Saturday, December 20, 2014

New Year 2015 Adventure Deals with ActiveTravel Asia

ActiveTravel Asia excitedly announce the very first 2015 deals for the hottest product recently: Exotic Sapa Trek and Homestay (view tour details here). All bookings made from Christmas day, December 25, 2014 till February 08, 2015 will receive at least 10% off from our public rates.

Especially, the customers book this tour still going to get a Coupon value for US$ 50 for next time purchase of any products on our website.

Exotic Sapa Trek and Homestay lasts 4 days and takes advantage of the latest, longest Highway in Vietnam launched in Sep 2014. The most outstanding features of this program out of the other Sapa trekking tours are:
- No train and no night travel
- One way on the most modern highway & one way on old road twisting along mountain. 
- Less touristy trek trails in Sapa
- Homestay at Lavie Vu Linh at Thac Ba lake, Yen Bai.
- Amazing cheap price for 4 days trek with exotic difference.

ActiveTravel Asia’s tour guide and transfer will collect you at your hotels and start driving to Sapa in the morning. You will enjoy the speedy drive on the smooth, modern Highway Express Hanoi – Lao Cai with picturesque scenery along such as: rice terraces, Red River, corn fields ect. The Express makes you arrive in Lao cai just after 5 hours’ drive instead of 8 hours. Lunch is served at local restaurant before another 01 hour drive uphill under stunning vista to the foggy town, Sapa.

You are going to spend two day trekking deeply into remote parts of Sapa where the living villages of mostly Red Dzao and H’mong and stunning, untouched natural sceneries. 

On the third day, you start the way back to Hanoi but not via Highway but on Road 70 which was once the sole road to connect Hanoi – Lao cai. The road is still in good enough conditions but with many turns along mountains so make the journey longer. We have a break at the hidden germ for a night before going back to Hanoi next day, Lavie Vu Linh homestay in Yen Bai. 

The small, nature friendly homestay is located at the bank of Thac Ba Lake – the manmade lake since 1969 for the first hydroelectric plant in Vietnam. The karst rock formation and emerald water are made the whole area very much similar to Halong bay. Boating on the lake on clear day, you even see the roof of a church under the water surface. That church was used to be a religious house for a huge area where people were mostly Christian. Villagers here were migrated for the milestone of hydroelectric construction history of Vietnam in 1969.

To book the Exotic Sapa Trekking and Homestay and enjoy the discount, you can email your request to / call to: 84-902-24-3637 or submit a request here.

Thursday, December 11, 2014

Vietnam Railway Decreases Fares, Upgrades Infrastructure and Launches Online Booking System

Thanks to Hanoi – Lao Cai express highway opened for traffic, many passengers switch from travelling by train to by car. In recent time, to deal with competition, Vietnam Railways has implemented efforts to enhance its quality services.


From 1st December 2014, ticket prices of Hanoi – Lao Cai train started to decrease by 3% to 25%.

On 1st December 2014, Vietnam Railways Corporation officially regulated ticket fares of Hanoi – Lao Cai route for trains: SP1/2, SP3/4, SP5/6 and SP7/8, with a decrease of 3-25% depending on each category. This is the good news for travelers who tend to take a Sapa tour or a Sapa trek and expect to have Vietnam train experience. However, this decrease is not applied for the national festival days, Tet holiday and peak times in summer.

Accordingly, the lowest price of Hanoi – Lao Cai route is 145,000 VND (hard seat). To sleeper, the cheapest cost is 325,000 VND (air-conditioned berth in 6th department of 3rd floor).

The ticket of hard seat declines from 150,000 VND to 145,000 VND while one of air-conditioned hard seat falls to just 175.000 VND (the former price is 235,000 VND). The fare for air-conditioned soft seat drops from 280,000 VND to 220,000 VND (a drop of 60,000 VND, equivalent to 25%).

Specially, rates of air-conditioned sleeper of all departments also have regulations. Following this, many prices has a significant decrease of 22% to 25%. For instance, the cost of berth in 6th department 1st floor goes down from 500,000 VND to 390,000 VND; the price for sleeper in 2nd floor falls to 370.000 VND, and the fare of 3rd floor decreases from 415,000 VND to 325,000 VND (a decrease of 22%). The air-conditioned berth in 4th department of 1st and 2nd floor now has a price of 450,000 VND (the before cost was 600,000 VND, drops by 25%).

