Wednesday, July 22, 2015

Travel Like a "Real" Burmese

One of best ways to discover a country is immersing in the local life, eating their food, wearing their costumes, staying at their home, talking to them or traveling like them.

Just opening recently, Myanmar has still maintained unique features which are hard to find in any other country. To understand more deeply about Burma, travelers can transfer like native people and be one of them.

1. Pedicab

Myanmar’s pedicabs are really classical in style, which evoke some typical images of the past 100 years ago.

Pedicabs before Custom House, Strand Road, Yangon, Myanmar

Same to many South & Southeast Asia nations, pedicab is also a characteristic mode of transport of Myanmar, especially in big cities like Yangon or Mandalay. But, different from some countries where majorly use cycle rickshaw for tourism, pedicab in Myanmar is just an affordable vehicle that normal residents all can use for daily life’s purposes like going to work, going to pagoda, going to market.


In Yangon, you can sightsee colonial buildings on a classical pedicab, which can lead you around old streets, old buildings with people surrounding all wear traditional clothes. Feeling like to being lost in Southeast Asia in 1990s. In Mandalay, you can take pedicab to reach Royal Palace or roam around the city.

Pedicabs before Accountant General Office, Yangon, MyanmarPedicabs before Accountant General Office, Yangon, Myanmar

Pedicab in Switte, Myanmar
Pedicab in Switte, Myanmar

2. “Crazy” train

Called as “crazy” train, train in Myanmar is truly a horror. Why??? Foremost, it shakes very much, continuously, swaying up, down, left, then right, such an extent that you can jump from a place to another place though you are sitting. (Can you imagine, view this video to know clearly). Secondly, why it shakes really much. Perhaps because the railway system is old, degraded and not upgraded regularly. Train in Myanmar is even extremely much older than in Vietnam though Vietnam’s trains are old-fashioned. However, if you accept this terrible thing, you will have a real adventure, a fun, unique experience that you just only find in Myanmar. Burmese people still travel by this crazy train every day. They do that, and you can do that too. :)

So, let view some recommends below for this “unforgettable” experience.

- Circular train in Yangon

This 1 USD train will take you through countryside around Yangon city. Burmese people usually use the train for daily life. Forget a high-class board with air-conditioning if you want to have a clear view about poor Burmese people or an authentic challenge; let choose the normal type. In this way, you can see how labors go to market or go to work.

Yangon circular train - normal type
Yangon circular train - normal type

- Creepy train through Gokteik viaduct – most majestic bridge in Myanmar

Train from Mandalay to Pyin Oo Lwin will pass over this impressive viaduct, the highest bridge for train in Myanmar, which was completed in 1900. As crossing Gokteik, the train will move at the speed of walker with the total time of 25 minutes. Spectacular scenery and creepy feeling are gifts you will receive on this adventure.

train through Gokteik viaduct

- Yangon to Mandalay

Be an adventurous person and want to challenge yourself, you can think of this “adrenaline” train journey, which lasts “15 hours”. However, before deciding to attempt it, let make sure that you are strong enough to survive to the final minutes.

>> Anthony Bourdain traveled on a Myanmar crazy train. View his video.

3. Horse cart & ox cart

Horse cart & ox cart are an outstanding, typical mean of transport in Myanmar, especially in rural areas. On a cart, you can relax, enjoy scenery and feel the mood of Burma.

In Bagan, horse cared has been used for tours. A cart ride can lead travelers to off-beaten-track temples and hidden craft villages.

Bagan horse cart

One of remarkable features in Pyin Oo Lwin (Maymyo) is classical, colorful horse carts, which can bring you a special way to contemplate landscape of this lovely town, old British colonial houses, stunning flowers gardens and strawberry farms.

Pyin Oo Lwin horse cart

It is also fabulous to enjoy an exotic ox-cart on beaches like Ngapali or Chuang Tha.

Ox-cart Chaung Tha beach

4. Boat

Travelers can try traditional boats or boats that Burmese inhabitants usually use. Some can be really noisy with naked engine, but the experience is actually interesting.

Small boats are the main transferring mode in Inle lake. Boating is the best way to discover life on this unique lake, where you can witness leg-rowing fishermen, floating houses, floating gardens, trade boat, etc.

On the way to Mrauk U, it is possible to boat along with locals. There are two kinds, slow boat and speed boat. Hiring a private boat if you want to be alone. However, immersing in local life is better to discover a country.

