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Perfume Pagoda or Huong Pagoda has long been regarded as the most famous pilgrimage site when you travel Vietnam tours and it also attracts non-religious tourists because of its beautiful scenery called: “Supreme cave under the southern sky”.

Located nearly 70 km southwest of Hanoi, in My Duc District where is the junction of the Red River Delta ends abrubtly with the steep-sided limestone hills rising from the green paddy fields, Perfume Pagoda is an ideal day trip for anyone to enjoy fresh and peaceful atmosphere out of the busy city.

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The panorama of Yen Stream leading to the Huong Tich Cave during festive season of March

Unlike any other religious sites, Huong Pagoda is a complex of pagoda, temples, associated with mountains and forests that brings the harmony of natural and artificial beauty. The center of the complex stays inside the Huong Tich Cave where the Inner Pagoda locates. From the 1st to the 3rd lunar month or from early February to early April is when the Huong Pagoda festival takes place, there is a huge number of pilgrims flow to this site to pray for their happiness and prosperity for the new year. Also, gathering in this spring festival, young people have a lot more chance to join in traditional activities and to find their partners because the legend tells that this magical site is an ideal place to begin a romance. It can be said that Perfume pagoda is a must see place not only because of the religious site but also a stunning place for sight-seeing and photo-capturing lovers.

As Huong Pagoda is a large complex of pagodas and temples along the Yen Stream, tourists can choose to spend 1 day, 2 days or up to a week to discover this natural wonder depending on your time. Normally, there are four possible routes for visiting Huong Pagoda:

  • Huong Tich Route: Trinh Temple, Thien Tru Pagoda, Tien Son Cave, Giai Oan Pagoda, Huong Tich Cave, Hinh Bong Pagoda
  • Thanh Son Route: Thanh Son Pagoda & Huong Doai Cave
  • Long Van Route: Long Van Pagoda – Long Van Cave – Sung Sam Cave
  • Tuyet Son Route: Bao Dai Pagoda – Chua Ca Cave – Tuyet Son Cave

From my real experiences to Huong Pagoda twice, if you only have one day for sight-seeing, you are highly recommended to visit Huong Tich Route to two sites: Thien Tru Pagoda and Huong Tich Cave.

Now let’s start the pilgrimage to this fascinating nature drawing with the most highlights of Huong Tich Route:

Duc Pier

The very first starting point of Huong Tich Route is Ben Duc (Duc Pier). During the annual festival months, Ben Duc is packed of thousands of row boats used for shuttling visitors from the Pier to the base of Perfume mountain where people can start climbing to the cave.  This one-hour boat ride on the Yen Vi Stream from Pier Duc is actually the most romantic and scenic moments in the trip to Perfume Pagoda.

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Duc Pier where boats gather to welcome tourists

Yen Stream

While traveling along Yen Stream, the boat men will sail tourists pass by stunning landscape of blazing green rice paddles with jagged limestone mounts to the base of Huong Mountain. Your “local guide” that is the boat men may tell you about many legends and stories relating to the mountains at the two sides of Yen Stream and with your own imagination, you can easily see on your left the image of Phoenix Mountain, Cat and Turtle Hill and Elephant Mountain. Before boarding Tro Wharf, do not miss to take photos of stunning landscape of the blue sky and green water in the peaceful atmosphere where you can only hear the sound of water sailing.

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Relaxing on the boat trip along Yen Stream during autumn

Thien Tru Pagoda

After leaving the boat to step inland, you may not ignore a visit to Thien Tru Pagoda (chuà Ngoài – Outer Pagoda), which was under King Le Thanh Tong dynasty since 18th century. “Thien Tru” literally means a heaven kitchen, derived from the imagination of the locals in this region, of which the rock formations in this area look like chefs busily working in the kitchen.

