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Archive for May, 2015

I have just come back from my amazing three days two nights trip in Sapa, Vietnam. Among popular tourist attractions in the town, Ta Phin village which is home to Red Dzao has captured my heart, especially the traditional herbal bath experience in this village.

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Before the commencing date, I did a lot of research on the internet about Sapa, about famous destinations, foods, activities, etc in this town. I was deeply impressed by Ta Phin village which has long been well known for its unique brocade products and recently travellers increasingly interested in the traditional herbal bath experience in the village so I decided that I will definitely try this interesting experience. Tours in Vietnam

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As I did, travellers to Sapa often stay in the center town and you might see many spas on streets but do not rush to step in those places. If you ask a local people in Sapa where to try Red Dzao herbal bath, the answer will certainly be Ta Phin village. You have to pay only 100,000 VND to experience an exciting journey with various stages of emotion, from curious, excited to scared and after all, relax and enjoy. My friends and I was warmly welcomed by friendly smiles of hospitable Red Dzao women and kids in Ta Phin Village. They took us to visit their village and show us peach trees in their gardens, show us where chicken are feed in a super cold winter of Sapa. All of them were adorable I find those strange things in the village really interesting.

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While we were trekking through the village and discovering new things, a local Red Dzao woman was at the same time preparing the herbal bath for us at her stilt house. When we all felt a little bit tired after around two hours walking and enjoying the natural scenery, typical rice terraces in mountainous northwestern part of Vietnam, bathing water was ready and we enjoyed Red Dzao herbal bath. How can I say, it was abosolutely amazing!

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Believe me, there is nothing more relaxing than soaking your body in a Red Dzao ethnic minority herbal bath in Ta Phin village. Water after being boiled constantly more than 2 hours with herbs will be poured into a wooden bathtub and cooled down at approximately 50 degrees to make sure that you feel comfortable when dipping in. I bet that you will love the pleasant smell of the herbs that ethnic people carefully pick up from the mountain. Local people told me that enjoy Red Dzao traditional herbal bath is not only good for your bone, blood circulation but also very good for women’s skin. Indochina tours Vietnam

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To me, enjoying Red Dzao traditional herbal bath in Ta Phin village is absolutely a highlight in my Sapa trip. If you are planning to visit the mountainous town of Sapa, this well-worth-a-try experience is highly recommended

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While the capital city of Ha Noi is well known for Pho, travellers love girdle cake or broken rice of Saigon, Da Nang is really a miniature paradise of cheap and tasty foods. It is easy to find out many kinds of cake in Da Nang, you can enjoy a banh beo, banh nam with less than 10,000 VND in your pocket. There are also plenty of choices for your lunch. I love a bowl of Da Nang’s special rice noodles with fish sauce or vermicelli with marinated char-grilled pork which cost only 15,000 to 20,000 VND. And, of course, we can not ignore seafood when talking about cuisine of a coastal city like Da Nang. Seafood in this city is always fresh and the price is also very affordable. If you go in a group, each of you will have to pay just nearly 200,000 VND which equal to less than 10 USD for a meal full of attractive seafood dishes. It is really hard to find any other place in the world where you can enjoy fresh seafood without worrying about their price. Tours in Vietnam

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Another reason makes people deeply fall in love with the city of Da Nang is kind and hospitable locals. Not only foreign travellers but also Vietnamese visitors are deeply impressed by friendly smiles of local people in Da Nang. They always welcome travellers with bright smiles on their lips that can even melt your heart. Salesman in Da Nang’s local markets with their gently and sweet voice make travellers feel comfortable and happy. If you want to ask for direction, do not hesitate to ask any people you meet on the road and they will give you specific instructions. In my case, a Xe Om driver in Da Nang even went with me around a km to the restaurant I wanted to go without asking for anything

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I’m so lucky to have had the chance to visit the adorable city of Da Nang. If it is possible, you really should go there and discover your own reasons why are people so in love with this city.

Some highly recommended restaurants in Da Nang:

Banh xeo Ba Duong:

Address: K280/23 Hoang Dieu, Da Nang

Phone Number: 05113873168

Opening hour: 9am to 10pm

Quan Tran (Tran Restaurant):

Address: 4 Le Duan Street

Tel: (0511) 3849022

Hai san ba Thoi (Seafood Madam Thoi)

Address: 98,100,102 Le Dinh Duong – Hai Chau

Tel: (0511) 3825384

Mi Quang (Quảng Style Noodle)

Address: 1A Hai Phong Street, Hai Chau District

Tel: (0511)2478488

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1.4. Đàn Tranh

The Đàn Tranh is also known as Dan Thap Luc or sixteen-stringed zither. Đàn Tranh originates from the ancient capital city of Hue, where women once played it for royalty, and the instrument is still considered a symbol of the city.