Travelers can also attempt other kinds of original boats on Irrawaddy river for deep exploration or on the way from Mrauk U to Chin villages.

traditional sailboat on Kaladan river to Chin villagesTraditional sailboat on Kaladan river to Chin villages

5. Plane

In fact, domestic airline in Myanmar has an old, classical style. This style bring passengers experiences of the past which are no longer today in many countries like PAPER ticket, STICKERS and free seat (no seat allocation.). A whole country has numerous domestic airlines with small fleet of about 2 – 5 planes, most of them are ATR aircrafts. Truly these planes commonly stop at one or some places (called LAYOVERS) to collect more passengers then they just continue flying to the last destination. With this reason, they are so-called as “buses on air” or “commuter buses”.

To know more bizarre airline system in Myanmar, you can view here.

paper air ticket in Myanmar

Wednesday, June 24, 2015

Best 10 Temples in Siem Reap

With hundreds of temples scattered throughout Angkor - World Cultural Heritage Site in Siem Reap province, you can only select a few priorities of the biggest, most beautiful temples lying in best locations to admire.

Angkor Wat means “Temple City” (Angkor: "city" or "capital city") while Angkor Thom means “Great City”. These are two the most important relics in Cambodia, which are considered as supreme constructions of Khmer art and architecture.

1. Angkor Wat

Angkor Wat is the greatest, best beautiful temple and situated in the best location among all temples in Angkor Complex Site. Angkor Wat was constructed under the dynasty of King Suryavarman II in the first half of 12th century, which is the pinnacle of Khmer architecture. This temple is well-known for long passage-ways carved with hundreds of Hinduism epic relievo statues along with thousands of absolutely stunning Apsara woman dancer statues.  

Angkor Wat - Cambodia
To walk and explore Angkor Wat entirely, you will have to spend a whole day. This is also the best place to contemplate sunrise in Angkor. 

2. Bayon

Lying in Angkor Thom ensemble, Bayon is remembered by hundreds of giant, spectacular four-faced-statues. Bayon was built in 12th century by Jayavarman VII, which is the only national temple in Angkor built mainly for Mahayana Buddhism, dedicated to worship Buddha. After the death of King Jayavarman, Bayon was remodeled according to Hinduism.

Bayon - Cambodia
This is the most impressive temple in Angkor Complex thanks to its majesty about scale along with mysterious spiritual emotions as admiring this temple.

3. Ta Keo temple

Takeo temple was made of green sandstones, which is the sole temple not completed in Angkor Thom. Ta Keo was erected by King Jayavarman V, the son of Rajendravarman, as he was 17 years old. This temple is dedicated to worship God Shiva. However, Ta Keo was never accomplished due to the death of the king.

Ta Keo - Cambodia
A legend was related that the temple had been struck by lightning while it had been constructing, and all work had been stopped in the period that primary structures had been newly completed.

4. Ta Prohm

Built in 1186, Ta Prohm is a Buddhism temple dedicated for the mother of King Jayavarman VII. This is one of a few temples in Angkor having proofs which provide information about inhabitants of the temple. Ta Prohm used to be home of over 12,500 people. After the fall of Khmer Empire in the 15th century, the temple was abandoned. Trunks have grown over the walls creating an occult, extraordinary beauty for the temple. 

Ta Prohm - Cambodia
Someone who used to watch the film Tomb Raider of the star Angelina Jolie will specially want to visit this temple.

5. Banteay Kdei

The temple located next to Ta Prohm is Banteay Kdei, meaning “A Citadel of Chambers”, also known as “Citadel of Monk’s Cells”. This is a Buddhism temple in Angkor, built in early 13th century under the reign of King Jayavarman VII. This Buddhism monastery now decays a lot due to incorrect construction and poor quality of sandstones. 

Banteay Kdei - Cambodia
If you are ones who fancy culture and beauty, you will not miss these ruins with graceful carved motifs on walls of the temple.

6. Pre Rup

Pre Rup temple looks like a miniature Angkor with three towers in the center. The temple was made of grey sandstone, which is less durable than pink sandstone like in several other temples in Angkor. Pre Rup is used as a place to cremate bodies of the Royal lineage.

Pre Rup - Cambodia
Undergoing many centuries it was abandoned, complicated carved details in this temple has been eroded. 

7. Preah Khan

This is one of biggest temples in Angkor, constructed by King Jayavarma VII to offer his father – Dharanindra, was also the temporary residence of this king as Angkor Thom was under construction. Preah Khan was surrounded by a layer of citadel. Many construction categories was connected each other by two plus-shaped-corridors divided the temple into 4 parts. At head of each corridor, there is a temple gate with two colossal statues standing guard.

