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When winter is around the corner, Trang An, the former capital of Vietnam is painted in peaceful lush green, instead of glowing golden ripen rice fields like it used to be in May and June. To capture the panoramic view of Trang An from above, Mua Mountain is an ideal site with more than 500 steps zig-zagged around the mountain that leads you to the summit.

They poetic beauty of Trang An in autumn

As a combination of world natural and cultural heritages recognized by UNESCO, Trang An scenic complex includes outstanding landmarks such as Trang An eco-tourism area, Tam Coc – Bich Dong tourist area, Bai pagoda. Dinh, the ancient capital Hoa Lu … And the beauty of Trang An has been captured by Mr. Cao Tung Lam (Jame Cao), a traveler born in 1991, from Ba Ria – Vung Tau through a series of photos.

They poetic beauty of Trang An in autumn

Standing from the summit of Mua Mountain, you can see mountains that stretch into the distance and the winding river around the foot of the mountain. This is the most beautiful spot to see Tam Coc located in Hoa Lu karst complex from above.

They poetic beauty of Trang An in autumn

To visit Trang An, visitors will take a boat trip cruising along the Ngo Dong River, wriggle through the foot of sheer limestone mountains rising up from the paddies. Then we will pass through Tam Coc, which means three caves in Vietnamese. During the journey, we also visit Bich Dong Pagoda, an ancient pagoda hidden in a cave dating back to the 15th century.
Occasionally, you will see small boats passing by that sells incense and fruits to pagoda-goers

Entrance fee:

  • Tam Coc – Bich Dong complex is 120,000 VND per adult
    60,000 VND per child under 1.4 m in height.
  • Boat rental fee: 150,000 VND for a group of 4 adults. However, if you want to travel with fewer people, you will have to pay a full boat fee, Tung Lam said.

Trang An ecotourism area is located at the core of the scenic. Currently, visitors to Trang An can choose among 3 routes for a three-hour bamboo boat trip, with 250,000 VND per adult, 120,000 VND for children from 1-3 meter and free for children under 1 meter.

The characteristic of visiting Trang An is that you will be going through a number of caves through the limestone mountains with a geological age of about 250 million years. Here it is discovered 50 dry caves and 50 water caves.

River water in Trang An is so special that it is green all year, except after heavy rain and heavy floods. In many sections, travellers can have a crystal clear view of the flora in the river bed, the most beautiful is the mossy swarms following the movement of the paddle.

Trang An in autumn

Getting on a car drive for about 5 kilometers, we will reach Am Tien cave, a scenic spot belonging to Hoa Lu ancient capital. This place is known as Tuyet Tinh Coc, located in a valley between rocky mountains, with gates, pagodas on the mountains, tunnels.

The emerald green lake is the most photo-captive spot for many lenses of visitors, which can be seen while standing on the city gate. Here is Giai pound, where in the past King Dinh punished death row inmates by throwing them down to alligators.

Hoa Lu-Trang An in autumn

Hoa Lu ancient capital was the first capital of a feudal state in Vietnam. Currently, the relic area still preserves many constructions and traces of the capital city with temples, communal houses, ancient pagodas, tombs … that last more than a thousand years.

Van Long - Trang An in autumn

During the trip, Mr. Cao Tung Lam also visited Van Long lagoon, the largest wetland nature reserve in the Northern Delta. About 15 km from Trang An scenic complex, here you can also take a cruise trip to admire the scenery, with the entrance fee of 60,000 VND per boat.

From Noi Bai Airport (Hanoi) to Ninh Binh, there are many high-quality car operators with 2 – 3 hours per trip. The average ticket price is 300,000 VND per way.

Come to Ninh Binh, do not miss the signature which are deep-fried rice and goat dishes, which are served in many restaurants in Hoa Lu, around the eco-tourism area of ​​Trang An and Tam Coc.

In addition to Pho – a typical dish that should be on your list when in Vietnam, there are also other delicious dishes made from the same ingredients, such as: Bun (vermicelli), Pho “Cuon” (spring rolls with beef), Mien that once eating, you will remember them forever. Their variety, eye-catching display, and delectable are the reasons why everyone wants to come back and enjoy it again.

1 – Bun

Did you know Bun is the third most popular starchy food in Vietnam after rice and pho? From the North to the South, Bun are popularly known and collectively called Bun
Though this is a long-standing traditional dish of Vietnam, the origin of Bun is not clear. There is an anecdote telling that this food was from an anecdote of King An Duong Vuong: “While preparing a party for the princess My Chau, a chef accidentally spilled rice flour into a basket in a cauldron of boiling water, turning the rice flour into long white strings. It would be a waste if we didn’t use that mistaken food, right? So he stir-fried this white flour with celery as the appetizer.

Unexpectedly, when the party started, the strange food was again noticed by the king and wholeheartedly praised. That was how stir-fried noodles were born and became one of the favorite dishes on the royal menu. Bun evolved from there, would you like to enjoy this special dish?
From North to South, Bun contributes to the diversity of Vietnamese cuisine. Clean, chewy, delicious noodles combined with many typical broths from all over the country creates various famous dishes with the brand name “Made in Vietnam”.

Bun Cha from Hanoi

Bun cha is the top choice in addition to pho when visiting Hanoi. Bun cha consists of vermicelli and grilled sliced pork and meatballs. The highlight is the sweet and sour sauce prepared by the locals in a recipe that combines fish sauce and carrots, papaya blended with barbecue to create an indescribable flavor.

Enjoying a bowl of hot bun cha with the fragrant meat that has just been fresh from oven at the restaurants on Hanoi streets will definitely be an unforgettable impression for you.

