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Archive for September, 2015

First-time travelers to Myanmar often notice a coating of yellowish white substance on the faces of women, children and even men, then come up with a common question: What is that white stuff and why are they wearing it on? I myself had the same wondering on my last trip to Myanmar back in June, then addressed my concern to my friend – a beautiful Burmese woman with a glowing baby-like skin. As the story goes, the beauty secret of Myanmar women is revealed. We name that secret “Thanaka”.

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THANAKA – WHAT IS IT?

Thanaka is a yellowish-white cosmetic paste made from parts of thanaka tree by grinding the bark, wood, or roots with a small amount water on a circular stone slab called kyauk pyin which has a channel round the rim for the water to drain into. Thanaka tree is a common tropical plant species that grows not only in Myanmar, but also in other parts of Southeast Asia and the Indian subcontinent. It can be used to withdraw medicinal properties in other countries, but only in Myanmar, Thanaka is used for skincare and cosmetic purposes. Myanmar tours packages

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WHY?

  1. Natural sun protection: Thanaka paste is trusted to be a highly effective sunscreen, protects against sunburn and dehydration.
  2. Refining the pores & regulate moisture: Thanaka has properties that can control oiliness by tightens pores and thus prevents pimples.

    Is the skin beautiful?

    Is the skin beautiful?

  3. Providing a cooling effect: Thanaka provides the skin with a refreshing feeling after each application. It leaves the skin feeling cool and adds sufficient hydration to make you feel rejuvenated and renewed. This is the most convincing reason why you can find not only women but Burmese men wearing Thanaka on their faces and arms when they have to work hard under the tropical sun exposure.Farmers plant rice seedlings in a paddy field on the outskirts of Yangon July 9, 2010. The farmer on the right is wearing Thanakha, a traditional powder paste made from wood, on her face as a cosmetic facial cream. REUTERS/Soe Zeya Tun (MYANMAR - Tags: AGRICULTURE SOCIETY)
  4. A beautiful make-up: many women believe the white tone look good on their yellow skin, so they can choose to apply Thanaka in different shapes (round circles, leaves…). To me, it’s undeniable that Thanaka looks so unique and beautiful on Burmese women, make them so gorgeously different and not to be mingled with any other nationalities

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WHERE TO FIND?

Inspired by the incredible benefits of Thanaka, I urged my friend to bring me somewhere to buy it. She led me to Bogyoke Market in Yangon and we found some local men selling it on the street in front of the market gate. Thanaka wood & roots have been cut into small pieces, and it costed me 3,000 KYAT (USD 2 – 3) for one medium size piece (15cm long I think). Still, she told me the best place to find Thanaka is in Mandalay, as the region is dry that is ideal for growing Thanaka trees. Heard that in Sagaing is good! Indochina travel

Thanaka

So, the tradition of applying Thanaka on the faces and arms have been put down from generations to generations among every Myanmar family. Despite the fact that the benefit is wonderful, in modern city, some young Myanmar women have stopped using Thanaka as they think it’s old-fashioned, villager-style while modern make up is much better. This is somehow understandable as the country has just been opened for few years and everything there including infrastructure, lifestyle, business… are changing too fast. Myanmar is such an amazing country to explore with so many unique things to see of which Thanaka is just one factor, I should address an urge to all travelers worldwide to visit Myanmar as soon as they can before the country shakes into a new developing phase!

 

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Coffee and egg combine together, it might sound a little weird at first, I guess, but for everyone who has had chance to try egg coffee in Hanoi all agree that these two ingredients blend together harmoniously, not too sweet, not too bitter, try once and I bet you will remember it forever.

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Egg coffee is a very creative drink of Hanoians, has become pretty well-known around the world thanks to the power of word of mouth after foreigner travellers tried it and whispered to many others. Some people say that enjoying a cup of hot egg coffee even just once then you will remember it everytime you think of Hanoi.

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This kind of unique coffee is made quite simply. The baristas firstly has to collect fresh eggs because the old ones will have fishy smell while coffee also has to be pure and premium coffee of Vietnam which has very fragrant smell. Chicken egg yolk is beaten manually or with a machine until it is as fragrant as a cake before being lightly poured into the middle of a hot coffee cup.