On the Tet holiday 2015, Vietnam Railways Corporation (VNR) will slash train fares by 17% compared to current fares and 20% over the previous Tet holiday. The discount will be available for the North-South and Hanoi-Lao Cai routes, starting from December 1st.

Earlier, VNR launched a big promotion program, with 30-50% discount from September 4 to December 31 for tickets booked in advance with a distance of 1,300 km or more. 


The Vietnam railways has been making an effort to upgrade their infrastructure, equipment and management. Services have been boosted to win back passengers’ trust.

On this time, Hanoi – Lao Cai railway has been upgraded and improved. As anticipation, the upgrade will be accomplished in the end of the first quarter, 2015. After upgrade, the travel time between Hanoi and Lao Cai by train will be fell by 1.5 to 2 hours. Daytime trains will be also broadened to serve diverse demands of passengers.


On 1st December 2014, VNR opened the system of online ticket booking for train through e-payment gateway issued by Smartlink Card Services Joint Stock Company and Joint Stock Commercial Bank for Foreign Trade of Vietnam (Vietcombank). Customers would not have to go to the station to buy tickets. They could do so from any internet-capable device.

Passengers can access the websites selling e-ticket:, or (all are Vietnamese) to look up information, select routes, cars, seats, proactively book tickets and make payment in sight on these websites by international as well as domestic credit cards in a flexible and convenient way. To be able to carry out online payment transaction on e-ticket selling websites of VNR, customers need to register the online payment service or payment services via Internet Banking of banks (view instruction for e-payment at here). The online system would require passengers to provide full personal information and their Identity Card numbers so as to avoid fraud.

After successful online payment, customers print their booking code and bring it along with valid identification papers then coming to the train stations to take tickets. Customers must go to train station to get tickets at least 30 minutes in advance before the train departs. The online ticket system allows passengers to reserve seats 24 hours before the train departure time.

To return train tickets purchased through online payment system, customers go to station to complete procedures and pay fee of ticket return. VNR will refund fares to bank account of customers within one work-day as from accomplishment of ticket return procedures. In circumstance of making payment, customers contact with Customer Support Center of Vietnam Railways Corporation via hotline 19006469 for help.

This is the list of 23 domestic banking cards which are accepted to make a payment for train e-ticket of Vietnam Railways via e-payment gateway supplied by Smartlink and Vietcombank, including Vietcombank, Agribank, BIDV, Techcombank, VIB, Eximbank, Military Bank, HDBank, ACB, Sacombank, VPB, Maritime Bank, NCB, Viet A Bank, GPBank, OCB, Ocean Bank, BacABank, ABBank, TPBank, LienVietPostBank, SHB, BaoVietBank. In this December, Smartlink continues coordinating with Vietinbank and DongABank to provide online payment services of train e-ticket for domestic cardholders of these two banks. Up to 15 hour of the first day selling train ticket for Tet holiday (1st December), turn-over of online payment for e-ticket carried out via Smartlink e-payment gateway was barely 4 billion VND.


Railway passengers in Hanoi and Ho Chi Minh City who have booked tickets and paid for them online can have their tickets delivered to their home for free at their request as of next month.

Accordingly, after booking and paying for their tickets at,, or, passengers in Hanoi can call 04.39423949 (the Hanoi railway station), and those in HCMC can call 08.38436528 (the HCMC railway station) to request their tickets to be delivered at home, provided that they do not live more than 7 km from the respective stations.

Those who have paid for their tickets online but did not request home delivery are required to pick up their tickets at least 30 minutes before their scheduled departure.

Friday, November 28, 2014

Top Trekking Destinations in Vietnam Captivate Travelers

Mount Fansipan, mount Hong Linh or Bach Ma national park are enchanting trekking destinations in Vietnam. 

Trekking is a long walk to remote villages, jungles, mountains and other distant regions, to discover new lands and experience new life. Three-fourths area of Vietnam is mountains and hills. With mountainous terrain, Vietnam has many ideal areas for trekking and hiking.

1. Mount Fansipan (Lao Cai province)

Conquer Fansipan

Fansipan is the highest mountain in Vietnam and Indochina peninsula, and also was dubbed as “The roof of Indochina”. It is just 9 km from Sapa to the southwest, which is a hot attraction of Vietnam travel. Therefore, if get a trekking tour to Sapa, travelers can take an adventure to this mount on the same occasion.