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Thien Tru Pagoda

Huong Tich Cave – Inner Pagoda

To the right of Thien Tru Pagoda, there is a small path leads to the steep uphill for 4 kilometers to the main Perfume Pagoda that dedicated to Quan Am (Woman Budha). For this route, depending on your physical health and interest, you can choose either walk up the mountain for 1 hour or get in the cable car for just a few minutes.

In fact, the hike is hard going and hot due to the high and steep steps and can be highly treacherous for the way down during wet weather and when you are already tired after climbing up. However, the chance to challenge yourself and to enjoy the sceneries along the route especially when on the top, it is actually rewarding.

Otherwise, while getting out of the Thien Tru Pagoda, you will find at your right side the cable car station that runs all year round even when in the low season and the panorama from your seat is rather spectacular.

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The way down to Huong Tich Cave – the most sacred part of Perfume Pagoda

After climbing up hundreds of stone steps, and then down 120 stone steps to Huong Tich Grotto whose name literally means “traces of fragrance”, you will be cooled down by the winds and the moisture in dim light along the path to Huong Tich. For any first-time tourists when reaching the grotto, a big “Wow” by magnificently luxuriant landscapes will not be stopped. Behind the natural huge grotto looking like the Budha, the little wet path may take you to discover numerous stunning stalagmites and stalactites inside the cave such as Dun Gao (Rice) rock, gold and silver trees, Nui Co (Girl) and Nui Cau (Boy) Mountains (in the shapes of a girl and a boy) and the most scared place of the whole complex with the statue of Quan Am and Lord Budha.

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We could not hide our surprise to see the stunning grottoes

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The wonderful view from inside the cave

As the festival season falls for the spring time from February to early April, my advice is to avoid this time of the year, instead, you can visit in low season for the autumn and the winter to enjoy pleasant weather and peaceful atmosphere. Especially during October and November, you can easily see lovely water lilies booming up with bright color floating on the Yen stream while on the boat.

To enjoy your trip the most, whether you are not planning to walk but do the cable car for driving up, do not forget good walking shoes, a hat and plenty of water, especially in the hot summer months. If you do not have time to prepare them on your own, you can buy mineral water, food and fresh fruits along  the way to Huong Tich cave.  A good camera is always a must!

I hope my sharing will be useful now for your getting started. Let’s enjoy and share with us your great moments.

 

 

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

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

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

Overview from Cua Dai Bridge in Hoian

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

You can see more:

The beauty of Hoian in the flood season

Early morning – Hoian ancient town

Road into Tam Thanh Village

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

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

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

Explore natural landscapes that have retained their untamed beauty!
_Lucas_

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Part 2: Others scams


2.1 Street Vendors of All Kind

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

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

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

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

⇒ How to avoid:

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

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

2.2 Overcharging and Confusing Currency

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

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

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

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

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

⇒ How to avoid:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Part 1: Taxi Scam

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

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

– Get money by cheating charge per kilometer

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

– Do not use the taxi meter

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

– Demanding more your gratuities.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Have a safe trip!

 

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Tet or Lunar New Year is a very special occasion to Vietnamese people just as Christmas and New Year combined to Westerners. Right when November hits, we say that it’s coming, very soon.

Even though the Lunar Calendar varies from years to years, Tet falls somewhere between late of January to the mid of February. However, the spirit of Tet traditions actually begin one or two weeks before Tet, when legend has it that the Kitchen God rides a carp up into the heavens and reports on the things that have been happening over the course of the year. He then returns back on the 30th of the last month of the Vietnamese calendar.

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People buy offerings to dedicate for the Kitchen God on 23rd of Dec in Lunar Calendar

Tet is actually a family festival to local people. This is when people travel back the place where they were born or come from. Most of the government agencies, restaurants, many little street stalls, markets close on this day for people gathering and celebrating Tet together. During Tet, most of things are shut down…

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Hanoi in Tet – every shops are closed

Sound like it would be not a good time for traveling, right? but if you have already booked your flight without noticing it would be Tet, here is some advice for you to have the best trip in Vietnam:

Transportation

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Book all service in advance with a reputable travel agent to have an unpressure trip

As mentioned above, Tet is when people returns to their family therefore, the transportation including car transfer, train, flight are nearly fully booked. Without doubt, it would be a big difficult for traveler to get the seat therefore, remember to book the tickets in advance. The closer to Tet, the higher price for every service you need to pay. If it is possible, you should book all needed service via a reputable travel agent to get a good price. Moreover, you can always be sure your service is already well prepared without any worried.