Preah Khan - Cambodia
This breathtaking temple has retained numerous invaluable masterpieces overlaid by moss through the years. 

8. Phnom Bakheng

This Hinduism temple was constructed in late 9th century, the architectural center of the new capital under the reign of King Yasovarman. The temple faces east, lying in a 6-story-pyramid. After accomplishment, Phnom Bakheng had 108 small towers surrounding the temple on the ground and on the floors. 

Phnom Bekheng - Cambodia
Located in top of a hill, Phnom Bakheng is one of best places to witness dawn in Angkor.

9. Banteay Srei

Located nearly 30 km from Angkor Wat, but Banteay Srei is the temple cannot forget in Angkor. This temple with delicate, charming contours was built to worship Gods of Hindu and Shiva. Banteay Srei or “the temple of women” is a wonderful picture about sculpture art on laterite and red sandstone.

Banteay Srei - Cambodia
The temple is rated as the pinnacle of art with relievo statues and motifs created in a subtle, ingenious way for every small detail.

10. Preah Palilay

Preah Palilay is a very small temple which is little known, situated in the behind precinct of Elephant court. This is a Buddhism temple based on Bayon style, although there are a number of Hinduism carved parts. The temple is striking with the chimney-shaped tower and sculpture statues of God Naga really fabulous from the gate. 

Preah Paliay - Cambodia
The small temple ruins, hiding deeply inside Angkor Thom area but it is really attractive under cool shade of a green tree garden.


TIP: To discover Angkor Complex site, you can trek or bike over Angkor. Animated activities will make your discovery more interesting and bring you new experiences, especially as you go through forests and encounter amazing ruins. 

Tuesday, June 9, 2015

New Draft Law Banning Travelers from Touching Angkor Wat

The new draft law of conduct, which stipulates prohibitions for travelers like banning from wearing scantily and touching ancient constructions, can be executed by the Authority for the Protection and Management of Angkor and the Region of Siem Reap (APSARA).

Angkor temple site

APSARA notifies that they are completing the new draft law which has been built for 2 years to apply for tourists visiting this historic site. According to Mr. Sok Sangvar, the head of tourist management of APSARA, in this early June, they will send the draft to experts of International Criminal Court to review the code’s legality.

“Basically the code directs to regulations of things that tourists not to do when visiting Angkor Wat like not dressing inappropriately and not touching ancient constructions.” – said Mr. Sok Sangvar. When the process of drafting this new code is coming to the final step, many indecent, illegal actions of some tourists happened as they took “naked” photos inside this sacred, ancient temple site. 

Following to Mr. Long Kosal, the spokesman of APSARA, when being accomplished, the rule books will able to be distributed to people who work in tourism indusstry. “We will propagate this new law widely to related authorities, departments and organizations, and hand the rule books to tourism workers such as tour guides, travel companies, hotels, etc. We need cooperation from them to achieve good results in enforcement of this law.” Mr. Kosal added.

Mr, Sangvar told that APSARA also find all ways to disseminate things must not to do for travelers. The law is mainly about the sustainable development of Angkor. This code will be also executed for other historical sites in Cambodia, but Angkor temple complex is first.   

Tuesday, June 2, 2015

Active Travel Asia Introduces New Website Interface

ACTIVE TRAVEL ASIA (ATA) – the travel company offers real adventure travel in Asia excitedly introduces the new website interface www.activetravel.asia. So as to serve customers better, this website was redesigned. It now has an easy-to-use interface with an eye-catching appearance and a plain structure. 

Active Travel Asia new website interface

Compared to the old website interface, this new one has some dominant features following:

• One-stop booking for adventures to all Vietnam, Laos, Cambodia and Myanmar.

The new website is the synthesis of all tours from four main satellite websites: Active Travel Vietnam, Active Travel Myanmar, Active Travel Laos and Active Travel Cambodia, but divided by destinations (countries) and activities.

With a new general and united website, it is expected that the view of tours will be more convenient.  As users can see the whole of tours, they will have more appropriate choices for their likes, time or budget. 

 Allow visitors easy to search for adventures by destinations, activities and duration.

A new search tool was created on this new interface for users to seek tours they need. Users can search by places of departure, types of tours (activities), duration and special keywords. With this new search tool, users can find out quickly in a simple and time-saved way. 

Beside the search tool, this new website also supplies a “sort tool”, which allows to sort by Price and by Day that help visitors easily look up to the most suitable adventure to their schedule as well as budget. 

• User-friendly and responsive interface to mobile and tablet screen.

The new interface is eye-catching though on desktop, mobile or tablet screen. Specially, it is really easy to access and use regardless of which devices users employ. It is also friendly in interaction with users via contacts, requests and feedback. 

