SHOW SOME RESPECT
Respect your elders, and your teachers, and everyone else too - this type of attitude is at the very heart of Vietnamese culture. While respect is also valued in Western society, the emphasis is more on friendliness. But it's the cornerstone of interpersonal relationships in Vietnam, whether that be within family, between friends or couples, or in an employment situation.
It's even reflected in the language used by Vietnamese in their daily lives. For example, while in the English-speaking world the word "yes" is used to express agreement and is generally neutral, a Vietnamese person has to choose between three different words to express agreement. In their reply to someone they may mean "yes, I am listening" or "yes, I am confused" or "yes, I do not want to offend."
Saving face is an entrenched part of Vietnamese culture and no more so than in the language itself. Modesty and humility are closely linked to this attitude of respect.
And in Vietnamese culture, older people are deeply revered - unlike Western society, where age is often seen as a liability and youthfulness is celebrated.
I LIKE YOUR SMILE
For the Vietnamese, the smile is a proper response in most situations when verbal expression isn't needed or isn't appropriate. It can be used as a substitute for "I'm sorry", "thank you" or "hello" instead of a ready yes, as the Vietnamese like to avoid appearing over-enthusiastic.
Because Vietnamese society places significant value on stability in social interaction, relationships tend to be very close. The Vietnamese have strong feelings towards their extended family, ancestors, home village and country.
As they believe they must treat their forebears well, many people practice ancestor worship. The building of shrines in homes and burning incense for their deceased family members is common among Vietnamese. They are also very superstitious, believing certain things must happen on certain occasions, or their family will have bad luck.
TELL ME A STORY
The Vietnamese love a good chat and can be very candid when discussing their lives. For instance, when chatting to a local, you might be surprised to discover that many topics that are regarded as personal or confidential in Western culture are openly discussed in Vietnam.
You may be asked about your age, whether or not you're married, whether you have children and how much money you earn.
It might be different from Western society, but then again, it's all about getting beneath the conical hat.
Find out more information to explore Vietnam: http://www.activetravelvietnam.com/vietnam_travel_guides.htmletravelvietnam.com/vietnam_travel_guides.html
Wednesday, May 15, 2013
The French have their berets, Russians wear their fur hats and Moroccans don the fez. In Vietnam, the conical hat is the head wear of choice. This sturdy, wide-brimmed topper is well suited to a country where rice farmers endure both fierce sunshine and pelting rain out in the fields.
Along with the Vietnamese traditional dress, it has become an informal national symbol. Vietnam is a fascinating country and a highly photogenic one at that. But beyond this - what lies beneath the conical hat?
Quite a lot, if you know anything about Vietnam's thousands of years of history. A hardworking people, their culture has been influenced by many civilisations: the native ethnic groups that once inhabited their land, the Chinese, the French, and most recently, the Americans and Russians. From all these outside influences, plus centuries of war and hardship, their culture has been formed.
Monday, May 13, 2013
For the first time in months, I concentrate on breathing the clear fresh air, relax and feel my tense muscles unclench. Finally, I can hear myself think and am alone, surrounded by nature and centuries of evolutionary miracles.
|Trekking Cuc Phuong National Park|
Such a welcome break from the buzz of Hanoi. The sound of birdsong disturbs the silence. That's right, complete silence. Such a welcome break from the buzz of Hanoi. No motorbikes, no horns, no market vendors yelling, no drilling. Just complete and utter silence.
I have come to Cuc Phuong National Park, after a 90 minute motorbike ride from Ninh Binh City. After leaving the city, the road winds its way through small villages surrounded by rice paddies. Soon the houses give way to more rice paddies, interspersed with stunning limestone karsts. The landscape is very similar to the karst formations of Northern Vietnam's Ha Long Bay, yet, due to its in-land location, obviously lacks the marine features of its coastal counterpart.
|Cuc Phuong national park|
Cuc Phuong is Vietnam's oldest national park and was established over 50 years ago. The scenery that unfolds before my eyes is breathtaking, and the calls of insects, birds, and primates lure me into the dense forest. On walks I explore the park's extensive trekking trails, listen to the mystical sounds of the jungle and visit some of the villages in the area, where I could see some of the traditional stilt houses, agricultural tools and, luckily, musical performances by some of the region's ethical minority groups.
The park is also home to some of the region's most successful conservation centres, where injured and confiscated animals from the wildlife trade are rehabilitated and prepared for their re-release into the wild.
