Monday, May 23, 2016

Discover Vietnam's Subsidy Period via Five Cafes in Hanoi

Amid a new Hanoi bustling and flashy, sometimes people want to come to some serene and gentle corners, where preserve their memories of an unforgettable period – the Subsidy phase (Bao Cấp). 

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 Photo: Instagram @Congcaphe 

# Cộng

Cong café doesn’t have only one address, it has now developed into a brand chain of several dozens of various-sized shops located on many streets in Hanoi.

All Cộng cafes feature a space imbued with the old-styled quality, ingeniously recalling subconscious of customers with wooden chairs and benches, barbers’ chairs and sewing machine tables. These objects, according to many business people, are both worthless and… invaluable.

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Photo: Instagram @meonhan

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 Photo: Instagram @Congcaphe

To common people, painted wooden chairs and broken sewing machine tables are merely cast-off junk; but to creative ones, these items become highlights. 

# Bao Cấp (Subsidy)

If objectively commenting, Bao Cấp is the catchiest name, but the café doesn’t have many exceed differences compared to other same-styled coffee shops. However, each its small, safe and sound corner is enough to evoke quivering emotions about a bygone era.  

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Photo: Instagram @i__phuwowng 

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Photo: Instagram @qanhhhh

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 Photo: instagram @_le08

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 Photo: Instagram @jin.jhin

# Xoan

Every corner in the shop is a strange street like “Happy street”, “Waving street”… accompanying a set of crude wooden tables and chairs, pillows wrapped in flower-patterned or peacock-patterned blanket-fabric, black & white televisions, or legendary dial telephones.

Some people compare Xoan café as a clear voice among a hustle track, because there aren’t too much peaceful corners as such in this noisy city.

The space of Xoan is not spacious but open. It has both gardens, yards, and balconies, and is always soaked in music of composer Trịnh Công Sơn.

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 Photo: Instagram @_trada

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 Photo: instagram @manh_tringuyen

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 Ảnh: instagram @lanxphu

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 Photo: instagram @104bc 

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 Photo: instagram @104bc  

All corners of the café on photographs are very beautiful and peculiar, from iron window frames with sunlit flowers, grey walls full of paintings, to sets of small, old rattan chairs, making every time reaching Xoan is feeling like newly setting foot on father’s hometown in every summer.

Besides, some cats at Xoan will be graceful saboteurs, who may break your relaxing moments anytime. Cats in the café are fearless and familiar with human body odor so they are extremely friendly and lovely. 

# Xí Nghiệp (Factory)

Xi Nghiep was already old. It was old in both style and age, because it is one of the oldest subsidy-styled cafés in Hanoi.

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Photo: Instagram @nhacuacoffeeholic

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 Photo: Instagram @dingolong

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 Photo: Instagram @hnamle

The owner demonstrates the artistic character through subtle spatial arrangement, which is very suitable to the name “Xí Nghiệp” (factory). Reaching here, you will touch unpainted brick walls, old ironwood tables, typewriters, antique speakers, books and notebooks with yellowed paper.

The particular centerpiece of the shop is perhaps the ancient motorbike suspended right above the bar, making anyone getting to the café be full of admiration and amused.

# Cuối Ngõ (At the end of the Alley)

Precise like the name, it’s truly situated at the end of an alley! It’s small, rustic and simple like a part of an ancient house from a former village long time ago.

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 Ảnh: instagram @kevinisjustfine

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 Photo: Instagram @vuvancanh

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Photo: Instagram @ng_t_giang

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Photo: Instagram @klinnyt

All objects inside the shop are so reminiscent of space of Tokin (North Vietnam) in olden days, with rustic bamboo tables, lampshades made of Neohouzeaua (an Asian bamboo), battered green-painted wooden chairs, and oil paintings that being old can be felt by just looking them. Nevertheless, vases of flowers here are always fresh and new. This shows the careful attention of the owner. 

Music in the shop is mainly songs of Trịnh Công Sơn. Especially, the interior of the shop has a portrait of deceased musician Trịnh Công Sơn hung solemnly at the center position, where is also the stage for live music shows in every Thursday evening.

