosphere reserve by UNESCO’s International Coordination Council of Man and the Biosphere Program.

It takes about twenty minutes by boat or canoe but it is worth the short wait as you drift amidst the sky

Wednesday, November 30, 2011

PU HU nature reserve

ACTIVETRAVEL ASIA and GIZ (Gesellschaft für Internationale Zusammenarbeit in Vietnam) working together in a survey of responsible tourism project in Pu Hu Nature Reserve, Thanh hoa province, Vietnam. 

The survey trip will be held in middle of December, 2011 by ATA team with support of GIZ Vietnam. ATA inspection team will spend about 3 days to scan this area, evaluating the suitable activities for a tourist site. This activity is a part of project “Protection of the forest and wildlife” implemented by GIZ Vietnam, under the management of Forest Protection Department of Thanh Hoa Province.

Pu Hu Nature Reserve is situated in the North-West of Thanh Hoa Province. It has a big diversity of plants and animals with 508 plant species and 266 animals species. It also has a role in protecting the catchment of the Ma river. The inhabitants of the nature reserve and buffer zone belong to the Thai, Hmong, Dao and Kinh ethnic groups.

The tourist will discover illegal cutting of trees, hunting and other illegal activities in the forest. Their movement in the forest will help to keep these illegal activities under control and is therefore very important!

As Mr. Georg Kloeble, Senior Advisor Natural Recource Management of GIZ said “Pu Hu is very rugged and mountainous and might be demanding on the fitness of the participants! Rainforest, it might be misty and wet. I myself was only one time in there, hiking for one day! It was fantastic!”

After the trip, ATA inspection team is going to propose interesting activities, suitable routes which would make Pu Hu nature reserve to be a tourist site. ATA also works with GIZ Vietnam to run and manage the potential trip tours here to complete one of the most important parts of project.

Saturday, November 26, 2011

Active Travel Asia announced the prizes for the contest “Indochina in Your Eyes”!

First word Active Travel Asia sent to you to joint our competition “Indochina in yours eyes” most sincere thanks!

“Indochina in yours eyes” contest lasted over 2 months (1st Sep 2011 to 20th Nov 2011) and ends on 20 Nov 2011. Organizing Committee has received many entries with unique ideas, deeply felt and very sincere, especially from customers love traveling and traveled to Indochina in a lifetime.

Now is the time to honor the winner. The winner is the person who has the amount of LIKE ranked highest on our facebook page plus 2 travel news sites. It meant that many people had read and liked your story.

The highest prize of the contest “Indochina in your eyes” is Yasmine Khater with entry "South to North Vietnam : An Unforgettable Experience".

The prize is a 3 day 2 night tour costing from 700$ - 1000$ for 2 persons. The winner can choose one of out door activities including Trekking, Cycling, Motorcycling, and Kayaking in wide areas of Indochina plus interesting gifts. 

• Kayaking Halong Bay
• Trekking Sapa and homestay
• Mai Chau Trekking
• Motorcycling the Ho Chi Minh Trail
• Biking Angkor Wat

Besides the highest prize, to encourage the writers ATA awards 3 incentive prizes for the entry which had the amount of “Like” followed by the highest:

Andrew Faulks with entry “Pol Pot’s Clipper”
Raelene Kwong with entry “An expedition to Vietnam’s Son Doong Cave – what could go wrong?”
Manasi Subramaniam with entry “How Saigon Feels”

The incentive prize is a full day city tour for 2 persons. Besides, you will get some extra values as below:

• a couple of sleeping bags by fabric filter.
• a couple of T-shirts with ATA logo.
• 2 water puppet tickets
• lunch included
• 1 hour Cyclo (Xich Lo) around old quarter.

All the prizes will be available in 2 years from the day of award announcement (Nov 30th, 2011.)

Active Travel Asia thank all of your contest whether your felt and shared were not high rank but your sharing for ATA is the most precious. All good thoughts of you for Indochina and ATA will be the core values which always lead to ATA.

Please thank most respectfully to you, wish you good luck and congratulations again!

Please refer any questions about the award to us at:

Tuesday, November 22, 2011

Vietnam - A cultural feast

I envisioned hiking to remote villages to find mountain hill tribes; people living in indigenous villages, untouched by outside influences.

Instead, as we pulled into Sapa, in the northern part of Vietnam, a group of Black Hmong women gathered on the side of the road as our shuttle pulled into the center of town. A welcoming committee, perhaps?

As the van came to a stop, my jaw dropped as the entire group charged at our vehicle screaming “You buy from me!”

This was not the authentic

Friday, November 18, 2011

Entry for the Contest "Indochina in your eyes"!

How Saigon Feels

Saigon feels like an old movie song - the kind that hums loudly, often obnoxiously, in the background, but makes its absence sorely felt during the rare silences.

It starts sort off sort of clumsily - mostly percussion and pipes attempting to begin with a bang - when the city drops you into an ocean of familiarity with its heat, its dust, its traffic and its absurd electrical lines and telephone poles running all over the city in all sorts of directions, constantly getting in the way of any possible view of any possible skyline. It doesn't just look like Asia - it feels comfortingly like Asia.

A high-pitched melody takes over - nauseating at first with its shrillness, but stubborn in its refusal to waver in pitch. Its notes, warbling undramatically, tease you into the city's underbelly - matchbox apartments, gorgeous colonial villas, roadside barbecues and pretty French cafes, all on the same stretch, entirely unaware, or perhaps uncaring, of the incongruity they are bathed in. The melody slows down - pitch unchanged, although you're used to its intensity by this point - to allow you to take it all in, but only long enough for you to take it all in.

