September 30, 2010

A World of Romantic Adventure Awaits You in Da Lat, Viet Nam

Perched high in the Southern Central Highlands amidst valleys, lakes and waterfalls, Vietnam’s Dalat is known for its mountain scenery and delightfully cool weather.

Dalat, Vietnam

Bike Dalat, Vietnam

Originally inhabited by the Lat and Ma Hil tribes (Da Lat meaning “stream of the Lat People”), who now live in nearby Lat and Chicken Villages, Dalat became a holiday resort for commanders who tired of the tropical Vietnamese climate during the French Colonial era. It remains Vietnam’s “Le Petit Paris” and its “city of eternal spring”, its colonial mansions and over 2000 remaining French villas still reflecting its French influence.

Dalat has a lot to offer travelers interested in trekking, motorcycle trips and natural sights – its surrounding lakes, waterfalls, and parks offer boating and windsurfing. This is a great place to get to know Vietnam’s highlands.

Dalat is home to Emperor Bao Dai’s summer palaces. Built in 1933 and set in a lovely pine grove near Lake Xuan Huong, this art deco style palace houses portraits and sculptures, and royal living quarters of the deposed imperial family. Nearby, Lake Xuan Huong stretches for nearly 5 km., offering windsurfing and boating adventures, though long walks around the lake seem to be most popular.

Dalat features several interesting buildings and lovely pagodas, among them the Lin Phuoc Pagoda , a contemporary structure with a gold Buddha and a spectacular garden. The Hang Nga House and Gallery, nicknamed “crazy house” by locals, is probably one of its most fun sites, especially for youngsters. The house is designed with cave sitting rooms, a concrete giraffe tea room, helter- skelter hallways and stairways and fish heads containing guest rooms for overnight stays. Its bustling, lively central market is unlike most Vietnamese markets, characterized by a highly unusual open promenade for shoppers and passers-by.

Just out of town, a lovely park, Thung Lung Tinh Yeu Park , known as “The Valley of Love” is a popular spot for honeymooners and lovers who stroll through its paths or sail on its small lake. The region around Dalat is punctuated with coffee farms and colorful small villages. Lat Village and Chicken Village are home to several hill tribes who were enticed down from Dalat. Chicken Village, where peoples of the Koho minority reside, is famous for its giant concrete chicken, caught mid-strut, in the village center. In the highlands, there are opportunities to visit coffee farms, sing karaoke or just enjoy local drinks at some of the small inns perched on the valley’s hills.

Further afield, there is much to see and do for nature lovers. Several scenic waterfalls dot the area: Prenn Falls, located about 10 km. from Dalat, at the foot of the dramatic Prenn Pass, is a great spot for enjoying a brief hike, its breathtaking waterfalls cascading from above to create a silver sheet pouring into a pool below. Behind the falls, a bamboo bridge enables visitors to cross the waters. Gouganh Falls, some 40 km. from Dalat offers an amazing view of waters splitting at the center to create numerous falls, each streaming in a different direction. Lan Bien Mountain, its five volcanic peaks rising to 2100-2400 m, is a trekker’s dream, as is Tuyen Lake, known for its emerald green waters and backdrop of mountains.

Dalat and its off-the-beaten-path surroundings and many wonderful natural sights are very different from Vietnam’s popular coastal areas and are well worth the visit for the countless adventures and natural sights it has on offer.

Source: familyadventuretravelworks

Recommended tour:
Dalat tours
Bike Dalat

September 28, 2010

ACTIVETRAVEL ASIA focus on promoting Active Travel in Vietnam, Laos and Cambodia in 2011

Activetravel Asia refers to an approach to travel and transport that focuses on physical activity (walking and cycling) as opposed to motorized and carbon-dependent means. Doing so would have the multiple benefits of increasing levels of physical fitness and reducing rates of overweight and obesity, whilst reducing the consumption of fossil fuels and consequent Carbon emissions.

Why ACTIVETRAVEL ASIA (ATA) focuses on active travel? Global climate change due to fossil fuel usage and the continued increase in obesity and overweight are amongst the most serious health and environmental problems the world is currently facing. A shift towards active travel is being increasingly presented as an effective approach to tackling both these challenges. ATA makes strong recommendations that promoting and facilitating cycling, walking, trekking and kayaking should become key components of an integrated anti-obesity strategy, as this would represent "...physical activity incorporated into the fabric of everyday life."


