Endless Beauty of Nui Doi

Those who have been on the Highland of Ha Giang can enjoy a masterpiece of nature bestowed on this place. That is Nui doi. Legends are legends forever; however, anyone who contemplates Nui Doi without hearing the story about the fairy`s breasts may associate the fully and sexy breasts of a young lady.

With an odds shape connected with a legendary story, Nui Doi Quan Ba called Co Tien Moutain is regarded as an important destination in the tours to Dong Van rocky highland, an attractive place for professional photographers to come.

Standing alone in a small valley nearby Tam Son highland city of Quang Ba District, Ha Giang Province, surrounded with terraced rice fields and spotted with the houses made of soil in dark brown, typical for the scenery encountered in the rocky highland, Nui Doi looks so fascinating.

The best time to visit Nui Doi and contemplate these amazing sceneries of the site is the spring and the summer, when the grass and plants cover ” the fairy`s breasts” in freshly green or rice fills out Tam Son terraced rice fields in brightly yellow.

Nui Doi is so beautiful and fascinating that local ethnic people have adored and preserved the legend of the fairy for many generations, it has become a part of their subconscious

As told by the legend, there was a young Hmong boy in Quang Ba, the misty highland, who had talent for performing musical sound by his lips; the sound was so melodious like stream flowing and bird singing, so tuneful like the wind spreading our everywhere to the sky that many young female highlanders were softhearted. A beautiful fairy from heaven named Hoa Dao occasionally encountered the music and looked for performer. They fell in love afterwards and she could not return to heaven. The marriage between the human and fairy was made finally. The couple had one son.

The Lord knew Hoa Dao escaped from heaven and married with the human. He angrily recalled her back to heaven. Before leaving, she left her breasts to her husband to feed the baby with her breasts milk. The breasts gradually grew up and became the twin mountain like the mother `s breasts fully strain with milk. That twin mountain was named Nui Doi or Nui Co Tien

According to the legend, thanks to “the fairy’s breasts milk”, the weather at the site is cool and thus fruits grown there give wonderful taste, such as peach, apricot, persimmon.., rice and vegetable harvests are always successful. The fairy’s tear became the Mien River covering the rocky mountain area.

Thanks to the fascinating beauty of Nui Doi and is value in terms of geology and natural scenery, the site was recognized the national famous landscape in 2010. In combination with the global geological park of Dong Van Rocky Highland, Nui Doi is the symbol, an atractive and important of this unique highland.


High quality hotel service in Hanoi

Hotel service quality in Hanoi has ranked second only behind the German city of Dresden in a recent survey conducted by the prestigious website Trivago.
In its survey examining 140 hotels in 100 cities around the world, London in the UK was labeled the worst, receiving many complaints about its expensive bars, slow services, and mediocre breakfasts.

The city’s hotel rooms were also described as too small and cut off from any views. Long queues at large hotels bothered many of the city’s tourists.

In total contrast to London, Dresden’s hotels were praised for delicious breakfasts at very reasonable prices, hospitable staff, spacious rooms, and spectacular views.

The survey’s top ranked cities included Tokyo in Japan, Chicago in the US, and Krakow in Poland. Rio de Janeiro in Brazil, Copenhagen in Denmark, Paris in France, and Amsterdam in the Netherlands were among the worst performing.

Trang An landscapes complex – World Heritage List

Located in the centre of the province of Ninh Binh, 80 km from the city of Hanoi to the south, Trang An is a complex of scenic landscapes and historical and cultural heritages boasting a system of adjoining limestone mountains and valleys belonging to the ancient ocean branch of the Tethys from China into Vietnam, on an area of around 10,000 ha, including three areas: Trang An eco-tourism site, Tam Coc – Bich Dong tourism site and Hoa Lu Ancient Capital cultural and historical heritage site.

Trang An complex is often referred to as a “Halong Bay on land”, but few people know that only a few thousand years also there existed an ancient bay demonstrated by the water marks on the limestone cliffs, vestiges of oysters on them, abrasion terraces, and marine sediments of the Quaternary period.

Trang An is also a tropical karst landscape with a humid monsoon climate, and witnessed a lot of sea invasions and transformations similar to Halong Bay; its karst landscape are terrestrial, concentrated on a smaller area, and regular in variety of shapes and sizes.

The landscape is replete with tower shaped karst along the fringe of a block of limestone islands with flat peaks of varying styles. The karst islands are widely scattered among incoherent flat fields and, in season, neighbor to a sea of golden grain.

