Vietnam tourism quick news

Vietnam – a top travel spot for the over 50 people

According to a new study by Staysure*, Vietnam is one of the top travel destinations and ranked 11 out of 15 most desirable by the British.

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The list of 15 top travel destinations: Seychelles, Maldives, US, Mauritius, Bahamas, Barbados, Cuba, Singapore, Japan, China, Vietnam, India, Thailand, Peru, Fiji

*Staysure is the over 50s expert specialising in insurance and financial services in the UK and Europe with their headquarters based in Northampton.

Tourism route from Quang Binh to Laos, Thailand opens

The new tourism transport route linking Vietnam’s central Quang Binh and Laos’ Khammoune and Thailand’s Nakhon Phanom and Sakon Nakhon provinces was opened on February 28.

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The route is among the nine provinces of the three nations sharing Highways 8 and 12.
The opening of the route has great impact on the development of trade and tourism of the localities, which helps to tighten the friendship and cooperation between Vietnam, Laos and Thailand.
The route is a result of a memorandum of understanding on opening an unfixed tourism transport route signed by leaders of the four localities on July 4, 2014, in Khammoune province.

Phu Quoc among world’s top 10 best Honeymoon destinations

Rough Guides – the leading publisher of travel and reference guides- has cited Phu Quoc Island in the southern Kien Giang province as top 10 best Honeymoon destinations across the world.

The website said that Asia is full of worth-to-visit islands for honeymooner, but Phu Quoc still remains one of the most appealing.

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‘Though it’s undeniably been ‘discovered’ now, the level of development here is still relatively low key, enabling you to really kick back and enjoy the palm-backed soft-sand beaches and warm waters’, says Rough Guides.

It also suggested that Phu Quoc is a connecting point for tours to the unspoilt An Thoi islands where the waters are ideal for snorkelling.

The 9 other destinations on the list are Treasure of Jamaica, Santorini of Greece, Buenos Aires of Argentina, KwaZulu-Natal of South Africa, Venice of Italy, The Great Ocean Road of Australia, Kerala of India, New Orleans of the US, and Bagan of Myanmar.

Collect and edit from Internet


Some quick facts about Vietnamese Tet

  • Tet is a time when Vietnam is in its most festive atmosphere. During Tet, the daily life will be much different from regular days: new and beautiful clothes are worn, special foods are prepared, Tet trees are seen everywhere; colorful papers and lights decorate houses, shops, hotels and markets.
  • Tet is also everybody’s birthday. Everyone becomes one year older on New Year’s Day. As soon as a child is born, even if it is just a few days before the New Year, he or she is one year old.
  • Each year is named sequentially after one of 12 sacred animals, in Vietnam’s culture: the rat, buffalo, tiger, cat, dragon, snake, horse, goat, monkey, cock, dog and pig. This year, 2015, is the year of the Goat.
  • Tet is considered a time of rest, family reunion and celebration. Shops, and markets used to close for an entire week, but nowadays most businesses usually close for just the 3 main days of Tet. At this time Public transport is jammed with people, and hotel accommodation is hard to find.
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  • For the Vietnamese, Tet is the time to evaluate achievements, recalling success as well as failures of the past year.
  • Tet is a time for putting on ones best and newest clothes, and forget all about your worries and sadness. People try their best to smile and be happy during this time.
  • Pre-Tet is an occasion for shopping, the time to pay off all debts and to return all borrowed things. It is believed that by not doing so, there will be more debts next year. To prepare for the new beginning, the Vietnamese, whether poor or well-to-do, tend to spend a good amount of money on new clothes, special food, flowers, and presents.
  • It is also a time to enjoy traditional foods specially prepared for Tet. The preparation of food may require many days beforehand, and enough should be made to last throughout the holiday.

