Tuesday, October 29, 2013

Cycling in Vietnam

By Mike Spradbery

Travelling by bicycle has to be one of the most interesting and rewarding ways to see any country - and Vietnam is certainly no exception. There is something for everyone, from rugged mountain biking in the Northern mountains to much gentler touring through the Mekong flood plains in the South. And to see as much of the country as possible, the inevitable ride along Route 1 (which runs the length of the country between Hanoi and Ho Chi Minh) will take you on the most varied journey through a diverse country.

Biking Vietnam
I flew to Vietnam with Vietnam Airlines. If you are lucky they may decide to let your bike fly free, however, be prepared to pay up to $100 if they decide to weigh it and charge you for excess baggage. Whether or not you box your bike is a matter of personal preference, at the very least you will need to deflate the tyres, remove the pedals and twist the handlebars parallel to the bike frame.

If you are planning on cycling into Vietnam from a neighbouring country, you can enter via any of the standard land border crossings.

Biking Vietnam
Cycling in Vietnam is very safe, however, it is strongly recommended that you wear a helmet. Roads can be busy and you will not necessarily have the rights of way that you are used to. As a general rule, the largest vehicle has right of way - this is very unlikely to be you! It is also recommended that you take a comprehensive first aid kit in-case of an unexpected dismounting.

Think about what the weather is likely to be doing when you travel and take suitable clothes. Pack some good sun cream as it is very easy to get badly sunburned if you are cycling through the hottest part of the day. Also make sure you carry plenty of drinking water with you as it can be difficult to buy between towns. If the weather is very dry it can become quite dusty, so sunglasses or cycling shades are a good idea.

Biking Vietnam

Expect to have a brilliant, if sometimes difficult, time. There are times when roads are dusty, noisy and congested; times when it's hard to find good food; times when the locals seem intimidating; times when it is hot, humid and you are cycling up hill.

Remember that the sight of a foreigner, let alone a foreigner on a bike, is unusual in the smaller villages in Vietnam. Locals are often inquisitive and may well gather round you to squeeze your brake levers, hold your handle-grips, touch your tyres or simply stare.  

Be careful of people riding alongside you on their bikes or mopeds. Having someone trying to practice their English whilst riding two or three abreast on a busy road can be a bit hair-raising. Large groups of school children can be even more dangerous - you can outrun them (on their one-speed bikes) at about 30 km/h, but they love the chase! Occasionally you may even get young kids throwing stones or people extending a hand into your path as you cycle by.

Be careful of the road surface. While roads are generally fine, potholes or rocks can be hard to see, especially if the locals are drying their crops on the sides of the road.

Security can be a problem if you have an expensive bike, so take good locks. Generally though, hotels will let you take your bike into your room at night at no extra cost.

ACTIVETRAVEL ASIA would like to recommend West to East Biking Exploration tour.Our unique biking trip in northern Vietnam takes place against a backdrop of endless lush green paddy fields and irregular tree-covered limestone mountains. Providing a fleeting insight into the traditional lives, friendly tribes and exotic landscapes of north-west and north-east Vietnam, our trip also delivers surprisingly good riding across the mountainous area of northern Vietnam. There are technical sections, easy hills, huge flowing descents and some glorious singletracks.


  • Colorful tribes
  • Stunning scenery
  • Glorious single tracks of Sapa and Bac Ha
  • Homestay among friendly tribesmen

Thursday, October 24, 2013

Walking through northern Laos

Written by Stephanie Choate
The town of Luang Nam Tha in northern Laos is perched along the fringes of Nam Ha National Protected Area—2,224 square kilometers of rolling jungle-clad mountains. Many companies offer guided treks through the jungle, and though we had avoided the more popular trekking scene in Thailand, we wanted to get further into this amazingly beautiful countryside.

Mist fills the valleys of Nam Ha National Protected Area.
The three-day more challenging trek took us across about 25 kilometers of jungle. Four guides came with us and three other trekkers—two guys from England and another from Sweden.

Banmi, our exuberant 24-year-old lead guide, kept us thoroughly entertained with hilarious exclamations and questions about whether we had certain plants and animals in our countries. This was his last trek before getting married next week, and he often referred to “my darling.” Gang, one of the founders of the company, has been leading treks for 10 years, and was quick to find edible plants, hack down low-hanging branches and give beaming smiles. Kahm, one of the local villagers, was extremely curious in what we were doing and his wife, Pung, probably carried more weight slung across her forehead than anyone else. (Sidenote: I have no idea how they would spell their names, this is my best guess!)

