Romance and pride to Hanoi

Once forbidden by royal decree, the balcony has brought romance and pride to Hanoi

In the times of kings, Vietnamese houses that looked out to the streets were not allowed to have views higher than the King’s palanquin. So, upper storeys could not have windows, and certainly no balconies.
A photograph of Hang Be Street taken in 1907 shows that even French-style houses dared not have a balcony jutting out. Hanoi architecture quickly westernized after the planning of the French plenipotentiary.
Since then, in Hanoi, many elegant and sophisticated, Southern French-style houses appeared, that fit well with the natural surroundings. And almost all of them had balconies. The ‘Western’ balcony gave the Viet people a new persona, that of city-dweller.
Hanoi inhabitants now looked out over the land like lords. Balconies are the most romantic architectural element in a house. It brings the moon and stars and outer space to the people inside.
The most popular balcony style was the jutting out-type, called Juliet’s Balcony after the world famous love story of Romeo and Juliet. Another kind, called yangtai, very popular in China, was also prevalent. This balcony is above the porch, so one has to stick out one’s head in order to look to the sides.
A VIEW FIT FOR A KING Traditional plastic art in Western balcony
Hanoi architecture under the French had three styles; ‘neo-classic’ (1900 – 1920, most notably, the Opera House), ‘Indo-Chinese’ (1925 – 1930, most notably the Indo-Chinese College), and ‘modern’ (after 1930, such as the Ministry of Science and Technology).
Each type of balcony has its own kind of handrail, distinct in shape and design, although each is made of the same four main materials: ceramics, concrete, iron and wood. The banister design of each house reflects both its owner’s taste and social standing.
Almost all handrails have the house owner‘s name in capital letters cast or carved on the banister. Perhaps that was the house owner’s delicate way to express his pride in the property Another typical feature of old Hanoi handrails is the traditional designs, even when the owner was French.
Typical designs are: clouds and waves, representing a prosperous life and good fortune, seal-type inscriptions such as ‘Happiness – Fortune – Longevity’ expressing major aspirations in life, an old coin with a square hole at the center and iron rope, intricately woven, a beautiful decoration representing family ties and unity.
There are also many Western designs, most notably the art nouveau-influenced symmetric leaves and flowers design, much loved by the people of Hanoi. The delicate designs with soft curves, slender and voluptuous, twisting and bending, show the harmony between heat, hammer and the eyes of the creator.
Villas on Hung Vuong, Dien Bien Phu, Ly Thuong Kiet, Hai Ba Trung, Tran Hung Dao streets are proof of how well Vietnam air travel blacksmiths have mastered new techniques and aesthetics.
Balconies in literature and art
Vu Trong Phung, born and raised in Hanoi, was one of the most famous Vietnamese writers in the 1930s. In his novel ‘A Mythomaniac’ written in 1932, he described a ‘very beautiful and very pretty’ house on Hang Co (Tran Hung Dao today) street as follows: ‘At dusk, we go out to the balcony to enjoy the evening cool.
Lush green trees lining the street and luxuriant grass on the sidewalks make it feel like Eden on earth.’ Once, standing on a breezy balcony, the marvelous writer Nguyen Tuan, getting a glimpse of a person carrying green rice flakes, got the idea for the most fantastic piece about the green rice flakes. The balconies are one of those heartwarming treats of Hanoi, just as much as those green flakes.
Artist Nguyen Trung Tin, who lived all his life in Hanoi, had a series of balcony paintings, most notably the ‘Balcony’ and ‘Balcony and lotus’ pieces. The balconies in Nguyen Trung Tin’s art reflect the evolution of Vietnamese vision and values.
Among the photos of early XX century, a keen eye would see that the best ones were taken from a balcony. The height and open space gives the photographer a view which is both panoramic and intimate, where heaving tile roofs come alive like the people living under them.
A long time ago, whenever I looked up, I used to see somebody standing on a balcony gazing at the street life. What a nostalgic feeling. Today, most of the balconies are obscured behind electric lines and ad signs. Many have been transformed into bathrooms, kitchens and even toilets.
Coming to Vietnam airtravel, you will satisfy with every flight of Vietnam Airlines. The economy class provides comfortable seats, 32 inch between 2 rows. Devices includes pillow, blanket and other necessary devices. The airline has also added a handy ‘tablet tray’ beneath each seat’s inbuilt screen onto which passengers can perch a tablet or even a large-screen smartphone for watching videos. Passengers can require sticker “Please do not disturb me” or “ Call me up for meal” if needed.

