Thursday, December 27, 2012

Vietnamese cuisines stir the world in 2012

Bringing rice and bacon, an omelet with Vietnamese flavour in the final round of the MasterChef US, has won blind girl Christine Ha the championship. Vietnamese cuisines also set many records in 2012.

1. Christine Ha becomes MasterChef US 2012
In September 2012, Christine Ha – of Vietnamese-origin, 33-year-old blind girl from the University of Houston won the top spot of the MasterChef US, third season. Ha defeated 24-year-old chef Josh Marks to win the final prize worth $250,000 in cash, a cookbook publishing contract and the MasterChef trophy.
In the finale, Christine Ha and Josh Marks had to prepare three dishes in two hours. Josh Marks chose lobster poached in butter, lamb with sauce of curry and vegetable and bacon pecan cake. Christine Ha made Thai papaya crab salad, rice with bacon, omelet with Vietnamese flavor and ginger and coconut cream.

The meal was described by Christine Ha as "a symphony of flavors." They are simply but made the jury was surprised. Many Vietnamese dishes were also introduced by Ha at the MasterChef.

2. 10 Vietnamese dishes recognized as Asian records
On August 20, in Faridabad, Indian, the Asian Organization Record recognized 10 Vietnamese dishes as the Asian records based on the criteria for Asian Cuisine Value. 

Among them, Hanoi contributed three famous dishes - pho, bun thang and bun cha. HCM City had broken rice and goi cuon. The remaining dishes consist of Haiphong’s crab pancake; Ninh Binh’s rice crust; Nghe An’s eel vermicelli; Hue’s beef vermicelli; Quang Nam’s noodles; Gia Lai’s dried noodle; and Vung Tau’s khot cake.

Friday, December 21, 2012

Christmas & New year Promotion 2013 for your Indochina Vacation

Thursday, December 20, 2012

Best places to enjoy Christmas in Ha noi

Christmas is popular in Vietnam nowadays, however, only in big cities or tourist destinations, there will be a lot of activities to celebrate Christmas. From the beginning of December, all the streets in big cities are decorated with the Noel’s patterns. Besides, hotels, restaurants, shopping centers, and amusement parts also give a lot of activities which will be take place during the time of Christmas holiday.

The weather in December is cold, it’s suitable for Christmas atmosphere. In Hanoi, there are a lot of places for you to enjoy Christmas:

Central Churches
Almost each district has one church, however, people usually come to Saint Joseph Cathedral (“Nhà thờ lớn” in Vietnamese) at 40 Nha Trung, Hoan Kiem. This is a wonderful place to enjoy your Christmas night.

Tuesday, December 11, 2012

ACTIVETRAVEL ASIA Launches “Big Save for Great Indochina Vacation” Promotion for Christmas and New Year 2013.

Christmas and New Year Eve is in air, ACTIVETRAVEL ASIA’s promotion now is available for all travels who book the adventure tour of ATA.

For the sight, the sounds and the taste of an unique and special Christmas and New Year Eve in Indochina (Viet Nam, Laos and Cambodia) , ACTIVETRAVEL ASIA (ATA) has launched Big save for great Indochina vacation" promotion for all invaluable customers who are going to book a tour from December 15, 2012 to Febuary 15,2013. From the bottom heart, ATA would like to express gratitude and appreciation to all customers who traveled with ATA in the past and would be in the future with huge discount up to 10 % off and the hundred surprise gifts, already prepared for you.

As a leading position of an adventure travel agent in Indochina and South East Asia, ATA always commits to bring unforgettable trip for travelers. Furthermore, ATA is a local expert, had 6 years experience in operating many kinds of adventure motorcycling, trekking, hiking, bikingkayaking tour which was designed suitable with all level of fitness.
So instead of a usual holiday, why do not you travel with ATA to discover a rich culture, history of Asia, enjoining amazing culinary, sightseeing a stunning landscape. And just one click booking you can get the ticket to the fantastic place for experiencing in new way with Asia‘s Christmas and New Year Eve style. This trip will be refresh your spirit, bring to you new inspiration and happiness for New Year.

Seem like Santa Clause’s gift, now travelers have more chance to achieve the best selling tours in 2012. Traveler will be enjoyable the rustic countryside, sightseeing the inspiring vitas, living with Muong ethnic minorities and joining in the outdoor adventure activities in “Cycling and home stay in Ba Khan 2 days 1 night” tour. 