Before you're ready, the pipes begin to blare incessantly, and you are jolted into the honking of city traffic. You find yourself surrounded by scooters and motorbikes - they come at you from all directions, each helmet more colourful than the last, and swerve graciously to avoid contact with you, helmets bobbing in acknowledgement of your mostly insignificant presence in their lives. As you wonder at how everything around you appears constantly to be on the move, you are jostled on to the pavement, where the elderly Vietnamese have drawn up red plastic chairs right outside their houses to sit and watch the world go by. There is no newspaper or paperback in their hands that redeems their voyeurism. They are as unabashedly curious about the tourists that go by as the tourists are about this odd, odd city.

Wednesday, November 16, 2011

Entry for the Contest "Indochina in your eyes"!

Indochina adventures, from the sacred to the mundane

Angkor Wat, a modern odyssey

Pedalling into the sun’s glare, the sound of laughing children flutters in my ears. Through a modern adventure I witness the historic epic of people’s lives intertwined with the past, striving to survive amongst the ancient ruins and modern riches of Cambodia’s prime time attraction, the temples of Angkor Wat. Hidden amongst the stones and structures are stories of power and love: Angkor Wat’s historic legends are sculpted into etchings which cover every surface of its walls and lattices.

Energised and inspired by our historic wanderings by day, our evenings in Siem Reap enchant us with the discovery of local artwork based on quintessentially Cambodian and Indochinese motifs. Here, the essence of life is concentrated into images of wise monks traversing the countryside in orange robes, village life and eternal rice paddies. We enjoy ultra-modern evening venues, providing an oasis of calm and reflection amidst the bustling town city. There is more to see in Cambodia than I could possibly do justice to in my few short trips, and from Angkor Wat we head to the capital city. Phnom Penh’s vibrancy always astounds, and I like to contemplate the evening activity on the central square where the older generations take refuge from the trials and torments of their day to stretch, relax and exercise together, creating a collective consciousness that one can only imagine should foster peace and collaboration. Feeling the calm and joys of the elderly, of families, of the occasional mother and daughter flicking a badminton racket, keeps me mesmerised for hours; happy to remain here and delay having to contemplate the array of options waiting to tantalise my palate in Phnom Penh’s multiple dining options.

Tuesday, November 15, 2011

Ha Long Bay is New Wonder of Nature

Vietnam’s Ha Long Bay is one of the New Seven Wonders of Nature, announced the New7WondersFoundation on November 12 after the first count of global voting ended a day earlier.

Halong Bay, Vietnam
In alphabetical order, the seven winners are the Amazon, Ha Long Bay, Iguazu Falls, Jeju Island, Komodo, Puerto Princesa Underground River and Table Mountain.

The New7Wonders of Nature campaign have been carried out over the past four years, starting with more than 440 locations from about 220 countries.

The New7Wonders of Nature have been chosen from the 28 finalist candidates, according to Bernard Weber, founding president of Switzerland-based New7Wonders Foundation.

According to the foundation, the results are provisional and based on the first tally of votes. The votes still need to be checked, validated and independently verified.

Once the voting validation process is complete, in early 2012, New7Wonders will then work with the confirmed winners to organize the official inauguration events.

The foundation also noted that it is possible that one or more of the provisional winners will not be confirmed during the validation process. New7Wonders will issue a media update if that occurs.

“When the New7Wonders of Nature are confirmed, they will join the man-made New 7 Wonders of the World in becoming part of global memory for humankind forever,” Weber said.

Ha Long Bay is located in the northern province of Quang Ninh. It features thousands of limestone karsts and isles of various sizes and shapes. The bay has a 120-kilometer long coastline and is approximately 1,553 square kilometers in size, with 1969 islets.

Several of the islands are hollow, with enormous caves. Others support floating villages of fishermen, who ply the shallow waters for 200 species of fish and 450 different kinds of mollusks.

Another feature of Ha Long Bay is its abundance of lakes inside the limestone islands. For example, Dau Be island has six enclosed lakes. All these island lakes occupy drowned dolines within fengcong karst.

Source: thanhniennews

Monday, November 14, 2011

Entry for the Contest "Indochina in your eyes"!

Viet Nam in My Eyes

“Let’s spend our vacation in ("XXX"). !” I said to my friends. That was more than 2 years ago.

“It’s better to go to Viet Nam,” said one of my friends.

“Viet Nam?” I replied. “That sounds great.”

I’m one who often reacts based on merely instincts. Beside of one two movies with the settings of Viet Nam, I barely knew about Viet Nam. Yet, I replied ‘That sounds great.’ and I meant it. So I went to Periplus and bought Insight Guides Vietnam. I read the articles, look at the photographs. Right away I knew I had to go to Vietnam.

The funny thing is that before my friends who suggested Viet Nam did go to Viet Nam, I had already traveled twice to Viet Nam. I traveled another four times after that.

Let’s see. Ho Chi Minh City, checked. A tight budget traveler I am, so far it’s Air Asia I have to rely on. Flying with Air Asia from Jakarta to Viet Nam means I have to set foot on Ho Chi Minh City, whether I would like it or not. September 23rd 2009 was the first time I did so. Being brought up in a more Western oriented culture, I embraced the French atmosphere in Ho Chi Minh City immediately. Drinking coffee on a terrace under open air, is for me a time to call life beautiful. Standing in front of old (but well preserved) European-looking buildings without needing to go as far as Europe, is for me a time to call budget luxury. Savoring on steaks and pizzas that taste more European than the ones in my country but with two-thirds the price, is for me a time to call a trip mine. I hate to spend too much money on food, you know.