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  • The seasonal dishes are banh chung and banh tet. In the north, banh chung, is a special square rice dish, it is made of sticky rice, yellow beans and fatty pork wrapped in banana leaves, and boiled for about 10 hours. Banh tet, is a similar dish but in a cylindrical shape, and is served in the South.
  • For sweets, candies or dried fruits called ”mut” are popular. Vietnamese often enjoy various sweetened dried fruits such as winter melon, coconut shreds, hot sen (lotus seeds), gung (ginger roots), etc.
  • The weeks preceding Tet are also a time for cleaning homes, and polishing the altar brassware. Usually, no cleaning is done during the holiday, especially sweeping the house during the three main days of Tet, this is considered unlucky, as you may sweep away the good luck! Everything including the graves of ancestors must be cleaned in advance.
  • Seven days before New Year’s Day, the Tao-Quan (the Spirit of the Hearth or the stove god) ritual is performed. This is the first pre-Tet ceremony for sending Tao-Quan off to Heaven to report all important events on the household during the past year to the Jade Emperor (Ngoc- Hoang Thuong-De).
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    Paper clothes made for Tao Quan in the 23rd of the last month in lunar year

  • Vietnamese like to decorate their homes with branches of ochna (cây mai) or peach tree (cây đào) blossoms. Also miniature orange bushes are carefully selected and prepared in such a way that they bear fruit just as Tet begins, as a sign of good luck. In the countryside, cây nêu is placed in front yard to ward of evil spirits.
  • On New Year’s Eve and New Year’s Day, Masses are conducted in churches for Catholics and Protestants. Confucianists and Buddhists perform rituals in temples or pagodas. For Confucianists and Buddhists, special attention is focused on the family altar, which will be set up at home, adorned with incense, fruits, and flowers.
  • At Giao Thua (midnight of the New Year’s Eve), the head of the family will perform religious rituals in front of the altar to worship Buddha, ancestors, and pray for happiness (phuoc), prosperity (loc), and longevity (tho).
  • Offerings are made to the deceased family members who are invited back (of course in spirit) into the family home to enjoy a meal with the living. Firecrackers have been banned recently by the government, instead organized firework displays are now performed in public places for everyone to enjoy. Children are allowed to stay up late and wait for the traditional money gift, callled li xi, placed in a small red envelope and given out by their parents and other adult family members.
  • Another interesting custom is the “first visitor” on New Year’s Day. Although it is considered an honor, be cautious about being the first visitor on New Year’s Day, unless you are specifically asked to do so. To the Vietnamese, starting the year properly is very important. It is believed that the 1st week, especially the 1st day of the new year, will determine one’s fortune for the rest of the year. Many Vietnamese strongly believe that the first visitor entering the home on New Year’s brings with him good or bad luck for the whole year. A common practice is to invite a pre-selected person to be the first visitor, to make sure that luck is not left to fate. Great care is taken to select the first visitor (usually a man) whom they know well. He is likely to be a good person, wealthy, of high status, and successful in life. When arriving, and he will wish the whole family good things for the new year.These are some interesting facts about Tet. Let’s make a plan and travel to Vietnam with us during Tet holiday next year and experience the special atmosphere of the biggest traditional holiday of Vietnam.

     

     

     

     


What do people do during the last few days of the Lunar Year in Vietnam?

In Vietnamese culture, people consider the last days of the lunar year as some of the most important days, since it is the time when people try to  finish all the remaining  chores of the old year and prepare for the coming new year.  The following are the five most common activities Vietnamese people usually do during the last few days of the Lunar Year.

Cleaning and decorating the home

Sweeping  of floors on the three main days of the Lunar New Year is avoided by most  Vietnamese people, because it is believed that this action might sweep away the money, the luck and the prosperity of the new year. Therefore, although people are extremely busy as the year comes to an end, everyone manages to clean their house  before the new year knocks on their door.

Houses are then decorated with a peach tree, ochna or kumquat and colorful flowers, as well as  tiny red ornaments, as symbols of Tet. This is quite similar to the way Western people decorate their Christmas Tree on Christmas Eve.

