November 30, 2010

Everything I knew about Vietnam, I learned from Chuck Norris

November 25, 2010

While it pains me to admit it, it was Chuck Norris who gave me my first glimpse of Vietnam. Films such as Missing in Action would see him navigating the dense forests of Vietnam, miraculously evading landmines, penetrating Vietcong territory to single-handedly rescue old wartime buddies, starving but still very cute Vietnamese children enslaved by cruel communists, and a pretty local girl (probably a third his age) who is likely to show her gratitude in ways not appropriate for this publication.

Thus, when fellow writer Susan De Guzman called about an airline seat sale to Ho Chi Minh City (formerly Saigon), I agreed with a degree of apprehension. It was a country I had very little knowledge of save for the violent images on television from watching Chuck or National Geographic specials. I was certain of three things: it was a socialist country; many Americans died there (and they’re still hurting from it); and the Pho (a local noodle soup dish) is awesome. It wasn’t much to go on but even after reading countless web pages and travel guides, I was still unable to latch on to an image of Vietnam that did not involve landmines and forests. I had no choice. I simply had to wait and see for myself.

We arrived at Tan Son Nhat airport around midnight. It was quite a modern facility that was efficiently run. Soon enough, we found ourselves cruising down the streets of Ho Chi Minh that, at that hour, appeared to be a cleaner and better maintained version of the older districts of Manila. Even in the dark, we counted many old structures with interesting architectural details. The trip was turning out to be a very promising one.

Ben Thanh Market, Ho Chi MinhBen Thanh Market, Ho Chi Minh

Daylight proved us right. The morning stroll left us straining our necks to see interesting architectural features. Many buildings have been converted to house restaurants and shops, breathing new life into the structure while adding character to the community. Nothing could be more inviting than the aroma of freshly brewed coffee and bread just out of the oven wafting through brightly painted French windows, thrown wide open to entice passersby to stop, choose a charming table outdoors and simply watch the world go by. And I don’t even drink coffee!

November 19, 2010

Angkor Tops List of 'Most Recommended' World Heritage Sites


A recent UNESCO / Trip advisor Survey reveals Angkor is the most recommended World Heritage site by a quarter millions travellers worldwide and that 72% would do more to help heritage conservation if they knew how.

Cambodia tours

TripAdvisor revealed the results to date of the biggest analysis ever conducted of UNESCO's World Heritage sites around the world.

The two year partnership between TripAdvisor, and UNESCO's World Heritage Centre launched in October 2009 to raise awareness of and gain travellers' support to preserve natural and cultural sites inscribed on UNESCO's World Heritage list. Within the partnership, TripAdvisor will also donate up to $1.5 million (USD) of support to the World Heritage Centre to help monitor the conservation of the world's most important cultural and historic sites.

Via on-site and email campaigns, TripAdvisor has, to date, collected nearly a quarter of a million (244,690) feedback submissions from travellers who have visited 789 of UNESCO's recently expanded list of 911 World Heritage sites. The results provide a unique insight into the views and recommendations of travellers themselves. As part of the partnership, TripAdvisor shares the feedback to the World Heritage Centre so that it may better engage UNESCO member states in matters of site conservation.

TripAdvisor travellers have given the nod to Angkor, Cambodia as the number one recommended UNESCO site to visit in the world, describing it as amongst other quotes, "Absolutely breathtaking" and "One of the wonders of the world." The second and third most recommended World Heritage sites are both in Italy and are respectively the Historic Center of Rome, the properties of the Holy See, and the Historic Centre of Florence.

The TripAdvisor travellers' feedback also highlights those World Heritage sites they consider need the most attention. At the top of UNESCO's sites in 'Worst Condition' comes the Kasbah of Algiers in Algeria, described as a "crumbling site". The site includes remains of old mosques, Ottoman-style palaces and traditional urban structures.

Because countries often hope to draw additional tourism following the inscription of their sites onto the WH List, traveller feedback from TripAdvisor can help them address some of the issues raised and improve tourism to their sites.

TripAdvisor is encouraging the contribution of reviews and opinions from its large and passionate community of millions of members to provide much needed information about the condition of World Heritage sites so they may be better protected. In order to compile traveler feedback on nearly 900 World Heritage sites across the globe, UNESCO's World Heritage Centre invited TripAdvisor, via its millions of members and technological expertise, to provide traveler insights and support to the Centre.