Sapa terrace field, Vietnam
Sapa Terraced Field Vietnam

Studies have shown that the recent global increase in levels of overweight and obesity are in large part due to the decrease in physical activity by children and adults. Partly this is explicable through an increase in more sedentary forms of leisure (TV, video games) but to a large extent low levels of walking, cycling, trekking and kayaking are also implicated.

In response to this, in UK, Public Health and environmental had campaigns to advocate for stronger policies and practices that promote active travel, and make cycling and walking safer and more attractive. The intention being that these modes could in many instances replace car usage for everyday journeys to school, shops, public services etc. To facilitate this would require local planning and highway authorities to invest in ensuring safe routes are available to these destinations especially in Vietnam, Laos and Cambodia (danger from other road traffic is frequently cited as the primary reason for not cycling.) In many areas in Vietnam, Laos & Cambodia, the current focus of development for cycle, trek and kayak provision are on isolated leisure trails, resulting in highly fragmented cycle routes and pavements/sidewalks, which do not link effectively to everyday destinations.

Actions on Active Travel

ATA have studied the itineraries in local areas for Active Travel which helps travelers have habits to increase in walking and cycling after holidays as well as effective response to the steadily increasing problem of overweight and obesity, and also help reduce carbon emissions.

Recommend some itineraries

Vietnam

- Sapa trekking & homestay
- West to East biking exploration
- Kayaking Halong bay

Cambodia

- Cycling Angkor Wat
- Trek Angkor Wat

Laos

- Trek Luang Prabang
- Trek Luang Namtha

September 17, 2010

Vietnam attractions: Da Nang

Da Nang, Vietnam doesn't have the history of Hue, nor the charm of Hoi An. What it does have are pristine beaches, cool mountain hideaways and the relaxation that comes with being away from most other tourists - and most of the people whose job it is to bug the other tourists - as well as beachside restaurants.

Bamboo fishing boats in Danang beach


One clam is never enough. Two, not even close. They make their way to the table in a steaming bowl, the scent of lemon grass and sea salt summonsing the drool of any diner within a 10-metre radius. They're plonked in front of you, swimming in a pool of cloudy liquid, the steam quickly whipped away by Da Nang's ocean breeze.

"You have one first," says Ngo, reaching into the bowl and picking up three of the open shells, shoving them in front of me. There's a pause as I eye my prey.

"Like this," Ngo sighs, using a small fork to tear the plump flesh from its bi-fold shell, dipping the meat in a small saucer of salt, pepper and lime juice, and shoving it hungrily into his mouth, closing his eyes in pure joy as he chews.

I copy him. The clam explodes in my mouth, rich flavours of salt, lemon grass, chilli, lime and the juicy flesh drowning my tongue. It's incredible. It tastes of both the country it was cooked in and the ocean it came from. One clam is never enough.

Never mind that this is just the entree at our bustling beachside restaurant. Never mind that a typical Vietnamese lunch seems to involve eating as much as is humanly possible, then getting ready for the main course. The fight over the clams is intense.

It soon degenerates into a table war of flying elbows and small forks. You take no prisoners in this battle - only clams. Once they're finished, however, little fried fish served with a clay pot of rice arrive, and grilled cuttlefish, and marinated prawns, and mussels, and fish stew ...

You can forget that old wives' tale about not going swimming for half an hour after eating - we'll be doing well if we can make it off our chairs before dinner is served.

Of all the attractions in Da Nang, surely nothing can match its culinary delights, especially the seafood - it's cheap, it's tasty and it's everywhere.

And until recently, the port city didn't have much competition.

See, Da Nang never used to be a tourist destination. It was merely a beachside speed bump between two of Vietnam's big hitters: the ancient capital of Hue, to the north, and the quaint, heritage-listed Hoi An to the south.

Da Nang was like the middle child between two over-achieving siblings, who was largely left to do its own thing.

Vietnamese tourists have known about it for a while, drawn in droves to the city's white-sand beaches and slower pace of life.

(That's slower by Vietnamese standards, of course. The roads still appear insanely dangerous to the average Westerner, although Da Nang's boulevards are far removed from the chaos of Hanoi or Ho Chi Minh City.)

Of the mountains, Ba Na is the furthest away and also the furthest from reality. Once a French holiday resort during colonial occupation, it's still a holiday resort, although things have changed.

Where once there were 200 villas dotting the mountaintop, the Vietnamese knocked them down for fear that the French might want to return. The villas have recently been replaced with a few, ironically, French-inspired hotels and a cable car to whip visitors up 1487 metres to the mountain-top.

Those not wishing to stay the night at Ba Na can still catch the cable car to the top and bask in the cool air for a day. While it's always stinking hot at sea level, Da Nang residents like to say Ba Na has four seasons in every day: winter at night, spring in the morning, summer at noon and autumn in the afternoon.

