Wednesday, February 25, 2015

Discover Vietnam!

Sapa Vietnam, Sapa Tours, visiting Sapa

Sapa is situated in the country’s northwest at an altitude of 1,600 meters. 
In the early 20th century the French took advantage of Sapa's cool climate, 
developing it into a summer retreat from the heat and humidity of Hanoi. 
Today, Sapa town still retains its European feel, largely due to the French 
architecture and gardens and today is a popular destination due to its 
beautiful scenery and colorful ethnic people. You’ll enjoy lush 
rice-terraced valleys and breath-taking scenery passing several 
different minority villages.
The valleys surrounding Sapa are home to several of Vietnam’s 54 ethnic 
minority groups, each with their own distinctive dress, customs and dialects.
These tribes can all be seen at the weekend market in Sapa town to trade with one another.
Sapa has also become a destination for travelers seeking adventure. It is a staging point for trekking in the nearby valleys 
and for climbing Mount Fansipan, Vietnam's highest peak.



  • Indochina's highest peak, Mount Fansipan is only 9km from Sapa town and climbing to its summit is one of Asia's most challenging adventures. The trek takes visitors through tiny remote villages and areas of rainforest.
  • Shorter treks are also very rewarding, and within just a few hours walkers can be in villages that have seen few foreigners, for example: Ta Phin, Ta Van, Lao Chai, Cat Cat.

Mai Chai Tours, Hoa Binh Vietnam, Vietnam Tours
Mai Chau is approximately 140km from Hanoi and 60km from Hoa Binh.
Mai Chau’s main attraction, aside from its picturesque landscape is 
its inhabitants, namely the Thai and H’Mong who live in traditional
 hamlets and villages along the valley floor.

Hoa Binh (meaning 'Peace' in English) is the provincial capital 
of the province of the same name, located 75km northwest of Hanoi.

Hoa Binh town is about five km from Southeast Asia's biggest 
hydroelectric construction on the Song Da (Black River) valley.

The region with its scenic valleys is home to many ethnic minority hill-tribes, including the H'mong, Dao, Thai and Muong.
These remote villages are accessible only on foot and there are some very rewarding hikes through the valleys. 
Overnight stays in several of the Thai and H’Mong communities is possible and indeed highly recommended, 
although it should be pointed out that the accommodation is somewhat basic.

The majority of houses are made of wood and bamboo and supported on wooden stilts. 
These houses are often quite large with palm leaf roofs and polished bamboo-slat floors. 
The kitchen is located in the center of the house; the cooking as well as the making of the colorful "tho cam",
 the material used by Thai minority to make their clothes takes place in the kitchen. 
The H’Mong on the other hand lives in wooden longhouses.

Life in the remote valleys of Mai Chau remains much the same as it has done for centuries

  • The Sunday market in Mai Chau brings a lot of people into town. People from different minorities living in the mountains come to sell their produce and exchange goods such as honey, bananas, corn, and "tho cam". The Sunday market is also an occasion to enjoy traditional Thai dishes and to participate in traditional dances.
  • A 30 km drive from Hoa Binh leads to a rest house and mineral springs named Kim Boi. Visitors sitting inside the house can hear the springs, which flow at a constant 36 degree Celsius. Scientific tests have shown that the waters at Kim Boi are suitable to drink, bathe, and use in the treatment of a variety of ailments. The mineral water is also bottled for drinking.

Ninh Binh Vietnam, Ninh Binh Tours, visiting Ninh Binh
The province of Ninh Binh is well-known for its stunning scenery of 
imposing limestone and tranquil meandering rivers. The countryside 
surrounding the town makes for an ideal escape from the capital city Hanoi, 
a little over 100km to the north. It is in the surrounding countryside 
with its small villages and hamlets where the real charm of Ninh Binh 
is to be found. The roads are quiet and free of large vehicles and therefore 
safe for the cyclist. The villagers are friendly and the views are simply captivating.

Of all the routes available the most spectacular is a dyke road.
 The dyke is raised about 3-4 meters above the surrounding 
countryside providing the visitor with excellent panoramic views 
of the villages on one side and the soaring limestone mountains on the other.