Trang An Ferry Wharf. Photo: Trang An's Management Board

These cone shapes of different sizes seem to be floating, scattered and unconnected on the even and flat rice fields, filed with the color of ripen rice. The karst landscape, with a pyramid shape in the middle, connects the sharp pointed peaks into a chain with vertical cliffs enclosing deep valleys in an isometric or linear form.

Trang An is made up of a complex of scenic landscapes and has intricate and diversified ecosystems, particularly as a cradle of the prehistoric people.

All these factors have made a scenic landscapes complex of Trang An to have outstanding and distinctive values terms of landscape, geomorphology, geology, and culture.

Values in terms of landscape and karst geomorphology:

Trang An has many types of distinctive and unique karst landscape: “remaining karst hills separated from the plains”, “peaks connecting valleys”, “peaks connecting sinkholes”, “tropical karst submerged by the sea”.

No where else in the world is there a landscape similar to Ha Long Bay but fossilized on land like in Trang An.

No where else in the world is the karst terrain shaped like a narrow wall with sloped skeleton walls extending into an arch enclosing a large, empty space inside like that in Trang An – the rock capital city.

Geological and geomorphologic values:

Yellow rice fields on the way to Tam Coc - Bich Dong Landscape. Photo: Dinh Cong Hoan (VNP's file)

Trang An, Ninh Binh is located in an area full of historical geological upheavals: bearing unique characteristics in terms of structure and tectonics in the style of a “broken rice pancake”.

Trang An is characterized by a “meshy” network of young isometric non-pronous sinkholes.

The long and wide valley connected with the aged plains in the Southeast parts of the Trang An limestone block is characteristic: They become narrower toward the northwest and extends toward the southeast.

The typical “pulse” neotectonic movements lead to the formation of a “surface balance valley” and “front mountain balance surface.” The three floors of the cave area 10m – 20m, 20m – 30m and 40m – 60m.

Cultural values:

Recently scientists from the Cambridge University (the UK) and the Vietnam Archaeology Institute conducted surveys, research and eight archaeological excavations at Nui Tuong Cave, Oc Cave, vang stone roof, Ong Hay stone roof, Cho stone roof, Trong Cave, Boi Cave and five relics at Hang Pagoda.

The results included many working tools, pottery, and food remains of the ancient people such as animal bones, shells of species of mollusks and crustaceans.

Especially, excavations found human remains in three of six locations. Based on the results of the research, scientists at home and abroad have put forward some initial assessment of the value of the prehistoric culture of the Trang An region.

The Thai Vi Temple Festival in the ancient capital of Hoa Lu. Photo: Duong Duy Khang

Trang An pre-historic relics are concentrated in high density, forming different groups in the swampy and follow karst valley. Scientists discovered a relatively intact cultural layer from 1.0m – 2.0m thick, reflecting one or two periods, before, during or after the middle Holocene marine transgression.

The tradition of manipulating limestone objects and using of chiseling tools made from limestone was long maintained.

Pottery appeared early, and was homogeneous in material, pattern, and type among the relics and stayed stable and unified during the long history of the culture of the swampy and hollow valley.

Permanent settlements took place in the caves (2,300 – 3,000 years ago), affected by changing karst valley landscape environment, caused by marine transgression and recession.

Assorted livelihoods were evident along a wide spectrum, with gathering overrunning hunting, planting outdoing animal husbandry, and adaptations to the natural environment.

Trang An landscapes complex boasts outstanding, fascinating and unique values in terms of natural landscapes and preserves the vestiges of natural history, cultural imprints, and many remains of outstanding traditional cultural values of the local communities that are being promoted and conserved.

Railways changes tourists’ look to attract

Travel firms have decided to spend big money to upgrade railroads in an effort to persuade more people to travel by railways.

Despite the great advantages, railway tourism has never attracted medium and high income travelers because of the inconvenience they may experience when going by train.

According to Vu Dinh Rau, Head of the Hanoi Railway Station, it served 200,000 passengers on 2012 Tet days in total. The Hanoi station receives 7,000-8,000 passengers who travel on the routes to HCM City, Vinh, Hai Phong and Lao Cai, with five departures and five arrivals a day.

However, Rau admitted that the available incoming and outgoing trains every day can only meet 50 percent of the people’s demand. He agrees that it’s necessary to build up more railroads and trains to serve the increasingly high demand.