Since I was a kid, Dad had unconsciously brought me up to celebrate life’s best moments by walking. In the evening he would wake me up and take me for a walk, out of our lane, to the river, up to the railway, and then back home. When I already entered school, on holidays we would take longer paths and walk home, just the two of us. When I was in Junior High School, after every end of semester, we would celebrate by walking to our favorite restaurant. Uhm, it wasn’t really a restaurant, actually.

In Ho Chi Minh City, I could continue to celebrate life’s best moments my way. The sidewalks were broad and clean. Furthermore, very unlike in the capitol city of my country, I less had to worry of stumbling. Not even a bit do I regret Air Asia for making this route: Jakarta – Ho Chi Minh City a.k.a. Sai Gon.

Next, Ha Noi, checked. Ho Chi Minh City and Ha Noi to me looked like 2 different countries. The first time I came to Ha Noi, I lodged in Old Street area. I nearly forgot that I was on vacation. Motorcycles roamed in and out the alleyways. It’s just like where I came from. To make matters worse, almost if not all, of them were Hondas. That’s the brand of the company I’m currently working for. How can I call Ha Noi a vacation?

Tuesday, November 8, 2011

Vietnam: gems of the north

Vietnam is increasingly becoming a popular destination for travellers each year. Its large chaotic cities are popular stop-offs for young travellers, and a great place to spend a few days. However, it can be nice to get away from the hustle and bustle, and northern Vietnam boasts fantastic scenery for those able to pull themselves away from the captivating capital of Hanoi.

Northern Vietnam boasts fantastic scenery

Hanoi is a bustling city, riddled with motorcycles, bright lights, and street vendors; it can be hard to keep up with. There is much to see in and around the city and plenty of culture to absorb in the ancient architecture which is dotted throughout the vibrant city.

Saturday, October 29, 2011

Entry for the Contest "Indochina in your eyes"!

The Great 14km Walk

It’s sunny and bright today. We woke up to promising weather that was to carry on the entire day. The skies have just begun to open up revealing the gorgeous sun! We rented a jeep, a seriously beaten up jeep that requires a few steps on the brakes before it works! A local driver brought us to Thac Bac waterfalls also known as Silver Waterfalls that cascaded 100m from above. It was a pleasant sight, nothing to shout about. We headed further north west arriving at Tram Ton Pass sitting between two mountains with Sapa on one side and Lao Chai on the other. Standing at the pass reminded us of views at Mount Kinabalu, Sabah. Towering hills continued endlessly and disappearing into a glimmer of shadows into the background. It’s a spectacular view indeed!

Thac Bac Falls

From Tram Ton Pass we scooted back to Sapa to head towards Lao Cai to Ta Phin village about 14km from Sapa. This village is home to Red Dzao’s the other minority group around this region. The ride brought us through bumpy and hilly roads and down steep narrow roads finally into the village. Spotting a few Red Dzao women from afar, they came running towards our jeep and as it came to a halt they surrounded our jeep instantly asking us to buy something from them. It wasn’t a very welcoming gesture, but we just had to be patient (for Terence, VERY patient) and maneuver our way out. Our jeep left us there as we decide to walk back to Sapa after the visit. The Red Dzao’s soon became out personal escorts as 6-8 of them persistently followed us as we walked into the village. There was no peace, and soon they started chatting up to us. Surprisingly their English was much better than some locals we bumped into in Hanoi. They told us that they learned how to speak in English from conversing with tourist – fast learners indeed!

Entry for the Contest "Indochina in your eyes"!

Voluntourism in Cambodia

The harsh realities of Cambodia stares me in the face. My second trip to this desolate country in a month has left an indelible mark in my throve of memories. Touching down in Siem Reap, we travelled four hours on a local bus to Battambang. Packed with over 40kgs of old clothes, medical supplies and a vague sense of what to expect, our team of a doctor and four medical students, 10 professionals and a little girl (Vanora) and set out to make medical aid possible for the rural village folk.

We met up with Pastor Sam of Legacy of Hope, an English language institute that offers quality education to children and youth. He brings us around the school, a few simple blocks of tiny classrooms with ceilings low enough to make you feel claustrophobic. Students stare at us intently offering welcoming smiles and respectful bows as we peeked in.

Prior to our arrival, Pastor Sam had organized the purchase of medicines and prepared a group of local translators to help us with the medical camp. We spent the rest of the day sorting, counting, packing and labeling medicines into the wee hours of the morning.

The next day, many questions still hung in the air as we travelled another hour into interiors of the country side– ‘How many people will come?’, ‘How will the response be?’, ‘What will we encounter?’, ‘Will we be able to cope with the numbers?’… To add to the sea of questions, it was the first time a medical team has visited this particular village.

A multitude of people were found waiting at the entrance of the school, the temporary ‘hospital’ for the next 2 days. Along the way as our van approached, groups of people were seen walking towards the school, some pulling wooden carts to ferry their children, others dragging their little ones by the finger in hope to get some medicines for their ailing bodies.

Children walked around with torn clothes, some half-naked and most of them without any shoes or slippers. Their hair streaked with a light tinge of blonde not from hair dye but as a result of severe malnutrition. Old women and men offer a smile to welcome us and I’m overcome by the sight of decaying and charcoal black teeth. I returned a smile with my best effort trying to hide the feelings that overcome me – feelings of empathy and despair.

Ha Long – a wonder of the creator

Located in Quang Ninh Province, Ha Long Bay includes the sea areas of Ha Long City, Cam Pha Town and a part of Van Don island district. With the admirable natural beauty and multiform, special values, Ha Long has become the must-see destination in Viet Nam for domestic and international visitors.

The legend has it that, once upon a time, soon after the Viet people established their country, invaders came. The Jade Emperor sent Mother Dragon and her Child Dragons down to the earth to help the Viet people fight against their enemy. When the dragons landed down on the earth, invaders' boats were rushing to the shore.