This peak is regarded as a top conquering target to Vietnamese backpackers. With the height of 3,143 meters, travelers can conquer this mount by three various ways. The easiest route departs from Tram Ton to the peak then come back by just this way. The time trekking lasts 2-3 days.

The second route lasts about 4 days with the road length is 19.5 km, starting from “the spine” of Hoang Lien Son mountain range. Also departing from Tram Ton, but for the return road, travelers will pass through Muong Hoa valley, Cat Cat spring and go along the eastern flank of Hoang Lien range. 

The third route is more difficult as departing from Doc Mit, Binh Lu to the top. This is an extremely dangerous route and just professional climbers with full of equipment dare to take it.

There are also other routes, which can be longer or shorter, lead climbers pass through some special scenes. Depending on hobbies, healthy and time, travelers can choose a suitable route for self.

You can consult Fansipan routes at here.

2. Apachai (Dien Bien province)

Apachai trekking 1

Apachai trekking 2

Known as the westernmost point of Vietnam, Apachai is located in Xin Thau commune, Muong Nhe district, Dien Bien province. This is the special border fork of Vietnam, Laos and China. The road is not too hard like one to Fansipan. But trekking tours to this region still make many travelers depressed.

The Apachai landmark conquest usually takes place in the day-time. Depending on weather conditions, travelers will have to spend 3 to 5 hours for ascending and descending. After a long journey of coming over blady grass hills high over a person’s head and the primeval forest, you will see firsthand this historical landmark.

Apachai landmark is at the altitude of 1,400 meters above the sea level. It was made of granite with the square platform facing three directions. Each side was engraved a country name by Vietnamese alphabet and a national emblem of three countries Vietnam, Laos and China.

3.  Ham Lon mountain (Hanoi city)

Ham Lon climbing

Located 40 km from the central Hanoi, Ham Lon mountain is an ideal weekend trekking destination for many people. With the height of 462 meters, this mount is usually opted as a practice and rehearsal place for trekking tours of Fansipan or Apachai.

Travelers normally have 2 routes to conquer this peak. With the easier one, hikers follow a flat trail, few bushes and it takes about 2 hours. The second way is appropriate to adventurous people, going along the stream. The travel time is around 4 hours.

Hikers should bring along camping tents to stay overnight on the mountain to contemplate amazingly beautiful scenery of the dawn and the sunset.

4. Pu Luong national park (Thanh Hoa province)

Trekking Pu Luong nature reserve 1

Trekking Pu Luong nature reserve 2

Pu Luong national park is a nature reserve zone located in the northwest of Thanh Hoa province. This area belongs to the locality of two districts: Quan Hoa and Ba Thuoc.

With the area of 17,662 ha, this is the largest karst forest and lowland that remains in northern Vietnam. Pu Luong has mainly three kinds of thick forest, comprising lowland and low-mountain jungles, jungles on limestone mountains, and floristic composition of bamboos and shrubs. Not only that, this national park has mount Pu Luong with the height of 1,700 meters. Trekking in Pu Luong nature reserve attracts many travelers. With 5 hours for conquering targets, climbers will gain unforgettable experiences.

5. Hong Linh mountain (Ha Tinh province)

Hong Linh trekking

As the most famous mountain in Ha Tinh, mount Hong Linh is so-called as Ngan Hong or Ru Hoong. The mountain lies between Hong Linh township and two districts of Nghi Xuan, Can Truong. This is one of a few place names carved into “Bach khoa thu cuu dinh” presently placed in Hue Imperial Citadel (9 big bronze incense burners, which have been used as an encyclopedia).

Hong Linh has many summits, from the northwest to the foot, there are included the tops of Nam Ban, Yen Xuan, Da Hong and Cot Co. Besides, the area owns numerous caves, consisting of 12 Cua cave (12-Entrance cave), Che Hai, Da Hang, Ham Rong, along with 26 rivulets flowing from the mountain. Conquering this mountains, climbers can search more about interesting legends and historical stories.

6. Bach Ma national park (Thua Thien Hue province)

Bach Ma trekking

“Da Lat of the Centre” is the name people give for Bach Ma national park. Located about 40 km from the south of Hue city, Bach Ma looks like a white horse stretching its legs out the big sea (Bach: white, Ma: horse). The area is a part of North Truong Son range (Annamite Mountains) and the centre of the forest strip stretching from Bien Dong (the East Sea) to the border of Vietnam and Laos.