Free waves: Southern beach town Vung Tau now gives away Wi-Fi to tourists

Authorities in the southern beach town Vung Tau have announced that free Wi-Fi hotspots are now available at its hydrofoil pier and the popular beach Bai Truoc.
These hotspots, operated by Saigon Post and Telecommunications Service JSC, can serve more than 1,000 users a day, the authorities said.
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They also said that the service will soon be expanded to other places in the town including the city’s central market, Bai Sau Beach and the cable car site. The town is around two hours’ drive from Ho Chi Minh City.
Several other destinations in Vietnam such as Hoi An, Ha Long Bay and Da Nang are also providing free Internet access at major tourist spots.
Free Wi-Fi is available at almost all cafés, restaurants and airports in popular cities in Vietnam air travel, which ranks seventh in Asia and 18th worldwide in terms of Internet usage, according to the 2014 White Book on Vietnamese Information and Communication Technology.
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The number of Internet users in Vietnam reached 33 million in 2013. The country’s population is 89.7 million.
Vietnam also ranked eighth in terms of lowest telecom and Internet charges, according to the White Book released last October by the Ministry of Information and Communications.
Coming to Vietnam airtravel, you will satisfy with every flight of Vietnam Airlines. The economy class provides comfortable seats, 32 inch between 2 rows. Devices includes pillow, blanket and other necessary devices. The airline has also added a handy ‘tablet tray’ beneath each seat’s inbuilt screen onto which passengers can perch a tablet or even a large-screen smartphone for watching videos. Passengers can require sticker “Please do not disturb me” or “ Call me up for meal” if needed.

Experiences 5 Off The Beaten Track In Hanoi

To understand more about Hanoi, you may experience these following 5 off the beaten track or more from others to get the deep inside and to love this peaceful city.

1. Mai Chau

Located a mere 3 hour drive from Hanoi, Mai Chau is one of those rare places in Vietnam air travel that still retains its natural charm – in both its scenic beauty and in the warmth and easy-going character of the locals. Accommodation here is mostly run by ethnic minority families who have worked and lived off the land for generations. Stilt houses purpose built to give tourists a ‘home stay’ experience is on offer throughout the villages.

Ban Lac 1 and Pom Coong are among the more popular villages but the offerings in all home stays are homogeneous and they are close enough to each other. Its a great place to spend a day or two, be warned though, you might find yourself tempted to stay longer. Imagine living among local farming families, eating home cooked meals out in the open countryside, the sounds of the city far behind you and enough time in hand to soak up the idyllic countryside and rejuvenate. Its one of those off the beaten track experiences in Hanoi worth exploring if you have an extra day or two in hand.



2. Discover the back alleys of Hanoi’s Old Quarters

At face value, Hanoi’s Old Quarters appears to be a network of narrow streets beating in a rhythmic chaos of traffic, tourists, street vendors and businesses all concentrated into a small area. However, if you start peeling off the layers and start exploring the hidden spaces within the impenetrable facade of the shop-houses, there is a parallel world merely meters away teeming with life where local residents live in tiny dwellings and crammed neighborhoods.

At the epicenter of a city that boasts a thousands years to its age, Hanoi’s Old Quarters is packed with history within its narrow alleyways and neighborhoods. Dont expect to find any one particular attraction, instead, the charm lies in exploring and standing in bewilderment of the historic hidden away neighborhoods. Luckily, there is a guided tour offered by a local resident that aims to explore the hidden backstreets of the Old Quarters.



3. Le Mat Village (Snake Village)

This is one of those experiences that ultimately transforms into a great tale to tell friends and family back home. Le Mat village (Snake Village) across the red river houses The Hung restaurant where a variety of dishes made out of snakes have been served for decades. Legend has it that the princess of King Ly Tong was saved from a giant sea serpent by a local resident, who was then rewarded land (now Le Mat village). If you are up for a adventurous and unforgettable Hanoian experience, take a trip down to Le Mat. Don’t miss out on the beating heart snake served with rice wine.



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4. Train Tracks

You might have witnessed the railway food market in Thailand where a train literally passes through a local market, well, if you find yourself in Hanoi, here is another urban oddity you can feast your eyes on. Twice a day, at 4 and 7 pm, the local train passes between a narrow residential neighborhood. Just inches from their front doors, the train has become a way of life for the local residents who live here.

One minute you will see children playing among the tracks and the other a giant steel vehicle rushing through that very spot. It’s bewildering to think that the front yard of somebody’s house is an actual train track. Nevertheless, it makes for a great photography spot, one of many among Hanoi’s urban attractions.



For the curious, the train station is located at the corner of Tong Duy Tan and Dien Bien Phu Street or corner of Tong Duy Tan and Tran Phu – Near Aptez Holiday Hotel Hanoi.

5. Entertainment

There is a certain sense of satisfaction when you’re in a city for a few days and you get to hang out in the coolest spots around town frequented by expats and locals alike. And Hanoi has no shortage of such venues. Perhaps you just want a night out by the lake with some peace and quiet, or a live jazz band might just be the perfect remedy to wear off that travel fatigue, whatever you might find missing as you travel through Southeast Asia, Hanoi has it all.