Aside from the scenic attractions there are other hidden delights down the winding country paths. Ancient pagodas litter the area as do 
caves and grottoes many of which serve as shrines to the pantheon of Buddhist and Confucian deities. To discover more about 
the scenery for which Ninh Binh is famous a ride on a traditional sampan or rowboat is highly recommended. 
These small vessels snake their way through a dramatic landscape of grey-green cliffs which tower over the water below.
High above on the almost-sheer slopes mountain goats balance precariously feeding on the vegetation. 
The boats weave their way through the reeds and the only sound one hears is the occasional kingfisher 
chirping and the soothing rhythmic splash of the paddles. The skilled oarswomen also navigate visitors 
through a series of limestone caves and tunnels, each one of which opens out on to another stretch of calm water.

  • Tam Coc means "three caves", referred to as Ca, Hai, and Ba. The best way to visit is to walk in sampan for 3 hours on the Ngo Dong river. Formerly, this area was covered by the sea has eroded over the centuries the limestone rock formations. This place is also called "Ha Long Bay land".

  • Van Long is the largest wetland Reserve covering an area of nearly 3000 hectares. Van Long is home to a rich fauna and flora, particularly, a habitat of the largest number of white-hipped langurs. One of the last real natural treasures in Ninh Binh, Van Long is worth exploring nature and agritourismin the North of Viet Nam.

Ha Long Bay Cruises, Halong Bay Tours, Visiting Halong Bay
Ha Long Bay is perhaps the most spectacular of Vietnam's natural wonders. 
Located in the Gulf of Tonkin 170km from Hanoi, it is an impressive collection 
of nearly 2,000 islands covering an area in excess of 1,500km forming a 
spectacular seascape of limestone pillars and cliff faces.

The breathtaking scenery and unusual geology of the bay led UNESCO to 
designate Halong Bay a World Heritage site in 1994.
Many of the forested islands in the bay have hidden caves and 
grottoes which are easily explored by boat or kayak. Some of the 
island caves are filled with a colorful stalagmites and stalactites.

Halong Bay literally means "descending dragon bay". The bay belongs to Hạ Long City, Cẩm Phả town and part of Vân Đồn District in Quảng Ninh Province. 
A community of around 1,600 people live on Hạ Long Bay in four fishing villages: Cửa Vạn, Ba Hang, Cống Tàu and Vông Viêng in Hùng Thắng commune, 
ạ ong city. They live on floating houses and are sustained through fishing and marine aquaculture.

Hanoi Vietnam, visiting Hanoi, Hanoi tours
Hanoi is said to be Asia's most charming city. Hanoi, meaning ‘where the river bends’ 
is a city of broad, tree-lined boulevards, with elegant French villas and colonial-era 
buildings. By day the city hums with commerce and moves at motorbike speed; by 
night the city is an enchanting, 19th century Asian village best experienced from 
the seat of a silent rickshaw.
Hanoi was officially founded in 1010 by Emperor Ly Thai To, who in 1010 
renamed the area Thang Long or Soaring Dragon. Soon after some of the city’s 
oldest structures were built including the Temple of Literature, Vietnam’s oldest 

October 2010 officially marked 1000 years since the establishment of the city.

Hanoi experienced a rapid construction boom recently. Skyscrapers, popping up in new urban areas, dramatically change the citiscape 
and form a modern skyline. Two of its tallest buildings are Hanoi Landmark 72 Tower (336m, tallest in Vietnam and second tallest 
in Southeast Asia after Malaysia's Petronas Twin Towers) and Hanoi Lotte Center (267m, also second tallest in Vietnam).


    Emperor Ly Thai To built one of Hanoi's most famous landmarks, the One Pillar Pagoda in 1049 in honor of the Goddess of Mercy. The pillar was destroyed in 1954, but the pagoda was quickly rebuilt. The design of the pagoda reflects the Buddhist belief that the world was created much as a lotus flower emerges from the water. The temple is built above a small pond covered in lotus blossoms.
    Hoan Kiem Lake is in the heart of Hanoi. As you walk by, you will be able to witness the pace of life in this peculiar city.

Quang Binh Vietnam, Quang Binh Tours, visiting Quang Binh
Quang Binh is a province in the upper middle region of Vietnam. 
The width of the province is relatively short, only 50 km from 
its border with Lao to the seashore, making it the narrowest province 
on the map of Vietnam. Quang Binh adjoins Ha Tinh in the North, 
Quang Tri in the South, East Sea in the East and Lao’s Kham Muon Province in the West.