As part of the two-year campaign, TripAdvisor has also pledged to donate up to $1.5 million U.S. of support, including a cash donation that will be allocated to UNESCO World Heritage initiatives. Travelers can learn more about how to help at

According to TripAdvisor travellers, the "Top Ten" most recommended sites are:

1). Angkor, Cambodia

2). Historic Center of Rome, the Properties of the Holy See, Italy

3). Historic Center of Florence, Italy

4). Historic Areas of Istanbul, Turkey

5). Old and New Towns of Edinburgh, Scotland

6). Historic Center of Prague, Czech Republic

7). Venice and its Lagoon, Venezia, Italy

8). Works of Antoni Gaudí, Barcelona, Spain

9). Westminster Palace, Westminster Abbey and Saint Margaret's Cathedral,

London, England

10). Historic Center of Vienna, Austria

November 17, 2010

Travel Asia – A Popular Choice for Travelers

The largest as well as the most populous continents in the world – Asia is a land of diversity with a multitude of geographies, cultures, and people. Occupying an area of about 9% of the total area of the earth’s surface, Asia is home to more than five billion people.

In other words, Asia consists of more than 60% of the world’s overall population. As a tourist destination, Asia boasts of a feast of attractions in the form of traditional cities, ancient monuments with superb architecture, museums and art galleries that throw light on the history of the place, incredible wild life, scenic mind blowing attractions, and attractions that are a blend of both east and west.

There are also a range of vibrant attractions, covering action packed beaches, bargain shopping areas, and exuberant nightclubs. Equally remarkable is the sumptuous cuisines available here, each of which is a representation of different cultures. In fact, the world’s majority of tourist attractions are found in Asia. Discussed further in this article are some of the most popular tourist attractions in Asia.

The continent of Asia is home to such incredible destinations as India, China, Japan, Malaysia, Vietnam, Cambodia, Laos, Indonesia, Singapore, Thailand, Sri Lanka, and Philippines. Asia has such a great number of attractions that even a year is not enough to explore them all. For those who want to explore a range of rich culture and topography and at the same time interested in recreational pursuits, then one of the most suitable options would be to take a tour to India. Stunning beaches, gorgeous monuments, ancient temples, and lively cities, all sum up the attractions of India. Attractions, among many others, in India are Red Fort and Qutab Minar in Delhi, Taj Mahal, one of the world’s seven wonders, Khajuraho Temples in Madhya Pradesh, Elephanta Caves in Mumbai, Ajanta and Ellora Caves in Aurangabad, and Kerala’s backwaters.

For those interested in exploring the pristine beauty as well as the ancient wonders, perhaps the greatest of all attractions in Asia would be China, which boasts of such lively destinations as Hong Kong, Shanghai, and Beijing, all of with loads of mind blowing attractions. Most popular among the attractions in China are the Great Wall, the Forbidden City, Terracotta Warriors, Potala Palace, West Lake, and Mogao Grottos. Another much sought after tourist destination in Asia is Japan, which is acknowledged as the Land of the Rising Sun. It features attractions such as Nara Park, Kyoto’s Higashiyama area, Kin Osaki, Himeji Castle, and Takayama in Gifu. With attractions such as Hanoi and Ho Chi Minh City, Vietnam is also an incredible spot in Asia.

Popular countries in Asia also include the Kingdom of Thailand, which is probably the number one tourist destination in South-East Asia. What that set apart Thailand from other spots in Asia is its breathtaking natural beauty, stunning temples, gorgeous island destinations, stupendous monuments, healthy cuisines, and above all presence of amicable Thai people.

Just few among many of the attractions in Thailand are Bangkok, the capital city; Ayutthaya, which is much famed for its Gothic ruins; Chiang-Mai, bestowed with the title ‘Rose of the North,’ Krabi, which is a paradise for enjoying a range of water sport activities; and Pattaya, one of the best resorts in Asia. Also, a tourist spot in South-East Asia is Singapore, which is an island destination situated at the Malay Peninsula’s southern tip. Singapore Botanic Gardens, Singapore Discovery Center, Little India, and China Town, are some of the Singapore’s landmarks.