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Cleaning the ancestors altar and setting the tray with five fruits (mâm ngũ quả)

In any Vietnamese heart, there is a strong spiritual relationship between the deceased and the living; an ancestors altar is like a home or portal for them to come back to this world when worshiped. Due to this, cleaning the ancestors altar is a way for the Vietnamese to show respect to them. The work is done in a most careful and meticulous manner,  using  fresh clean water and clean sweeping tools.

An indispensible decoration for the ancestors altar during Tet is “mâm ngũ quả” a tray of five fruits. The five kinds of fruit, with different colors,  are used to wish for a New Year  of wealth,  health and peace.

Year end meal (Tất Niên)

The year end meal is an event when all members of the family re-unite after a long year apart, so it is one of the most meaningful meals of the whole year. During this cozy meal, the sentiment of the family is strengthened as members share their thoughts and feelings gained throughout the year, from sadness to happiness. After their experiences are shared the family is full of energy and happiness, and ready to welcome the New Year.

The meal is also the most delicious meal of the year, prepared with love by mothers and daughters in the family, culminating in a wide variety of Vietnamese traditional food. The year end meal might be held on the last day of the year, or one or two days before, depending on when all family members can participate in this special event.

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Watching TV shows

Entertaining TV shows are designed to encourage the new year spirit while waiting for New Year’s Eve to arrive. Besides special music shows or art shows, comedy shows “Gặp nhau cuối năm” are highly appreciated by the Vietnamese. Along with the development of technology and mass media, the activities on the last day of the Lunar new year are highly enriched. Besides traditional activities, which are passed down from generation to generation, people now have new habits when the last day comes. After finishing all the necessary things to prepare for the new year, the whole family usually gather and watch the TV program “Táo Quân” or “Gặp nhau cuối năm” This is a comedy performance by famous comedians, loved by many Vietnamese people. The program is a summary of the past year, in which these famous comedians act as kitchen gods (called Táo Quân in Vietnamese) and report all the good and bad things to the King of Heaven, in a very sarcastic way, bringing much laughter and enjoyment to the viewers. This TV program has now  become an essential part of the last day of the year.

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Praying on the eve of Tet

An indispensible New Year tradition of every Vietnamese  person is to pray in front of the family altar. This meaningful tradition is used to call forth the deceased spirits to unite with the family and welcome the New Year in together. Most people use this opportunity to silently voice their wishes for a new year full of health, luck and joy. As the old year comes to an end many families gather at organized firework displays to enjoy the count down together and celebrate the new year arriving, with newly made friends.

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Vietnamese people world-wide are preparing for the upcoming Lunar New Year. Whether living in Vietnam or another corner of the world, they are all preparing for their most important holiday of the year.

 

CHUC MUNG NAM MOI! HAPPY NEW YEAR!


A glance into the Vietnamese Lunar New Year

Lunar New Year (Tet) is the most important celebration in Vietnamese culture. When  spring comes, the weather becomes warm, trees start to blossom, and Vietnamese people everywhere are thrilled by the advent of the traditional New Year. Wherever they are, living in the homeland or other countries, they feel an immense nostalgia, wishing for a reunion and  the atmosphere of Tet in Vietnam, with their families.

This  meaningful event occurs sometime between late January or early February, depending on the Lunar Calendar.  Although the actual celebration lasts for only 3 days, people usually start preparing for Tet one or two weeks in advance. And the atmosphere of the Lunar New Year will continue long after the main events.

Tet is a time for family and friends to gather together. Vietnamese people usually consider the Lunar New Year as a time to review all the good and bad things they did in the previous year. They also wish for health, happiness and success for the next coming year.

Lunar New Year in Vietnam has many special features and whenever people think about Tet, they think about them. The following are a few examples:

THE PEACH, OCHNA AND KUMQUAT

Coming to Vietnam during Lunar New Year, tourist will be engulfed in an ocean of colorful flowers. Visiting flower market, contemplating the buds and blooms, and purchasing blossoms are one of the most common Vietnamese cultural characteristics.

