Monday, July 30, 2012

Bac Ha “Little Sapa” in the North


Sapa is the gateway to North West Vietnam with dramatic scenery, plenty of accommodation, cafes, pizza bars and souvenir shops. But if you’re more interested in the less touristy side of the highland region, head to the small town of Bac Ha, an ideal location for remote treks and colourful weekly markets.

Flower H’mong come to trade at Bac Ha Markets

Wednesday, July 25, 2012

Floating markets – The essence of the Mekong Delta

 The Mekong Delta is renowned for its floating markets which are typical of the Phung Hiep and Cai Be districts.

On arriving in the Delta, you can travel by motorised boat to visit the Cai Be floating market, and experience the colourful trade of goods between their vessels.

The farmers from around the region bring their goods, mostly consisting of fruit and vegetables, to the markets to sell them to local dealers. These dealers then distribute the products to shops in the neighbouring towns and to wholesale dealers from larger towns.


As the adjacent image indicates, wholesalers trade from the larger boats by hanging their produce from a pole. This way, buyers on the smaller boats can easily see where they have to go to purchase the goods they need. In this example we see a vegetable market.

On the floating markets you not only find people buying and selling fresh produce, but you will also find floating restaurants, bars, gas stations, and many other stores. Canals in the area are simply the easiest and fastest means of transportation.

The biggest floating market in the Mekong Delta is the busy market of Phung Hiep. The market opens from 4 am through to 11 am. To visit the floating market you should stay in the Mekong Delta area, wake up early and take one of the first boats in the morning.


On a typical day, you might see coconuts, mangoes, a heap of turtles, a box of snakes or even a pot-bellied pig being paddled from a riverside village to be haggled over in the floating market. By sunrise, the waterways are clogged with the sampans of buyers and sellers. Bamboo poles hoisting various goods are numerous. Shoppers come by land and water, and as they stumble from boat to boat, they often interrupt their shopping to enjoy bowls of noodles, on open fires in the special ‘fast food’ sampans.

Cai Be, one of many well-known floating markets in the western region of southern Vietnam was formed in the Nguyen Dynasty in the 19th century. The market is always busy, bearing all the characteristics of the locals’ life in the western region. All the goods are transported to the market by rafts and boats.


The floating market lies in the Tien river, next to the three provinces of Tien Giang, Vinh Long and Ben Tre. The market is divided into two parts: buying and selling. Approximately 400 to 500 boats filled with fruits, vegetables, and other products are anchored along the banks of the river. Again, the merchandise sold in each boat is hung on a pole in front of the boat to attract customers. From the floating market, goods are shifted for selling at inland markets or small boats take them for delivery along canals in the Plain of Reeds.

From 3 am, rafts and boats are crowded because Cai Be is one of the biggest wholesale markets in the region. Traders live on the river and many link friends and family with boats over generations, not unlike a mobile home. On each boat, goods are hung on poles that are called dialectically “cay beo”. Hundreds of such poles point sky wards. Boats also operate like “taxis,” which are very convenient for tourists. Along the criss crossing canals, people in the Plain of Reeds take not only goods of each region to the Cai Be market but also their unique cultural characteristics, creating such a beautiful river collage.

Friday, July 20, 2012

Terrace rice fields in Northern Viet Nam

It is the high time many tourist booking us package tour to Northern Viet Nam just for taking photo of golden terraced rice fields here. It just about 250 kilometres from Hanoi and so most of people prefer motocycle coming here. 

The journey to the northern mountainous province of Yen Bai is to explore boundless golden terraced rice fields, resembling a staircase to the sky, in Mu Cang Chai district which used to be an opium poppy hub. The yellow steps to the sky, and the hospitable ethnic people, who have flattened hills to grow rice and construct irrigation systems on the mountain tops, are unforgettable images.


The first stop in Yen Bai is Tu Le town, Van Chan district, Tu Le's beauty is shown through lonely fields on mountain sides, small wooden houses appearing vaguely at different heights, boundless fields surrounded by the three mountains of Khau Pha, Khau Song and Khau Tan, and calm big

Thursday, July 19, 2012

Have you known Ma Pi Leng Pass?