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The atmosphere is cozy, definitely Hanoi’s style and it would be fantastic if you could visit the coffee shops in the early morning when it has not so crowded. Vietnam travel tours

Personally, I love to sit in the balcony, watching the daily morning of locals in the Old Quarter of Hanoi while sipping a cup of hot egg coffee.

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Here below are some addresses where you can visit to try this “capuchino” of Vietnam:

  • Giang Café – The most famous place for Hanoi egg coffee from the early 20th century. There are two Giang Café addresses: 39 Nguyen Huu Huan Street (in the Old Quarter) and 106 Yen Phu Street (near Long Bien bridge). Price updated on 15th August 2015 is 25,000 VND per cup
  • Cafe Dinh: 13 Dinh Tien Hoang Street, nice view to Hoan Kiem Lake

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Phnom Penh is known as the capital of Cambodia, which is expected to be the biggest city of the country. However, due to the development of tourism, Siem Reap has become more popular and larger than the capital.

This city could be a nice stop for your trip between Vietnam and Cambodia for one or two nights. Besides plane, from Vietnam, you can take a speedboat from Chau Doc at early morning (normally at 7:00 AM) and after 4-5 hours, you will arrive in Sisowath Pier of Phnom Penh. You can choose between Hang Chau Speedboat (which is cheaper) or Blue Cruiser Speedboat (a bit higher with a big snack on boat) at Chau Doc to get to Phnom Penh. Cambodia travel packages

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The scene along the way from Chau Doc to Phnom Penh will make your trip shotter.

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Arrive in Phnom Penh, one of the must-see places is the Royal Palace. Now, this palace is still the king’s home and you are only allowed to visit some buildings in this complex to learn more about royal’s life style and the traditional of Khmer Cultural.

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One of the main building in the Royal Palace

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A Stupa – an unique architect of Khmer people which you will see all over in Cambodia.

In this complex, there is a famous pagoda – the Silver Pagoda with the floor is made of silver and many decoration is made of gold. With hundreds of gifts from believer from years to years, this pagoda has contained many rare statues made of gold, silver and jewels.

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Outside Silver Pagoda. In Cambodia, Buddhism is one of the biggest religion.

If you are interested in historical and truth, you can make your way to Toul Sleng Prison and the Killing Fields. So much crimes had happened in here and you will feel the pain of the country to remind us how valuable of the peace.

At night in Phnom Penh, you can take a walk around the night market to try some local foods like amok or prohok (please note that this market only hold from Friday to Sunday). Or try to gamble at the casino to earn some extra money for your trip.

A little note that US dollar is the most popular and acceptable currency in Cambodia so you don’t need to exchange to local currency. Now, you are ready for Phnom Penh exploring!

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The ritual of alms-giving ceremony is one of the most sacred Buddhist traditions of Laos. At dawn, around 200 Buddhist monks depart from their various temples, barefoot, dressed in their colorful robes oranges, to collect alms in the form of offerings of rice on the part of devotees waiting monks kneeling on the floor.

The tradition of alms gathering dates back to the 14th century, yet still today locals wake early to prepare the food for the monks and wait quietly by the roadside to give their gifts. Although the main purpose is for locals to give alms to the monks, you will also notice small children kneeling with baskets in the hope that the monks will share some of their alms with them so that they can take food back to their family.

Below are suggestions and tips when you want to attend in or photograph an Alms Giving Ceremony in Luang Prabang:

Ask your hotel where you can best watch the alms giving ritual so that you can avoid the circus.

  • If you must participate, try to do it with the hotel staff or other locals so you are respectful and follow etiquette, for instance, you need to ensure you withdraw your hand immediately after serving the rice so you don’t touch a monk.
  • Suitable offerings include some simple food which you can probably arrange at your hotel or buy from a local market en-route (do not buy offerings from street vendors), if you buy alms on the street do not negotiate on price as this is also considered highly disrespectful.
  • Arrive early so you’re not a distraction.
  • Find out which direction the monks are coming from and where they’re heading to so you can plan your shots before they arrive.
  • Disconnect the mobile phone
  • Shoulders, chests and legs must be covered in modest clothing as a mark of respect (don’t wear revealing or tight clothes).
  • When seated, shoes and socks must be removed with your feet tucked underneath as you observe the ceremony in absolute silence.
  • Female attendees must keep their head lower than the monks when giving alms and they must not talk to or touch the monks at any time, even when making an offering.
  • Keep a suitable distance from the monks and do not interrupt the procession under any circumstances.
  • If you want to take photos, use a long lens so you can maintain a respectful distance.

