Wednesday, December 29, 2010

Ha Long Bay, Con Dao Islands among best tourist destinations

Two of Vietnam’s coastal destinations have been listed among the world’s ten most outstanding tourist destinations by Lonely Planet Magazine, according to the Vietnam National Administration of Tourism (VNAT).

Ha Long Bay, in the northern province of Quang Ninh, has made it onto the list of the 10 most outstanding coastal destinations.

Ha Long Bay, Vietnam

About 500 ships ply the waters of Ha Long Bay, designated as the World Heritage site in 1994, carrying millions of tourists every year, according to the VNAT.

Quang Ninh has attracted 5.3 million visitors so far this year, 2.5 million of whom visited Ha Long Bay.

The other nine locations were the Norwegian Fjords, the Amazon River, the Franklin River in Australia, the Quetico

Provincial Park in Canada, the Kerala backwaters in India, New Zealand's Milford Sound Bay, the Greek islands, Disco Bay in Greenland, and the Galapagos Archipelago off the coast of Ecuador.

Con Dao Islands, an archipelago off the coast of Ba Ria-Vung Tau Province, was listed in the top 10 most mysterious and outstanding islands in the world for an ideal holiday.

The island was featured for its unspoiled beaches and dark history as a site for inhumane prisons – often known as the Alcatraz of Southeast Asia.

The list includes Socotra off the coast of Yemen, Australia’s Torres, Yaeyama from Japan, Iles du Salut of Guyana, Ulleungdo from Korea, San Blas Islands from Panama, Taiwan’s Penghu; Bay and Hog Islands of Honduras and Uganda’s Ssese.

Source :thanhniennews


Monday, December 27, 2010


Active Travel Vietnam ( ) has updated discount policies for travelers who plan to travel Vietnam, Laos and Cambodia. ATV also offers special discount for loyal travelers and their relatives or friends in 2011

Book a private tour or more and take the advantage of our discounts to save the money. Get discount when travelers travel with their family and friends, get discount when travelers book more than one tour at the same time... Travelers can save up to 10% or more. Enjoy our discount now!

Kayaking tour in Halong Bay, VietnamKayaking tour in Halong Bay, Vietnam

Travel with Family and Friends and save money

6 or more – Save 3%: If a group of 5-8 people travels together, a discount of 3% per person applies to the LAND-only portion of their tour. So it pays to get together with their family and friends!

9 or more: If 9 or more people travel together, ATV offers attractive group discounts based on how many people travel. In a group of 9 passengers, 1 traveler qualifies for a 50% discount off the LAND-only portion of the tour. In a group of 16 passengers, 1 traveler qualifies for 100% discount off the LAND-only portion of the tour.

Important: All traveling passengers' names must be advised to ATV at the time of booking in order to qualify.

When travelers book a second tour

Book two ATV tours for a reduction of 5% off the LAND-only portion of the second tours.

Important: Tours must be booked at the same time. The discount is per person only. This discount is not combinable with the discount for Loyal customer.

Sapa, VietnamSapa, Vietnam

Loyal customer

Already made a trip with ATV and now come back to book another trip. 5% off the LAND-only portion.

Important: Applied only for booking of package tour. This discount is not combinable with the discount for When you book a second tour

Child discount

Children under 12 years is generally granted a reduction of 50% of the land tour, 25% of airfare, provided that they are accompanied by at least two full-paying adults and stays in the same room. An extra bed is fully charged as adult.

Get our interesting Travel Gift

Either travelers book the whole country package or a shorter set departure tour travelers will receive our Travel Gifts, which can be Water Puppet Show ticket or silk sleeping bag, airport transfer or private half-day city tour and more... ATV's travel consultant would advice travelers the available gifts at the time of booking and travelers can choose the one travelers like.

Wednesday, December 22, 2010

Christmas spirit stretching across Vietnam

The exciting atmosphere of Christmas has filled the streets from Hanoi to Ho Chi Minh City with striking colours and decorations.

In Ho Chi Minh City, major streets such as Dong Khoi, Hai Ba Trung, Le Loi, Nguyen Hue, Nguyen Thi Minh Khai and Tran Hung Dao were covered with lights and Merry Christmas decorations.

Ben Thanh Market, Ho Chi Minh city, VietnamBen Thanh Market, Ho Chi Minh city, Vietnam

Saigon Tax Trade Centre, which attracts many visitors on holidays and festivals, has been decorated with distinguished features of different countries such as France, Egypt, Italy and Vietnam.

Hoang Thi Kim Xuyen in District 1, who was taking her children to walk around the streets shared, “Christmas this year, the decoration style of hotels are simple but extremely meaningful. Coming here, my children can play and also learn about specific characteristics of countries around the world.”

Not only locals but also international tourists are interested to see images displayed in Vietnamese hotels and streets during the Christmas holiday season. Mr. Ambrey, a French traveler said, “I can not imagine that I can see images of my country here. Watching the Christmas scenery in Vietnam makes me miss my hometown and family.”

Most high-rise buildings, hotels and restaurants are decorated with signs of Christmas. The upcoming Christmas holiday at Kenh Dao Area, Phu My Hung New Urban Area, has brought a bustling atmosphere for people.

Streets in Nha Trang City, central Khanh Hoa Province, are also exciting and colourful with sparkling trees, symbols of Santa, lights, and children who are wearing Christmas clothes. The cooler weather seems to make it feel even more like Christmas.

Lights, pipe trees, reindeer and Santa Claus are also being largely displayed in streets in Hue City, central Thua Thien-Hue Province. The weather in Hue has been very nice with warm sun in the daytime with cooler temperatures at night, encouraging locals to flock to the streets to welcome Christmas early.

Hotels, supermarkets and restaurants have been decorated with themes of Christmas. “Recently, more customers have come to our supermarket, boosting the sales,” a salesclerk at Big C Supermarket shared.

Many young people have come to big stores and supermarkets to buy gifts for their friends and relatives and shopping has been on the rise.

Ho Chi Minh City:

Christmas in Vietnam
Christmas in Vietnam
Christmas in Vietnam

People buying Noel clothesPeople buying Noel clothes

Nha Trang city:

Christmas in VietnamHue city:

Christmas in Vietnam
Christmas in Vietnam
Source : dtinews

Recommendation for Christmas Holidays in Vietnam:
Biking Tours in Vietnam
Family adventure tours in Vietnam

Monday, December 20, 2010

Adventure hike in Cat Tien National Park, Vietnam

Only 170 kilometers from HCMC, Cat Tien is an ideal piece of the wild for an Vietnam adventure trip.

Vietnam National Parks
At more than 71,000 hectares, Cat Tien National Park has plenty of untamed places that are off the beaten track.

Hiking or biking are the best ways to travel on the forest tracks. The park has important conservation value because of the rainforest, mountains, river and rich biodiversity that attracts thousands of tourists and scientists from all over the world.

Instead of risking it alone, the team at Vietnam Adventure, organizes hiking and biking trips into the Cat Tien jungle with a back-up crew to make sure nothing goes wrong.

Catch the bus from HCMC in the afternoon to the national park in Tan Phu Commune, Dong Nai Province, arriving in plenty of time for a good night’s sleep in accommodation at the park headquarters. The hike starts early the next day to avoid the mid-day heat and jungle humidity.

The destination is Green Hill; to get there the track goes past ethnic minority Ma and S’Tieng villages then continues through a thick bamboo jungle following one of the local tribe’s tracks. It’s likely to pass some of the minorities as they go about their business in the forest and see some deer and birdlife but the going is not easy. The tour arrives at the top of Green Hill, an inactive volcano over 300 meters above sea level in time for lunch. Before getting to the top, there’s a cave containing thousands of bats.

Another village path is taken for the trip down, which is a scramble over the loose red basalt soil. The scenery is different with streams, tall grass and bamboo.