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Tet flower market

The peach, the kumquat (in the North ) and the ochna (in the South) are symbols of  Vietnamese Tet. The warm pink of the peach could warm up the dry cold of the North, while the sunny South seems to be flourishing in the riot of the yellow ochna. The kumquat is symbolic of good fortune; therefore people tend to choose trees with verdant leaves, laden with the large orange fruit for a longer display.

These days in every street of Hanoi, it is easy to see these kinds of tree around being shipped to the market or to buyers.

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Peach tree

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Kumquat garden

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Yellow Ochna

STICKY RICE CAKE

Sticky rice cake (Banh Chung) is a must have dish in the meals of all families from the North to the South. It is called Banh Chung in the North, and Banh Tet in the South. Northern Banh Chung has a square shape while the Southern one is cylindrical. Besides the peach and ochna, sticky rice is another very important feature in the national celebration.

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Square Chung cake in North and Cylindrical Chung cake in South

FIVE FRUIT TRAY (MAM NGU QUA)

The “five fruit tray” during the Tet Holidays is an essential item on the ancestral altar, it symbolizes the gratitude of the Vietnamese to  their ancestors, and demonstrates their aspiration for a life of plenty. It also illustrates the Vietnamese perception of life, “When taking fruit, you should think of the grower”.

LUCKY MONEY

This is the most wanted thing during Tet by Vietnamese children. During Tet adults usually give the children they meet a red envelope with money inside, at the same time wishing them nice things, such as good health, study hard, and behave well. This tradition is called mừng tuổi (happy new age) in the North and lì xi in the South.

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During TET it is easy for tourists to see above things. If you are in Vietnam during this time do not forget to visit a Tet flower market, taste the sticky rice cakes, and drop in on a Vietnamese family, if you have opportunity, to feel the special atmosphere of our national holiday.


A great year for Vietnam’s tourist attractions in the spotlight of global media.

2014 was a really successful year for Vietnam’s tourism in global media. Many of our destinations  appeared in the top lists of  leading magazines, such as National Geographic, New York Times, the Huffington Post and more.

HA LONG BAY

Hạ Long (“descending dragon bay”)  a UNESCO World Heritage Site since 1994, is one of the most gorgeous and famous travel destinations in Vietnam. In November 2011 it was chosen as one of new Seven Wonders of the World by New7Wonders website.

In 2014 the reputable tourism websites Global Grasshopper and Reuters selected Ha Long bay as one of the most beautiful travel destinations in the world.

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Cua Van fishing village which is just next to the bay, was also listed among the world’s most inviting coastal destinations by Travel and Leisure magazine.

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The US Forbes magazine also recommended that tourists view the bay by seaplane to enjoy its stunning beauty from the sky.

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SON DOONG CAVE

The pictures of Son Doong cave – the world’s biggest cave which has a length of 9km and a height which can embrace a 40-storey building were highlighted by US magazines –  New York Times, National Geographic and Huffington Post  in 2014 as some of the most splendid pictures of the year..

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PHU QUOC ISLAND

 The famous Italian newspaper La Repubblica praised the charm of Phu Quoc Island as a small paradise with white sand and blue seas. The newspapers also advised tourists to experience this island instead of more popular beaches in Indonesia and Thailand.

In addition, experts from National Geographic ranked Phu Quoc fourth on its list of 15 “must see” destinations. The magazine suggests that the best time to visit the island is during the winter month, from December to March.

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Da Nang

Recently, the coastal town of Da Nang was chosen by TripAdvisor as one of the most appealling destinations in Vietnam.

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Hanoi

According to Smart Travel Asia tourism magazine, Hanoi was eighth on the list of top tourist destinations in Asia for 2014, this was the second consecutive year Hanoi appeared on the list.

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Hoi An

Tourpia magazine extolled the ancient town of Hoi An as one of the world’s most exquisite places, and as one of the top destinations for the year. The magazine ranked Hoi An as the fourth best travel destination, trailing Venice (Italy), Amsterdam (Netherland) and Bruges (Brussels).

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Collect and edit from: Dantri.com

Photo: Internet 

 

 


Vietnam ~ Visa updates for tourists

Visa fees for cruise passengers entering Vietnam drops to $5 per person.