Vietnam, travel, railway, travel firms, investmentOn a train to Lao Cai province

However, in the current poor conditions, it’s impossible to have too many carriages in order to ensure the high quality of services. Especially, since there are limited rails at the station, having more trains proves to be impossible.

As a result, long-distance trains have always been full of passengers with additional plastics seats put on the corridors of the railroads to serve more clients. These make trains overloaded and cause “traffic jam” right on the trains.

Travel firms have been repeatedly urged to upgrade railway services to attract more travelers, because this is really a reasonable means of transport for many people in the context of the economic recession.

Going on trains could also be the choice for high income travelers, who feel safe with the tours by land rather than by air. Especially, they don’t have to pay much for the trips, while they can enjoy the natural landscapes during their itineraries.

However, travel firms have argued that they alone cannot decide the quality of railway services. No big changes have been made in recent years, and the associated tourism services still cannot satisfy travelers.

Travelers have to get by to fit themselves to the small beds; therefore, they would not feel enjoyable with their trips. At night, when railroads’ windows are shut, the noise from outside still bothers travelers through the bad soundproofing windows. In many cases, the 40-50 year-old trains still have been put in use.

Though the noise is in “oversupply” on train, the loudspeakers do not work. Therefore, travelers do not know where they are and where they go. Only on some special trains, travelers can be informed in Vietnamese and English about the destinations and itineraries, while most of the others cannot.

Travelers have been warned that they should not be surprised, if the arrival time is one or two hours later than initially expected and if they are not warned about this.

Especially, no one can feel secure with the food served on the trains. The limited menus plus the sky high prices prompt people to bring food themselves instead of using services on the spot.

Travel firms have shown their determination to change the current situation, but it’s still unclear about how far their determination goes.

They have had carriages painted and interior decoration upgraded. Wooden furniture, night lamps, fresh flowers have been put on every carriage, while high quality meals have been offered to travelers.

However, in order to enjoy the services, travelers would have to pay 20 percent higher than normal passengers, the high fee level that makes travelers consider thoroughly before making decision.

Tapping instruments – Vietnamese traditional music

Tapping instruments form an integral part of the Vietnamese traditional musicology in general and the imperial court music in particular, helping to establish a particularity and identity to the Vietnamese culture.

Tapping instruments are found in exceptional abundance across Vietnam, in terms of quantity, category and sonority, creating a diversity in function and occupying a major position in virtually all the genres of traditional arts. Hundreds of tapping instruments have made contributions to the enrichment of the patrimony of Vietnamese traditional music.

From the Ly Dynasty (the 10th century), the Tran Dynasty (the 13th century), the Le Dynasty (the 14th century) to the Nguyen Dynasty (the 19th century), Vietnamese musicology generally and court-music particularly made giant strides in the formation of the genre of professional, academic musical culture.

In 1060, King Ly Thanh Tong permitted the adoption of the Champa music, re-arranging Champa musical compositions for court singers’ and dancers’ training and performance. Then the “trong com” (or Phan co) and the “nao bat” represented the tapping pieces among the musical instruments of the court orchestras.

During the Tran Dynasty (the 13th-14th centuries), both the court music bands and orchestras already used three tapping pieces of different sonority: the “chum choe” or “bo tieu bat” – the cymbals, made of brass, the “trong com” or “Phan co” — cylinder-shape drums, swelling in the middle, with its two ends covered with leather and rice paste on, giving two different sounds, low and high, and the “trong cai” or “dai cau” — the bass drum, giving a deep-toned rumbling or booming sound upon percussion.

In the court music under the Le Dynasty (the Year of Quang Hung 1578), the “dong van” set of tappings included the “nguong thien” drum — the one with a thin drumhead stretched over only one end and painted yellow, the “long sinh”, the “long phach”, and the “phach xau tien” (castanets).

The military band (of the cavalry and the “ba lenh”) under King Le – Lord Trinh used 10 snares to accompany a bass drum (the “Dai co”), and the wind instruments for the cavalry corps. The “ba lenh” utilized more wooden or bamboo tappings and a variety of drums, especially the “phong yeu” — a cylinder-drum constricted in the middle, producing “tam” (low-pitched bass) on one end, and “bong” (high-pitched sound) on the other, hence its name also the “tam bong” drum.

Aside from the wind- and string-instruments, the court-music pieces of the Nguyen Dynasty (the 19th century) used only the drum with one end covered with a drumhead of leather (i.e the “Ban co”), along with a set of 3-sound drums — the “tam am la” and the “sanh tien”.