Source: SGT

Thursday, December 16, 2010

ACTIVETRAVEL ASIA and Caritas Switzerland working together in a survey of a responsible tourism project in Quan Ba, Ha Giang province, Vietnam

In cooperation with Caritas Switzerland in Vietnam, ACTIVETRAVEL ASIA (ATA) is going to survey Quan Ba, a little-known area 40km north of Ha Giang Town, for identifying the potential of eco tourism and community tourism development in the area. The survey trip happens in mid December.

The survey is beginning step of 3-year project named “ Quan Ba District Integrated Community Development Project, Ha Giang province ”. This project is implemented by Caritas Switzerland in Vietnam to set up sustainable livelihood for the poorest households and the poorest community with attention to indigenous knowledge, strengthening the culture which is facing a risk of oblivion, and obtaining sustainable maintenance of the environment resources.

In this project ATA plays the role of sustainable tourism development consultant and will be the key partner of Caritas through out the project. In a week the inspection team will scan the whole area, mapping all the potential routes for different activities like trekking, biking,… the team also check on the current condition of local homestay as well as the infrastructure of the whole area.

After the trip, ATA inspection team is going to report to Caritas existing natural and social condition of Quang Ba in developing eco tourism and community tourism. The team also propose a plan to for sustainable tourism development in the area.
Ha Giang, VietnamHa Giang, Vietnam
Background of destination

Located at the highest latitude in Vietnam, Ha Giang Province shares a border with China in the north. Ha Giang's complicated topography with a relatively high altitude from 1,000m to 1,600m, is made of rocky mountain, separated rivers, sloping mountain sides, high passes, valleys, and narrow springs. The climate is divided in two distinct seasons, rainy and dry. The annual average temperature varies between 24 and 28ºC. In winter, the temperature is sometimes down to -5ºC.

Quan Ba, Ha GiangQuan Ba, Ha Giang

Quan Ba district in Ha Giang province is one of the poorest areas in Vietnam. About 85% of the people are ethnic minorities, mainly Mong, Dao, Nung, and some other smaller communities, such as Tay and Pu Y.


Recommended tours to Ha Giang:

Monday, December 13, 2010

ACTIVETRAVEL ASIA organized Unique Tour like “ James Bond film” near Angkor Wat, Cambodia

Travelers become the commandos with a mission to release the British Journalist in deep jungle of Cambodia who are searching a treasure and kidnapped by some Khmer rouge Soldiers. The commandos fly in on helicopter from Bangkok, Thailand and land and walk through jungle in Cambodia, crossing stream, abseiling big rock at night to reach the ruin.

The ruin in the deep jungleThe ruin in the deep jungle, Cambodia

In the ruin of a 1000-year old temple hidden in deep jungle of Phnom Kuleane Mountain, 70 km from Siem Reap, Cambodia, a British journalist is captured and tortured badly by some Khmer rouge soldiers. The journalist has a mission of searching for a treasure that is believed to keep a great power which can open the door to future and could change the future of the world. The journalist has the coordinates where the treasure is hidden and he was kidnapped when he arrived in Siem Reap. The Khmer rouge soldiers base in the jungle of Phnom Kuleane and is also looking for the treasure in order to get back their power. They are informed about the journalist’s journey by their secret agent. And that happen… a team of commandos is sent to the Phnom Kuleane to free the journalist and help him to complete his mission. The commandos fly in on helicopter and land 9 km from the ruin, they walk through jungle, crossing stream, abseiling big rock to reach the ruin. They camp 1 km near the ruin under a big tree and sleep in hammocks. After settling and eating the commandos quietly approach the ruin, they used night vision to locate all the positions and plan for the attack the next day.

The commandos are ready for the rescueThe commandos are ready for the rescue

Next morning, while the Khmer rough soldiers gather for breakfast, the commandos launch the attack and quickly rescue the hostage. They escape into the jungle again and head to the treasure location. The reach the treasure location by 5 pm the same day and successfully find it. They camp the second night in jungle. The next day they find their way back to Siem Reap… the mission completed.

The hammock which they sleptThe hammock which they slept

That is not a script of a Hollywood movie though it happened exactly as it is described above. This is a tour organized by ACTIVETRAVEL ASIA ( ATA) for its client, a security service firm from UK. The tour was greatly successful and everybody who involved in playing it or organizing it enjoyed it so much. It was extreme and fun the first 2 days of the tour and relaxing on the last day with a sightseeing tour of Angkor Wat, a fancy dining in the luxurious Grand D’angkor Hotel and an interesting night-life exploration of Siem Reap.

A hostage is capturedA hostage is captured

And the guns in the battleAnd the guns in the battle

This is the first one of this sort organized in Cambodia and ATA is planning to promote this sort of tour (game) in 2011. See below the rough some photos and behind the scene video of the tour. The complete video version will be updated soon.


Tuesday, December 7, 2010

How to travel Phu Quoc Island Vietnam - Travel guide & tips

So you’ve got your motorbike, and you’re ready to explore Phú Quốc. While few travelers to Vietnam run into any problems on the island, keep in mind that much of the land is still undeveloped. Here are a few tips:

Phu Quoc Island,VietnamPhu Quoc, Vietnam

1. Bring at least 2 liters of water. It gets quite hot during the day, and snack stands are sometimes hard to find. Dehydration can be a serious issue, so come prepared.

2. Keep off military property. The Vietnamese government is very protective of Phú Quốc, and there are military bases (marked by signs) around the island. Although some travelers to Vietnam claim they’ve slipped through unnoticed, it is unwise to intrude upon military property. Irate officers can make your life unpleasant.

3. Take a map. Although Phú Quốc seems relatively small, its many winding paths aren’t always easy to find. Bring a map with the major roads and landmarks.

4. Give yourself enough time. Poor (or practically non-existent) roads take time to navigate; it can take a whole day to explore half the island.

5. Be prepared for dust. Sunglasses are good protection, unless you’re already wearing a helmet with a faceshield. Wear dark clothing.

6. Bring raingear. It can turn from pretty paradise into monster monsoon in minutes. Be ready.

Everything I knew about Vietnam, I learned from Chuck Norris

November 25, 2010

While it pains me to admit it, it was Chuck Norris who gave me my first glimpse of Vietnam. Films such as Missing in Action would see him navigating the dense forests of Vietnam, miraculously evading landmines, penetrating Vietcong territory to single-handedly rescue old wartime buddies, starving but still very cute Vietnamese children enslaved by cruel communists, and a pretty local girl (probably a third his age) who is likely to show her gratitude in ways not appropriate for this publication.

Thus, when fellow writer Susan De Guzman called about an airline seat sale to Ho Chi Minh City (formerly Saigon), I agreed with a degree of apprehension. It was a country I had very little knowledge of save for the violent images on television from watching Chuck or National Geographic specials. I was certain of three things: it was a socialist country; many Americans died there (and they’re still hurting from it); and the Pho (a local noodle soup dish) is awesome. It wasn’t much to go on but even after reading countless web pages and travel guides, I was still unable to latch on to an image of Vietnam that did not involve landmines and forests. I had no choice. I simply had to wait and see for myself.

We arrived at Tan Son Nhat airport around midnight. It was quite a modern facility that was efficiently run. Soon enough, we found ourselves cruising down the streets of Ho Chi Minh that, at that hour, appeared to be a cleaner and better maintained version of the older districts of Manila. Even in the dark, we counted many old structures with interesting architectural details. The trip was turning out to be a very promising one.

Ben Thanh Market,Ho Chi MinhBen Thanh Market, Ho Chi Minh

Daylight proved us right. The morning stroll left us straining our necks to see interesting architectural features. Many buildings have been converted to house restaurants and shops, breathing new life into the structure while adding character to the community. Nothing could be more inviting than the aroma of freshly brewed coffee and bread just out of the oven wafting through brightly painted French windows, thrown wide open to entice passersby to stop, choose a charming table outdoors and simply watch the world go by. And I don’t even drink coffee!

Some are in a state of disrepair but have managed to retain a sense of dignity from their glory days. They house an odd shop or two, or some small government office where a tired clerk would be going through a messy pile of papers.