The dragons immediately turned into thousands of stone islands emerging in the sea like great walls challenging the invaders' boats. The fast boats couldn't manage to stop and crashed into the islands and broke into pieces. After the victory, Mother Dragon and Child Dragons didn't return the heaven but stayed on the earth at the place where the battle had occurred. The location Mother Dragon landed is present Ha Long Bay and Child Dragons landed is present Bai Tu Long Bay. The dragons' tails waving the water created Bach Long Vi (present Tra Co Peninsula). 

Ha Long Bay covers the area of 1,553km² and encompasses 1,969 islands of various sizes which are mainly limestone islands with tectonic age from 250 million to 280 million years. The process of long geological evolution created the unique Ha Long Bay in the world with thousands of islands which look like fantastic sculptural and artistic works of various graceful shapes such as Canh Buom (Sail) Islet, Trong Mai (Cock and Hen) Islet, Lu Huong (Incense Burner) Islet… All of them are vivid and soulful.

Tuesday, October 25, 2011

Entry for the Contest "Indochina in your eyes"!

An expedition to Vietnam’s Son Doong Cave – what could go wrong?

My eyes startle open from the sudden jolt of the overnight train as we pull into Dong Hoi. I watch my husband, son and daughter (aged 13 and 12) stir in their bunks when the realisation of our situation hits me like a brick. Few people in the world, let alone an ordinary family from Australia, have done what we are about to embark upon – a journey which will change our lives forever.

The obsession started seven months earlier when I read about Vietnam’s Hang Son Doong Cave in the January 2011 issue of National Geographic. Known as Mountain River Cave, Hang Son Doong is hidden deep within the remote and rugged mountains of central Vietnam’s Phong Nha-Ke Bang National Park. A cave so huge that stalagmites are the size of multi-story buildings and where underground islands of jungle the size of football fields flourish beneath skylights of fallen ceilings long ago. And here we now are after months of preparation – an ordinary family of four with our local support crew of eight.

The start of the trail commences high on a misty, windy mountain and disappears rapidly down into a seemingly impenetrable, humid jungle. Suitably clad in our expensive hiking gear, our packs containing equipment and supplies for any contingency, I am worried that our support crew is a little unprepared - wearing flimsy rubber sandals and packs seemingly fashioned from rice bags and rope. Our guide informs us that we need to take an alternative route because the river, which would need to be crossed multiple times, is flooded from the recent typhoon. We enthusiastically agree without realising the consequences – the new route is twice as long (12 kms) and traverses across multiple, steep mountain ranges.

Monday, October 24, 2011

The first expedition to Son Doong Cave with ATA – Unrevealed stories!

On 28th Sep, 2011, carrying the eager to explore the grandeur of nature, the first travelers together with ATA’s product manager – Mr. Tony Tran had launched the discovery to Son Doong Cave, the biggest cave in the world.

Accompany with the group is Mr. Ho Khanh who found the Son Doong Cave as a tour guide. The first meet with Mr. Ho Khanh really impressed everyone. Just a warm smile, a strong handshake from him is enough to make everyone feel warm at heart. At Ho Khanh ‘s house, the group had the moments of relax with green tea, a simple lunch with steamed rice cake and salted peanut and an open conversation. All of that was promising for a memorable journey.

Mr. Ho Khanh in old costume of troop

The first obstacle for the group is leaches. They are everywhere and all in hungry for blood. It was really a nightmare at first but as time passes, the scare was fade when everyone got used to them and they weren’t the obstacle anymore. In the deep jungle under shade, the expedition team followed jungle trails that on limestone Mountains to the Swallow Cave.

As planned, the expedition team would camp at the Swallow Cave. But “Man proposes, God disposes”, everything weren’t going as planned, it was dark so quickly so the expedition had to camp at a clear ground that is 30 minutes walking to the Swallow Cave. The tents were pitched up, dinner was also cooked and everyone had a good time to eat dinner together. Camping in the deep jungle, it was indeed an interesting experience!

Saturday, October 22, 2011

Entry for the Contest "Indochina in your eyes"!

“Vietnam 2010, A Family Affair”

After an exhausting transpacific flight, we finally touch downed in Sai Gon and waited tirelessly in line for entry into the country. We gathered our belongings and made our way into the warm tropic air greeted by hundreds of Vietnamese smiles. Confused and overwhelmed as we were, familiar faces came out of the crowd to meet us, hugging and retrieving our bags. My mother naturally responded in her first language and began introducing everyone.

Although my mother and I had visited Vietnam previously, it was a first for those travelling with us; my teenage son on his first international holiday; my older sister returning to her country of birth; my father, a war veteran with suppressed memories from his deployment; finally arriving at a small yet significant country that that made a name for itself during the 1960’s.

We were immediately thrown into a chaotic city of petrol motos, rustic bicycles, horns blaring and a multitude of Vietnamese conversation. A thicket of fumes layered the city and grills sent smoke drifting across perilous streets. After reintroductions to our extended family, a large group of us headed to Nha Trang in a stiff passenger van for a five hour road trip. It was one of the most strenuous road trips due to the lack of organized traffic patterns but we eventually made our way outside of the city into some of the most beautiful parts that Vietnam has to offer. The land transitioned from flat rice fields to rocky cliffs in the west and mountains in the east. As we neared the outskirts of Nha Trang, the South China Sea glistened like jade stones under the sun. We rested at a seaside restaurant for lunch and enjoyed the warm sand and salty mist of the sea.