Southeast Asia also contains incredible destinations such as Indonesia – the largest archipelagic nation in the world; Malaysia, with attractions like Kuala Lumpur and Putrajaya; Philippines, with more than 7000 islands; and Burma, which is the largest country in Southeast Asia. Other top places of interest in Asia are Sri Lanka – an island destination located off the southern tip of India; Afghanistan, with a rich as well as complex history; Maldives, which consists of more than 1,000 coral islands in the Indian Ocean; Uzbekistan, one of the most popular destinations in Central Asia; Kyrgyzstan, which is probably the most popular tourist spot in Central Asia; and Bangladesh, which has to its credit a number of ancient palaces, magnificent Buddhist shrines, and beautiful monuments.

In short, Asia is truly a dream destination for every traveler.

November 12, 2010

Explore Vietnam Adventure Tours with Active Travel Vietnam

Vietnam is an astonishing amalgamation of diverse culture, natural beauty and captivating historical events. All these combined together makes Vietnam a perfect tourist destination.

Vietnam … intriguing history and mesmerizing culture!!!

Vietnam is an astonishing amalgamation of diverse culture, natural beauty and captivating historical events. All these combined together makes Vietnam a perfect tourist destination. A tour to Vietnam is desirable by all age group with varying interests and liking. Bestowed with a never ending coastline of 3200kms, Vietnam is full of scenic beauty and cultural feasts.

Floating Market, VietnamFloating Market, Vietnam

An expedition from “Rice Bowl” in Mekong Delta to the hustle bustle of Vietnam’s happening city Ho Chi Minh prior to heading the eye catching beaches of Nha Trang, Ca Na and Ninh Chu captivates you with the unexploited beauty of this country.

You have an extensive option of booking a tour to Vietnam through various tour operators. If you are an adventurous person then an adventure tour to Vietnam can certainly be quite fulfilling experience. On the other hand a beach vacation in Vietnam can be other most appealing option for tourists who love water and exploring beaches.

In the south of Vietnam is Ho Chi Minh City which was formerly known as Saigon. It plays a huge role in captivating your imagination as a city of historical value and traditions. While exploring south of Vietnam the Cu Chi tunnel is must visit.

Hanoi, VietnamHanoi, Vietnam

In North the capital of VietnamHanoi is a prime destination for tourists. Embedded with diversified culture and European style the city is famous for its arts and lakes. Ho Chi Minh’s Mausoleum, the Halong Bay and the 36 street areas are some of the other most frequently visited spots in Vietnam.

There are several online Vietnam tour packages available for you to choose from. Exploring Vietnam can be quite an experience which may leave your senses filled with its natural beauty and places which are still untouched and unexplored.

Related adventure tours in Vietnam:

Northern Highlights
Taste of Ho Chi Minh Trail
Mekong Explorer

November 04, 2010

EMW suggests Five Favorite Vietnam Travel Websites

Travel sites abound on the web--and vary widely in focus, scope, and reliability. Here are five we've tried and liked.

Active Travel Vietnam
: This appealing, readable site promotes its adventure travel tours (biking, hiking, kayaking, motorcycling, etc.) but also provides plentiful, practical information on travel in Vietnam, focusing on outdoor excursions but including guides to cities, beaches, national parks and reserves; travel tips; culture and customs; and hotel listings.

Halong Bay, Vietnam

Lonely Planet : Like the popular guidebooks, this travel site sets the standard for comprehensive, practical advice on traveling. Along with the expected travel tips, hotel recommendations, and “must sees,” the site provides a wealth of historical and cultural information not available on most other sites.

Reid On Travel : Vietnam This full free web guide created by veteran Lonely Planet author Robert Reid is packed with information on what to do and see in Vietnam. Reid’s observations are smart and funny and his “One-Day Planners” allow you to get the most out of a scant 24 hours in a city. Bills itself as “…the most in-depth, independently researched guidebook online for any destination.” Check it out and judge for yourself.

Trip Advisor : Features advices from real travelers, via reviews, blogs, and forums, on an exhaustive array of listings: flights, hotels, restaurants, cruises, recommended reading, and things to do, including cooking classes, tailors, museums, shopping, spas, ancient ruins, bird sanctuaries, caves, puppet theaters…the list goes on.

Virtual Tourist : Provides reviews, tips and photos posted by real travelers and Vietnam locals. Far from comprehensive, but engagingly idiosyncratic and likely to have something new to offer even the most jaded of travelers.