Wednesday, January 21, 2015

Market in Ha Giang's Highland: Cultural Market, Not Commercial Market

Lies in the northernmost Vietnam, Ha Giang appears in mind as a spectacular land with colossal layered mountains, sheer cliffs, dizzy hairpin turns and specially, strange colorful minor tribes. Breathtaking scenery and unusual culture that are not less than in Sapa. But due to craggy terrain and hard roads, tourism has not developed in here. However, just because of this, the traditional lifestyle has been kept almost completely. Locals still like wearing their traditional costumes, speaking their language, including kids.

Ha Giang market 1
Ha Giang recently has been well-known in Vietnam for “tam giac mach” flower farms, majestic Hoang Su Phi terrace field, Dong Van stone plateau – hidden Himalaya and dramatic zigzag roads. It also become a challenging destination for motorcycling adventure in northern Vietnam. Even so, custom and belief, another charming point hidden in just locals here may be not known a lot.

Ha Giang market 2

Roam around rotating markets, observe inhabitants trading, and talk to them, you will find many interesting things. Truly, many minor people in Ha Giang are not good at Vietnamese, and English is impossible. But it is possible to hear strange and funny stories from someone, who look more modern than many other native people but really love this land.

As many travelers and residents who has become fond of this region commend, market in this highland is cultural market, not commercial market.

Going to a rotating market is a pleasure. So they wear really beautifully with colorful long dresses, brocade shoes and jewelry.

Ha Giang market 3 Many locals live on high and steep mountains that are far away from central market. Poor traffic infrastructure, most roads are soil trails, and needy life condition, numerous inhabitants move by walking. Not only that, they have to pass craggy cliffs and beaten trails. So they get up extremely early to be in time the rotating market, which is only held on a few fixed days in a week or month.

Ha Giang market 4
Some women inhabit far away on abrupt mountains, they have to cross rocky cliffs and steep path. Dressing nice clothes is inconvenient. Thus, they usually wear normal clothes as walking through mountains. When approaching the market, they just change their clothes into pretty costumes.

Ha Giang market 5
Today, the life is better. Locals also use motorbike for moving. But in many upright mountain area, there is no paved road for motorbike and people usually hike on soil trails.

Going to the market is simply to meet, talk and exchange small stories between people of different areas.

Early morning go to market, they carry under their arm a chicken or a small pig. It is good if they sell things that they have brought along. But it’s still ok if they cannot sell anything. They still come back home with a happy face, happy mind and without a shred of thought. Even if they sell something, they can spend all money from the sale to drink wine and return home in a blind drunk state. Wine in Ha Giang is primarily homemade corn wine. To men of ethnic minorities, getting drunk is the happiest time.

Ha Giang market 6 There is a funny case sometimes happening is told by the locals. An indigenous man was going to buy wine. He would taste wine at all wine stalls, from beginning to end of market. Specially, he had got drunk before deciding to buy wine at some stall. Did not need to know whether he tended to buy wine or just pretending in order to be drunk, sellers still let these strange customers taste wine in an easy-going way.

Ha Giang market 7
Ha Giang – the remote region of Vietnam with unaffected ethnic minorities is uncharted much. But once you overcome a hard adventure to Ha Giang, then amazed at this unusual rocky mountain area, you will remember a lot.

By Xuan Tran (Kimina) – ActiveTravel Asia

Wednesday, January 7, 2015

Unusual Story in Hoi An: Farmers’ Life Better Thanks to Teaching Western Tourists to Farm

With a plot of over 1,000m2, two buffaloes and farming tools like plows, harrows, firewood cookers, rice mortars and others, for last 10 years, farmers in Cam Thanh commune of Hoi An have taught Occidental tourists to farm, collected thousands of dollars.

Increase income from farming

“Every Vietnamese people also belittle this agricultural vocation toiling and moiling in the fields, I don’t understand why Western tourists to Hoi An fascinate it. They are willing to spend money to apprentice.” – said Nhi Pham, an old farmer lives in Cam Thanh, Hoi An.

Over nearly 10 years, thanks to the field, two buffaloes, farming tools, and a firewood cooker in the cottage in the middle of Cam Thanh field, he has earned thousands of dollars.

The work of teaching Western tourists to farm of Mr. Nhi and the young man Khoa Tran Van, as he said, was not similar to anyone, but helps their family have a good life thanks to the income higher than 10 times, about 5-7 million VND per month (235 – 330 USD), compared to just only cultivating on this alum field.

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Hoi An travel 2
Teaching Western tourists to bail out by four-stringed bucket ('gau dai" or "gau song")
“If growing two rice crops per year on this 1,000m2 field, minus the cost, I will collect just above 4 million VND. However, over last 10 years, we has earned average more than 60 million VND (2806 USD) per year, which has been just “school fees” that Mr. Khoa brought for us by teaching Western tourists to farm.”

Not only Mr. Nhi, Mr. Khoa also has taken Occidental tourists to tens of farming households in Cam Thanh commune so as that they teach these tourists the agricultural occupation. The short-term farming courses within 6 hours are opened frequently by Khoa and these farmers that makes Western tourists to Hoi An flock to register. For each 6-hour-course, foreign tourists pay 50-60 USD/ person.