Ma Pi Leng Pass, located between Meo Vac Commune and Dong Van plateau in Ha Giang province. It is a 15-kilometer canyon road above the Nho Que River, which weaves its way like a silver ribbon through limestone ravines.It is also named Cong Troi (Heaven's Gate), is the best place for tourists in Vietnam travel to enjoy a panoramic view of the valley below, particularly on a late afternoon when you can see a beautiful sunset overlooking the river.



Ma Pi Leng is at the height of nearly 2,000m above sea level. The construction of Ma Pi Leng (which takes the form of a crouching horse) began in the 1960’s, and was said to be done almost entirely by the H’mong people.In the beginning, to accomplish their tasks, construction workers had to carry explosives and move along the sides of the mountain by securing themselves to ropes.The earliest passes were wide enough only for horses pulling carriages and people to walk through. It wasn’t until much later that the authorities allowed the widening of 
these passes.

Tuesday, July 17, 2012

The Colorful Lantern Town of Hoi An, Vietnam

Rows of shop houses spotting Chinese tiled roofs and yellow stained walls line the narrow alleys. Red lanterns hang from rusty ceilings, while creepy lalang tree branches hang from above. Red-and-green rickshaws stand alongside the traditional five-foot way and local ladies wearing conical straw hats amble along the streets balancing baskets of fruits on their shoulders. By the river banks, old men float on their crumbled wooden boats, waiting for the catch of their day.

This is Hoi An, an ancient city oozing old world charm, offering time travel for the curious ones. Set along the Thu Bon River, Hoi An was an international trading port back in the 17th century – Chinese, Japanese and European traders used to converge here, their traces now seen from the eclectic architecture in the Old Town. In the 18th century, Hoi An was considered to be the best destination for trading in all of Southeast Asia. Japanese believed the heart of all of Asia, referring to the dragon, lay beneath the earth of the city. Thanks to appropriate measures, the architectural styles in Hoi An have been extremely well preserved, thereby earning the town  UNESCO World Heritage status.


Once here, it’s easy to see why. Hoi An’s beauty is obvious: from the 17th century edifices to the hectic market and calm river banks, the city has an inimitable flair. Naturally it has attracted hordes of tourists, but thankfully it has still retained a sense of identity. Over the past few days, we’ve been wandering through its Buddhist pagodas, shrines, alleys and walkways. Here’s a look at some of our favorite

Wednesday, July 11, 2012

Destination Must-See in Vietnam

VietNamNet Bridge – globalgrasshopper, a popular site for international tourists, has listed the top ten must-see destinations in Vietnam.

1. Son Tra peninsula

Son Tra Peninsula, about 10km from the center of Da Nang City to the north-east, is a special gift of the god to Da nang. It is an ideal place for tourists in Vietnam travel to the city, to get away for the day and enjoy the real feeling of a different Vietnam.


Son Tra looks like a mushroom of which the cap is Son Tra Mountain and stalk is a beautiful sandy beach that affords an ideal area for bathing, swimming, playing sports and fishing.

Son Tra acts as a giant screen protecting Da Nang from storms and cyclones coming from the sea. Son Tra is put under the national protected forest regulation since it is a natural preservation area.

The peninsula is famous for its plentiful plants and fauna as well as the attractive scenery. It is said that fairies used to come here for singing, dancing and playing chess so Son Tra is also called Tien Sa. On this mountain, there still remain more than 30km² of natural forests, nearly 300 types of plants and several hundred kinds of fauna, including rare animal. From the top of the mountain, you can see the overall view of Da Nang City, Marble Mountains, Ba Na – Mount Chua.

Suoi Da (Stone Stream) lies by the side of the foot of the mountain, fine sandy surfaces run round the peninsula, several breaks of waves are running steadily up and down and washing up on the stones heaped up around the seaside. All are attractive spots for tourists. It is so majestic and it is so romantic, it is so wide and it is really beautiful.

