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Traveling to Hanoi, visitors would definitely be interested in exploring the city nightlife and having some fun when the evening comes. Beside wandering on the streets and trying street food, live music lounges are also a perfect option for a night in Hanoi. The capital city of Vietnam is one of the live music lover’s paradises and the most difficult thing is deciding which gig to go to. There are certain recommendations that should not be skipped.

  1. Swing Lounge

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(Swing Lounge – source: Internet)

Located right by the Hoan Kiem Lake, Swing Lounge is a retro-inspired café and bar in the capital. You will be impressed by old French architectural design of the venue which may attract you with its elegant beauty.  You can visit in a day for a coffee or a bite or by the night for live music. The cabaret style show alternates between performances from some famous singers and bands of the local music scene to lesser known cover acts. Plus, the set list is a mix of Vietnamese old time favorites, more recent Viet-pop songs as well as iconic Western tunes. Don’t be so surprised when the heartfelt edition of Whitney Houston’s “I will always love you” comes on.

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(Live performance at the Swing lounge, source: Internet)

  1. Hanoi Rock City

This group of musicians, DJs and artists has been bringing big sounds to Hanoi since 2010. Their focus is mostly on giving a leg-up to emerging acts however; they do dedicate some nights to making sure their audiences get a chance to catch the latest international acts.

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(Band performance at Hanoi Rock City, source: Internet)

Hanoi Rock City boasts an impressive line-up of electro, experimental, reggae, rock and alternative acts that will most definitely raise the mood of any gig lover. Located in the Tay Ho District where is the living spot of a lot of foreigners, Hanoi Rock City has a vibrant atmosphere and pleasing prices.

  1. CAMA Atk

CAMA are the spots “dedicated to bringing the best of independent music to Vietnam”. With over 60 international acts to date, CAMA are certain to become any indie kid’s hero for their work.

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(CAMA Atk at night, source: Internet)

Giles Cooper, the founder of CAMA, says he started the collective simply because there was no live music on offer in Hanoi. Cooper saw that as a gap in the market that sorely needed to be filled and he has certainly done an impressive job in doing so.

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(The tranquility inside the CAMA, source: Internet)

“The luxury of choice is starting to emerge in Hanoi,” Cooper says, “More people are stepping up to the plate and doing things.” Artists, musicians, venues and promoters are putting so much effort than ever to bring local and international acts of all genres to the audiences in Hanoi.

CAMA host gigs at their very own venue, CAMA ATK. Conveniently located in Hai Ba Trung, CAMA ATK looks like a mixture between a 1920s speakeasy and a grungy 90s den. The venue tends to be quite during the week, but can get noisy on weekends when live music performance goes on.

Swing Lounge is a place for romantic souls, CAMA’s shows tend to be for the more specific music lover, whereas Hanoi Rock City is perfect for those who just love any music that’s loud and live. So which is your favorite one? Let’s get up and join in with Indochina tours.

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Sophisticated. Natural. Glossy. When traveling to Vietnam tours, tourists are attracted by handcraft products, and lacquerware products always on top ten of the list, indeed.The art of lacquerware dates back to China some 10,000 years ago. Lacquer in Vietnam also has a long history since 3rd and 4th centuries B.C. Some lacquered items were found in the ancient tombs, firstly in household items and wares such as the links in the planks of fishermen’s boats,  the household basket ware, furniture and so on. Since Vietnam has been under the Chinese and French colonial period, it absorbed multiple influences of foreign techniques but still, keep its uniqueness. Lacquer traditionally comes in three colors – brown, black and vermilion.  By the 1930s, Some Vietnamese artists started to use a new technique known which gives a richer mix of colors. During the Renovation in 1980’s and 1990’s, the younger generation of Vietnamese artists introduced some innovative experiments, that marked a big step to the modern lacquer art.

The old lacquer painting in 3 main colors – brown, black and vermilion

Nowadays, to create a beautiful lacquer product, artists, craftsmen, and laborers has to work through over 20 steps with patience, responsibility, and hard work. It requires the patient skills of craftsmen in the 1st step to construct the body of product smoothly. Then the artists with more advanced techniques will apply artwork on products, using many ingredients such as the silver leaf, eggshell, pearls, etc. To make the handcrafted product becomes valuable, it’s very important to choose the right color to harmonize with the art and decorative work. There are 2 coats of color paints and 4- 5 vanished coats to be coated on the products which made all of the art & decorative work appears in the different look, deeply with its own texture.