Or taking the challenge by trekking the tough trail with awesome scenery, overnight at silt house of mosaic of minority groups in “ Different Sapa, Different Trek” And more best selling tours are waiting you explore. 

Please click the link below to get more information. 
To experience in Indochina, you can book online or booking directly at ACTIVE TRAVEL SHOP.


ACTIVETRAVEL ASIA (ATA) offers a wide selection of Vietnam, Laos, Cambodia adventure tours, including hiking and trekking, biking, motorcycling, kayaking, overland touring and family travel packages.

Telephone: +844 3573 8569
Fax: +844 3573 8570
Address: Level 2, No 17/167, Tay Son Street, Dong Da district, Hanoi, Vietnam

Tuesday, December 4, 2012

The reasons why come to Viet nam

Known with many famous tourist sites with natural beauties, tranquil villages, ancient pagodas, beautiful lakes, Vietnam has been a popular tourist destination in the world. Not convinced as yet? Here are the top reasons why Vietnam should be your next destination.

Magnificent terrace field

A stunningly beautiful country
Vietnam is just beautiful, its geography, topography, landscapes, and especially 3265 km of coastline. Magnificent mountains, Red River and the Mekong deltas, rivers and primary forests make the country an amazing land to visit. The top destinations for ideal Vietnam travel is the 2000 fascinating naturally sculptures rising up from emerald water in Halong Bay. Or head to the Northwest and enjoy the spectacular scenery of terrace rice fields in Sapa, occupied by different tribes. In the central region, Vietnam boasts its best beaches on earth and ready for your golden holidays in Cua Dai beach, Nha Trang beach or Mui Ne beach. In the Mekong delta, tourists get amazed by amazing ways of life from floating villages and floating markets.

World Heritages
Hoi An ancient town
It is not difficult to find out key highlights of Vietnam. The small country is proud to have rich heritages, from natural ones to man-made spiritual. So far Vietnam has 7 UNESCO World Natural and Cultural Heritage Sites which contribute to its appealing beauty, including Hue Complex Monuments, Hoi An ancient town, My Son Holy Land, PhongNha-Ke Bang National Park, Halong Bay, The Cultural Space of Gong in the Central Highlands, the Royal Court Music of Hue. Other intangible heritages that attract tourists are Xoan singing, Folk songs and Ca Tru.

Thursday, November 15, 2012

21 things to do in Cambodia

Cambodia is totally wonderful. It’s smaller than it’s neighbors and it’s just getting back on it’s feet after a pretty hectic time with the Khmer Rouge and all. But this doesn’t mean there aren’t plenty of things to do. Here is a list of  21 things to do in Cambodia – must see places and activities in Cambodia in no particular order.
1. Catch a Tuk Tuk
Cambodia has probably the world’s best tuk tuks. They’re essentially little cushioned chariots pulled around by a guy on a motorbike. Tuk tuks give you a chance to sit back, relax and take in the view of bustling street scape of little ole Cambodian.  Plus it’s much cooler than walking.

2. Have a drink at foreign correspondent’s club
The FCC in Phnom Penh sits on the river bank and looks out at the mighty Mekong River. Sitting on the FCC balcony at the end of a stinking hot day (which is most days) is the perfect way to cool off and unwind. It also helps that drinks are cold, strong and half price everyday 5-7pm. They also serve food which is pretty tasty.

Tuesday, November 6, 2012

Trying medicinal bathing with the Dao people

Medicinal bathing is a local feature of the indigenous Red Dao in the northern mountainous province of Lao Cai. In Ta Phin Commune (Sa Pa District), tourists can spot many families drying herbs in their front yards.

Legend has it that on the last day of the year the Dao boiled leaves from the forest for medicinal bathing before welcoming the new year in. As this practice proves both effective and salubrious, a majority of Kinh people have considered it a unique feature of Red Dao culture. Each barrel of water usually contains at least 10 types of herbs, even up to 120. Every bathroom has a wardrobe to keep personal belongings and visitors feel quite relaxed to bathe in the typical wooden tubs filled with hot water and the aromatic smell of different herbs.

Wednesday, October 31, 2012

Some essential tips in Motorbike tour

1. Reasons for choosing motorbike
Motorbike is considered the best means of transportation for traveling mountainous areas due to its convenience and initiative. With a motorbike, one is free to go wherever he loves, despite all kinds of road’s condition. He can stop whenever he feels like to take photographs or relaxing, instead of depending on the driver or tour guide. Motorbike helps integrating people with nature and fresh air, and one will never be afraid of motion sickness. If choosing a car, people are likely to waste hours sleeping in passenger’s seat with air condition, not to mention the car sick caused by consecutive slopes and mountain passes. Riding on the motorbike means living on every single kilometer of your itinerary! Moreover, one can ride a motorbike in any kind of terrains, and it is much easier to repair in case of breaking down.