2. Royal tombs of Nguyen dynasty
The Nguyen Dynasty (1802-1945) is the last of the Vietnamese dynasties. In total, there were 13 emperors, only seven of which had tombs however: Gia Long, Minh Mang, Thieu Tri, Tu Duc, Duc Duc, Dong Khanh and Khai Dinh.

King Khai Dinh tomb is considered the most beautiful

The seven imperial tombs are located in a hilly region southwest of the Citadel. The tombs of Minh Mang, Tu Duc, Dong Khanh and Khai Dinh belong to the major touristic destinations in Hue.

Each of the tombs was constructed during the reign of the emperor it was named after. All the tombs are equipped with statues and monuments in perfect Feng Shui harmony to create a natural setting, in the architecture of which the respective emperor's philosophical tendencies are often reflected.

The general elements incorporated in all the tombs are: walls, triple gate (Tam Quan Gate), Salutation Court, Stele House, temples, lakes and ponds, pavilions, gardens, and finally the tomb.

3. Phu Quoc Island

Phu Quoc is part of the southern province of Kien Giang province. The island is 50 km long (from north to south) and 25 km wide (from east to west at its widest part).
Surrounded by more than 40 km of white beaches decorated with coconut palms, Phu Quoc is Vietnam’s largest island. Its western coastline is sparsely populated while the interior is largely covered with jungle and mainly deserted.


A stay on Phu Quoc Island would not be complete without visiting one of the factories producing nuoc mam (fish sauce), one of the most popular ingredients of the Vietnamese cooking as well as one of the pearl farms with panels describing the formation of pearls and shops selling pearl jewelry.

The island has a unique species of dogs, the Phu Quoc ridgeback, which has a ridge of hair that runs along its back in the opposite direction to the rest of the coat. Much of this island’s nature is still protected. Around 70 percent of the island, an area of 31,422 hectares, became a national park in 2001. The rainy season on Phu Quoc is from July to November and the peak season for tourism is midwinter, when the sky is blue and the sea is calm.

4. The Mekong Delta

The Mekong Delta is the region in southwestern Vietnam where the Mekong River approaches and empties into the sea through a network of distributaries. The Mekong delta region encompasses a large portion of southwestern Vietnam of 39,000 square kilometers. The size of the area covered by water depends on the season.

Coming to Mekong delta, visitors will discover the daily life of local people and diverse landscapes.

The Mekong Delta has recently been dubbed as a 'biological treasure trove.' Over 10,000 new species have been discovered in previously unexplored areas of Mekong Delta.

The Mekong Delta, as a region, lies immediately to the west of Ho Chi Minh City, roughly forming a triangle stretching from My Tho in the east to Chau Doc and Ha Tien in the northwest, down to Ca Mau and the East Sea at the southernmost tip of Vietnam.

The Mekong Delta region of Vietnam displays a variety of physical landscapes, ranging from mountains and highlands to the north and west to broad, flat flood plains in the south. This diversity of terrain was largely the product of tectonic uplift and folding brought about by the collision of the Indian and Eurasian tectonic plates about 50 million years ago. The soil of the lower Delta consists mainly of sediment from the Mekong and its tributaries, deposited over thousands of years as the river changed its course due to the flatness of the low-lying terrain.

5. Tram Ton Pass (Heaven Gate)

Tram Ton Pass is Vietnam’s highest mountain pass. On a clear day, the views are spectacular. Don’t be deterred by mist in Sapa. Conditions on the pass are frequently different to those in town. The temperature can also rise quite a bit on the pass as you break away from the cooler air of Sapa.  


Thach Bac or Silver waterfall is a compulsory stop for local tour groups and can be pretty busy. The falls are beautiful but probably only warrant a visit if time permits and in conjunction with a visit to Tram Ton Pass 3kms further along the road.

6. Phong Nha-Ke Bang National Park

Phong Nha-Ke Bang is a national park and UNESCO World Heritage Site in the central province of Quang Binh, about 500 km south of Hanoi.