Minh’s Jazz club: Best in town. Daily live band. Drinks are a tad bit expensive.

Polite Bar: Great jazz and blues live band during the weekend. Also a fantastic place to get a cocktail.

Comedy nights at House of Son Tinh: The Hanoi Comedy Collective has shows every fortnight at the House of Son Tinh. If you manage to catch one of these shows, it’ll make for a great evening out.

Vietnam Airlines, a world-class airline, owns the most modern and highest quality of Boeing and Airbus fleets. Being a member of the SkyTeam alliance, Vietnam Airlines honourably receives certificate from The IATA Operational Safety Audit (IOSA) and is certificated as a 4-star airline. Providing 3 different classes, Vietnam Airtravel is ready to take passengers to 21 international and domestic destinations.

What To Do In Mui Ne, Phan Thiet

Binh Thuan is a South Central Coast province, with a provincial city Phan Thiet which is 200 kilometers away from Ho Chi Minh city in northeast, 250km from Nha Trang city in the south, 1518km from Hanoi. Binh Thuan has a coastline of 192km from Chet Rock of Ninh Thuan to Binh Chau mudflat of Ba Ria Vung Tau. Mui Ne which is about 20 kilometers away from Phan Thiet City, is one of the most popular tourist destination in Vietnam.

The terrain is mostly low hills and narrow coastal deltas with 4 main kinds – sandy soils and coast dunes; alluvia plains; hills and mounds; and low mountains. Binh Thuan climate is characterized with equatorial tropical monsoon kind which makes the land very sunny, windy and the driest region of the country. Wet season starts from May to October, dry season from November to April. Average temperature is around 26 degree. The ideal time to visit Binh Thuan is from August to December because the waves and winds at this time are calmer.

1. How to get there
Phan Thiet Railway Station

By train: there is a train that starts at Ho Chi Minh to Phan Thiet city everyday at 7:05; at weekends, one more train in afternoon. After the new train’s upgrade, the traveling time from Ho Chi Minh from Phan Thiet is lessened to 4 hours.

The price ranges from 150,000 VND to 200,000 VND. The freight for scooter and motorbike transit by train is 155,000 VND and 145,000 VND respectively. From Hanoi, the price is varied from 500,000 VND to 1,5mil VND.

By coach: from Hanoi, you can catch straight route to Phan Thiet with Mai Linh express at Nuoc Ngam bus station for 700,000 VND to 800,000 VND; or if you want to save time and energy you should take flight to Ho Chi Minh or Da Lat then take a bus to Phan Thiet.

From Ho Chi Minh, reliable brands are Phuong Trang, Mai Linh, TheSinh Café, Kim Travel… having coaches to Phat Thiet everyday. The price is only 85,000 VND per person. From Da Lat, the distance is around 250km and it takes you 5 or 6 hours to reach Phan Thiet city. The price is from 100,000 VND to 250,000 VND.

By plane: From Hanoi, you can take flights to either Cam Ranh (Khanh Hoa), Da Lat, or Ho Chi Minh City then take a bus to Phan Thiet. Da Lat is closest major tourist destination to Phan Thiet.

2. Get around Phan Thiet and Binh Thuan

In Phan Thiet, the best way to explore the city is to rent a motorbike at the hotel or hostel you stay, the cost is around 150,000VND per day with no fuel cost included. Or as mentioned, you can bring motorbike to Phan Thiet if you travel by train, but keep in mind that you shouldn’t fill the tank full before taking your motorbike to the train.

Another cheap way to explore Binh Thuan is to go by local public bus:

Bus map in Phan Thiet
Bus map in Phan Thiet
  • Route 1: Tiến Lợi – Mũi Né – Hòn Rơm – 4000 – 7000 – 10,000VND
  • Route 2: Tiến Lợi – Ma Lâm – Hàm Trí
  • Route 3:  Phan Thiết – Phú Long – Ngã ba Gộp – Lương Sơn
  • Route 4: Tà Cú – Phan Thiết – Phú Long
  • Route 5: Phan Thiết – Kê Gà – Tân Thành
  • Route 6: Phan Thiết – Mương Mán – Hàm Cần – 4000/6000/10,000/14,000/18,000 VND
  • Route 7: La Gi – Tân Hải – Bình Châu (Bà Rịa – Vũng Tàu)
  • Route 9: Nam Phan Thiết bus station – Trần Quý Cáp –Trường Chinh–Nguyễn Hội –Từ Văn Tư  – Trần Hưng Đạo –Thủ Khoa Huân – Hàm Tiến – Mũi Né – Gành tourist zone – 18,000VND

Route 1 and Route 9 both stop at Mui Ne.

3. Attractions

Phan Thiet City: along the Ca Ty river banks there are many game centers and restaurants for you to spend your nighttime in the city. Not far from city center, Doi Duong beach gently lies facing the beautiful Phan Thiet bay. The sea is calm and the water is blue clear, very suitable for swimming.

