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 (http://activetravel.asia/) also recommend travelers exciting motorcycling tours (here) on this road. 

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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%.

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Photography by Cyclingtips
L’Alpe d’Huez, France: This Alpine epic hauls around a seemingly endless series of hairpin blends stretching consecutively 13.8 km on the L’Alpe d’Huez mountain near Paris, will make cyclists choke.
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Photography by Theclimbingcyclist.com
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. 

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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. 

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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.

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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.

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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.

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Photography by Capetown.travel
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.

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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%. 

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Photography by Scoda.co.uk

Wednesday, October 1, 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 building, 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. 

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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.

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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. 

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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.     

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Thursday, September 18, 2014

Characteristics Of Floating Markets In Vietnam

By Kimina
Floating market is a original feature of deltas of Mainland Southeast Asia, where has thousands of rivers and canals in various sizes. In Vietnam, floating market is a specific cultural part of the Southwest. 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 boat, junk and canoe of residents.

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A floating market in Vietnam
The floating market opens up a whole day, but it is usually the 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 you should visit floating markets in early morning.

Boats are loaded fully of goods. Fruits are the most popular kind of merchandise. The peculiar point of boats is that in each has several poles. People dangle products which they sell on these poles. Therefore, customers just only look at the poles, they can know whether the boat has things they need or not. By this original marketing way, customers from a far distance can see clearly items.

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Residents hang products they sell on poles.
These are general characteristics of Vietnam floating markets.

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

- Stores or boats normally do not have any sign. Sellers hang products which they sell on poles or over prows; sell oranges hang oranges, sell mangoes hang mangoes, sell coconut hang coconut, etc. People call these poles as “cay beo”. These “cay beo” are erected on prows or hang horizontally on boats. 


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"Cay beo" is erected on the prow.
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"Cay beo" is hang horirzontally
- If wanting 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”.

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

1. “Hanging things which are not for sale.” They are just clothes. Residents of the floating market commonly live in boats, so their clothes are also dried in sun on boats.

2. “Things are for sale but not hung.” These boats 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, this means that the owner want to sell this boat. So, hang pineapples, but sell the boat.

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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 cultural life of local residents.

Wednesday, September 3, 2014

A Funny Expedition To Hang En And The Largest Cave in the World - Son Doong

By Romping & Nguyening
Now on to what you’ve all been waiting for – THE LARGEST CAVE IN THE WORLD! I’m going to start with 2 things:
1. Hang is the Vietnamese word for cave.
2. Pictures never do justice.

INTRO

Son Doong cave was discovered by Khanh Ho in 1991, but wasn’t thoroughly searched and surveyed until 2009 by the British Cave Research Association, led by Howard and Deb Limbert who are now in Phong Nha full time to help run the Son Doong tours. Its first year of tourism began in August 2013, with the limit of ~200 tourists per year.

Our tour consists of 2 scientists (including Deb Limbert herself), 2 National Park rangers, 1 Vietnamese English-speaking guide, Khanh Ho (the discoverer of the cave), and 24 porters (like sherpas) are all there to accompany the 8 tourists on the expedition. In sum, there are 30 others needed for the 8 tourists, for a total of almost 40 people! For these days, the 24 Phong Nha Vietnamese porters carry 35-40 kg sacks on their backs (filled with food to feed everyone, tents, sleeping bags, and our belongings), traverse the uneven path, climb and crawl over and under sharp rocks and steep hills, and have the campsites ready for us upon arrival. Despite their undaunting size, their strength was remarkable.

DAY 1: HANG EN

After we bid farewell to our last breath of air-conditioned air from the van, we trekked about 10 km through jungle and river valley to our first campsite, located in Hang En, aka Swallow Cave. By Swallow, I mean the bird (they’re actually Swifts, but the name stuck), and the reason why it is called Swallow Cave is because tens or hundreds of thousands of swifts fly in and around the cave (fun fact: they use echolocation — like bats — to fly in the dark cave). In order to get to Hang Son Doong, you actually have to go through a cave (Hang En) to get there! It’s basically a cave within a cave. 

The porters begin the journey first:

Son Doong tour 1

There is 1 village in Phong Nha National Park. It is an extremely poor village of 28 people, half whom are children. They build their own homes, raise their own livestock, and grow their own crops. Occasionally they can hitch a ride into the nearest town of Phong Nha, which is about an hour away. 

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These villagers were TINY! Look how giant I look next to this woman:

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Some nice rest stops:

trekking Swallow cave 1

trekking Swallow cave 2

And finally, our destination: Hang En! It is not the largest cave in the world, but its size is still magnificent. You can easily book a trekking Swallow cave tour if you are unable to do Son Doong. Check out Hang En below. 

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Chris brought a cord so he could turn it into a clothesline for our wet clothes. Yay!

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DAY 2: SON DOONG

After breakfast, we trekked through and exited Hang En to make our trekking Son Doong!
Here are some photos exiting Hang En: 

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trekking Son Doong 2

A short break after hiking uphill in the tiresome heat: 

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The entrance to Son Doong, the smallest cave entrance into the largest cave in the world! There was a lot of crawling, roping, and some real downward vertical caving involved. Fortunately the guides were there to help us descend into the dark cave. 

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We trekked through the dark for a while, slowly climbing over large and small boulders and crossing small rivers. Finally, we arrived at our second campsite of the trip, which was located near the first roof collapse of Son Doong. This is what the campsite looked like from a distance:

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We spent the rest of the afternoon hanging out and exploring the campsite, anxiously waiting for tomorrow’s famous views and photo opportunities.

DAY 3: SON DOONG'S JUNGLE

The first and second days were “wet” days, meaning we crossed many streams and rivers so our shoes, socks, and feet were wet the whole day. The third day was a dry day – no rivers to cross! However, there were many sharp rocks and boulders we had to climb over and under, but we were rewarded with some of the most amazing landscapes imaginable.

Here we are exiting camp toward the first roof collapse. 

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Look at how sharp these rocks are. We had fun going under and over them! 

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Up and up we went! We were rewarded with lush greenery along beautiful “terraces” carved out by flooded rivers. During the rainy season, there are no tours in Son Doong because the flooded rivers practically fill up the cave, carving out wonderful but sharp rocks and boulders. The rivers later recede, and sunlight pours in from the collapsed ceiling to give life to the jungle within the cave.

Son Doong expedition 1

Son Doong expedition 2

Son Doong expedition 3

From the top of the hill, you could look down to the side where you last stood before the climb: 

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Or look up:

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Walk a bit further up past the trees, and there’s more playthings: 

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After hanging out on these mounds, we proceeded to finally go DOWN. Below the mounds were amazing formations carved from the flooded rivers:

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After we finished climbing up and over these formations, we turned around and were treated to the climax of the whole expedition, one of the most famous views of Sơn Đoòng. Those mounds that we just hung out on? Well, those mounds are the tops of the hills in the photos below. We enjoyed our lunch here.

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We spent quite some time here, admiring the scenery and taking more photos. Mist would quickly appear and dissipate, creating an eery atmosphere. We continued with the trek through the dark cave, and when we saw another sliver of light in the distance, we knew we were nearing the second roof collapse, the site of our final campsite. See the tents below?

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Going down is kind of scary, more so because of my fear of heights.

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Our third and final campsite! 

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The tents lit up at night:

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