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Archive for the ‘Culture shock’ Category

Sapa is not only famous for the colorful mountains, terraced rise fields, passes up and down, but also well – know by The Medicinal bath of the Red Dao Ethnic

Coming to Sapa where is not only famous for the colorful mountains, terraced rise fields, passes up and down, but also well – know by The Medicinal bath of the Red Dao Ethnic. This is a long-time medicine that the local people here, every day they go into the forest and cut the medicinal plants to use for bath because according to their experience, these plants can treat many illness.

According to legend, on the last day of the year the Dao boiled leaves from the forest for medicinal bathing before welcoming the new year in. As this practice proves both effective and salubrious, a majority of Kinh people have considered it a unique feature of Red Dao culture. The Red Dao’s medicinal bathing has become one of the northern mountainous province‘s attractions, even though it is still a mystery to foreign tourists who first set foot in Sapa.

After a long day trekking, it’s good chance to go to the bathhouses of Ta Phin village. We went to Dao’Spa – Sapanapro, one among a handful of Dao women in Ta Phin who offers the service. Take this chance, I would like to share about a must-try experience while visiting Sapa:

How to make herbal water of the Red Dao

The number of ingredients in Red Dao herbal water can vary from 10 to 100, depending on the purpose of the users and how experienced the bath maker is. Nonetheless, there are some crucial types of herb. According to local people’s guidance, wild fokienia wood, also known as “Pemou wood”, is believed to be the best material to make the tub used in herbal bath since Pemou wood aromatic essential oil will be extracted by hot water, making it a wonderful scent which may last for even a few days.

You can click: Indochina tours to get more information.

Based on the number of users, the amount of herbs used will be different. Normally, herbs is washed carefully and boiled for 3 hours until the water turns into red color with romantically typical scent.

They will boil these dried plants and bark in a water filled giant wok, over a charcoal fire, of course will take takes several hours to prepare. After several hours of brewing, the water is transferred to a wooden barrel tub. Taking this herbal baths, having just entered the bathroom, you will immediately caught a whiff of fragrant herds, enjoy the beautiful smell of these natural medicines. You can relax and soak your bones in traditional bath and wash away your aches, pains, worries and woes all at once in the privacy of our bathhouse.

According to local people here, for this herbal bath in Sapa, each herb remedy for bathing includes approximately 120 kinds of herbs, plants and bark used for the baths. But of that total there are 39 which are popular and about 10 which are indispensible. The herbs are boiled for 3-4 hours in 30-37oC to extract the essence, and then mixed in water to serve tourists. Average time to take herbal bath is 30 minutes.

The forests in tranquil Ta Phin, Vietnam, are lush with medicinal plants which are a valuable resource to the resident Red Dao ethnic minorities.

Like the sound of a warm herbal therapy bath in the lovely Sapa. With a grant, social enterprise Sapanapro was able to upgrade its spa facilities, allowing the ethnic Red Dao people to better commercialise their herbal remedies and improve their livelihoods

With a grant, social enterprise Sapanapro was able to upgrade its spa facilities, allowing the ethnic Red Dao people to better commercialise their herbal remedies and improve their livelihoods

Positive effects of using Red Dao herbal bath

According to the wisdom of the Red Dao people, an herbal spa is especially helpful for physical and mental fatigue, as it relaxes your body and renews your energy by enhancing overall circulation, soothing your daily tensions. For women, the herbal bath promotes skin beauty by opening pores, removing dead skin and impurities, and leaving the skin soft, clean, and silky smooth. The bath also relieves some chronic illnesses including rheumatism and joint pain. Herbal bath can help customers, with essential oil of local herbs, reduce negative effects of alcohol in the body, musculoskeletal pain, rheumatism and improve their health. On top of that, Sapa herbs can also a simple natural treatment for skin disease such as ulcer, acnes and psoriasis, etc.

Such a beautiful view from bathroom ^_^

Instruction for bath with traditional medicines (or herbal bath):

First Step: Please soak slowly your feet into water get familiar with temperature, and then put slowly your body until the water surface touch your chest. (Effects of traditional medicines will decrease if you put more water to decline temperature)

During bath time: You can use small bucket or towel to pour water to the part of body above water surface. (Eg: head and shoulder). You can use bathing water to wash your face and hair. You will sweat after 5-7 minutes to soak into water, especially in period 7-10 minutes. (Don’t worry, it’s normal sign)

Final Step: After 15-20 minutes, when your heartbeat and breathing rate increase. Please out of the bathtub, dry your body. (Don’t bath again by other water because it will decrease effects of traditional medicines).

Note: Careful control of temperature and time herbal bath in the following cases:

– You have gotten heart diseases or high blood pressure.

– You get drunk or drink too much alcohol.

– Pregnant women

If you soak your body in bathing water too long (more than 25 minutes), you can lose your balance in some minutes or being sleepy. This phenomenon is called “medicines drunk”. In this case, just call receptionists or staffs to help you. After 5-10 minutes, you will be fine.

Made from longstanding types of herb in Sapa, this service of Red Dao people is a must to any tourist. If you have a chance to visit Sapa, consider giving this amazing bath a try. It’s relaxing indeed.

 

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It’s hard to find anywhere in Vietnam that is as diverse, colorful, and easy-going as Hoian. For hundreds of years, it has remained the same, sitting on the banks of Hoian river, with its ancient mossy roofs and peaceful pace of life.