Bun cha Hanoi is served with the sweet sauce and grilled meat with raw vegetables

Bun cha Hanoi is served with the sweet sauce and grilled meat with raw vegetables

Suggested Bun restaurant:

  • Bún cha Huong Lien: 24 Le Văn Huu, Phan Chu Trinh, Hai Ba Trung, Hanoi
  • Bún Cha Cua Dong: 41 Cua Dong, Hoan Kiem District, Ha Noi
  • Bún cha Dac Kim: 1 Hang Manh, Hoan Kiem District, Ha Noi

Bun Bo Hue

Bun Bo Hue

Bun Bo Hue: The broth was thoroughly stewed with pork sausage, cow bone combined with the signature sauce of Hue made this delicious bowl of Hue beef noodle soup attractive

Bun Bo Hue is a signature dish in Hue, the former capital of Vietnam. The main ingredients of the dish are vermicelli, beef, pork rolls, a characteristic red broth with lemongrass, and sauces. The sweetness of the broth is combined with the ingredients to create an attractive harmony of dishes. Enjoying a bowl of hot bun bo is the most attractive thing when you come to Hue.

Suggested Bun Bo Hue restaurants:

  • Bun bo MRS Tuyet: 47 Nguyen Cong Tru, TP. Hue, Hue
  • Bun bo Hue O Cuong Chu Diep: 6 Tran Thuc Nhan, TP Hue, Hue
  • Quan Cam – Bun Bo Hue: 45 Le Loi, Tp Hue, Hue

Bun Thit Nuong from Saigon

BUN THIT NUONG FROM SAI GON

Coming to Saigon, you will be fascinated by the fragrant barbecue scent of the roadside barbecue vermicelli shops. Make you not restrained, just a bowl of vermicelli filled with golden grilled meat fragrant with lemongrass, green vegetables, and the sweet-salty taste of chili fish sauce with sour food and peanuts blending together, so the dish is hard to resist.

The attraction of these vermicelli bowls is that the grilled meat is marinated with spices to create an attractive aroma and served with raw vegetables rich in vitamins. You won’t forget its taste once you try.

Suggested Bun restaurant:

  • Quán Bun thit nuong anh Ba: 126 Le Van Sy, Ward 10, Phu Nhuan District, City. HCM City
  • Bun thit nuong Hai Dang: 145 – 157 Chan Hung, Ward 6, Tan Binh District, City. HCM City

2 – Pho Spring Roll with Beef

Pho spring roll is a dish derived from pho, first appeared at the Pho restaurant at Ngu Xa intersection, Nguyen Khac Hieu street, Hanoi. This night pho shop is open to serve midnight football viewers and night-shift workers. One day, a visitor came to the restaurant to enjoy the night noodle. The shop ran out of broth, only a few noodles left. Creatively, the shop owner has taken the unshredded pho, let it dry, then rolled it with stir-fried beef, herbs and not forget to add a bowl of flavorful dipping sauce. After enjoying, the customer complimented the owner for his delightful and impressive food creation, and that was how rolled pho was born.

Since then, pho spring roll has made a mark in the hearts of the people of Hanoi and has become a unique culinary culture that not only locals but also tourists love.

Pho spring roll

Pho spring roll is very simple, the wrap rolls the ingredients including beef, eggs, sausage, cucumber, carrot, lettuce, and cilantro. The indispensable highlight of the bowl of sweet and sour sauce creates a cool, rich taste that is cleverly prepared according to the seller’s own secret. Pho spring roll is not too hot, can be eaten all year round, especially suitable for vegetable lovers or vegetarians (without meat). The most suitable address to enjoy this dish is on Ngu Xa Street, Hanoi

Suggested Pho restaurant:

  • Pho cuon Huong Mai: No. 25 Ngu Xa, Hanoi

3 – Mien

Slightly different from Bun and Pho spring roll, Mien is a type of dry fiber food that can be produced from different grains or mixed with special grains made from Dong tree Vietnamese (Dong is a tree with purple stems, purple tubers, and red flowers). Mien is one of the indispensable dishes of Vietnamese people, especially on holidays and important holidays. Mien is made from different ingredients but mainly made from dong flour, thin, tough, not crumbled fibers, and when soaked in water, it will expand. In addition, there are Mien made from green bean flour, rice flour… Vermicelli is processed by Vietnamese people into many different dishes such as: fried Mien, mixed Mien … combined with other ingredients like herbs and vegetables to create attractive dishes. Many Mien crafting villages, which have existed for a long time, they still retain traditional crafting Mien recipes., creating thin, tough Mien fibers that retain the flavor after processing.

(Mien production village in Cam Binh commune, Cam Thuy District, Thanh Hoa, Viet Nam on the main service)

(Mien production village in Cam Binh commune, Cam Thuy District, Thanh Hoa, Viet Nam on the main service)

Nau-mien-nam-ga

(Mien soup with mushrooms and meat in a cool broth)

Suggested Mien Restaurant

  • Mien mixed Vu Ngoc Phan: Lane 36 Vu Ngoc Phan, Dong Da District, Hanoi
  • Mien: No 01, Chan Cam, Hoan Kiem District, Hanoi

Writer: Nguyen Thi Minh Ly

I spent more than three months in Vietnam – one of the most favorite nations in my Asian trip. Vietnam’s visa regulations and procedures are different from neighboring countries such as China, Cambodia and Laos, so you should research carefully. In this article, I have collected most important information on how to apply for a Vietnam visa from my experience. You will see that this is the cheapest, simplest way to get a Vietnamese visa for your trip.

Let me be clear, I am just a tourist rather than a visa expert. So, in case you have any questions related to business visas or other complicated problems, you should contact the nearest Vietnamese Embassy or Consulates. I only have experience in tourist visa, so I cannot advise you on the registration process for business visas or work permits in Vietnam. Visa regulations are different for different nationalities, so you need to check Vietnam’s requirements for your citizenship. You can easily find this on Vietnamvisaagency.com by entering your citizenship.

