June 26, 2012

ACTIVETRAVEL ASIA has opened Travel Shop in the heart of the Old Quarter of Hanoi

ACTIVETRAVEL ASIA (ATA) has opened a new Active Travel Shop in the Old Quarter of Hanoi in Mar 2012 to provide wide selection of adventure tours, including hiking, cycling, motorcycling and kayaking departure from Hanoi. 

ATA allows Active Travel Shop to meet the increasing demand for professionally organized adventure tours of international independent travelers. This expansion is just the first step of a long-term plan that target at being one of the best adventure tour operators in Viet Nam. 

“We are going to open around 10 similar

June 20, 2012

Quang Binh to organize tourism month on caves discovery

In June, the tourism month on caves discovery will take place in Quang Binh to promote local tourism products to domestic and international tourists and call for investment to social-economic development in the province. This is an activity of Quang Binh province responding to the National Tourism Year of the North Central Coast - Hue 2012.

Son Doong Cave located in Quang Binh is the biggest cave in the world

The tourism month will include a series of diversified activities such as: opening tourism routes to discover new caves in Phong Nha – Ke Bang National Park (Rao Thuong – Hang En route, 1,500m Phong Nha cave at night, Hang En and Sinh Ton Valley route); art photography exhibition on Quang Binh’s natural landscapes; traditional boat race on Nhat Le river; Quang Binh’s cuisine week; public art festival; VietnamLaos – Thailand international trade fair…

Travelers are exploring Son Doong Cave

To prepare for the tourism month, Quang Binh People's Committee directed departments, agencies, units to implement a number of activities as: preparing facilities to serve the boat race; developing content, theme of the public art festival; inviting enterprises to participate the trade fair; preparing photo books, DVDs to promote Quang Binh’s image to tourists…

Amazing feeling in the cave

In 2011, Phong Nha - Ke Bang National Park welcomed over 250,000 tourist arrivals. In 2012, caves discovery tourism has been chosen as a main point in tourism development strategy of Quang Binh. The completion of Huu Nghi 3 Bridge connecting Kham Muon province (Laos) and Nakhon Phanom province (Thailand) will open new opportunities for Quang Binh to enhance attracting international tourists by road. A number of tourism cooperation activities in the East- West Corridor will also be promoted and promises to bring economic- tourism benefits for Quang Binh in the near future.

June 19, 2012

5 Things I’ve Learnt About Lao People While in Laos

I found the Lao people to be the most fascinating part of traveling through Laos. I was happily surprised to see how rich their culture was and how so many people were still living according to their old traditions.

Laos is NOT known as the land of smiles, but the people here are still so special, and very genuine in their own way. Below are 5 things that sum up my experience with the Lao people – and just to make sure, these are not facts but my own perception and experience from spending 3 weeks there.

1. Men Are Very Homely
Something I found very refreshing was how much time the men spent at home and with their children.

It was a very common sight to see men of all ages carrying around babies on their backs and in their arms, feeding them, hushing them to sleep and just general baby sitting – without the mother in sight.

They really took time with their kids and gave them attention, playing with them.
They also seemed very interested in other people’s kids, always toddling with the babies when sharing a songtheaw (bus รก la tuk tuk style) ride.

2. The Kids Are The Most Adorable I’ve Ever Met
These little people are just the sweetest! Their doll faces and curious eyes are simply irresistible.

I’ve never met so many kids in a country who shyly whisper or loudly yell ‘hello’ to you from the street, river, moped or home.

They were so curious, and those who were brave enough – smiled, laughed and said hello to you over and over again until you were out of sight.
You cannot help but to smile and say hello back …

3. The Bus Drivers Have a Death Wish
When I mentioned the things I’ve learnt about Thai people someone asked why I didn’t mention the driving.

The Thai people are known for their careless driving, and the streets there were chaos, but at least the bus drivers had some common sense.
In Laos – they didn’t.

70 people in a 50 seat bus does not make sense, especially when you’re not using your breaks on the steep, windy mountain roads…
Chickens and roosters on the road? Who cares, they had it coming! Feathers were constantly sweeping past our windows … travel around Laos really isn’t for the faint-hearted!

