Thursday, January 24, 2013

6 Tips for Riding Safely A Motorbike In Vietnam

Riding a motorbike in Vietnam (or any vehicle in South East Asia for that matter!) is very different to what you may be used back at home. The first thing you should know is that while road rules do exist, when on the road they cease to exist-if you get my drift! Forget trying to indicate, using your mirrors or going the speed limit-it just doesn't happen. At first this may take some getting used to but after a while it works. So many times we would see Vietnamese on their Moto’s pulling out of a road onto a major highway without even looking! It’s just a given that everyone moves around them or out of their way. Now while I’m not saying you should never look when pulling out (a lot of things you’ll still do instinctively) but rather you need to flex your rules to how the Vietnamese do things. For example, while Anthony was riding, if we needed to cross lanes, merge, turn or even slow down I would just stick my hand out (either left or right depending which way) and give it a little shake. Who needs indicators when you have a good old hand wiggle! The thing is, it worked. People knew where we were trying to go. It might seem a little awkward at first, trying to adapt but after a while their driving becomes second nature.

2. Keep Up With The Flow Of Traffic
This is probably one of the most important things you can do whilst on a bike. When you first get on, you make feel like you want to go slow (because it feels safer) but in all honesty, doing that will get you into an accident. In larger cities-because there are so many motorbikes-there is an ebb and flow to the traffic. Keeping up with this so called ‘pulse’ makes it easier to move on the road. If you’re travelling on major highways, always keep to the very edge of the road and try and go about 60km/h. It’s unlikely you’ll be able to go any faster and going slower is likely to cause more accidents.

3. Have Tea Breaks
If you’re on the road for most of the day, it is important to stop for tea breaks. Along both main and country roads there are countless teahouses that will offer you an ice-cold cup of ‘tra da’ (iced tea) for less than a dollar. Many of these places will also serve a soup or a rice dish too if you’re hungry. These stops are important so you can stretch your legs and have a bit of a break from riding, but they are also a great place to meet locals, have a chat with them and get a view into their daily life.

4. Get A Decent Road Map
Now while it may sound adventurous and rather ‘Bear Grylls’ of you to travel without a map, it is smarter idea to carry one with you on your trip. Not only can you decide where you want to ride to next, you can also pick and choose places a little more easily. We bought maps (from a bookstore near Hoan Kiem Lake, Hanoi) that were detailed, had how many kms there was between towns and also had tourist sites for some places.

Road signs are actually pretty good in Vietnam and many places/roads were labelled and corresponded to our map. On the off chance they didn't  or we weren't sure where we were going, we just pulled up somewhere and asked the locals for some help. We would show them the town on the map and then they would point us in the right direction. Everyone we met was willing and happy to help (so boys, don’t worry about asking for directions!) Not only will a map help keep you safe it is also great to keep check of everywhere you visited in Vietnam.

5. Take Back Roads
When you can, take the back roads to your next stop. Not only will they allow you travel slower and be less crowded, but more often than not the sights are breathtaking and the people very friendly.
Running pretty much the entire length of the country is Highway 1. It’s busy, dusty and very fumy. However, to get to coastal towns, there are times when you’ll have to travel on this. Otherwise opt for the scenic and beautiful, Ho Chi Minh Trail. This road is very quiet, smooth and much more pleasant. Take your time and travel these smaller quieter roads, wherever possible.

6. Don’t Ride At Night For Long Periods
Riding at night is ok if you’re just going out to eat or visit markets etc, but try not to travel at night on your bike. Many of the roads have no streetlights, so at night it is more difficult to see what may be ahead of you. There are many dogs, chickens, cows they are constantly on the road, so running into one of them on the road wouldn't be pleasant or safe. Also, some Vietnamese don’t travel with their headlights on which makes them harder to see. The bottom line-don’t travel at night for a long period of time.

Now Enjoy The Freedom!

With these tips in mind, get out there are enjoy riding through Vietnam! You now have the freedom to go wherever and whenever you’d want. Stumbling upon little towns you never thought existed or meeting some of the friendliest people in the world, will surely be an amazing experience. Hopefully you’ll enjoy it just as much as we did!