When planning your trip to Vietnam, here/there are several things you should consider. Selecting the appropriate type of visa depends on at least (1) How long is your trip?, ( 2) Do you want to visit other countries during your Vietnam trip and then return to Vietnam, and (3) How do you travel to Vietnam? In this article, I will explain everything related to the visa that I have been through. First, below are some visa types that you should know:

  • E-visa: A general term for a visa online order directly from Vietnam Immigration Department.
  • Visa On Arrival: You buy an online approval letter and take it with you on the trip. The real visa will be issued as you arrive at any airport in Vietnam. (Note: this applies only when you travel to Vietnam by plane)
  • Embassy visa : You buy a complete visa with a stamp at a Vietnamese embassy or consulate before your trip.
  • Single entry visa: You are able to enter Vietnam 1 time. The visa will be invalid after you leave the country, even if the validity period has not expired.
  • Multiple entry visa : You can exit/enter Vietnam many times within the validity period of the visa.

Some nationalities can use the 15-day visa exemption in Vietnam. This means that for 15-day or shorter trips, you do not need a Vietnamese visa. Therefore, you should check if your nationality is eligible visa exemption or not.

Vietnam tourist visas can be issued for the period of one or three months (particularly 1-year period for US citizens). Please keep in mind that you can’t apply for Vietnamese visas at the border like in Cambodia.

Theoretically, you should always have a return air ticket from Vietnam. But in my experience, tickets are asked mainly at airports rather than at the land borders. However, if you want to guarantee problem-free arrival at the border, book a return air ticket in advance. Your passport must be valid for 6 months from the date of entry.

Time of the trip

Less than 15 days

This section only applies to nationalities that are entitled to 15-day visa exemption. If your trip lasts less than 15 days, you will receive a stamp on your passport indicating the end day of your authorized stay. For example, if you enter Vietnam on October 1, you will receive an exit seal on October 15, which means you have to leave Vietnam on this day. The important thing to remember is that under the new visa regulations, you have 30 days of standby time after every 15-day visa exemption. This means you have to stay a month outside Vietnam before using the visa exemption again. If you want to return to Vietnam before this period, you must apply for a visa.

A 15-day visa exemption is also available when traveling to Vietnam on land. I’ve heard some stories about immigration officials requiring a visa without reasons at a land border. If you face this situation, you should not give up but ask to clarify the situation. Usually, this is not a problem.

15 days to 3 months

You can get a tourist visa for 1 month or 3 months in Vietnam. The same registration process applies for both periods. In addition, the price difference between these two visas is not significant. If there is any reason that your trip can be prolonged to more 1 month, you should buy a visa for three months!
You can choose between single-entry visa and multiple-entry one, the latter will be more expensive the one-time entry visa. If you do plan to travel around Vietnam, Laos, and Cambodia, you should choose a multiple-entry visa.
You will select a valid starting date at the time of visa purchase. You can enter Vietnam at any time between the first and last validity date of the visa .

How do I travel to Vietnam?

You can get an online tourist visa to Vietnam like ” Visa On Arrival” or one at the Vietnamese embassy in your country or abroad. Many travel agencies also offer visa service for a small fee .

Fly to an international airport

If you will fly to one of the international airports in Vietnam, you can use “Visa On Arrival” or embassy visa . International airports in Vietnam are Noi Bai airport in Hanoi, Tan Son Nhat airport in Ho Chi Minh City, Da Nang airport in Da Nang, Cam Ranh airport in Nha Trang and Cat Bi airport in Hai Phong. Compared to other choices, buying online “Visa On Arrival” – the electronic visa is the simplest, quick and cheapest way. So this is my recommended option to apply for a Vietnamese visa. The only downside to ” Visa On Arrival ” is that you have to queue up at the airport (for procedures and stamp fees) while the embassy visa is ready to use immediately.

There are many online Vietnamese visa websites such as vietnamvisa.org.vn, getvisavietnam.com, vietnamvisa.pro … but VietnamVisaAgency.com is a reasonable choice with a good reputation. I have not got a visa from this website, however, this is according to ratings on the company’s Facebook page, good reviews on Tripadvisor of those having used their service. While getting online visa, you have to pay the service fee depending on your visa type. Processing time is usually 2 days, but you can also do it faster by paying an extra fee to use expedited service within 4 hours or 8 hours.

Once your visa has been processed, you will receive a letter of acceptance to your email, then only have to print it out. When arriving at an airport in Vietnam, as you pay the fee for visa stamp and show your visa approval letter to immigration officials, you will get your visa and ready to start your exciting trip in Vietnam. For a single month visa, online service costs $18 and airport stamp fee costa $25, so the total charge is $43 . You can see the full price list here.

Travel by land, sea or air

If you travel to Vietnam by land (by coach), on the sea (by cruise) you cannot use “Visa On Arrival” but have to apply for a visa at the embassy.

When I first arrived in Vietnam, I flew from South Korea to Hai Phong. Because I stayed here less than two weeks, I did not need a visa at that time. The next time, I stayed longer in Vietnam and traveled on land so I applied for three-month period Vietnamese visa at the Embassy in Siem Reap, Cambodia. This type of visa costs $ 55 each. You can also get a Vietnamese visa in many other Asian countries. Besides the embassies, travel agencies, air ticket offices also offer visa service.

If you are planning a long trip to Asia, and if Vietnam is not the first country you come, I recommend getting a visa on the go. It may be cheaper in Asian countries and also allows you more flexibility. Travel plans tend to change constantly when you are already on the go. If you already buy a visa for a long time before, you may regret later.

In summary, I must say even though getting a visa for the first time seems complicated, it’s not really difficult. Regardless of the visa you need, the most important thing is to process your visa as soon as possible before your trip. Oh, and one more thing: let’s travel to Vietnam! It is a great country with warm-hearted people and affordable cost.

Born in a family of making and selling traditional silk to the French during the colonial time, Ms. Phan Thi Thuan has started weaving since she was six. 3 years ago, she brought silk waving to a next level by successfully researching and producing lotus silk, which from an often discarded part of the lotus plant – lotus stalk.

