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.