Reaching the peak of Bach Ma at the altitude of 1,500 meters, travelers have to overcome a long journey with the road length of 19 km from the mountain foot. The way is meandering and steep. However, the higher the hiking up, the more spectacular the scenery is, which make travelers rejoice. Trekking duration is about 3 to 4 hours. 

Thursday, November 6, 2014

Top Often-Destinations for Vietnam Adventure Tours

With stunning scenery and impressive culture, these famous destinations in Vietnam will offer travelers exciting adventure trips.

1. Sapa

This Vietnam’s destination is too famous such an extent that it is always present in Vietnam tourism brochure. However, if just wandering around Sapa town, travelers will miss a chance to have a memorable trip. Sapa town just likes a miniature Hanoi, accompanying colorful minority groups. Thus, let’s carry a rucksack and to be ready for a trekking expedition to remote villages. Scenery, people, culture and everything will be much more fascinating. Trekking trails will lead through jungles, mountains, fields, streams, hidden soil-trails only used by locals, and rest at ethnic minority villages. Along paths, adventurers will encounter “real” minor people, who are doing life activities, or working to earn their living. Specially, contemplating firsthand Sapa rice terrace (which was estimated as one of the 30 most beautiful places in the world by Mother Nature Network), and other stunning scenes is completely different to seeing from an automobile or a hotel at a far distance. Let’s leave cozy hotel-rooms and stay overnight at a homestay to experience a distinctive life with locals: arduous, but funny and valuable.

Head off a hiking and homestay Sapa to the most marvelous valley – Muong Hoa and other villages. Visit here.

trekking Sapa

2. Mount Fansipan

With an altitude of 3,143m, Mount Fansipan is the highest in Indochina, and also dubbed as “The Roof of Indochina”. Fansipan conquest is the dream of many young Vietnamese. For ones who indulge in climbing but not too so fantastic to conquer Everest, Fansipan may be an appropriate choice.  This mount is just 9km from Sapa to the southwest. Therefore, as travel to Sapa, travelers can take a hike to this mount on the same occasion.

The journey with a long trail will be greater, more challenging, but also more beautiful views. However, once immersing in natural pureness, and enjoying the victory of setting foot on this peak, hardship seems to have disappeared. The hike will pass jungles and mountains, so travelers can easily learn local knowledge about the Vietnam’s nature and hill-tribe culture. Yes, learning from reality.

Toughness, strong will, and determination, those are the meanings Mount Fansipan conquest.

Consulting at, Conquer Mount Fansipan - Sinchai Route - A long trail with a lot of fabulous scenes.

conquer Fansipan

hiking Fansipan

3. Mai Chau

Escape from busy cities, let’s experience an extremely peaceful life in Mai Chau. This area is the home of Thai, Muong and H’mong people, which are Vietnamese ethnic minorities. Just only 135 km from Hanoi, it is so easy to reach here. Naturally, it has spectacular scenes and also the original cultural identity like descriptions on websites. But peace is the most impressive. Peace in just landscape: rice terraces, tea plantations, streams. Peace in just the life of locals. Residents here work hard on fields, on forests, on weaving looms…

Mai Chau’s culture is gentle and lyrical. The rhythm of life is also slow and tranquil. By trek or bike around villages, travelers will feel these. Choosing less touristy roads and villages for the itinerary, it will be much more interesting.

If opt homestay, travelers will stay at traditional stilt houses and do housework with locals. Yummy cuisines are always ready for guests. At night, the space becomes throbbing by blithe melodies and rhythmical dances. The trip ends with a good sleep in this peaceful heaven.

Get away to peaceful Mai Chau, travelers can take a trekking or biking tour through exotic villages. 

biking Mai Chau

Mai Chau tour

4. Mekong delta

Vietnamese people usually say “thang canh co bay”, meaning that land is too large that stocks can fly straightly to endless. This is just one of images of Mekong delta. Located in northwestern Vietnam, this land is the country’s greatest rice basket. The region is covered by an interlaced canal system. So the residents were familiar with waterway-life long ago.
Locals are gentle and rustic. Scenery is tranquil. Travel to Mekong, travelers will refresh your mind.