Visiting the Endangered Primate Rescue Centre was my highlight, and I spent close to two hours watching over 100 primates of over 15 different species of gibbons and langurs play, feed and nurture their young. At the Turtle Conservation Centre close to 20 different turtle species that have been rescued from the wildlife trade are housed and bred, and possibly will be re-introduced into the wild eventually.
|Endangered Primate Rescue Centre|
As most of these species are endangered, the conservation centre also functions as a place of education and provides vital information about the key turtle species in Vietnam. For example, did you know that it can take up to 30 years for a turtle to hatch from an egg, mature, and procreate? The life cycle of these stunning creatures is unbelievably slow, and sadly the high demand for turtles (as pets or meat) is devastating turtle stocks across Vietnam.
|Cuc Phuong National Park - mushrooms|
The Small Carnivore and Pangolin Conservation Centre next door is home to some of the most endangered small mammals in Vietnam, such as the Owston civet or leopard cat.
After visiting all three centres and learning about the natural heritage and biodiversity of Vietnam, I walked back to my lodge contemplating the beauty of it all: the landscape, the conservation efforts of so many dedicated individuals and organisations, the fascinating species of animals and plants that are unique to this part of the world, and our role of humans within it all.
Faced with such spectacular surroundings, I felt very small. Standing there, alone, in the middle of thousands of years of evolutionary processes, I couldn't help but wonder what the future would bring – would we as humanity manage to come together to preserve our natural beauty, or would we continue in our path towards destruction and extinction? I guess only time will tell.
|Thousand year old tree|
However, I can say for certain that Cuc Phuong National Park is a wonderful place to escape to and provides the perfect backdrop for profound thoughts and musings about life.
You can book a trekking tour to explore Cuc Phuong National Park though travel agencies in Hanoi. I can recommend an adventure tour operator I knew, ACTIVETRAVEL ASIA. They offer adventure tours at Vietnam, Laos, Cambodia, including hiking and trekking, biking, motorcycling and family travel packages.
You can refer Trekking Cuc Phuong National Park Tour via: http://www.activetravelvietnam.com/tour.php?op=detail&tourId=26
Friday, May 10, 2013
Apart from Cai Be and Phung Hiep, Cai Rang in Can Tho City is one of the three most popular and biggest floating markets in the Mekong River Delta. It is a great place for tourists in Vietnam to enjoy exciting atmosphere during the early morning market hours.
|Cai Rang Floating Market|
The Cai Rang Floating Market, the largest wholesale floating market in the Mekong Delta, starts around 05:00 and runs until around midday, meaning that you’ll have to get an early start to the day if you want to visit. Most tour boats along the riverfront leave between 05:00 and 07:00, so if don’t make it to the water by then you’ll have a hard time finding a tour.
The market is about six kilometres from Can Tho, or about a 30-minute boat ride. While floating down the river, you will glimpse life along its shores. You’ll pass vibrantly painted boats anchored along the shore, merchant vessels carrying loads down the river and houses built on stilts over the water.
|Cai Rang float market, Vietnam|
Once you finally reach the market, it’s an impressive site. A stretch of boats selling all variety of goods lines the river. Not really a place for souvenirs, people come here instead to buy large quantities of goods, mostly foodstuffs, and you will get an idea of what water commerce in the Delta looks like. Your guide on the boat will usually give you tidbits of information about Cai Rang as you weave through the hordes. You’ll learn that boats identify what they are selling by hanging a sample off the top of a long pole; if you want pineapple, simply scan the horizon for a hanging pineapple. You’ll also get the opportunity to interact with some of these floating merchants; most commonly this happens when a small boat selling drinks latches onto the tour boat’s side.
|Many kind fruits are sold|
During the early morning market hours, larger sized boats anchor and create lanes that smaller boats weave in and out of. The waterway becomes a maze of hundreds of boats packed with mango, bananas, papaya, pineapple, and even smuggled goods like cigarettes.
Sellers do not have to cry out about their goods because their goods can be seen in a distance and their cries would not be heard in the vastness of the river and the noise of boat engines. Small boats that sell beer, wine and soft drinks go among the other boats to serve market-goers and visitors in Vietnam travel. Sellers tie their goods to a tall pole so that buyers can see from a distance what they are selling.
Each boat is loaded with plenty of seasonal goods. Activities at the market are also an occasion for tourists to study the cultural aspects of southerners. You can see the market in the distance; it does not look like much, just a mass of boats. The boats all display their wares on a mast so you can see what they have available.
|Exploring Mekong Delta|
Coming to Cai Rang Floating Market, you can join a tour of the Mekong Delta. Several tour operations can arrange tours combine adventure activities like biking to explore Mekong Delta. I’d recommend you an adventure travel company I knew, ACTIVETRAVEL ASIA (ATA). In this special trip, ATA ride through beautiful areas of lush fruit orchards, endless paddy fields, lively floating market and busy canals.
