Sapa covers in the mists

Today, Sapa’s narrow streets are both temporary home and business place to the H’mong, Dao, Giay, Pho Lu, and Tay people, whose traditional ethnic dress marks them out from the multitude of nations who come to Sapa to lose themselves in its landscape.

Deep within the valleys and mountains of Vietnam’s furthest Northern reaches lies the remote hill town of Sapa. Most often viewed through the seemingly never ending carpet of mist, Sapa is a visual feast unmatched in Vietnam; on the one hand remote and distant and, on the other, searingly developed and commercial.
Certainly, part of Sapa’s aloof appeal must lie with the difficulty in reaching this former French hill station.
Disembarking from the overnight train from Hanoi at Lao Cai station, visitors are treated to their first taste of Sapa’s visual richness in the sometimes dizzying forty minute minibus ride to the market town itself. Just caught through the thick morning mist, glimpses can be snatched of mountains as rich and green as anywhere on earth, with valley walls tiered with rice paddies like enormous wedding cakes stretching out into the clouds.

Of course, it would be wrong to suppose that Sapa first found life through the arrival of Europeans, or even the Vietnamese. Rather, this area has long been home to the various hill people who still live and work within this breathtaking landscape.
The women of these groups – who still speak of ‘the Vietnamese’ – think little of walking the twenty five kilometers to Sapa, their handmade goods carried on their backs in traditional wicker baskets to barter and trade with tourists. The hill people have proved themselves remarkably astute businesspeople and, while they might struggle with literacy, a working knowledge of English, French and a smattering of other languages is well within their reach. The trade in handicrafts has been a relatively lucrative one for the hill people, their own internal economies seemingly now permanently skewed towards the tourist trade.

Sapa itself has also, quite literally, found new shape within the reflection of tourist’ expectations, it’s guesthouses and hotels lining the valley walls, each competing for the best views of the dazzling vista below. One unfortunate side effect of this competition for awe, has been the lax enforcement of the height limits at which buildings might be built to, leaving a nasty question mark over the future of Sapa’s already fading serenity.
However, if Sapa itself might be starting to give way in the face of advancing commercialism, its landscape remains stubbornly unflinching in the face of growing tourist numbers. Outside of Sapa, small boys ride their water buffaloes, the ethnic minorities work on their handicrafts and farmers toil in the gravity defying rice fields. There are endless ways of exploring the countryside of Sapa. However, one of the most rewarding can be to hire a local guide, often from one of the ethnic minority groups, who know all the places your guidebook has never have heard of.
Most guides, by their very nature, are also skilled mountaineers and are just at ease taking visitors on a three day ascent of Fansipan as they are taking them around Sapa’s surrounding villages. Alternatively, for those who prefer to immerse themselves in nature’s bounty with their knuckles white, there are any number of outlets offering cheap motorbike rental.
Commercial interests and the ever expanding appetites of 21st Century tourism may be starting to take their toll on Sapa, but the town itself, its people and its breathtaking scenery remain a highpoint on any Vietnam itinerary. See it while you can.

Phung Islet – Holy Land of Coconut Religion in Ben Tre

Phung Islet has another name that is Tan Vinh islet, which is an island floating on Tien River in Tan Thach commune, Chau Thanh suburban district. It is just only 12km far from the center of Ben Tre. Phung islet is famous not only for its variety of fruits, especially the coconuts, but also for the delicious dishes of south-east Vietnam.

Visitors in Vietnam tourism can reach this islet by boat. After taking time on the islet, visitors can continue to ride along the river, visiting the handicraft and coconut factories, and then disembark to catch a coach ride to tropical gardens.

Here they can rest under shadow of coconut trees, sip tea with fresh honey and blueberries while listening to the beautiful melodies of traditional music.

Phung islet

Coming to Phung islet by boat

Coming to Phung islet tourist area, tourists will do sightseeing unique architectural projects of the place where used to be the holy land of Coconut religion, which once spread over 1,500 km2 of Ben Tre. The Coconut Religion was created in the 1940s by Nguyen Thanh Nam.

The name “Phung islet” existed when Mr. Nam came here and built Nam Quoc Phat pagoda. When this work was being built, they found out an ancient bowl carved with a phoenix, since then, they called it Phung islet.

