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Archive for April, 2015

When visiting Luang Prabang, most people think of strolling the quiet streets and lane-ways of the World Heritage town, visiting a wat or two and sipping a coffee as the world passes by. But activities outside of town are worth a look, including visiting the two main waterfalls surrounding the town.

Treasure Kuangsi Waterdall

Treasure Kuangsi Waterdall

The most popular of the waterfalls is Kuang Si which is located about 30 kilometers to the southwest of town. The first glimpse you get of these falls is of the lower sections, where the bright turquoise water gently tumbles over small limestone ledges. Impressive yes, but better is to come. As you move further up the falls, you come across people swimming in a large lagoon and swinging from a tarzan vine. Walking further up the hill past more and more impressive falls shaded from the intense sunshine you come to an opening where the main waterfall comes into view.

This high waterfall tumbles out of the jungle above with incredible force. At this point it’s possible to get up close to the waterfall for a better look and many choose to have their photo taken in front of it.

Picnic areas, change rooms and public toilets are available at Kuang Si, making it a good spot to spend half a day or so.

The other worthwhile waterfall in the Luang Prabang area is Tad Sae about 16 kilometres from town. This waterfall is favoured by Lao people over Kuang Si and you’ll often see large groups of locals picnicking right by the water’s edge. What makes this waterfall different is that it requires a boat to access it.

Tad Sae Waterfalls

Tad Sae Waterfalls

As with Kuang Si, stunning turquoise water gently tumbles over limestone rocks, but at Tad Sae the waterfall is more integrated with the forest, giving the impression that it is flooded. Locals and tourists alike bathe in one of the larger lagoons with more adventurous people jumping off some of the limestone ledges. The whole area is well-shaded and it’s an ideal spot for spending a little bit of time. Tours in Laos

These two waterfalls are excellent ways to enjoy Luang Prabang outside of the colonial charm of the town itself. Don’t miss them when you come to Luang Prabang!

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Markets of the north are where minorities people gather for buying, selling, gossip and getting the basics of life for the week. With a variety of villages along the border with China, explore some of the most dramatic scenery of northern Vietnam, is another excellent opportunity to purchase local handicrafts and gifts directly from the makers and contribute directly to the locals.You can choose any ethnic minorities markets that you want to visit. Taking this chance, I would like to suggest you the list of the ethnic minorities markets as here below:

1. Phong Hai Market (Monday)

Phong Hai market

The Phong Hai Market is held every Monday and here you can meet with Flower Hmong (Red Hmong), Giay, Black Dao and Kinh people. The market traders sell clothes, handicrafts, vegetables and livestock. North West tour of Vietnam

The market opens at 6.30am so an early start is advised (it also closes early at 11am). This market is a little closer to Sapa and Lao Cai than others, so there is less travel time involved.

2. Coc Ly market (Tuesday)

Coc Ly Market

Coc Ly Market is the colorful market in a mountainous area where the Flower H’mong mainly gathers to exchange their homemade products. This Tuesday market is about 35km from Bac Ha. You can get here via a good road, or by road and river; hotels in Sapa and Bac Ha can organize trips. Coc ly is a small village on the Chay River inhabited by the Flower H’mong Minority people. The Flower H’mong traditionally wears a distinctive and bright colored costume. Indochina tours Vietnam

3. Cao Son market (Wednesday)

Cao Son market

 

Cao Son Market is a small/medium sized market held every Wednesday. Set among beautiful rolling mountains this is a colourful market full of local products and handicrafts. Here you will find Flower Hmong (Red Hmong), Phu La, Black Dao and Chinese traders engaged in business.

4. Binh Lu market (Thursday)

Binh Lu market

Binh Lu and Tam Duong market is located on the other side of Sapa, passing the 1900 meter Tram Ton pass, Viet Nam’s highest mountain pass and considered the most beautiful stretch of road in the country. The town is bustling with activity as the local hill tribes gather for their weekly market day, amazing tribal markets in Binh Lu where thousand of Thai Kadai language groups such as Tai Lu, Tai Laos, White Tai, and H’mong – Yao group (black Yao, Yao Lantien..), Giay, Khomu.. comes to buy and sell their own produces.
Every Sunday from 8 am to 1 pm.

5. Lung Khau Nhin market (Thursday)

Lung Khau Nhin Market

Lung Khau Nhin is a small market very close to the border with China, close to Muong Khuong town. The Black Dao, Giay, Tay, Flower Hmong (Red Hmong) minority peoples all attend this market.