The richness and vastness make this plain region have an abundant culture. Taking part in various activities, travelers will understand relatively about this culture.
Cycling around fields and villages is a nice way to see the everyday life of locals. On the roads, travelers can talk to them and try experiencing some of their jobs. Many other places can be visited along biking trail, namely temples, orchards, local primary schools, or local households. Particularly, travelers can visit and discover traditional trade-villages of coconut-candy, rice-paper, rice-wine, snake-wine, pop-rice, pop-corn, etc.

Adventurers also should not skip a boat trip to floating markets, the special places with a boom of colors, sounds and scents. These market have a lot of beautiful agricultural products, especially fruits. Let’s come and observe how they trade, how they communicate, and how they speak for sale.

Mekong delta tours may please someone who are curious. Travelers can learn a plenty of local things, such as how to buy fruits and food, how to cook local cuisines, or how to make traditional conical hats. If love nature, let’s visit mangrove forests as Tra Su, where travelers can observe colonies of water-birds, bats and other rare spices.

Explore Mekong delta with many memorable activities. View here.

explore Mekong delta

Thursday, October 16, 2014

Vietnam's Ho Chi Minh To Hanoi Listed In Top 10 Toughest Bike Rides

The Top 10 toughest bike rides list was taken by Lonely Planet. These are top 10.

Ho Chi Minh to  Hanoi, Vietnam: The bike trip begins from lush plain of Mekong Delta, winding through stunning mountains around Da Lat, with hard climb through the Hai Van pass, then reaching Northern mountainous provinces. Besides absolutely abrupt routes, the searing tropical heat will make cyclists drop back into state of endless water refill. 

Travelers indulging in Vietnam cycling usually challenge themselves to take a biking Ho Chi Minh trails - the Vietnamese famous historical road. Active Travel Asia ( also recommend travelers exciting motorcycling tours (here) on this road. 

top 10 toughest bike rides 1
Photography by Nguyen Minh Son
Col du Tourmalet, France: This extremely abrupt distance on the Pyrenees’s highest road is a classical Tour. Starting in 1910, it has been included than any other pass on Tour de France – the famous three-week race. Arriving Col du Tourmalet is possible from two directions. The classic route from the west is 19 km in length, reach a hard climb of 1,404 m. The gradient is up to 7.4%.

top 10 toughest bike rides 2
Photography by Cyclingtips
L’Alpe d’Huez, France: This Alpine epic hauls around a seemingly endless series of hairpin bends stretching consecutively 13.8 km on the L’Alpe d’Huez mountain near Paris, will make cyclists choke.
top 10 toughest bike rides 3
Photography by
El Camino de la Muerte, Bolivia: As a hard challenging road, “El Camino de la Muerte” means “Road of death”, which sounds less horrifying in Spanish. This bike trip just for pro-cyclists descends a precipitous mountain pass, commencing at 4,700m and winding at 1,200m. Let’s face it. Solace cyclists with the truth that most deaths relates in cars rather than cycles. 

top 10 toughest bike rides 4
Photography by Rinconabstracto
Passo di Gavia, Italy: Passo di Gavia, in the splendid Italian Alps, is 26 km in ride length and climb a massive 2621m. The road is closed in winter due to thick snow. However, the climate can also be really harsh even in warm months. Summer is perfect time to conquer this class race’s hardest climbs. 

top 10 toughest bike rides 5
Photography by Londonbikers
Manali to Leh, India: This extreme ride through the Indian Himalaya is just only for experienced and sufficiently fit cyclists. Starting in Manali, the route leads through pine forests, ascending rugged and craggy slopes along dirt tracks and sealed trail, before reaching back switchback nearby Leh.

top 10 toughest bike rides 6
Photography by Sidnsam
Lake Louise to Whistler, Canada: This journey lasting in many days will take cyclists to an 11km slope in total of 1000 km, traversing the Rockies, heading straight into Canada’s Coast Mountain toward the resort of Whistler. Just thinking about it, travelers may feel backside ache.

top 10 toughest bike rides 7
Photography by Beediverse
Cape Epic, South Africa: This off-road classic changes its route yearly, but the theme is always the same. Eight days of ascending mountain cycling through some of South Africa’s the most spectacular and rugged terrain, with 698 km in length and 15 km of slopes, Epic Cape makes La Tourmalet just like a ride in a park.