Accommodation

Unlike popular myths, hotels and hostels in Vietnam during Tet are abundant – there is no need to worry about overbooked hotel rooms. Tet holiday is a not a leisure travelling time for most domestic so you will have many choices with regard to accommodation.

Sightseeing

  • Before Tet (2 weeks before 29th of December in Lunar Calendar):

This is actually the best time for you to explore the tradition and the culture of local people. It’s great to see people are busy in cleaning and decorating their house to welcome the new coming year.

The markets sold various fresh food open later than usual for people to buy the food to be kept in their refrigerator during Tet therefore, don’t forget to visit the local markets before Tet.

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Flower Market in Hanoi

However, among them, my most personal favourite is the flower markets that operate for about two or three weeks before Tet (but then close on Tet Eve). The sight of trucks and cyclos carrying plants in full bloom all over town is something I look forward to every year. It’s something so special that you can only see before Tet.

  • During Tet (1st until 3rd of Jan in Lunar Calendar)

Bad news is most of things will be closed during Tet including museums, mausoleums, indoors exhibition place and art houses.

If you travel during Tet, you‘d better to arrange these time by a beach for relaxing. The good news is the beach will be empty as this is not an ideal time for traveling of domestic market. The beach of Hoi An or Nha Trang, Phu Quoc, Con Dao would be the best choices for traveler.

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An Bang Beach of Hoi An

Hoi An is where you can find many lovely reasonable accommodation, next is Nha Trang then Phu Quoc and the last is Con Dao.

If you love the tranquility, cities will be vacant (on the actual date of Tet). This is the great time to enjoy this atmosphere of the city. Or, visit a pagoda and watching people burning the incense, praying for their luck, health, wealthy that would come to them during the whole year.

Food

Most of restaurant will be closed during Tet. Some are opened for specific time in a day but there is surely an extra charge applied at the restaurants.

Some food stalls are still opened but the cost of food would be higher than usual too. Normally in the North, the sellers at the food stalls only sell snail noodle on Tet due to its sour and plain flavor that helps beating the fat and high calories traditional food which people often have during Tet. They are the traditional food that is not available elsewhere or else-when such as Banh Chung, Boiled Chicken, Pickled Onions.

If you are invited to a Vietnamese family, that would be the ideal case for you to experience the culture of Vietnam.

Shopping

Like restaurants, many shops will be closed for the first few days of the lunar new year. Some market will still be open, with much fewer vendors than you normally see, even in major trading points like Dong Xuan market or Ben Thanh. To your surprise, many products will be sold at a very reasonable price because most sellers want to start a smooth sales year. Try not to haggle or if you do, do so politely or else it will be considered to bring about bad luck for the whole new year.

Should you have interest in  please follow: Tours in Vietnam

Happy traveling!

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Recognized as natural reserve, Pu Luong straddles the two districts in Thanh Hoa province, an ecological treasure trove, this area has great potential for ecotourism, it is managed sustainably. The Pu Luong is an area of outstanding beauty, culture interest and high biodiversity value stretching from Mai Chau in the North to West to Cuc Phuong national park. While Mai Chau is now crowded with tourists, just 80km away, Pu Luong remains as calm as it was decades ago. Visitors venture off the beaten track will discover pristine forests, terraced rice fields and thatched-roof stilt huts. Indochina tours

The Pu Luong is an area of outstanding beauty, culture interest and high biodiversity value

The Pu Luong is an area of outstanding beauty, culture interest and high biodiversity value

Why Pu Luong

Pu Luong Region stretches all the way from Mai Chau to Cuc Puong National Park. The region is quite unknown among most tourists, but that does not make it less worth to visit. Pu Luong may attract you thanks to its stunning rice terrace fields, beautiful nature, breath taking mountain passes and traditional villages of ethnic minorities who still retain their unique cultural heritage and way of living. Pu Luong offers many opportunities for tourists, such as trekking in the forest and along the rice terrace fields, cycling through the reserve and visiting many authentic small villages. It is a real “off the beaten track” destination.

