Truly Outstanding experience with Indochina Pioneer

My Vietnam experience far exceeded expectations – and that was largely due to the humanity, flexibility and skill of our trip organizer Lam Duong of Indochina Pioneer.

I travelled with a group of eight who’d been involved in a Habitat for Humanity “build” program led by Helen Neale of Te Awamutu in the Mekong Delta area.

Helen had met Lam on a previous tour through Vietnam and had established a special rapport with this extraordinary and very able young man.
Lam’s ability to connect with people visiting to his country, sharing its character and traditions, craftsmanship and culinary skills along with its disturbing history created a tapestry of unforgettable experiences. Add fascinating excursions and you have a maelstrom to reflect on!
There were laughs galore and lots of mutual sharing of family and
traditions. Lam was flexible and interested in everyone. His amazing capacity to assimilate information is an attribute he shared generously with us all.

His is an extraordinary story: from a mountain village in the north and from a family with strong traditions. His love of the English language and curiosity about the world led him through university to opportunities very different from those expected of him, yet remain a strong influence in his handling of visitors to his country.

Our group had most fascinating experiences: – becoming acquainted with Vietnamese history, the influence of Confucius on society’s attitudes (still clearly evident), of their royal lineage assisted by the astuteness of the mandarins, legacies from the French colonial era, Ho Chi Min and his extraordinary leadership and unique style of communism which profoundly altered Vietnam – and to the country’s rapid progress since opening up to private enterprise in the last few decades.

We travelled to amazing places – mostly by air conditioned coach, but distances were also closed by flights. Then there were cyclo rides, boat and train trips and tramps among the mountain home of the hill-tribe people of the north. always interspersed with interesting stops – and for food!

Vietnamese food is divine! We dined in delightful cafe’s and restaurants, in temples and street cafes, also in the style of royalty!

I absolutely loved their use of herbs, vegetables and sauces – exquisite subtle flavours, blended with seafood, chicken, pork and rice.

Beautiful platters of fruit frequently complete a meal. I saw very little junk food here!

Then there’s the shopping! Whether for jewellery, tailor-made garments, shoes, glasses – you name it – they’ll make it! The skill and craftsmanship of the Vietnamese people is amazing – and their efficiency and price structure is so very different from ours!

Family members had asked me to do some buying for them. I was really thrilled with the results – and of lam’s help, guidance and recommendations.

Vietnam is a fascinating country to experience.
The people are delightful – courteous, intelligent, resourceful, generous and positive.

As a holiday destination it simply blew my mind!

I wholeheartedly recommend Indochina Pioneer as an excellent company to work through if considering travelling to Vietnam for an experience of a lifetime!


Phu Quoc – A Gift of Nature

Being the largest island of Vietnam, located in the Southwest of Kien Giang province, Phu Quoc Island holds a marvellous attraction coming from its sightseeing, weather, animal, plants, etc.
In the 3-day-tour exploring this sparkling island, we’ve got lots of unforgettable memories as well as experiences.

There are 2 ways for tourists to get to Phu Quoc Island. One, is flying right straight from Hanoi or Ho Chi Minh City. But in case you have time and want to experience the whole trip with more means of transport, the latter is traveling by rail trains.

In the first night, from Ho Chi Minh City, you catch the night coach to Ha Tien. Then in the next morning, you continue to get on the rail train to Phu Quoc Island at 8:00 am or 1:00 pm. 3 hours later, you now can reach your destination, the beautiful island. This below picture was taken at a wharf of Ham Ninh harbour, where we enjoyed the breathtaking sunset view before arriving at the Island.

One of the featured animals in this island is Phu Quoc Ridgeback dog. Its distinct identification from other breeds of dogs is the swirling hair on his spine. Especially, Phu Quoc Ridgeback burrow to lay and have a knack for hunting, climbing, swimming in the water well because of webbed feet like a propeller and a very short hair so Phu Quoc Ridgeback just get their body dry quickly. In addition, a Phu Quoc Ridgeback has a muscular body. There are wrinkles on the forehead, ears erect and tail curved over their back. Phu Quoc Ridgeback has lots of good characteristics: hunting and hunt very well, also a very good guard dog. At night, the dog is easy to detect the target, strangers and never give up. Moreover, they are very close and friendly to everyone not only their owners, especially the small ones.