Lung Khau Nhin market is held every Thursday starting around 7.30am and closing in the early afternoon. The market is set in beautiful scenery and is very remote. It is a very ‘authentic’ market with few tourists visiting. The market mainly sells vegetables, seeds and livestock for the minority peoples. Exploring Sapa

6. Can Cau market (Saturday)

Can Cau market

Can Cau is a busy market which is held every Saturday. Located just below the Chinese border, it is a colourful, vibrant market where you will encounter minority peoples such as the Flower Hmong (Red Hmong), Nung, Phu La and even Chinese people from across the border. All kinds of goods are traded here, from fabrics to various types of livestock to the powerful local corn wine.

As you would expect, the market starts early (around 7.30am) and closes in the early afternoon so you will want to make an early start to get the most out of the experience.

7. Bac Ha Market (Sunday)

Bac Ha market

Bac Ha Market is held every Sunday and is the biggest minority peoples market in Northwest Vietnam. Alive with the bright colours and extravagant costumes of the local people, here you will meet Flower Hmong (Red Hmong), Black Dao, Tay, Nung, La Chi, Phu La and other minority groups who come from far and wide to buy and sell a wide variety of goods and livestock, to exchange news and to renew friendships. In the past the market was a centre for trading horses but now that motorbikes have replaced them it is more common to see buffalo, cows, goats, fish and other livestock being traded. The market opens at around 7.30am and closes mid-afternoon, so an early start is advisable.

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Cambodia’s beaches are often neglected in favor of Thailand’s. But slowly, surely, the country’s idyllic islands and shining white sands are becoming known to the world’s beach lovers.

There are five beaches that really stand out, and match up to anything its more popular neighbors have to offer.

1. Southwestern Beach, Koh Ron

Koh Roh Beach

Koh Roh Beach

Koh Rong is easily one of the Gulf of Thailand’s most gorgeous islands, with 43 kilometers of beach. On the southwestern side of Koh Rong the beach stretches for nearly five kilometers — 5,000 meters of untouched white sand fringed with palm trees and dazzling turquoise waters. At the southernmost end of this beach are rocks where snorkelers can watch schools of colorful rabbitfish, sergeant fish and parrot fish. Tours in Cambodia

2. Long Set Beach, Ko Rong

Ko Rong

Ko Rong

The southernmost cove of Koh Rong hosts a beach that the locals call Long Set, after the farmer who lives there growing coconuts, mangoes and cashews.
With nearly empty white sand beaches and placid aquamarine waters, Long Set Beach is just a short walk away from the accommodations on the main part of southeast Koh Rong and is an ideal place for sunning, collecting shells and crabbing.
On nights where the moon is waning, night swimming can reveal bio-luminescent plankton that cause a ethereal phosphorescence in the water.

3. Lazy Beach, Koh Rong Saloem

Ko Rong Saloem

Ko Rong Saloem

All of the beaches on Koh Rong Saloem, an island two hours off the coast of Sihanoukville, will have you gaping in awe, but Lazy Beach is particularly beautiful.
Shaded by pine trees and benefiting from a daily sweep to keep it spotless, the golden sands of Lazy Beach make for excellent daytime sunning.
The waters around the beach have many snorkeling options and other parts of Koh Rong Saloem are a favorite of divers and fishing enthusiasts from the mainland. Evenings, you can watch the deep pink sunsets from the beach with a tropical cocktail in hand.

4. Koh Thmei beach, Ream National Park

Koh Thmei beach

Koh Thmei beach

Ream National Park is home to some of Cambodia’s most exquisite beaches, including those on Koh Thmei, a small island flanked by mangrove forests.
Koh Thmei is uninhabited, except for one set of bungalows and dozens of different species of birds. The beach next to the boat dock is a sea of thousands of glittering shells. The beach to the east of the dock is lovely pine-shaded yellow sand and if you get there early enough, you can catch a gorgeous sunrise. Indochina tours Cambodia

5. Sokha Beach, Sihanoukville

Sihanoukville

Sihanoukville

Privately owned Sokha Beach is the best of Sihanoukville’s beaches, with wide white sands stretching for over a kilometer and shallow, placid waters perfect for swimming.
A small portion of the beach is still open to the public, but the rest is only available to hotel guests or those who pay for a day pass, which also includes access to the resort’s pool.
Although the privatization of Sokha Beach is a loss for the locals, tourists can enjoy the immaculate sand and hawker-free relaxation at this relatively quiet and sedate beach.

Resource: CNN

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Celebrated as the traditional Thai New Year, Songkran is the longest holiday in Thailand and lasts from 13th April 2014 to 15th April 2015.

If you’re considering traveling to Thailand for Songkran (Thailand’s Water Fight Festival 2015) be prepared to get soaked having the time of your life in a fun and exciting water fight (all in good fun).