The natural area of Quang Binh is 8.065,27 km². With a population of only 
847,9 thousands, it is a pretty humble province in term of people. Besides 
the capital city called Dong Hoi, the other districts of Quang Binh are 
listed as follows: Tuyen Hoa, Minh Hoa, Quang Trach, Bo Trach, Quang Ninh, 
and Le Thuy. The province has a pretty narrow and steep topography. 
While 85% of the total area is mountains, there are also other types of 
terrain such as hills, valleys, highlands, plains, etc.

However, almost all of the areas in the West of Quang Binh are mountains, which usually have the height of 1’000 to 1’500, among which 
Phi Co Pi is the highest peak. Quang Binh Province is lined with sand dunes and beaches. There are ten km of beach and dunes north of town. 
Nhat Le Beach is at the mouth of the Nhat Le River.
Quang Binh lies in a tropical region where it has to bear the effects of both Northern climate and Southern climate.
 There are two separate seasons: the rain season, which lasts from September to March and the dry season, which lasts from April to August.

    Phong Nha Cave which is about 45 km north west of Dong Hoi, is remarkable for its thousands meters of passageway lined with a great veriety of stalactites and stalagmites. Phong Nha Cave is one of the finest and longest caves of the world. The main tunnel is 1,415 metres in length and 14 halls. Travel within the cave is by boat and on foot.
  • DMZ
    From 1954 to 2975, the Ben Hai River served as the demarcation line between the South and the North of Vietnam. The Demilitarrised Zone (DMZ) consisted of an area of 5 square km. During the Vietnam War, this area was the scene of some of the bloodiest batttles: Dong Ha, Quang Tri, Con Thien, Camlo, Camp Caroll, The Rockpile and Khe Sanh.

Hue Tours, visiting Hue, Hue Vietnam
Hue was the home of the Nguyen Emperors who ruled Vietnam 
from 1802 to 1945, and their impressive Citadel remains partially 
intact today despite the ravages of several wars. Legacies of the 
city's dynastic include elaborate tombs and pagodas, mausoleums 
and assembly halls. Threading along the beautiful Perfume River 
which flows through the city, these unique and extraordinary 
monuments serve as a guide to the lives of Vietnam's last emperors.

The spectacular Citadel is built on the same principles and design 
as Beijing's Forbidden Palace. The ten-meter thick outer walls 
enclose a vast compound of palaces, temples, meeting halls and 
pavilions, many of which are now sadly victims of war and the passage of time.

Most well-known for its historic values; Hue had been recognized as one of the World Heritage Sites by UNESCO. Palaces and pagodas, 
tombs and temples, culture and cuisine, history and heartbreak – there’s no shortage of poetic pairings to describe Hue.

Journalist Gavin Young’s 1997 memoir A Wavering Grace is a moving account of his 30-year relationship with a family from Hué, 
and with the city itself, during and beyond the American War. It makes a good literary companion for a stay in the city.
    The Imperial City contains a series of palaces, ornate halls, libraries, residences, and colleges. Much of the City, including the Forbidden Palace, was destroyed during a vicious battle between opposing forces during the Tet Offensive of 1968. One can spend an entire afternoon wandering around the grounds of the Imperial City, viewing the ancient architecture of the Nguyen emperors and scars of recent battles.
    The Imperial tombs are one of the highlights of Hue, and are more like small palaces than burial grounds. The architecture of each tomb is unique, but common themes are a large stone courtyard filled with life-size statues of soldiers, horses, mandarins and elephants. Inside the grounds are a pavilion with engraved biographies of the deceased king written by his successor, and the temple where the king is buried. Ponds and moats filled with lotus flowers add life to the grounds.

Visiting Da Nang, Danang Vietnam, Da Nang tours
Danang is Vietnam’s fourth-largest city, situated in the central region, 
encircled with world cultural heritage sites in Hue and Hoi An (My Son).

It is the deep-sea port city in the middle of the country that serves as 
the economic hub between the north and the south. Ringed by mountains
 on one side and the East Sea on the other, Danang has numerous sites 
of natural beauty and historical interest.

The sea is good for swimming. Other activities here are snorkeling, 
water-skiing, diving. Jutting out into the sea, the Son Tra Peninsula is 
crowned by the Son Tra Mountain that the American soldiers during 
the Viet Nam War called Monkey Mountain.
The 13.5km-long mountain to the northeast of Da Nang acts as a barrier protecting the city from strong winds and storms coming in from the sea.