If you interest, you can click: Vietnam travel and tours

Hoian is an extremely safe for solo traveller like me and you won’t be lonely in this ancient city. I like to roam the streets, try dozens of foods or sit for hours in a small café to watch people across streets, and activities. Wander around one of the local markets to shop for leaf hats, wooden clogs, silk, sand pictures, embroidery items, bamboo flutes, and other handicrafts and souvenirs. After a fun day of activities, savor such delightful Vietnamese cuisine as fresh local seafood, noodle soup, and prawn pancakes, which are served at a variety of restaurants.

Overview from Cua Dai Bridge in Hoian

Follow the river, and head down to Cua Dai bridge to enjoy the sun and the wind, visit Tam Thanh fishing village on the coast of centre Vietnam. Riding about an hour south from Hoi An (42 kilometers from Hoi An) along the coastal road, I arrived in Tam Thanh village, the Mural village of Tam Thanh now is a home to some quaint mural village, which tell stories about ordinary villagers and their way of life in the mountains and coastal regions of the country. Coastal people are always generous, they will spend hours showing you around the village. They will show you every mosaic on the walls, tell you about their boats, the sea, the net and their family.

You can see more:

The beauty of Hoian in the flood season

Early morning – Hoian ancient town

Road into Tam Thanh Village

Tam Thanh explodes out of pastoral sepias into pinks and blues, yellows and deep violets. The main street is a regular kaleidoscope where every house has its own unique color and character. Murals of local people decorate the larger walls and smaller paintings trail down the alleyways inviting visitors to explore.

With the tagline ‘art for a better community,’ the mural village project has started an important discourse in Vietnam about the accessibility of art in everyday life regardless of one’s socioeconomic background. Inspired by Korean mural villages, the Tam Thanh Mural Village is a joint initiative by the Korean Community Art Exchange Program and the Vietnamese People’s Committee of Quang Nam Province to bring art to the people.  The murals are meant to reflect the local culture, people, and nature. With the blessing of the local people, the volunteer artists have been able to turn garden-variety construction into a cohesive work of living art.

On the other than that, I loved the beach here which is the home to untouched seaside, local villages, and amazing countryside landscapes. That is a great place to just sit down, chill and relax with a bicycle ride around the beautiful Tam Thanh Mural village. If you like, you may stay one night here to avoid the crowds of beaches in Hoian and Danang. Tam Thanh Beach Resort and Spa will provide nice accommodation with the natural living by the peaceful of beach. Offering the view of Tam Thanh beach, a-step-to-the-beach restaurant, front beach bar, swimming pool with sea view, spa services are completely near by.

Explore natural landscapes that have retained their untamed beauty!
_Lucas_

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Myanmar, stretching 2,500 kilometers from the eastern Himalayas in the north to palm-lined beaches of the Andaman Sea, Pagodas are encountered at every step. Not only Yangon’s 2500-year old Shwedagon Pagoda or ancient Bagan with more than 2,000 Buddhist monuments tower over green plains, but also beautiful Ngapali destination (pronounced Napally and said to be named after the Italian city of Naples).To get further information, you can click: Indochina tour

With its pristine, palm-tree-fringed white sand, the clear waters of the Bay of Bengal, and a host of sophisticated accommodation, Ngapali is premier beach getaway

With its pristine, palm-tree-fringed white sand, the clear waters of the Bay of Bengal, and a host of sophisticated accommodation, Ngapali is premier beach getaway

Ngapali is located on the Bay of Bengal coast in Rakhine State, its main feature is an idyllic stretch of white sand and palm tree-lined coast, with a number of resorts spread out next to traditional fishing villages. The beach stretches about 3 km with soft white sand fringed by coconut palms. Unlike today’s beaches of Asia, it is free of noisy beachside bars, crowded people and hawkers persuading you to buy their things. There are only natural scenic beauty of the blue sea, white sand and the lovely sun. The sea is cobalt blue, without any dangerous marine animals and clean.

Do you like peace and tranquility, and visit places “far from the madding crowds?” As many of us now live in crowded cities with the stress and strain of over-population, we need periods of relaxation away from urban areas, and go back closer to nature. We just take a short 45-minutes flight from Yangon and 9 km (6 mile) drive by private transfer from Thandwe Airport to Mya Pyin Village. Renowned for its beauty, Ngapali Bay offers a warm tropical climate throughout the year. Escape to paradise on the soft white sands of our vast beach facing the bay of Bengal, with dark green forested hills as a patchwork backdrop of paddy fields. It serves as the best ground for sunbathing and recreation such as beach strolling, cycling and so on.

Ngapali is pronounced Napally and said to be named after the Italian city of Naples

Ngapali is pronounced Napally and said to be named after the Italian city of Naples

The best time to visit  

The best time to go to Ngapali beach is from October to May. From June to September (monsoon season): It is raining a lot, really a lot. During the monsoon season the weather can be very rough, the sea is not very quiet and the rain can be also 24hours. Most of hotels and small restaurants are closed during this period. Please be aware as well of the limited flight schedule between May and September.

How to Get to Ngapali Beach

By Air: Thandwe Airport is located about eight kilometers north of Ngapali Beach and is a 10 minute car journey away from most of the area’s resorts and hotels. Daily flights connect Ngapali and Yangon — the journey takes about 50 minutes.

