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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 travel Myanmar, 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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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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Phaung Daw OO Pagoda Festival (Inle Lake, Shan State)

Phaung Daw U Pagoda is the most famous pagoda in Inle lake region. The pagoda houses five small gilded images of Buddha, which have been covered in gold leaf to the point that their original forms cannot be seen.  The Phaung Daw U Pagoda Festival is held annually for a total of 18 days. It is one of the most famous festivals in Myanmar. Both locals and foreign visitors come to visit this traditional festival in Inle Lake, Shan State. Annually, during the Myanmar Month of Thadingyut, usually between September and October, the 18-days festival is held. The festival is held with the dates according to the Lunar Calendar of Myanmar.

A large boat with a Golden Hintha (Hamsa) Bird creation is built. The Buddha Images tour around the Inle Lake from village to village taking the whole 18 days on the way. During the festival, only four of the Buddha Images are moved onto the royal barge. One image always remains at the temple. The decorated royal barge is towed by several boats moving by leg-rowers of Inle. The barge is towed from village to village along the shores of the lake in clockwise fashion, and the four images reside at the main monastery in each village for the night. The high point of the festival is on the day when the images arrive at the main town of Nyaung Shwe, where most pilgrims from the surrounding region come to pay their respects and veneration by boats. There are hundreds of floating boats from near and far. Indochina tours Vietnam

The order of the procession is subject to late changes as there is no fixed route for the festival. Your guide throughout your period in Inle Lake will take you to the best locations to enable you to join in the festivities.

Phaung Daw OO Pagoda Festival (Inle Lake, Shan State)

Phaung Daw OO Pagoda Festival (Inle Lake, Shan State)

The festival is held with the dates according to the Lunar Calendar of Myanmar. A large boat with a Golden Hintha (Hamsa) Bird creation is built

The festival is held with the dates according to the Lunar Calendar of Myanmar.

Elephant Dance Festival (Ky Auk Se)

In celebration of these magnificent beasts, locals dress up in life-size elephant costumes to perform lively dances and impressive acrobatics. The artistry, fun, and sheer talent involved in this festival is sure to impress any visitor.

What is the Elephant Dance Festival?

The festival is celebrated every year at the end of Buddhist Lent, which coincides with October’s full moon. The festival is celebrated with intricate elephant costumes, each generally manned by two people. The costumes can take months to make and are crafted from a bamboo frame covered in cloth, paper, and foil.  The elephant costumes are further decorated in glitter, gold foil, satin, ribbons, and glass gems to create a true work of art. Workshops respect the artist’s mastery and each artist keeps his construction methods top-secret.

What to expect at the Elephant Dance Festival?

The festival lasts all day and includes both a parade and a dance competition. The day starts with a parade around the marketplace, with the elephants circling the market three times so that everyone can get a good look at the beautiful artwork. The competition begins in the morning and is judged by prominent town officials and distinguished local persons.

The elephants are judged on various details including the precision and harmony of the dancing, the teamwork of the dancers, the construction of the elephant, and the music and singing involved. Dancing can involve impressive acrobatics – imagine two people acting out an elephant standing on its front legs with its hind legs in the air. Winners are announced in the evening and the next morning pilgrims climb a nearby 975-foot-hill to offer cakes and fruits to their spiritual protectors.

Elephant Dance Festival (Ky Auk Se)

Elephant Dance Festival (Ky Auk Se)

The festival is celebrated every year at the end of Buddhist Lent, which coincides with October’s full moon.

The festival is celebrated every year at the end of Buddhist Lent, which coincides with October’s full moon.

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Hot Air Balloon Festival 

As usual, the festival is held on full moon day of Tazaungmone. It takes at least for 5 days and widely famous for its hot air balloons with fireworks and fire  crackers, competing day and night during the festival. Nevertheless, the main significance of this festival is light, as many suppose this festival has existed even before the introduction of Buddhism in Myanmar, to honor the God of Light and the awakening of Lord Vishnu. Sparkle fireworks, fire balloons are sent to the sky and multicolored lanterns are lighted. It is also said that the Gautama Buddha would return to Tawadeintha on this day to visit his mother’s reincarnated spirit so people illuminate the path for him by lighting candles and lanterns. Also on this occasion, many people come back home to pay homage to elders. Almsgiving and charity consisting of sautuditha feasts are also common during this festival, regarded as merit-making activities.

Visitors can see competition, how beautiful and smart hot air balloons, fireworks and fire crackers that how high shapes and forms of animals such as elephants, ducks, fishes, birds, hens so also four legs animals like pigs, buffalos which are to be handmade of a kind of fire resistant paper for successfully long lasting while competing. The competition is celebrated in crowded people while others play happily traditional musical instruments and dance around. People from all parts of country love to come and enjoy this festival as the festival is one of the most popular festivals in Myanmar. tours in Vietnam

Hot Air Balloon Festival

Hot Air Balloon Festival

It takes at least for 5 days and widely famous for its hot air balloons with fireworks and fire crackers, competing day and night during the festival

It takes at least for 5 days and widely famous for its hot air balloons with fireworks and fire crackers, competing day and night during the festival

Sky Lights

Sky Lights

Golden Rock Pagoda Festival

Mount Kyaiktiyo (Kyite Htee Yoe), famous for the huge golden rock perched at its summit, is one of the three most sacred religious sites in Myanmar, along with the Shwedagon Pagoda and the Mahamuni Temple. Pilgrims come here from far and wide to worship and add gold leaf to the rock, which seems to defy gravity by delicately balancing on the edge of the 1100-metre high mountain.