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Best time to visit Pu Luong

The best time to visit Pu Luong is during rice harvest season, from September to November or February until May. This time, the plantation is lush and weather is pleasant. Pu Luong can be best accessed either from Mai Chau or NinhBinh.

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What to do in Pu Luong?

In Pu Luong, visitors have different choices for their tours, such as discovering the beauty of the natural landscape, ecological forests with plentiful fauna and flora or learning the simple and interesting customs and habits of the Thai and Muong people. Adventurous visitors come here to escape modern life, this is the interesting ideal for trekking trips  or cycling options.

Trekking: Choose from a number of magnificent trekking routes, passing through outstanding rice terrace fields, stunning hills and valleys and fascinating hamlets giving a glimpse of daily life. There are several trekking loops to choose from ranging from a short 5 km scenic stroll to nearby villages to a challenging hike to conquer Pu Luong’s highest peak.

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Rafting: Travel as a fisherman and cruise down a calm river on traditional bamboo rafts and watch local farming life by on either side. This peaceful way of floating through the Cham river is very unique and far from boring as beautiful scenery is everywhere around you. For the active, you can join in with your own paddle and experience the daily journey of the local fishermen. We recommend to combine this activity with the water wheels walk.

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Cycling: The steep valleys and off-road tracks provide a breath taking route for any biker. Cycle past stunning rice terrace fields, narrow dirt tracks, hard-surface valleys and mountain passes. Transfer options are also available for those who want to enjoy the scenic trails without the challenge of a continuous upward climb on the return. Biking level differs from easy, moderate to advanced. Leisure cycling through local villages is also an ideal options, practically in the lowland of Pu Luong.

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Relaxing: Besides all activities, we highly recommend you to relax and do nothing. Enjoying the peaceful atmosphere, relaxing with green field, read books, join our daily gardening, farming, watering and rice cultivation.

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Where to stay

1/ Pu Luong Retreat – An eco-resort with beautiful terraced field area. Located on a hillside, this 3 star eco-lodge is built in great balance of nature and offers stunning views of the valley below and Pu Luong Nature Reserve from afar. The property has 9 mountain view bungalows and a comfortable sharing wooden house on stilts. It also features a restaurant, a traditional spa house and a swimming pool.

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2/ Home-stays

There are few home-stay options in and around Pu Luong Nature Reserve. For a more isolated, rustic, and spectacular home-stay, head into the nature reserve. Home-stays don’t get more atmospheric than in Bản Hiêu, a small but spread-out collection of thatched bamboo houses on stilts, built on a steep mountainside.

Do you want to stay in a total peaceful place, away from the mass, with outstanding beauty and bio diversity along with villages of ethnic minorities?

Come to Pu Luong Nature Reserve and be amazed!

Source : Pu Luong Retreat

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If I give you a few seconds to list the most impressive food of Vietnam, which one would cross your mind first? Bun cha – the food has been tasted by President Obama in his visit to Vietnam recently or Pho – the famous food that former president Bill Clinton chose in his visit to Vietnam in 2000 and has been brought all over the world by Vietnamese people living oversea?

President Bill Clinton at Pho 2000 Restaurant

President Bill Clinton at Pho 2000 Restaurant

I bet most of people would choose Pho. The fragrant broth, savory beef, and springy rice noodles captivate everyone in their first time experience this food. Vietnam travel packages

Pho Bo - Hanoi Style

Pho Bo – The fragrant broth, savory beef, and springy rice noodles captivate everyone in their first time experience this food.