But a good number left us breathless.

Narrow streets crowded with hawkers would suddenly yield a gem. One such was the Ho Chi Minh City Fine Arts Museum. In many ways, it is a tired building, appearing to have seen too many summers that have scarred its facade. But its beauty is unmistakable. This turn-of-the-20th-century building is golden yellow with blue trimmings. It was a former commercial building but felt more like an extremely wealthy person’s mansion with stairs and a foyer greeting guests as they enter. The building is riddled with arched windows adorned with stained glass and balconies bearing intricate ironwork details. It houses sketches, paintings and statues dedicated to Vietnam’s resistance to colonial powers. It also featured various images of Buddha as well as furniture once used by the country’s leaders.

It opens into a courtyard littered with sculptures. This level also houses several commercial galleries where one can get acquainted (and purchase) artworks by contemporary artists.

Though the roads are quite narrow, it is difficult to feel claustrophobic in Ho Chi Minh because of the many parks placed strategically so that after a few tight streets, the path would suddenly open up to a field of green. And where there is a park, there is likely to be an important building just waiting to be stumbled upon by the intrepid traveler.

The park we stumbled into on the second day of our vacation did not disappoint. Just a few meters away was the impressive Saigon Notre Dame Basilica with its twin bell towers piercing the sky with the crosses on their peaks. Vietnam was once a French colony and the European conquerors brought with them their food, architecture and religion. Saigon Notre Dame is a classic example of the last two.

The site of the Basilica was once that of a pagoda. It was eventually turned into a church but was deemed too small. A wooden church was built in 1863 but was destroyed by termites. In 1876, a design contest was held. Architect J. Bourad beat 17 other competitors and the resulting structure -- Roman with Gothic elements -- still stand today.

There is a statue of the Virgin in front of the Basilica which, in 2005, was said to have shed tears. People flocked to the site, causing traffic in the surrounding streets. And though the church officials declared that the statue did not shed tears, people still came, hoping to see a miracle. It makes for an interesting anecdote about a country often perceived by the rest of the world as having no religious beliefs.

Right across the Basilica is another architectural gem. Another remnant of the French colonization, the Central Post Office is a Gothic structure that pays homage to the great names in the world of science. Names of intellectual giants such as Louis Pasteur and Alessandro Volta are carved on the facade which is painted peach-pink with white trim. Inside, a high, arched ceiling looms over a cavernous interior that is richly decorated with many details, making the simple act of mailing a postcard seem like a grand event. The building was designed and constructed by no less than Gustav Eiffel.

Central Post Office, Ho Chi MinhCentral Post Office, Ho Chi Minh

Nearer to the park is the Reunification Palace (formerly the Independence Hall) -- a massive block of a building standing proudly amidst a sprawling garden. Susan and I immediately had the same thought. It looked like the UP College of Law but much, much larger.

The Palace was originally the residence and work place of the President of South Vietnam. When Saigon fell, this was where the war officially ended after North Vietnamese tanks were crashed through its gates in 1975. Vietnam was then unified under the rule of the communist North.

Today, visitors can get to see the President’s office, the old war room underneath, and banquet halls where heads of states and esteemed guests are entertained. Tanks and helicopters are also found on the grounds to give guests a better picture of the fateful events in 1975. The real treat, however, is the huge garden wrapped around the palace, a well-tended sea of green that shades strolling visitors from the hot midday sun.

It is interesting to note that most guide books call the Reunification Palace the official site of the "fall of Vietnam." For Vietnam’s people, it is the site of a glorious victory which they continue to commemorate. The year 2010 marks the 35th anniversary and at the park right across the palace, we happened upon very colorful posters and banners announcing the event and the ensuing celebration. While much of the rest of the world still mourns for America’s defeat and the loss of South Vietnam, its citizens are happily going about their lives, strolling in parks, planning parades, eating crepes and blissfully unaware of the continuing fuss.

It was also for this celebration that a giant tarpaulin featuring the face of the revolutionary Ho Chi Minh (born Nguyen Sinh Cung) greeted us from the facade of the otherwise beautiful Saigon Opera House. The opera house is another fine example of French colonial architecture and all the opulence that the style entails. The facade is shaped like the Petit Palais which was built that same year. Like most Gothic-style structures, the building had so many details and ornate reliefs which, at some point, were removed for being too ostentatious. But everything was properly restored in 1998 for Saigon’s 300th anniversary.

I was bitterly disappointed to see the waving Ho Chi Minh covering up so much of the facade. But as luck would have it, we arrived at the end of the celebration and the less-than-pleasing tarpaulins were removed the very next day which allowed us to photograph the opera house without obstructions.

At the far end of the road is another massive French colonial building that literally stopped traffic. The Ho Chi Minh People’s Committee Head Office (Ho Chi Minh City Hall) was once known as the Hotel De Ville De Saigon. While beautifully illuminated at night, the building is not open to the public and can only be admired from across the street -- at another park where a statue of Ho Chi Minh stands guard.

But the best known structure among tourists coming to Ho Chi Minh is one that has attracted visitors since time immemorial for a single reason: trade. Ben Thanh Market, built in 1912, was an improvement on the informal markets found near the Saigon River since the 17th century. Come evening, the building closes to make way for the night market beside it. Divisoria regulars would easily feel at home in this loud, chaotic, and charming retail mecca.

Wandering around Ho Chi Minh and gawking at its architectural gems made me wonder about the images I’d seen on television. Were they referring to the same place? I eventually found Chuck’s Vietnam when we left the city for the infamous Cu Chi Tunnels.

Cu Chi TunnelsCu Chi Tunnels

Buildings gave way to rice paddies as we got closer and closer to this network of underground tunnels used by the Viet Cong during the war. Our guide led us through thick clusters of trees, one of which held a secret entrance into this underground world. To say the entrance was tiny is an understatement. You have to be thinner than Kim Chiu but no taller than Nora Aunor to be able to fit inside. A hundred meters of this intricate network were enlarged in order to accommodate clueless tourists who end up huffing and puffing after a few meters of crawling inside. Needless to say, my thighs ached badly the next day. And my legs still have a scar or two from deep scratches thanks to the thorns of the thick bushes. But it was an experience to remember, although one I am not likely to repeat.

On the way to the tunnels, we stopped at what could possibly be the most colorful temple ever built. The Cao Dai Temple is very difficult to describe. Think of a very oriental looking church that ran smack into a rainbow. Within its walls, one would find Jesus Christ, Buddha and Confucius right next to each other, with several other characters that I failed to recognize. One painting depicted Sun Yat Sen, Victor Hugo and Nguyen Binh Khiem -- collectively known as the Three Saints -- signing a pact between God and humanity. It was all very peaceful. The worshippers were welcoming to visitors and the chanting was very relaxing.

Personally, the Cao Dai visit summed up my Ho Chi Minh experience. Different ideas live comfortably side by side. Chuck’s Saigon, National Geographic’s Saigon and the Saigon I visited, though worlds apart, are one and the same. It’s colorful and it never fails to surprise at every corner.

Source : bworldonline

Friday, December 3, 2010


Hanoi December 13 - December 24, 2010

Volunteer project: International and local volunteers will organize Christmas and New Year festival for extremely poor children living in the Fisher village at the Red River and for the patients of the National Pediatric Hospital in Hanoi. The volunteers will make nice gifts for the children such as light stars.

In the fisher village, in collaboration with the local volunteers and the children, the international participants will organize a big party on the bank of the Red River (theatre, dance, BBQ, etc.). In the Hospital, the volunteers will visit the children in their rooms, dressed as Santa Claus, and will hand out candies and small gifts.

The smile of poor kidsThe smile of poor kids

Between the parties, the volunteers will cook for the children attending the Street children school, and will organize leisure activities for them after school.

The volunteers need to bring Santa Claus clothes. They will also collect second hand clothes to give to the very poor children who don’t have enough warm clothes for the winter.