top 10 toughest bike rides 8
Photography by
Three Peaks Challenge, Australia: Try on your own, it’s really hard. Australia’s Three Peaks challenge takes place every year. The road contains 235 km in 13 km, crossing Tawonga Gap, Mount Hotham and Falls Creek. To conquer this trail, it is necessary to have professional riders going alongside.

top 10 toughest bike rides 9

Alto de L'Angliru, Spain: Recently, the Vuelta d'Espana has earned a reputation as the most abrupt stage of both famous bicycle races - Tour de France and Giro d’Italia. Alto de L'Angliru, located in the Northern Asturias region, is disputably its toughest climb. It is just only 12.5 km in length, but the average gradient is a creepy 10.13%. 

top 10 toughest bike rides 10
Photography by

Thursday, October 2, 2014

Hoi An Sunset Cruise - New Fantastic Experience

Arriving Hoi An of Vietnam – the biggest trade port formerly and a stunning quaint city now, you can take part in many interesting discovery activities like cycling around Hoi An, visiting ancient buildings, taking a Hoi An cooking class, enjoying street food and particularly, cruising on Thu Bon river.

Hoi An’s architectural constructions are stunning. This is too obvious. Hoi An’s food is amazing. Do not need to argue about this. But Hoi An’s natural scenes and people in countryside are also nice. This is a great thing for discovery. Jumping into a boat and enjoy a Hoi An sunset cruise, this is one of the best ways to obtained a wonderful holiday in this ancient town.

The cruise on Thu Bon river – the heart of Hoi An will offer you diverse experiences and emotions. You can read in some document that Hoi An is situated in banks of Hoai river, and others say that Thu Bon river. The truth is that Hoai river is a tributary of Thu Bon river. 

On a traditional boat, the trip departs from a peaceful nice dock decorated by colorful lanterns. Actually lanterns are hung everywhere in Hoi An. The boat will lead you through ancient streets along two sides of the river. Green moss walls, grey tiles and other archaic images appearing in sunshine may make you imagine the life sights of a big city formerly.   

Hoi An sunset cruise 1

The boat gradually floats far away the central Hoi An and take travelers reach to outskirt life. Bring along a camera in hand, you can shoot nice photos as the sun going down behind mountains and all fishing activities on the river. 

Hoi An sunset cruise 2

You will observe fisherman catching fish before sunset. You can see many original jobs like casting net, cutting fishing rope and crab hunting. You also probably encounter strange and unique Vietnamese bamboo basket boats along the waterways of water coconut palm paradise. The bustling part in a day of local fishermen is in the late afternoon. When the sun is setting slowly down to the mountain, fishermen also set off their fishing and expect to harvest fish abundantly. The cruise will let travelers have chances to be knowledgeable about daily activities of fishery in Hoi An. If you want to understand more about the local life, you can try working as a Hoi An fisherman.

Hoi An sunset cruise 3

The sun is low in the sky and the wind is gentle. All views become effulgent. Romantic and peaceful minutes of the sunset pass slowly. Experiencing total serenity and listen to sounds of waves among splendid nature, these will be fantastic moments. By this excellent calm cruise, you can immerse in nature, relax and admire glorious sunset. 

Hoi An sunset cruise 4

Hoi An sunset cruise 5

When the boat go back to central Hoi An, it is the time the night is coming. Every ancient house along the river lights lanterns at doors and balconies. Dwelling lines and river face become glistening and fanciful, creating absolutely romantic scenery. The trip is still great even in last moments.     

Hoi An sunset cruise 6

Thursday, September 18, 2014

Characteristics Of Floating Markets In Vietnam

By Kimina (Xuan Tran) - ActiveTravel Asia

Floating market is a original feature of deltas in Mainland Southeast Asia, where has thousands of various-sized  rivers and canals. In Vietnam, floating market is a specific cultural part of the Southwest area. If you tend to explore Mekong delta, you should not skip a cruise to floating markets

The market is held in rivers, among a vast waterway with hundreds of boats, junks and canoes of the residents.

explore Mekong delta 1
A floating market in Vietnam
The floating market is held up a whole day, but usually it is most bustling in the morning, when it is cool. The more it turns to noon, the hottest the weather is, the fewer customers are. So, it's better as visiting floating markets in early morning.

Boats are loaded fully of goods. Fruits are the most popular kind. The peculiar point of the boats is that on each one, there has several poles. The sellers dangle products which they sell on these poles. Therefore, customers just need to look at the poles, they will know what kinds of merchandise the boat's owner sells, and whether the boat has things they need or not. By this original marketing way, customers from a far distance can see clearly items.

explore Mekong delta 2
The residents hang products they sell on poles.
Here are general characteristics of Vietnam floating markets.

