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Hanoi is full of iconic foods, and of all the wide range of street side dishes, Banh Mi is still the tastiest and a must-not-miss one.  Choosing the best Banh Mi to try while you are in Hanoi can be overwhelming, scrolling through all those recommendations and mouthwatering pictures would take years. And seriously, you are passing by as a visitor, the best experience is what you are looking for. You can always enjoy this dish when doing a full day trip around Hanoi city with Indochina Voyages our tour guides are the local resident and they know best where to go and the following are some examples.

  1. Banh Mi Dinh Ngang

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(The perfect mix of Dinh Ngang bread and ice tea. Source: internet)

Situated at the corner of small Dinh Ngang and Cua Nam street, the bread shop looks simple but has been around for more than 20 years.  Its specialty is Banh Mi Thap Cam (mixed bread), with a bunch of ingredients stuffed inside: a slice of pâté, a fried egg, Vietnamese ham and pork skin sausage, and cucumber all slathered with the store’s signature sauce.

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(Want to try a bite? Source: internet)

Having all the ingredients handmade is exactly the way that makes Banh Mi Dinh Ngang unique.

  1. Banh Mi Pho Hue

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(The legendary Banh Mi reported on BBC. Source: BBC)

Geoffrey Deetz – a chef and Vietnamese food expert who’s been living in the country for nearly 15 years – is the owner of this baguette shop. The article “Is the banh mi the world’s best sandwich?” by David Farley on BBC described this loaf of bread as follows: “The banh mi sandwiches in Hanoi are much more one dimensional than other parts of the country […] But so many things in here have a function: the pork floss soaks up the sauce, the pate adds moisture and the fact that the baguette is lightly toasted keeps it from getting soggy in this immense humidity”. David also commented the “banh mi” has always been the one kind of food he liked better outside its home turf.

  1. Banh Mi Ba Dan (Ms. Dan)

Established in 1979, Banh Mi Ba Dan is one of the oldest bread stores in Hanoi. Ms Dan’s son – Mr Binh – is now the owner of the store, and he has managed to maintain its reputation among locals as well as travelers. According to him, back to the old time when Ms. Dan still operated the store, it was a norm that a thousand of bread sold out each day. Nowadays, with the rise of bread stores all over Hanoi, thought the sale went down, still the true Hanoian enjoy its original taste of Ms. Dan’s bread.

Ms.Dan2(The ingredients. Source: internet)

Beside the traditional paté, the uniqueness of Banh Mi Ba Dan is also the freshness of the baguette. New loaves arrive from the bakery every three hours, this means the baguettes in the store are always crunchy and fresh.

Ms.Dan

(The new loaves. Source: internet)

In Vietnam, Banh Mi is actually an everyday ordinary dish, banh mi stalls and carts are everywhere on the streets, providing simple and delicious energy for breakfast and midday meal. From the familiar food for Vietnamese people, it is now, proudly, an obsession for foreign travelers and appear in almost street food tour in Hanoi.

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SWEET ROLL – BO BIA

To the major foreign tourists coming to Vietnam scenery, people and culture are not the sole charms; food, or in particular, street food is another aspect that makes the country stand out. Perhaps street food is simple as it looks but no one can deny its attractive flavors. Sweet-roll or Bo Bia Ngot is one of those and it is especially well-known among young students. When it comes to Bo Bia, it reminds Vietnamese people of their childhood every time school finished, the hungry stomachs would rush out to the school gate looking for the old men or women selling this special gift on their bicycles. As time passes by, Bo Bia becomes a popular street food that is not only sold for students but it appears in many other places as well.

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One of very unique street-food in Vietnam. With fresh and simple ingredients, you can have a delicious roll. Sweet-roll is just made by sellers right after you order. Very unique, fresh and delicious

Sweet roll has its root in Fujian and Teochew (Guangdong) China. Nowadays, this food can be seen in Taiwan, Singapore and Malaysia and Vietnam. In Guangdong, it was originally eaten in Grave Visiting Festival in spring. However, hardly anyone knows exactly when the food was brought into Vietnam. The South part is the very first place for Sweet Roll, especially Ho Chi Minh City. It is told that around more than ten years ago, there was a man from Vinh Phuc Province (a province near Hanoi capital) came to Ho Chi Minh city to earn a living, somehow he could learn how to make the roll. Then, he moved back to Hanoi and started selling this type of food and spread the recipe to many other people.

Main ingredients of Bo Bia Ngot are very easy to find anywhere including rice paper, shredded coconut, pulled sugar and black sesame seeds. The rice paper or crepe wrapper in Bo Bia is made from wheat flour and a little sugar but it is different from one in normal Fresh Spring roll. The crepe must be absolutely thin and a little tough at the same time so that it can wrap all the things inside. As for pulled sugar, it is candy bar made from malt and is really crispy. Coconut must be shaved from mature coconuts so that it can be crispy as well and more buttery. Just a small sweet roll with few ingredients inside is a perfect combination: sweetness and crumbliness from candy bars, buttery taste from coconut and black sesame seeds. It takes less than one minute to make a small lovely sweet roll but when eating, we should have one bite at a time in order to feel every flavor. Normally, Bo bia ngot sellers can customize according to buyers’ preference. For me, I am always keen on putting more coconut and black sesame seeds. If you are a sweet tooth, you should have more of candy bars.

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Find sellers on bicycle or motor-bike with white box, you can order a sweet-roll (source: Internet)

Until now, Bo Bia is still one of the most favorite street foods for every younger or students, for that reason, we can find plenty of Bo Bia sellers in primary or secondary schools or even near some universities. Moreover, in big cities like in Hanoi, Bo Bia can be found around Hoan Kiem lake area or Thanh Nien Steet near West Lake. A special thing about Sweet Roll is that you cannot look for them in a proper shops or restaurants with tables and chairs but on the streets outside. Sweet Roll sellers usually ride their bicycles with hand-made white cupboards writing Bo Bia Ngot on these. For only 10.000vnd, you already have one big or 2 small pieces of Swett Roll.