Banmi (red jacket) and Gang (orange jacket) purchase our food at the morning market.
The trail started at Kahm’s and Pung’s Khmu village, passing shy children, countless chickens, and vibrant green rice fields before entering the forest.

Rice field
We hiked for about six hours each day, up and down hills, across fallen logs, through dense patches of vines. Throughout the three days, we caught glimpses of Nam Ha’s rolling blue-green hills through the dense jungle branches. Ignoring the foreground, the layers of faraway mountains looked remarkably like Vermont, or perhaps somewhere in the southern Appalachians. It was a bit surreal to see a small slice of home on the other side of the world.

Far from the basic hiking fare we had expected, every meal brought an elaborate spread of tasty Lao dishes, arranged across a banana leaf table. We dipped small balls of sticky rice into fried young morning glory, garlicky tomatoes, mixed vegetables infused with ginger, eggplant and chilies, and buffalo meat bought from the morning market. In particular, dinner on the second night consisted mostly of food our guides had collected as we hiked through the jungle—banana flower, young ferns, bitter eggplant, greens. Everything was delicious, and not just because we had been hiking for hours!

A stop for lunch.
After a full day’s walk on the second day, we reached camp in a small valley next to a river, and everyone enjoyed a much-needed swim. At night, we all sat by the campfire after the guides, who rose and slept with the sun, had gone to bed. The full moon crept above the forest and illuminated the camp, almost eliminating the need for a flashlight.

Early the next morning, mist filled the valley and shrouded the mountains, until the sun cleared the tallest peaks and melted it all away. Soon, the sun blazed down on us as we made our way through a more open section near the end of the trail. We followed the river, crossing it in our flip-flops again and again.

Looking back towards camp on the last day.
The trek finished at a village on banks of the wide and deep Nam Tha (meaning Green River). Our bags were ferried across while we swam— very welcome after the long, hot third day. Nearly a dozen village kids swam too, barreling down the hill and leaping into the river as recklessly as they could, with plenty of yelling.

Everyone enjoying a swim in the Nam Tha.
Aside from three leeches (me, gross), two ticks (me as well), an incident with a bare foot and a huge, fresh buffalo patty (Banmi), and some very sore legs, the trek was a definite success.

ACTIVETRAVEL ASIA would like to recommend Trek Nam Ha Forest Camps, Luang Namtha tour.This trek is entirely within the Nam Ha National Protected Area, an ASEAN Heritage Site. The 3 days trek is entirely in the forest. This is a trip for those who want a true forest experience. The villagers of a Khmu village will host us at our first forest camp deep in the forest. At the second camp Akha villagers will be your hosts. The camps, built out of bamboo and wood by the villagers themselves, are places to immerse oneself in the beauty of the jungle. Along the way, local Khmu and Akha guides will explain the forest products used by villagers for food, medicine, materials and religious ceremonies. Rise early on the third day for the sunrise and go with an Akha bird caller to learn how the Akha can call wild birds in.

Tuesday, October 22, 2013

Trekking in Sapa, Vietnam

by Victoria Krivonos
Search for Sapa and you’ll see images of cascading rice terraces of various shades of green against the backdrop of misty mountains, effervescent waterfalls, and smiling minority tribeswomen in traditional dress. Such scenes are stuff of travel dreams but in Sapa they really do exist.

Terraced Field
After an 8 and a bit hour train journey from Hanoi, our minibus wound its way from Lao Cai train station into the mountains towards Sapa, revealing more and more of the breathtaking view with every turn. I was later happy to find the same stunning display from the balcony of our guesthouse room. On day two, the fog crept in, shrouding the town in a dream-like haze. The view was gone but Sapa retained its magic.

Sapa, sunset in the fog
The secret ingredient came in the form of a Black Hmong girl called Yen. With baby Ma tied to her back, she approached us when we got off the minibus and helped us with directions to our guesthouse. Conscious of the fact that so far in Vietnam we’d only been offered help in return for monetary rewards, I offered her some Vietnamese dong which she politely refused but said that if we saw her around town we would be welcome to approach her for any help, local knowledge, and so on. At our request, Yen agreed to take us on a trek to her village, Bac Thao, 12 kilometers away from the centre of Sapa, the following day.