- Market is the place where the local inhabitants trade and exchange actually the indigenous produce, comprising agricultural products and foodstuff. 

- Boats, or truly "stores" normally don't have any signs. The Sellers hang products which they sell on poles or lay them at prows; sell oranges hang oranges, sell mangoes hang mangoes, sell coconuts hang coconuts, etc. People call these poles as “cay beo”, which are erected on prows or hang horizontally over boats. 

explore Mekong delta 3
"Cay beo" is erected on the prow.
explore Mekong 4
"Cay beo" is hang horizontally
- To know the area which a boat belongs to, just regard into a side of the boat, which is written a province code abbreviated by two first letters. For instance, “Tien Giang” province is written as “TG”.

explore Mekong 5
Vinh Long province was abbreviated as "VL" on this boat
However, there are still three special circumstances:

1. “Hang things which are not for sale.” They are just clothes. The residents of the floating markets commonly live on boats, so their clothes are also hang on boats to be dried in sun.

2. “Things are for sale but not hung.” The boats like this are food or beverage stalls. That goods cannot be hung.

3.  “Hang one thing but sell another thing.” If you see only a few pineapples hung on a boat, it means that the owner want to sell this boat. So, hang pineapples, but sell the boat.

explore Mekong 6
Hang pineapples, but sell boats
Some famous floating markets you can visit are Cai Be (Tien Giang province), Phung Hiep (Hau Giang province), Chau Doc (An Giang province), Can Tho and Phong Dien (Can Tho city).

Any Mekong delta tour also set an excursion to floating markets for you. You can choose biking around Mekong countryside to discover the cultue and life of South Vietnam.

Friday, September 5, 2014

Backpacking Vietnam - Sapa

By Canadian Veggie
Sapa is a popular tourist town in the northwest corner of Vietnam that serves as a gateway for visiting the ethnic hill tribes that live in the area. Around Sapa there are rolling hills covered in rice terraces and many small Hmong and Dzao villages, where people still follow their traditional ways of life (although western influence and tourist money is slowly changing that).

trekking Sapa 1

Our guide, Mao, was excellent and we got a much more personal experience. After a quick bowl of pho in the market, we were off trekking Sapa. I thought it was going to be an easy trek when I saw Mao in big purple boots, but I was wrong – it wasn’t easy, it was just muddy. Mao took us off the main trail and along tiny trails used by the locals. Even though we had a guide, we also had two other women follow us, helping us whenever the trail became slippery or steep.

trekking Sapa 2

I enjoyed the scenery along our Sapa trek, even though the hills were shrouded in fog. The highlight of our hike though was talking to Mao about her life and discussing the interesting cultural differences of life among the hill tribes. Most of the tribes in the area originally migrated from China hundreds of years ago. The women seem to be the bread winners and still dress in traditional clothing, while the men are a bunch of slackers. Mao told us the guys have trouble learning English, so all the guides are women. The women also do a lot of the daily work and cooking.

The most interesting thing we learned from Mao was about the marriage customs. According to her, she’s been ‘married’ to her husband for a year (she’s only 17) and they live together, but they haven’t had a wedding yet. She was hoping that during the new year celebrations, both of their families would give their blessing and then they could have a wedding.

Our night in Sapa was spent at an intimate homestay in a small village. There were 12 other people and enough bed’s to sleep 30, so it was more of a rural hostel. However, the other guests were friendly and it was good to get advice on places to go on the rest of our trip. We had an excellent, candle-lit (the power went out) dinner and afterwards our hosts brought out “happy water” – home-brewed rice wine. It was served from a water bottle, and even though it was remarkably strong, it was also very smooth.

trekking Sapa 3

The next morning we got up early to come back to Sapa town and then a trip to Bac Ha, home to a popular Sunday market. The hill tribes (mostly Flower Hmong) converge on the city to swap fabrics, foods, and livestock. Unlike most of the other markets we visited in Vietnam, the Bac Ha market is largely geared at locals, with only a small section selling souvenirs. While we wandered around taking pictures, Mao went off shopping for dried beans and a purse.