Many clients advised me beside their main purpose of visiting the country and exploring the life of local people, trying the authentic food especially Pho is always on top priority in their To do list in Vietnam. But, have you ever wonder about the origin of Pho? How did Pho appear in Vietnam and its development? It you haven’t known much about Pho and its unusually rich world with culinary and cultural gems, let me tell you the story…

 Pho is a relatively new food in Vietnam. It was born at the beginning of the twentieth century in and around Hanoi, the capital of Vietnam, located in the northern part of the country.

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The Street Vendors published in Technique du Peuple Annamite (Mechanics and Crafts of the Vietnamese People) (1908–1910), by Henri J. Oger

Some say that long before Pho was popularized on the streets of Hanoi, it was being prepared in Nam Dinh, an agricultural province located about fifty-five miles southeast of Hanoi. Other theories exist, but what is certain is that pho was created from a collision of circumstances.

The historical essay by Trinh Quang Dung named “100 Years of Pho” explained the first appearance of Pho. During the French colonial time, a noodle soup called Xao Trau often prepared and sold by Chinese food vendors was very popular. It was simply made, with slices of water-buffalo meat cooked in broth and rice vermicelli. Most of Pho customers were Chinese working on the merchant ships that sailed up and down the Red River from Yunnan Province past the edge of Hanoi into the Gulf of Tonkin.

Pho is a famous in Hanoi

Pho is a famous in Hanoi

French and Chinese merchant ships employed many Yunnanese, who likely identified Nguu nhuc phan as being akin to Yunnan’s “crossing the bridge” noodles. (rice noodles, super-hot broth, meat, and vegetables). The beef noodle soup caught on with the Chinese workers and, soon thereafter, with workers hired by Bach Thai Buoi, a legendary Viet industrialist who favored employing ethnic Vietnamese as an advantage over his Chinese and French competitors.

It is likely that as the dish caught on, the street hawkers became more competitive and abbreviated their distinctive calls as a means to attract customers. “Nguu nhuc phan day” (“beef and rice noodles here”) was shortened to “nguu phan a,” then “phan a,” or “phon o,” and finally settled into one word, Pho.

When the French Colonial period ended in 1954 and the Geneva Accords partitioned the country into North and South Vietnam, about a million Northerners migrated southward, heralding the arrival of Hanoi-style pho to Saigon. In the agriculturally rich and freewheeling South, pho broth developed a sweet edge as cooks added a touch of Chinese rock sugar. To this day, the regional pho fight between Hanoi and Saigon (North versus South) rages on.

The original pho was a simple bowl of broth, noodles, and boiled beef. Then cooks began offering slices of rare beef as an optional add-on.

In 1939, pho restaurants began selling chicken pho (Pho Ga). It usually happened on Mondays and Fridays, and was likely due to the government forbidding the sale of beef in order to control the slaughtering of draft animals for food.

Chicken Pho - another version of Pho well known in Hanoi

Chicken Pho – another version of Pho well known in Hanoi

During 1960s, war time in Hanoi, Pho was served with leftover cold rice, baguette, and fried breadsticks (quay) in place of rice noodles.

Bread stick - the popular food served with Pho or other types of noodle soup, steam rice ...

Bread stick – the popular food served with Pho or other types of noodle soup, steam rice …

Other versions of pho, such as pho with beef stewed in red wine (pho sot vang) and sour pho (pho chua), never totally caught on. Indeed, beef pho remains the favor, and chicken pho ranks second, but Vietnamese cooks are always innovating.

Beef stew with red wine served with Pho

Beef stewed in red wine served with Pho

Pho is always a special food to Vietnamese people. It’s will always be one of the proud of the Vietnamese to introduce to worldwide friends who want to explore about the culture and the culinary of our country.

(According to cookbook author Andrea Nguyen published by Lucky Peach magazine http://luckypeach.com/the-history-of-pho-andrea-nguyen/)

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