4. They Want To Avoid Any And All Confrontation
The people are very gentle and kind in Laos, similar to the Thai people – but different.
It’s not the most obvious friendliness and they don’t take you in with open arms, they are more stand-offish. However, if you gain a little bit of trust, you will see that they’re actually very friendly people.

They are also, like the Thai people, afraid of confrontations. Sometimes it’s really refreshing, other times it’s really frustrating, especially when you just want to get a straight answer to a question.

Their way of dealing with it is usually to laugh it off as a joke – which makes for a pretty funny and confusing situation. You might not get a straight answer, but you always leave with a confused smile on your face.

5. Women And Men Work Together
This is something that I find very rare around the world. Usually women and men have their own places in which they work; but in Laos the roles are very mixed. The men and women work together.

It’s not uncommon to see men standing in stalls cooking street food and banana pancakes, and women working the street as road workers.
Both women and men work on tea and coffee plantations, and they both take care of the family.

It seemed as though they did what they were best at, if the man cooked better food, he was the chef, and vice versa.

June 15, 2012

Essential Tips for trekking Sapa

Behind Halong Bay, Sapa is the second most favourite spot for almost travelers when arrive Vietnam. Sapa is located in the Northern Vietnam, the region with many mountains, rice terraces and tribal villages. Certainly, with the unique climate in Sapa, you are always be put in the frequent rain storms as well as cloudy condition. However,  this shouldn’t be a deterrent, it requires a bit of extra preparation when rainy .

Rain, rain, rain – Always rain
If you felt like you’re unlucky travelers who visit Sapa during, or within a week after a bad rain storm, don’t upset, you are likely in a statistical majority. Unfortunately, the home stay treks and many days treks are on steep grades of dirty trails. Our first day of trekking to the home stay was full of uninterrupted showers, producing even muddier trails for second day of hike. Almost everyone slipped or fell over at least one, with yours truly falling twice on the second day and getting a fair share of souvenir mud on my belongings.

Sapa always in the wet, cloudy and mud conditions during summer

To be prepared, every village shops sell know-off items for all conditions. The sellers can be shewed in the bartering process, especially during the inclement weather where essential items are sold at inflated prices. Honestly, reusable double-lined rain coat is a life saver, and full on water boots are necessary things even if just for two days. If you can get these down to 100,000 or 120,000 VN during a rain period, no doubt that your bartering are solid. You can always sell the rain boots after and break even on the investment!

Homestay should be a priority
Make sure that you don’t miss the homestay. A village homestay should be a must for those want to explore the real life in Sapa. Not just for the experience of staying with local families, but for enjoying some of the most beautiful parts of the region. You can try to get outside of Sapa village, the more the scenery presents itself, and homestay provides the opportunity to get there.

Staying at homestay provides travelers the best way to enjoy the amazing nature of Sapa

Normally, homestay is the dorm room built as an addition to most family home, and it is said that people can only see the actual and traditional life of people on the second night. Thus if you want to discover about lifestyle of locals, you should arrange to spend 2 nights with them before leaving.

“Will you buy from me?”a
All trekkers are likely have their fair share of local villagers who follow them during the trek in hope of making a sale when reaching their village. These local women may make you feel annoying by keep asking you “Please buy something to me”  at first, but you will recognize their invaluable assistance during the bad weather as they point out the proper trails, hold hands, and are nothing less than a saving grace for the many of potential falls that could happen.

Some local women follow you during the trek with hope that you'll buy something

Of course, if you get as much help, a $5 tip is the least you can do, most of them would be greatful for just $2 for helping on a three hours or more hour hike. However, do not buy anything from one person because the others will soon flock to you and say “You bought from her but not from me, something small?” and can generally become annoying very quickly.

Overall, Sapa is an amazing destination even when hiking the worst rain and mud conditions.  Part of me wishes, however, that I knew how bad it was going on be in advance in order to be fully prepared for the trek ahead and save a few pair of clothes in process that have since been scrapped due to the mud. I would not discourage anyone from travelling to Sapa if the forecast is rain, but be sure to be fully prepared when you go! You won’t regret it!