Thandwe Airport is a domestic airport with no international flights. If you’re travelling from any other Southeast Asian country, you’ll need to travel to Yangon first before making your way to Ngapali Beach.

By Bus: Ngapali Beach is accessible by bus from Yangon. The journey takes about 14 hours and can be quite bumpy and comfortable due to Myanmar’s road network. Most travellers to Ngapali Beach travel from Yangon to Thandwe by air due to the far shorter travel time.

Ngapali Beach is in Rakhine State, Western Myanmar. This is flight from Yangon to Ngapali

Where to stay

Ngapali has the biggest number of luxury beachfront resorts. Room-renting services here are diverse. You can choose from a small hut on the beach to luxury villas. The number of mid-range or budget beach hotels is now shrinking as the new international tourism boom entices owners to redevelop older hotels to meet the more exacting standards of the international market – and thus collect the much higher room rates. Both room rates and standards in Ngapali are already well above other beaches in Myanmar and as this beach continues its up-market march, it is destined to remain the country’s premier beach destination for some years to come.

There are many hotels, resorts in Ngapali with prices ranging from luxurious to budget for your choice.

Here is the map of Ngapali beach so you can get an idea of where each hotel, resort is.

Activities

Ngapali is about relaxing and enjoying the sun, but other activities include taking trips on local fishing boats; kayaking; snorkeling or scuba diving amongst the brightly coloured fish; and cycling or motor biking down the beach and around some of the local villages. This place offers a wide range of activities and adventures, including private boat trips to Pearl Island, snorkeling, e-bicycle rentals for exploring nearby villages, excursions to Kin Pun Chone Village where the Elephant camp is located, visits to local art galleries and Thandwe Market.

Scenic view on Ngapali beach at sunset

• Relaxing: Indulge yourself by sitting back and unwinding with ice cold beer or a tropical cocktail while enjoying the sun. You also can take a traditional bullock cart ride along the beach.

• Kayaking; snorkeling or scuba diving: Explore many bays and mangroves, dance along with large schools of brightly colored fish.

• Bird watching around Nghet Pyaw Chaung Lake. There are 30 species of birds in this area.

• Playing golf: Ngapali has a beautiful 9-hole golf course located some kilometers North of the beach, between main beach resorts and the airport.

• Visiting fishing villages: There are two fishing villages here; one in the South of the hotels, and another further South into the next bay. You can delve into traditional local life in these villages. The first one can be reached by foot; you can explore the other by using a bicycle, motorbike or being in a fishing boat tour.

• Visiting Thandwe: If you like some time away from the beach, then visit Thandwe. Located 7 km from the beach, this little town has 3 interesting pagodas, a bustling market, a traditional longyi-weaving factory.

• Visiting a dead monk: Salone Monastery is the home to a late Buddhist monk who put himself in the meditative state of death over 10 years ago. Since then, his mummy has been kept under glass.

• Have hot air balloon ride: You can get on a hot air balloon for amazing views of Myanmar’s wildest and least-known reaches.

Fishing Village

Local women in fishing villages on Ngapali beach

Travelers called Ngapali Beach “a touch of paradise,” rating the stretch of sand for its relaxing atmosphere, gorgeous sunsets, and local village feel.

Come to see its charm where you will find serenity and peace of mind amidst beautiful scenery.

_lucas_

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Practices related to the Viet beliefs in the Mother Goddesses of Three Realms! What should you do in the evening in Hanoi? Would you like to explore Folk culture? After a few days visiting Hanoi, visitors may like to see something different, something is unique just being held in Vietnam? Outside the usual scope of performances tourists attend – mostly water puppetry – exists the Viet Theater’s artistic interpretation of “Lên Đồng” or “Hầu Đồng”, a traditional ritual in which a medium is possessed by several deities. Tứ Phủ – The Four Palace show is one of the latest shows in Hanoi that has been nurtured, idealized and arranged for 4 years before officially presented in late February 2016 in Cong Nhan Theatre which is three-minute walk to Hoan Kiem Lake, Hanoi, Vietnam.

“The four palaces” or Tu Phu Performance was inspired by the ritual of the spiritual medium ship (Len Dong) of the Mother Religion believing in The Mother Goddess who brings about favorable weather, happiness and fullness to people.

What does Four Palaces mean?

Vietnam is already home to world intangible cultural heritages, including Nha Nhac (royal court music), the Space of Gong Culture in the Central Highlands, Quan Ho (love duets), Ca tru (ceremonial singing) and Hung King worshipping rituals. In 2016, Vietnam summited the dossier on “the belief of the Mother Goddess of Three Realms worship by Vietnamese” for UNESCO recognition.

Mother Goddess worship is a traditional practice in Vietnam with a long history, having stood the test of social changes. The belief in Mother Goddess worship reflects people’s desire for health, wealth and fortune. The practice rituals meet belief-related needs by people in their daily life and have been closely associated with historical and cultural figures, such as Lieu Hanh, Au Co, Vuong Mau (legendary Mother of Saint Giong).

The practitioners are comprised of temple guardians, ritual priests, spirit mediums, mediums’ assistants, musicians who perform the songs for the spirits, disciples and lay adherents who share the same beliefs in the spiritual power, supernatural strength and protection of the Mother Goddess spirit pantheon. All of these practitioners form groups who worship together, take part in traditional festivals and perform spirit possession rituals at temples and palaces dedicated to Mother Goddesses. The folk belief shows the respect of children towards their mothers while reflecting the UNESCO spirit of preserving cultural and religious diversity.