Applying the newest technology, this new interface is fully responsive to all mobile devices. It means that the interface automatically “adjust” itself about image, text, buttons, icons and others to match to every screen resolution. That makes the online shopping of visitors can be proceed anytime, anywhere as long as their mobile devices are connected to internet. 

 Many options of booking and payment. 

Many choices of adventure tours are suggested and given which users can see as accessing a tour site of the web. Beside, customers can customize tour or create own trips then send requests to the company. 

There are many payment policies on the new website that creates favorable conditions and stimulate customers to book adventure tours like paying immediately only 25% out of total, balance later, paying later, etc. The payment system is secured with the SSL standard which encrypts the information that users provide online.

• Many deals and offers updated.

Deals and offers are updated frequently and set at easy-to-see places. Many tours have a clear table of prices for 1 pax, 2 pax, 3-4 pax, 5-6 pax and single supplement. Particularly, discount prices are counted right on price tables in time of a sales promotion program. 

 Permit users add Feedback right on website.
Users are likely to give their ideas publicly about ATA’s services. That is not helpful to other potential travelers but it shows the ATA’s open idea and confidence with its services. 

***

With exceptional features in comparison with the old website interface, ATA hopes that this new one will bring simple, convenient and active experiences for users. If you realize any problem when using this new website, please send your comments to ATA. We really thank for this.

ACTIVE TRAVEL ASIA TEAM

Wednesday, May 13, 2015

Enjoy Fresh Life in Ba Be National Park

By just staying a few days in Pac Ngoi or any village in Ba Be national park, travelers can come back bustling urban life with a pleasant mood and fresh mind.

Life in Ba Be is so easy-going, where travelers can soak in nature and enjoy an authentic life. With presence of really few modern objects, Be Be is a wonderful place to escape from crowded city and busy life. Wi-fi is erratic, mobile wave and 3G wave are also weak. However, it’s ok. Look at another aspect, everything is still fine. No one and nothing can bother you in this out-of-the-way area. Let try a life without technology and conveniences.

Homestay in Ba Be national park

So as to enjoy this fresh life, you can select a homestay of a Tay family, where you will experience a life at a traditional stilt house. My stilt house overlooks gentle Len stream, a great location to relax in every afternoon.

In this national park, Ba Be lake is the most striking. Boating around the lake, traveler will be contemplated a charming, breathtaking scene. The scenery changes as moving from south to north. 

The southern part focuses several docks. Here, water has a dark green and sometimes green of jade. Short and rank mountains embrace the lake, and trees are luxuriant. Some islets appear among the lake, in which the most well-known one is “Ba Goa” islet (The Widower islet). With tranquil atmosphere, you will just hear the rumble of boat machines. Ba Be is truly like Halong in land. 

The southern part of Ba Be lake

Up to the north, the landscape become different. Water has a light brown, yellow brown or yellow green. Perhaps this is because of alluvium. The two sides are covered with corn fields. Some herds of buffaloes slowly gaze. Some flocks of ducks and chickens forage. A few houses of thatched roofs are scattered, appear intermittently behind rows of bamboo trees. A number of dugout boats go up and down in the still and secluded space.  

The northern part of Ba Be lake

If you want to have adventurous feeling, you can kayak around Ba Be lake and discover it in your own way, or trekking over the hamlets to reveal the indigenous culture and life. 

In the afternoon, travelers can play at the stream in front of the homestay, wading and splashing on cool water, or just sitting on the lovely small bamboo bridge to silently read book and unwind. Every homestay also has some bikes, so you can ask the owner to borrow one and cycle around villages and visit corn, rice fields. 

Len stream - Pac Ngoi village - Ba Be national park

Fresh food in Ba Be is fish, shrimps and vegetables. Fish and shrimps are caught directly from the lake. Locals said that they put lift-nets down to the stream at 4-5 p.m. And at 2-3 a.m, they would pull lift-nets up to gather aquatic products. Most typical vegetable of this area is “bo khoi”, which has a fairly wild taste. A part from “bo khoi”, you can enjoy many other lush vegetables.
Here, there is no place for entertainment. When night falls, the entire space is sunk in darkness, unexpectedly quiet. Then, it is time for a comfortable sleep. Sleep early and wake up early, you will have a good health and cheery mind for activities tomorrow. Get up early, you can also contemplate rustic villages and beautiful fields in sunrise, incredible things that you may rarely see in your life. 

Ba Be national park
 By Xuan Tran (Kimina) - ActiveTravel Asia