Making lacquer products requires special techniques

The product then will be sanded and washed two times for cleaning all dust and mark on the product.  The high-quality lacquer products require no falling paint mark and must by shiny and having perfect look before polishing. The surface must be clean and shiny like a mirror with no traces to express the characteristics of lacquerware: The marvelous features, its attractiveness, and its eye-catching ability.

Modern design lacquer decorations

There are more and more products using lacquer technique. Travelers who are in love with this special art can buy furniture products, accessories, decoration, paintings, etc.

Nowadays, the most famous villages producing and exporting lacquerware products are located in Hanoi (Ha Thai village) and Binh Duong Province in the South (Tuong Binh Hiep Village).  Tourists can easily find the small lacquerware souvenirs in shops or look at some online websites: woac.com.vn and lacquerhomevn.com

Nestled deep within the tranquil, sleepy hideaway forest, Pu Sam Cap Grottoes in Pu Sam Cap Commune began bustling in July 2006 and then has been attracted hundreds of thousands of visitors.

In the previous article “Sin Ho – the rooftop of Lai Chau province”, I have introduced another traveling route to Sin Ho – Lai Chau when you come to Sapa and promised to bring more information about a nearby spectacular attraction, here we go – the Pu Sam Cap Caves.

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(View from the Pu Sam Cap Mountain – source: internet)

From Lai Chau town center, it takes around 10 minutes driving to Pu Sam Cap Mountain, which is about 1,700m above sea level. Then from the parking lot, it is reached on a short but strenuous walk uphill, which is rewarded by the spectacular views of the valley and Nam Ron River.

Upon arrival, visitors can have the panoramic broad view of the valley. The whole village is often covered by clouds, though sunlight pierces through, drawing bright spots and shafts on the overcast landscape. Below, the waters of Nam Ron River are barely visible as it winds their way through the mountains.
This complex has 2 big caves named Thien Mon and  Thien Duong.

Thien Mon cave appeared with a large arch and deep pure interior. Stepped into that mysterious darkness, we will feel the cool air of stone and the whisper of the wind. Columns of stalactites are on the undulating ground. Every water drop from small stones falling into your hair brings the moist feelings under the early summer rain. In the cave ground, there are lots of stalactites marbles crystallized by the distilled water from the rock in millions of years. The standing, lying or overlapping marbles create multitude of both familiar and marvelous shapes and enrich the imagination of tourists. Coming to the center of Thien Mon cave we will be surprised with high wide arches and flat platform. We can enjoy wholeheartedly the cool fresh air and listen to wind singing through the stalactites which echoed as the piano melody. A little light appears from the end of the cave creates a contrast of ethereal light and dark.

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(Thien Mon Cave – source: internet)

Leaving the Thien Mon cave, it takes us half an hour passing through the forest to reach the Thien Duong gate with pristine, natural and attractive beauty. The heaven in view of visitors is as a watercolor painting. The way down to the cave provides visitors the thrilling feelings when they have to use vines along the cliffs to climb down – the curving road gradually went down looks like the terrace field. The deeper we go into, the more multi-dimension space we reach when stalactites hang down to illustrate the familiar images of life such as flowers or the gardens. In addition, there are different and strange shapes that take the audience into the world of imagination.

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(Thien Duong Cave – source: internet)

Both of the caves can be visited within a day with the combination of Lai Chau town center market. Beside strolling around Sin Ho to see how local people and ethnic minorities life is, those grottoes will definitely bring you the sophisticating and iconic experience of the mountainous area in the Vietnam tours.

Tam Thanh Mural Village

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!
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November is the time when Cambodia enters dry season meaning there will be almost no rain for the next six months, although the odd, short shower early in the month is not unusual. Comfortable temperatures (average tem is about 25°C), low humidity and plenty of sunshine makes November a popular time to travel in Cambodia. This is the best time for you to visit Siem Reap, Cambodia.