Wednesday, October 24, 2012

What is adventure travel?

Adventure travel often conjures up images of mountain climbing, whitewater rafting, scuba diving and four wheel driving. While these are certainly activities associated with adventure travel, adventure travel may involve something as sedate as a wine tasting Motorcycling tour in Ho Chi Minh trail, Viet nam. Adventure travel is simply to go above and beyond one’s normal known area, seeking out experiences which are unfamiliar. The travel destination may be as close as a few kilometers from your home, or it can be thousands of kilometers away in an exotic location in Africa or Asia.

 Maybe it has to do with the stressful and fast-paced lives we are leading, that adventure travel has become one of the fasting growing segments of the travel industry. More and more travelers are abandoning the usual beach resorts, and are actively seeking new experiences in their travels. These trips often bring significant personal discovery, development of new skills and knowledge and cross-cultural experiences.

Monday, October 1, 2012

Responsible Travel Club of Viet Nam

The Responsible Travel Club (RTC) of Viet Nam is an informal group of tour operators dedicated to building responsible travel and sustainable tourism in all regions in Viet Nam.

What to experience?

If you want your travel to create real positive impact and value in the destinations, and at the same time experience genuine community based tourism, go with one of them. Each CBT tour tries to enhance the interaction between the local host and guests so they can exchange on their respective culture. For examples the local host and his family are invited to have meals with guests.
After three years of running an association of responsible tour operators working towards responsible and sustainable tourism, RTC has become a platform between Tour Operators and the CBT sites they are working with. RTC organizes annually an inspection trip for their members and invite NGOs working in developing CBT in Viet Nam such as SNV and WWF, FPSC Spain to join. During the trip, experiences from each party are exchanged, open and free discussions have become a connection for all stakeholders for mutual benefits.

They work closely with local communities and ethnic tribes to optimise their benefits from tourism and, seek financial support from NGOs and donors, such as in Chieng Yen, or Ngoc Son Ngo Luong. Created by Footprint Vietnam Travel, ActiveTravel Asia, Sisters Tours, Indochina Travelland, and GSO Travel, their members now include: Vietnam Discovery Travel, Tonkin Travel, and Aurora Travel.

How does it help?
Some members give back 5% of their profit to the communities they visit, which they use to build infrastructures such as schools, library. All decisions are in hand of local people. They are the one who set the prices, welcome the guests.
Activities they conduct are tackling the key elements, which enable to improve tourism impacts. For example, realising that the quality and ethics of many tour guides were alarming, RTC has been working on improving the quality of guides behaviour and knowledge and set up the RTC network of responsible guides. They also organise workshops and training sessions, developed a Code of conducts for travellers as well as for staff on conserving natural and cultural heritage which is applied by its members. Their next step is to identify and grade eco friendly hotels in Hanoi.

Workshops they organised include:
- Workshop in La vie Vu Linh, Yen Bai Province for RTC members and member’s staff on “Environmental impacts of tourism on responsible development”.
- Applied “Green Office” model for RTC responsible tour operators with the technical support from Enerteam.
- Clean-up and Trash-bin Giving in Co To Island

Contact Details
NGO Responsible Travel Club of Vietnam (RTC)
10A1 Ly Nam De, HanoiVietnam
Tel: 39332844

Thursday, September 27, 2012

Vietnam in top 10 cycle routes recommended by National Geographic

The road from Hanoi to Ho Chi Minh City of Vietnam is recently listed as one of the best cycle routes in the world by the National Geographic. 

The prestigious National Geographic travel guide, Journeys of a Lifetime: 500 of the World’s Greatest Trips, cataloguing the most famous and lesser known trips of a lifetime picked the World’s Top 10 bike trails on the planet, chosen for their beauty, length and excitement.
According to this list, Vietnam ranked fifth in the list, follow by Canada, Chile and Australia. It is described as suitable for who want to mix the bikes and beaches. Traveler will be passing through the 746 mile- (1,200 kilometer) route, between the country’s two biggest cities, taking along vast stretches of sandy coastline; it’s no picnic, as road surfaces vary considerably and there are many natural obstacles like the Hai Van Pass, the historical division point between North and South Vietnam.