Spring - or, morning - is the best time to take in the views from Ba Na to the ocean and to visit the various Buddhist pagodas while avoiding resident monkeys.

You can still spot the remnants of villas. As it stands, though, one of the few relics of the colonial era tourists can still visit is a concrete tunnel designed to be used as a wine cellar. Plans are afoot to turn it into a bar, an idea the original inhabitants would surely approve of.

Justify FullDanang Resort, Vietnam

Back at sea level, Da Nang's main attraction is its beach. Nha Trang might be Vietnam's famous coastal resort town but Da Nang's beaches are a lot more attractive to those not looking for parasailing rides or jet-ski hire. People are queuing for a piece of the beachside action, too - that much is clear from the mass of waterfront construction going on. Within a few years, those sites will be towering five-star hotels. Furama Resort has been here for the long haul, though, so stays will be blissfully free of bulldozers or cranes; it's five-star rooms and access to that beach, in all its white-sand, calm-ocean glory.

Da Nang has two mountains close to the city; both have been conveniently named to avoid confusion about what you'll find there: Monkey Mountain and Marble Mountain.

Monkey Mountain has, yes, monkeys, plenty of them.

It was also the site of a US military stronghold during the Vietnam War and has only recently been reopened to the general public. There's precious little infrastructure - just a small restaurant, a couple of disused radars at the peak and a gigantic statue of Buddha at the base.

Marble Mountain, at the other end of the beach, is actually a series of mountains that erupt from the earth, not unlike the islands in Halong Bay, in the north of Vietnam.

They're so named because, yes, they're full of marble, and yes, you can buy marble carvings from the shops at the base.

Finally, there's Da Nang's river, which is not really there for tourists to enjoy - it's a working river; fishing boats and cargo barges plow up and down the murky waters as they go about their business.

Fortunately, however, the river is lined with plenty of cafes in which to enjoy one of the true delights of a stay in Da Nang: a thick, strong coffee. It's a nice palate-cleanser before you head off in search of those clams.

TRIP NOTES

Furama Resort Da Nang has 198 guest rooms and suites overlooking the ocean on one side and a freshwater swimming lagoon and gardens on the other.

There are plenty of metered taxis in Da Nang or, for the brave, unmetered motorbike taxis. To get to Ba Na Hill, it's best to arrange transport through the hotel or a local travel agent.

Take a day trip to Hoi An. The heritage-listed city is a short drive away, its streets meant for wandering in, or having some clothes made by a tailor.

Spend a day in the Cham Islands, a small group just off the coast. Ferries leave from Hoi An and there's plenty of time to explore the main island of Hon Lao and go scuba diving or snorkelling before returning to the mainland.

Relax on the beach. It's easy to get caught up in the whirlwind of trying to fit in all the attractions before you go home, so set aside some serious chill-out time. You may have the beach pretty much to yourself during the day.

There's plenty for children to do as most outdoor attractions are suitable for kids. Most of the larger hotels, including Furama, also offer daycare facilities.

Source: stuff

Recommendations for tour in Danang, Vietnam:
Danang City guide
Hoi An tours

September 15, 2010

Viajes Indochina Introduce New Viajes Camboya Website

Viajes Camboya and travel guide with tips, advice and useful information on travel activities on tours provided direct from Cambodia tour operators. This guide helps traveler find out what to see and do and plan the travel itinerary.

Angkor Temples, Cambodia

Viajes Indochina is pleased to announce the launch of a new website section that features Viajes Camboya (http://www.camboyaviajes.net) which are supplied direct from tour operators based in Cambodia. Take no chances with the next vacation, travel with those who know the destination by experience.

September 09, 2010

Discover the treasures of Southeast Asia

From its sweet and spicy cuisine to lush and dense jungles and stunningly gorgeous beaches, there is not a whole lot not to like about Southeast Asia. Culturally rich and breathtakingly beautiful, this area (Thai Lan, and the jewels of Indochina - Vietnam, Cambodia, Laos) of the world has long been a favorite destination for adventurous travelers.

Kayaking in Ba Be, VietnamKayaking in Ba Be, Vietnam

Ancient temples dotting the green hillsides, white sand beaches, rice terraces and food that will wow your taste buds distinguish this gorgeous part of the world. Southeastern Asia’s turmoil in the past few generations have only proven the resiliency and spirit of the people and both Vietnam and Cambodia in particular have healed their wounds and rebuilt in a way that preserves the countries’ ancient past with its future.