Hoi An Vietnam, viting Hoian, Hoi An tours, Hoi An Tailors
Hoi An is a picturesque riverside town 30 km south of Danang. 
Most visitors agree it is the most enchanting place on the coast 
and is one city worth lingering in. Known as 'Faifo' to early 
Western traders, it was one of South-East Asia's major international 
ports during the 17th, 18th and 19th centuries.

In its heyday, Hoi An, a contemporary of Macau and Melaka, 
was an important port of call for Dutch, Portuguese, Chinese, 
Japanese and other trading vessels. Vietnamese ships and sailors 
based in Hoi An sailed to all sections of Vietnam, as well as Thailand and Indonesia.
Perhaps, more than any other place in Vietnam, Hoi An retains a sense 
of history that grows on you the more you explore it.

In 1999, the old town was declared a World Heritage Site by UNESCO as a well-preserved example of a Southeast Asian trading port 
of the 15th to 19th centuries, with buildings that display a unique blend of local and foreign influences.
Despite the numbers of tourists who come to Hoi An, it is still a very conservative town, and visitors should dress modestly when touring the sites. 
Several historical structures are open for public viewing, a number of streets in the centre of town are off-limits to motor traffic, 
and building alteration and height restrictions are well enforced. If only Hanoi would follow suit in the historic Old Quarter.

'Hoi An legendary Night' takes places on the 14th day of every lunar month (fullmoon) from 5:30 to 10 pm. 
This colourful monthly event 
features tradditional food, song and dance, and games along the lantern-lit streets in the town centre.

Today, the town is a tourist attraction because of its history, traditional architecture and crafts (such as textiles, custom made clothes, 
hand made lanterns and ceramics). Many bars, hotels, and resorts have been constructed both in Hoi An and the surrounding area.
 The port and boats are still used for both fishing and tourism.


    The Japanese covered bridge was built over a small canal in 1593 to link the Japanese quarter to the Chinese quarter. Designed and built by the Japanese community, the wooden structure has remained intact. On one side of the bridge are carvings of dogs, and on the other, carvings of monkeys. This is because construction began during a year of the dog, and ended during a year of the monkey. On the northern side of the bridge there is a Japanese pagoda dedicated to protecting sailors.
    This well preserved 18th century house blends Vietnamese, Chinese, and Japanese architectural styles. Chinese poems written in mother-of-pearl are inscribed on the house's columns, the roof is shaped in a distinctive Japanese, crab-shell shape and the outer structure is Vietnamese in design.

Nha Trang Vietnam, Nha Trang tours, visiting Nha Trang
Nha Trang is one of Vietnam's most pleasant beach resorts.
Nha Trang is renowned for its pristine palm tree-lined beachfront.

The gentle waters of Nha Trang Bay make for enjoyable swimming, and numerous islands nearby are ideal for snorkeling and scuba diving
The valleys surrounding Sapa are home to several of Vietnam’s 
54 ethnic minority groups, each with their own distinctive dress, customs and dialects.

These tribes can all be seen at the weekend market in Sapa town to trade with one another.

Visitors will enjoy the group of five or six islands situated close to each other. The largest of the islands is Hon Tre, which is located 3 km from Nha Trang. 
Nha Trang is not only famous for its natural landscapes but also for its heritage of the Cham culture.

    The Po Nagar Temple complex is a well-preserved example of Cham architecture from the 7th to 12th centuries. The largest tower is 23-metres high and was built in 817 AD. Originally consisting of eight towers, four still remain. The towers are surrounded flowers and trees and sit on a small hill overlooking the picturesque Nha Trang harbor.
    This complex of five villas offers a panoramic view of Nha Trang Bay and is a former residence of Vietnam's last emperor.

Dalat Vietnam, Da Lat tours, visiting Dalat
Located on Langbian high lands, part of the greater 
Central high lands of Vietnam, Dalat is 1500 m above 
sea level and is 305 km from Saigon.

The name Da Lat originates from the hill tribe people in this region.

Dalat city is probably one of Vietnam's most well known vacation destination.

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    A French Romanesque-style cathedral set in the middle of Vietnam's central highlands. With its distinctive red brick, stained glass windows, and soaring 47-metre high spire, Dalat Cathedral is the city's most distinctive landmark
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    This 10 meter high waterfall roars through the forest 13 km south of Dalat. Bridges near the falls allow for close up views and the chance to feel the mist spraying up from the falls. It’s even possible to walk underneath them.