Golden Rock pagoda festival is one of the most famous one and nation-wide both for local and foreign visitors. It is held on the evening of December 31 in Golden Rock, Mon State. On the platform of Golden Rock pagoda devotees light nine thousand lamps to welcome the New Year and to give thanks to Buddha peaceful philosophy. The magical Golden Rock pagoda, a golden spire, sits on the top huge boulder covered with gold leaf and perched on the edge of a cliff.

It is of considerable celebrity and attracts crowds of worshippers annually beginning from October to March which is the seasonal pilgrimage period for worshippers Especially on the full moon day of Tabaung, the platform of the pagoda is lighted with ninety thousand candles offered to the Buddha and thousands of worshippers gather around the pagoda offering fruits, foods incense to the Buddha. Sometimes reflected rays of color from the Buddha’s image were said to have been observed by the worshipers.

Golden Rock Pagoda Festival

Golden Rock Pagoda Festival

Golden Rock Pagoda

Golden Rock Pagoda

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kyaikthiyo-bird-eyes-view

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One of Hanoi’s most common sights is that of streets packed with scooters, bicycles and cars swarming around pedestrians like a school of fish. Then there are the many sidewalk vendors and people simply out for a stroll and the popular Old Quarter is no exception so walking around this district is distinct from a leisurely stroll in the park. Visitors have no choice but to face the traffic in the local style but the experience of exploring the historical area is a must-do and truly well worth it.

There are the many sidewalk vendors and people simply out for a stroll and the popular Old Quarter is no exception so walking around this district is distinct from a leisurely stroll in the park. Visitors have no choice but to face the traffic in the local style but the experience of exploring the historical area is a must-do and truly well worth it.

A colleague  reminds me about a video named “36 hours in Hanoi” from New York Times and I realize that I have not written much about my beloved city. I would like to talk about my Hanoi, the values of cultural and living of more than 1,000 year city.

Unlike the younger Saigon (Ho Chi Minh city), Hanoi is the city with very old established history. For me Hanoi is like a living body which is beautiful but whose form is shaped by the variability of the times. Hanoi is where layers of era and history, coming and going, cascade like the geological stratum of time. Looking at the signs of fracture and remnants of an old Hanoi mixed with the symbols and imagines of the modern age makes me feel like I am excavating through historic layers of the metropolis. Indochina tours Vietnam

So I think of Hanoi as a living museum that embodies the complete archive of past memories and assimilates the following and changing rhythms of contemporary life.  Hanoi is changing fast, but with its tree-lined lanes, graceful old architecture, a flourishing arts scene and sophisticated night life, the city is having its moment.

In recent years, thanks to a new pride injected by 1,000th-birthday celebrations in 2010, an influx of entrepreneurial Vietnamese returnees, expats and a creative Internet-enabled population, the city’s pulse has quickened. With a number of construction projects threatening older neighborhoods, and an exodus of residents from the city to suburbs like West Lake, Hanoi is changing fast. But right now, it feels poised over a sweet spot, its tree-lined lanes and graceful old architecture, traditional culture and fantastic street food complemented by a contemporary arts scene that’s managed to survive bouts of censorship, idiosyncratic boutiques and increasingly sophisticated dining and night life.

Saint Joseph Cathedral, located at 40 Nha Chung street, Hanoi, is a Roman Catholic cathedral with neo- gothic style, which was built about 120 years ago

Saint Joseph Cathedral, located at 40 Nha Chung street, Hanoi, is a Roman Catholic cathedral with neo- gothic style, which was built about 120 years ago

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Street Foods is available every street in the Old Quarter

A small lane in the Old Quarter

A small lane in the Old Quarter

The Long Bien Bridge was constructed from 1989 to 1902 during French’s occupation of the country which was formerly named Paul Doumer by the French, but Vietnamese have called it Long Bien or Cai River Bridge for a long time, and Long Bien becomes the most popular name of the bridge. Originally, Long Bien had 19 spans and it was the first steel bridge across Red river in Hanoi, and one of four greatest bridges in the world at the time it was built.

The Long Bien Bridge was constructed from 1989 to 1902 during French’s occupation of the country which was formerly named Paul Doumer by the French, but Vietnamese have called it Long Bien or Cai River Bridge for a long time, and Long Bien becomes the most popular name of the bridge. Originally, Long Bien had 19 spans and it was the first steel bridge across Red river in Hanoi, and one of four greatest bridges in the world at the time it was built.

If you are about to visit Hanoi for a few days, it is very likely that you will reside somewhere near Hoan Kiem Lake. The lake is considered the center of Hanoi, not only physically but also symbolically. In fact, the more you spend time learning about the lake, the more special it becomes.