Language: English

Accommodation: The volunteers will live in a house near the Red River. Kitchen and sanitary facilities available. Please bring a sleeping bag.

Location: Hanoi, the capital of Vietnam, a thousand year old city, situated at the banks of the Red River, with an estimated population of about 4 million inhabitants.

Age range: 18 and over

Extra fee: 150 Euro

The extra fee is intended to support the hosting organization who does not have sufficient funds. It is due upon arrival on the project.


Thursday, November 25, 2010

Ready for Active Travel Indochina – Vietnam, Laos and Cambodia

What could be a great option for someone have retired like you, who'd like to try something different, something more fun and exciting maybe? How about going for an active travel experience?
"Boy, when I retire, all I'm going to do is lie around in a hammock all day" – this is probably what you have said and thought about all these years while working your way through life, but now that you have retired or planning to retire, do you really find the concept that satisfying? The answer could be no.

So what could be a great option for someone like you, who'd like to try something different, something more fun and exciting maybe? How about going for an active travel experience?

Traveling in Twilight

Whoever said you need to be an on-the-go person to sign up for an active vacation after retirement could not have been more mistaken. From adventurous kayaking in Halong Bay or historical trips on Ho Chi Minh Trail and Angkor Wat explorer- there is something for everyone out there
Just that you may need to hit your nearby gym at least twice a week, or ask your yoga teacher for classes immediately.
Angkor Wat, Cambodia
Angkor Wat, Cambodia

Here are some more options to help you plan a perfect active travel vacation:

- Fitness boot camps in Luang prabang, Lao or Ha Giang, Vietnam
- Golf vacations in Vietnam & Cambodia
- Kayaking in World Heritage sites such as Halong and Nha Trang bay, Vietnam
- Cycling trips through the countryside in Mekong Delta or Hoi An of Vietnam, Luang Prabang of Laos or Angkor Wat of Cambodia
- Hiking vacations on the top of Fanispan Mountain, Vietnam
- Walking tours of various World Heritage or historic sites of the world like Angkor Wat of Cambodia
- Museum trips in Hanoi, Capital of Vietnamand especially in Phnom Penh of Cambodia
Trek Fansipan Mt, Vietnam
Trek Fansipan Mt, Vietnam
Travel Agencies

Travel experts prefer classifying adventure tourism in two categories- "soft" or "hard" (also called "gentle" or "demanding"); but don't get caught up in these jargons. Make up your mind as to whether you would like to go kayaking, mountain climbing, biking, motorcycling or would you prefer enjoying the blue ocean in an obscure island in Phu Quoc, Vietnam.

Once you've made your choice, you can begin your research by browsing through websites and on-line travel agencies that will help you pick the right tour package.
Here are some of the names you might find handy

Walking the World
50plus Expeditions
Seniors Go Travel
Forty Plus Adventure
ActiveTravel Asia is one of names that has been organized more adventure trips for American Veterans travel to Vietnam war in the past from 2006. From motorcycling tours on Ho Chi Minh Trail to trekking trips in some ethnic villages of Sapa, Vietnam, they offer tour packages in Indochina.

Ready to Leave?

Here are some tips to help you organize your trip:
Confirm the legitimacy of your travel agency with associations like-American Society Of Travel Agents (ASTA) and United States Tour Operators Association (USTOA)
Check if they can customize your tour per your requirements
Find out whether your budget covers all the expenses
Remember to carry your travel and health insurance papers with the other entire document

A Few Words on Outdoor Safety

Find out as much as you can about the place you are traveling to Carry things like waterproof reflective survival blanket, Global Positioning System (GPS) units and mobile phones Check if your medical kit is well stocked with all the necessary drugs and first-aid supplies
For more tips on how to stay fit on the move, you can browse through the TravMed website

Be a Fit and Healthy Globe Trotter

There is nothing like traveling with an agile body and mind. To ensure this:
Eat healthy and drink plenty of water
Carry ginger pills to abate motion sickness
Stop and stretch every alternative hour while driving for long hours

Wednesday, November 24, 2010

Vietnamese Tour Companies support Eco and Responsible Travel in Vietnam & Indochina

Eco and Responsible travel now are the way of traveling while respecting and benefiting local environment, cultures, practices and economy. It also highlights significant elements of how to improve standard of living for ethnic poor communities, educate local people to protect the environment, help in reducing carbon emission, and helping nature by planting trees, protecting endangered animals.

Besides that responsible tourism can also include efforts to help humanity by giving to the people in need, by volunteering time and knowledge, treat them or take care of their special needs.

Eco Travel in Vietnam

A group of companies that have founded responsible travel club in Vietnam ( and Indochina include ACTIVETRAVEL ASIA( ). They co-operated with NGO’s such as SNV (Netherlands Development Organization) and Caritas Switzerland and created their products which are included the activities that not only give travelers the chance to discover the destinations in Vietnam, Cambodia and Laos, but show them who to improve local standard of living and protect the environment while their travels.

Some of the ATA tours are, Ha Giang Tour or Adventure in Northern Vietnam: An Eco-experience. The former is a 14 days, 10 nights tour which combines sightseeing with visits to local communities and ethnic cultural villages. During this tour you will be using motorbikes en route. During the tour the travelers will stop at some villages and learn how NGOs are helping in preserving the Vietnam culture and heritage and how travelers can contribute towards it.

Travelers also get to explore the local culture as part of responsible travel through cultural ceremonies. ACTIVETRAVEL ASIA and Caritas expect to educate ethnic communities in Quang Ba, Ha Giang how to accommodate travelers and protect travel resources. Children in Ha Giang do not have the much resources to educate themselves and this helps in giving them some form assistance to get educated and also make you feel good about your contribution to these children.

The above is just one of the ACTIVETRAVEL ASIA Responsible Travel products. There are several others which are coming soon in 2011 include countries such as Vietnam, Cambodia and Laos .

Friday, November 19, 2010

Angkor Tops List of 'Most Recommended' World Heritage Sites


A recent UNESCO / Trip advisor Survey reveals Angkor is the most recommended World Heritage site by a quarter millions travellers worldwide and that 72% would do more to help heritage conservation if they knew how.

Cambodia tours

TripAdvisor revealed the results to date of the biggest analysis ever conducted of UNESCO's World Heritage sites around the world.

The two year partnership between TripAdvisor, and UNESCO's World Heritage Centre launched in October 2009 to raise awareness of and gain travellers' support to preserve natural and cultural sites inscribed on UNESCO's World Heritage list. Within the partnership, TripAdvisor will also donate up to $1.5 million (USD) of support to the World Heritage Centre to help monitor the conservation of the world's most important cultural and historic sites.

Via on-site and email campaigns, TripAdvisor has, to date, collected nearly a quarter of a million (244,690) feedback submissions from travellers who have visited 789 of UNESCO's recently expanded list of 911 World Heritage sites. The results provide a unique insight into the views and recommendations of travellers themselves. As part of the partnership, TripAdvisor shares the feedback to the World Heritage Centre so that it may better engage UNESCO member states in matters of site conservation.

TripAdvisor travellers have given the nod to Angkor, Cambodia as the number one recommended UNESCO site to visit in the world, describing it as amongst other quotes, "Absolutely breathtaking" and "One of the wonders of the world." The second and third most recommended World Heritage sites are both in Italy and are respectively the Historic Center of Rome, the properties of the Holy See, and the Historic Centre of Florence.

The TripAdvisor travellers' feedback also highlights those World Heritage sites they consider need the most attention. At the top of UNESCO's sites in 'Worst Condition' comes the Kasbah of Algiers in Algeria, described as a "crumbling site". The site includes remains of old mosques, Ottoman-style palaces and traditional urban structures.

Because countries often hope to draw additional tourism following the inscription of their sites onto the WH List, traveller feedback from TripAdvisor can help them address some of the issues raised and improve tourism to their sites.