Yen and her baby
The following day we found Yen, with baby Ma and her sister in law, along the main street, lined with shops and cafes. She bought some food from the market for our lunch and the five of us set off to Bac Thao. Up the hill, through the tropical foliage and out onto the mountainous terrain with more beautiful views, which unfortunately for us, were veiled in fog that thickened and receded but never fully went away. Luckily, we didn’t have to look far to be impressed, as we passed through tiny settlements that felt like ghost towns, locals tending to their crop, buffalo, piglets and other livestock roaming in the greenery, and countless bamboo – enormous and dense – a constant reminder of our proximity to the jungle.

Trekking Sapa
The path wasn’t hard to navigate and seemed to be a well known route amongst the local tour guides – we met a couple of other tourists with their guides along the way; however, I wouldn’t recommend attempting the trek on your own – we saw no signage, found no clear maps and google maps isn’t much help in this remote part of Vietnam. Go with a local guide – not only will you not get lost but you’ll also have great company and learn something along the way. Yen entertained us with local knowledge and gave us a real insight into the real everyday life of the Black Hmong in Vietnam, which made the experience so much more memorable and interesting.

Lunch with Yen's family
Yen learned to speak English from tourists but spoke much better than the majority of Vietnamese people we had met up and down the country. Her simple way of life was at the very extreme of what we’d seen, yet her personality, attitude and way of communicating felt so much more comfortable and familiar. It seemed unbelievable that having spent two weeks traveling from Ho Chi Ming City to Hanoi, it was here – in the minority tribe community of Black Hmong, in the mountains of Sapa – that we would find a local whom we felt we could relate to and be so much at ease with.

Sapa was without a doubt the highlight of our trip to Vietnam and I just wish we’d had time to see more of the area, particularly Bac Ha and the colourful markets. If I am ever to return to this country, it will be to the beautiful mountains in the North and its kind and welcoming minority tribes people.

ACTIVETRAVEL ASIA would like to recommend Sapa Trekking & Homestay tour.At an elevation of 1,600 meters, Sapa is a delightful former French hill station situated in the mountainous region of Vietnam's northwest, close to the Chinese border. The region is home to many ethnic minority groups, each wearing traditional and colorful attire. This trip includes a trek through the hills and valleys of the Sapa region, discovering several different minorities along the way. You will experience overnight accommodation in the hospitable villages of Giay and Tay ethnic minorities. The apparent hardships are worth it though as we walk through some of the most spectacular scenery that Vietnam has to offer and experience unique villages culture.

  • Awesome scenery
  • Rice terraces
  • Colorful minority groups 
  • Homestays in minority villages

Monday, October 21, 2013

Seven attractive destinations in Vietnam

Beautiful beaches, year-round green tropical parks, mighty rivers, unique fishing villages, special culinary characteristics ... are always the force of gravity of Vietnam in the eyes of foreign travelers.

1. Hanoi

Voted by Smart Travel Asia magazine as one of the most attractive destinations in Asia, Hanoi has its own charm to attract domestic and foreign tourists.

Throughout the thousand years of its eventful history, marked by destruction, wars and natural calamities, Hanoi still preserves many ancient architectural works including the Old Quarter and over 600 pagodas and temples. Famous sites include the One Pillar Pagoda (built in 1049), the Temple of Literature (built in 1070), Hanoi Citadel, Hanoi Opera House, President Ho Chi Minh's Mausoleum...

Hanoi also characteristically contains 18 beautiful lakes such as Hoan Kiem Lake, West Lake, and Truc Bach Lake..., which are the lungs of the city, with their surrounding gardens and trees providing a vital source of energy.

Many traditional handicrafts are also practiced in Hanoi including bronze molding, silver carving, lacquer, and embroidery. Hanoi has many famous traditional professional handicraft villages such as Bat Trang pottery village, Ngu Xa bronze casting village, Yen Thai glossy silk...

2. Sa Pa

Cool climate all year round and the beautiful natural landscapes are the most charming features of Sa Pa. 
Sapa Vietnam is a favorite attraction to tourists, both domestic and foreign thanks to its beautiful scenery and colorful culture. The French used to consider Sapa as Summer Capital of Northern Vietnam in the early decades of the 20th century. Its naturally gifted beauty keeps attracting more and more people to spend their vacation there since then.