Phong Nha-Ke Bang National Park is noted for its cave and grotto systems as it is composed of 300 caves and grottos with a total length of about 70 km, of which only 20 have been surveyed by Vietnamese and British scientists; 17 of these are in located in the Phong Nha area and three in the Kẻ Bàng area.

After April 2009, total length of caves and grottoes are 126 km. Before the discovery of the Son Đoong Cave, Phong Nha held several world cave records, as it has the longest underground river, as well as the largest caverns and passageways.

The park derives it name from Phong Nha Cave, containing many fascinating rock formations, and Ke Bang forest. The plateau on which the park is situated is probably one of the finest and most distinctive examples of a complex karst landform in Southeast Asia.

This national park was listed in UNESCO's World Heritage Sites in 2003 for its geological values as defined in its criteria viii. In April 2009, the world's largest cave, was discovered by a team of British cave explorers of British Caving Association.

>> Trekking to Hang En cave
>> Zip-ling, kayaking and caving in Phong Nha - Ke Bang national park

7. Ha Long Bay

Ha Long Bay is a UNESCO World Heritage Site, and a popular travel destination, located in Quang Ninh province. The bay features thousands of limestone karsts and isles in various sizes and shapes.


Ha Long Bay has an area of around 1,553 km2, including 1,960–2,000 islets, most of which are limestone. The core of the bay has an area of 334 km2 with a high density of 775 islets. The limestone in this bay has gone through 500 million years of formation in different conditions and environments. The evolution of the karst in this bay has taken 20 million years under the impact of the tropical wet climate. The geo-diversity of the environment in the area has created biodiversity, including a tropical evergreen biosystem, oceanic and sea shore biosystem. HaLong Bay is home to 14 endemic floral species and 60 endemic faunal species.

Historical research surveys have shown the presence of prehistorical human beings in this area tens of thousands years ago. The successive ancient cultures are the Soi Nhụ culture around 18,000–7000 BC, the Cái Bèo culture 7000–5000 BC and the Hạ Long culture 5,000–3,500 years ago. Hạ Long Bay also marked important events in the history of Vietnam with many artifacts found in Bài Thơ Mout, Đầu Gỗ Cave, Bãi Cháy.

In 1994, the core zone of Ha LongBay was listed by UNESCO as a World Heritage Site according to criterion vii, and listed for a second time according to criterion viii.

>> Kayaking in Halong bay

8. One-pillar pagoda

The One Pillar Pagoda is a historic Buddhist temple in Hanoi. It is regarded alongside the Perfume Temple, as one of Vietnam's two most iconic temples.



The temple was built by Emperor Ly Thai Tong, who ruled from 1028 to 1054. According to the court records, the king was childless and dreamt that he met the bodhisattva Avalokiteshvara, who handed him a baby son while seated on a lotus flower. Ly Thai Tong then married a peasant girl that he had met and she bore him a son. The emperor constructed the temple in gratitude for this in 1049, having been told by a monk named Thien Tue to build the temple, by erecting a pillar in the middle of a lotus pond, similar to the one he saw in the dream.

The temple is built of wood on a single stone pillar 1.25 m in diameter, and it is designed to resemble a lotus blossom, which is a Buddhist symbol of purity, since a lotus blossoms in a muddy pond. In 1954, the French Union forces destroyed the pagoda before withdrawing from Vietnam after the First Indochina War, It was rebuilt afterwards.

9. Da Dia Rapids

Da Dia (Stone Plate) Rapids are located in Tuy An District, Phu Yen Province, central Vietnam. With strange rock formations, foamy rapids, a fissure with multi-colored fish and a deep cave, etc. Da Dia Rapids was listed as a National Heritage Site by the Ministry of Culture and Information.


Da Dia Rapids is a baffling and beautiful riddle of nature, and set in stone for all time. It’s like a giant jigsaw, irritatingly made of the same shaped pieces, and forming a solidified structure that has proved more than just a curiosity for thousands.