You can see sample itinerary: SPLENDORS OF VIETNAM & CAMBODIA

Exploring the Angkor temples

One of the destinations you should not miss is Angkor ruins including thousands of temples with many different sizes. Angkor Wat is the most famous temple in Cambodia, built by King Suryavarman II in the 11th century. At the beginning, this was a Hindu temple. Then, the Angkor Wat was becoming a Buddhist temple after Khmer dynasty worship Buddha.

Besides, there are many temples situated in the park beyond archeology.  Fares for one-day tour is USD $20, three days is USD $40 and USD $60 per week. The special thing here is your photo printed in your ticket. After your trip, you can keep it as a souvenir.

The vast area of the Angkor Thom ruins, over a mile on one side, contains many stone temples and other features to explore. The city has five monumental gates (one in each wall plus an extra in the eastern wall), 20m high and decorated with stone elephant trunks and the king’s favorite motif, the four faces of Avalokiteshvara.

Ta Prohm temple was covered by tangled tree roots, is one of the most strange and unique structures of the complex. Going further, Preah Khan and Banteay Srei temples have a lot of elaborate carvings. Phrom Kulen National Park in Kbal Spean, two-hour drive from Siem Reap, still preserved the works of ancient rock carvings called lin-ga (symbol of Shiva’s penis in India Hindu).

Some notes when visiting the Angkor ruins you should remember:

– You should plan to schedule a tour of his temple, even hired a tuk-tuk driver, or rent a bike for a day. You can find a tuk-tuk everywhere and the drivers are always ready to take you to any temples in your schedule.

– Wake up early and visit the temples at the earliest time is the best way for you to experience the beauty of the temples. Starting at dawn, you not only get the opportunity to admire the sunrise but also avoid the crowds.

– Because you are visiting spiritual religious sites, you should pay attention to your clothes, just a scarf or a sarong is not enough in Cambodia. Therefore, dressing politely will help you avoid many problems.

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Visit the floating villages on Tonle Sap Lake

From November, it is flooding season in Siem Reap, so it is high time for you to discover the largest lake in Cambodia – Tonle Sap, far from the center of Seam Reap about 25km, recognized by UNESCO as a biosphere reserve in the world.

A boat trip through the traditional colorful floating villages is a chance to return to nature and explore the daily life in Cambodia. You can feel the peaceful atmosphere and cool wind. Sometimes you can be surprised at a giant python wrapping around some people on the boat. Then, you can visit some floating restaurants on the lake to enjoy the cool coconut water.

On Tonle Sap Lake, people live in simple floating houses. There are also schools, clinics, temples, etc. like on the land. If you want to visit the floating village to explore the lives of local people, you should come to Khneas Chong, Kampong Phluk, Kampong Khleang, etc. And don not hesitate to jump out off the boat and go kayaking through morning – glory and trees in pristine Kompong Phluk  “flooded forests” to have amazing experience. Moreover, you can discover Prek Toal bird sanctuary including many rare birds such as white storks endangered milk, spot-billed pelican, etc.

After your visiting with many activities, you can be relax with local people at their house. This is a great opportunity to experience the peaceful river life, integrate into normal life of the people and enjoy a variety of delicious dishes made from fish caught in the lake.

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Visit the traditional villages in Siem Reap

There is a place in Siem Reap where there are many serious activities to preserve and restore art and ancient Khmer craftsmanship, while create means of livelihood for the local people. That is , a social enterprise, dedicated to providing high quality products such as handmade clothing, lacquer ware, painting on silk, jewelry and ceramics made by more than 1,300 local artisans. You can sign up for the free guided tour in seven languages to have a visit around the main shops as well as travelling free to the Angkor Silk Farm by fast bus, which takes you about 20 minutes.

village

Now, are you ready for your trip to Siem Reap on November? Enjoying many above activities or just leisure in the long sandy beaches on time when sunshine comes back may be your best memory in Cambodia.

If you interest this post, please follow: Indochina travel Cambodia

 

Autumn is the most beautiful season and is the best time to visit Hanoi. When you visit Hanoi at this period (from August to October), the weather is not so hot in the morning and a little cool at night, light rain sometimes. In this season, you will feel Hanoi as a beauty of a young and vunerable girl. It is very difficult to use any words to describe the fragile beauty of autumn in Hanoi. Because of this beauty, the Emperor decided to give this “beautiful girl” as a natural “gift” – Com (Green Sticky Rice or Green young rice) for Viet people. With its green color and small size, it is the most fresh and beautiful food you have ever try during your life.