 

Today, we would like to introduce 5 major cities in Thailand to attend the Water Festival:

  1. Bangkok

As the capital of Thailand, Bangkok is one of the destinations can not miss the water festival. The festival will be taken place around the area of Banglamphu, especially Khao San Road, Phra Athit Road, Santhichai Prakan, Wisut Krasat and Rattanakosin Royal Square. By participating in the festival you remember to bring a bucket of water or water guns. In particular, you should keep the valued electronic equipment (cell phone, IPhone…) at your hotel. You only need to bring a little bit of money, put in waterproof bags and then soak up the vibrant atmosphere here.

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While a lot of the water will come from the usual water guns, hoses and buckets, wetting down passerby, there are party goer’s who will drive around with 44 gallon’s of water, catching everyone by surprise; it’s all in good fun and a fun way to cool off.

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  1. Chiang Mai

Being called “the rose of the north” of Thailand, Chiang Mai is a city famous for the Water Festival. Go to Chiang Mai, visitors can participate in the opening ceremony of the Songkran Festival with a parade around the city. Everyone is invited to take part in the parade by delicately and respectfully, pouring water over the legs and arms of the Buddha. One reason that Chiang Mai most likely commemorates Songkran more vigorously than other locations in Thailand is that a large number of people from Chiang Mai work in Bangkok and neighboring cities, so it gives them a chance to return home and celebrate with their families and friends.

The-Many-Faces-of-the-Thai-Songkran-Festival

  1. Pattaya

Located at the terrain surrounding rice fields, Songkran festival is an occasion that people are praying rain for the upcoming season. There are many activities that take place as the parade, the special cultural events and of course the festival will end with a “water war”.

songkran

songkran festival- source: internet

 

  1. Phuket

In addition to pouring water together, people in Phu Ket will visit their relatives and pray. Join the festival, visitors can join in the procession to bring Phra Buddha Phuttha Sihing along Patong Beach.

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  1. Khon Kaen

Located in the heart of Northeast Thailand, Khon Kaen is also organized many activities to celebrate the New Year as oxcart parade, throwing iron marble, food fairs, …

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Go to these destinations that will giving you plenty of chances to have a great time getting wet which is also said to bring you good luck throughout the upcoming next year.

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In this final part, I keep introducing two more secret coffee shops just by the central lake frequently visited by the local people…

5. L’ETAGE CAFÉ: 

Differ from all previously mentioned coffee shops that are located on the busy side of the lake (around Hang Dao – Hang Gai – Cau Go), L’etage café is in a less crowded area on Hang Khay street bringing kind of tranquil atmosphere.

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In French, L’etage means “upstairs” which exactly described where the shop is. This coffee shop is on the second floor of a vintage villa; nearby a famous studio that known by every Hanoian since the very old time.

In order to reach L’etage, you need to find the house of no. 9A Hang Khay street. Entering the small alley till the end, you will find a small staircase on the right then keep going up to the 2nd floor. Though the shop is of small area, the owner put effort in its sophisticated décor and succeeded in bring out an artistic impression. Hanoi walking tour

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The most favorite and also easily occupied seats are at the balcony where you can look over Hoan Kiem lake surrounded by beautiful trees and enjoy the view of city life. An advance note, the balcony is small thus only can fit around 5 – 6 guests.

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***Address: L’ETAGE CAFE – No. 9A Hang Khay Street

6. THE BALCONY BAR & CAFÉ

Described as a lively little lounge bar with a big balcony overlooking Hoan Kiem and the ever-busy Le Thai To Street, to me Balcony bar is basically one of the best places to get smashed around the lake. tours in Vietnam

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The best thing when visiting this café & bar is the lovely balcony. It’s nice to sit up there and watch the world goes by. Sitting there you will feel the soul of Hanoi watching the crazy traffic on the streets, people passing by while listening to the funky music.

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It locates on the second floor of an old building, on the crowded Le Thai To Street. In order to get there, you can look out for the famous Thuy Ta Ice-cream coffee right opposite to The Balcony. Find the house No.4 Le Thai To street – the Ninewest shop, on the right you will see an alley, go straight till you see the staircase then go up stair, there it is.

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***Address: THE BALCONY BAR & CAFÉ – No. 4 Le Thai To Street

According to Ngoisao.net

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Grow up in Hanoi and have lived here for more than 20 years, I could not say enough how I love this place. Of course there are many other places are more beautiful and comfortable but after a while staying here, you will feel the unique of Hanoi.

Last for 1000 years, Hanoi has changed a lot and become better. But in some angle, Hanoi still keeps its own spirit and style. To compare with the old days, it will be perfect to take a look back to the time Hanoi was ruled by French. Without the war, French had brought a new look to Hanoi and many things like buildings, names and statues are still well preserve until now.