Source: positiveworldtravel

Recommended Vietnam motorcycling tours by ACTIVETRAVEL ASIA

This trip offers a stunning motorcycling route with great exploration of nature and culture of northern Vietnam. The trip is organized for first time rider and easy adventure.

- Awesome scenery
- Homestay in villages
- Beautiful quiet road
- All inclusive
Details program are available here.

Wednesday, January 16, 2013

Travel tips for Tet Holiday 2013 in Vietnam

You thought you could relax with the Western new year celebrations out of the way? Think again. The whole of Vietnam is now warming up for the Tet holidays - noticed all those police stop points and fields full of lucky trees recently? 

If you're heading this way February 10 to 14 this year, consider what this will mean for your trip. The whole country will be on a go-slow for at least a week either side; Vietnam becomes gridlocked, garish and glorious and contrary to most traveler stories it is in fact an amazing time to be here. That is, so long as you're armed with a little knowledge on customs, protocol and a calm smile.


With every bus, train and plane packed with Vietnamese heading home, prices spiral and travel time at least doubles from heavy traffic. The 16-seater air-con minibuses become 40 seaters and hard seat third class on the train is like playing sardines with livestock and end of the world provisions take up every inch of floor space. Even pre-booked flights generally work on the delayed system and fellow local travelers can quite often be first-time flyers, so expect the possibilities of thigh stroking, projectile vomiting, constant texting and even motorbike helmets worn during the flight.

Tet road rules
You really shouldn't be attempting to hit the roads on your motorbike over the Tet holidays without at least five passengers, a handful of live ducks in carrier bags hanging from your handlebars and a four-foot Tet tree in a concrete pot balanced between your thighs if you want to blend in. For the rest of us, abide by the laws of the road, which I think means don’t go through a red light, wear a helmet and make sure your bike has a working horn (obviously), at least one wing mirror and working lights, or be prepared to hand over a fortune in on-the-spot fines.

It's okay, that's a lucky tree.

Booking ahead is the way to go here. Generally in big cities and tourist spots high on hotels you'll find booking sites still have last-minute deals and hotels don’t tend to close. In smaller destinations, especially ones that only have small family-run guesthouses out in the sticks, be prepared for some difficulties. As most of these places are not available to book online, you’d be wise to go through a local booking office before you arrive at your destination and get them to secure your room in advance.

Most tour companies run throughout the Tet holidays but be aware that most sights will be mobbed by local families picnicking. It’s a great time to take off for a day trip into the smaller villages on a motorbike, when celebrations are in full flow and hospitality is at an all-time high. Just take a reliable bike.

Customs/social etiquette
This is where the fun and confusion starts. On the first day of Tet it's customary to be lovely whatever is going on around you, as local belief is that your behavior on these first few days of Tet will bring goodwill, prosperity and luck for the oncoming year. So even when you get a cab at five times the going rate you will be expected to turn that frown upside down.

Tet attire
It's customary for the Vietnamese to work through a whole new wardrobe over the Tet holidays, with splashes of high octane color and questionable fashion logos ruling. Anything in the funeral colors of black or white are abandoned for lucky red and yellow. And if the Vietnamese news article I read about this year's luckiest Tet wear (the year of the snake) is right, brightly colored snake print -- slinky and tightfitting to create snake-like silhouettes for the ladies and matching snakeprint ties for the gents -- will also be a good choice. If you're invited to someone's home during the Tet holiday, stick with the black and white ban for good karma to all.

Tet music
Happy New Year by Abba. You will hear this at least frequently enough to know all the words by the end of January. By Tet you will be self-medicating to stop the song from going round and round in your head even in the few minutes it is not being played.

Almost every Vietnamese business will close for Tet (even if just for a day), as the business owner will go to the pagoda and seek advice from a fortune-telling monk on a lucky day and time to reopen a brand new (the same) shop where they will hold a ceremony for their ancestors at an altar and offer gifts to the gods on an elaborate table in the shop's entrance, while burning incense. If you enter a shop over Tet the protocol is to buy something, no matter how small, as if you don’t this brings very bad luck to the shop. Remember to smile as you buy that fabulous lacquered pig at three times the non-Tet price.