Wednesday, October 12, 2011

Mai Chau Homestay Trek Was So Much Better Than I Ever Imagined

"A buddy and I did 10 days in Northern Vietnam and wanted to get a few days of hiking in. We opted for ATA's 4-day Mai Chau Homestay. Mr. Hai picked us up at our backpacker's hostel with a private car and driver. Mr. Hai was very knowledgeable, had a great sense of humor, and spoke great English. The drive was quiet and comfortable, though uneventful as it was raining. 

When we reached Mai Chau, we stopped at the Homestay HQ where we were treated to a good 4-5 course meal and waited for our local guide, Thanh. Thanh did not speak a word of English, but was friendly and pleasant from the start. She would prove to be absolutely wonderful once the trip started. From Mai Chau, we took a short car ride to the beginning of the hike. 

We departed our transport and hiked to a Hmong village high in the mountains. Though it was still raining and chilly, the Hmong house was warm and comfortable. Right when we arrived, Thanh headed to the kitchen and began working over a wood fire. We quickly learned that this would be the norm, regardless of how long the hike was prior. The Hmong family pressed on with their day-to-day activities. At dinner time, Thanh delivered the first of several unbelievable meals. The typical dinner meal was about 7 courses with the freshest ingredients I've ever tasted. I can't begin to express how good the food was throughout the trip. The Hmong husband and wife joined us during the dinner and shared their company as well as their homemade corn wine with us.

Entry for the Contest "Indochina in your eyes"!

Border town 

Continuing her trip into the remote north of Vietnam, Duc Hanh travels to Simacai, a mysterious border town with imposing cloudy peaks and a vibrant market.

Before traveling north my friend had recommended I rent a room in Bac Ha then take a day trip to Simacai as there are no rooms in the border town. At just 26km from Bac Ha town, it is a relatively short trip, though the road is a long and winding one. As I am travelling on the back of motorbike on unfamiliar and unpredictable roads a bit of caution is required by the driver (my husband!.

Contrary to the misty Can Cau market the sky above Simacai is clear and blue. With a cool breeze on my face I take a deep breath and bask in the glory of the seemingly endless mountain ranges around. On the road I can see the roof-tops far down below in the valleys. The landscape is the most beautiful and peaceful I have come across on my journey so far.

The young flower Mong women I see along the road are like the fairies in this bucolic paradise. After an hour driving at a snail’s pace, I arrive at the Border Martyrs’ Cemetery on the outskirts of Simacai. Here brave border soldiers who laid down their lives to defend their country are buried. Situated at an altitude of 1,000 meters above sea level, the average temperature of Simacai town is about 15 degrees Celsius. The district of Simacai stretches across 23,000ha in Lao Cai province.

There are 11 ethnic minorities living in the district, but Mong people account for 81.4 percent (The name Simacai means “the new horse market’ in Mong.) Different from what I imagined an out-of-the-way town might look like, Simacai town is rather spacious and tidy. The town centre is positively stately with modern governmental and administrative buildings leaning against the mountain backdrop.

Tuesday, October 11, 2011

Frustrations of a single white female in Hanoi Vietnam

Carolyn Shine got so fed up with being rejected by Vietnamese men, she wrote a book about it

Romancing the Hanoian male? Tricky -- for a female Westerner, anyway. I’ve seen Western gays have more luck.

And I feel compelled to point out, for vanity’s sake, I’d had solid success with most other sorts of male when I turned up in Vietnam expecting to acquire a special friend in no time.

The cruelty of the whole thing is that Vietnamese males lit up my visual cortex like candy, yet after 18 months in the country I was forced to accept the truth: my cross-cultural ambition was doomed to fail.

Western women of all ages go to countries like Indonesia and Nepal to team up with local boys in a trice. I know of several instances of women having a fling with a local in next-door Laos, and any number of cases of women finding themselves a Japanese partner.

But while I’m aware of a handful of Western women who have married Vietnamese men, on balance there are very few such cases.

The fact is, in general, Asian women are more appealing to Western men than Asian men are to Western women.

Saturday, October 8, 2011

Entry for the Contest "Indochina in your eyes"!

South to North Vietnam : An Unforgettable Experience

Hitting the road to Vietnam, I didn’t know what to expect; the journey began in Southern Vietnam in Ho Chi Min City, formerly known as Saigon. We started off exploring the city, with our pro globalization cyclo driver kept saying "Got mouth to eat, Got no mouth to speak".

We then traveled to Cao Dai temple, in which the temple was like going through some mad alice in wonderland dream. The architecture was like nothing I have ever seen before, it was modern with lots of exquisite art and detail everywhere. The religion is a combination of teachings from Buddhism, Hinduism, Taoism, Confucianism, Christianity, Islam and other religions with the intention to promote peace.

Another highlight was visiting the Cu Chi Tunnels, which is an ingenious invention of seeing how resilience the Vietnamese during the American war. The Vietcong controlled under the grounds while Americans controlled the sky and land. The tunnels were tiny and it was amazing to realize that people lived there, cooked, slept, used the bathroom and even had children. The visit was quite emotional because our tour guide was quite the opposite of our cyclo driver, he was a Vietcong fighter during the war. As we watched movies of how Vietcong rewarded brave soldiers that fought the evil Americans, it took me back to realize how symbolic nationalism was during that time.

Wednesday, October 5, 2011

Vietnam: ethnic tourism among the valleys with no name

A typhoon had blown in during the day. White rain clouds lay like a boiling sea in the valleys, creating the illusion that the twisting mountain pass was an ocean road. As our vehicle turned a blind corner we came across a gaggle of motorcyclists, caped against the rain and gawping over the edge.