Via: K.H

Wednesday, May 11, 2016

Cambodia’s Top Alluring Islands

Absorbed in grandiose, magnificent temples, may travelers forget that Cambodia is also home to a mass of enthralling islands.

1. Koh Sdach: Best for local life discovery

Positioned between Koh Kong and Sihanoukville islands, Koh Sdach is the anchoring place of many boats. Reach it, apart from sea bathing, searching out culture and lifestyle of the local fishermen residing in small villages will make the trip more interesting.

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2. Koh Ta Kiew: Best for wine


If you want to find a secluded, gorgeous beaches, yes, it has, a lot. Now the island is developed tourism by a Malaysian company with a rental agreement for 99 years.

Perhaps Koh Ta Kiev are the last place that it’s possible to see an absinthe bar. It earn a good reputation thanks to one-man operation named Syn Absinthe, who makes types of hand-crafted, small-batch absinthe. Aside from joining a distillery tour that embraces the whole process, guests can have fun by frolicking in blue sea, sun-burnt lying on quiet beaches and playing coconut bowling.

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3. Song Saa: Best for luxury

In fact, it consists of two private small islands, and is oriented to be a sweet, deluxe honeymoon site for couples. Song Saa means “sweethearts” in Khmer tongue. Its villa prices can rocket to $3,000 per night, and the services are high-quality, from the transfers from shore, a bottle of champagne at check-in included in the price, gourmet meals made from natively-sourced foods, to the well-stocked mini-bar and free international calls from the villas. Song Saa even features a 50,000-square-meter marine reserve around the two island. To get there, take a boat or a helicopter flight.

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4. Koh Rong Samloem (Monkey Island): Best for relaxing

Known as the most beautiful island in Cambodia, Koh Rong Sanloem has long been a top-choice of expats in Phnom Penh, who head to the quiet island for weekends. It’s sited 2 boating hours from the mainland, and features a fishing village, three major coasts and many minor others.

This is a point of Koh Rong Sanloem: Saracen Bay - a heart-shaped inlet with calm turquoise surf and clean white sand beaches. Not many things to do on the island. Days can be spent to paddle-board, snorkel, or daydream on a good book under a palm tree.

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5. Koh Rong: Best for party

Koh Rong - Cambodia’s second largest island has fabulous sea with white sand and warm, clear water. In spite of the most famous island in Cambodia, it remains astonishingly pristine.

Not too long ago Koh Rong’s sole tourist amenities were a handful of bungalows beside miles of dense jungles and stunning white sand beaches. There is still amazing hiking and trekking in the parts of jungles that loggers haven’t been destroyed. Besides, the island is also a great spot for sun-burnt travelers, who like to bake in day and get toasted at night. 

Koh Rong’s business owners are notoriously party-friendly, who are ready to run generators to keep the music going until the wee hours, and supply live DJs and free-beer happy hours.

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6. Koh Tang: Best for diving

Located roughly 5 boating hours from the mainland, Koh Tang is well-known for its marvelous coral reefs on the sea-bed. This island is unpopulated now except only a small outpost of Cambodian military personnel, causing clear-crystal water with excellent visibility and undisturbed marine life, making it and nearby Koh Prins the perfect islands for diving. There are eight diving sites around the island that offer colorful coral reefs and a wealth of underwater creatures comprising fantastic hued nudibranchs, toxic puffer fish and dazzling stingrays with electric blue spots.

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7. Koh Thmei: Best for nature watching

Settled inside Ream national park, Koh Thmei is home to various animals and plants, including monkeys, civets, mountain lizards, over 100 distinct species of birds, and several endangered species like the fishing cat, a wetland feline that inhabits near streams and mangrove forests.

Koh Thmei resort is the sole accommodation on this island, which covers a block of rustic, environmentally-friendly solar-powered bungalows. Guests can jungle trek, sea kayak, snorkel and bird watch. The resort is even raising ponies that children can ride. There are close deserted beaches to amble with occasional views of dolphins swimming along the shore.