If you interest this post, please view: Indochina travel packages to get more detail information

As a type of folk arts, Len Dong ritual is a spiritual performance

The reincarnatation of Goddess of Mountain & Forest Performance

The reincarnatation of General “Ong Muoi“ Performance

Four Palace Show

Four Palaces is created by Viet Theatre, is the 1st performance to bring Hau Dong ceremony of the Viet Belief on Mother Goddesses (Dao Mau) which is now recognized by UNESCO as the world’s Intangible Cultural Heritage to the stage. Four Palaces show honors the magnificence, sophistication of the art in Dao Mau to introduce to the international audiences in Hanoi. The show is an exciting and spiritual journey that combines the effects of sound, light, and unique visuals during the 45-minute performance. The Four Palaces Show has three parts:

  • The Reincarnation of the Second Lady of the Highland
  • The Reincarnation of the Tenth Prince
  • The Reincarnation of the Little Princess of Highlands

Schedule: Every Tuesday, Thursday, Saturday

Duration: 45 minutes

Location: City centre – Cong Nhan Theatre (Add: 42 Trang Tien Street, Hanoi)

Enjoy the show.

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In Vietnam, when the summer comes it’s time for companies to have holiday or company trip. Every year, companies have planned and searched for great locations/destinations for employees’ summer vacation.This is a great opportunity for whole team to know more each other and strengthen the bonds of friendship from different teams and departments, and also to charge energy, because happy workers can contribute more for the company.

The objectives for company annual trip are our executives can escape for a while from busy and stressful environment at the office. In this trip someone can relax their  body and mind and in the same time can spend a good quality time with their family. It’s also can strengthening a good relationship between executives and their family. Other benefit of this trip is our executive can work more focus and keep motivated to do they daily works. That mean happy worker can contribute more for the company.

Hai Hoa beach has white sand and blue water

This year, Indochina Voyages Team has planned an annual trip for our company in May. This trip involves the company executives with the spouse and children. We decided to visit Hai Hoa beach, is a well-known beach in the North of Vietnam. With the literal meaning of its name, Hai Hoa (means “Peaceful” ) beach in the north-central province of Thanh Hoa boasts the serenity that only beautiful natural scenery can provide (It is located  at Hai Hoa Commune, Tinh Gia District, Thanh Hoa Province, around 200 km from Hanoi). Its tiny white-capped summer waves attract thousands of local tourists in peak season.

Bai Dong

Bai Dong

The reason why we choose this destination because unlike other noisy and commercialized tourist hubs, visitors to Hai Hoa Beach enjoy the peaceful atmosphere of its stunning landscape and the fresh taste of its seafood. As it is quieter than some other beaches in the central region such as Sam Son beach, Hai Hoa is a boom for local people, the beach still possesses white sandy dunes and green, forested ranges near crystal clear blue waters.

On the first two days, we went to Bai Dong, a new beach in Thanh Hoa province, 30km from Hai Hoa. This place is not as crowded as other popular beaches. With peaceful scenery and  blue sea and white sand, the beach is still wild and naturally beautiful.

Hai Hoa beach in the morning

Hai Hoa beach in the morning

The second day was a fun-filled time for Hai Hoa beach. We swam, played football, and climbed up to the mountain. Apart from sunbathing or relaxing on the beach, drinking coconut juice, and chatting with friends over a glass of beer and savory snacks of seafood. Before dawn there is a flurry of activity that involves everyone, both young and old, after fishing boats return to their shores. Nets are gathered and washed as conversations continue, women weigh and sell fresh fish and children play cheerfully around.

Seafood market in the morning

Seafood market in the morning

Hai Hoa beach in the afternoon

Hai Hoa beach in the afternoon

At dawn, the beach is seemingly lit by a ball of fire that bounces off the ocean’s surface. Small fishing boats dock at the beach to sell fish, crab, and shrimp from their overnight catch. You can also surf the waves that surround the pristine island of Hon Me, not far away from the beach or  you can try to fish for cuttlefish at night.

In the summer morning, we did not miss the chance to catch the sunrise over the sea. Just at 5am, many people noisily call each other to wake up and run to the sea. The dawn is “dyed” a reddish purple in the horizon. It is a great feeling when you inhale the salty taste of sea and walking on the flat sand, seeing the fishing boats returning to the wharf in the early shimmering sunbeam.

Coming to Hai Hoa, you can also find Hon Me island offshore, and Soi mountain and Chay mountain in the South of the beach. Not far away from Hai Hoa, there are many other beaches, such as Hai Thuong beach, Nghi Son beach or Bai Dong beach…

blule water on Bai Da

We had great time together there. When leaving Hai Hoa, it is sure that we will eagerly wish for coming here again to return to the nature, and to immerse ourselves in the wild and poetic sea.

If you want to get more information about Hai Hoa beach, please view: Indochina tours Vietnam

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I have arrived in Myanmar on a very auspicious date, the Burmese new year, or Thingyan, the most celebrated festival in the country. Thingyan, Myanmar Water Festival, takes place toward the end of the hot, dry season and ushers in the Myanmar New Year. This festival is also celebrated in neighboring Theravada Buddhist countries; Songkran in Thailand and Laos, Chaul Chnam Thmey in Cambodia. Taking place from April 13 to 16 each year, the Buddhist festival of Thingyan is celebrated over four to five days, culminating on the Lunar New Year Day.