The below picture, featured on The Jakarta Post, is an image of artisan Phan Thi Thuan looking for discarded lotus stalks to create the most unique and expensive silk in the world.

Mrs. Thuan said that this predestined relationship to weaving fabrics from lotus silk was accidental. In 2017, when the National Assembly delegates together with My Duc district officials visited the production facility, a female delegate suggested Ms. Thuan try researching and creating silk products with lotus silk. “At first, I felt it was very strange because I had never heard of this product. But after searching on the internet, I found out weaving silk from lotus silk is common and quite popular in Myanmar ”, Ms. Thuan shared.

The process of making lotus silk always requires meticulousness and sophistication, Thuan elaborated. On average, a large silk scarf needs about 9,200 lotus stalks, which took a worker about 2 months to finally complete. And the results are quite worth it: A normal silk scarf costs about $20, meanwhile, for a silk lotus scarf this figure will be 10 times more.

In the past, people often had to work hard for hours to clear the rotting stalks on the lotus field to avoid damaging the soil and the emergence of harmful insects. But thanks to her foresight, she has brought Vietnam traditional silk weaving products to a new level. Currently, Mrs. Thuan has a workshop with about 20 workers, mostly women, to pick up stalks on lotus fields, before splitting and rolling it into yarn.

Although lotus silk has been produced in a few countries, including Myanmar and Cambodia, Ms. Thuan is still considered as a pioneer in this creative field in Vietnam.

At the same time, Ms. Thuan also organizes training sessions for students during their breaks, in the hope of creating a dynamic space for this traditional field.

Ms. Nguyen Thi Xoa, 40 years old, was guided by Ms. Thuan in 2017 and now she wants her children to follow her career. She shared: “Although this job was very difficult for me at first, now I love it. This is a stable job and I am proud of my work.”

Translator: Linh Vuong

Source: Dan tri and Cafe Biz

Tho Ha is a village that represents the soul of Vietnam. This is an ideal place to sense the simple rustic and warmth of our homeland, therefore, by the time you have to leave, you will be filled with a feeling of regret for wanting to stay longer.

Tho Ha Village

Tho Ha is the name of a famous pottery village in ancient days, which is located in Van Ha commune, Viet Yen district, Bac Giang province. Through the ups and downs of history and the destruction of time, Tho Ha still keeps its ancient, moss features, in company with unique cultural activities bearing Vietnamese identity.

As one of the three oldest pottery centers of Vietnam, Tho Ha village was once famous for its household wares, jars, pots, crockery,.. in glory days. Tho Ha pottery has its own unique features: high degree of porcelain, water repellency, bell-like sound with smooth, warm, and familiar red-brown enamel color. Additionally, the pottery also has stood the test of the time even though it is buried in the ground or immersed in water.

Tho Ha Village

Today, vestiges of pottery-making that were well-known a long time ago are still found in the alley walls, house walls built of broken pottery fragments and waste porcelain. Coming to the village, we still see the old village roads, the mossy roof along with the reservation of the curved temple’s roof. Tho Ha Pagoda is a national-level monument recognized in 1960.

From the 1960s of the twentieth century, locals at Tho Ha village gradually changed to make rice crackers (Bánh đa) and rice noodles (Mì gạo) for living. This job has brought to local people a more stable life and income. As rice crackers are needed to keep from drying too much but not too wet also, villagers often bring them out to dry in the early morning and clean them up when the sun is high in the sky. The small alleys of Tho Ha become a convenient drying place, attracting numerous photographers to take pictures of “bánh đa” that are arranged horizontally and vertically.

Tho Ha Village

Held once every 2 years on Jan 20 to 22 in Lunar Calendar, the spring festival is a large procession, this procession is colorful with kép tuồng, eight sound ward, “sinh tien” dance, chess and sword man,… and also the image of three God of Happiness, Wealth, and Health slowly walking in the joy of the villagers. All of these things form the most unique feature of Kinh Bac region.

How to go to Tho Ha village? You go along Highway 1 from Chuong Duong Bridge, Hanoi to about 30km to the North. When arriving at Bac Ninh bus station, you continue to go along Thien Duc street about 3km more through Van Phuc ferry station, across the Cau river to reach Tho Ha village.

Were it not for the pandemic, my daughter Wolf and I would have spent the summer travelling to Beijing, Shanghai, Hangzhou, and Chongqing. But with borders closed, we came up with Plan B: visiting five national parks from Vietnam’s north to south: Cat Ba and Cuc Phuong in the north, Phong Nha and Bach Ma in the central region, and Nam Cat Tien in the south.

Ten-year-old Wolf loved Lan Ha Bay

THROUGH A CHILD’S EYES: Ten-year-old Wolf loved Lan Ha Bay and the ‘secret valleys’ surrounded by limestone karst mountains. VNS Photo Thu Quynh

The return of COVID-19, however, also put a stop to that. But not before we had at least enjoyed the beauty of Cat Ba National Park.

Cat Ba National Park

Every summer we plan to go somewhere, so little Wolf can experience the life, culture, and people of different places and pick up the skills needed to live close to nature.

We embark upon a trip whenever possible, and Wolf’s first was when she was just a few months old.

Spanning more than 150 square kilometres, Cat Ba National Park is one of the best protected areas in the country in terms of biodiversity, with the tropical and sub-tropical ecologies common to Asia. It also has the karst geology typical to the region — a vast area of rainforest on limestone karst structures, with mangrove forests, large coral reefs, tidal zones, and salt water lakes.

The park has all that’s necessary to become a global geopark: beautiful pristine beaches, unique caves with stalactites and stalagmites, and a diverse biological gene pool. It’s a whole world for nature lovers to explore.

Tours and treks are available, and no entry tickets are required, despite what many people think.