Wednesday, September 5, 2012

Where and how to meet minorities in Southeast Asia

Minority cultures in Southeast Asia are often time capsules of earlier lifestyles that have escaped the full force of globalisation’s effects. Consequently, they are a highlight for travellers to the region who want to get a sense of a country’s past…as it collides with the present.
But how do you ensure that while visiting, you don’t cause unintended damage or offence? You can show your respect for a culture by being educated about its ways, beliefs and taboos. Here are a few general guidelines:
1. Always ask permission before taking photos of tribespeople.
2. Don’t touch totems at village entrances or sacred items hanging from trees.
3. Avoid cultivating a tradition of begging, especially among children.
4. Avoid public nudity and don’t undress near an open window.
5. Don’t flirt with members of the opposite sex.
6. Don’t drink or do drugs with the villagers.
7. Smile at villagers even if they stare.
8. Ask your guide how to say ‘hello’.

Thursday, August 30, 2012

Do you know how to prepare a meal for the next trip?

Traveling in an adventure style will let you have an experience to eat outside such as campaign in a forest or a mountain . So, learning how to make easy camping meals can save you a ton of time on your next camping trip. Though outdoor cooking can be fun, it’s never good to miss out on other outdoor activities because you’re stuck making food for everyone. Use the following guidelines to minimize the work and time it takes to make great meals on your next camping trip.

Friday, July 27, 2012

Love market, special culture of Mong people in Ha Giang province

The most famous love market in the northern mountainous province happens in Ha Giang. It names Khau Vai commune, located in the Meo Vac district, the northernmost province of Ha Giang, is home to ethnic minority groups of Giay, Nung and Muong. The love market festival is held on lunar March 26th and 27th with the participation of a large number of locals. The festival features food and drink culture, song performances and folk games. Ethnic costumes, jewelry, ethnic musical instruments, culture and art publications are on display at the market, reflecting activities of the local people.

Thursday, June 28, 2012

Cat Ba - Destinationa that tourists should not miss

The small town looks beautiful, pristine and poetic, lying gently around a high mountain looking onto the sea. Cat Ba is the name of the biggest island in the Cat Ba archipelago including 366 islands grouped in Lan Ha Bay.

Cat Ba Island, covering 140 square kilometers, is known for its ideal climate, stunning beaches and biodiversity. Cat Ba National Park was recognized as a UNESCO Biosphere Reserve in 2003.

The highlight of Cat Ba is its sand dunes scattered amidst mountains, stunning beaches with clear, blue water, endless green of the forests and the limestone walls of the islands. The bizarre rock formations are sculpted by millenniums of erosion by water. The island also has coral reefs, sandy beaches, freshwater wetland areas, mangrove forests and willow swamps.

Cat Ba Island is wellknown with sunshine beaches and fresh water

Streams winding deeply in forests always murmur, creating symphonies and caves running through mountains always attract travelers’ curiosity.

Cat Ba National Park is another amazing sight to behold as it is home to 300 species of fauna and flora. The white-head langurs that live on Cat Ba are one of Vietnam’s most endangered primates. The park, which takes up more than half of the island, is endowed with a diverse ecosystem and many types of habitats, . After discovering the wildlife, visitors can cool off on the beach and play in the waves. The most popular beach is Cat Co beach which draws a crowd on holidays and weekends.

Cat Ba National Part is the perfect place to explore diversity ecosytem 

For nature lovers, a visit to Trung Trang Cave with its mysterious stalactites is a must. Hung Son Cave, which used to contain a hospital during the revolutionary wars, and Lan Ha Bay are other attractions that tourists should not miss.

Cruise boats are also available to explore from the sea and for those who love to hike, Ngu Lam Mountain at a height of 225 meters has a watchtower which has a stunning vantage point to take in a spectacular panoramic view of the island.

Friday, June 22, 2012

Deeper into the Mekong River Delta

Is there anywhere on planet Earth that so teems with life and industry as the Mekong Delta? Anywhere where agriculture and fish farming are so intensively practiced? In thinking that one day I'll come back here and find multi-storey rice paddies stretching to the horizon, I suspect I'm only partially dreaming.

Not for nothing has the delta of the Mekong River been termed the "rice bowl of the Universe". Six countries and well over fifty million people depend upon the Mekong for their very livelihood. And in no country is this dependence so profound as in Vietnam.