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Đàn Tranh has a long-parallelepiped shape, resembles a bamboo tube that has been sliced vertically in half. The frame of the instrument has trapezium-shape, 110-120 cm in length. The large end is 25-30 cm in width with holes and to hang the strings. The narrow is 15-20 cm in width with 16 tuning keys on the surface of the instrument. Its surface is made of wootung tree, 0.05 cm thick and arched.

The Đàn Tranh sits flat like an autoharp and is plucked using all fingers. Players will usually wear picks made of plastic or tortoise shell on their fingers to facilitate plucking. The sound reverberates through the hollow wooden box below the strings. Sounds can be altered through cupping, pressing or stroking the strings instead of simply plucking

The music of the Đàn Tranh is usually light and full of cheerfulness. The instrument bears some likeness to the japanese Koto, the korean Kayagum, the mongolian Jatac, the chinese Zeng, and the indonesian Kachap, which have 13, 12, 12, 13-16, 7-24 strings, respectively. It is nonetheless an original vietnamese instrument with specific musical characteristics. It is used to accompany poetry recitals and is quite often part of an orchestra or a band playing chamber music, religious music, or accompanying cheo or cai luong drama. Tours in Vietnam

Here is Hue Royal Court Music:

1.5. Đàn Tỳ Bà – a four-string instrument which is frequently present in a traditional orchestra. The instrument has four pegs for tuning. The strings, formerly of twisted silk, are now made of plastic while its body is made from wood of wootung tree. The player uses a plectrum which she holds in her right hand and plucks either upward or downward in a quick run.

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In Vietnam, Tỳ Bà is usually performed in orchestras such as Royal orchestras including Nha Nhac (Elegant music) and Thi Nhac (Poem music), Thien Nhac orchestra of Buddhism, Tai Tu orchestra, Bat Am orchestra (orchestra consists of eight musical instruments), and integrated traditional orchestra.

Although Tỳ Bà took its root so early in other countries, it has been localized as time went by, and nowadays become an instrument of Vietnam, which can profoundly present musical pieces of Vietnamese style in realm of instrumental music. Though related to the Japanese biwa and the Chinese pipa, the Tỳ Bà has a personality of its own. Tỳ Bà recitals are well liked by music lovers at home and abroad.

Please enjoy a Vietnamese traditional piece of music in Tỳ Bà’s sound:

1.6 Đàn Nhị

The Đàn Nhị is popular among several ethnic groups in Vietnam. It is also refered to as Dan Co in southern provinces of Viet Nam. Nhị means “two” in Vietnamese.

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The Đàn Nhị is somewhat a sort of vertical violin with two strings, held in front of the player like a small cello and played with a bow. In the past, Dan Nhi strings were made from silk, but today Đàn Nhị crafts folk prefer metal. The frets on the neck are made from horse-tail hair, and the body is covered with snake skin. The bow is made of bamboo or wood and fitted with horsehair. The hair goes through the space between the strings.
According to archaeological documents found out in Van Phuc pagoda (Phat Tich – Thanh Son – Ha Bac), an orchestra was carved on a pedestal used as a pillar of the pagoda with musical instruments coming from India and China.

Two-stringed fiddle Nhị is made of rosewood. The resonator is called bat nhi. One end of resonator is covered with python skin or iguana skin. The neck is round and has no fret. The bridge of Nhi is made of bamboo or wood located in the middle of the surface of resonator’s covered end. Khuyet dan (gauge of Nhị) or Cu dan is a silk pulling two strings towards the part of neck below the tuning pegs. Gauge is used to tune the pitches of sounds. When the gauge is pulled downward, the length of strings producing sounds will be shortened, consequently it produces high pitches. And vice verse, when the gauge is pushed upward, the length of strings producing sounds will be lengthened and eventually it provides bass sounds.

The bow of Nhịi is made of bamboo or wood and has arch-shape. The bow is put between the two strings of the instrument. When the bow touches the string, the sound will be produced. Nhị has two silk strings but recently it is replaced by metal string.

A piece of music played by Đàn Nhị

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Besides values in culture and history, traditional music plays critical role in making Vietnamese life more colorful. One of the most important components of music is traditional musical instruments creating various sounds inspiring listeners. These instruments are used in both traditional and classical music of Vietnam. In this writing, I will provide you a brief introduction of traditional Vietnamese musical instruments.