But it is, however, a protected zone, for it contains protected flora and fauna, and you need a ticket to get in.

On Cat Ba Island you can walk from one ecological zone to another within a day. You can move from rainforests on limestone karsts to mangrove forests in mountains (at Ao Ếch). You can also walk from a mangrove forest by the seaside for a swim around coral reefs near the shore. You can then explore caves to search for the home of thousands of bats or take a walk through fields of crops grown in valleys by local farmers.

Such biodiversity makes Cat Ba National Park worth a visit any time of the year.

IDYLLIC SURROUNDINGS

IDYLLIC SURROUNDINGS: The ‘butterfly valley’ is the best spot to explore nature. VNS Photo Thu Quynh

When little Wolf was six years old, I started to let her do a little web searching to choose where we would stay on our trips. She always looked for somewhere with distinctive features and attractions, and even decided where we would eat.

To avoid busy Cat Ba Town, we stayed in chill bungalows in a pine forest 15km away, which felt like another world.

Each bungalow is hidden under tall pine trees, with dried pine needle making a soft carpet for you to step on. In front of each is a hammock, where you can lie and look up at the sky through the foliage.

The back of our bungalow looked out over a small stream, where it was possible to bathe in the cool water. There was also a little trekking route, for those keen to stretch the legs but wary of the harsh sun.

Three Giant Peaches on Lan Ha Bay

TAKING CARE: Beware of whirlpools when kayaking around ‘Three Giant Peaches’ on Lan Ha Bay. VNS Photo Thu Quynh

Green island, white clouds

After some thought, we decided to get around Cat Ba by motorbike, which is the best way of doing so. Though we rode around under the scorching July sun, the sea breeze kept us cool.

Walking up Mt Ngu Lam turned out to be more challenging than we expected. It was only a kilometre and a half, but there were no steps. It was so steep we had to grab on to rocks to climb. It turned out to be too much for ten-year-old Wolf. The surface was slippery and more dangerous than she or even I could handle. Though she wanted to give it a try, I decided we should turn around.

We stopped at a café shortly after, where the owner told us we had made the right decision. Just a few days prior, a young girl older than Wolf had slipped and ended up in hospital. Needless to say, I felt quite lucky. I always want my child to take on a challenge, but only if it’s actually within her abilities.

Having missed out on the peak of Mt Ngu Lam, Wolf learned what she could about rare and precious wood trees like lát hoa (Chukrasia tabularis A.Juss), which provides a beautiful finish thanks to its wavy grain. She also learned about ironwood and menghundor, which are just some of the many valuable woods found in tropical jungles.

She had a fun time trying to poke at the bushes. Whenever she touched them, the leaves would slowly fold. When they opened up again, she made them fold again. She also came across a butterfly with quite strange colours.

For those of you who like a bit of a thrill, there’s a peculiar sight in the park — an abandoned house near the entrance. Park employees used to live there, but they had to move elsewhere out of respect for the protected zone.

Under a rotting roof, all doors and windows had long since been lost and the paint on the walls had faded. It had a vintage yet gloomy feeling, like a haunted house in a ghost story. It would have served well as a background for ghost-themed photos too, but those rotting tiles could literally come crashing down at any time.

Later that day we found ourselves lost in a “butterfly valley”. Located in Lien Minh Commune, the valley was exceptionally tranquil — a large flat expanse surrounded by tall karst mountains. Thousands of butterflies fly about around noon, creating a beautiful and appealing scene for a curious child like Wolf.

It’s also a popular spot for expats and foreign tourists keen on rock climbing. Wolf also got to see cattle drinking water for the first time, and enjoyed watching buffaloes take a cool bath. If you ever find yourself in Cat Ba, remember to spend a few hours or even an entire afternoon just hanging out in this wonderful valley. It has a distinct vibe and aura not found elsewhere.

Reaching it requires navigating a few steep slopes, which always gets the heart racing. But I’d taken on steeper slopes in the northwestern mountains, so these were quite manageable.

The path leading to the valley starts out in Cat Ba’s main street, stretching for 35km and connecting the town with Cat Hai. We fell in love with the beautiful landscapes we encountered along the way, and came to the conclusion that motorbike is by far the best way to take in everything the island has to offer.

Once in a while, we had a bonus — giant white clouds fluttering overhead like enormous cotton candy. It felt like heaven!

During our days on Cat Ba we had cloud parties, with white cloud dawns and pink cloud sunsets. We felt like rubbing our heads in these soft bundles of joy and wanted so much to somehow reel one in and keep it. It might seem silly, but we’re not ashamed to say it out loud!

Seas around Cat Ba and Lan Ha Bay

Cat Ba’s beaches are known for their spectacular white sands, crystal clear waters, and soft waves lapping ashore. But the island has so much more to offer than just lazing on the beach.

The Cat Ba Ecolodge

SERENE SPOT: The Cat Ba Ecolodge, where we stayed while exploring the national park. VNS Photo Thu Quynh

We decided to rent a small boat and set sail. The sky was a deep blue at some point, but quickly turned to grey and then became quite dark. The sea began to swell, but retained its beauty.

The waves were making it a rough ride for Wolf. She became tired and a little bit seasick. But the sight of Cai Beo Village — one of Vietnam’s oldest and largest fishing villages and still fit for purpose — lifted her spirits.

Boats have bobbed up and down in the waters here for, historians say, as long as 7,000 years. Their different colours make Cai Beo simply beautiful. As our boat approached, it felt as though we were heading towards a 3D image.

Wolf got to see lives different from her own, all happening on the limited space of a boat’s deck. Her jaw dropped at the sight of kids her age swimming like fish or rowing boats with such skill and ease. The kids jumped quickly from one boat to another, each of which seemed to have one or two dogs, who barked cheerfully when the visitors — Wolf and I — arrived.