Flying into Ho Chi Minh City (Saigon) gives as good an introduction as any to the wonders of the Mekong. From the air the landscape resembles an intricate anatomical chart, only in shades of green and brown rather than white and red. Every tributary of the Mekong River bifurcates, then trifurcates and multifurcates into thousands of veins, arteries and capillaries. Then, linking this vast drainage network are hundreds of manmade canals, giving the countryside the appearance of an Eastern Venice.

Friday, June 15, 2012

The Old Quarter - The Unique Classical Feature of Hanoi

The Hanoi’s Old Quarter is the soul of city, and the top special historical vestige and sight-seeing of the capital.

There’s an old Vietnamese saying, “Hanoi has thirty-six streets and guilds – Jam Street, Sugar Street, Salt Street…”. Inside a modern and dynamic city, there appears an antique quarter, the Hanoi’s Old Quarter – the represented eternal soul of the city. These days, most Vietnamese and Westerners are familiar with the phrase “Hà Nội - Ba mươi sáu phố phường” (translated as “Ha Noi - 36 districts” or “Hanoi – 36 Old Streets”), or “Phố cổ Hà Nội” (translated as “Hanoi’s Old Quarter”), the top special historical vestige and sight-seeing of the capital, luring international visitors thanks to their mostly original state.

Hanoi 's old quarter

History of 36 streets old quarter

It would be a big surprise should you know that Hanoi's Old Quarter came into being at the time King Ly Thai To selected Thang Long as the country’s capital in 1010, that is, the streets have a nearly 1,000-year old history and became crowded & lively in 15th century. What makes them unique is that many of them remain in their very ancient architecture of the 15th century. Up to now, it has been the oldest continuously developed area of Vietnam.

Hanoi 's old quarter in the past

Due to their long-lasting age, they are called “Old Quarter” or “36 Old Streets” (as consisting of 36 member streets). Similarly to the Guilded age of Europe, “Ha Noi's 36 districts” is Vietnam's version of the guild concept. In the past, as artisans moved to the capital city to do business, they gathered together in this area to share the resources. As a result, many of the streets were named after the crafts sold at that individual street. Pho Hang Bun (Vermicelli), Pho Hang Ma (Paper Product), Pho Hang Bac (Silver), etc. are examples of the streets carrying the name of the products sold there.
The phrase “36 pho phuong” often causes much confusion for most people; “Phố” means a street or a place for merchants to gather to do business, while “Phường”, a district or a guild of artisans specializing in a particular trade (phuong cheo, phuong tho, etc.). Yet, in any case, both are right to some extent.

Hanoi old quarter now

Although the old section of Hanoi is often called the "36 Old Streets," there are more than 36 actual streets. Some researchers believe that the number 36 came from the 15th century when there might have been 36 guild locations, which were workshop areas, not streets. When streets were later developed, the guild names were applied to the streets. Others attribute the 36 to a more abstract concept. The number nine in Asia represents the concept of "plenty." Nine times the four directions makes 36, which simply means "many". In fact, there are now more than 70 streets in the area.

Exploring the maze of back streets is fascinating; some streets open up while others narrow down into a warren of smaller alleys. The area is known for its tunnel, or tube, houses – so called because their small frontages hide very long rooms. These tunnel houses were developed to avoid taxes based on the width of their frontage onto the street. By feudal law, houses were also limited to two storeys and, out of respect for the king, could not be taller than the Royal Palace. These days there are taller buildings (six to eight storeys high) but there are no real high rise buildings.

Some of the more specialized streets include Pho Hang Quat which has red candlesticks, funeral boxes, flags and other temple items; and Pho Hang Gai which is somewhat more glamorous with silk, embroidery, lacquer ware, paintings and water puppets – the silk sleeping bag liners and elegant Vietnamese ao dai are very popular with travellers. Finally, no trip to the Quarter would be complete without a trip to Dong Xuan market, on Pho Hong Khoi and Pho Dong Xuan, which was rebuilt after a 1994 fire.

A stroll through the historic Old Quarter can last anywhere from a few minutes to the better part of a day, depending on your pace and how well you navigate the increasing motor traffic plaguing the streets. However long, or whatever detours you might take, the following course will provide you with a good dose of Vietnamese culture, and some insight into the country’s long history.

A logical starting point is the Ngoc Son Temple in the northern end of Hoan Kiem Lake. After crossing back over the bright red Huc Bridge, stop for a quick look at the Martyrs’ Monument, erected to those who died in fighting for Vietnam’s independence. Head north on Pho Hang Dau past the Water Puppet Theatre (see the ‘Punch & Judy in a Pool’ boxed text in this chapter) and you’ll soon be surrounded by shoe shops selling every shape, size and style, demonstrating how serious Hanoians are about their footwear. Crossing over Pho Cau Go, pop into the colourful flower market which occupies the narrow eastern terminus of Pho Gia Nhu.