Commonly referred to as the Water Festival, Maha Thingyan allows people to celebrate the Burmese New Year. Despite this, Maha Thingyan is observed in mid-April on the Gregorian calendar. While the Water Festival is a Buddhist event, the Burmese government has made it a legal public holiday. This ensures that many Burmese citizens have the opportunity to enjoy the Water Festival. Maha Thingyan is a time for happiness and friendly attitudes.

Thinngyan is the most unique and colourful with the merriest occasion in Myanmar. Standing on bamboo stages erected along the streets, people splash water on passersby. Powerful water pipes douse people driving by in jeeps and trucks. The people throwing water each other since the Myanmar believe that Thinngyan water has the power to cleanse the evil and sins of the old year. The water symbolizes the washing away of the previous year’s bad luck and sins. On New Year’s Day itself, all the water-throwing ends. This day is celebrated by releasing captive fish and birds as acts of merit, and special feasts are held for monks.

Thingyan Celebrations:
Thingyan Eve: The first Thingyan celebrations begin on the day before the Water Festival. Thingyan Eve, or A-Kyo Nei, is a time for observing Buddhist beliefs.

Fasting: Many Buddhists observe Thingyan Eve through fasting. People who decide to fast for Thingyan Eve usually eat a single basic meal prior to noon. This meal is often very bland.

Observing the Eight Precepts: During Thingyan Eve, Buddhists are expected to observe the Eight Precepts of Buddhism. These Eight Precepts are similar to the Five Precepts. While observing the Eight Precepts, Buddhists must do the following: Refrain from killing living creatures, Refrain from stealing, Refrain from sexual activity, Refrain from lying or using incorrect speech, Refrain from using alcohol or drugs, Refrain from seeking entertainment, Refrain from eating during fasting periods, Refrain from sleeping on high places

Offerings to Monks: Many people in Myanmar celebrate Thingyan Eve by visiting a Buddhist temple. When visiting these temples, it is considered proper to leave an offering of green coconuts and bananas. These kinds of offerings usually consist of a single green coconut surrounded by a circle of bananas.

Washing the Buddha: Burmese people will also wash Buddha statues with sacred water that has been scented with flower extract. When washing Buddha statues, people start at the top by drizzling water over the head.

Night Celebrations: After the religious formalities of Thingyan Eve have been observed, Burmese people begin to relax and enjoy themselves. There are many lively celebrations that occur during the night of Thingyan Eve.

Music, Song, and Dance: While the Eight Precepts prohibit Buddhists from enjoying entertainment of any kind during the daytime, people are allowed to party to their hearts’ content as soon as night arrives. In nearly every village, city, and town in Myanmar, large stages are erected for the purpose of enjoying entertainment. These stages are made of wood and elaborately decorated with papier-mache and paint. Woman will dance to classical and contemporary music while wearing flower skirts. In addition to these flower skirts, Burmese women often wear padauck blossoms in their hair. The padauck blossom is also commonly referred to as the Thingyan flower due to its rarity and use during Maha Thingyan.

Parade of Locals: After enjoying live music and dancing, people celebrating Maha Thingyan parade the streets of their town or city while enjoying alcohol and the company of their friends and family members. These parades often consist of vehicles and decorated floats. Gyat, a form of Burmese rap, is commonly performed during these parades. Gyat is fairly controversial because it is a popular way of expressing distaste for social and political issues through music.

Water Festival Celebrations
Thinngyan water festival time is the merriest time for Myanmar young and old. Almost the whole populations are in the most joyous mood; roam around the city in cars or on foot to throwing and splashing water each other. Children use water pistols to drench their friends, relatives, and anyone else in range – only monks and the elderly are safe.
The primary event of Maha Thingyan is the Water Festival. This huge event is meant to celebrate the descent of Thagyamin, a celestial Buddhist figure, to Earth. The beginning of the Water Festival, or A-Kya Nei, is marked with the firing of a water cannon into a public area. While the cannon is fired, people run out to collect the water with pots and buckets. The collected water is then poured over the ground. This is followed by a short prayer. Just like Thingyan Eve, these religious rituals are followed by festive activities. Water throwing with toy guns, balloons, and hoses takes place in many areas of Myanmar.

If you are planning to Myanmar tours, Thingyan is undoubtedly the best time of the year to visit. Besides the fun-filled activities and the festive atmosphere, you’ll be sure to meet lots of Burmese, who are always friendly saying “Mingalabar”

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Part 2: Others scams


2.1 Street Vendors of All Kind

Say it again: Overall, Vietnam holidays deals is a relatively safe in however like most countries, it has its share of traveller annoyances such as books sellers, ladies with fruit baskets, shoeshine boys…

They are some vendors who sell books in boxes at cheap prices but those books are photocopies. You would not know as these “books” are wrapped up. Some of those are also of low quality – errors in pages, etc.

They are ladies with fruit baskets: Walking in the Old quarter in Hanoi, meet a lady with her fruit basket? There are other vendors who will invite you to take a photo with them. Once taken, they will demand a fee, a tip, or a purchase of their products. Want a photo? being handed the baskets for you to try putting onto your shoulder to have a photo taken? Hey, a few dollars will be asked or they going to keep yelling at you. What a nuisance! It is a set scenario made by a group of women. They are of course a fake fruit basket women. Real ones will never have that light loads. Action: Ignore, and you will be hounded until you pay. Get away from them. If they approach, you stay back. If they put the baskets on your shoulder, just say NO, detour them and keep on ( this is popular in Hanoi old quarter).