Beside learning farming, tourists to Hoi An also learn the work of a fisherman. View here.

Pay to win jobs of farmers

Many households planting vegetables in Tra Que village told, in the peak season that numerous foreign tourists travel to Hoi An, beside income from planting vegetables, they also earn extra income (about 3-5 million VND/ month) owning to teaching Western tourists to grow vegetables.

Mrs. Thuy Nguyen Thi, a farmer in Tra Que village said, she started the work of teaching to plant vegetables in a highly unexpected way. One morning as usual, she was hoeing the field to prepare to plant a few bed of vegetables. Suddenly, Khoa took a group of overseas tourists to her field and asked her for help to teach them how to hoe on soil, put manure on beds, plant vegetables. 

“Mr. Khoa spoke English to Occidental tourists, then they rushed down the fields, asked for working with me. I instructed them. At the end, Mr. Khoa paid me 100,000 VND as wage. Since then, I became a teacher.” said Mrs. Thuy.

Hoi An travel 3
Hoi An travel 4
Mr. Nhi Pham teaches the tourist group how to transplant rice seedlings
Thanks to this, the tired works of hoeing up ground, growing vegetables and watering of Mrs. Thuy as well as other farmers in Tra Que village has been less strenuous during several years recently.

“In the previous time there was no Western tourists, I alone tried my best to hoe all the field also took me several days. Now also the same field, in just only a morning I work with tourists, my hoeing job complete. I do not spend a lot of power but still earn more money.” She said.

The wife of Mr. Nhi related: “When I was very busy in the kitchen to prepare for the lunch meal, I saw a Western tourist group at the field rush into my house. They contended for washing rice, lighting a fire and cooking rice. Saw me stupefied, Mr. Khoa told me to instruct them the way of making a fire and steaming rice. Since then, I has become a reluctant teacher.”

In addition, she also teaches Western tourists how to pound rice, mill flour and make “banh xeo” (rice pancake folded in half). She has done these jobs for several decades so there is nothing difficult to her.

“Teaching Occidental tourists to pound rice by hand, I worry the most that they can be injured due to carelessness and lack of harmonious coordination. Because one person pounds rice, other mix rice by hand inside the mortar.” said the wife of Mr. Nhi

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Teaching tourists how to pound rice by hand
Hoi An travel 6
Western tourists learn how to wash rice, make a light and steam rice by a firewood cooker
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A tourist is blowing to make the fire bigger
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Western tourists learn how to rake the field before transplanting rice seedlings
ActiveTravel Asia via

Friday, January 2, 2015

Hanoi Airport Fully Opened New T2 International Terminal on Dec 31st 2014

On 16th December 2014, the national flag carrier Vietnam Airlines (VNA) announced that they would completely transfer all international flights from T1 Terminal to the new T2 Terminal at Hanoi International Airport (Noi Bai Airport) as from Dec 31st 2014.

Thus, the existing T1 (old terminal) would function as domestic terminal while T2 would be international terminal. 

According to VNA, T2 terminal Hanoi airport fully opened to service all arrival/ departure international flights as from 31st Dec 2014Previously, Vietnam Airlines and Vietjet Air operated this new T2 Terminal to serve passengers flying/ arriving on short flights to/ from Singapore, Thailand (Bangkok), Taiwan (Kaohsiung, Taipei) and Malaysia (Kuala Lumpur) as from 25th Dec 2014.

Vietnam Offers Visa Exemption to Citizens of Seven Countries

Vietnamese government has launched a resolution about visa exemption for citizens of 7 countries as entering Vietnam. 

Vietnam visa-free
From January 1st 2015, citizens of 7 countries including Russia, Japan, Korea, Danish, Norway, Sweden and Finland are exempt from visa to temporarily stay in Vietnam for maximum time of 15 days as from the date of entry, regardless of passport type, entry purposes, on the basis of fully meeting prescribed conditions of Vietnamese law.

This policy will be effective for 5 years, from Jan 1st 2015 to Dec 31st 2019, and will be considered to be extended relied on regulations of Vietnamese law.
Currently, Vietnam is applying visa-free system within 30 days for tourists from ASEAN countries (except Philippines within 21 days, Brunei and Myanmar within 14 days). And from 2015, visa-free continues to broaden to 7 countries: Russia, Japan, Korea, Danish, Norway, Sweden and Finland.

Vietnamese visa-free policy has positively contributed to the development of Vietnamese tourism. Following to statistics, international tourists to Vietnam has an average expenditure from 1,200 USD to 2,500 USD depending on market segmentation and form of tourism.

The latest figures from General Statistics Office of Vietnam notified that foreign visitors to Vietnam in 2014 was estimated at 7,874,300 arrivals, a growth of 4% compared to the figure in 2013. However, the increase of overseas tourists in 2014 is lower than that of 2013, 4% in comparison with 10.6%.

Also this year, among these 7 countries, Korean tourists reached 848,000 arrivals, rose by 13.3% while the number of Japan was 648,000 arrivals with a climb of 7.3%. The figure for Russia was 364,900, grew 22.4%.