A Red Dao mother and child

A lorry had gone over while overtaking another lorry, trusting to a hard shoulder that had gone soft in the rain. Through the clouds we saw that the plummeting vehicle had ploughed a vertical groove of red earth in the sheer mountainside. Its roof was visible, a couple of hundred feet below.

Incredibly, the driver had just been hauled up alive and whisked off to hospital. As the men continued to stare, a woman in a beautiful and strange costume strode away from the scene as if in disgust. She was the reason we had come to this remote, mountainous region in the north of Vietnam, just 50 miles from the Chinese border.

Her distinctive look – black tunic

Entry for the Contest "Indochina in your eyes"!

Backpackin’ the Delta……..for old time’s sake!!

First things first.............. The writer is a 60 year old Aussie, who has in the past, "flash packed" around Vietnam with his wife, this time, traveling solo, and having one last go at backpacking. It's been a very long time. So, cheap accommodation, cheap food, cheap grog and cheap transport. Leave the credit card at home and travel on the bones of my rrrrr's.............a real test of my resolve, for old time’s sake !

Nothing’s changed……………..Saigon's still hot, noisy, hot, crowded, hot, and full of rats with gold teeth. Plus….. it’s still bloody hot! I squibbed on the public bus system from the airport and opted for a taxi. Not a great start when trying to travel cheap, but I figured $6 was not going to break me !!

First night at Long’s guesthouse in district 1, $15 US/night, your own bathroom and air-conditionings a bonus. With help from Mrs Long I managed to buy a sim card for my phone and change some $AU into Dong. So, armed with a phone that worked and a wheelbarrow full of was out into the night.

I hadn’t walked more than 50 meters and they were onto me like blowfly's on a cow pat………….. Ladies, well sort of ladies. I probably wouldn’t have taken one home for a Sunday roast with the family, but I’m sure their mothers probably still love them. The first to approach what is obviously a potential client, i.e. a western man walking without a female partner, and in her eyes, desperate for the carnal delights that she has to offer, was, and these are her words, not mine, a bootifool girl........... My words…"well past her use by date"….if you’ll pardon the pun. I’d reckon somewhere around the 60 mark, and that’s being kind. She informed me that $20 US would satisfy every dream I had ever had and that I would be sure to be looking for her “nex night”. " I vely good" she said “ you look me nex night…I vely vely good, I love you long time” was the last I heard from her that night. At least 6 – 8 more girls and 2 young guy’s masquerading as women tried it on, and all got the short shift quick smart.

Entry for the Contest "Indochina in your eyes"!

Pol Pot’s Clippers

Holidays can be really hard work, so after a fairly busy week and a big day at the temples I am about ready for a day off to relax, do the laundry and get a haircut. Around the corner we find a laundry and drop the washing in making sure we settle on a price which was fair at $2 a kilo. Just down the road is a barber shop with an old dude cutting hair and I think this is the spot for me, it should be nice and cheap. I walk in and do the sign language for a head and face clip and asking the old barber how much? He just smiles and gently pushes me towards the chair, I ask again how much and he just smiles and wraps the apron around my neck. I look at this man in the barber mirror and see the wise old smile on his face and get the distinct feeling that this man understands more than he makes out and I am going to get fully stitched up here. He pulls this old pair of hand operated clippers out of a drawer and proceeds to start clipping my hair clip, clip, clip, bit by bit. These clippers are that old I am sure he must have cut Pol Pot’s hair with them 40 years ago. After about an hour the clip is finally finished, he brushes me off, unwraps me and as I stand up he sticks his hand out and says with a smile“ that’ll be $10 thank you” in perfectly good English.

Jo and the kids who have been sitting in the shop the whole time are laughing their heads off. We all know that I have just paid this wily old barber 2 days wages for a 1 hour haircut. But I figure because I haven’t paid for a haircut in over 15 years I am in front anyway. I also say that hair is overrated at the best of times, if your not paying for a haircut or shampoo or something you’ve gotta wash it, comb it, brush it and look at it in the mirror. So obviously hair is a complete waste of time and money.

Jo and the kids decide that they want to explore Siem Reab by pushbike on our last full day in town so we organise some bikes through the hotel and they are set to go. Now I like 2 wheels but they must have a motor between them so I do some research and come up with a Honda XR 250 for $25 a day hire, I pick up a map which looks like it has pretty good detail and plan a day ride to the north.

Friday, September 30, 2011

Kayak Tourism in Vietnam

According to the Central Intelligence Agency's 2011 World Fact Book, Vietnam ranks seventh in the world in terms of navigable rivers, canals and inland bodies of water. When you compare the size of most of the countries above it on the list, which includes the United States, Russia and China, you realize how much water Vietnam has per square mile. All this water means plenty of kayaking opportunities, but there are just a handful of established kayak tourism points in Vietnam.

Just over 100 miles east of Hanoi in northern Vietnam, Halong Bay is famous for its dramatic

Friday, September 23, 2011

Four seasons in Sapa, Vietnam

The four seasons are distinctly felt in Sa Pa, Vietnam when nature changes her costume.

The four seasons are distinctly felt in Sa Pa when Nature changes her costume. Spring in the season of pear, peach and plum flowers. Summer comes blooming with Gladioli, Pancies, Dahlias, Sun-flowers and numerous temperate fruits. Autumn is the time for perfume mushrooms, woodears and plenty of specious medicinal plants such as Black Ginseng, Amomum,Cinnamon, Anise etc.

The sky is the vividly brightened with golden sun-rays and playful white clouds which seem to land on the ground, over the heads of people or on tops of trees. In Winter, the forest is almost whitened with snow, making the landscapes look more attractive.

But Summer is said to be the most charming season in the year. It is extremely interesting to experience all the four seasons within a summer day time: spring in the morning, summer at noon, autumn in the afternoon and winter in the evening and at night.