Instead of the surprisingly high fee of US $45, international cruise passengers now have to pay only US $5 per visa, when they go ashore for a local tour, according to the new measures approved last week by the Prime Minister.

The measures come after renewed  immigration regulations, effective January 1st 2015. Previously the process was complicated, time consuming and costly  for international tourists traveling to Vietnam by cruise ships  who wanted to join overland tours when their ships called at a local port.

A number of foreign cruise lines, and local travel firms that specialize in arranging  overland tours for cruise passengers, expressed concern over the new rules, saying it  would discourage the tourists  from buying overland tours as they were required to fill out a visa application form, pay US $45 for each visa and then wait a lengthy time for immigration officers to process the applications. This left little time for the tours and the cost deterred many tourists.

Prime Minister Nguyen Tan Dung late last week told the Ministry of Public Security to work with the relevant agencies to streamline the visa process for passengers on board foreign cruise ships, and instructed the Ministry of Finance to lower the fee.  Accordingly,  Immigration Officers will now issue a landing slip to visitors upon arrival, for a fee of US $5,  if they want to go ashore for sightseeing.

Local tour operators now expect the relevant agencies to quickly issue documents to implement the PM’s new measure, thereby encouraging cruise lines to bring their passengers into the country.

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7 more countries are now on the list of Vietnam’s visa exemption

Vietnam is now applying  30 day visa exemptions  for all  tourists coming  from ASEAN (except for Brunei which only have a 14 day visa exemption).

From January 1st, 2015, visa exemptions will be applied  to seven other countries, namely Russia, Japan, Korea, Denmark,  Norway, Sweden and  Finland. Tourists from these countries can stay in Vietnam for a maximum 15 days without visa. The measure is applied to every kind of passport and for every tourists. This rule will be effective for 5 years from January 1st, 2015 to December 31st 2019. The extension will be applied according to the laws of Vietnam.

This is an action of the Vietnamese Government to encourage the development of national tourism.

Collect and edit from Saigontimes and Vnexpress 

 

 

 


Hanoi home-hosted meal

There’s no doubt Hanoi is a paradise for food lovers. This has been proved by the hundreds of articles, blogs, TV programs, guidebooks, and reports in the international media about this awesome destination. From Banh My to Bun Cha and countless street food vendors, to the best fine dining restaurants, featuring authentic and fusion cuisines. All of them make Hanoi a must for gastronomy travelers.

But let us take you to a historical part of Hanoi for something else: It’s a home-hosted meal with  a local Hanoian family on Kham Thien street, a street that suffered badly during the war.

We wanted to experience this on your  behalf, and after negotiating our motorbikes through the busy streets on a Saturday morning, we arrived at an amazingly elegant house. Mr. Van, the owner,  greeted us like a grandfather welcoming  his grandchildren!

“Come on in! Take a seat and enjoy the tea!” Said Mr.Van, who is 72 years old, while offering his nice green tea to each of us! “Well, this used to be a nice spacious area, but after the war and the redevelopment of the city, it is now quite crowded! Thanks to  Buddha most of my neighbors are still here, and despite the density of the population now, our neighboring remains tight and as good as in the past!” And from here his story of the time before, during, and after the war, led us to a lively chapter in the history of Kham Thien street.

We were all so moved while his story continued on.  How happy life was before the war, when Kham Thien was a street of entertainment for “those who had money”, then when the war came, how he joined the army, and how the B52 bomb-raids destroyed the street and killed many of his neighbors. Later, how people returned and rebuilt the street.

Our conversation was temporarily interrupted as Mrs. Dau (Mr. Van’s wife) asked us to be seated at the dining table, where she placed all the mouth-watering food she had prepared for us! Grilled pork made to her own recipe, “cha ran la lot” – minced pork wrapped in La Lot and deep fried, ground beef topped with lemon-grass, pork-ribs cooked with bamboo shoots, Cha Ca Hanoi an Hanoi style  grilled fish, green papaya salad, bok-choi stir fried with garlic. All of these delicious foods were cooked by Mrs. Dau, using her own recipes, like a mother cooking for her children!

