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Archive for August, 2013

No, this is not about George Clooney with his romantic Up in the air story. I am trying to be serious and talk about planes .

Vietnam Airlines used to be the one and the only choice for travellers before. And with the open policy for private investment in aviation, there were a few rise and fall of some private airlines (a few years back is Indochina Airlines and recently Mekong Air). But that does not stop other investors in this sector hope for a better future of airlines, giving more choices for local and international travellers coming to Vietnam.

With some restrictions, most local travel agents wont be able to book you a ticket from your country to Vietnam. In fact they can, but the price will be more expensive. So find your own ticket from your country, and if you need help to fly domestically and fly within Asia from Vietnam, book with local ticketing offices here can have great deal.

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There have been a few questions about Airlines in Vietnam of who to fly with domestically and what are the differences, I have listed the below options, hope it may help for you to decide:

1. Vietnam Airlines: www.vietnamarilines.com still the most popular choice state-owned airline. With various destinations within Vietnam and long-haul flight to Europe, United States, the Pacific and in South East Asia. Vietnam airlines is also a team member of SkyTeam so take advance of your member card if you have one.

Vietnam airlines – most of the time – are punctual and have good services (with a few cases of bad weather cancellation only). Tickets has meals included (or light meal/water for short flight <2 hours). They allow 20kg check in baggage included in fare.  Baggage info can be found here:

http://www.vietnamairlines.com/wps/portal/en/site/before_you_fly/baggage_info/hand_baggage

Very important for shoppers: Excess baggage info can be found by clicking here:

Fare terms and rules, cancellation fees can be found here:

http://www.vietnamairlines.com/wps/portal/en/site/book_your_trip/fare_family_description/vietnam_domestic_itineraries/

Vietnam Airlines often have a few sale off season in a year, starting with Summer Promotion (around early April), Fall Promotion (around mid-Aug), and one flash deal right before Lunar New Year (which should be about late Jan depend on each year). The promotion is basically 50% off the normal price with non-refundable and non-changeable tickets.

For those who care more about the comfy seats on plane, Vietnam Airlines is still the best choice since they use Boeing 777 for the flight Hanoi – Ho Chi Minh City most of the times.

http://www.vietnamairlines.com/wps/portal/en/site/flight_info/fleet_information

2. Jetstar: http://www.jetstar.com a popular budget choice of travellers from Australia. Jetstar offers tickets as cheap as US$ 500-600 from Australia to Vietnam. So it may be a good idea for you to keep an eye by register for your updates. The price will need to put an add on of meals (for long haul flights) and baggage. So take a good look before you decide to go with Jetstar or Vietnam Airlines.

3. Vietjet Air: http://www.vietjetair.com The new face in aviation industry of Vietnam, established from 2011 but so far has been successful with their new active young crew (not to mention about the bikini performance on their first flight from Hanoi to the seaside Nha Trang, which they was fined later because perform show illegally). As a budget airline, Vietjet focus on price and has worked so hard on 2012 for its punctuality, then recently receive quite a few complaints about their delays. At the time this article is wrote, Vietjet has a promotion of 3,000 tickets with 3,000vnd each going on that kick the sales up in the last few days. VietJet has only launched Hanoi – Bangkok route as its first international leg.

Same with Jetstar, the price will need an add on of check in luggage and meals if needed.

Now the problem is:

Book it yourselves or through travel agencies, ticketing offices?

With the booming of all online tools like kayak, farecompare to search for your flights, and each airlines themselves also offer payment online easy and fast. Will the travel agents still be useful? The fair answer is still YES, BIG YES.  Because:

Any change in tickets / refund / cancellation can be a hassle to make since you have to be physically at the airline office.  The travel agent can save you this. With the fact of most airlines now do not pay commission to their agents anymore means you may have to pay a few dollars more for the service, But overall, I still think it is so much worth it. All you need to do is to call your travel agent to say what you want.  Why not save the time to enjoy the country rather than waiting / arguing and be annoyed at the airlines office?

Working with a real person and solve the problem is much better, do you agree?

Remember, this is Vietnam, and things can get more complicated than you expect  🙂

Have fun on the air, keep your ear plugs and drink a lot of water!

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Travelers to Vietnam during this season will often see lots of incenses to be burned in line with the foods to be prepared and displayed like the below pictures. What’s all about?

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There are more than one explanation for this festive. Some claim it is is Mid-year full moon ( the second most important festive just after Tet ), some claim the festive to pay gratitude to lost loved mothers while others say it is the season to think of all lost loved ones.