Let’s get on our time machine to go back to the past and see what is different between Old Hanoi and Now. We walked around the Sword Lake and capture all the highlight points around. Hanoi Cycling Tour

Our first stop is Square Chavassieux, built by French in 1901. This fountain lies next to Metropole Hotel and is called by Vietnamese people is Toad Garden, due to the cooper toads in the fountain. Nowadays, less of people now the real name of this garden (Diên Hồng Garden) but after a hundred years, this place still remains unchanged and become a famous place for wedding photo shoot.

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Toad Garden – a famous places for every wedding photo shoot in Hanoi.

Look over the street in front of Toad Garden is Government Guest House. Also built by French in 1918, this building was for the North Governor living from the beginning. After winning the revolution in August 1954, Vietnamese Government had taken this building for the main office. Now, this building is for hire to wedding party, ceremony, and meeting. Especially, you can rent a room here during your time in Hanoi. It would be more special and a unique experience than staying in a hotel at the Old Quarter. You can book directly here at its official website: http://nhakhachchinhphu.com.vn/# with the price is from 25$ to 45$ per night.

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Government Guest House – an unbelievable accommodation for travelers in Hanoi.

If you look for a luxury accommodation, let walk across the street and right there is Motropole Hotel – one of the best five-star hotels in Hanoi. Built in 1901 by French as well, this hotel offer the most luxuries experience in Hanoi and in 1936, Charlie Chaplin had chosen this hotel for his honeymoon. You also have chance to visit the Bomb Shelter under this hotel and witness many couple outside the hotel, posing for their wedding photo shoot.

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Motropole Hotel will be perfect for ones who want to experience a top luxury service in Hanoi.

From Metrolpole Hote, go along Trang Tien Street, we come close to The Opera House, another building from French. This is now still the finest opera house in the city and only best singer and musician can perform in here and the ticket is really expensive but it’s worth to go inside and enjoy a true performance. Under this building is 1911 restaurant, a luxury and delicious restaurant in Hanoi with excellent services.  As you can see in the picture, in 1901, there was a big statue of Gaulois Rooster in front of the Opera House but now, no-one know why and how it is destroyed.

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The Opera House – where only top concert can be hold in here.

Keep going, we head to the Sword Lake and the first building we see is the Hoa Phong Tower, right on the sidewalk. Many people might wonder why this tower is lying here and why we don’t remove it. But actually, this tower was a part of a pagoda next to Sword Lake. That pagoda names Báo Ân Pagoda, which was pulled down to build the Post Office now. People now want to keep this tower to remind and respect the old pagoda which used to be here.

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An old memory for the past.

At the middle of the lake is the Turtle Tower, so familiar to any people has been to Hanoi. As I have shared in the post “The Mystery Turtle Tower in Hanoi”, the Statue of Liberty on the top war removed and now lies in peace in the big Buddha statue. This is an interesting blending between Western and Eastern, and it also proves “Material is not natural-born, nor naturally disappeared; they only metabolized to form from another form”. Hanoi walking tour

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The most important symbol of Hanoi even it holds no historical meaning.

Not too far from the Post Office is Lý Thái Tổ Garden. Behind the statue is a popular place to people lives in Hanoi – the Octagonal House. In the past, this place used to be called Trumpet House because every weekend, there was a Trumpeter team gathered there and practiced. Now, the sound of trumpet has replaced by hip hop or rap music of younger people comes here to dance and skate or the aerobic music in every morning.

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The most famous place beside Sword Lake is Ngoc Son Temple. Before get inside, you will see the Brush Tower (Tháp Bút) at the gate and a mystery Ink Holder (Đài Nghiên). I call it a mystery Ink Holder because not only tourists but also locals don’t know where and how it looks like. If you have chance to come here again, try to find this but don’t expect too much before you actually see it.

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Before get into Ngoc Son Temple…

Go through the gate, you will see the Thê Húc Bridge, lead to Ngoc Son Temple inside. Thê Húc Bridge is represented to the Sun so it’s built toward the West – East direction and always painted in red. There is a fact about this bridge that since primary school, all of the pupils were taught that Thê Húc Bridge’s shape is look like a red shrimp so all of the essays, which written about this bridge are always compare it to a shrimp.

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… the only way to visit Ngoc Son Temple with the big turtle inside.

Before finish a circuit around the lake, we will visit the Lê Thái Tổ Temple. Located right next to the lake but this temple is well hidden among many restaurant and big building around. This temple is shown respected to Lê Thái Tổ, who frees the capital and also helps to name the lake as Sword Lake, this temple deserve to have more attention. If you are looking for asking calligraphy, you can go into this temple and find a peaceful and non-touristic place to ask for this without queuing and overpriced.

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An important temple but doesn’t have enough attention.

Our time machine has run out of gas but we have seen a different angle of Hanoi. This city has witnessed many changes with more buildings but still preserved many great things. The only things that make me happier is after those years, all of the trees in those pictures are still alive and grow better.

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