Having admitted that we could find the same food out there in different Hanoi restaurants,we all agreed that none would taste quite the same!

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Another meal Mrs. Dau prepared for guests

Our meal went on excitedly with “yum”, “oh, how nice…” and other praise, together with questions to Mrs. Dau about her recipes so that we can make these wonderful dishes at home.  Mr. Van and Mrs. Dau explained to us how they raised their children, how they managed to build such a nice home and how busy they are now, looking after their grandchildren so their  “kids” can go to work.  They also asked us about our families, parents and kids, and lots of laughter ensued with our amusing stories. So happy were we with the conversations that we did not realize we had eaten everything on the table!

Next, to our surprise Mr. Van took out a Đàn Bầu, a unique Vietnamese mono stringed instrument, and started to play some old folklore songs. The music took us back to our childhoods in the countryside, with the banyan trees, the village wells, and the rice fields with water buffaloes, together with all the old games we played.

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Mr. Van is playing Đàn Bầu

This happy time was over too soon! Saying goodbye to Mr. Van and Mrs. Dau on the doorstep we asked if they would be willing to  host lunches or dinners for international tourists, and eagerly they immediately said they would! Mr. Van and Mrs. Dau said that now they are retired, and their grandchildren are at school all day, they would truly welcome  entertaining the tourists.

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Mr. Van, Mrs. Dau with her daughter and grand children with foreign guests

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So, food lovers and cultural travelers, don’t miss this wonderful chance to see the real Vietnam! A home-hosted meal in Hanoi awaits you, together with the entertaining company of Mr. Van and Mrs. Dau.

Just send your request to us,  Indochina Pioneer , and we’ll introduce this special family to you for an experience you will not forget!

Written by: Le Sy Quyen


Newsletter 20 Dec – Indochina Pioneer’s updates

Dear our beloved clients,

Season Greetings from Indochina Pioneer team! Well, we believe that you’re now enjoying your Xmas shopping and having fun with your family. We Indochina Pioneer team in Hanoi are also busy preparing the best for our clients who enjoy Xmas at our home country!

So here are some sizzling updates from us this week!

AN AWESOME DEAL FOR 8 DAY TRIP TO SOUTHERN VIETNAM AND CAMBODIA!!

This 8 days tour feature the best of Mekong Delta – Vietnam and the Angkor Wat – Cambodia, and it’s only $588/person! More of this is the excellent personal service offered by Indochina Pioneer team. Hurry up sending your request, as the deal does not stay long!

We recently had some inspection to Dao Thuc Village and Sapa, and you may want to read our reports:

A MUST FOR YOUR TIME IN SAPA: A TREK AND HOMESTAY NIGHT IN TAVAN VILLAGE

This is “an experience of a life time” write up from one of Indochina Pioneer team after her homestay experience in Ta Van Village of Dzay Minority, down in Muong Hoa Valley. This Sapa homestay experience is well recommended.

DAO THUC – ONE OF THE BIRTHPLACE OF VIETNAMESE WATER PUPPETRY

An inspiring short tour to Dao Thuc Village and watch the real water puppet show, and this resulted in 2 more new day tours offered by Indochina Pioneer team in 2015. Photos and video clips are featured in this blog post too!

LAST BUT NOT LEAST – OUR WEBSITE CONTENTS ARE WELL PROTECTED

Indochina Pioneer has officially registered to Digital Millennium Copyright Act – A part of the US Copyright Law.

From now the contents of our website including text, design, code, images, photographs and videos are considered to be the Intellectual Property of the website owner, whether copyrighted or not, and are protected by DMCA Protection Services.

That is for now, and see you next time! Enjoy your festive season!