Phan Thiet Vietnam, Phan Thiet tours, visiting Phan Thiet
Located 200 km from Saigon along Vietnam's southeastern coast, 
Phan Thiet is home to one of the best stretches of beach in the country.

Phan Thiet is the classic example of a resort which has retained its fishing village culture.

The town itself has remained untouched by tourism, whilst a collection of 
excellent resorts have opened up along the coast on the Mui Ne Peninsula.

Well spaced and sensitively constructed, these resorts offer everything 
that a visitor could want from a beach destination.

Ho Chi Minh City, HCMC tours, visiting HCMC
Ho Chi Minh City (HCMC) is the commercial and financial hub of Vietnam and 
its most popular tourist destination.

Saigon (official name is HCMC) is a sometimes dizzying mix of old and new, 
uniquely Asian and international architectural styles.

Older tree-lined streets have a vaguely French atmosphere, 
while the multi-storey buildings and office blocks show the city's modern heritage.

Known to most as Saigon, Ho Chi Minh City is a city of contrasts. 
The pace of life is frenetic, and yet the wide boulevards and parks help the 
city retain an air of calm.

Classic French architecture competes for attention with brand new high-rise buildings. The port hosts vast tankers and cruise-liners while tiny 
sampans dart around them on the Saigon River.
    Ben Thanh is the largest market in Ho Chi Minh City. Shopkeepers sell a wide variety of local and imported products ranging from garments and textiles to handicrafts, flowers, and vegetables. The market was built in 1913. The French-style building has a distinctive clock tower at its entrance.
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    Located next to Notre Dame is Saigon's French-styled post office. Built between 1886 and 1891, the ochre-colored building has a glass canopy, ceiling fans, and enormous wall maps of "Saigon et Ses Environs". At the far end of the arched building is a large portrait of Ho Chi Minh.

Vinh Long Vietnam, Mekong Delta, Vinh Long cruises
An hour further south from My Tho is the riverside town of Vinh Long.
The canal network and villages surrounding Vinh Long are more rural 
than those seen in My Tho, and are perhaps more representative of village 
life in the Mekong Delta.

The trip to Vinh Long takes about three hours from Ho Chi Minh City, with at least 
one hour spent on ferries crossing major tributaries.

The first ferry crossing is at Cai Be.
After the crossing, it is best to have a break from the drive by taking a scenic s
ampan cruise through the nearby waterways.

During the cruise one can see local cottage industries such as fishing, boat building, rice and fruit cultivation, and production of rice paper - 
a staple of Vietnamese cuisine. Local seafood specialties include a variety of fresh-water fish.

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    This bustling river market runs from 5am to 5pm, but is best early in the morning. Wholesalers on large boats moor here, each specializing in one or more types of fruit or vegetables. Customers cruise the market in smaller boats and can easily find what they are looking for as the larger boats hang samples of their goods from tall wooden poles.
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    The island of An Binh-Binh Hoa emerges from the middle of the Tien River, just opposite Vinh Long. The island covers 60 sq. km and has four villages: An Binh, Binh Hoa Phuoc, Hoa Ninh and Dong Phu. Its soil is fertile and ideal for rearing bonsai trees and tropical fruit. Several of the orchards are open to the public.

Can Tho Vietnam, Mekong Delta cruises, Mekong Delta tours, visiting Can Tho
Can Tho is the capital of a province of the same name and is located in 
the very heart of the Mekong Delta. This bustling city, the largest in 
the region has broad boulevards and an elegant waterfront which connects 
it to the rest of the Mekong Delta via a system of rivers and canals. 
A boat trip along these canals is the highlight of a trip to Can Tho. 
In addition a visit to the nearby floating market early in the morning is a must-see.

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    Cai Rang is the largest floating market in the Mekong Delta and the best time to view it is early morning when it is at its liveliest, though some vendors can still be seen up until noon. Unlike the floating markets you may have seen in Thailand, where small wooden boats thread narrow canals, most floating markets here are on the banks of wide stretches of river and the Cai Rang market is no exception.

Phu Quoc Island, Vietnam, Phu Quoc boat trips, Phu Quoc tours, diving in Phu Quoc
Phu Quoc is an island with fantastic beaches, unspoiled forests and a 
flourishing marine life in transparent blue green waters.

Phu Quoc Island lies in the Gulf of Thailand, 15km south of the Cambodian coast.

The best time of year to visit is from November through April (dry season). 
Rainy season is from June to October