Duc Thanh school located in city center is the school where Ho Chi Minh president was teaching in his twenty (1910) before he crossed the ocean to find the way to release the country from invaders.

Ong pagoda is a largest religious construction of Hoa community in Phan Thiet worshiping Duc Quan De Quan Saint.

Van Thuy Tu Palace is built in 1762 to worship God of South Sea or Whale God due to the belief that when the land is hit by fierce storms, the Whale God will shield and protect the people and keep them safe.

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Phu Hai fishing village is a very interesting place to visit. The village lies on Ba Nai hill foot, close to God of Land’s stone with white sandy banks. Also on Ba Nai hill, Po Sah Inư temples stand so solemnly, are relics of ancient Champa kingdom. These temples are 7km away from city center, is dedicated for Shiva God and Po Sah Inu princess. Despite the small scale, this construction represents for the glorious and defined architecture and culture of Cham people.

Mui Ne or the so-called “foreigner village” attracts many foreign tourists because of its special location and landscapes. This site is known for the blue water, white sandy banks and curvy sand dunes. The sand dunes here change their colors in every hour under the sunlight effects.

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Ke Ga Island located about 50km away from city center, is a small, clean and primitive island facing the immense eastern sea. You should travel by motorbike along the coastal highway to enjoy the sea, hot winds and sands of Binh Thuan. On the island lies a 108 year old lighthouse which was built in French colony time to warn ships out of the danger of the reefs and the traffic in the area.

This lighthouse is officially reported as the tallest and oldest of all existing lighthouses not only in Vietnam air travel but also in Southeast Asia. The lighthouse is unique with its French architecture and height of 60m with 183 spiral stone steps. On the top of this lighthouse you will witness a spectacular view of the colorful sea and sky in dawn and sunset. Visitors can spend the night on the island to enjoy night fishing time. Especially fishing under the moonlight will be so memorable.

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Ta Cu Mountain: On the top of Ta Cu mountain lie the lengthiest Buddha white statue in Asia which is 45m long. The peak is measured at 649m above sea, 28km away from Phan Thiet city. The climbing routes include 2290m-long trekking or by 1600 m-long cable car.

There are two pagodas at the height of 563m – Upper Pagoda (Linh Son Truong Tho) and Lower Pagoda (Long Doan). For those who love adventures, you should spend time to visit the Cave of Ancestor lying deep underground for 100m. The cave entrance is narrow; the way that leads inside is both narrow and dark. You must be careful of the slippery stones under your feet. The deeper you reach, the thinner the air is. Near the end of the cave, there is a very clean freshwater stream you can rest here for a while before you get out of the cave after 2 hours of exploring. It is possible if you want to stay overnight on the mountain. The accommodation is acceptable with sufficient facilities.

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  • A shared room is around 550,000VND for 12 persons, an extra bed is 30,000VND.
  • A room equipped with 3 double beds is 350,000VND, an extra bed is 50,000VND. And 2-double bed room is priced 250,000VND.
  • Cable car: A round-trip cable car ticket for adult is 100,000VND, a one way ticket is 60,000VND. For children, it’s 60,000VND and 40,000VND.
  • Fishing: 10,000VND per fishing rod (the price is changeable)
  • Swan water bike pedal boat: 10,000VND per person (changeable)
  • Electric car tour: adult – 10,000VND/person/tour; children – 5,000VND/person/tour

There are also restaurants both on the mountain and at the foot of the mountain.

Bau Trang: It is like an oasis in the middle of desert. Bau Trang is actually a large freshwater lake located 62km from Phan Thiet city on the northeast. This is the only freshwater lake of Binh Nhon commune. According to the legend, this was a very large lake in the past, local people made a dike crossed over diving the lake into 2 smaller lakes – small lake and big lake. At the time, locals only call this site “Bau” because in local accent, “Bau” means lake.

In 1867, Nguyen Thong a notoriety and a government’s official was passing by this area, enjoyed the beauty of the lake, gave the name “White Lake” (Bach ho); since then, people combined the “Bau” (Lake) in their own accent with “Trang” (White) as the name Nguyen Thong gave. The two lakes are named Bau Ong (Mister Lake) and Bau Ba (Lady Lake).

Bau Ba has more water, larger, 19 deep in wet season. People plant lotus in Bau Ba lake making the scene so beautiful and poetic. The landscape here is quite surreal – white sand dunes embracing the lotus lake like a gentle trait to soften the harshness of the endless deserts. In Bau Trang, visitors can rent boats from locals to go sightseeing or fishing. There isn’t much of service in Bau Trang. You can spend 400,000VND to rent a jeep car to go to Bau Trang from Hon Rom or to conquer the sand dunes in the north of the lake.