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Look inside a small sweet-roll. You just have to spend VND 5.000 (20 cent) for this small piece.

Every day after school or work, on the way back home, stopping by a Bo Bia Ngot vendor is such a peaceful feeling. For the foreign tourists, trying Bo bia ngot on a beautiful day walking around the city will certainly make the journey less tiring. If you ever come to Vietnam, try this cheap yet wonderful street food, and you will not regret.

If you interest this post, please click: Indochina tour to get more information

 

Back to Hoian

I decided to book air tickets to return Hoian for the 3rd time on a day of mid-October. However, this is the first time of mine to visit the enchanting town during its rainy season and especially when reading the weather forecast news warning that if central Vietnam would be anyone’s travel plans over the next few days, they may want to consider delaying the travel — or, at least, keep updated to the latest information pertaining to the weather due to the effects from Typhoon Khanun.” (Boarding Area).

Please click indochina tours Vietnam to get more information

Having been kept updated by the local weather forecast channel about the weak influence of this storm and believing that the daily rain will not dilute the beauty of this region, I still started my trip as planned and was so lucky to enjoy Hoian without rain or storm but with a pleasantly sunny and cool weather throughout my chilling days.

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After strolling around the old streets of Hoi An, I thought of doing something else near the town for more fun experiences. My great day was to rent a bike and ride around on two wheels to visit Thanh Ha Pottery Village, Bay Mau Palm Forest and relax by An Bang Beach.

  1. Thanh Ha Pottery Village

Finishing a nice breakfast with Mi Quang (Quang Noodle with shrimp and pork), I headed 3 kilometers out of Hoian town to Thanh Ha Terracotta Park and Pottery Village to see the historical village and made a pottery on my own as a souvernir.

The Thanh Ha village was famous for its pottery, bricks and tiles. You will be amazed to know the unique Yin – Yang tiles which can still be seen on many roofs in the old city of Hoi An were made from this old village. Coming to the terracotta museum, you will have a chance to see the whole building of red bricks and clay in the region.

I must admit that I was lost in the World Square garden of miniature of iconic monuments from all over the world. This was really a great way to learn new places and to check my memory. Besides world famousTaj Mahal, Statue of Liberty, Stonehenge, Sydney Opera House, Pyramids, the Whitehouse, the Angkor Wat, I figured out the little  replica of Hoi An Old Town with lovely old houses which were all made by clay and by the artisans in village.

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Though the indoor exhibition was quite attractive with objects and images about the long history development of 500 year history at Thanh Ha, I could not stand going down to the outdoor area where I can see the nice hand-made pottery products and made one by myself. Needless to say, this is an ideal site for both adults and children where you can create any masterpieces of your imagination.

Having made the pottery without previous knowledge and experience but thanks to the great help of the nice artisan, the vase/pot came out surprisingly nice and it cost only 30,000 VND for this worth.

  1. Bay Mau Nipa Palm Forest:

Leaving the Thanh Ha village, I continued my day trip to Bay Mau Nipa Palm Forest where is regarded as the Little Mekong inside Hoian.

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Located 5 km from Hoian and surrounded by water of 3 major rivers in Hoian: Thu Bon River, Truong Giang River and De Vong River, the hidden coconut forest is really a wonderful destination for tourists to sit in the basket boat and go through the natural coconut waterway. In the past, the forest was an important historical where the guerrilla force relied on coconut forests to cause more damage to the enemy in wars and became a place of shelter, refuge to many officials. Nowadays, it is really nice place for people to explore the tranquil coconut palm while seeing the sunset at Thu Bon River.

Welcomed me on boat, the friendly boat lady gave me an amazing gift made of the coconut leave, that is the ring with shape of a grasshopper! The rowing boat went through the forest and along the river for around 30 minutes. At the end of the ride, I was astonished again by the unique performance of a boat man right in his basket boat while enjoying a great round by my boat’s old lady that was a little dizzy but so much fun.

  1. Relax at An Bang Beach

The end of my day trip today was An Bang Beach, a lovely beach that is only 3 kilometers from the town and it is where you will find less vendors, more peace with clean water, smooth sand, gentel waves and pure atmosphere.

While the Hoian ancient town is peaceful, the beach is somehow vibrant by the pace of life showing on a huge number of bamboo basket boats along the beach. Like in Bay Mau forest, these boats are still used as a mafor means of fishing for daily life.

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As the ideal time for swimming at Hoian beach is from April to September during the summer of Central, I just stopped at An Bang Beach to have a big fresh seafood dinner that definitely satisfied a hungry soul like me.

Though the trip was taken during the rainy season, I enjoyed myself very much in a great weather. So my best advice for anyone who is planning to Hoian these days would be to get updates from local weather channels, book accommodation through any channels that allows for late cancellations or for last-minute delay until the weather is better and take advice from locals where living right at place. It is certain that you can even still had good days while during rainy time. Therefore, I believe you may also have a lot of fun experience to Hoian and do not hesitate to share with me your great time there!

Happy traveling!

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

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

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

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

How to make herbal water of the Red Dao

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

You can click: Indochina tours to get more information.

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

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

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

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

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

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

Positive effects of using Red Dao herbal bath

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

Such a beautiful view from bathroom ^_^

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

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

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

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

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

– You have gotten heart diseases or high blood pressure.

– You get drunk or drink too much alcohol.

– Pregnant women

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

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

 

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

Swing-Lounge

(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.

Band-performance-at-Hanoi-Rock-City

(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.

The-tranquility-inside-the-CAMA

(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.

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.