TripAdvisor is encouraging the contribution of reviews and opinions from its large and passionate community of millions of members to provide much needed information about the condition of World Heritage sites so they may be better protected. In order to compile traveler feedback on nearly 900 World Heritage sites across the globe, UNESCO's World Heritage Centre invited TripAdvisor, via its millions of members and technological expertise, to provide traveler insights and support to the Centre.

As part of the two-year campaign, TripAdvisor has also pledged to donate up to $1.5 million U.S. of support, including a cash donation that will be allocated to UNESCO World Heritage initiatives. Travelers can learn more about how to help at

According to TripAdvisor travellers, the "Top Ten" most recommended sites are:

2). Historic Center of Rome, the Properties of the Holy See, Italy

3). Historic Center of Florence, Italy

4). Historic Areas of Istanbul, Turkey

5). Old and New Towns of Edinburgh, Scotland

6). Historic Center of Prague, Czech Republic

7). Venice and its Lagoon, Venezia, Italy

8). Works of Antoni Gaudí, Barcelona, Spain

9). Westminster Palace, Westminster Abbey and Saint Margaret's Cathedral,

London, England

10). Historic Center of Vienna, Austria

Monday, November 15, 2010

Explore Vietnam Adventure Tours with Active Travel Vietnam

Vietnam is an astonishing amalgamation of diverse culture, natural beauty and captivating historical events. All these combined together makes Vietnam a perfect tourist destination.

Vietnam … intriguing history and mesmerizing culture!!!

Vietnam is an astonishing amalgamation of diverse culture, natural beauty and captivating historical events. All these combined together makes Vietnam a perfect tourist destination. A tour to Vietnam is desirable by all age group with varying interests and liking. Bestowed with a never ending coastline of 3200kms, Vietnam is full of scenic beauty and cultural feasts.

Floating Market, VietnamFloating Market, Vietnam

An expedition from “Rice Bowl” in Mekong Delta to the hustle bustle of Vietnam’s happening city Ho Chi Minh prior to heading the eye catching beaches of Nha Trang, Ca Na and Ninh Chu captivates you with the unexploited beauty of this country.

You have an extensive option of booking a tour to Vietnam through various tour operators. If you are an adventurous person then an adventure tour to Vietnam can certainly be quite fulfilling experience. On the other hand a beach vacation in Vietnam can be other most appealing option for tourists who love water and exploring beaches.

In the south of Vietnam is Ho Chi Minh City which was formerly known as Saigon. It plays a huge role in captivating your imagination as a city of historical value and traditions. While exploring south of Vietnam the Cu Chi tunnel is must visit.

Hanoi, VietnamHanoi, Vietnam

In North the capital of VietnamHanoi is a prime destination for tourists. Embedded with diversified culture and European style the city is famous for its arts and lakes. Ho Chi Minh’s Mausoleum, the Halong Bay and the 36 street areas are some of the other most frequently visited spots in Vietnam.

There are several online Vietnam tour packages available for you to choose from. Exploring Vietnam can be quite an experience which may leave your senses filled with its natural beauty and places which are still untouched and unexplored.

Related adventure tours in Vietnam:

Northern Highlights
Taste of Ho Chi Minh Trail
Mekong Explorer

Monday, November 8, 2010

EMW suggests Five Favorite Vietnam Travel Websites

Travel sites abound on the web--and vary widely in focus, scope, and reliability. Here are five we've tried and liked.

Active Travel Vietnam
: This appealing, readable site promotes its adventure travel tours (biking, hiking, kayaking, motorcycling, etc.) but also provides plentiful, practical information on travel in Vietnam, focusing on outdoor excursions but including guides to cities, beaches, national parks and reserves; travel tips; culture and customs; and hotel listings.

Halong Bay, Vietnam

Lonely Planet : Like the popular guidebooks, this travel site sets the standard for comprehensive, practical advice on traveling. Along with the expected travel tips, hotel recommendations, and “must sees,” the site provides a wealth of historical and cultural information not available on most other sites.

Reid On Travel : Vietnam This full free web guide created by veteran Lonely Planet author Robert Reid is packed with information on what to do and see in Vietnam. Reid’s observations are smart and funny and his “One-Day Planners” allow you to get the most out of a scant 24 hours in a city. Bills itself as “…the most in-depth, independently researched guidebook online for any destination.” Check it out and judge for yourself.

Trip Advisor : Features advices from real travelers, via reviews, blogs, and forums, on an exhaustive array of listings: flights, hotels, restaurants, cruises, recommended reading, and things to do, including cooking classes, tailors, museums, shopping, spas, ancient ruins, bird sanctuaries, caves, puppet theaters…the list goes on.

Virtual Tourist : Provides reviews, tips and photos posted by real travelers and Vietnam locals. Far from comprehensive, but engagingly idiosyncratic and likely to have something new to offer even the most jaded of travelers.


Sunday, November 7, 2010

ACTIVETRAVEL ASIA hosted Australian Motorcycle Travel group in Vietnam in Oct 2010

ACTIVETRAVEL ASIA (ATA) have hosted a group of Australian Motorcyclists to take the motorcycle trip in Ho Chi Minh Trail, Vietnam. This trip started from Hanoi and finish in Hoi An, Quang Nam province in Oct 20, 2010.

With 7-day motorcycling tour in Ho Chi Minh trail in total 11 day trip from Hanoi to Hoi An, Quang Nam province, this motorcycling grading of tour is considered as Moderate to challenging by ATA.

The legendary Ho Chi Minh Trail was the supply line used by North Vietnam to link North and South Vietnam during the American War. Soldiers, ammunition, weapons and supplies were carried by hand, bicycle and truck for hundreds of kilometers through the otherwise impenetrable jungle that covered Vietnam’s mountainous border with Laos. A testimony to the ingenuity, fortitude and commitment of the northern Vietnamese, the trail slipped from use at the end of the war and was taken back by the jungle.

Recent road work that follows original sections of the trail has changed this. Besides incredible driving, deep in the Vietnamese countryside; this ride takes in the charming ancient trading town of Hoi An, Khe Sanh battle site and DMZ. Travelers also take time to stay overnight in a traditional Thai hill tribe and visit to some tribal villages on the way.

Australian motorcyclists is group of the 8 motorcyclists and love motorcycling trail especially on the historical trail during Vietnam War in the past by motorcycling.

Travel Tips
- Motorcycle travel tips: Vietnam motorcycle travel tips
- Motorcyle guide & trail:Ho Chi Minh trail & travel guide
- Motorcycle tours: Motorcycle tours in Vietnam

Wednesday, November 3, 2010

Getting lost in Hanoi, Vietnam

October 31, 2010
By Judy McEuen
Travel Writer - Troy Media

It is easy to feel overwhelmed and lost amidst the Hanoi’s bustling streets and the countless mopeds and bicycles moving around.

But don’t get discouraged, even if you want to immediately hop on the nearest van and set off to the more tranquil and eerily beautiful Halong Bay. While not at first glance obvious, Hanoi has several attractions that are worth seeing and its charm will grow on you if you give it a chance. So, rather than escape the hubbub straight away, don’t be afraid to get lost in the city for a while: I guarantee you will enjoy what it has to offer.

Rich cultural heritage
Its modern developments may be completely devoid of beauty and allure but the charm of Hanoi’s rich cultural and historical heritage more than make up for it.

Check out the city’s Old Quarter and experience what it was like to live in the 13th century in this part of the world. Its narrow and winding roads were not simply ordinary thoroughfares; they are also representative of the social status of its residents. Merchants were grouped with merchants, carpenters with their fellow carpenters and sculptors with the other sculptors. Check out the street names and you will have a pretty good idea of the guild it was specially designated for.

Walk around the compact area and you will discover wonderful enclosed markets and ancient structures which now house charming cafes, boutiques and shops. Take a moment to notice how the shops are very narrow at the entrance but seem to go on and on in length. That is how merchants tried to escape taxes. But these shops are not just for show now: there is actually plenty of interesting and lovely merchandise for sale, from intricately designed jewellery to exquisite silk textiles to superb handicrafts among others.