Aside from leisure pace of sightseeing and exploring the diversity of culture in Sapa, this is also an ideal place for more adventurous tourists with many trekking tours available. Or, you can also do some trekking on your own and stay with the hill tribes for an insightful understanding of the ethnic groups here.

 April and May are the best time for tourists to watch the most scenic beauties of Sapa, or else it might be cold and foggy before that and rainy after that. During these two peak months, the town is blossoming with pink and white flowers, and green pastures in valleys. The clouds that settle in the valley in early morning would quickly disappear.

 Most tourists agree that it would be regretful if the leisure and relaxation time in cool and fresh weather is not accompanied by visiting trips to Sapa's prideful natural beauty spots, such as Ham Rong Mountain, Silver Waterfall, Rattan Bridge, Bamboo Forest and Ta Phin Cave.

 Sapa is home to various families of flowers of captivating colors, unique in the vast country. When Tet, the Lunar New Year Festival, comes, the whole township of Sapa is filled with the pink color of peach blossom brought from the vast forests of peach just outside the town. Sapa is regarded as the kingdom of orchids as well.

Foreign tourists are actually fond of scarce and precious specialties of Sapa, such as forest's product, handicrafts, delicacies (smoked meat, "thang co", "cai meo", san lung wine, corn wine, etc.), typical of ethnic minority people.

Local markets are the town's typically cultural element, which are always crowded and joyful, attracting hundreds of visitors. This is the common place for minority groups to gather and exchange goods. Market sessions are also a chance for local people to promenade. No foreign visitor could help joining such a market session, a typical cultural element of Sapa. What’s more, tourists coming to Sapa at weekends have the great chance to learn about local ethnic people's courtship and martial life, through the Sapa love market and wife kidnapping ceremony of the H'Mong group. The ceremony will begin on April 29th.

3. Halong Bay

Halong Bay

Imagine 2000 or more islands rising from the emerald waters of the Gulf of Tonkin and you have a vision of breathtaking beauty. Halong translates as ‘where the dragon descends into the sea’, and legend claims the islands of Halong Bay were created by a great dragon from the mountains. As it charged towards the coast, its flailing tail gouged out valleys and crevasses. When it finally plunged into the sea, the area filled with water, leaving only the pinnacles visible.

Designated a World Heritage site in 1994, this mystical landscape of limestone islets is often compared to Guilin in China or Krabi in southern Thailand. In reality, Halong Bay is more spectacular. The bay’s immense number of islands is dotted with wind- and wave-eroded grottoes, and their sparsely forested slopes ring with birdsong.

Beyond a boat cruise, visitors to Halong also come to explore the caves. There are few real beaches in Halong Bay, but Lan Ha Bay has idyllic sandy coves a short boat hop from Cat Ba Town.

Sprawling Halong City is the bay’s main gateway, but the raffish collection of high-rise hotels and karaoke bars is not a great introduction to this incredible site.

Most visitors sensibly opt for tours that include sleeping on a boat in the bay. Some travellers dodge Halong City and head straight for Cat Ba Town, from where trips to less-visited, equally alluring Lan Ha Bay are easily set up. Cat Ba Island can also be a good base for visiting the landscapes of Halong Bay itself.
As the number-one tourist attraction in the northeast, Halong Bay attracts visitors year-round. February to April is often cool and drizzly, and the ensuing fog can make visibility low, but also adds an ethereal air. From May to September tropical storms are frequent, and year round, tourist boats sometimes need to alter their itineraries, depending on the weather. Some tour companies offer full or partial refunds if tours are cancelled; check when you book.

4. Cu Chi Tunnels

Cu Chi Tunnel
Cu Chi Tunnel is 70 km from Ho Chi Minh City in the Northwest. It is miniature battle versatile of Cu Chi’s military and people during the 30-year struggle longtime and fierce to fight invading enemy to receive independence, freedom for motherland. It also is the special architecture lying deeply underground with many stratums, nooks and crannies as complex as a cobweb, having spares for living, meeting and fighting with total lengths over 200 km.

Real legends coming from the Tunnel are over human imaginativeness. Creeping down into the tunnel, only some yards, you can find out why Vietnam, A tiny country could defeat its enemy, the large and richest country in the world. Why Cu Chi, a barren and poor land could face strongly for 21 years to the army crowded many times compared with its force, warlike and equipped modern war weapons and means.
In the fight, Cu Chi people won illustriously. Thanks to systems of tunnel ways, fortifications, combat trenches, soldiers and people of Cu Chi fought very bravely creating glorious feat of arms. The American invaders at first time stepped into Cu Chi land, they had to face so fierce resistances from tunnels from important and very difficult bases that they cried out, “Underground villages”, “Dangerous secret zone”, “cannot see any VC but they appear everywhere”… With its war pasture, Cu Chi Tunnels become a historical war hero of Vietnamese People like a 20th century legend and famous land in the world.