They are shoe repairer. Some guy approaches you out of nowhere and applies glue to your shoes. Next, he would take out a thread and tell you that your shoes are about to fall apart, which he can repair for $1. If you didn’t realize, that glue is actually a solvent that dissolves stitches. Should you say yes, he would then proceed. However, the trouble does not end when the job is completed, as he will be demanding $10 or more.

⇒ How to avoid:

– A firm but polite “No” to the vendors. In certain circumstances, just pretend you do not listen and walk away.

– Do not open your purse or wallet in public. If you want to buy something, keep your wallet close, know exactly how much you need so you can take it out quickly, and put your money straight away afterwards.

2.2 Overcharging and Confusing Currency

This is common around the world, but it is much more easily implemented here due to the large note denomination.

Confusing Currency: There are so many damn denominations in Vietnam, notes range from the virtually worthless 200 VND up to the 500,000VD note. There are 10 denominations in total.  At the current rate of exchange, 1 US dollar is worth 22,500VND.  So imagine your surprise when you exchange $1000. It makes you feel as though you are one of the wealthiest people on earth. As a newcomer to the country you must be very careful to check the money you are handling as some of the bill colours are quite similar.  For example, you’re in a dark club and you hand a blue note thinking you’ve paid for your 110,000VND cocktail only to be embarrassed that you’ve given the waitress a 20,000vnd bill instead of a 500,000. A very valuable tip is  try to keep your money in different places on your persons when out and about.  You make yourself an appealing target to thieves and pick pockets if you pull out a wad of cash.

Overcharging can occur in many different forms, such as over conversion of currency, giving less change by rounding up/down, not giving any change by insisting on a tip, or even changing the fare once the service is completed. After choosing goods in the shop, you need to make sure the price before taking it. There are many cases fake prices higher than the real value of goods, especially in markets, some shops. The solution for this situation is bargain lower cost many reduce a haft of a price they said. Maybe you conflict others currency between USD and “dong”, let’s check carefully. Some restaurants in Vietnam have the scam list their price doesn’t appear on the menu. If guests ask about the price, they usually avoid the answer or answer vaguely. When meals end, the staff in the restaurant will give bills for customers, the price is usually unacceptable, which is so much expensive compared to the quality of food and the market price. Tourists cannot declare to them as they ate the food already and must pay the bills to leave.

Many places also quote in USD to make overcharging easier for them – either by rounding up to USD (which is higher than the value in Vietnamese Dong) or by demanding payment in Dong while using an unacceptable exchange rate. Also beware when a vendor tells you 10, it could mean 10 USD, 10,000 Dong or even something else! Besides this, always ensure that the fee is for everyone in the group and not for each individual.

Finally, be extremely careful with the cash in your wallet, keep them out of sight from the public and from the shopkeepers.

⇒ How to avoid:

– Always exchange you money in legal money exchange rate counter rather than with individuals on the street. Be ridiculously meticulous with counting (and holding on) to currency you’re not familiar with.

– Before you enter Vietnam it’s very important to know exchange rates and a rough estimate of how much things should cost. Double check how much money you’ve had exchanged and don’t just pay for things without already knowing about how much it should be. Carrying a small calculator or using the calculator on your mobile phone is a good choice.

– Always carry a range of bills, the smaller the better, so that they have no chance to short change you.

– Always confirm what currency a price is in and pay in the currency they’ve quoted. If a price is quoted in dollars and you choose to pay in Vietnamese dong, always double check the exchange rate used to make the conversion.

– Be meticulous with counting any time money change hands and never accept torn or damaged bills which are usually difficult to spend later.

– Get familiar with Vietnamese dong. Even though all the denominations are different sizes and colors, it can still be hard to differentiate the similar ones. For instance, the 200,000 and 50,000 denominations are slightly varied shades of red.

Do not let list of scam scare you. Vietnam is an extremely safe place to travel and its people are overwhelmingly hospitable, friendly and honest. Please remember that tourist scams occurs in tourist areas, even though it seems like there are a lot to be afraid of, these will just ensure you enjoy your time in Vietnam to the fullest. So go visit, just with these tips in mind.

You can see more: How to avoid scams during your holiday in Vietnam? Part I

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I believe that travellers will read a lot (both positive things and negative things) before travelling to Vietnam. Your research beforehand will help you identify the common scams and things to take note.

Part 1: Taxi Scam

Taxi scams are prevalent in Vietnam, especially in big cities such as Hanoi and Ho Chi Minh city. It’s easy to find the stories about tourists being overcharged or extorted for sky-high fares all over the internet. In Vietnam, illegal taxi drivers have so many tricks up their sleeve, especially when it comes to foreigners being the customers. The easiest way is to use a modified meter, which runs faster than normal ones; thus allows unscrupulous taxi drivers to rapidly increase the fare. The longer the trip is, the more money they can rip off travelers. In addition, they usually take longer paths, which they call “shortcuts” but in fact are circling around to maximize the fare. Sometimes, taxi drivers can offer tourists some good places to go, just to later on ask for tips. However most of this information can easily be found through post office, maps or from the internet.