Sapa trek 1

Sapa trek 2

Sapa trek 3

Sapa trek 4

Thursday, September 4, 2014

A Beautiful Trekking Cat Ba National Park With Incredible Things

By Dbandhertravelbug
When our boat arrived at Cat Hai, Hai Phong City (a district that includes Cat Ba) our group (about 18 of us) was then transported by van to the Cat Ba National Park.

Once there we were given the option of going on a hike, renting a bike, or exploring a nearby cave. While it was an incredibly hot day already, given it was only mid morning, people really weren’t certain as to what to do. A flashback to the tour of the caves the day before made me immediately decide that I was going on the trekking Cat Ba national park, regardless of the heat and humidity. My newly minted friends, the Australian Triumvirate, weren’t up for the trek but I decided to go anyway. And it was a great decision.

trekking Cat Ba national park 1

We trekked with a large group of people – not even sure how these many new faces joined in – and while it was a bit annoying in the beginning, as time went on, we seemed to spread out more and more. We were never introduced to any formal guides but one man was clearly just that. Perhaps he was leading a group of people that we ended up with – or not? – and it still remains a mystery. For the remainder of this post we will call him the monkey (you’ll see why in a minute).

Cat Ba National Park is apparently known for several dozens type of animals – wild boar, deer, langurs, hedgehogs, just to name a few – and many different species of birds. Unfortunately, I didn’t see any of these forms of wildlife except for the LARGEST spider I have ever seen in my entire life (see photo). After doing some research, it appears that when you book a trekking tour (and a much longer and arduous one) with the park rangers, you have a much better chance of seeing these animals as they know where to take you.

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While no wildlife was seen by me (or anyone else, I think), it was still a beautiful hike with many trees, hundreds of types of plants (and some with humongous leaves!) and many that are used for medicinal purposes. We weaved through canopies of trees, rocky paths, and up steep inclines, several times having to use ones hands to pull yourself up the rocks. How some people were only wearing flip flops I will never understand!

This was obviously a piece of cake for the monkey and to watch him scamper up the trails and dart around the many bikers was a sight to be seen. It was hot, really hot, and the monkey knew it. He would run back and forth from different groups of people and fan them with his traditional bamboo, handheld fan. While it doesn’t seem like this could truly make a difference, it did and was hysterical as well. He also took to hanging from the trees and often requested that we take photos of him. Clearly, a man, er monkey, who enjoyed what he did for a living.
 trekking Cat Ba national park 4

Once we reached the top of the mountain a couple of hours later, we faced a massive metal structure in front of us. We already had a magnificent 360 degree view of the mountains but climbing higher would obviously be even better. While some opted not to go further, I began the ascent on the metal stairs that wrapped around until you hit the tippy top. I still don’t know what this structure is or what if any significance it holds, but it’s a great viewing tower for those brave enough to go up. I must admit while the many stairs going up seemed sturdy enough, the platform and rails at the top were…let’s just say, rusting terribly and by no means up to any kind of code. But it did afford an incredible vista!
 trekking Cat Ba national park 5

I got to know a few people while on the hike and it turned out to be a really pleasant morning. When we all reconvened, I can’t say that I wasn’t a bit envious of the Australian Triumvirate. They had ended up going to one of the caves – the Hospital Cave – which was a secret, bomb-proof hospital during The Vietnam War. It was a perfect trip for them being nurses and seemed fascinating from how they described it. One traveler’s post that I just found online describes it as follows:

“My personal opinion is that the Hospital Cave in Cat Ba Island is one of the most fascinating sights (and lesser known) of the Vietnam war era– hospital was constructed initially by the Chinese. Access to the hospital is not through some road that ambulances or cars could use, but through a mountain donkey path surrounded by thick vegetation, which I would imagine would be quite a task for two soldiers carrying a stretcher to walk on. Injured North Vietnamese officers would be arriving by boat via Halong Bay and eventually carried in the “hospital”. The hospital “entrance,” barely visible even today, is less than 5 feet high (1.52m) and about 4 feet wide (1.21m). On the left, immediately after entering, was the x-ray department, to x-ray the incoming casualties. The operating theatres, recovery rooms, and other spaces were primitive by today’s standards, but the sheer size of the place–where and how it was actually constructed–is incredible and made the place secure and impenetrable by enemy fire.”

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Had I not been with a group, there’s no question that I would have visited it after hiking through the National Park. However, one more reason to return to travel Northern Vietnam!

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