The stones in Da Dia Rapids are bazan stones of dark black and light yellow. There are large stones of tons and small stones with different shapes such as round, pentagon, and polygon and so on.

In the middle of the rapids, there is a small fissure filled with rain water and sea water. In this fissure, rocks stick out at odd angles. Hence, when travel to this area, visitors can also enjoy the fresh air and refresh after a long drive.

Visiting Da Dia Rapids – you will have chance to learn about many species of marine creatures, especially jam seaweed is a type of kelp which is sticks to the stones, looking like a network and the local use it as a special food.

10. Hue ancient capital

On 11th December 1993, the UNESCO recognized the architectural ensemble of Hue as a World Cultural Heritage. That is the first time a Vietnam's city ever received such a title. The ancient capital of Hue was the capital of the Nguyen Dynasty (1802-1945), the final feudal regime of Vietnam. Situated 638 km to the south of Hanoi, only with 6777 ha in area and 280,000 in population, this historical ancient capital has become one cultural and tourism center of Vietnam and the world. 


The most amazing thing about Hue is the blend of royal-folk architecture and romantic nature. This romance is all evident in the beauty of the Huong River, Ngu Mountain, chanties and folklore songs, ancient citadels, palaces, temples, pagodas, ancient garden houses, special cuisine only found in Hue, court music and dancing, Hue chanties on the River Huong and especially in the souls of the people here.

Beautiful nature, ancient architecture, and elegant people are combined together to make Hue a heaven of poems, music and paintings, and a World Heritage that serves as an everlasting inspiration for generations of artists.

Adventure Travel on a Motorcycle



An exotic, mystical and enchanting land with remote hill tribe villages, ancient ruins, beautiful coastlines and spectacular mountain views. Now imagine how much better it is to be visiting on a motorcycle, with the wind blowing against your face, sights, sounds and smells unmuffled by rolled up, tinted windows.

You see things differently on a motorcycle. You are no longer a passive observer watching the scenes go by, instead you are in the scene. The acrid smell of burning logs tickles your nose and the cold mountain air tingles your skin. You raise your arms for the low hanging tree branches, and the leaves brush by your fingers.


An adventure travel on a motorcycle is one of the best ways to see a country, especially in countries with challenging road infrastructure. Compared to its more glamorous counterpart, it is easier for a motorcycle to edge pass potholes and bomb craters. A motorcycle also makes it easier to go off the beaten track and explore narrow dirt roads.

And there are a lot to explore in countries like Cambodia, Laos and Vietnam. The mighty Angkor Wat in Cambodia, mysterious Plain of Jars in Laos and picturesque Sapa in Vietnam are but some of the famous attractions. There are plenty of waterfalls, lakes, rivers, hot springs, caves, mountains, jungles and temples to keep the traveller occupied. These South East Asian countries are also blessed with deep history and rich culture.

Because of the cultural and language barriers, it might seem difficult enough just to visit the countries, let alone renting a motorcycle and travelling cross-country. But many foreigners, including me, have made the same trips without much problems. Sure, the motorcycles do break down and we do lose our way once in a while. But, these are just part of the adventures and you can always depend on the friendly locals, who are armed with an uncanny ability to repair motorcycles and are always willing to point you out to the right direction.

Friday, July 6, 2012

Motorcycling in Vietnam's Central Highland


There's something undeniably sexy about seeing Vietnam by motorcycle. Regardless of your level of riding experience, a trip by motorbike is doable if you're determined and patient. 

The Central Highlands route is still considered way off the beaten track; you'll encounter few English speakers and will need to brush up your Vietnamese (or acquire a phrasebook). It's a rewarding experience that can astound and inspire.


Who will you ride with: are you a solo rider, will you ride in a group, or perhaps you're more inclined to ride as a passenger with a touring company? Routes are known in advance, hotels are taken care of, and plenty of rest stops are made. If you opt to do the trip yourself, be prepared to spend more time organising logistics, but you'll have more potential for deviating from the set paths and exploring at your own pace.

In terms of route, the cities and towns in the Highlands are probably best treated as overnight