In the “Te Nam Giao” (Heaven-Praying Ceremony), the tapping instruments of the musical symphony orchestra included up to 28 drums and gongs (both low- and high-pitched) besides other wind instruments.

The “Nhac huyen” band alone used a “12-bell” set, a “12-piece” lithophone, a set of 8 small drums and many others.

Just these few lines are enough to show how rich the Vietnamese tapping instruments are! By far, the statistics and collection, study and enhancement of the values of hundreds of different categories of tapping instruments throughout the country are far from worthy of what has been bequeathed by our great great grandfathers.

Rib porridge in Hang Bo

Waking up in the early morning and going out, you suddenly remember that it is a long time you do not enjoy rib porridge, and you feel hungry. Then, you decide to go for rib porridge.

Rib porridge stand situated in the sidewalk of Hang Bo Street has existed for many years and the porridge here is quite intriguing. A big bowl of porridge full of fried dough sticks and salted shredded pork costs only 8,000 VND. The stand is small and located in the sidewalk but attracting a lot of people from the elder, children, to the young.

Rib porridge is cooked with broth, mashed rice and baby back ribs. It really feasts your eyes. It also comes with salted shredded pork and fried dough sticks.

The best rib porridge is at the bottom of the pot because it has a lot of meat and burnt porridge. Sipping a good porridge, you seem to be back the childhood. Sometimes, you are very happy when seeing a big rib meat in your bowl or being given more burnt porridge.

What better than eating a hot bowl of rib porridge in the early morning. A tasty bowl of porridge with crispy fried dough sticks and fragrant salted shredded pork and the noise in the sidewalk in the early morning, all of them are enough for a satisfying breakfast.
Try it at: a stand in the sidewalk in Hang Bo Street.
Price: a big bowl of porridge consisting of fried dough stick and salted shredded pork is from 8,000 VND to 10,000 VND.

Peaceful, charming beauty in Mai Chau

Anyone who ever visited Mai Chau in Hoa Binh Province never forgets the rolling landscape or the friendly, charming nature of the local Thai and Mong people.

Mai Chau Lodge is a four-star hotel which was built in the style of a typical house-on stilts of the Thai ethnic people in the Mai Chau Valley. From the window of the hotel, one can behold the beauty of peaceful hamlets, green lakes, romantic hillsides and the ever stretching rice fields swaying in the fresh mountain breeze.

Foreign tourists during a tour by bike to hamlets in Mai Chau Valley

Lac and Pom Coong Hamlets are typical of Thai minority communities. The houses are built on stilts, 1.5m above the ground, having bamboo floors and roofs made from Goi or May leaves. The area under the house is usually reserved for livestock, but for the sake of the tourists, at some houses this area has been converted into a souvenir shop flaunting items such as shawls, dresses, bags, purses, brocade cloths and multi-colour cloth balls skilfully made by Thai ethnic people.

The Bong dance performed by Thai girls

In some houses tourists can witness local women diligently working at a loom, weaving colourful brocade fabric. Also, a visit to a local hamlet is not complete without trying the famous Can wine (wine drunk out of a jar through pipes) that is made from sticky rice, Hinh ho leaf, Meo leaf and ginger that fascinates any visitor.

Colourful Con (fabric balls) are used for folk games during festivals of villagers
in Lac and Pom Coong Hamlets

Continuing on to the tour with the next destination of Hang Kia Commune, tourists will enjoy melodious tunes of flute and mingle in the life of locals at Pa Co market where they can buy typical products of Mong ethnic people as presents for relatives and friends. Then they will visit Mo Luong Cave which is famous for mysterious stalactites in different shapes of flowers and springs.

Tourists photograph and video the artists performing the traditional Sap dance.

A stall selling brocade items of Mong ethnic people attracts great attention from tourists.

Tourist visit Lac Hamlet and learn about the colours of brocade products of Thai ethnic people.

The beautiful landscape of the ever-stretching rice fields in Mai Chau Valley

Tourists are encouraged to stay at homes of local families and enjoy a special artistic programme with fascinating dances and songs of Thai ethnic people. After dances of gongs, Xoe, Gia gao and Xoe quat, they will be invited to participate in a Sap dance with the locals. Overnight stays in homes floating on the lake are also available, where one can take in a gorgeous sunrise and enjoy the clean and pure atmosphere of the early morning.