Another special point about Phung Islet is about the daily life. The residents living here focus on making handicrafts from the coconut trees. Visitors in Vietnam travel coming here can witness the process of making coconut candies and other souvenirs, and pick something to take home as a present.

If tourists feel hungry, they can eat with local residents who will serve their everyday meal of simple but delicious foods. Weary travelers can also have a nap under the shadow of garden trees, or take path in exciting activities like photographing ostriches or crocodile fishing.

Now, Phung Islet tourist area has a room of amateur folk music specializing in serving tourists. This room is put in a man-made stonecave with a lot of stalactites which make the air inside the cave very cool. Coming here, tourists will be served with smooth and profound Southern folk songs.

Long Hai Beach – ideal getaway for Saigonese

To reach Long Hai, Saigonese travelers have to go along Hanoi Highway to Vung Tau T-junction and turn right onto National Road 51. When you reach the T-junction at Ba Ria Township, go straight to Long Dien Town and Long Hai Beach.

In contrast with the busy atmosphere in the neighbouring Vung Tau Sea, Long Hai Beach in Ba Ria-Vung Tau Province is quiet and peaceful with its beautiful, blue sea and primitive surroundings.

Dinh Co Temple seen from Long Hai Beach in Ba Ria-Vung Tau Province

To reach Long Hai, Saigonese travelers have to go along Hanoi Highway to Vung Tau T-junction and turn right onto National Road 51. When you reach the T-junction at Ba Ria Township, go straight to Long Dien Town and Long Hai Beach.

Tourists should not miss out on local specialties such as fried snail with garlic and onion; squid stuffed with onion and oil and grilled shrimp with salt and chili.

Coming to Long Hai on March 3, the eleventh day of the second  lunar month, travelers can join the Dinh Co Festival with a number of rituals and festivities.

Located at the top of the hill above Long Hai Beach, Dinh Co is a small temple which is dedicated to worshipping a drowned virgin.

Legend states that nearly 200 years ago, the body of 16-year-old girl Le Thi Hong Thuy drifted onto the beach.

Thuy was from Phan Rang Province and locals buried her on Co Son Hill and made a temple to pray for her soul to protect them, especially fishermen.

From the hill, tourists have a panoramic view of Long Hai Sea scattered with local homes, fishing villages, hotels and winding roads.

Pay a visit to Cat Ba Island, the World’s Biosphere Reserve, in Vietnam travel

Recognized as the Biosphere Reserve of the World, Cat Ba Island is also a fresh-air and beautiful place to travel. For tourists who travel to Vietnam, please don’t think anymore, just come to this magic land of blue sky and sea!

With a 70m altitude, and the post to overlook Lan Ha lagoon, Cat Ba lures tourists who travel to Vietnam by its heavenly captivation.

Belonging to Cat Ba Archipelago, which includes 367 islands, in the south of Ha Long bay, Cat Ba Island is only 30 km from Hai Phong City centre and 25 km from Ha Long city.

Pay a visit to Cat Ba Island, the World’s Biosphere Reserve, in Vietnam travel

Cat Ba Island- Pearl Island in Hai Phong, Vietnam

Not at all is it a random thing when Cat Ba is also called Pearl Island (Dao Ngoc in Vietnamese). With an area of 140 km2 and population of 9000 people, it is proud to be the biggest island among the 1,969 islands in Ha Long bay. If you are considering a fresh-air and beautiful place to travel, just pack your stuff, stand up and fly to this magic land of blue Sky and Sea!

The Biosphere reserve of the world!

The archipelago has a global significance thanks to its plentiful species found nowhere else. It is home to the golden-headed langur (Trachypithecus poliocephalus), one of the top ten rare primates in the world due.

Besides, visitors can find several precious habitat types here, including fringing coral reefs, mangrove forest, sea grass beds, willow swamp forest and tropical limestone forest. Many of those are fiercely endangered.

With a major coastal fishing zone, and a karst seascape of outstanding beauty, a tremendous potential for agri-aqua culture and tourism is open to the area. Thanks to the special values, Cat Ba was acknowledged as the World Biosphere Reserve in 2004. So, are you curious to go? Then…

… Take a visit to its caves and grottos, now?