Hon Rom (Straw): is a small mountain which is located just right beside Mui Ne. There is a specie of grass that grows a lot in the mountain. The length of this grass is 0,5m and when the weather is sunny and hot, the grass fields often were burn. From afar, people think the mountain just look like a colossal straw rick so they call the mountain Hon Rom (Straw mountain) ever since. With a serene beauty, Hon Rom beach which is 17km long and with no reefs has become a must-see site of Binh Thuan.

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Ghenh island: is 1km from Mui Ne, a new destination for travelers to Binh Thuan. To get to Ghenh island, you can use service from Siva tourist village or take a round-trip boat of fishermen for 200,000VND per boat with capacity of 10 persons. It only takes you 10 minutes to the island. The water here is so clear that you can see the coral reefs from the beach. There are rocks lying around the mountain, to reach the top, you must conquer them. On mountain top, a magnificent view of sea, sky and land lying there waiting for you. If you have time, fishing in morning is something you should try. You might catch big fishes in this sea area.

Cu Lao Cau island: this remote island often is referred as a blue paradise of Binh Thuan. Cu Lao Cau is about 110km from city center, 1500m long and 700m wide. Come to Cu Lao Cau, you will enjoy the purest and clearest water, a wild shore with a unique rock setting.

Yen Cave is the living place of hundreds of canary birds. Three-stone cave is so special when the cave is made by 3 huge stones only. Activities on the island include swimming, diving to see coral reefs, fishing, and camping.

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Mui Ne: In no where else you can find the sea that blue and the sand that white (and red). Sand-sledding at Doi Hong (Red Sands Dunes) and Bau Trang (White Sands Dunes) is a common activity. It cost 15,000VND-20,000VND to rent a sled. An annoying thing here is the picpocketing, so beware and do not hand over your things to anyone.

Mui Ne beach is a great place for swimming and other water sports and activities, famous for kitesurfing. The water here is warm, blue-colored and the sand shore is quite clean and white. The wind waves are perfect for any kind of surfing. Not far from Mui Ne town is the Fairy Stream with unbelievable sight of scenery. Other beaches near by are also worth your visit such as Suoi Nuoc or Hon Rom.

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4. Festivals

Dinh Thay Thim Temple’s festival: takes place in 15th and 16th September lunar calendar yearly in Dinh Thay temple, about 70km from Phan Thiet.

Cau Yen Festival of Cham people: is traditional festival of Cham people which takes place every first month of the year according to Cham calendar, in Cham Ba Ni people’s villages. The festival’s meaning is for people to chase away the bad and unlucky things of the previous year. They dance and sing to their traditional folklore songs. There is also game like boat racing.

Nghinh Ong Festival: this is a common festival of many provinces in central and south coastal regions. Fishermen have a custom of whale worshiping and each year the festival takes place to pray for a year of safety, peace and wealth from the sea. Nghinh Ong is the biggest water festival in Vietnam and recognized as National Intangible Cultural Heritage. In Binh Thuan, this festival is held in July lunar calendar.

Boat racing festival on Ca Ty river: happens in the second day of every new lunar year. The boats are decorated colorful with flags, flowers and banners come from all the districts of Binh Thuan. Local people will stand on the banks of the river to cheer for the racers. This festival is an activity to welcome a new year in Binh Thuan and a very common custom in coastal regions.


5. Foods

Banh Canh Cha Ca: Cha ca (fish meat balls) is fried with oil until brown eaten with rice noodles. The fragrant and sweet broth is made from the fishes of Phan Thiet sea. This dish is served with green onions and herbs.


Can Cake: The rice cakes are made by grilling on a pottery mold. Eggs, oil and green onions are put onto the cake. This dish isn’t served with herbs like other cakes in Vietnam but with sliced green mango, cucumber, onion and sauce.

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Grilled rice cake with shrimp sauce: this is a very common dish in Binh Thuan. Quail eggs, chicken meat, or fermented pork, pork roll green onion, oil are place on a rice paper. The shrimp sauce is put on the meat and eggs. Take the whole paper and put it on a wood fire. Use a pair of chopsticks to roll the rice paper while grilling it until it’s crispy and brown. The dish is served with sauce or chili sauce.


Thu Khoa Huan and Tuyen Quang are two streets where you can find a lot of Phan Thiet’s delicacies.