Besides, Phu Quoc is also famous for its plant traditional product: black pepper. With a favourable climate and good soil, the island plans to focus on developing its century-long famous black pepper through improving the quality and increasing the economic value of the product. A local gardener said the district will invest in infrastructure, create conditions for farmers to access loans and expand the product’s market. The People’s Committee here will help attract more foreign and domestic visitors to the island and make Phu Quoc Black Pepper a famous brand capable of penetrating the global market.


Another lesser known food that is also grown in a fair abundance on Phu Quoc is the cashew nut. If you travel to the more remoter parts of the north around Bai Thom you’re likely to see all the cashew nut tree with there hugh pear shaped husks when in season and the far smaller cashew nut attached at the end. Harvesting and picking the nuts is very manual intensive work, however it’s interesting seeing all these trees.

Gành Dầu is a town located in the Northwest of Phu Quoc island. In the first days arriving at the Northern Island, we made a short visit and had lunch in this town. With wild and pure beach, Gành Dầu held in it a very attractive beauty.

Boats anchored in the Gành Dầu beach


This is the road crossing the Phu Quoc National Park, from Gành Dầu to Bãi Dài

With an area of nearly 600 quare kilometers, tourists can directly discover this island by motorbike. From this beach to another, the distance is up to 10-20 kilometers.

This beach is called “Long Beach” (Bãi Dài) just because of the 15 kilometer length to the Northwest. This is also a wild beach, pure and clean with white sand and tropical water. Along the beach, tourists may sometimes feel confused to find the ideal position where you can enjoy this wonderful sightseeing the best.

And one clue for you: Don’t worry about that, because everywhere you can stand on this island is deserved to be called the paradise.






After catching cute small fish themselves, tourists came to Sao Beach, the most beautiful beach of Phu Quoc. With pure blue water and soft white sand, this beach really deserves to be voted as one of five most beautiful beaches of the world.


Goodbye Sao Beach, on the return, they once again was attracted by the breathtaking sunset view on the sea, bobbing among water, sky and cloud of Phu Quoc. Leaving this island, they all felt regretful somehow. Coming back from this trip, they had a lot to tell others, about the snorkeling, scuba diving, fishing, visiting fish-processing houses, wine-making factories or special food which had featured taste of Phu Quoc Island.


Ha Giang – A passionate beauty

Ha Giang – A passionate beauty

They made a trip coming back to Ha Giang in the early winter days. Not the first time for this Northernmost land but they all did want to make the most of it, to once again discover all things belonging to Ha Giang: sightseeings, weather, vegetation, fauna, peoples and much more others which only in Ha Giang.

Ha Giang Province, located in the far north of the country and containing Vietnam’s Northernmost point, is full of feelings and emotions of those who used to visit, are now visiting and even going to visit this land. Dong Van, Meo Vac, Quan Ba, Yen Minh or Sung La, Sa Phin, Ma Pi Leng, Son Vi, Du Gia – so familiar the names that can strongly remind those who visited here of their trips.

About Ha Giang trips, a group of young people from Hanoi Capital said that they had been always fascinated by such a passionate beauty whenever visiting here. Each time coming here, they were absolutely attracted by Ha Giang sights and peoples, not only for the first time. GBs of photos were still not enough to store wonderful moments they had in the wonderful land, said one tourist.
You can take a look at this ideal destination via the images below:


Zigzagging paths through the mountain slopes in the first stage coming to rocky highlands.


Rocky highland – with lots of rock layers at a great height. The Hmong stay here, find it very difficult to get up with the topography and other complex natural conditions but they have done it very well – to live, to blow the Dan Moi (a kind of musical instrument of ethnic peoples here) together in spring nights and to give birth to cute babies who then grow up into boys and girls with shining smiles that tourists will be met up with in every way of Ha Giang.


Mien River – A major river flowing in rocky highland, linking Yen Minh and Quan Ba and contributing to a life of comfort for Hmong community here. 


Ma Pi Leng – or Song Mui Ngua by Hmong – one of the highest and most dangerous road in the Northern land but also a breathtaking sight on the “Happy path” linking Dong Van and Meo Vac, all of which have made an ideal destination for discovery and advanture in Ha Giang.