You can refer Mekong Explore tour at: http://www.activetravelvietnam.com/tour.php?op=detail&tourId=19
Thursday, April 25, 2013
On a cycling trip across north Vietnam, Kevin Rushby finds that….
By Kevin Rushby
We were on a cycling trip that would encompass homestays and national parks, taking us from the Mai Chau valley some 100 miles south-west of Hanoi and close to the Laotian border, south-east towards the coast and the city of Ninh Binh. If you imagine the shape of Vietnam as rather like a giant upright prawn, we were going to do a neat cross-section just at the base of the head. No day would involve much more than 20 miles – about the limit for our nine-year-old – and there was always a support vehicle to pick up stragglers. The route would, we hoped, give us a complete range of Vietnamese experiences, from tribal homestays and untouched jungle hills to fast-developing towns.
Mai Chau was definitely at the less developed end of the Vietnamese spectrum. All around us the rice fields were being harvested by ladies in conical straw hats. Others were wafting nets to catch crickets or filling baskets with bundles of water hyacinth. In places, songbirds in bamboo cages had been hung in the shade of trees to ward off wild, food-stealing birds. The valley floor was almost completely devoted to rice, and generations of careful landscaping have left it almost flat. At the sides, perhaps a kilometre apart, the tangled secondary forest rose sharply to serrated peaks. There, at the junction of the horizontal and vertical worlds, people had built their houses on stilts. Curls of smoke rose from among them, where rice husks were being burned.
|Biking Mai Chau, Vietnam|
We rattled across a rusty suspension bridge and through a village. Every house seemed to lie at the centre of a perfect storm of picturesque food production. There were fish ponds and ducks. There were neat vegetable gardens filled with beans and cabbages. There were orchards of longans, rambutans and persimmon. Even the scrubbier patches were stocked with areca palms, which provide betel nut as well as support for prickly dragonfruit stems. Under the houses were recently harvested crops – rice, peanuts, taro roots and bamboo – plus all the paraphernalia of further operations: fish traps, coops and cages. What was significantly absent was any plastic litter or mess.
A few miles on, we left the bicycles in a hut and walked uphill to a tiny hamlet of wooden houses on stilts. Climbing the steps to one of them, we entered a traditional house of the White Thai tribe, a people who had come from Thailand several centuries ago and whose way of life seems largely unchanged. The floor was bamboo slats, worn to a glossy smoothness by years of bare feet. There was little in the way of furniture, just a huge low bed, a couple of benches and an altar for the ancestors. On the ceiling was a hand-painted tribute to Ho Chi Minh and in every window hung a chirruping bird cage. We had stayed in a similar house the previous night – the whole valley has embraced the homestay idea, giving the farmers a valuable side income. Success, however, has made some homestays more like guesthouses.
|Homestay Mai Chau, Hoa Binh, Vietnam|
This one was certainly authentic. Green tea was brought and served in small bowls, then a toast of rice wine.
Lunch came on a large tray: bowls of noodles cooked with carp from the pond, tofu, slivers of bamboo and other strange leaves and roots. It was a magnificent feast in a country whose cuisine is one of the high points of human culture.
On our third day, after some gorgeous mountain scenery, we had reached Vietnam's largest and oldest nature reserve: Cuc Phuong national park, a 50,000-acre area of forest slung over a stunning landscape of jagged mountains. It is home to 97 species of mammal and more than 300 species of bird, but after a six-mile trek and a 20-mile bike ride, we had spotted precisely one stick insect and heard exactly one gun shot.
Cage after cage of small furry creatures represent the last few examples of species endemic to Vietnam, most of them langurs, a long-tailed leaf-eating monkey. This is a country where tigers and elephants have been more or less wiped out and superstitious crazes for rare animal meats have sent dozens of species spiralling towards extinction, including five of the 11 species of langur.
|Cuc Phuong Jungle, Vietnam|
Next day we rode into a landscape that is becoming more common in Asia: a strange melange of the traditional and natural with the newly industrialised, newly touristified. There would be achingly beautiful wetlands dotted with water buffalo and backed by jagged peaks, then a cement factory. There were sleepy, algae-encrusted Catholic churches and ancient temple gateways, then new concrete pagodas with huge coach parks. We passed fishermen in traditional hats setting bamboo fish traps and fishermen using truck batteries and electrodes. All around, limestone outcrops rose in jagged profusion, like pods of humpback whales.
The first boat in our group had entered the cave for the return trip when the woman paddling the second boat called out. There, on the top of the crags, silhouetted against the late sun, was a family group of langurs. More arrived, moving with total grace and vitality in their mountain fastness. There was, I estimated, around half the world's remaining population on display. For several minutes we all watched them leaping around, and it felt good to be with local people who were as pleased as us. Our cross-section of modern Vietnam had, I felt, ended on a suitable high note.