Here are the ways of sophisticated scams which taxi driver often use:

– Get money by cheating charge per kilometer

– Use the cheating tricks to increase the counted number on the taxi meter

– Do not use the taxi meter

– Driving around on the multiple routes which are not right with roadmap to increase the distance between staring point and your destination.

– Demanding more your gratuities.

In order to avoid all the troubles with the taxi scams, I would like to provide you some advice:

1/ You should get a cab of trustworthy brands, like Mai Linh (the Green Taxi), Taxi Group, or Vinasun. They are usually in a good number and the price is reasonable which based on the kilometer clock.

2/ Ask a receptionist at your hotel to help. This is highly recommended! especially you use airport taxi without from the package tour with travel agency. Transportation is also an important part of the tour company, so you do not have to worry about the quality of car, driver and over-charge.

3/ If you use one of the local taxis, get agreement on the rate before you get in by pointing at the rates sign and getting a confirming nod. If the driver tries to charge you more upon arrival, do not pay. Also, so not pay any extras for the tolls/parking – that is all included.

4/ Please make sure you have the exact name and address of the hotel you are heading for, ideally written down in Vietnamese, and make it clear all share an address. If the driver takes you somewhere else you have two options: (1) get out and walk (2) refuse to pay until they take you where you want to go.

5/ Please make sure you have enough change on you. It’s a common trick for drivers to claim they don’t have any change. If they do this, pay less rather than more (if you have it) – no change, their problem, not yours.

When you finish your trip: Tipping for taxis is not expected in Vietnam. If a driver demands a tip, do not feel obliged to give him more money unless you feel that you want to reward him for his work. If you do give the driver a tip, 5-10% of the total bill is more than enough. Some instances have been reported where the taxi driver has withheld the customer’s luggage until receiving extra payment. It may be good practice to make sure the driver opens the trunk as soon as you arrive at your destination. Or if you travel in a group, let one person remove the luggage while other pays.

If you find yourself in a situation where you are victim of a scam, there are a few things you can do:

1/ The first is try to negotiate as much as you can – whatever their demand is, start with half and be as steadfast as you can.

2/ You can also try taking a photo of the taxi driver, car number or taxi number – that tends to intimidate them.

3/ In the event that you feel physically threatened, try to bluff and say you are calling the police or pay an amount that will also you to leave the situation. However, tourism is very important to the Vietnamese economy, Vietnamese people so it is highly unlike that drivers will hurt tourists.

Have a safe trip!

 

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Colorful Bangkok

Colorful Bangkok

Great food, superb shopping and a vibrant culture make the Thai capital an ideal gateway for a journey to South-East Asia. Bangkok is a huge hub for Southeast Asia and is also an excellent place to kick off a trip. It’s a big bustling city and it’s best to see.

You could spend a lot more time exploring the city but I visited this capital many times before so 3 days in Bangkok is a good length of time for my visit. Each time I come  back I fall deeper and deeper in love with this amazing city.

For more information, you can click: Indochina tours Thailand

Beneath the dust and chaos, Bangkok is packed with things to do and places to see. From street-side restaurants with plastic chairs and road-side amulet stalls to top-notch restaurants and the world’s hippest rooftop bars. From exploring ancient temples to taking a  tuk-tuk tour through the Bangkok night. Bangkok has it all and there is never a dull moment when you hit the streets of this city.

Tuk Tuk is popular transportation in Bangkok

Tuk Tuk is popular transportation in Bangkok

Here is my sharing for 48 hours itinerary with the highlights of what to do in Bangkok.

Saturday: Temples and Historic Sites

Grand Palace and Wat Phra Kaew (Temple of the Emerald Buddha) – Wat Pho (Gigantic reclining Buddha) and Wat Arun – Temple of the Dawn.

Buddhism is the national religion and is practised by nine out of 10 Thais, who pay their respects at shrines at all times of day. The former home of the monarch, the Grand Palace is located right beside the architectural wonder that is the Temple of the Emerald Buddha. You must be properly dressed before being allowed entry to the temple. Wear shirts with sleeves, long pants or skirts and shoes. So no tank tops! If you’re wearing sandals or flip-flops you must wear socks, so no bare feet. If you show up at the front gate improperly dressed, there is a booth near the entry that provides clothes to cover you up properly. You must leave your passport or credit card as security. Shoes should be removed before entering the main chapel. Also, when sitting in front of a Buddha image, remember to tuck your feet behind you to avoid the very offensive pose of pointing your feet towards Buddha.

From Grand Palace, walk about 10 minutes to Wat Pho, the gigantic reclining Buddha is amazingly beautiful covered in gold leaf and mother-of-pearl ornaments inlaid in his feet. Wat Pho is also Thailand’s headquarter for the teaching of traditional Thai medicine and Thai massage. After this walk around Grand Palace and Wat Pho, nothing beats a relaxing head or foot massage.

Then it is time to cross the river, so jump on a cross-river ferry from No. 8 Tha Tien to Wat Arun pier. On your way to the Grand Palace and Wat PhraKaew you passed this temple with the ferry, so you already know that it is spectacular and atmospheric with its steep piers reaching up in the sky. It is at its most impressive after dark when it is lit up and looks a bit magical and like a fairytale. Unfortunately, it closes before nightfall. This is my favourite temple in Bangkok.

In the late afternoon, take a ride to the Asiatique-The Riverfront, a new shopping and entertainment venue on the Chao Phraya River. I love this place very much. You can go shopping, enjoy a cocktail to see sunset on the river bank or have a great dinner with live music.