Best place for Tet celebrations
Hoi An... nobody does Tet better.

Hoi An! It’s a huge lantern festival of fun and frolics and one of the top destinations during the Tet holidays for the Vietnamese. It's crazy, fun and brilliantly confusing (if you don't like crowds though, forget it). Da Lat would be the next best, while cities Hanoi, Saigon and Da Nang are tops for parties; if you want an off the beaten path Tet travelling challenge, head for the provinces.

There are simply too many Tet treats to mention. Markets close, restaurants work on limited menus or shut up shop altogether, but the real beauty of Tet is the street food: suddenly every square inch of pavement is crammed to overflowing with stalls and plastic stools rammed with raucous locals celebrating. If there ever was a time to mingle with the locals and go away with a warm feeling inside (that will of course be the rice wine), it's over Tet.

Chuc Mung Nam Moi!
Source: travelfish

Ba Be Lake awarded national special relic status

The title of national special relic site was awarded to Ba Be Lake in the northern mountainous province of Bac Kan at a ceremony on December 29.

National Assembly Chairman Nguyen Sinh Hung attended the ceremony. Addressing the event, he affirmed that the title will help the province make the most of its natural heritage to promote socio-economic development, culture and tourism.

The lake covers an area of around 500 hectares and is located in the 10,000 hectare Ba Be National Park. It has been listed among 20 freshwater lakes in the world in need of protection.

Its new status not only brings pride, but also challenges to the locality to maintain and promote the lake’s value that will encourage socio-economic and tourism development.

At the event, a special arts programme was performed to showcase the cultural identities of the local mountainous ethnic groups.

Recommended tour:
Kayaking & Trekking Ba Be National Park 3 days: This tour offers you a fun combined adventure at easy grade. It is suitable for anyone at reasonable lever of personal fitness. The highlights of this tour include of paddling on the lake, jungle trek and homestay. For more information, please visit website.

Thursday, January 10, 2013

Shopping for love in Vietnam's mountains

Once a year, with his wife's blessing, Lau Minh Pao gets to have a guilt-free tryst with his ex.

Their rendezvous' have played out more like strolls down memory lane than salacious flings, but they are part of a treasured tradition in this mountainous corner of northern Vietnam that may challenge some more linear concepts of love.

"In the past, we were lovers, but we couldn't get married because we were far apart," Pao simply as he waited for his date on a dark night in the village of Khau Vai in Ha Giang province.

Ethnic Hmong wait for their lovers

Now when they meet, he said, "we pour our hearts out about the time when we were in love." They are not alone.

For two days each year, on the 26th and 27th of the third month of the lunar calendar, the tiny village of Khau Vai, strung along a saddle in the lush hills near China, is transformed into a "love market."

For nearly a hundred years, the Khau Vai love market (Ha Giang province) as been known as a lovers' rendezvous. This is no ordinary farmer's market. Flirting, courting and, hopefully, canoodling are the order of the day. Hundreds of members of Giay, Nung, Tay, Dzao, San Chi, Lo Lo and Hmong hill tribes trek in from across the mountainous districts of the Dong Van Plateau and as far away as nearby Cao Bang province, some travel days to attend 

Ethnic San Chi girls giggle while attending the "love market" in Khau Vai village, Ha Giang province, Vietnam

Legend has it the market dates back to 1919. Legend has it an ethnic Giay girl from Ha Giang province fell in love with an ethnic Nung boy from the neighboring province of Cao Bang.The girl was so beautiful that her tribe did not want to let her marry a man from another tribe and a bloody conflict ensued between the two tribes. Watching tragedy unfold before them, the two lovers sorrowfully decided to part ways to avoid further bloodshed and to restore peace.

But to keep their love alive they made a secret pact to meet once a year on the 27th day of the third lunar month in Khau Vai. Thereafter, the hill village became known as a meeting place for all of those in love. 