Com raw

Green young rice in raw is one of must-try food if you travel to Hanoi in autumn (from August to October)

Cốm (in English, green young rice), a popular traditional food especially in the Northern of Vietnam, is made from glutinous rice after a complex cooking process including roasting, sieving and drying. The place considered a Cradle of this food is Vong Village (Cirle Village) in Hanoi. This area used to own abundant rice fields and making Cốm is passed from one generation to another. Cốm gives out a sweet and fresh scent, reminding people who eating of hard-working farmers as well as light breezes in autumn. Besides, a lasting impression is created once you have tried this speciality thanks to its buttery as well as soft taste. It is better to eat Cốm by hand, slowly, one pinch at a time which is similar to the old elegant Hanoian. In order to preserve the color, scent and flavor, this food is wrapped by lotus leaves. Besides, Hanoi people enjoy Green Young Rice in various ways; a few examples are combining Cốm with ripe bananas or red persimmons. However, in my personal, the best way to enjoy this tiny fresh “gift” is eating it with banana and enjoy a cup of Vietnamese green tea. If you have any chance to try this, you will never forget this flavour mixed of sweetness from ripe bananas, bitterness from green tea and aroma of fresh green rice. Let’s travel Hanoi to enjoy Com with: Indochina travel and tours

Chuoi com

The best way to enjoy Com is used it with ripe bananas. Believe me! you will not forget this mixed flavour.

Nowadays, this refined food is usually sold by vendors, who day by day walk through small streets or sit on the sidewalks with their shoulder pole and hangers. Moreover, Cốm is used by houseworkers as an ingredient in daily meals. Some dishes that can be made from Green Sticky Rice are: chicken stewed with herbs and Green Sticky Rice, fried shrimp coated in Green Sticky Rice, Green Sticky Rice sweet soup (Chè Cốm) or even Green Sticky Rice ice cream. Cốm is also an essential ingredient in making Green Rice Cake, a must have present in engagement ceremony of Vietnamese people. Before each wedding, a man’s family have to bring offerings to the woman’s one in order to ask for permission for their wedding.

ban com

You can find Com and buy it from vendor inside the Old Quarter. However, now there is not much vendor sell this natural “gift”, so you need luckiness to catch them who has two baskets full of green

Com cake

However, if you do not have much time or can not find them, you can go straight to Hang Than street in Old Quarter of Hanoi and buy some products made from fresh Com as Com Cake

Along with Green Rice Cake, Xu Xe Cake and betel nut are presents that used to hope for a bright and happy future of the brides and grooms. Green Sticky Rice is so special that it makes every person living far away misses their hometown. In addition, Cốm definitely can satisfy and pamper the most fastidious travelers who ever came to Hanoi. You can not bring the fresh green young rice back to home but you can buy some products made from it as speical souvenir. However, most of real cake/candy made from Com should be used in 4 days to keep their real flavour.

I hope that after reading my post, com will be on your must-try food list in Vietnam. Then, you will at least one time try this special food and enjoy it in the best way.

 

 

Are you an adventure and discovery lover? Are you interested in new places? Are you finding a less touristic mountainous area? If you are, I believe that you are reading the right post. To get more information, you can click: Indochina travel and tours

I am a real adventurous traveller and love the mountainous area. Last month, I plan to visit Sapa again after a long time not getting there. However, I had problems of choosing the suitable budgeted hotel/homestay for my trip (I spend most of my time for travelling not in accommodation, so homestay will be a good choice). It was a trip to Sapa on the last minutes. As you know, now, Sapa is a famous mountainous area and there is many tourists reaching to this places everyday. After searching and asking some friends who have the same passion and many experiences of discovering mountainous area, Binh Lieu was highly recommend to me. I found that this place seems to meet my desire because there is not much information about it on the Internet and there is no guide for this places. After a few hours, to use google map and find a good rental motor-bike. I decided to travel to this places with my special companion.

On the first part, I just want to show some nice picture and general information about Bin Lieu Town. The detailed itinerary, guide and the story of my trip will be shown on the next parts, so do not forget to follow our blog and wait for my next post.