Back on Pho Hang Be; continue north to the ‘T’ intersection with Pho Hang Bac. Near here are several shops that carve intricate gravestones (most bearing an image of the deceased) by hand. A short detour north on Pho Ma May will lead you to the Memorial House at number 87 (see the main text entry earlier in this chapter), an exquisite Chinese merchant’s home that was recently restored and opened as a museum.

Return to Pho Hang Bac and head west past a strip of snazzy jewellery shops, then right onto Pho Hang Ngang past a row of clothing shops, and right again onto Pho Hang Buom; this will take you past the small Bach Ma Temple (White Horse Temple). As you pass the pagoda, with its red funeral palanquin, look for its white-bearded temple guards, who spend their days sipping tea. Legend has it that Ly King used the pagoda to pray for assistance in building the city walls because they persistently collapsed, no matter how many times he rebuilt them. His prayers were finally answered when a white horse appeared out of the temple and guided him to the site where he could safely build his walls. Evidence of his success is still visible at Cua O Quan Chuong, the quarter’s well-preserved Old East Gate at the eastern end of Pho Hang Chieu, near the intersection with Pho Tran Nhat Duat.

Head west, back along Pho Hang Chieu past a handful of shops selling straw mats and rope to reach one of the most interesting streets, Pho Hang Ma (literally ‘counterfeit street’), where imitation ‘ghost money’ is sold for burning in Buddhist ceremonies – it even has US$5000 bills! Loop around and follow your ears to the sounds of skilful blacksmiths pounding away on metal on the corner of Pho Lo Ren and Pho Thuoc Bac. Moving south on Pho Hang Duong, head right past the towel shops onto Pho Lan Ong, a fantastic row of herb sellers filling the street with succulent aromas.

Finally, head south past the tin box makers (opposite the mirror shops) on Pho Hang Thiec, then left toward the interesting shops selling Buddhist altars and statues along Pho Hang Quai. Time permitting, loop around and zigzag west over to check out the leather shops along Pho Ha Trung, working east again to end the tour at the superb, neo-Gothic St Joseph Cathedral (see the main text entry earlier in this chapter). If you’re feeling a bit knackered from the walk, a few steps from the church along Pho Nha Tho there is an alluring cluster of stylish restaurants and cafes.

Although many of the streets no longer sell the products after which they were named, some still do. Today, the Old Quarter has become the unique classical feature of Hanoi, and the inspiration of numerous writers, poets, and painters, and one of the desired tourist destinations in Hanoi.

Monday, June 4, 2012

Exploring the Islands of Ha Long Bay

Legend says Ha Long Bay was formed by a Mother Dragon and her children, sent by the Jade Emperor to protect the Viet from foreign invaders. The dragons flocked from Heaven, spitting out pearls which formed small islands and stopped the invaders and destroyed their ships. Mother Dragon and her children didn’t return to Heaven after the battle, but settled into the bay; the Mother Dragon forming Ha Long Bay and the children forming Bai Tu Long.

Exploring the islands of Ha Long Bay almost makes this incredible story seem true. Weaving through the almost 2000 islands while sitting atop jade-green water is surreal to say the least; spiritual at most.

Monday, May 21, 2012

How to spend a weekend in Hanoi

There are so many things to see in Hanoi the real question is not ‘How to spend a weekend in Hanoi” but how much can be possibly be fitted into one weekend?

A good place to begin is the Ho Chi Minh Memorial Complex. This attraction was developed around a old French palace. The first unique feature is having to enter the museum passing through a system resembling post-9/11 airport security. Guards ensure visitors do not stray from the accepted area during tours that can require several hours if all areas are visited. The first area, devoted to Ho Chi Minh photos and biographical information has explanatory data in English, French and Vietnamese.

Thursday, May 17, 2012

Travel to Vietnam – Top 10 Things to do

1. Take a tour around the legendary Halong Bay

Paddle around Halong Bay in Quang Ninh which is similar to the islands found along the , this is one of Vietnam’s most beautiful areas, Halong Bay has fascinating limestone formations, coves for night-time excursions, sheer cliffs, grottoes, arches and scores of small islets. There are plenty of activities such as kayaking that are well worth taking time out for as this is one way to really appreciate the beauty of the area as well as a good way to see the fauna and flora without disturbing the nature around one.