Grand Palace in Bangkok

Grand Palace in Bangkok

Wat Pho

Wat Pho

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Wat Arun

Wat Arun

Sunset on the riverbank

Sunset on the riverbank

Asiatique Market & Shopping Mall

Asiatique Market & Shopping Mall

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  1. Sunday: Modern Bangkok and Weekend Shopping

After this delicious breakfast and it’s time to head on to the famous and vibrant China Town that is located by the river. Go for a walk through the narrow streets and beautiful buildings in China Town, shop Chinese green tea and other Chinese souvenirs, and just watch the life on the streets. (How to get there: It is best to take a taxi or tuk-tuk to China Town – Estimated time: 1-2 hour)

Next stop is Chatuchak Weekend Market in Bangkok. It has reached a landmark status as a must-see place for my visit all the time. Chatuchak Weekend market is probably the biggest weekend market in the world. Here you will find just about anything you can imagine, both useful and not so useful stuff.

If you are not in Bangkok a Saturday or Sunday, it is time to experience the modern side of Bangkok and visit the Siam area to go shopping. Take the sky train to Siam station or Chit Lom station. Siam is a shopping bonanza and we love it. You can spend hours and hours exploring the four big shopping centers that are located next to each other in the Siam area: Central World (has an ice skating rink at ground floor), Siam Paragon (has South East Asia’s biggest aquarium, Siam Ocean World at base level and the Exotic Thai store on 4th floor – perfect for gifts and souvenirs), Siam Center, Siam Discovery (has Bangkok’s Madame Tussauds on 6th floor), MBK.

China Town in Bangkok

China Town in Bangkok

Siam Shopping Center

Siam Shopping Center

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Modern Bangkok

Modern Bangkok

Modern Bangkok

Modern Bangkok

Chatuchak Weekend Market

Chatuchak Weekend Market

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There you go, this itinerary packed with what we consider it the “heart” of Bangkok. Two days is in our opinion not enough time to spend in this magnificent city. Four or five days are what I would recommend, then you have time to really enjoy yourself and your time in Bangkok and also have some time to relax.

Hope you enjoy this city as much as I do!

Photos credit by Lucas.

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The Legend of Bagan

The Legend of Bagan

I cannot say that I was born to travel,  but I often feel compelled to wander. Every year I make plan to travel as many destinations as possible. Some of these places, I visited just to know what they were like, and some of them I cannot wait to revisit. When I was asked where I want to revisit the most, my answer was Bagan, Myanmar without any question.

If you interest, please follow our relevant topic at: Indochina tours Myanmar

This ancient city is over a millennium old and home to tens of thousands of temples, pagoda, stupas and Buddhist ruins of the ancient Burmese kingdom. Time, historical events, conflicts, wars and people have made these massive heritages fade into oblivion, leaving only about 2,000 structures across this 42,000 kilometer area. More than enough to attract travellers though, no?

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There are thousands of attractions in this city, but one cannot miss exploring the unique architecture, the ancient Buddha statues and time-worn Buddhist painting at Thatbyinnyu: the tallest pagoda, Ananda – the holiest pagoda, the famous temple Shwezigon, or daydream in the silvery sunset on top of the Shwesandaw pagoda. There are countless other pagodas you can only reach by horse carriage, through the winding peaceful dirt roads under the shades of ancient trees.

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But Bagan is so much more than its temples. The Buddhists here are kind, honest, gentle and hospitable and provide travellers with comfort even though the temperature in Bagan can sometimes reach 40 degrees Celsius. Do not forget to pamper yourself during the pure morning hours by the gentle Ayeyarwardy River, or simply lie on the grass and listen to the birds chirping by the river flowing past the Bagan Thiripyitsaya Sanctuary resort.

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Now, after four years, I still cannot explain why I was so impressed and fell in love with Bagan. Perhaps because it was easy to find empathy and see into your own soul in this quiet, spiritual and tranquil space. I will come back next year to visit Bagan!

When to go

Bagan is hot most of the year. The best time to visit is between November and February, when temperatures hit 30C (86F). Avoid March to May, when temperatures can reach 43C (110F). Rainfall is highest in June and October. In my experience, the photos are better from late Nov-early Feb, with the haze in the air getting in the way in mid Feb.  This is also the only time of the year that the famous Bagan hot air balloons launch.

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What to do in Bagan

Bagan is known for its landscape of Pagodas. While you descent you will already see hundreds and thousands of Pagodas as far as the eye can see. Obviously, that is also why you are going there and so far this is also the only thing you can do: Watch Temples, Payas and Pagodas.

The easiest way to go and check them out is by bike or car. Two days are good to see the biggest temples and some of the small ones and see the sunset. If you have a lot of time in Myanmar and don’t want to rush things stay for two-three days. If you decide to rent a bike and bike around the country I’d recommend to bike from one part of town to the next and do a whole round: New Bagan – Old Bagan – Nyaung Oo – New Bagan.

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Where to stay in Bagan

In short, you will find the most budget places in and around Nyaung U, the midrange places in New Bagan, and the priciest resorts around Old Bagan. Independent travelers will want to stay around Nyaung U, which offers the most restaurants and more of the bustling local life and markets.  New Bagan is pretty blah, and Old Bagan is filled with fancy resorts.

Have you been to Bagan or do you plan to visit it when in Myanmar? Let us know.

Photos credit by Tam Bui Photographer

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