5. Phu Quoc

Phu Quoc
One of Vietnam’s star attractions, mountainous and forested Phu Quoc is a splendid tropical getaway set with beautiful white-sand beaches and quaint fishing villages.

The tear-shaped island lies in the Gulf of Thailand, 45km west of Ha Tien and 15km south of the coast of Cambodia. At 48km long (with an area of 1320 sq km), Phu Quoc is Viet­nam’s largest island.

Phu Quoc is not really part of the Mekong Delta and doesn’t share the delta’s extraordinary ability to produce rice. The most valuable crop is black pepper, but the islanders here have traditionally earned their living from the sea. Phu Quoc is also famous in Vietnam for its production of high-quality fish sauce (nuoc mam).

The island has some unusual hunting dogs, which have ridgebacks, curly tails and blue tongues and are said to be able to pick up their masters’ scent from over 1km away (the nuoc mam their masters eat certainly helps). Unfortunately, the dogs have decimated much of the island’s wildlife.
Despite the impending development (of a new international airport, a golf course and a casino), much of this island is still protected since becoming a national park in 2001. Phu Quoc National Park covers close to 70% of the island, an area of 31, 422 hectares.
Phu Quoc’s rainy season is from July to November. The peak season for tourism is midwinter, when the sky is blue and the sea is calm.

6. Mekong River

Mekong Delta River
Vietnam is famous for its two big areas growing rice. The one in the North is the Red River Delta, and the other in the South is the Mekong Delta.

The Mekong Delta is formed from the mighty Mekong River which originated from the Tibetan highland plateau 2,800 miles away. The river makes its way through China, Myanmar, Laos, Cambodia and South Vietnam before flowing into the sea. The part of the river running through Vietnam is tore into nine branches and named Cuu Long by Vietnamese locals, which means Nine Dragons to describe the nine branches that terminate the flow of this great river as it is absorbed by the sea.

The locals in Mekong delta live right on the edge of the rivers or canals. Their home structures varied from place to place as they are built conveniently from whatever materials found. Fisheries can be found right under those homes. It can be said that life in the delta is tightly woven with its rivers with floating markets while other activities and businesses are conducted on its banks.

Visiting the Mekong delta, tourists can stop at major cities and towns such as Bac Lieu, Tra Vinh, Ben Tre, My Tho, Chau Doc, Sa Dec, Long Xuyen and Can Tho… Aside from the cities, there are many national parks and nature reserves in the area. Some of the names are Con Dao national park, Lung Ngoc Hoang nature reserve, Mui Ca Mau national park, Nui Cam nature reserve, Phu Quoc national park, Thanh Phu nature reserve, Tram Chim national, etc…

Taking a Mekong river cruise is the best way to experience the local life on the river as well as to enjoy the beautiful scenery along the way. There are many cruise operator offering cruising services for tourists.
The usual itinerary for a Mekong trip is around 5-7 days. The trip often starts from Ho Chi Minh City and then goes down along the Tien River or Hau River. For longer itineraries, a few tourist destinations in Cambodia or Laos can be included in the routes.

7. Hoi An

Hoi An
The ancient town of Hoi An, one of six features in Vietnam granted world heritage status is a very popular destination for tourists. It is renowned for its peacefulness. But when the moon gets fuller in the middle of the lunar month, this cozy town with old houses and small streets looks even more romantic and beautiful as colorful lanterns light the night-time scene.

Long-lived traditions and customs tell tourists a lot about the lifestyles of Hoi An people going way back. Tourists have the chance to learn about such activities of Chinese origin as bai choi or Vietnamese musical bingo. Then there is Chinese chess, earthen-pot breaking while blindfolded and more.

 In addition to the beauty of Hoi An, the dedication of local tourism managers have turned the town into a must-visit destination for tourists when they travel around the important central part of Vietnam. That Hoi An can provide tourists with more diversified services and local cultural features makes it even more attractive.
Walking, biking or using a cyclo-pedicab to cruise through the narrow streets is equally enjoyable. Visitors just need to bear in mind that they will need to stop a lot as every corner of the town is likely to attract their admiration.

