Archive for the ‘Research Notes’ Category

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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Part 2: Others scams

2.1 Street Vendors of All Kind

Say it again: Overall, Travel to Vietnam 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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Located in the heart of Mekong Delta region, Can Tho is a unique place which brings you many exciting travel experiences. It takes at least four hour to drive from Saigon city center to Can Tho then you are highly recommended to spend at least two days one night there. Here below are some must-see attractions:

Cai Rang Floating Market

Can Tho has long been well known as the home of the famous Cai Rang floating market. Each year, thousands of travellers do not mind spend hours travelling on coach from Saigon to Can Tho, just to attend this early morning activity – where you can see the daily life and local people selling their products on boats.

Cai Rang Floating Market

Cai Rang Floating Market- source: internet

The best time to visit Cai Rang Floating Market is early morning, around 5am to 8am when it is most bustling and crowded. Photo opportunities are endless, my camera memory card was full after just about 3 hours visit the market

Can Tho bridge

Can Tho bridge crossing Hau river, connects Can Tho city to Vinh Long province. It is a newly built cable-stayed bridge which was finished in 2010. If you have chance to visit Can Tho during weekend or some holidays, the bridge is lightened with thousands of colorful lights. Embark a boat at Ninh Kieu pier and sail down the river to view the whole bridge at night is also a lovely experience.

Can Tho bridge

Can Tho bridge- source: internet

Binh Thuy Ancient House

Binh Thuy ancient house in Can Tho attracts people with its ancient look and unique architecture. This old house was built in 1807 and owned and well preserved by Duong family. For those who are interested in architecture, this location is definitely worth to check out.

Binh Thuy Ancient House

Binh Thuy Ancient House- source: internet

Ninh Kieu Pier

If Hanoians are proud of their One Pillar Pagoda, Hoan Kiem Lake with Turtle Tower; Hue has imperial tombs, Can Tho people must be happy as they have Ninh Kieu pier which is now called Ninh Kieu Park – a cultural tourist attraction. Recently, night market and restaurants are operated nearby the pier where you can discover the cuisine of Mekong Delta at night.

Ninh Kieu Pier

Ninh Kieu Pier- source: internet

My Khanh Orchard

With more than twenty trees are planted along the walkway including plum, rambutan, jackfruit, mango, strawberry, durian, etc, always lush, laden with fruits, the orchard is definitely a paradise for those who love tropical fruit.

My Khanh Orchard

My Khanh Orchard- source: internet

Follow above suggestions, trust that you will enjoy an interesting time in Can Tho and discover most highlights of Mekong Delta tours Vietnam.

If you interest this post,  you can access: private-3-days-cai-be-vinh-long-sadec-can-tho to get more useful information

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Leaving the crowded, bustling, busy life of the Hanoi centre in peak hours, we look to a peaceful and serene places in the afternoon. The old Long Bien bridge where we want to visit. This bridge was a connected the life of local people around Red river.

Long Bien bridge

Long Bien bridge-source: internet

It is considered a historical witness for more than a century. Apparently, the image of ancient Long Bien bridge has become a symbol of the Hanoi capital.
This bridge is the first steel bridge across the Red River, which connects the two districts of Hoan Kiem with Long Bien district,it was built by the French (1898-1902), named for Doumer, under the name of the Governor General of Indochina Paul Doumer. This bridge is linked to the history of two wars against the French and American peoples, witnessed many changes of Hanoi. The values of the past as still deposited on each bridge.

Long Bien bridge

Long Bien bridge- source: internet

Every day, the busiest line of people has the reverse sweep back and forth line across this bridge. It is especially unique bridge opposite direction in Vietnam. This bridge consists of lanes for pedestrians, bicycles, motorcycles and trains.
Walk along the bridge, you will see green mudflats with banana trees, strawberry garden. A ordinary life of the people along the Red River. Located about 2km central Hanoi, but the life of the local people is so idyllic and rustic. Everyday, they grow vegetables, fruits and go fish.

Banana field near Long Bien bridge

Banana field near Long Bien bridge- source: internet

In the afternoon, We easily see the street vendors where is selling gifts like fruit native toad, guava, or bunch of shrimp , bunch of fish which brought up by the local people.

Long Bien bridge in afternoon

Long Bien bridge in afternoon- source: internet

When it is really dark, rows of iced tea, lemon tea laid out with a few simple mats. You will find a sense of peace, interspersed bit dim. That contrasted with the Chuong Duong bridge bustling, sparkling lights, symbolizing the modern lifestyle.

Long Bien bridge in night

Long Bien bridge in night- source: internet

Conclusion, The daily activities occur frequently and repeated on the old Long Bien bridge. If you interest this post, please click  Hanoi cycling tour to get more information.

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Valentine’s day is coming up! If you are travelling with your partner in Saigon and wondering where to have dinner to enjoy a romantic day together, below suggestions may help:

The Deck Saigon – 38 Nguyen U Di St, Thao Dien, District 2, Ho Chi Minh City

Have long been well known as the paradise for dating couples, The Deck Saigon is a fine dining restauran which specializes in serving Western food. The restaurant has modern and luxury design and riverside tables are especially suit couples.  Is it expected of this place to bring you an interesting and romantic night.