After passing Cai Beo Village we were in Lan Ha Bay. The karst islands that dot the bay come in more shapes and sizes than you could possibly imagine and are a true wonder of the world. Nestled on some of the karst islands were small beaches that have remained untouched by tourism all these years.

It’s also heaven for rock climbers and those who like to dive into water from great heights. The most famous rock — known as the Leaning Tower — has a steady stream of people climbing up and then plunging into the sea. A group of bungalows nearby house the rock climbers and other adventurous types.

Cai Beo Village we were in Lan Ha Bay

TRIED & TRUE: Cai Beo fishing village, one of the country’s oldest, where you can enjoy giant garupa. VNS Photo Le Thu Quynh

Some of the karst islands have “secret valleys”, which can only be accessed by passing through caves. When the tide is high, though, grottos can also become submerged, and our destination, Coca rocks, became out of reach. So we rowed into one of these secret valleys instead.

There you can keep rowing or stop and take a break. There was a tree high above in full bloom, its white flowers exuding a sweet fragrance. Wolf fell asleep after the rough boat trip, perhaps dreaming of new destinations to come.

I lay down, contemplating our surroundings. It was like being in a place with no connection at all to the “real world” we occupy every day of our lives.

(Source: VNS)


Le Thu Quynh* (Le Thu Quynh is known among the travel community in Vietnam as Kìn Còi, the influencer)

There is no jostling as well as no bargaining scene. Everyone, from sellers to buyers, comes here just to pray for luck and look forward to a year full of fortune.

1. Khau Vai love market (Chợ tình Khâu Vai)

Near the end of the third lunar month, on the Ha Giang rocky plateau, everyone whether woman or man, old or young people, and visitors from around the world gather at Khau Vai Market, which is in Khau Vai village that located 200km from Ha Giang city, to join a unique love market in Vietnam.

Held only on the 27th in the 3rd lunar month, this traditional night market of the Mong people has existed for a long time. At the beginning, it was a place for people who had unfinished love to reunite with each other for one night. In the next morning, when the market was over, they came home to get back with their husbands or wives, without any jealousy or reproach. Today, Khau Vai love market is a place for people to gather, make friends, as well as exchange goods.

2. Nam Dinh Vieng Market (Chợ Viềng Nam Định)

Vieng Market, a long-standing market, also takes place only once a year, on the 7th night and the 8th day of the 1st lunar month, in Nam Truc and Vu Ban District in Nam Dinh Province. This special market attracts thousands of travelers each year to come here to “attract good luck, sell out bad luck”.

Since people go to the market simply for good luck, with a wish to have a favorable year of rain, wind, and prosperity; therefore, both sellers and buyers when shopping are not serious about trading. Previously, Vieng Market only sold farm tools, especially famous for knives, axes, plowshares, … Nowadays people have brought to market many diverse types of products to make it even more exciting.

3. Hanoi Antique Market (Phiên chợ đồ cổ, Hà Nội)

Held annually only from 23 to 30 in the 12th lunar month, this market meets at the crossroads of 5 streets of Hang Ma, Hang Luoc,… In addition to pottery, items on sale here are diverse: antique and bronze imitation items dating from dozens to several hundred years ago, along with all kinds of worship, Buddha statues or bronze statues, bronze tops,…. Although it is called a market, it only has some small stalls with no signs. Customers come here mainly to buy home decorative items or just to stroll and hang out on the Tet holidays. This is also a year-end rendezvous for antique enthusiasts.

However, you must notice that real and copycat products here are mixed up. Thus, only knowledgeable people can distinguish and accurately price the item.

4. Bac Ninh Yin Yang Market (Chợ Âm Dương, Bắc Ninh)

The market takes place from the night of the 4th day to early morning of the 5th day in Lunar Tet in O village, which is Xuan O village, Vo Cuong Ward, Bac Ninh City. Local legend has it that this is a rare opportunity for the dead and the living to meet, considered as an occasion to do good deeds to the dead.

Next to a sacred temple, the market begins at night on an empty ground without any vendors. Many market-goers often bring a chicken as a scapegoat. They don’t bargain, and we just heard them whisper small and loud. This is a form of cultural activities imbued with spiritual beliefs which is very typical of the Kinh Bac region.

5. Thanh Hoa Thieu Market (Chợ Thiều, Thanh Hóa)

Thieu Market is held in Thieu Xa village, Cau Loc commune, Hau Loc on the morning of the 26th day in the 12th month following the lunar calendar. The main items sold in the market are rural products such as glutinous rice, coconut leaves, dong leaves, and vegetables,… For wishing luck, people who go to the market also do not bargain for the best price.

Previously, Thieu Market was held right next to the river bank to facilitate waterway transportation. Thieu Xa village now unified to hold this market in Thieu pagoda. Thus, travellers would have an opportunity to learn not only about the culture but also admire the ancient features of the pagoda.

6. Bich La Market (Chợ đình Bích La, Quảng Trị)

Held from the night of the 2nd until the dawn of the 3rd, this market has existed for hundreds of years, as a traditional custom of people in Trieu Phong district.

On Lunar New Year, everyone comes here simply to pray for luck. Absolutely no bargaining or haggling back and forth happens.

Items sold in the market are just local produce such as betel nut, salt, tea, sugarcane,.. to wish for a lucky year with a lot of fortune

7. Go Market (Chợ Gò) – Trường Úc, Bình Định

Unlike other markets, Go market meets on the first day of Lunar New Year. It is held like a festival as well as a unique cultural exchange place in Binh Dinh, the land of martial arts.

Goods brought to the market are just fish, vegetables or fruits in the local’s garden. Though that is just a lovely excuse for shoppers to meet, and wish each other a happy new year.


If you are curious about Vietnam’s culture, please discover with other topics here:

A land of 54 ethnic groups with marvelous hill-tribe villages and rice-field mountains and deltas, diversified authentically local-touch experience, hotspot for foodies, stupendously endless coastline and wildly magnificent landscapes, Vietnam is among the fastest growing destinations in 2017 and 2018.