Visit Ho Chi Minh
Walking south from the Old Quarter you will soon discover the laid-back calm of Hoan Kiem Lake which is right at the nucleus of the city centre. This is a perfect place to get your bearing while you enjoy the picturesque view of the placid waters and lakeside atmosphere.

For a bit of history, visit the Ho Chi Minh Mausoleum. His remains are encased in glass and are open to the public. Note that he is an esteemed and beloved hero so expect rigid security measures and a non-negotiable dress code. If you don’t care for mausoleums, you can just visit the nearby Ho Chi Min Museum.

Another popular attraction in Hanoi is the One Pillar Pagoda in the Ba Dinh District. It was built in honour of Emperor Ly Thai Tong. The pagoda is artistically built to resemble the shape of a lotus flower. Also a major historical and religious landmark in the city is the Temple of Literature. It has served disciples of Confucius for centuries and still continues to be a major pilgrimage site for believers. It dates back to the 11th century but it has retained its grandeur and splendour to this day.

The major attractions of Halong Bay, Sa Pa and Bac Ha are just hours away from Hanoi. So, you can easily be on your way after your short tour of the city

Monday, November 1, 2010

A Path To Somewhere

If it’s all about the journey and not the destination, there is a “journey to a journey” involving quite a few ups and downs, not to mention twists and turns, that awaits the nature lover in Vietnam’s northern region.

The destination is a path, 40 kilometers long, that winds its way through a dense bamboo grove in Thanh Hoa Province. In order to reach the Suoi Muong bamboo path, there’s a long way to go, past high mountains and deep valleys. A motorbike is an indispensable accessory.

Mai Chau, Hoa BinhMai Chau, Hoa Binh

Let’s get going from Hanoi and head to Hoa Binh, where Muong Lat Street along the Laos border leads to the mountainous western part of Thanh Hoa. The first village on the road is named Thanh Son, where backpackers can tuck in for the night in local homes after a simple supper. As we go further, more villages appear, as do the first bamboos. Here, the road is named Suoi Muong after a local stream.

Along the red-soil road, which gets narrower toward the end, are tall, dense bamboo grasses that cast their green shadows on the Ma River flowing alongside. Then the bamboos disappear, and the Mau Village market comes into view, several minutes from the pier across the Ma River.

Stationed at the pier is a woman in her sixties. Her teeth are dyed in black, a beauty aid for Vietnamese women in the old times and a tradition to protect their teeth. “I row until four in the afternoon, then go home to rest,” said the ferrywoman who has been doing this job nearly 20 years and knows everyone in the area.

There are close to 30 streams, big and small, in the area and they put in an appearance after every turn along Suoi Muong road that is 100 kilometers long. But not every stream has a boat to take you across. Sometimes, people have to wade into the water first and lead others waiting to take their bikes across.

Vietnam Motorcycling TourVietnam Motorcycling Tour

And the adventure is only the beginning. Some parts of the road are piles of rock, some are slippery soil, some are in between the cliff where the bikes have half a meter width to drive on. The bike driver needs to be firm and the pillion rider should be ready to jump off at all times to help push the motorbike. It can be discouraging, but if you’re in a mood to take things on, the tough road is the perfect challenge.

The Ma River continues to flow alongside, playfully switching from the left to the right and vice versa. On some parts of the road, the river is so close you can lean over and wash your hands in the flowing waters.

It’s best to make this journey early May, when it’s not raining and the bamboos are in their post-spring prime. November or December is also good as the monsoon has passed and the bamboos throw in a dash of yellow. The journey is an absolute no-no during the first days of rainy season as the road gets very muddy, the rocks get very slippery and the streams get very fierce.

Every 10 or 15 kilometers on the road is a village where such necessities as instant noodles, eggs, soaps, cookies and sweets can be procured. Most villages are home to ethnic minority groups who invariably bade visitors passing by their stilt houses to come in and rest, freshen up and even use their ovens to cook.

Not far from Chieng Nua, one of the villages, is a cemetery on a cliff that dates back to the 11th century. The place is also home to vestiges of the Dong Son Culture, a prehistoric Bronze Age in Vietnam, and temples worshiping heroes of the Lam Son revolution during the early 15th century against Chinese invaders. The journey can take longer, but patience is rewarded when, almost unnoticed, the magnificent bamboo path is there in front, casting a mysterious aura and allure.

Long and slender, the leaves sparkle in the sun and make joyful rustling and creaking sounds as the breeze blows through them. The play of light and shade is soothing and exciting at the same time. Where does the path lead? But that’s it. There is nowhere to go but where the path takes you. In fact, the path is “home”. You have arrived.

Source : thanhniennews.

Thursday, October 28, 2010

Why travel Laos and tips

Refer to Telegraph, in the recent time, the violence and killings on the streets of Bangkok - coupled with a hardening of Foreign Office advice not to travel there – will have horrified many holidaymakers considering a trip to Thailand, traditionally the most popular destination in South-East Asia and a country that sells itself as the “Land of Smiles”.

However, travellers wanting to head to this part of the world should not be deterred: the region’s newer, less well explored destinations – Vietnam, Cambodia and Laos – have an immense amount to offer – including breathtaking landscapes, timeless rivers (not least the Mekong), world-class ruins – and diverse minority tribes.

Why go Laos

Landlocked Laos has a relaxed pace of life and indifference to tourism that make it an idyllic escape. Luang Prabang is one of the most beguiling cities in Asia, with Unesco World Heritage status and faded French charm. Start the day watching alms-collecting monks file down the streets at dawn, and then visit a glittering Buddhist temple. At sunset, drink a Beer Lao on the banks of the Mekong before shopping for local crafts at the lantern-lit night market.

Travellers seeking the comforts of boutique hotels will find them here and in the country’s capital, Vientiane, alongside colonial villas, pleasant boulevards and Laos’s most important golden stupa, the 150ft-tall Pha That Luang.

Vientiane, LaosVientiane, Laos

To get off the beaten track, take a boat along the bucolic Nam Ou river from Luang Prabang, and drift past caves filled with images of the Buddha and dramatic karst scenery, ending up in sleepy village backwaters. Accommodation is rustic, but nothing beats swinging in a hammock and letting time pass Lao-style.

Ecotourism is blossoming at Luang Nam Tha in the north, where it is possible to walk to the villages of the animist Akha people. Alternatively, head south to the Mekong islands of Si Phan Don, home to fishing villages, waterfalls and rare Irrawaddy dolphins.

Tips: Lao food is relatively unknown, but there are some tasty dishes. Try some jaew, chilli dipping paste for balls of sticky rice, and laab, a fresh, spicy, minced-meat salad, tossed with mint and coriander.
ActiveTravel Laoss (+84-43-633-9576; can arrange tailor-made trips to northern and southern Laos. The 12-day Undiscovered Laos and Cambodia includes two nights in Si Phan Don.

Contact Lao National Tourism Administration ( for further information

Wednesday, October 27, 2010

Why travel Cambodia & tips

Refer to Telegraph, travelers wanting to head to this part of the world should not be deterred: the region’s newer, less well explored destinations – Vietnam, Cambodia and Laos – have an immense amount to offer – including breathtaking landscapes, timeless rivers (not least the Mekong), world-class ruins – and diverse minority tribes.

Why go

This is a country proud of its ancient beginnings but recovering from a dark, more recent past.

Around two million people a year come to visit the great Khmer temple complex at Angkor and the tourism industry has mushroomed to accommodate them. Hidden in the jungle are the majestic corncob towers and lily-pond moat of Angkor Wat, hundreds of smiling stone faces at Bayon, and romantic Ta Prohm, left as it was discovered, with moss-covered reliefs buckling under the stranglehold of overgrown trees.

Angkor WatAngkor Wat, Cambodia

A three-day pass costing $40 (£28) is advisable. Start with a guided tour, and then rent a bicycle or play at being royalty by riding an elephant from the south gate.