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8. Koh Totang: Best for running out of Internet

It is a wonderful island to completely disconnect from the regular life and escape from botheration of work-emails and social networks. Yep, no Internet on Koh Totang. This charming island has only a place to stay, Nomad's Land, a range of five solar-powered bungalows lack of noisy generators. Rainwater is saved from showers, and produce is grown in a permaculture garden. The simplest thing to do is lying in a swaying hammock, enjoying the view, and provisionally expel all thought of life at home.

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Contact to ActiveTravel Asia at here to held your own sea adventure in charming, untouched islands in Cambodia.

Wednesday, April 6, 2016

10 Adventures in Laos

If you aren’t interested in familiar and much touristy spots like Luang Prabang and Vang Vieng, let take 10 itineraries following to immerse in wild nature and enjoy peace.

1. Kayak in Si Phan Don

Si Phan Don (4,000 Islands) is surely a promising spot for kayaking thanks to the calm and gentle course, majestic natural scenery and beautiful villages along the Mekong river. This bunch of islands lies on the mighty Mekong River, includes superb Khone waterfall and a chain of reef that paralyze navigation of any boats. Threatened Irrawaddy dolphins can be found at the basin of the fall. Among islands, Don Det, Don Khone and Don Khong are largest, where focus rustic rest houses perfect for an escape from noise and bustling.  

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2. Discover ancient Khmer relics

If you are keen on Tomb Raider movie shot at Ta Prohm temple in Cambodia, or Indiana Jones adventure franchise, sure you will be excited when reaching Champasak province to explore vestiges of ancient Khmer temples dated the 11th to the 13th century and used to be a part of Angkor Empire. Wat Phou complex of shrines and palace isn't as large as Angkor, but it is quite deserted, silent and extremely occult with cluttered rubble, swamps, crocodiles crawl higgledy-piggledy and broken trunks. This construction was inscribed on the list of World Heritage Sites by UNESCO.

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3. Zipline through jungle

Zipline is definitely suited for daring travelers. At Bokeo nature reserve in northern Laos, flying over the old jungle and the valley on a 500m-high cable and it’s able to enjoy freedom among a vast, green space. This jungle also offers chances to sleep in tree-houses and observe endangered black-cheeked gibbons once in a lifetime. It is even home to many other rare species such as elephant, bear, tiger, water-buffalo and various birds. 

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4. Climb karst mountains in Nong Khiaw

Climbing mountains in Nong Khiaw, the area on the bank of Ou river in the northern country, has been permitted since 2002. After defeating the craggy karst peaks, climbers can have panoramic view to primitive and tranquil landscapes of imposing mountains and streams. 

For ones adore caving, let explore Pha Tok cave located 2km from the backward but serene Nong Khiaw village. It used to be the refuse of the locals during the Indochina Wars.

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Photo: worldtour-outdoorexperience.com

5. Row boat over a limestone cave

Tham Kong Lo cave is obviously a star in Laos travel. Situated in the heart of the wildest area in the country – Phu Hin Bin national park of Khammouane Province, this limestone cave stretches 7km, with some its parts are 91m high, and features a pure beauty of the green river and miraculous stalactites inside. It has a reputation of one of Southeast Asia’s greatest geological wonders.

A green, precious lake in the cave is deified by the natives as they suppose that the water surface reflects the skin color of Indra, a deity in Hindu culture. No one reaching Tham Kong Lo is without an incredible boat trip through this spiritual cave.

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6. Trek through jungles in “the land of hundreds of waterfalls”

As the name it is, the northern Laos owns many hundreds of small and big waterfalls pouring down like white silk pieces. With a trek through Nong Khiaw jungle, travelers can stop at peaceful Nong Khiaw village adjacent waterfalls.

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7. Explore Vieng Xai caves – where thousands hid from American bombs

This gigantic system of caves is one of the most important historic relics in Laos. In the war, over 2,000 people took refuge here to avoid bombards. Laotian people established sufficient infrastructure inside the cave, with bedrooms, offices, hospitals, elephant enclose, bakery, a market, a theatre, a printing press and even a bank.