The more the town is explored, the more enjoyable it is. Tourists are introduced to ancient mossy tile-roofed houses with special architectural features and very Chinese names like Sanh Hien and Phung Hung, the Japanese Bridge, the assembly halls of Chinese from Fujian and Guangdong, the Hong Phat Church, and the house of the Tran family.

Walking along Bach Dang Street by the Hoai River late in the afternoon or sitting at Cua Dai Beach to enjoy seafood in the dreamy light of kerosene lamps is a fantastic experience. With the lamps from afar, Cua Dai Beach looks like a piece of the dark and starry sky. In that atmosphere tourists have mysterious and floating feelings.

Greener rice fields, villages and islets are the new destinations that make Hoi An “a new ancient town." Besides the newly-built resorts at Cua Dai Beach, along the way to this area tourists can enjoy the freshness of the surroundings and the beauty of a picturesque scene with buffalos, fishing boats and spongy waves.
High-speed boats take tourists to Cu Lao Cham, also called Heavenly Islet. There, tourists witness the beauty and wildness of such beaches as Bai Bim, Bai Ong and Bai Chong, as well as take part in activities like exploring coral reefs, swimming, and enjoying seafood.

Source:VietNamNet Bridge 

ACTIVETRAVEL AISA would like to recommend Motorbiking the Ho Chi Minh Trail - Complete Challenge tour .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 follow original sections of the trail have changed this. Besides incredible driving, deep in the Vietnamese countryside, this ride takes in the charming ancient trading town of Hoian, Khe Sanh battle site and DMZ. 


  • Stunning scenery
  • Historical sites
  • Charming ancient trading town of Hoi An
  • Relaxing in Dalat
  • Encountering ethnic minorities
  • Just you, no others travelers
  • All inclusive

Tuesday, October 15, 2013

Beautiful Ha Giang

The raw beauty and impressive mountain ranges of Ha Giang Province in the far North of Vietnam is the scene which no one can easily forget.

Quan Ba Twin Mountain
A local house
Lung Cu flag tower

Local people in colourful dresses
Standing on the curving Ma Pi Leng Pass, Nho Que River runs between the mountain
Ethnic children
Typical dishes of Ha Giang

October and November is when backpackers flock to Ha Giang because of blooming flower fields. Ha Giang is well-known for its impressive yellow daisies and buckwheat flower fields.

Source: dtinews.vn

ACTIVETRAVEL ASIA would like to recommend Motorcycling adventure in Northern Vietnam tour.The mountainous area of Northern Vietnam has long been famous for its beautiful scenery and great diversity of ethnic minorities. With our adventure motorcycling trip you will make a big loop to experience all the bests that area can offer. Starting in Hanoi you will explore Northwest before jumping into Northeast, back to Hanoi after a day relaxing in Ba Be Lake. The perfect itinerary and the support crew ensure you get the most out of the trip in terms of comfort, enjoyment and adventure. Along the way we encounter dramatic landscapes and sweeping panoramas as the rural population goes about its business. Highlights include the terraced valleys of Sapa, beautiful Ban Gioc Waterfall and many different colorful minority groups. 


  • Stunning scenery
  • Stunning Pha Din Pass and Tram Ton Pass
  • Terraced valley of Sapa
  • Ban Gioc Waterfall
  • Babe Lake
  • Colorful ethnic minorities

Friday, October 11, 2013

Seven Experiences You Shouldn’t Miss in Vietnam

by Bethaney Davies 

Vietnam is a country that can polarize the opinion of it’s visitors. Some people love it, others loathe it. I, myself, have had a love-hate relationship with Vietnam over my two visits. I hated it on my first visit but fell in love on my second visit. If you want to fall in love with this crazy country too, here are seven experiences you shouldn’t miss in Vietnam.

Street in Saigon
Cross the Street in Saigon
Seriously. Crossing the street in Saigon is not the same as crossing the street anywhere else on the planet. The streets are constantly thick with scooters. To get a cross you honestly just have to step from the curb, walk across and keep your pace consistent letting the traffic weave around you. In some strange way it just works. The drivers know how to anticipate the movements of pedestrians crossing the street. You’ll only get into trouble if you stop or change your pace causing motorists to swerve.