WHY Vietnam?

AUTHENTICITY

Life in Vietnam entails the right mix between emerging, modern world-class facilities of skyscrapers and tranquil state of rural areas with paddy fields and grass-fed buffaloes.

As you enjoy sandy beaches that are not yet overcrowded by tourists, you can obtain hands-on experiences such as planting vegetables and rice, cooking eco-host culinary dinner, or simply street-walking to observe Vietnamese daily activities of having their hair-cut by street barbers, buying flowers from vendors or dining out on pavement stools. In mountainous areas, you can trek to witness Vietnamese ethnic minorities with their own clothes and huge baskets on shoulders climbing on steep slopes or working diligently on terraced paddy fie­­lds.

CULINARY

Kotler recommended Vietnam as the “kitchen of the world”Bourdain invited Obama to taste the-best bun cha. Vietnamese dishes offer the perfect blend of spices and healthy ingredients. Their taste is balanced out between sweet and salt, spicy and sour. Meat and vegetables are freshly collected from early morning markets from 5 to 6 AM. We can easily savor the best noodle soup – phở, the best coffee – egg coffee, the best sandwich of the world – banh my, the best street food or enjoy CNN’s recommendation of the best 40 dishes in Vietnam.

ADVENTURE

Well-known for its diverse and distinct topography, Vietnam hosts various adventurous trips ranging from soft to hard ones, namely walking, running, biking, trekking, sky-diving, wind-surfing on its picturesque delta, mountain and sea. Not only is Son Doong the world largest breath-taking cave, it is also unique for its own weather system and historic cave pearls. Ha Giang, the northernmost frontier,  possesses harmony between limestone pinnacles, rice terraces, and buckwheat flowers. Other  adventurous destinations include Mai Chau, Pu Luong, Dac Lac, Kon Tum, which capture the heart of the bravest and most explorative tourists.

AND …

Well-carved in the mind of American veterans, Vietnam offers enriching  local experience that reminds many of the historic Vietnam War. Tourists can also become fascinated with Vietnam arts, or simply with its best golf courses.

Ranked as top 3 economies with the fastest growth in Asia, Vietnam held APEC 2017 in Danang and saw its large potential for MICE.

A variety of worldly hospitality groups  from Marriott, Hilton, InterContinental, Accor and local high quality brands to community-based tourism accommodation help Vietnam tailor the most exquisite experience to different groups of customers.

For family travel, children can enjoy playing in safaris and aquariums, water parks and game centers. Meanwhile, adults can cultivate deeper understanding of Vietnam World Heritages and culture through world-renowned shows such as  water puppet, “My Village“, “AO Show” or the marvelous 300-500-artist performance of “Tonkin” and “Hoi An Impression“.

Many travelers consider Vietnam as one of the safest in the world due to its thousand-year village-culture that forges a deep sense of community and stability as secured by one-party governance.  Vietnam is one of the friendliest places on earth with helpful, hospitable people who would go the extra miles to help you discover Vietnam – timeless charm.

For further support regarding visa requirements to travel to Vietnam, please log on to www.vietnamembassy-usa.org (visa section), email to visatovn@vietnamembassy.us, or call us at +1202 716 8666.

There are many posts about travel to Hoi An that you can easily find on websites of travel agencies. Some other posts of travel-bloggers,travel-magazines also are interesting and helpful. Contributing as a reference source for you, I want to share with you what I did and you also do when traveling in Hoi An for the first time. But actually I spent a lot of time planning this Hoian trip and it acted more wonderful than I thought. So, keep reading to refer to what to do in Hoian.

Wander In The Ancient Town

Hoian ancient town is something very magnificent Its landscape is so picturesque that I was impressed with yellow golden houses, colorful lantern lines and glorious bougainvillea trees. There are not many motorbikes here. Both tourists and residents seem to be interested in cycling around the town. Along streets have many clothing shops, café shops, painting shops or tailor-made shops. Hoian is famous for Ao dai (Vietnam traditional custom) which is often made to fit your body by skillful tailors. They sewed Ao dai for me just within 5-6 hours. That is the most souvenir I love. Besides, Hoian also possesses some historic relics, ancient houses. You can wander on streets, alleys to take as many photos as possible. Every corner is a perfect and impressive background.

Note: The entrance fee is 120.000 VNĐ for one adult and is free with children. You will choose 5 sights in a total of 22 sights in the ancient town.

Visit Hoi An Market

Yes. I swear that visiting the local market is must-do activity  in each of my trips. If you come to the local market, this is the best way you see firsthand the slide of daily life. Remember to come here in the early morning because the market at this time doesn’t have many tourists and you will see the busy scene of locals setting up goods.

This experience I learned after I came to Hoi An market at noon,the market is big but I don’t see anything special called “To immerse into local culture” as I know. In fact, the time to visit the market is important. Then, I came back the next early morning.

But if you want to market to buy things, you can visit at the end of the day. That time, the market is quieter, fewer people, easier to purchase. The last thing, don’t forget to bargain. That is an amazing quiz.

Here is the location of Hoi An market on the map: https://bom.to/E4KQPw

Relax On Beach

It is An Bang beach. An Bang beach is defined for a beach to relax in Hoian, if not, I don’t know what is. An Bang has white sandbar, clear water and a view of far-flung mountains. There are few tourists, vendors on the beach, no noisy sounds from sunbathers. You can walk along the beach and feel peaceful moments.

To fully enjoy An Bang beach, you can choose a beach side restaurant where you can lay on a lounger, view beach, sip up drinks and sample some food. But some restaurants you will feel that if you use their lounges for free, you have to order drinks. It’s really uncomfortable. Wind and Moon restaurants can be one choice for you. They are happy and don’t take any pressure for me to order their drinks immediately though I lay on a lounger for a long time. I mean This is not a money problem, what I find is comfort.