Eventually we left the langurs and passed back through the cave, in time to see the magical sight of thousands of egrets flying over to their roost. We sat by our bikes and watched them settle as the light faded.
Way to go
ACTIVETRAVEL ASIA can provide the trip for you which include bike, hike and kayak tour of northern Vietnam, which combines Hanoi, Mai Chau, Cuc Phuong national park, Ninh Binh and Halong Bay.
- Awesome scenery
- Tam Coc - the "Halong Bay on the rice fields"
- Homestay in Thai village
- Jungle trails
ACTIVETRAVEL ASIA offers a wide selection of Vietnam, Laos, Cambodia and Myanmar adventure tours, including hiking and trekking, biking, motorcycling, overland touring and family travel ackages. The packages and tailor-made private itineraries will take you through exotic destinations to really experience the culture, history and nature of Asia.
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Tuesday, April 23, 2013
By Joseph Ferris
|My Minsk motorcycle|
Vietnam is my favorite country. Lots of people “backpack” through Vietnam this way without ever actually strapping on a backpack. Of course, many people enjoy this style of travel and leave Vietnam satisfied, but if you would like to experience a more authentic, friendly and adventure, I suggest choose motorcycle tour through the mountains northern Vietnam.
In the countryside of northern Vietnam the Minsk motorcycles rule the roads. I went to Sapa, Lao Cai, the beautiful French Hill station. Sapa is a popular destination and most backpackers on the train to northern Vietnam will be heading there. Not to be missed are some smaller mountain towns to the east of Sapa. One rainy morning I visited a hillside market located only four miles from the Chinese border. The Minsk can easily handle the rough terrain of northern Vietnam. I swiftly passed by the stuck Land Cruisers and found them still waiting on my return. After spending a few days in the eastern tribal region, I drove to Sapa, and a few days later continued west along the Dien Bien Phu loop road.
The scenery on the trip is amazing. The town of Sapa sits perched on a dramatic mountain valley. A short drive from Sapa is Mt. Fansipan. With an elevation of 3143m, the peak of Mt. Fansipan was shrouded in the clouds as I drove over the pass.
|Ethnic Minorities in your way|
There are many colorful ethnic minorities living in the mountains along the loop road. In Sapa, the girls from the local ethnic minorities will offer to guide you on hikes to their villages. These girls speak English amazingly well, learned only by listening to the foreign tourists. I never went along on one of their hikes, but it was reported to me to be a great experience. You will encounter many other different ethnic minorities along the way, each with their own style of distinctive and colorful traditional dress. This area of Vietnam is well off the beaten track. As you travel through the mountains you can rest assured that the ethnic minorities will be dressed in their costumes not to satisfy the demands of a mass tourist industry, but because of tradition.
The southern half of the loop journey passes through the more industrialized hinterland of Hanoi. At this point there are more options for how to return to Lao Cai. I chose to go north of Hanoi, throw away the map, and navigate by the sun until I met with the northbound route back to Lao Cai. I reached the mountains south of Lao Cai with only minor trouble, getting lost only a few times, and enduring two days of rain. Although there is not much to see in this area, the people are very friendly.
I stopped frequently to dry off, warm up and drink coffee with the local people. At one rest stop, the owner of the small cafe served me tea and then ran off to fetch her daughter. The daughter was home on vacation from college in Hanoi, and would practice her English by acting as our interpreter. Initially I was not so sure if her husband felt the same. He later appeared dressed in his old NVA militarily jacket. Giving me a hard stare and a stern look he asked me that if being an American, I was afraid that the Vietnamese would kill me. Through his daughter I told him of course not, and that I considered the Vietnamese to be the nicest people I had ever met. He broke out in a big smile and proudly declared, “very good!” The rest of the family also seemed very pleased by my answer and we had a pleasant afternoon of talking, eating fruit, and waiting for the rain to stop.
The entire family rushed out clapping and cheering in disbelief. I assume they had given me up for dead and banked my deposit. That night they fed me, let me take a shower, and arranged my train ticket back to Hanoi. Those two weeks had been amazing, and probably the biggest influence for why I regard Vietnam as my favorite county and I continue to daydream about future trips.
Practical advice for a successful motorcycle adventure
For the perfect trip, you should prepare both the physical and mental carefully. To be back home intact, you should follow some rule of Vietnam like riding on the right of road, turn on the signal when turn right or left, move slowly at intersection, school, and hospital. You also can refer adventure tours of trust travel companies to be less risk such as ACTIVETRAVEL ASIA, which have 7 years experience in operating motor biking tour.
More information: http://www.activetravelvietnam.com/tour.php?op=detail&tourId=66