If you are about to visit Hanoi for a few days, it is very likely that you will reside somewhere near Hoan Kiem Lake. The lake is considered the center of Hanoi, not only physically but also symbolically. In fact, the more you spend time learning about the lake, the more special it becomes.

Hoan Kiem lake in the early morning

Hoan Kiem lake in the early morning

Sunset on the biggest lake of Hanoi - Ho Tay (West Lake)

Sunset on the biggest lake of Hanoi – Ho Tay (West Lake)

Ho Chi Minh mausoleum

Ho Chi Minh mausoleum and Ba Dinh square

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Photo credit: Cao Anh Tuan, Nhat Nam

P/s: Video of “36 Hours in Hanoi”: http://www.nytimes.com/2014/11/02/travel/things-to-do-in-36-hours-in-hanoi.html?_r=0

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Ho Chi Minh City is a popular travel destination, famous for its colonial charm and buzzing city life.  With most tourists centred in District 1, branching into Districts 3 and 2, and others all the way down in District 5, it’s easy to forget there is a western side to Ho Chi Minh City. Tours Indochina Vietnam

If you have visited all the greatest landmarks and must-sees of Saigon and wonder where should you go next? As the city spreads west of downtown, the residential areas are almost exclusively Vietnamese, and English is not spoken as often. The pavements, if there are any, are crowded with “banh mi” stands, parked motorbikes and “xe om” drivers awaiting their next ride. Streets are lined with the usual cafés, women’s clothing shops and mobile phone stores, but the businesses are more densely packed together.

In these neighborhoods, you’ll find a few gems that you won’t encounter anywhere else in the city. Take District 10. It sits smack in the middle of the city limits and is known to locals as the sports centre of Ho Chi Minh City. But to the adventurous culture vulture, there are some all-city-calibre activities hiding within.

FITO Museum (41 Hoang Du Khuong, Dis.10)

The Museum of Traditional Vietnamese Medicine, or the FITO Museum, is a deceptive name, as it presents much more than medicine. It is also an art and architecture museum. FITO Museum is run by Fito Pharma, a company specializing in natural medicine. While visiting, you’ll encounter some of their self-promotion, but on the whole, the trip is an educational experience. You’ll learn how older Vietnamese medicine was influenced by Chinese medicine thousands of years ago. Together, these two disciplines created what is now recognized as traditional Vietnamese medicine, a philosophy that centres on holistic and preventative measures to ensure health through medicinal plants and other natural remedies such as acupressure.

The museum is also an attractive space filled with beautiful artefacts — all objects of art. Walls and doors are made of intricately carved wood, many displays contain ornately decorated glazed pottery and porcelain vessels, and pearl inlay and red lacquer pictures depict moments in medical history.

FITO museum

FITO museum

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Ho Thi Ky Flower Market (Ho Thi Ky, Dis.10)

It is often said Saigon Vietnam no day and night, life is not working 24 hour break. This is true when one day hike to explore the night flower market in Saigon Vietnam. Even if you’re not in the market to buy, strolling along the narrow flower-lined alleys is a pleasure in itself. The flowers, from daisies to marigolds to orchids, come from Dalat and Hanoi and the alleys are worlds away from the bustling traffic of Saigon’s main road.

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If you have the energy for middle-of-the night shopping, one of the best markets is the flower market on Ho Thi Ky, nestled in the triangle between Ly Thai To and Hung Vuong. Along the narrow strip and in the alleys, you’ll find an assortment of freshly cut flowers — roses, lilies, orchids and chrysanthemums, for example — and brightly dyed ornamental grasses and pussy willow. The air is perfumed, and it seems like the full-spectrum of the rainbow is achieved.

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Bundles of flowers are ready for purchase, or you can get a pre-made flower arrangement. You’ll also find stands with ferns and baby’s breath among buckets of flowers, ready to make an on-the-spot bouquet. The market starts late. At 11pm, delivery trucks still creep among the people and the dogs. Some merchants have their stands set up, while most are still putting together displays. Go after midnight. Flowers are sold all night and into the morning. They’re much cheaper than elsewhere in the city, too.

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China Town (Dis 5)

The District 5 of Ho Chi Minh City, more popularly known as Cho Lon, is the city’s Chinatown. Unfortunately, it is decidedly less Chinese than it used to be due to the anti-Chinese campaign in the late 70’s when many fled the country. Saigon’s District 5 is home to the largest market in Vietnam, a deluxe shopping mall and charming Chinese pagodas such as Nghia An Hoi Quan, Tam Son Hoi Quan, Thien Hau and Khanh Van Nam Vien.

Cho Lon literally means ‘big market’ and you’ll discover that with a shopping trek to Binh Tay Market, the country’s largest. Make sure to bring your camera as there are many distinctive temples in the area. Pagodas of note include Nghia An Hoi Quan, Tam Son Hoi Quan, Thien Hau and Khanh Van Nam Vien.. District 5, or Saigon’s Chinatown, occupies an area of 4 square km on the west bank of the Saigon River.

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Temple at China Town in Saigon

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Enjoy your journey.

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