The fragile beauty of Tam Giac Mach flowers, cultivated by ethnic peoples here after rice season. This plant has lots of useful usages, for example the ethnic peoples can boil and eat like vegetable or harvest the seed, grince to make their special cake or the most famous is used to cook Tam Giac Mach wine, only in Ha Giang…


A Hmong boy on Ma Pi Leng pass 


Silent valley on rocky highland 


Lung Cu flagpole. Reaching the Northernmost point of our country then having a look at the flying 54.2-square kilometer –Nation flag, which represents the unity of 54 ethnic groups, we all got strong emotions. That is the wish, the pride not only of us but also all Vietnamese people.


A wild flower in the bottom of Lung Cu Flagpole also reminded of strong feelings about this place


A very old Hmong house with a peach tree, a stone fence and a wood gate in Sung La – where is chosen to be the main background of a famous film Pao’s Story


A Hmong grandmother was teaching her child in front of the house


Sunset in rocky highland. Every way has more than one bypass but anyway, all of them always lead to the heart

Saying goodbye to the rocky highland in a red sunset, peaceful and enchanted, I just couldn’t help calling back in my mind those sentences in a poem:

“Way to highland, long and far
High mountains
High houses
People got here
Leaving something in each
For the goodbye moment…”


Mountain, wind, sand, sea and Champa Culture: All in one Travel!

Many people used to listen to “The beat of Paranung drum” before getting a chance to see the real one. It is the rhythms as well as lyrics of that song that has inspired many many people to make a trip to the land that the Cham people and their cultural emerged.

The Cham people are one of a few ethnic groups in Vietnam whose both tangible and intangible cultural heritage are still remaining in good condition so far. Therefore, people can take a look on them, then discover what you’ve seen – heard – watched simultaneously in a very high mood. You know, it would be very wonderful to fulfill the dream of passing through many paths of mountains, wind, sand and waves to reach the land of culture.

The first thing will open to welcome you to the legendary Cham Culture is Nhan Temple (“Tháp Nhạn” in Vietnamese) – a very high temple located in the Nhan Mountain. With the solid pyramid 4-storey architecture and to the East – met up with sea wind in daytime and surrounded by Ba River at night, Nhan Temple has made a strong impression of magnitude on those who have visited Phu Yen Province.

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Beginning with the 12th century’s architectural buildings of the Cham people in Ba River delta plain, you will have a chance to satisfy your passion for travel and discovery, a plan on your own is greater.

On the way leaving Nhan Temple, you will see Po Nagar Cham Tower (a.k.a Thap Ba), which was named for a goddess of local origin who is said to have created the earth, eaglewood, and rice. The temple was built during the Hindu period of Champa, and thus the image of the goddess took the form of Uma, wife of Silva. In its most complete form, the complex probably consisted of 6 towers, in two parallel rows of three, but the south-west and center-west towers have vanished. The arrangement makes an interesting comparison with the brick towers of Lolei, near Angkor Wat in Cambodia, which were built at the end of the 8th Century.

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If you come there in the time Champa executants from Hue Duong, Ninh Thuan performancing, you are so lucky. Not only because you will be able to listen to traditional rhythms by the real Saranai (a Cham musical instrument) together with Ghi drump right in the bottom of the ancient towel but you also watch Vo dance, Gao dance, Quat dance of Cham young girls and touched the vases and pottery symbolizing for parts of Cham Culture.

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Talking about Cham Culture, we can’t help considering a visit to the famous My Son Sanctuary. Those who have once visited here must have been extremely amazed by the great temple and towel systems here. My Son  is a cluster of abandoned and partially ruined Hindu temples constructed between the 4th and the 14th century AD by the kings of Champa (Chiêm Thành in Vietnamese). The temples are dedicated to the worship of the god Shiva, known under various local names, the most important of which is “Bhadresvara.” From the 4th to the 14th century AD, the valley at My Son was a site of religious ceremony for kings of the ruling dynasties of Champa, as well as a burial place for Cham royalty and national heroes. After centuries, those ancient architectural buildings still remain in good condition, symbolize for breathtaking Champa architecture and sculpture art.