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8. Learn to become a mahout

Riding elephants through jungles is a diffused activities in Laos. However, it’s more impressive if you can join in a mahout course training how to control an elephant. This class is hold at elephant camps around the famous city Luang Prabang. >> See Luang Prabang adventure

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9. Discover the country by bicycle

Laos is an amazing place for ones indulge in exploring new regions on two wheels. Cycling is the best way to sightsee scenery along the ways, talk with locals, and especially find out authentic things, exotic things, or less-known things that you may be hard to see if on a car or bus.

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10. Trek in Phongsali and encounter exotic tribes

One of most fascinating treks in Laos is to Phongsali, the northernmost province sharing its same border with China. Sited high on a small ridge-top plateau, this destination offers breathtaking panoramic views and a cool climate that can swing from pleasantly warm to downright cold in a matter of hours. Enjoying a trek in the surrounding hills, it’s easy to encounter ethnic groups with diverse and unique cultures.

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Wednesday, February 17, 2016

Top Trails for Vietnam Discovery in 2016

So surprise when seeing stunning photos taken along trails stretching on this S-shaped country. Once riding through breathtaking, rustic, untouched but imposing regions in Vietnam, it will be the most memorable experience in life.

Here are the 16 best trails for Vietnam discovery in 2016. What makes you hesitate? Let snatch a motorbike and ride your own world. 

#1: Da Nang – Lang Co

Once set foot on Da Nang, don’t skip motorcycling on the trail Da Nang – Lang Co, just only 30km in length but splendidly beautiful. Its southern part features Hai Van pass – the highest and most imposing pass in Vietnam, while its northern part is Phu Gia pass appearing intermittently. Under Hai Van pass, it is Lang Co bay with fine, white sandy beaches stretch and interfuse with ultramarine water that makes anyone also love the bay right in first sight.

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Hai Van pass

#2: Saigon – Ca Mau

Crushing this route, it is just the way to conquer the southernmost point of the country. Atmosphere and landscapes dominating this trail are imbued in essence of the South, with boundless rice paddies, wooden bridges and bamboo monkey bridges span over opaquely alluvial canals, and orchards laden with fruits.

>> Recommended journey: Mekong delta exploring on bike

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Long An mangrove forest

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Ben Tre

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Ca Mau - the southernmost point

#3: Hanoi – Moc Chau – Ta Xua – Bac Yen

For ones who love coping with demanding challenges, it will be a pity if skipping this route, which leads to peacefully limitless flower grounds, and real heavens where sky and the earth blend into one… Let take an expedition to Pha Luong summit – the roof of Moc Chau plateau, or vanquish renowned spots like Kem slope, Cun slope and Thung Khe pass.

>> Ready to conquer: 
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Pha Luong peak - Moc Chau

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Moc Chau in seasons of flowers

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Ta Xua

#4: Hanoi – Nghia Lo – Mu Cang Chai 

With this trail, surmounting Khau Pha pass, the over-30-km pass rated as one of the four greatest passes in the North Vietnam, is a must. After crossing over ethereal fog covering Khau Pha, a majestic view will unfold with forests and mountains linking to picturesque rice terraces and tranquil villages of ethnic tribes.

>> Ride your world: Motorcycling west to east northern Vietnam

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 Khau Pha pass

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Mu Cang Chai

#5: Hanoi – Dien Bien Phu – A Pa Chai

Ideal time to ride on this trail is on the dry season from November to April. Eager more as it takes to meaningful place-names like the westernmost point of the country - A Pa Chai, one of the four greatest passes in the North namely Pha Din pass and the historical Command bunker of General De Castries.

>> For something unknown: Motorcycling on historical trail of North West

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Pha Din pass

#6: Hanoi – Hai Hau

A mere 2 days on a weekend for the trip Hanoi - Hai Hau will be truly worthy. With a distance of barely 120km, this trail soon become a famous “night stormy” route. What is awaited more than welcoming first sunlight of dawn beaming down Hai Ly ruined cathedral (in Hai Hau) and admiring Phu Nhai church - the largest church in Southeast Asia in a quiet morning.