Phnom Penh is a city that is fast rejuvenating, with boutique shops and new bars springing up along the riverside. Sights include the Royal Palace, whose gilded pagodas are similar to those in Bangkok. For those wanting to understand the horrors endured under Pol Pot’s regime, the Tuol Sleng Museum and collection of bones at the Killing Fields offer a sobering lesson.

The Cambodian coastline hugs the wild Cardamom Mountains in the west and curls past down-at-heel Sihanoukville to the more appealing resort of Kep, close to the Vietnamese border. Both are jumping-off points for trips to unspoilt islands ringed with golden sand. Kep was once a wealthy retreat, and some of its villas have reopened as chic hotels. Foodies should try local seafood and Kampot pepper crab at the crab market – a row of shacks on the water’s edge.

Tip: Experience rural life on a slow boat across the Tonle Sap, the largest freshwater lake in south-east Asia, passing bird-filled wetlands, rickety fishing boats and villagers waving excitedly from the shore.

Active Travel Cambodia (see above) offers a “Cambodia highlight” tour flying into Siem Reap from Singapore or Vietnam, taking in Angkor, Phnom Penh and Kep. 6 days from £515, depending on hotels, not including international flights.

For further information contact the Cambodia’s Ministry of Tourism (

Why travel Vietnam & tips

Refer to Telegraph, if travelers wanting to head to peaceful,nice beaches, the region’s newer, less well explored destinations – travelers can find these in Vietnam, Cambodia and Laos – have an immense amount to offer – including breathtaking landscapes, timeless rivers (not least the Mekong), world-class ruins – and diverse minority tribes.

Why go Vietnam

Vietnam stretches between the chaotic but engaging cities of Ho Chi Minh City, formerly Saigon, and Hanoi. The streets are a noisy public stage set for various acts of family life, played out against roaring motorcycle traffic and the persistent patter of street merchants.

Ho Chi Minh City is a buzzing sprawl, home to the moving War Remnants Museum. Hanoi’s old quarter is more manageable. Here you can pay your respects (no talking or shorts) to embalmed leader Ho Chi Minh.

Kayaking Halong Bay

Sailing trips around the soaring limestone peaks of Halong Bay are another northern highlight. Created, legend has it, from the spikes of a falling dragon’s tail, they are a humbling sight come rain or shine.

In the misty hills of Sapa, near the Chinese border, hikes through minority-tribe territory can offer better settings and authenticity than those in northern Thailand. Walkers pass through valleys of bamboo forest and rice paddies to meet Hmong and Dao villagers clothed in traditional dress. Bac Ha market is the best place to see Flower Hmong people in their exuberant, fluorescent threads.

Sapa trekking tour

Good restaurants overlook the river at refined Hoi An, where tailors cut silk to order in quaint streets lined with Unesco-preserved houses. Further south, Vietnam’s central coastline is going upmarket swiftly. At Mui Ne you can find sand dunes, watersports and luxury hotels that dot the palm-tree lined strip heading north to Nha Trang. For quieter beaches backed by thick jungle, take a hydrofoil or fly to the tropical island of Phu Quoc, off the mainland’s southern tip.

Tips: Drink Vietnamese beer hoi from makeshift stands. A fresh keg of beer is propped up on the street each day and sold to punters seated on plastic chairs, some 30cm off the ground. Rest a glass on your knee and get to know the person squatting next to you.

Active Travel Vietnam (+84.979.800.588 or +844.3573.8569; offers a 12-day tour named " Family adventure in Vietnam" across the length of Vietnam, from $995, including domestic flights. This can be extended with a five-day bolt-on trip visiting the hill tribes of Sapa.

Contact the Vietnam National Administration of Tourism ( for more information.

Travel postcard: Hanoi, Vietnam

With its remnants of French-colonial architecture, lively ‘Old Quarter’ alleyways and streetside culinary culture Hanoi might just be Southeast Asia’s most charming capital city. It may be the oldest, too.

In October, the city entered party mode to mark the 1000th anniversary of the founding of Thang Long, the settlement established by King Ly Thai To on the Red River in the year 1010 that has grown into a metropolis of 6 million inhabitants.

Hanoi Travelers

Here are some suggestions from Reuters correspondents with local knowledge to help you make the most of a 48-hour visit:


6pm: Before diving into Hanoi’s bustle head first, you’ve got to get above the din to see what you’re getting yourself into. Head for the northwest end of Hoan Kiem lake and have a cold one at Legends Beer on the second floor balcony of the “Ham Ca Map” building at No.1 Dinh Tien Hoang street. Or have an espresso (or cocktail) at Illy Cafe on the top floor of the opposite building, the one with the KFC on the ground floor. Take in the sights and sounds of a city at the crossroads of communism and capitalism, quaintness and anarchy.

7.30pm: Grab a taxi and head south to Ngo Hue, a quiet alley between Pho Hue and Ngo Thi Nham street. At No 65 is the mellow but hip Chim Sao where a youthful clientelle sit on the floor around low tables enjoying delicacies like lotus root salad and clay pot fish.

9pm: Stroll over to Trieu Viet Vuong, a street that has built a name for itself as cafe central. Stop for a tropical fruit smoothie or iced coffee. Or, if you prefer, have a nightcap or three at one of Hanoi’s coolest and coziest bars, Tadioto, at No 113. Run by Vietnamese-American journalist and author Nguyen Qui Duc, Tadioto periodically has live music and literary events.


6am: If you’re up, grab your camera and head down to Hoan Kiem lake or over to Reunification Park, widely referred to as Lenin Park, to watch locals doing taichi and various other morning exercise routines. Enjoy the cool before the day’s heat.

7.30am: ‘Pho’ is the de facto national dish of Vietnam and everyone seems to have their favourite place to eat this noodle soup for breakfast. For clean, classic Hanoi-style, try the relatively upmarket Pho Vuong on Ngo Thi Nham street. Not far away, at No 13 Lo Duc, is one of the city’s best known shops, Pho Thin, where gargantuan broth cauldrons sit on a grimy, medieval-looking stove in the front window.

8.30am: There must be a zillion cafes in Hanoi but Cafe Mai at No 79 Le Van Huu is a no-frills Hanoi institution known for its sublime joe. Across the street there is a Cafe Mai shop where you can buy Vietnamese-grown and roasted beans for home.

9.30am: Head to Cho Hom to check out a giant indoor market that specialises in cloth or go north where, about a half a mile (0.8km) away, is Hoan Kiem lake. To the north side of the lake is the teeming Old Quarter where the 36 streets are named after the goods and services that used to be sold along them.

Alternatively, angle west of the lake to Nha Tho street, the site of the 124-year-old St. Joseph’s Cathedral. Nha Tho street, and the perpendicular Ly Quoc Su, offer boutique shopping.

12pm: A solid lunch option is Madame Hien, at No 15 Chan Cam street. This restaurant in a beautifully restored French villa is chef Didier Corlou’s tribute to his grandmother-in-law, serving up tasty renditions Vietnamese home cooking.

2pm: Take in some of Vietnam’s lively contemporary art scene. Art Vietnam features paintings, sculptures, photos and prints from some top artists. The Bui Gallery bills itself as one of the leading contemporary art galleries in Southeast Asia.

4pm: It’s time for a drink. For a coffee or cocktail in a manicured garden dotted with vintage Vespas, take a taxi to Soft Water on the bank of the Red River.

7pm: If you ate bun cha for lunch, consider Madame Hien for dinner. Otherwise, for a “traditional and experimental” approach to fusing Vietnamese and French flavours, Green Tangerine wins big plaudits.

9pm: For after dinner carousing, try Mao’s Red Lounge or Funky Buddah on Ta Hien street in the Old Quarter. Around the corner, on Hang Buom street, is Dragonfly. If you want to get your late night on, grab a cab to the Red River and Solace, a boat turned into a rather grimy bar. A bit south is another colourful late night spot called the Lighthouse, aka Phuc Tan. Watch your wallet and mobile phone.