Sa Pa, with its surprisingly wonderful and orginal nature, the sky, the air, the clouds, the flowers and fruits there is openly inviting…

Source: Sapabeauty

Recommended Tour By Active Travel Asia: Sapa Trekking & Homestay

Night 1: Night train to Lao Cai

Transfer from your hotel to Hanoi Railway Station for the night train to Lao Cai. Overnight in AC soft sleeper cabin.

Tuesday, September 20, 2011

Bike Tour of Vietnam

On the first day of our bike tour of Vietnam, we took them for a spin to brave the chaotic traffic of Hanoi.  It was pretty intense riding alongside dozens of motor bikes and cars and other bicycles. Plus the inhaling of constant exhaust fumes kinda makes you feel like you’ve smoked a pack of cigarettes by the end.  We were ready to get out into the countryside and explore.

A crowded street in Hanoi’s Old Quarter (Photo by Lisa Lubin)

Our first day of real cycling we cycled 37 km to Cuc Phuong, Vietnam’s first National Park.  Inside the park we visited the Endangered Primate Rescue Center. The center, run by German biologists and local Vietnamese, rescues and cares for primates that are often hunted and traded for eventual medicinal ingredients.  There are several different species cared for here including the long-armed Gibbon, the long-tailed Langur monkey, and Lorises—smaller nocturnal primates.

Entry for the Contest "Indochina in your eyes"!

Great Times in Cambodia

My first time arriving in Cambodia was by plane from Bangkok. Our approach into Siem reap airport was low and the scenery was stunning like something out of a 1960,s movie. The first thing people think of Siem reap is Angkor Wat ruins which every time you see, you see something different and it is a truly spiritual experience not to be missed. Photographers be ready!

Another must Do is a cycle trip around the ruins take the day to ride along at your own pace ensure you take water with you .If the heat gets to you at the end of the trip most tuktuks will take you and your bike back to the guesthouse.  Most guesthouses for which there are many to choose from in all price ranges will provide bike hire for the day at good prices or even free, however check your tyres before setting out!

The river running through Siem reap is also a great area to walk into town and to the main market, restaurants and bars. There is a wide variety of all facilities in the centre of town and it is a great place to sit and watch the world go by. Do try the local Khmer food it really is fantastic with a true mix of flavors and spices try a *Amok*
A classic Khmer dish coconut fish steamed in banana leaves.

To travel overland into Cambodia must be the best and most interesting way to experience Cambodia if you have time. After taking the train from Hanoi South to Ho Chi Minh which is a fantastic way to see the true countryside of Vietnam plus get on and off the clickety clack train as you want to see the village’s enroute is a worthwhile trip.

The Mekong River border crossing is near the Vietnamese city of Chau Doc where you can then get the boat to Phnom Penh (5hours approx or longer on slow boat) again the scenery especially at the border on the river is stunning. After a hot and long boat trip the sight of Phnom Penh is much appreciated by all on board.

Phnom Penh being the capital is much bigger than and not as quaint as Siem Reap and again has all the attractions of bars, restaurants and facilities in the centre.

The alternative Boat route is from Siem Reap to Phnom Penh on the Tonle Sap River which is fed by the Mekong. Durations of trip depend very much on the seasons. The lake sits only about 15 km south of Siem Reap town. If you take the ferry between Phnom Penh and Siem Reap you will cross the lake and dock at the village of Chong Khneas. Attention this is a very big lake like being on open water so if you are not too good on boats be prepared. Also plenty of sunscreen and a hat as you may end up on top of the boats roof.

The style of Cambodia is very much “Old French” building style with the added Khmer culture which is a delightful Indochina mixture set in a tropical environment and climate.

During the stay I spent time at an orphanage in Phnom Penh where I sponsored 2 kids; there are many of these organizations throughout Cambodia where your help and time is appreciated. A lot of these kids have next to nothing but give so much and always with a smile and a hug for teacher. One tip though is don’t just hand over a few dollars to someone find out from the organization what do they really need and then go and buy it for them like that you ensure they are getting something of use and the money is spent in the good way.

Other key towns to see in Cambodia are:

Battambang:  Town is at the heart of Cambodia's rice bowl, and even though it is the country's second biggest town, it still has a very local, un-touristic atmosphere.

Sihanoukville: Was previously a port town it is the only coastal resort area of Cambodia and has a very basic feel about it. Convenient if travelling onward to Koh Kong on the west coast back into Thailand.

By Gail Thomas 

For more information about the contest, please access ATA Writing Competition 2011

Friday, September 16, 2011

RTC together with TSG & AFEO organizes the Ha Noi Green Walk

RTC (Responsible Travel Club of Vietnam)  is teaming up with TSG & AFEO to do another the Green Event of the year: Hanoi Green Walk this year 2011. The event is aimed at promoting sustainable tourism in the capital city, raising community awareness of the environmental issues, promoting the World Carfree Day and connecting people within a friendly environment.


Conducted in the form of a green walking tour with all activities scheduled for the morning, participants are required to get to the starting point by environmentally friendly means of transport, walking, cycling or taking public bus. There will be two hours of pleasant walk through many selected vibrant streets of Hanoi with new friends exploring life, tasting foods, learning local architecture and traditional crafts, having fun shopping, taking photos and more. The walk finishes at a park with team presentations on assigned subjects, team building activities, music performances by participants coupled with soft drink and snacks…

We believe familiar things would turn out to be fresh and amazingly interesting as you walk and we are hopeful of a day we can truly live the city life without cars and motorbikes.