Binh Lieu is a small and poor district of Quang Ninh Province. Most of you just hear about Halong bay in Quang Ninh Province only. This district is located in northeastern Quang Ninh Province; The North borders Ninh Van, Sung Ta and Chongqing, and Chengdu City (Guangxi – China); To the west, Dinh Lap district (Lang Son province); It borders Hai Ha district, Tien Yen district and Dam Ha district to the east (Quang Ninh province). Binh Lieu is a mountainous district located in the northern part of the province (21 ° 27 ‘to 21 ° 39’ north latitude and 107 ° 17 ‘to 107 ° 36’ east) 108 km, Tien Yen town 28 km; The north has 42,999 km of border with China. Total area is only 471.4 Squarekilometer and total population is around nearly 30,000 people with density 56. The enthinc group is Tày, Sán chỉ – one of the rare ethnic minority people in the world with very small number of population, Kinh, Dao, and a little bit of Chinese people

Most of people living here is DAO people – a minority ethnic people of Vietnam. All of people farm the rice on terraces as Sapa or herd the buffalo. Then, they will sell their agriculture product/buffalo meat to earn the money. Because of distance, lack of transportation; lack of investment from government and geography characteristics, all of people have to live based on the agriculture. They are very poor people with the limitation on electricity and high technology. This make me think about the Sapa 20 years ago.

 

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View from the Binh Lieu Town

You cannot find a homestay there but you can speak Vietnamese or DAO language, you can deal with the local for a night stay at the home with a very small fee (around USD 2-5 per person). They will be happy to share their local food for you without money. Besides, you want to have special experiences; you can bring camp and find the suitable place for camping to over-night. However, I will not highly recommend you to do that because it seems to be unsafe to go camping in the less touristic and mountainous area. When we drive across small villages, every people wave their hand as greetings and give us beautiful smiles. Tourism really do not effect on this places yet. However, you can find two basic hotel and one hotel in the center of Binh Lieu Town.

There are some highlights you must visit in Binh Lieu which I will list here with picture and share to you more about the itinerary on the next part:

Our brief itinerary:

Day 1: Hanoi – Halong city – over-night in the Halong city (we visit some beautiful places and ancient pagoda on the way from Hanoi to Halong city). 3, 5 driving hours for185 km on this day

Day 2: Halong – Tien Yen – Binh Lieu Town – visit the central market –  Ngàn Vàng, Ngàn Chuồng, Pắc phe villages. We have to drive around nearly 4 hours for 120km from Halong – Tien Yen District – Arrive in Binh Lieu because of rain, uphill road (14%), narrow path and pass.

Day 3: Binh Lieu – Visting Vietnamese and Chinese Border Points: 1300, 1302, 1305 – the best view point I have been, and 1327

Day 4: Binh Lieu – Khe Van Water Fall – Na Lang Village – Na Nhai village – Acrossing the Na Lang “hanging bridge” to back to Binh Lieu Town

Day 5: I planned to finish the trip in this day but after 3 days in Binh Lieu, I realized that Na Nhai Village is the poorest village in Binh Lieu, so I decided to back there to give some small gifts for the children there.

Now, I want to share some nice shots I took during the trips. More pictures will be shared on the next part:

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On the way to get Boder Points

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One of boder point – #1302 Point Vietnam – China

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New green terrance in Na Nhai Village of Binh Lieu in July

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Shy DAO boy received small snack packs from me. He can not speak Vietnamese and did not have chance to go to school but he is really a good boy when he show his respectation to my small gift by taking it by two hands with smily face.

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Na Lang Village – one of the nearest village from Binh Lieu Town

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Another nice view on the way from Tien Yen District to Binh Lieu

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My rental motor-bike for this trip . Her name is Little Princess 😀 She did very well. Thank you so much for amazing trip with us, my Little Princess!

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Ancient Houses in a small village which I forgot the name but it is very beautiful and authentic

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The type of road we drove during this trip. It is very difficult for new biker as me but “Little Princess” supported me so much.

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Our dinner on the first night in Binh Lieu Town. After a long travelling day without any places for lunch, it was absolutely one of the most delicious BBQ I have tried.

Enjoy the some of my photoshots and try to find if you can have any information about this place on the Internet? If you can not find anything, please follow our blog and wait for my next part with very detailed itinerary and how many difficulties we have been through together.