For whatever its origin, it’s undeniably a season for burning incenses. From the big cities like Saigon, Hanoi to small town feel Hoian, from a street side to a huge Buddhist temple, you can easily catch a picture of a burning incenses fire

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People has made it a strong belief that their lost loved ones can easily get what the alive send through the burning, from necessities as clothes, shoes, money to fancy stuffs as jeweleries, golden necklaces, iphone 5…etc. Steve Jobs must be happy to learn that many of his products are indispensable to the world of the deaths and in the form of incense papers.

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Every year, it is a repeat debate about how much has been wasted with this incense burning season. Statistics show that hundreds of billion Dongs gotta be burned after the festive and will likely be more in the future as incense manufactures are making more and more fancy incense stuffs, for example a Gulfstream you bet.

When I was a little boy, I was told that even the homeless souls will be welcome in this season, and that helps to answer why many of the praying, burning, offering are often in the street sides or in the pagodas. With this warm significance, burning little incenses, pray for others and sharing your kindness would always be a good practice and tradition. Just make sure you don’t celebrate it extravagantly. Save your pocket and save the country’s economy.

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A trip to North Vietnam would be incomplete without reaching Sapa, a sleeping beauty wrapped in the misty blanket. Sapa is somehow so cold that snow falls amidst in winter, Sapa in spring boasts cherry blossoms in strong vitality and Sapa is also a natural air conditioner in contrast with the unbearable tropical hot.

A lane meanders around mountains and gets crooked with hill to lead the Silver Waterfall. From a mountain cracks several hundreds of meter high, strong descend , tossing silver white bubbles like blossom, this its name Silver waterfall. Thunderous water sounds echo repeatedly through dark forest, making the wilderness even more mysterious.

Misty Sapa Town

Misty Sapa Town

From the large road, turning to a small 3km alley which is lane of ethnic people to Cloud Bridge, we can see a suspension bridge cross Muong Hoa river flowing through a valley 17km southeast away from Sapa town. The old bridge was replace with a new wooden one safer and more solid. If lucky enough to travel when the mist soars from Muong Hoa valley to envelop Cloud Bridge, we can find ourselves afloat on the ocean of the mist and winds.

Muong Hoa Valley

Muong Hoa Valley

In particular, Muong Hoa valley is also home to 196 strange carving by primitive inhabitants thousands or myriads of years ago that many archeologists have failed to interpret their messages. This is the ancient rock field, a heritage of the ancient Vietnamese, which consits of prehistoric carved stone slabs scattered over terraced field, the most outstanding are Spousal Rocks, a pair of stones featuring a couple facing together in association with a legendary romance of a faithful couple who wished to live happily. However, as they were about to see each other, both were turned into stone.

Sapa Ancient Rocks

Sapa Ancient Rocks

To Sapa, for who are interested in adventure, we can thoroughly appreciate the mightiness of Fansipan Mount, the highest peak of Vietnam and Indochina as a whole, thus its name “the Roof of Indochina”.

Fansipan Peak

Fansipan Peak

The beauty is also unintentionally coexistence of ethnicities: Hmong, Dao, Tay, Giay, Xa Pho…Their rich ethnic cultural history help enrich the general social landscape of the Northwest. Sapa attracts visitors with Cat Cat, a long standing hamlet of Hmong people, which is home to traditional craftsmanship such as plantation of cotton and flax, Ta Phin Hamlet with weaving legacies, jewelry crafting villages, beautiful old houses and old customs of “wife abduction”.

Flow H'mong Women

Flow H’mong Women

Dao People

Dao People

Weaving hand - machine from Black H'mong People

Weaving hand – machine from Black H’mong People

Weaving Products

Weaving Products

Following the locals, we reach Bacha market on every Sunday. It is the largest and most colourful market in the area and attracts throngs of villagers from the surrounding hill tribes. On the market days, right from the early morning, all paths and mountain roads are full of people and horses pouring to the market.  Many different ethnic groups such as Flower H’mong, Phu La, Black Dao, Tay and Nung minorities gather to buy and sell local products that cannot be found elsewhere. The market was very crowded, local products for sale or barter are carried on horseback.

Bac Ha Market

Bac Ha Market

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Let’s once visit Sapa and you will be able to experience a wide range of different colorful ethnic minorities and more interesting things of life in the mountains. 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 

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