Stroll Around Night Market

It’s so regrettable if you don’t come to the night market. I don’t know whether you visited Hanoi night market before but in Hoian, it is greater with thousands of lantern lighting up. The market  opens from 5 pm to 11 pm but you should come here when the dark goes down, lanterns look like stars.

When buying things, you should bargain. Don’t worry about it, it’s normal in Vietnam. I felt like the winner when I bought a jacket at my price. What an amazing game! So,how do you efficiently bargain? You can refer here 

Cycle Around The Ancient Town and Through Pastry Fields

Just get up in the early morning, jump up to a bicycle, you will have an authentic experience as locals in Hoian. While other tourists were sleeping, I was cycling through fields, around the ancient town. It is a great chance to breathe fresh air and get a look closer to locals.

I saw a woman hanging wet washing on the clothesline, a fisherman drawing their net on the beach and so on.

You can rent a bicycle at your hotel if they offer or there are a lot of bicycle-hire-shops in the ancient town.

Sample As Many Dishes As You Can

I am starving when I think about dishes in Hoian. I am a little bit jealous of residents because they can eat it every day. They are dumplings stuffed with pork, shrimp, Banh Mi filled with a lot of fillings, noodle soup with rich broth, fresh seafood, etc. Let’s try as many foods as you can, some dishes you just only try original taste here are com ga (Vietnamese chicken rice), Cao Lau and more.

Important Note Vietnam Visa 

Vietnam visa: Firstly, you need to check whether you are required for a Vietnam visa or not. With me, I applied for a Vietnam visa on arrival from a travel company. They show me the way to fill information into an online application. It’s just 2 working days and they sent me a visa approval letter via email. Then I print that letter out, present at Immigration Counter at the airport as soon as you arrive and get a stamp visa. For further information, you can refer to Vietnamvisa.org.vn.

P/s: I hope all the information above will be helpful for you. These days, I stay at home because of the spreading of coronavirus. Watch again photos taken in Hoian, and feel that I miss that place a lot. Sure, I will come back to Vietnam, Hoi An after the pandemic.

Pu Luong is a picture of bold green nature. It is not just the green of forests and hills, but also the early terraced fields. Each of the green patches connected along the horizon, creating a green, vibrant and energetic scenery that makes anyone visiting Pu Luong must be fascinated. Pu Luong’s climate is especially fresh, creating an airy feeling that makes any tourist must love Pu Luong so incredible. Going beyond the bondage, the smog of the city, returning to Pu Luong is returning to the peaceful, pure colour. Having a vacation, ignoring the daily hardships in Pu Luong, visitors will surely be extremely comfortable and feel the peace that nature brings here. For those who love the thrills, you can choose to travel through the core zone of Pu Luong Nature Reserve, camping, playing in Don village.

Da Trang Pass

Da Trang Pass

Da Trang Pass

Before coming to Pu Luong, everyone can stop at Thung Khe Pass to take some pictures with the snowy mountains. The reason for such a unique sight is because this place is originally a karst mountain area, when cutting the mountain to pave the way, rocks from the top slide down the mountain pass, creating a snow-white scenery.

Don village

Don village

Don village

Don village is known as a tourist site for community and eco-tourism for many years. However, in recent years, more tourists visit and stay in Don village. Foreign visitors love coming here because they can explore the pristine natural landscape and unique culture of indigenous people. From Don village, visitors can walk or rent a motorbike to travel to other tourist destinations such as Ban Hieu (with Hieu waterfall), Muong Kho village (exploring Bat cave).

Hieu waterfall

Hieu waterfall

Hieu waterfall

Ban Hieu is one of the most beautiful waterfalls in central Viet Nam. It makes many tourists curious to come to Pu Luong Thanh Hoa tours. The cliffs here create dozens of cascades when the water pours white foam. Because the water flows from the depths, it is cool in the summer and warm in the winter. This is also a source of domestic water and irrigation for people in the vicinity. It has been for a long time in the minds of the people, Hieu waterfall has an extremely important position and role. A very special thing that Hieu waterfall attracts the curiosity of all tourists is that all the trees and objects where the water flows through are “petrified.”

Pho Doan fair

Pho Doan fair

Pho Doan fair

Phien Pho Doan Market and Hieu village will be on the same route for those staying on the Don or Thanh Son side when traveling to Pu Luong. This unique fair only meets exactly two mornings on Thursday and Sunday every week, and it always brings the excitement for every visitor to come back to Ba Thuoc highland district. Goods brought to the market range from traditional to modern, including “home-grown” products such as brocade, wine, handful of wild vegetables, oranges, crabs, snails, or hunted mice in the forest … always interested in buying and selling when going to the market.

Kho muong village

Kho muong village

Kho muong village

When referring to the Kho Muong village, people often refer to the Kho Muong slope, a slope that discourages anyone passing through, especially when the fog rains. Kho Muong is also known as a wild village with a mysterious Bat cave. Bat Muong cave is an important highlight of Kho Muong village. When you go through the hard and rocky roads, through dangerous ramps on the outside to enter here without visiting the cave, it will be a pity.

Son Da Muoi Village

Son Da Muoi Village

Son Da Muoi Village

Besides Pu Luong mountain peak, Son Da Muoi is also an amazing attraction that is parallel to the Pu Luong mountain circuit. Son – Ba – Muoi is known as a miniature Sa Pa of Xu Thanh. It has a mild climate throughout the year, the average temperature in the year from 18 – 22 degrees Celsius, sometimes snowy in winter, summer temperatures also drop very low. Besides, visitors can not only enjoy the beauty of a mountain region expressing boldly through ripe rice fields, villages nestled under palm trees, and the friendly hospitality of Thai and Muong born people. They also enjoy traditional dishes such as lam rice, banana flower mannequin, bitter soup, duck bamboo shoot, corn wine … and soak up the simple life.