2. Get your shirts and suits tailor-made at Hoian

Visit Hoian. From the 16th to 18th centuries, Hoian was a thriving international commercial port for Chinese, Dutch, French, Japanese, Portuguese and Arab traders. These people came to trade primarily for the high-grade silk, which is still produced in the area, and ceramics. The area is now one of four world heritage listed sites in Vietnam and there are lots of interesting things to see and do in the area.

3. Visit Hanoi for an insight of Vietnamese’s past and present

Hanoi has lots to offer the tourist but if you are in the city you can’t afford to miss the History Museum that includes artifacts from Vietnam’s prehistory: proto-Vietnamese civilisations (1st and 2nd millennia BC), the Dong Son civilisation (7th century BC to 3rd century AD), the Oc-Eo (Funan) culture of the Mekong Delta (1st to 6th century AD); the Indianised kingdom of Champa (1st to 15th century), the Khmer kingdoms, various Vietnamese dynasties and their resistance to Chinese attempts at domination, the struggle against the French, and the history of the Communist Party. It gives the visitor an excellent understanding of Vietnam’s past and a better understanding of the present.

4. Shop at Ben Thanh Market in Ho Chi Minh City

This large market is close to the backpacker area of Pham Ngu Lao in Ho Chi Minh city. The market was formally established by the French colonial powers after taking over the Gia Dinh citadel in 1859. This market was destroyed by fire in 1870 and rebuilt to become Saigon’s largest market. In 1912 the market was moved to a new building and called the New Ben Thanh Market to distinguish over its predecessor.

5. Explore the Imperial City of Hue

Hue is one of the most popular destinations for visitors to Vietnam. Straddling the Perfume River, this mysterious, somber city is a historian’s dream come true, with numerous 19th century ruins, royal tombs and an excellent museum.

6. Join the hiking and trekking tour up in Sapa

A perfect Sapa tour will give you a fun experience with combination of trek and journeys away from the crowds. More interesting if you have time with staying at traditional Dao home with local people. Learn and participate in village life and truly feel the warmth and hospitality of these incredible people, or visit the most colorful tribal market in Sapa.

7. Enjoy a hillside retreat at Dalat

Dalat is the place to be if you want to visit interesting tribal villages. Although most are located further out of town, you can visit the villages of some of the hill tribes, such as Lat Village and the Chicken Village (with a huge statue of a chicken) close to Dalat itself. Don’t forget your camera as the photo opportunities are endless!

8. Relax by the premier beach resort in Nha Trang

Nha Trang is Vietnam’s beach resort town. A major face-lift in 1995-96, and the opening of two upscale hotels later in 1996, vaulted Nha Trang onto the playing field with places like Phuket, Thailand, and Cancun, Mexico. Today, it’s a popular destination for both foreign and domestic tourists. In addition to sun bathing, popular attractions include boat trips to the nearby islands and tours of Nha Trang’s historic sites. If you like typical beach resort towns, then Nha Trang is for you.

9. Cruise in Mekong Delta:

Meander along the Mekong on one of the many boat trips that are available taking you across the water or through the local canals on many interesting sightseeing excursions that definitely require a camera. Larger boats venture up the Mekong River and this is a definite MUST DO if you are in the area of Cantho or one of the other cities or villages that rely on this massive sourse of water for both transport and food. Climb Sam Mountain near Chau Doc if you want to see dozens of temples, pagodas and the like as it is well worth visiting. Located about 6 km from the city, temples abound and the trek to the top of the mountain is also popular…though one can go by motorised vehicle if you so desire.

10. Experience the historic Cu Chi tunnels

Crawl through the Cu Chi Tunnels This extensive network of nearly 500 km of Viet Cong tunnels used in the French Indochina and American wars. The tunnels have complete facilities, from kitchens to printing presses and even street signs, all of which were used to aid the NLF (National Liberation Front) military. Tours involve a description of the tunnels, after which tourists are allowed to crawl about the maze. Located in Tay Ninh a suburb it is 39km northwest of central Ho Chi Minh City.

Wednesday, May 16, 2012

“A memorable first visit to Viet Nam”

As their name suggests, ATA is at their best doing active travel; take advantage of it to get away from the crowds and experience Vietnam in a more direct and authentic way.