The Deck Saigon- source: internet

The best time to visit the restaurant is at late afternoon, approximately 5pm to 6pm when the sun sets that makes the scenery so poetic. Average price is USD 20 – 25 per person without beverage

The Log Restaurant – Rooftop, Gem Center, 08 Nguyen Binh Khiem, Phuong Da Kao, District 1, Ho Chi Minh City

Located on the rooftop of GEM Center, The Log is covered by a green space, quiet with trees that makes it completely separated from the noisy and bustling Saigon. For nature lovers, this restaurant is a nice place to spend your Valentine’s Day.

Entering the restaurant, you will find out that The Log owns a simply interior design with wooden tables and yellow lights, yet bring you unforgettable impression on your very first date. This restaurant serves both a la carte and buffet so you can choose base on your preference and budget


The Log Restaurant- source: internet

Reference price:

  • A la carte menu: 4 – 35 per dish
  • Buffet: USD 50 per person

MAMA Restaurant – 33 Nguyen Dinh Chieu St, Dist 1, Ho Chi Minh City

A Western villa with spacious campus and a exquisite combination inside, the restaurant brings you a romantic atmosphere and also a luxury feeling. Beautifully designed space, very elegant and I am surely you will be impressed by the green grassland there. MAMA Restaurant is a culinary space blending Thai style. Price is from 7 – 30 USD per dish

Au Manoir De Khai Restaurant – 251 Dien Bien Phu, Ward 7. District 3, Ho Chi Minh City

Located inside a French village with 19th century architecture on Dien Bien Phu Street, District 3, the restaurant has luxury and sophisticated decor with two tones – black and white


Au Manoir De Khai Restaurant- source: internet

With warm, romantic and quiet atmosphere, delicious dishes served and good services, this restaurant should be put on your list when choosing a place for Valentine’s Day.

If you interest, please access Indochina tours Vietnam to get more advice for Valentine’s day

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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?


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.


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.


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.


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.


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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E-visa (electronic visa) is an official document permitting entry into and travel within a country. Applicants obtain their visas via e-mail after entering required information and making payments by a credit or debit card. Now, it is considered to be the most convenient way to apply a visa for tourist comparing to traditional sticker (from Embassy) or popular way in many countries now – Visa On Arrival (stamping on arrivals).

According to many official newspaper in Vietnam, on 22 November, Vietnam’s National Assembly overwhelmingly approved a plan to allow foreign tourists to apply for electronic visas (e-visas) starting on February 1, 2017.

Under this program, tourists will be able to apply online for 30-day, single-entry e-visas by paying a non-refundable application fee online.

The Vietnamese government is working to decide which nationalities will become eligible for the program and which Vietnamese border gates will allow foreigners to enter by applying online.

Vietnam’s foreign tourist arrivals jumped by a quarter in the first ten months of 2016, hitting eight million, according to figures from the Vietnam National Administration of Tourism. At the end of this year, we have had ten million tourist arrivals. It is an unexpected number for Vietnamese tourism industry and it is the main reason for government to invest more and more in tourism industry. E-visa will be the first program of developing our tourism in 2017. The government had allocated 200 billion Vietnamese Dong ($8.97 million) to speed up the implementation of visas through an electronic visa application system which is slated to go into effect in January 2017 or latest in February of 2017.

Earlier, on 1 September of 2016, Vietnam extended visa exemptions to tourists from the Association of South East Asian Nations (ASEAN) as well as Russia, Japan, South Korea, Denmark, Norway, Poland, Sweden, Belarus, the U.K., France, Germany, Spain and Italy.

If you have traveled to Australia, New Zealand, Cambodia, Myanmar, and Turkey or obtained an India ETA visa, you may be familiar with the process. The goal is to make entry into Vietnam easier, and less costly to increase tourism. Fees for the future E-visa have not been established. But I think that it will be the same with a total cost of a fully Visa on Arrival (VOA) around 45 USD for one month single entry visa (USD 10 Visa Approval Letter, USD35 for stamping fee at immigration counter at international airports). However, with E-visa, you will not have to find a agent to receive a Visa Approval Letter and wait at the airport for stamping fee or filling Visa Form. You will do everything on your laptop and receive a full E-visa from government via e-mail after 3 working days then you just have to print it out to present at Immigration staff at international airport in Vietnam. E-visa is not new in SEA but only Cambodia and Myanmar use this way to support tourist. Cambodia is very successful with E-visa before. I believe that our website and process will nearly the same with the way our neighbor doing. You can see more detail about Cambodia E-visa at this official link: evisa.gov.kh

I hope that Vietnam will be attractive destination for traveller all over the world in 2017 with the thoughtful attention and reasonable investment from the government. E-visa is the one of many long-run programs from government to supporting tourists to Vietnam in 2017. We will keep updating information of E-visa for all of you.

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

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