The collection is divided into 3 main categories: Strings, wind and percussion

1. Strings instruments

1.1 Monochord zither – Đàn bầu in Vietnamese

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Đàn Bầu is considered as most authentic and attractive Vietnamese monochord or one-string guitar. It has another names as monochord – Đàn Độc Huyền or Độc Huyền Cầm. It has 4 components including spout –  a piece of bamboo or a buffalo horn, gourd – made up from a half of slender-necked gourd, string and tuning peg from bamboo or wood. Đàn Bầuu is played solo or to accompany a poetry recital. The notes played by the Đàn Bầu are smooth, sweet, and captivating. With soft sounds, Đàn Bầu is suitably used in serene context. In the past, Đàn Bầu is the instrument of itinerant singers of Xam genre. Later, Bầu also participates in orchestra of Cheo genre, Tai tu style’s orchestra, in orchestra serving for declamation, in smaller ensemble or solo performance. The Đàn Bầu has been performed on major stages in foreign countries. Travel to Vietnam

1.2. Đàn Đáy – a Vietnamese plucked lute with three strings, a trapezoidal wooden body, and a very long wooden neck with ten raised frets. Đàn Đáy is a unique instrument created by the Vietnamese and has only in Vietnam. Besides, Đàn Đáy is the instrument having the longest neck among musical instruments in the world.

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In the Vietnamese language, Đàn is a classifier used primarily to refer to string instruments, and Đáy means “bottom.” Thus, the instrument’s name translates literally as “bottom string instrument.” However, the instrument’s body has no back. In the past, the instrument was originally called Vô Đề Cầm, literally “bottomless stringed instrument”. Players formerly used silk strings, but since the late 20th century have generally used nylon. It is used primarily in Northern Vietnam, and is one of the accompanying instruments used in ca trù. If you are in the Old Quarter in Hanoi, each evening on Tuesday, Thursday and Saturday, you can enjoy the sound of Đàn Đáy at No. 87 Ma May street.

Please enjoy ca trù  with Đàn Đáy in this video:

1.3. Đàn Nguyệt

The Đàn Nguyệt “moon lute” also called Nguyệt Cầm, Đàn Kìm, is a two-stringed Vietnamese traditional musical instrument. Đàn Nguyệt has two strings and the resonator resembles the moon,that is probably why it is named Dan Nguyet, which means moon lute. The strings were traditionally made of silk but are today normally made of nylon, which can be strummed with either finger or pick.

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According to ancient carvings, the moon-shaped instrument appeared in Vietnam in the 11th century. Intended to be played by men, the lute has maintained a very important position in the musical traditions of the Kinh people. Therefore, this instrument is widely used in their folk, court, and academic music. The Đàn Nguyệt is distinguished by its pure and loud sound, as well as by its great capacity to express different emotional moods. Thus, it is heard at solemn and animated ritual concerts, funerals, or refine chamber music recitals. It can be played in solo, as part of an orchestra, or to accompany other instruments.

Nguyệt is used to accompany Van singing, Hue singing, Tai tu singing, Bat am music, ceremonial music and traditional stage orchestra, and remains popular throughout Vietnam (although during the 20th century many Vietnamese musicians increasingly gravitated toward the acoustic and electric guitar).

Following is a beautiful song played by Đàn Nguyệt:

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After two hours driving to the east of Hanoi, you will arrive in a famous ancient village named Duong Lam – the first village recognized by the Government as National Cultural Heritage. The village represents traditional values in civilization of the Red River Delta, where the farming culture and architecture has been conserved. You can also call Duong Lam village with other names as “Ancient Viet village” or “Laterite Ancient village”

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The village is the collection of five hamlets among nine hamlets belonging to Duong Lam commune, Son Tay town. The five ones are Mong Phu, Cam Thinh, Song Sang, Doai Giap and Cam Lam with total area being about 800.25 hectares and more than 8,000 people.
Visitors come to visit Hoi An (in Quang Nam province) to explore typical cultural features of urban life in the century of 16 and 17 with buildings, customs, festivals, cuisine and architecture representing life of feudal business class. Travel to Vietnam
On the contrary, coming to the laterite ancient village, you can admire a “live museum” showing Vietnamese agriculture-rural lifestyle typical for wet rice cultivation. It seems that various material and non-material values of Vietnamese farmers are retained and preserved here.

Havesting season in the village

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Village festival in Duong Lam

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All houses, gates, village gates and wells are built of laterite creating an architectural complex, a unique village that is typical for villages in the midlands in the North of Vietnam. Close to houses are courtyards, gardens, kitchens, outhouses, wells, poultry and cattle stalls, screens, ponds, straw stacks, and roofed gates. The local houses are built of traditional materials: laterite to make house cool in summer and warm in winter, bamboo, wood, neohouzeaua, brick, clay, husk, mud, wood powder, sawdust, sand and straw. For households with better income, they can use good wood such as ironwood or bassia. Besides, each hamlet of the village has communal house – place worshiping founder of the village, ancient wells – symbol of Northern Vietnam villages, and alleys having special shape as the bones of fish. Hanoi Cycling Tour

One of the most ancient house in the village

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All of these unique values make Duong Lam village become attractive destination for local and foreign tourists to visit Son Tay land to come back ancient peaceful life, escaping crowded and noisy life in big cities.

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