Enjoy your time in Luang Prabang.

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A popular stopover town in Mekong Delta, Chau Doc is a one-night stop for travellers before leaving Vietnam to Cambodia.

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A part of Chau Doc Town

For years, this town has many investments from the government but all most everything is still in basic and this town offers you a peaceful and non-technology atmosphere. To be the last destination in Vietnam, most of travellers only spend one night in here as a result, they also miss a chance to see many great things of this town, which you can have a pure experience. Mekong river cruise

Stay here more than one night, you can visit Sam Mountain, the highest mountain in Mekong Delta (284m). This mountain is a popular place for local people workout. You will see a lot of people walk up and down this mountain to keep fit. There are about 200 temples and shrines in this mountain but on top, there is nothing too special but you will see the whole city with endless green field and it’s worth to climbing up there.

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The rice field seems never end!

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Chau Doc is one of the town has produce the largest crop in Mekong Delta.

And the most famous temple in Chau Doc is Ba Chua Xu Temple. A festival will be hold annually, last for 7 days from 23rd April to 27th April based on Moon Calendar. Thank to this festival, each year, more than 2 million visitors has come here to join and pray for their family. According to tales, people believe they can ask for anything if they worship enough and remember to pay back when they achieve.

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Main building of the temple is well maintain thanks to visitor’s payback.

From Chau Doc, there is another place that you might want to see is the Tra Su Mangrove Forrest. A stunning scene with full of green will let you come close to Mother Nature.

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A green scene to relax your eyes!

Before saying goodbye Vietnam, you can stand at the pier and look toward Cambodia and feel the great of Mekong River.

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A great view from Vietnam to Cambodia!

With these little things, I believe Chau Doc is worth for you to stay longer, take it slow and forget the rest of the world for a moment.

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Stage 2: Mu Cang Chai – Than Uyen – O Quy Ho – Sapa

You can then go from  Mu Cang Chai to Sapa about 150km following 32 NR, then about 4 hours moving along 4 NR on the right.

You should visit Mu Cang Chai town in the morning and check out of hotel to leave for Sapa at noon. It is advised to stop for lunch at Than Uyen. The landscape here is greatly different from Mu Cang Chai, with tea hills along the stretch of road and sparse terraced fields.

Mu Cang Chai

Mu Cang Chai

Stop at O Quy Ho pass right at the entrance to Sapa. On a clear day, the scenery is incredibly beautiful. If you are lucky, you can see “Cloud Passing Through” – an interesting natural phenomenon of Hoang Lien Son park. Admire the sunset in O Quy Ho and then enjoy the third day in miraculous night mist of Sapa together with the grilled specialties and the cold here.

O Quy Ho Pass

O Quy Ho Pass

You need at least 2 days discovering and experiencing the life in Sapa and its many features. The first day can be spent exploring Ta Van terraced fields and villages of Mong & Dao people. The next day is for wandering around the town, Sapa market, Ham Rong park, and enjoy panoramic view of Sapa from high above. The sunset in Sapa is spectacular, especially on cloudy days, where you can see the sunset on Hoang Lien Son peak, or go around the town, sit in the church and see the sunlight fade out.

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You can leave Sapa at night or spend one more night enjoying the cold of Sapa and its many strange dishes (Sapa cuisine) the depart next early morning. The way from Sapa to Hanoi through Lao Cai is about 350km.

Notes:

  • At this time in mountainous areas the seasons are transitioning so you should bring a coat and a warm blanket.
  • To avoid fog, do not drive your motorbike in the evening. Remember to bring all necessary papers and a motorbike repair kit with spare tube and type.
  • It is essential to bring a map and know your destinations well
  • Prepare personal items such as clothes, coat, gloves, helmet, sleeping bag, raincoat, rain boots, upholstery, personal medical supplies. When packing your backpack, arrange items in plastic bags to protect against rain and moisture.

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