Cat Ba boasts many beautiful caves and grottos such as Trung Trang, Quan Y and Thien Long…

Trung Trang is the largest valley in Cat Ba Island with the total area of 300 ha, from 10-30 meter lower than the sea level, which is 15km northwest of the island. It is about 300 m walk. Beautiful with glistening stalactite & stalagmite it is! Visiting Trung Trang, one has learnt that it is deeply a thousand-year great work of Nature!

Quan Y grotto. “Quan Y” means “Army medical care”. This special name derives from the Wartime against American Air force, when Vietnamese people built a hospital with hundreds of beds inside this grotto. Today, visitors can easily reach it as Quan Y Grotto is on the main way along the Island, only about 13 km from the Island’s centre.

About 2 hours traveling by boat from Phu Long wharf is Thien Long grotto. It has just been discovered since 1997. This is one of the most beautiful caves and grottos in Ha Long bay. As wide and deep with miraculously various shaped & colorful stalactites and stalagmites, and tree roots from the mount to the bottom, Thien Long grotto is admired by any tourist stepping inside. One even said: “It looks like a pretty and peaceful fairy land on the sea..!” after her tour here. Also, people can feel free to contemplate the coral system, salty lakes and ponds in and around, which are definitely rich of marine bio-diversity.

A peak mountain in the shape of a turtle divides the beach into 2 small beaches, Cat Co One and Cat Co Two. On the right hand is fabricated rock mountain, while on the left hand is the clear and blue sea water, white and smooth sand. The beauty of the beach has been changing side by side with the flying time. Yet, never would it lose the natural luring power.

In the morning, after enjoying the sunrise on the sea, tourists will visit Monkey Island, conquering Hai Thanh mount, Hon Thot mount or Hon Guoc mount, and swimming in the pure sea as much as you can to feel how fresh a “heaven” can be!

In the afternoon, you may discover the area’s original beauty by renting a kayak to paddle to the bay. Then, should you are still well enough, perhaps we join some sports on the beach, such as valley ball, boat racing, and so forth. When night falls, the whole team would lie down in the cottages near by the beach to relax for a while, listening to the sound of rough sea waves. A romantic & relaxation experience!

Lan Ha Bay

Lan Ha Bay in Cat Ba Archipelago

Lan Ha bay is situated in the southeast of Cat Ba Island. It takes about 30 minutes to go there from Cat Ba by boat. The bay is large with arched shore. Getting inside, a number of islands and beaches are welcoming tourists.

Not only is it famous for beautiful beaches, but also for the imposing caves and ideal place for fishing. A lot of visitors who are fond of fishing do not want to come back once staying here for a while!

Viet Hai village

To switch into a new atmospheric space, tourists should now get to Viet Hai Village. It captures attentions by the precious retained hundreds-year traditional cultural values of Cat Ba. Viet Hai people still live in the simple house, built in bamboo, wood, leaves and soil.

If it gets late, we may stay overnight in the village in a simple and guest house at very reasonable price. You might be surprised as being treated in a friendly way, and served with special local cuisine seafood by the honest and hospitable local people. Believe me, you may not want to go back soon!

How to reach Cat Ba Island?

Visitors can reach Cat Ba Island by two ways. Firstly, by ferry from Hai Phong city, Binh ferry station or Dinh Vu ferry station. And secondly, from Ha Long bay. After visiting this Natural World Heritage Site, visitors can keep staying on boat and getting to the Island.

If tourists who travel to Vietnam have chance to visit Hai Phong City, Cat Ba island is a visit-worthy destination that should not be missed!

Ba Giot Waterfall-Favorite destinations for summer tours

Ba Giot Waterfall located at Phu Hoa Commune in Dinh Quan District, Dong Nai Province, is about 130km from HCM City. The ecotourism point Ba Giot lies on the La Nga River. It possesses a good-looking terrain with a 20km2 area containing amusements and entertainment by the river.

The stream at Ba Giot Waterfall flows through rapids and pours over the edge in three falls, which are best viewed from upstream if you want to capture their full grandeur and beauty. Pedal-boating on the quieter reaches of the water, as well as camping, are available at the waterfall.