Date: Sunday, Sep, 25th, 2011
Time: From 07h00 – 12h45
Start/finish: Children Palace/Bach Thao Park
Details: Please find the attached flyer
Other information: To be sent in the coming days

For registration, please send email to:
Or you can register online here by using this link to the site of Travel Social Group:

The Organizers
RTC – Responsible Travel Club

TSG – Travel Social Group
AFEO – Actions for Environment Organization

Tuesday, September 6, 2011

A sweet little mystery in the highlands

If you set off from Hanoi in the early morning, you can be in another world by the afternoon – Dong Van town sits over 1,000 metres above sea level in a green valley surrounded by rocky mountain ranges in the awe-inspiring province of Ha Giang, one of the most spectacular rural destinations in all of Southeast Asia – truly, a far cry from the bewildering heat and hectic streets of Hanoi at the height of summer.

The town is the capital of Dong Van district, one of four districts surrounding the Dong Van Geopark, a karst plateau featuring large tracts of limestone with many fossils of creatures that walked the earth 400 to 600 million years ago.

The plateau’s average elevation is 1,400-1,600m above sea level. The route up the mountains to the town is precipitous and slow-going, but the views of the imposing rocky mountain ranges make the trip a constant pleasure.

Near Dong Van town we came across a group of H’Mong people preparing for a local music contest that was to be held in the morning. Some of them were playing a khen (pan-pipe) and a ken la (leaf-horn) while others were harmonizing their sweet voices.

Thursday, September 1, 2011

A very good trip with Active Travel Asia

Our first trip with Active travel was the Sapa valley trek homestay with ecolodge option. Everything was handled very professionally for this by Active Travel Asia.

We were picked up by an agent at our hotel exactly on time and they actually escorted us right onto our train for our night trip to Lao Cai. The train station at Hanoi can be somewhat intimidating and getting tickets can be frustrating so this was really appreciated.

Sapa, Vietnam
Our guide and driver were waiting for us when we arrived in Lao Cai. They drove us to Sapa where we had breakfast and then our guide, Duc, took us on a walking tour around Sapa. Duc spoke very good English and he was very informative and receptive to all of our questions and needs. We then did a short drive to a trailhead and our trek began

Thursday, August 25, 2011

ACTIVETRAVEL ASIA announced to launch travel writing contest 2011 for travelers from across the world

The participants will have a chance to win special out-door trips by sharing their best holiday experiences in Indochina (Vietnam, Laos & Cambodia).

ACTIVETRAVEL ASIA, a leading adventure tour operator in Indochina, has launched a travel writing contest 2011 for travelers from across the world.

The participants will have a chance to win special out-door trips by sharing their best holiday experiences in Indochina (Vietnam, Laos & Cambodia)

The participants are encouraged to write about their interesting stories, nice memories or any impressive experiences that made the holidays to be the time of their lives.

The winner will receive a trip for 2 persons costing from $700-->$1000 depend on their selections of out door activities including Trekking, Cycling, Motorcycling, Kayaking in wide areas of Indochina.

The entries can be made by email to in 350 - 1000 words and must be original works of the participants along with the entrant’s name, e-mail and telephone number by 20th October 2011.

All eligible entries will be posted on ATA’s facebook page and 2 travel news sites Activetravel Magazines & Vietnam Adventure News. The winner is the entry that has the amount of LIKE ranked highest on facebook page plus on 2 travel news sites.


The winner will receive the prize based on their selection of out door activities such as: Kayaking Halong Bay, Motorcycling Ho Chi Minh Trail, Trekking Luang Prabang, Cycling Angkor Wat…
These tours are designed especially for 2 persons, costing from $700 - $1000. This must be a memorizable exploration & real experience of lifetime

3 incentive prizes are also available for 3 entries ranked following the winner. The prize is a city tour with the private tour guide for 2 people plus some valuable extra.

For full details of information, please visit: The ATA Travel WritingCompetition 2011

Tuesday, August 9, 2011

Vietnam Cat Tien National Park Recognized Global Biosphere Reserve

On 30 June 2011, the United Nations added 18 new sites to its global list of biosphere reserves, bringing the total to 581 in 114 different countries, the UN Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) reported.

Cat Tien is the new name of the former Dong Nai Biosphere Reserve in Viet Nam, which was designated in 2001. Two new core zones have been added to the site, bringing its total area to 966,563 hectares. Cat Tien National Park covers the area of Dong Nai, Lam Dong and Binh Phuoc Provinces in southern Vietnam. Cat Tien National Park is 15km north of Ho Chi Minh City (or Saigon).

Biosphere reserves are places recognized by MAB (The International Coordinating Council of UNESCO’s Man and the Biosphere Programme ) where local communities are actively involved in governance and management, research, education, training and monitoring at the service of both socio-economic development and biodiversity conservation. They are thus sites for experimenting with and learning about sustainable development.

New caves discovered at Phong Nha-Ke Bang

Two new caves have been discovered at the UNESCO world heritage site, the Phong Nha- Ke Bang National Park in the central province of Quang Binh, said well-known cave explore Ho Khanh on Thursday.

The "97" cave

Khanh, who found the caves and named them “97” and “98,” which are the years he got lost in the deep forest of the national park in an exploration trip and had a chance to explore the geological formations there, said “97” is 765 m long and “98” is 750 m long and both are at least 60 m high.

Different from most caves of the park that have rough floors, the floors of these newly found caves are flat like a man-made structure.

Khanh said the two caves are located in the Doong area, which is home to Son Doong, the world’s largest cave discovered in 2009 also by Ho Khanh and a team of British cave explorers from the British Caving Association.

Before the discovery of Son Doong Cave, Phong Nha-Ke Bang held several world cave records such as the longest underground river and the largest caverns and passageways.

The "98" cave
Source: baomoi