Floating Market
Cruise Through the Mekong Delta
Take a tour from Saigon to explore the Mekong Delta region. You’ll get to shop at the famous floating markets of the region, visit cottage industries making rice paper and coconut candy and just soak up the vibe of the river towns. It makes for a welcome antidote to the craziness of Saigon and should definitely be part of your Vietnam holidays.

Motobike at Mui Ne
Motorbike in Mui Ne
If you’re going to try your hand at riding a motorbike anywhere in Vietnam, make it in Mui Ne. It’s a relatively sleepy fishing village with a row of tourist resorts running along one road. There isn’t much in the way of public transport in town so renting a motorbike is the best way to get around. Once you’ve got the hang of it, ride your motorbike out to see the sand dunes.

Wallow in mud
Wallow in Mud in Nha Trang
The beach is lovely but it’s over developed and over commercialised. My absolute favourite thing about Nha Trang is the hot springs at Thap Ba. Where else can you wallow in your own private therapeutic mud pool, swim in hot spring water and get a relaxing massage for only a few dollars? It’s a little bit of a drive out from Nha Trang so arrange for your moto or taxi driver to wait or come back and collect you at a set time.

Nikes at Hoi An
Get Tailor-Made Clothing in Hoi An
Having clothes tailor-made to your exact measurements is a real treat. Back home it would cost hundreds (if not thousands) of dollars to have a custom made suit, dress or coat. There are no shortage of tailor shops in Hoi An but the best of the best is Yaly Couture. The garments I had made in 2008 at Yaly are still in circulation in my wardrobe. Sadly, my blinged out custom “Nikes” bit the dust after only a few wears.

H'mong ethnic
Go Trekking in Sapa
This mountainous region of Vietnam up by the Chinese border is very special indeed. Mountain mists roll in and out of the verdant rice terraces. Minority hilltribespeople wander around in traditional dress. There are days and days worth of fantastic walks in and around Sapa. If you’re keen for longer treks, go with an organised tour. Or if you just want short walks, pick a trail and you’ll be met by smiling young women who guide tourists in exchange for purchasing their handicrafts.

Halong Bay
Explore Halong Bay
Save the best until last! Halong Bay is the emerald in Vietnam’s crown. 2000 islands dot the green waters, supposedly representing a huge dragon’s body dipping above and below the surface. You can easily join a Halong Bay cruise from Hanoi on any budget. All tours include a night aboard a traditional Junk ship. If time permits, go for the two-night, three-day tour… all the magic happens on the second day which most tourists miss. You can cycle around islands, kayak through the waters and explore historical sights from the Vietnam war on Cat Ba Island.

ACTIVETRAVEL ASIA would like to recommend Family Adventures in Vietnam tour.With its stunning natural landscapes, millennia-old history, exciting cosmopolitan cities, friendly hamlets and mélange of cultural influences, Vietnam has it all. And there’s no better way to become acquainted with this vibrant country than by exploring it under your own locomotion and at your own pace. Walk past pagodas and temples in old Hanoi, kayak amid labyrinthine limestone outcrops in Halong Bay, bike past vibrant green rice paddies, investigate magnificent historic sites in Hue and stroll through the enchanting city of Hoi An, one of Vietnam’s architectural gems. Round out your days of discovery with meals of delicious local cuisine and stays at warm welcoming hotels.


  • Kayaking in the amazing Halong Bay
  • Biking in the majestic former capital of Hue
  • Charming ancient town of Hoian
  • Floating market of Cai Rang

Wednesday, October 9, 2013

Trip Through Vietnam


Michael recently returned from his trip with Vietnam Travel Plan, where he visited the atmospheric cities of Hanoi and Ho Chi Minh City, lounged on the untouched island of Phu Quoc and marvelled at Cai Rang’s floating market on the Mekong river. He kept a travel diary on his trip and has allowed us to share a few snippets of his adventure..

‘My interest in Vietnamese history has grown and with that interest a desire to see Vietnam has grown that should have been sated long before now. Now on my return to the UK from Indonesia via Singapore it seemed a very good time to make amends that miss.’

Hanoi: ‘To see throngs of people at exercise in the square lightened my day at 6am.’

Vietnam Trip- Hanoi 
Halong bay: ‘The pleasure of almost touching heaven came as I wined and dined on glorious seafood aboard a Vietnam junk at Halong Bay. And what a sunset that day gave me to complete the unbelievable serenity.’