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All For Co To Island

Co To archipelago belongs to Quang Ninh province, is one of the most beautiful destination of the north Vietnam. Co To Island is 22 kilometers from land and can only be reached by boats.
The archipelago including the biggest island Big Co To and many other smaller islands has an old name “Chang Son” which means Chang mountain, an anchoring place for ships and boats but never had residents because of the Chinese pirates until the Nguyen dynasty, some Chinese fishermen captured the pirates and then migrated to the island. Nguyen Cong Tru was the first one to build a village on the island in 1832.
When to visit
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Cô Tô is best to visit in summer when it’s sunny and windy. However, in summer, there are also storms so you need to check up the weather before planning you trip. In autumn, the weather turns quite chilly and not suitable to swim. During April and May, it’s sunny enough and less storms then other months.
How to get there
There is something you need to know before your trip. With foreigners who wish to visit Co To Island, from 2016, you don’t have to obtain a permit from the government authorities any more. Foreign travelers now are free to come to Co To island.
From Ha Noi, going by motorbike or car would take you about 4-5 hours to reach Van Don where you have to get on a boat to Co To. A coach ticket from My Dinh bus station or Luong Yen station is about 130,000VND to 150,000VND. The best brands are Hoang Long and Viet Thanh. To get to Van Don, you are expected to get off at the Cua Ong market. Once you are at Cua Ong, get a local bus named “BUS VAN DON, BUS QUANG NINH” to Cai Rong Port, with price from 5000VND to 8000VND. Again, get off at Van Don post office; you are 2km away from Cai Rong port. You should get a “xe om” to Cai Rong, spend your first night near the port.
If you go by motorbike, you can go straight to Cai Rong port, from here you can either hire someone to bright the bike on boat for you or leave it in the parking plot (running by locals). You have to pay 40,000VND to 100,000VND to get your motorbike on the boat.
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Cai Rong Quay
Boats to Co To Island:
  • Speedboat: 1 hour, 200,000VND per ticket
1, Van Don – Co To: 6:20 (Sat and Mon), 8:00 (the rest) 13:30 (Tue, Wed, Thu, Fri, Sun)
2, Co To – Van Don: 13:30 (Mon, Tue, Wed, Thu, Sat) 15:00 (Fri, Sun)
  • Wooden boat: 3 hours, 110,000VND per ticket
1, Van Don – Co To: 7:00; 13:00
2, Co To – Van Don: 7:00; 13:00
Boat brands:
  • Passenger Ship 68: sail for 2 hours 20 minutes, price is 95,000VND, weekends 135,000VND
  • Manh Quang, Ka Long, Phuc Thinh (speedboat) are companies that have boat running to Co To Island everyday.
In case of bad weather, the boats are restricted to depart.
Hotels, hostels and homestays are available both around the port and at Co To town. The average price for one room on the island is higher than other places, often from 200,000VND to 400,000VND.
Co To lighthouse
Built in late 19th century, but the light is a high technology product using solar power. To reach the top, you have to go through a natural forest and then conquer 72 spiral steps to the height of 16m above ground. On the highest point, the immense panoramic view of the island and Tonkin bay appears to surprise you.
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Cau My Stones
Visitors to Co To Island shouldn’t miss this very masterpiece of nature which is located in the south of the island. Cau My with a sedimentary rock system has been eroding over thousands of years by the sea to create a rare natural wonder compared to other islands in Vietnam. The rock layers are distinct by different colors and setting making the whole area looks like a vivid picture of rocks under the sunlight.
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Hong Van Beach
One of two beautiful beaches in Co To. Lying on the east side of the island, the beach is calm with blue water and white sandbanks. The waves are small because Thanh Lan island stands at the front and block the winds. Therefore, this beach is the most suitable for swimming, especially children.
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Van Chay Beach
This wonderful beach of Co To lying far to the west side of the island has always been praised for its surreal beauty especially in sunny days. Van Chay is known for the stretching sandy beaches, the cool and crystal-clear water, especially the blue seawater reflecting the sunlight to make many different shades of blue once the small waves approach the shore. Remember to watch the sunset scene on Van Chai beach, it will be a really memorable experience.
The Road of Love
This road is a specialty of Co To Island which you can’t find in anywhere else. More than 2 km long, the road is paved with red brick along the coast with green high trees and lawns on the both sides. The sound of trembling poplar, the sea waves, the gentle breezes, and the green forest right in front of your eyes, harmonizing with the yellow sunshine and the red bricks, will bring you to another world, the world of romance. This is a perfect side for couples to take a walk or take pictures.
Small Co To Island
The smaller Co To is only 1km away from the greater one. This island is called “paradise” because of its majestic and magnificent landscape. Due to the fact that there are no people living on the island, its beauty is reserved with romantic beaches, green mountains and islets, cool air and seawater. Enjoying the sunset scene on the remote shores of the island is something special that you shouldn’t miss.
Jellyfish Salad
This is one of the most stunning salad recipes in Vietnam, especially in Co To district. Besides, it is served in almost restaurant in the country. The food is different in each region. However, the popular ingredients includes carrots, cucumber, papaya, boiled chicken which are torn small, vegetables, lemon, chilly…. Including green mango, the salad will create the flavor with a little crunchy, sour and sweet flow to your throat and your stomach.
Grilled oyster
Oyster is not a strange dish in a gourmet menu. For those who are not keen on raw shellfish, oyster can be cooked in their shells on barbecue grill. The heat from the grill steams the oyster and pops the shells. Oyster has a wonderful texture and should be chewed.
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This also releases full flavour. The first taste when you tilt an oyster is a certain level of salt. Oysters can be prepared for a lot of different dishes. To prepare for delicious grilled oyster, pay attention to fire so that it can be picked out whenever it is cooked. Being overcooked can spoil its flavour and texture.
There are two types of crabs in the island district in Vietnam: brown crab and blue one.  Meanwhile, the later is more favorable and famous for good quality thanks to high salinity seawater in this area. The meat of blue crab has a rich, sweet flavor. The body is delicately flavored while the claw meat is nutty. Body meat is white, tender and flaky.
Abalone is not only a nutritious ingredient but also valuable economic product. In the old days in Vietnam, only Kings are served food made from abalone. Abalone is a large marine with extremely rich and flavorful meat. It is also considered as the most delicious among edible shellfish. It can be eaten raw or with little grilled. Besides, tourists can taste rice noodle with abalone. However, it is hard to harvest abalone because it often sticks to the rock under the deep seawater.
Sa Sung
Sa Sung is known as a kind of sea worm with light pink color, which will terrify the weak minded people. However, no one can refuse the dishes made from Sa Sung. Sa Sung can be fried, baked or cooked to make porridge. Besides, they can be mixed with pepper and grilled. When eating the dishes from Sa Sung, diners can enjoy the crunchy, soft and tough with sweet and fatty taste. When eating Sa Sung, we use it with chili sauce. Sa Sung is also used to make stronger flavor of Pho. A very small amount of dry roasted Sa Sung will make the liquid tasted stronger and sweeter.
However catching Sa Sung is not easy at all because detecting the holes under the sand where they hide was so difficult. Furthermore, it requires digger to be very careful not to cut off their bodies while catching them. Selling dead ones is hard because the flesh is dirty and Sa Sung when cooked can lose it sweet flavor.
Be Be
Be Be is a popular seafood that every tourist wants to try at least once. It looks like as shrimp or lobster but a little difference due to its width and a huge numbers of its legs. Its meat is crisp and sweet. Compared with shrimp’s meat or crab’s meat, Be Be’s meat is much more solid and tasty. Be Be is cooked in a simple way as being boiled, little grilled, steamed and then eaten with spices. When cooked or grilled, it turned into pink with attractive flavor.
Trap fish
Trap fish is often cooked in special holiday with the meaning of bringing luckiness. It is also one of the most favorite dishes to Japanese. The head of trap fish can be cooked in sour soup while its body meat is used for cooking sashimi or grilled, fried meals.
Nail-shaped shellfish
Visiting this beautiful island district, you should add to your list the meals from nail- shaped shellfish. It is recognized by its sweet, crispy flavor and its special shape. It is caught during the whole year but mainly at the early of rainy season (in May and June) because its meat is the most delicious at that time. The shellfish can be used to make different fried up dishes varying on the ingredients to serve with. It is often soaked in water for at least 15 minutes before cooked.
Marble- shaped oyster
This type of oyster is quite different from the popular ones which are often used in the daily meals in Vietnam. The oyster is round, small not flat. Its body has a lot of meat. Especially, it is so clean. You just need to wash it over and then prepare for being grilled. As soon as it opens its mouth, the water from inside pours outside spreading the irresistible flavor. Marble- shaped oyster is cheap, only from 50.000VND for one kilo to 80.000 VND for one kilo.
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Ancient tea trees & Red H’mong people in Suoi Giang