We arranged a private, two week, multi-tour package in Vietnam with ActiveTravel Asia (ATA) in October 2011. ATA staff, especially Sunny, worked with us to put together a customized itinerary that met our needs and interests. The result was a remarkable and challenging vacation of dramatic landscapes, intense cultural exposure, physical activity, great food, and beautiful people. Our trip had three major components: a 5D/4N sea kayaking tour of Ha Long Bay (including Cat Ba Island), a 3D/2N trek with homestays in the Sa Pa area, and a 2D/1N bicycling tour with homestay in the Mekong Delta

Monday, May 14, 2012

Getting lost in Hanoi's Old Quarter

Hectic, noisy, chaotic, adjective, adjective. Describing Hanoi's oldest district is somewhat of a waste of breath. No need to ramble on about where exactly to go in the Old Quarter either, as the weaving and winding streets are best explored by aimless wandering. No destination. No pre-planned route. Just left, right, or straight ahead. 

Tuesday, February 14, 2012

The Top 10 Things to Do While Visiting Ho Chi Minh City

If you are planning a visit to Vietnam, you are probably wondering what the top 10 things to do in Ho Chi Minh City are. Hence and as a former resident of Ho Chi Minh City, here is my list of the top 10 things to do while visiting Ho Chi Minh City.

1. Visit the newly refurbished War Remnants Museum.

Housed in the former home of the US Information Service and once known as the War Crimes Museum, the War Remnants Museum offers visitors the official Vietnamese view of the Vietnam War. Nevertheless, its three floors of exhibits are well worth visiting to give you an idea of just how destructive the Vietnam War was along with the lingering effects from the use of Agent Orange. In fact and near the entrance to the museum, there will usually be several people who purportedly suffer from the effects of agent orange and you will be encouraged to donate to a fund intended to help them.

War Remnants Museum

2. Take a tour of the Reunification Hall.

Formerly the home of South Vietnam’s Presidents, the Reunification Hall looks the same as it did when North Vietnamese tanks crashed through the front gates at the end of the war. On display are momentos from the war and all the trappings of power left behind by South Vietnam’s last Presidents.

Reunification Hall

3. Eat Pho.

A staple of Vietnamese cuisine, Pho is a Vietnamese noodle soup served with rice noodles and your choice of either beef or Chicken plus a whole plate of greens that you can throw into the bowl after its served to you. Pho is commonly available from street food vendors, at coffee shops and at restaurants dedicated to serving Pho.

The famous "Pho"

4. Have a “Banh Mi” Sandwich.

A legacy of French rule, the “Banh Mi” (in Vietnamese, “Banh Mi” means bread) sandwich combines both French and Vietnamese ingredients to make one very tasty sandwich. Be warned though: If you order one from a street food vendor, he or she will likely use their bare and probably unwashed hands when making you your Banh Mi sandwich!

5. Drink Coffee.

Besides being one of the world’s leading coffee exporters, coffee drinking is very much a part of Vietnamese culture. In fact, no visit to Vietnam will be complete without having either a hot or iced Café Sua – strong coffee served over a thick layer of sweetened condensed milk at the bottom of the cup.

6. Have drinks at the Rex Hotel’s rooftop bar.

Once the site of the “Five O’Clock Follies” where US military offers gave their briefings about how they were winning the Vietnam War, the Rex Hotel’s rooftop bar remains a popular watering hole for expatriates and tourists alike.

7. See a water puppet performance.

Originating from the Red River delta around Hanoi water puppetry is a uniquely Vietnamese form of entertainment that is often now staged in water filled tanks inside theaters. In order to tell a story, water puppeteers stand in the water hidden behind a screen and then maneuver their puppets through the water without the use of strings to the sounds of a live musical orchestra.

Water puppet performance

8. Do a day trip to the Cu Chi Tunnels and Cao Dai Holy See.

In the backpacker district, you will find countless one day tour offerings to the Cu Chi Tunnels, which were used by the Vietcong during the war, and the Cao Dai Holy See, the colorful center of a unique home grown religion that combines both Asian and Western elements.

 Cu Chi Tunnels complex

Cao Dai Holy See Temple

9. Visit the Mekong Delta.

Likewise, visitors can opt for a one day or a multi-day tour of the vast Mekong Delta where residents still live in stilt houses or on boats and shop in floating markets. There are even specialized tours for fans of Marguerite Duras’ book “The Lover” to see locations that appeared in the book and later in the movie.

10. Rent or ride a motorbike.

Finally and if you don’t find it dangerous enough just crossing a street given the millions of motorbikes in the city, why not just rent one and join them! On the other hand, you will also find someone on nearly every street corner who, for the right price, will take you to where ever you wish to go on their motorbike.

Source: Blog of Asia