Nearby the waterfall is Ba Chong Stone. After millions of years of rain and sunshine, being covered by the sea three times and witnessing hundreds of severe volcanic eruptions, the three layers piled up on each other unsteadily and formed an impressive landscape.

Not far from Ba Chong Stone, two Bach Tuong hills look like a pair of elephants. On the top is Thich Ca statue sitting on a lotus base while at the bottom is a deep cave and Thien Chon pagoda.

Ba Chong stone rooting from the Oc Eo-Phu Nam civilization in the southeast highland terrace has been listed by the Ministry of Culture and Information since 1998.

A ideal picnic at Giang Dien Waterfall

45 kms away from Ho Chi Minh City, Giang Dien waterfall is an ideal choice for team building programs. It covers 67-hectacre wide space with a green grass cover, waterfall, stream, lake, and forest. This is a playground of many activities such as: secret letter huning, raft rowing, crossing the waterfall, bicycling and hiking.

Reaching the waterfall, tourists in Vietnam travel may be surprised at the abundance of nature and the romantic tourist area although, as a first disclaimer, the site cannot be compared with the famous waterfalls of the Central Highlands.

 The waterfall is much closer to HCM City than Dalat and other hilly resort towns. The name reveals the place’s history – Giang Dien means “water field” so that it is likely that the area used to be a field.

Naturally, it’s not all nature anymore since the tourist area has been set up. And be prepared: While the stream is clear and clean in the dry season, silt coming from the upper reaches will turn it yellow and muddy in the rainy season.

But keeping these two aspects in mind, it’s fun. Along the waterfall, you can jump from stone to stone arranged neatly in a long line, possibly reminding you of the childhood game you used to play.

Standing on top of the cascade, the spray underneath you obscures your view, creating a mysterious atmosphere and, on a sunny day, a colourful rainbow.

To take a rest after jumping on the stones, you can lie down comfortably and even sleep on the grassy area among plants and flowers.

Lots of families and groups of friends also picnic here, spending the day barbecuing, fishing and even swimming in the cool stream.

Alternatively, the surrounding restaurants also offer some good fare and delightful decorations, making you think you are in a Vietnamese village.

Venturing a little farther across the Giang Dien suspension bridge, tourists in Vietnam tourism will find a 10-hectare fruit garden in the tourist area.

Especially, to young people and researchers may also be attracted in visiting a nearby farm that breeds lizards, scorpions, salamanders and other reptiles.

Bac Giang: “Da Huong” ancient tree

Da Huong tree in Giua village, Tien Luc commune, Lang Giang district, Bac Giang province has been ranked national cultural-historic relic since 1989. It has been immortalized in many old books, Bach khoa Larousse dictionary.

Da Huong tree in Giua village, Tien Luc commune, Lang Giang district, Bac Giang province has been ranked national cultural-historic relic since 1989. It has been immortalized in many old books, Bach khoa Larousse dictionary.

Da Huong tree has a height of 31m. Crust covering its body is thick about 15cm. In 2000, the survey team of Biological Diversity Center ( Hanoi Education University) in collaboration with the Institute of Biotechnology, Institute of Forest Inventory and Planning…had biological survey of Da Huong tree and made claims: All trunk contains essential oils. In particular, root contains safrol substances that are very valuable component for processing cosmetics, pesticides, herbal…

In Vietnam, there are only 2 existential Da Huong tree that are kind of rare ancient tree ( other is being planted in Vietnam  Museum of Ethnology). Over thousands of years, this tree has shaded people, street, and witness and recorded ups and downs traces of Tien Luc commune.

However, this ancient tree has overcome many times of danger.In 1979, a large branch of tree broke.  In 1983, children burnt fire to make warm and its trunk was burn inadvertently for two days and two nights. Ha Bac province had to mobilize 2 new fire engines to extinguish fire. After many accidents and biological changes, current trunk is hollow in the middle. This hole can contain 7-8 persons.

Da Huong tree is considered a village patriarch to protect people here. If you make a plan to Bac Giang, don’t miss the opportunity to visit this ancient tree.