The valuable trips to discover the land of legend ancient tea tree and the charming tribe hill of Dao people in Vietnam Northernmost.

I got a slow train from Hanoi to Yên Bái city. The train ride takes 5 hours as it stops at many stations. It was so pleasant to see Hanoi and the countryside landscape from the train, although the train windows are fixed with metal screens.

When I got to Yên Bái city, it was 6pm. I went to the center of the city, but then decided to go back to the railway station and stayed overnight in this area, as it was easier for me to get a bus next day and go to another destination.

On Monday morning (July 16) I took a mini bus and traveled to Nghĩa Lộ town along the Highway No. 32. On the way I got out of the mini bus at the Suối Giàng cross (70km away from Yên Bái city) and hired a local motorbike driver to take me to Suối Giàng commune (12km).

The landscape along the way was so beautiful, as we were going up mountains and passing by corn fields and tea hills. Suối Giàng (altitude 1370m) is famous for the thousands of old tea trees which are some hundreds years old, as well as beautiful stone products. This commune is also home to the Red H’mong ethnic minority people (based on the red color of their dresses).

The total tea area in Suối Giàng commune is 340ha and the Shan Tuyết tea is a famous brand name in Vietnam.  When I got to the center of Suối Giàng commune, it was 9am. I spent time visiting three H’mong villages (Bản Mới, Bản Pang Cáng and Bản Giàng B). I met a H’mong boy and he invited me to visit his house.