 


Homestay in Ta Van – An experience not to be missed when visiting Sapa

Located in Sapa district, Lao Cai province, just 8 km away from Sapa town, Ta Van is a small village nestled between two mountain ranges, Hoang Lien Son and Ham Rong. It is surrounded by rice field terraces, often right in front of the houses. Recently Ta Van has been become a favorite destination not only for local people, but also for international tourists.

The way to Ta Van village

Leaving behind the busy Sapa town, tourists set off for a totally authentic experience by staying in a local house (called a homestay) with the ethnic residents of Ta Van ,  most of whom are from the Giay ethnic minority.

Following Cầu Mây and Mường Hoa Street, travelers will no longer see the bustling scenes of street vendors. Instead, you will be lured by the amazing landscape of green mountains, rolling rice terraces, and the white streams flowing  between huge rocks in the valley below. Among the infinite background you will see homes of the local people, situated amidst the beautiful scenery.

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Tourists are trekking from Sapa to Ta Van

The misty atmosphere here is typical of mountainous areas like Sapa.  On a sunny day, the view becomes even more beautiful, with beams of sunlight streaming over the trees and rooftops. However, when the sky is cloudy the mist will magically swallow everything in sight!

If you love to hike you can try walking  from Sapa town, which will take approximately 4 hours to reach Ta Van village! Otherwise, travelling by car, you reach Ta Van Bridge and continue by foot to the  village,  observing the daily life of the ethnic Giay people along the way.

Ta Van people

Giay people, as everyone in Sapa knows, are very friendly and gregarious, and the owners of 40 homestays here are no exception. Being kind, helpful and sensitive to guests’ demands, they make everyone feel welcome and part of their family, ensuring your stay in Tan Van is a very  rewarding and memorable experience.

I had a chance to experience a 2 day/1 night trip in one of the 40 homestays here, the home of Mr. Sẩu and Mrs. Sói. Mrs. Sói is one of the most friendly, warm-hearted and hilarious hosts. Anyone having the chance to stay with her will certainly not forget it!

From the first hello to the last goodbye Mrs. Sói shows her guests nothing but enthusiasm and kindness. She loves to spend time talking and drinking with guests at night around the fire, and sometimes gives them a bottle of local wine as gift! Travelers coming here are also impressed by her excellent cooking skills. Dinner consists of delicious traditional  Vietnamese dishes, while  breakfast includes many Western dishes such as crepes, bananas and coffee.

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Indochina Pioneer team were having dinner with the host

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Dinner with Vietnamese styled food by Mrs. Sẩu Sói

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Western breakfast style with crepes, banana, condensed milk and coffee

Homestay accommodation

Among 140 houses in total, 40 of these houses provide homestay services for the tourists.

Travelers stay in the same house with the ethnic host family. Most houses in the village are  of traditional Giay architecture, specifically with a wooden altar placed opposite  the homes entrance. The main house is made from wood while the clean restroom is built in the modern style. Guests can choose to sleep in a bed on the ground floor or on a mattress on the half-storey. Giay people are extremely clean and tidy, so wherever you sleep, although very basic, it will certainly be clean and comfortable.

 

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Traditional rooftop of a house of Giay ethnic group

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The way Giay people hold their knives in the kitchen

Services nearby

Without electricity, the houses located in Ta Van remain unchanged from times gone by. However, the village is a little more advanced with electricity, pubs, billiards, several massage parlours and herbal bath places. With the mixture of ancient and modern this small mountainous village will certainly serve as an interesting and unforgettable experience in Sapa.

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On the shutter bus to Sapa

With the new high way connecting Hanoi to Sapa, shorten the travel time down to only 5 hours, a tour to Sapa is now much easier on daily basis, and once you’re there, why not try a night in this charming Ta Van village?

 

 


An excursion to one of the birthplaces of water puppetry

Okay! So it’s Saturday afternoon. To our surprise Quyen sighed and said it would be a boring weekend, and asked us to pick a destination for a half day escape. Just 1 minute later, Dao Thuc Village was targeted, and off we went!