10am: If you want to pamper yourself, the Sunday brunch at the Sofitel Metropole is hard to beat. A more casual breakfast choice would be Joma Bakery Cafe on Dien Bien Phu street, which serves quality Western cafe fare.

2pm: The Vietnam Museum of Ethnology is one of Hanoi’s best, featuring detailed displays of the cultures and traditions of the country’s 54 ethnic groups and life-size replicas of some dwellings. Kids love this museum, especially the water puppet shows put on regularly in the garden.

For war buffs, the Army Museum has room after room of photos and exhibits depicting how the Communist forces vanquished the French colonialists and then the American imperialists. There are several vehicles and planes outside, plus a giant sculpture made from pieces of shot down warplanes.

5pm: The Intercontinental Hotel’s Sunset Bar on West Lake offers a comfortable westward-facing spot to sip a tropical cocktail and watching the sun set. The cheaper way to watch dusk over the lake is to pick from any number of cafes on the banks of West Lake or Truc Bach where you’ll sit on low stools or perhaps, if you’re lucky and they’re not all taken, a lawn chair.


10 Things Travel Guidebooks Won't Say

1. We’re already out of date.

After more than a week in $5-a-night hostels in Peru, Caitlin Childs was looking forward to a hot shower and a comfortable bed. But when she got to the Hotel Paracas, there was no hot shower, no bed – and no hotel. “It had been leveled in an earthquake the year before,” says Childs, a graphic designer and frequent traveler. It turned out her Footprint Peru Handbook – the latest edition – had been published a year and a half before her July 2008 trip.

Even without earthquakes, much of the information covered by guidebooks changes too fast for book publishers to keep up. Restaurants close, quaint markets lose their cachet, and trains change their schedules. If it’s essential to your trip, make a phone call before you go, says Peggy Goldman, the president of Friendly Planet Travel, a tour operator. Never rely on a guidebook for key information like whether you’ll need a visa to enter a country and how much it will cost, or what vaccinations you might need, Goldman says, because those facts can change rapidly. Although the guidebook’s web site may have more up-to-date information, travelers should still check with the consulate and look for CDC alerts for the latest information.

2. No news is bad news.

There’s simply not space in most guidebooks to include negative reviews – so a hotel or restaurant that isn’t in the book might not have made the cut for a reason, says Thomas Kohnstamm, a former Lonely Planet guidebook writer and the author of the memoir, “Do Travel Writers Go to Hell?” Guidebooks are also trying not just to inform but to sell potential travelers on the idea of a particular destination, he says. The end result: Every beach is beautiful, and the people of every country are “some of the nicest people in the world.” “It’s supposed to be an unvarnished take on places but you have to be pretty PC about everything,” Kohnstamm says.

It’s true that space is limited, so if something isn’t in the book, “there may be a reason,” says Ensley Eikenburg, the associate publisher of Frommer’s travel guides. The exception: “There are certain iconic places that can be overrated, and that’s something we encourage our writers to say,” she says.

3. We haven’t actually been there.

It’s called a “desk update": Writers use the phone, the Internet, stories from other travelers and even old-fashioned books to research a destination, but they never actually go there. The practice is common throughout the travel industry, Kohnstamm says. And with tight budgets, some publishers simply never ask how writers are getting their information.

Eikenburg, of Frommer’s, admits that the company does desk updates, but only on a few titles that cover multiple countries, while Lonely Planet’s Americas publisher, Brice Gosnell, says that the company’s contracts with writers always require travel to the location they’re covering.

4. We’re relying on you to catch our mistakes.

There’s essentially no fact-checking process for most guidebooks, Kohnstamm says. “They might do a random check, but mainly they’re trying to rely on the writer” to get things right, he says. (Lonely Planet and Frommer’s say fact-checking is the writer’s responsibility.) In practice, and with the prevalence of the “desk update” (see No. 2), that may mean waiting for readers to point out errors or out-of-date information. Jeffrey Ward, the founder of Savvy Navigator Tours, says he once wrote to Fodor’s to let them know that the index to their South Africa guide was from a previous edition, making it very difficult to quickly look up restaurants or sites while out walking around. Ward says the company sent him a free copy of a corrected book within a couple of months.

5. That “easy” hike is only easy for experts.

In 2007, a 32-year old hiker died taking what a guidebook had described as the “easy way” up Tryfan, a 3,000-foot mountain in Wales. “The definition of ‘easy’ is relative depending upon your experience, your physical ability, your footwear, clothing and kit, and your party,” explains Chris Lloyd, a spokesman for the local Ogwen Valley Mountain Rescue Organization. Death by hiking is fortunately uncommon, but Brian King, the publisher of guidebooks for the Appalachian Trail Conservancy, says his organization frequently hears complaints from less-experienced hikers who feel the books make scrambling over boulders sound like an easy day’s stroll. “We could probably do a better job of accommodating the day hiker,” King says.

6. We ruined that secluded spot we mentioned.

Brian Ghidinelli thought he and his wife were the only tourists in Old Hanoi’s winding streets – until they walked into a Lonely-Planet-recommended restaurant, which was packed with other travelers, some with their own Lonely Planet Vietnam guides on their tables. “While we ate, several more pairs walked in with guidebook in hand,” Ghidinelli, an entrepreneur and experienced traveler, says. Accidentally walking into a tourist trap can have financial consequences, too. In Ghidinelli’s experience, hotels and restaurants recommended by the guidebook tended to cost 25% or 30% more than those that didn’t cater to tourists.

7. We’re terrified of your smartphone.

Ten years ago, guidebooks to popular destinations like Walt Disney World or Paris were common on the New York Times best-sellers list, says Michael Norris, a senior analyst for Simba Information, a market research firm that covers publishing and media. These days, the physical books just don’t sell as well as they used to, in part because so much information is now available for free online – TripAdvisor, anyone? – and can be accessed on the spot with a GPS-equipped phone.

8. Going to Estonia? We don’t really care.

Guidebook writers sent to less well-traveled destinations are often hindered by tiny budgets, Kohnstamm says, explaining that books about popular destinations command the majority of the companies' resources. “The rest get sort of short shrift,” he says. Other publishers see it differently. Frommer’s doesn’t spend more on the more popular guides either, Eikenburg says. “If one of our customers buys our guide to Panama and it’s not accurate, then we’ve lost that customer to the competition when they go out and buy an Italy guide or an Alaska guide,” she says.

9. We’re tourists too.

Guidebooks can’t always be trusted for “insider” tips on what the locals eat, how they behave or what the cultural norms are in a country, says Bryan Schmidt, who has traveled to six countries on four continents over the last ten years. Guidebooks for Brazil, for example, will recommend places to get “authentic” feijoada, a traditional meat and bean stew – but Schmidt, whose wife is Brazilian, says even those meals are designed for tourists. Of course, some may see that as a blessing: The truly authentic dish involves “a lot of pig ears and pig snouts,” Schmidt says.
“It’s possible to overcome the challenge of not being from a place, but it just takes a lot of time,” says James Kaiser, the author of several independent guidebooks to national parks. Kaiser says he likes to spend about two years doing research so he can get to know locals and see how a place changes over time. Of course, even locals can make mistakes. Kaiser grew up near Acadia National Park in Maine, but his first guide to the area included a recommendation of a picnic spot for families that he came to regret. “Nude bathing was not uncommon,” Kaiser says. “I learned the hard way to triple-check my information.”

10. Don’t take all of our advice.

Some travelers feel guidebooks encourage a frenzied, see-it-all approach to tourism. “I have a really good friend who’s a lawyer, and she prepares for a trip the same way she prepares for a murder trial,” says Friendly Planet Travel’s Goldman. Relying on a guidebook for minute-by-minute planning robs a trip of spontaneity, she says. “The true reason for travel is the absolute thrill of discovering something all by yourself.”

Correction: The name of Peggy Goldman's company is Friendly Planet Travel. An earlier version of this article called it Family Planet Travel.