His wife also wore traditional dress of the Red H’mong people, so that I could take some photos. I saw many old tea trees along the way, but it was pity that it was not the right time for picking tea leaves. A local man told me they would pick tea leaves in 20 days. The tea trees are high enough for the H’mong people to climb up and stand on the branches.

I went back to the center of Suối Giàng commune and visited Mr. Xá’s house. In the garden there are 6-7 big tea trees which are 300 years old. He said there was a 400 year old tea tree, but it died recently, so he used its wood to make a chair. Mr. Xá invited me a cup of tea and answered my questions. Every two months the locals pick tea leaves and there are 3 main crops per year.

The best tea is “Chè Tôm” which is sold at price of VND 1 million (about US$50) for a kg.  It was lunch time, but the motorbike driver and myself coulnd’t find any place to eat even a simple bowl of noodle soup, as the locals refused to provide the service. We ate bread instead, then moved on to Tập Lăng village of the H’mong people.

The road was under construction and in bad condition, so I couldn’t reach the village. I decided that it was enough for me to see in Suối Giàng after 5 hours, so I went back to the cross, had lunch then hired another motorbike driver to take me to Nghĩa Lộ town (12km).

I could stay in Suối Giàng, but I didn’t feel comfortable to stay overnight at a local house and it seemed difficult to find food. Also, it is cold at night even in the summer time and I didn’t bring warm clothes with me (when I left Hanoi, it was 37oC, so hot and humid).

Suối Giàng Hotel near the cross and Highway No. 32 looked quite boring, so I decided to move on 12km and stay overnight in Nghĩa Lộ town which is more exciting and completetely new to me. My next blog will be about Mù Cang Chải terraced rice paddy-fields which are also famous in Yên Bái province.

Travel tips

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Suối Giàng is located 260km northwest of Hanoi. You can take a slow train (ticket US$3 – two trains every day, leaving Hanoi at 6am and 1pm), or go by fast train (night train – you will get to Yên Bái city at midnight), or by bus (US$5) to Yên Bái city (distance Hanoi – Yên Bái 181km).

There are guesthouses and restaurants outside the railway station. Then you get a bus to Nghĩa Lộ town (82km, ticket US$3). Tell driver you want to go to “Ngã ba Suối Giàng” (Suối Giàng cross – see photo No. 42). This cross is 70km away from Yên Bái city and 12km from Nghĩa Lộ town.

Then you hire a local motorbike driver. I paid VND 250,000 (US$ 13) to my local driver for the whole service (going up and down to/from Suối Giàng and visiting 3 villages). Suối Giàng Hotel is located close to the cross.

You can stay overnight in the center of Suối Giàng commune (home stay with the locals – no any guest house yet), or go back 12km and stay in Suối Giàng Hotel in Sơn Thịnh town (center of Văn Chấn district). Suối Giàng is still off the beaten path, but in the future it will be a popular tourist destination.

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Ấu Tẩu Porridge – The Most Unique Delicacies in Ha Giang

One dish that you should not miss when travelling in Ha Giang is Au tau porridge – the most unique delicacies in Ha Giang.

Ha Giang is known for its breathtaking nature beauties and unique ethnic tradition of which Dong Van karst plateau geopark and Ma Pi Leng pass are considered as highlights destinations where you can find a beautiful connection between nature and humans.

And Ha Giang food is distinct and unforgettable. Because of its geographical location, Ha Giang has its own highland characteristics that you won’t find anywhere else. Especially Au Tau porridge – the most unique delicacies in Ha Giang. Au tau porridge is a famous specialty that if you go to Ha Giang but have not yet tried it, which means you have never visited here.

In Ha Giang, there have many unique dishes that visitors cannot forget. Bitter porridge or “au tau” porridge is special dish. Tourists can enjoy all flavors in a bowl of porridge: flavors of “au tau”, leaf spices…

Bowl of “au tau” porridge looks very attractive by the harmony between rice, herbs, meat… Cooking “au tau” porridge is not simple. “Au tau” after washing in the water, it is stewed during 4 hours. Glutinous rice mixed with some rice then soak into stewed water of pig’s trotters and “au tau”.

Add a little spice. The porridge has bitter taste so that people call bitter porridge. Visitors in the first time trying this porridge may find it is difficult to eat but after that they all love its taste.

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The cold weather in that province helps people create this porridge which help them keep warm. Au tau porridge has a little bit of bitter taste but this also its attractive taste.

Many people come to Ha Giang, if they have been enjoying once they will seek to eat again. “Au tau” porridge is not only the normal dish but also a tonic medicine to cure sick.

Bitter porridge in Ha Giang has had all time in the year, but it sold only at night. In the winter, sitting in a warm space and enjoying the “au tau” porridge is exciting and suitable for people who love exploring new things.

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