Vietnam Trip- Halong Bay
Ho Chi Minh City: ‘Ho Chi Minh City came next. Perhaps more organised and western than Hanoi, it had its moments. I crawled inside the VC tunnels at Cu Chi, looked at all their bamboo traps for searching soldiers and was mighty glad I had not been a GI caught in one of those.’

Mekong Delta: ‘I was treated to the strange and unexpected pleasure of the Mekong Delta and the wealth of waterways and rice fields that make up this unforgettable place. The floating market at Cai Rang was amongst the liveliest of memories. I actually think that this taste of river life was something I had never seen before.’

Phu Quoc: ‘My final days of rest were at the totally unspoiled island of Phu Quoc near the border with Cambodia’

‘Vietnam have just recently designated the Lotus as the national flower. They say it represents the open generous spirit and the beauty of the Vietnamese people. In my experience one can’t argue that. What a delightful way to end ones latest travels, to end in a place that seems happy and so much at peace with itself and wants the visiting world to see and share. Thank you Vietnam for making me see truism once again, even though I never need reminding about my good fortune.’

ACTIVETRAVEL ASIA would like to recommend Family Adventures in Vietnam tour.With its stunning natural landscapes, millennia-old history, exciting cosmopolitan cities, friendly hamlets and mélange of cultural influences, Vietnam has it all. And there’s no better way to become acquainted with this vibrant country than by exploring it under your own locomotion and at your own pace. Walk past pagodas and temples in old Hanoi, kayak amid labyrinthine limestone outcrops in Halong Bay, bike past vibrant green rice paddies, investigate magnificent historic sites in Hue and stroll through the enchanting city of Hoi An, one of Vietnam’s architectural gems. Round out your days of discovery with meals of delicious local cuisine and stays at warm welcoming hotels.

  • Kayaking in the amazing Halong Bay
  • Biking in the majestic former capital of Hue
  • Charming ancient town of Hoian
  • Floating market of Cai Rang

Thursday, October 3, 2013

Inside world of Son Doong

Pictures of Son Doong Cave have covered newspapers worldwide, showing the "attraction" of the world's largest cave.

Son Doong Cave in Quang Binh province, central Vietnam, was worldwide known in 2009, when a group of British explorers and locals discovered the whole cave. Since then, the world has been surprised by spectacular scenery of the vast cave with a length of more than 9 km, with forests, rivers, stalagmites... All are inside the Son Doong cave, the world's largest cave.

To enter the cave, explorers had to use ropes to drop down 80m depth to begin the journey to explore the world in Son Doong cave.

Four years after the cave was revealed to the world, the tour to conquer Son Doong cave was tested in August, opening up the opportunity to explore the cave for tourists.

The test will continue in February and March 2014. Each group of tourists will have up to six people, with the cost of $3,000. More than 100 international visitors have registered for the tours in 2014.

The entrance to the Son Doong cave

Part of the cave roof collapsed a few centuries ago. Thus, rain and sunlight can reach here, creating favorable conditions for plant growth in the cave

An explorer enters into the cave.

Green vegetation inside Son Doong.

Trees along the entrance to the cave

The rocks named Chan Cho (dog foot) near the cave entrance. This large stalagmite is in the shape of a dog foot.

Ken (cocoon) Cave with a narrow lake.

A different perspective of the Ken Cave. It looks like mysterious eyes. 

The stalagmites.

A stream inside Son Doong. 

Wading through a stream.

A waterfall in the cave.

Exploring the cave like doing the journey to the underground world.

View from the Edam garden.

The calcareous water droplets dripping, gradually forming "pearls" in the Son Doong cave

Rock veins covered with green algae.

The "exotic sculpture" of nature.
The camps of the first tourist group who were allowed to explore the Son Doong cave in August 2013

A river in the cave
Source:VietNamNet Bridge 

ACTIVETRAVEL ASIA would like to recommend Son Doong Surroundings tour.Son Doong Cave, En Cave (Swallow Cave or Hang En) are the most spectacular sights in Quang Binh province (Central of Vietnam). Fortunately, when Son Doong is currently restricted to scientists and cavers only, we can have a great two-day trek to En Cave. The Cave is 1.645 m long and has three mouths. One is halfway up a mountain and two others are located on another mountain which has its foot on the south-east and north-west alongside Rao Thuong Stream. All of these make the cave different from other well-known caves in the country.