Young, dreamy singles trek to Khau Vai in hopes of finding a first love. Wayward lovers come to escape their families. Older generations might hope to bump into an old flame. Married men and women often return to the love market to rendezvous with former lovers, and they are allowed to meet again without jealousy from their spouses during this one event of the year. 

Tuesday, January 8, 2013

Sapa Vietnam, great trekking, the way others don’t

To get rid off an usual path, travelers will be experienced the fantastic feeling with an astonishing landscape throughout a challenge trail and actively relishing the quintessential of the colorful mosaic of ethnic minorities along the adventure activities organized by ACTIVETRAVEL ASIA.

Undeniable that Sapa, located at North West of Vietnam, having an exotic attraction with the majestic splendor scenery, a notable France architect, and the unique custom. Specially, the mountainous terrain which contributed for this place become more well- known with the highest peak Indochina (approximately 3143m above sea level) and challenge trail, enticed thousand adventurers every year come to explore its inhospitable geography and the hill tribal culture .

Different to be unique
Not the same as usual trekking tour in Sapa, the travelers will obtain more challenger than ever. This requires travelers have a feat of endurance, endeavor to conquer the Fansipan in different way from Ben Den to the roof of Indochina. The victory will be more exciting and meaningful as the result of taking challenge.

Give more to gain more
To stand of the top of the Indochina Mountain, travelers have to spend a lot of effort, time. However, along this trip, trekking through Sin Chai B, Thanh Phu village, Nam Sai, Nam Sai valley… adventures not only gain the surreal emotion, witnessing the extraordinary scenery like water buffalo rest in the terraced fields or wild flowers decorate at remote waterfall.

Moreover, Sapa home to Hmong, Red Dzao and Tay ethnic minorities.      Along the trip travelers will have a chance to live with indigenous people and experiencing a daily routine of ethnic minorities who are warm, exceeding friendly. 

The ethnic minorities’ house always opens to welcome all travelers to stay with us. This house has a distinctive architectural style as travelers can live under the thatched- roof stilt house, on the split- bamboo floor.

Specially, each day travelers immerse in the amazing dessert, the handmade rice or corn wine and traditional meal which is cooked over a wood fire. In addition, if travelers are interesting in ethnic minorities culinary, the host is always willing to teach how to cook with the special ingredient.

Recommended tour by ACTIVETRAVEL ASIA

Different Sapa - Different Trek: This trip gives you the best Sapa has to offer but not in the normal way. The traditional treks start in Sapa and finish back in Sapa. This special trek starts in Ben Den and finishes in Sapa. The trek is tougher but not less enjoyable since you trek through the hills and valleys of the Sapa region, discovering several different minorities along the way. You will experience overnight accommodation in the hospitable villages of Dzay, Tay and Dzao ethnic minorities. The apparent hardships are worth it though as we walk through some of the most spectacular scenery that Vietnam has to offer and experience unique villages culture. 

Travel Facts:
 ACTIVETRAVEL ASIA (ATA) offers a wide selection of Vietnam, Laos, Cambodia adventure tours, including hiking and trekking, biking, motorcycling, kayaking, overland touring and family travel packages. For more information, please contact us for tailoring your very own tour via:
Hotline: +84 902 24 3637
Tel: +84-43-633-9576
Address: Level 2, No 17/167, Tay Son Street, Dong Da district, Hanoi, Vietnam.

Wednesday, January 2, 2013

Vietnam one of attractive destinations for tourists in 2013.

Vietnam ranked second in the list of attractive destinations for foreign tourists in 2013, according to a recent survey conducted by the United States Tour Operators Association (USTOA).

                                                                          Ha Long Bay

The results were announced at the USTOA’s annual conference in Hawaii on December 25.

Myanmar, Vietnam, and India are three most-favoured destinations, followed by Peru, Cambodia, Brazil, China, Colombia, Costa Rica, and Ecuador.

In the USTOA’s 2012 survey, Vietnam tops India, Ecuador, and China in the list of emerging tourist attractions.

Since the beginning of this year, Vietnam has welcomed more than 6.6 million foreign visitors, up 9.6 percent over last year.

The USTOA consists of major travel agents and tourism service providers around the globe.