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#7: Hanoi – Lao Cai – Hoang Su Phi

This is one of “mecca” routes to the native backpackers as well as adventurous travelers and trekking lovers, with Vietnam's the hot hub of trekking - Sapa. If just reaching here once, it’s impossible to discover all various landscapes spectacular in an amazing way, from superb, towering Mount Fansipan – the roof of Indochina, O Quy Ho pass – the king pass among the four greatest passes in the North, to Vietnam's the recent snow heaven – Sapa, and Hoang Su Phi - land of alluring terraced fields.

>> Let travel: Conquer Vietnam north pole

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 Mount Fansipan

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 O Quy Ho pass

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Hoang Su Phi

#8: Quan Ba - Yen Minh – Lung Cu – Dong Van – Meo Vac – Ha Giang city

Have you ever heard largest buckwheat fields in Vietnam spreading fabulously on the rock plateau, do you expect to conquer Lung Cu flag pole – the northernmost point of the country, or simply contemplate dreamy pine hills in Yen Minh and glide on meandering roads? If so, you will not be able to resist “charm” of this inspiring route.

>> Discover Vietnam's hidden Himalayas: Complete trekking in Ha Giang province

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#9: Hanoi – Tam Dao

Another wonderful trail for a weekend trip if departing from Hanoi, Hanoi – Tam Dao. Just nearly 2 hours motorcycling, you will be lost in a white cloudy paradise.

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#10: Hanoi – Nghia Dan

From November to the end of the year, Nghia Dan (in Nghe An province) will be mightily magnificent by vastest sunflower fields in Vietnam. This trip is also exciting with a visit to Kim Lien village, where Ho Chi Minh president was born and grew, and roaming on Mombasa grass fields, corn fields and farms of milk cows.

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#11: Saigon – Dalat

After overcoming 107 sudden turns in Bao Loc pass, let your mind find to the cherry blossom road, the less-known marvelous maple forest and weird house blocks Paris in style settled right in Vietnam, or feel the gentle cold, breezes pervaded pine scent of highland, and creep of long-abandoned ghost villas.

>> Ride now: Mountain biking in Dalat

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#12: Saigon – Binh Thuan – Lam Dong – Dong Nai

This trail offers diverse experiences: beating exactingly mountainous parts of Gia Bac pass on way to Di Linh, sinking into sea in Phan Thiet, admiring romantic landscapes in Dalat, turning urgently on Bao Loc pass, and sliding through green forests in Nam Cat Tien.

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Binh Thuan

#13: Saigon – Nha Trang

Shifting along coastal roads, it is a chance to get into eyesight completely ravishing scenery of sea and serene sandy beaches along the roads. Not only attractive views, abundantly fresh and inexpensive seafood for free enjoying certainly please even gourmets that nowhere is better.

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Nha Trang

#14: Saigon – Pleiku

Tasting tremble but being thrilling when crossing over the “death pass" Phuong Hoang. Dramatic mountainous landscapes and very special, very plain beauty of hamlets will make anyone also deeply attached and not want to leave.

>>  Head to Vietnam Central Highland: http://goo.gl/15s6Ee

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Phuong Hoang pass

#15: Sai Gon – Binh Dinh

This trail will receive travelers with acutely green sight of rice fields and orchards along Di Linh district, and pretty sea in Quy Nhon, where the famous Vietnamese poet Han Mac Tu rested in peace. On this journey, let stop a little to look over immense Thi Nai lagoon, where the longest sea bridge in Vietnam spans over, and savor safe and sound minutes as looking sea and mountains in Eo Gio (Wind Channel). All are deserved to get.

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Eo gio (Wind channel)

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Thi Nai bridge 

#16: Ta Nang – Phan Dung

It’s not untruthful to say Ta Nang – Phan Dung is the most beautiful trekking trail in Vietnam. With a length to even 55km, it stretches over three provinces of Lam Dong, Ninh Thuan and Binh Thuan. The trail bring trekkers varied challenges: walking inside forests, climbing passes and hills, and wadding over streams. However, the present received is absolutely worthy thanks to green scenery beyond eye-view of grass and trees, brilliant sunshine, and tortuous paths. All seemingly lead hikers to an endless paradise.

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Vietnamese source: Tri thức trẻ