To people loving the art of water puppets, Đào Thục will be a familiar name. It is one of the original places where people perform water puppet shows as a form of entertainment. Water Puppets have been part of the spiritual life of villagers for over 300 years. In this modern internet era, the villagers are still managing to preserve and promote their ancestral heritage.

Setting off from Hanoi, after a 45 minute drive, we reached this beautiful untouched village of Dao Thuc, in the middle of peaceful rice fields, after the harvest.

We immediately fell in love with the quiet atmosphere and fresh air here. Appearing in front of us was a typically landscaped Vietnamese village, a sharp contrast from the busy city of Hanoi. At the entrance of the village stood a large banyan-tree beside a small pond, next to which was a sacred Buddhist Temple. This is typical of most traditional Vietnamese villages.

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Thuy Dinh stage

After strolling around for a while we came to a house in the heart of the village, and were welcomed by Mr. Nguyen Van Chuong who was our host, the head of the hamlet, and the Director of the water puppet troupe as well.

Conversation was enjoyed along with a delicious authentic lunch. We were served roast pork, steamed chicken, pickles and salt eggplant, fried tofu in tomato sauce, stir-fried potato, soup of pork-rib and bamboo shoots, stir fried bokchoi with garlic and steamed rice . We were actually quite amazed and expressed our appreciation to Mr. Chuong’s wife for preparing this sumptuous meal for us at such short notice! (We only informed them of our visit 1 hour in advance!).

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Mr. Chuong (right) and Mr. Trach (left)

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Talking after authentic lunch

To Mr. Chuong, the Water Puppets at Dao Thuc have been through many ups and downs due to historic and economic conditions, yet the love of Water Puppets by the villagers has never relented.

Joining us at the meal were Mr. Nguyen Van Trach, a 57 year old artist who has spent more than half his life performing with water puppets, and Mr. Tran Thanh Nghi, who is now the key person extending the reputation of Dao Thuc Water Puppets.

Being born in a traditional village in the countryside, all of the artists in Dao Thuc are peasants. Even though the financial benefits from performing water puppet shows is not enough to earn a living, they are still dedicated and perpetuate this historic artform. We were told that the Dao Thuc Water Puppet Troupe has performed in the USA, Canada, Europe, Australia, China, South Korea, Brazil and many other countries for the last  two decades, and now the villagers are performing  in their own village on a daily basis.

“We are trying to make our Puppet shows more popular, hoping it will attract more international tourists to our village. This not only helps us maintain and develop our heritage, but also offers opportunities for the younger generation of the village to interact with the outside world, thus widening their view and encouraging them to make progress!” said Mr. Chuong excitedly.

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Our exciting leader in a water puppet workshop of local people

Water puppets are made of fig wood. This kind of wood is very light, making it easier for performers to control the puppets. Its durability in water is another characteristic making it the ideal material for water puppets.

Bidding goodbye and thanking Mr. Chuong’s family for such an enjoyable and informative lunch we leave to watch a full performance of the puppet show on the pond, which is actually the main stage for the shows. The pond is called Thuy Dinh, which literally means “The Temple Raised from the Water”. Audiences, including tourists and villagers, excitedly gather around the stage to enjoy every move of the puppets, and listen to the songs which illustrate the stories the artists tell.

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Dragon water puppet on performing

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Local artists say hi to audiences after the show

A water puppet show was not new to us, however watching this show in its natural surroundings at the birthplace of water puppetry was something completely different! The spirited atmosphere, the smells, the light, the shade, the smiling people, together with the “innocent ways” of the local peasants, and the authentic stories told via the puppets made it a unique and very inspiring experience!

Only 45 minutes from Hanoi Center,  30 minutes from Noi Bai International Airport, the village of Dao Thuc with its charm, rich history, and warm hearted people, will no doubt be one of  Indochina Pioneer’s new destinations for 2015. There will be a half day tour, and a full day tour on sale from January 2015. We are also working with local families to plan some homestays for those wishing to enlarge this experience.

So if you’re planning a trip to Hanoi, you may want to add Dao Thuc to your list of places to visit!

Indochina Pioneer will make it a time to remember!