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On the way to Ninh Thuan, don’t forget to come to Hoa Lai – Ba Thap, which are said to be the most successful and beautiful Champa buildings remained.

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The most famous is Po Klong Garai temple towel, located in the medieval Cham principality of Panduranga, near the city of Phan Rang in what is now southern Vietnam. It consists of three brick towers: a main tower with three stories, a smaller gate tower, and an elongated tower with a saddle-like roof. The group of buildings is well preserved, and “is distinguished by the purity of its outlines and the austerity of its décor”.

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Not only visit tangible heritages, you will also be introduced about other cultural features by friendly Cham people here. Also, a chance to wear a Mat’ra scarf, try to use a loom in Irahani village, beat on the Paranung drum, touch the newest pots at Paley Hamu Trok – the most ancient village in South East Asia.

 


TIPS: MISTAKES THAT COULD RUIN YOUR TRIP

Oversaving, overpackaging, hesitating buying what you like, fearing street food or something like that? Oops! Those are mistakes that could ruin your trip.

1. Overpackaging

At home, with your complete wardrobe available, there’s no reason not to run through work, workout and working-the-clubs outfits in a single day. But when your life is crammed into a couple bags, your fashion morality changes.Those socks you wore on the plane should be good for another go.The purple tee you slept in ought to be alright for a third wear. Yesterday’s undies? Well, the same.

According to a recent survey by Travelodge, two-thirds of travelers typically return from a trip with at least six unworn outfits.

> The lesson: You don’t need a new set of anything for each day of a trip. Figure on at least two wears for (almost) everything.

du-lich1There is nothing worse than having to haul over-sized luggage along with you during the trip

2. Not buying something you like as soon as you see it
You think you’re gonna circle back to that shop?
You think you’ll see a cheaper, better version somewhere else?
No, you won’t.
That evocative street painting or those Metallica nesting dolls you didn’t buy? Now not having them will haunt you for the rest of your life.

> When you see something you like, just buy it and live without regret.

3. Oversaving
Wait on the curb for a ride in a sweat-soaked van and risk being the last one dropped off on a nine-hotel run, all in the name of saving a few bucks?
Oh no, your time is worth more than that.

Besides, too much transportation also make you feel much tired and spend more for means of transport.

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Lack of important information makes you unable to discover new places.

4. Underestimating the departure time
Speaking of London, it’s easy to underestimate the several hundred miles of concourse you’ll likely be obliged to traverse and the time-consuming security searches that create jumbled queues and make travelers look more like internment camp refugees than cosmopolitan jet setters.

Arriving anything less than two hours before an international flight is risky, but even a longer cushion can get dicey.

5. Buying cheap flip-flops
Buying cheap flip-flops may sometimes mean paying expensive for another.
You think, “I’m only gonna wear ‘em for a week, I might not even take ‘em home, why buy the good ones?” The answer comes when you blow out a toe strap and shred the bottom of your foot a mile into a hike across the local lava beds.
And now you have to go back.

6. Fearing street food
No one wants to get sick on vacation, but why travel all the way to Thailand or Mexico and not eat the local grub?

Certainly, the locals don’t like food poisoning any more than you do. So don’t worry, be more brave so that you can get a chance to enjoy tasty food and experience the daily life of local people. If they’re in line, consider the place vetted and assume you’re going to be fine.

7. No updating necessary information for the trip
Although guidebooks often contain quite enough and detailed information but not always believable and updated. Therefore, you should spend time asking for advice from those who have experiences or local people.

When booking hotel, instead of relying on the advertisement posts on online websites, you should check on the map to make sure the hotel you will stay is near the city center and easy for transport during the trip here. Besides, you should print the booking information in which there are your full name, address and hotel telephone instead of saving them on your e-mail account because you couldn’t always activate your mail during the trip.

In case you travel by air and want to get cheap tickets, just follow the website of that airline often.

If you are supposed to travel abroad, make sure that you’ve got the information about customs and habits of people living in the place you are supposed to go. Besides, don’t forget to read the requirements and regulations at entertainment centers, hotels,… carefully. A wrong action, despite small and carelessly, can be ignored in your country but in another, you may be fined seriously. Respecting local people by your positive attitude and proper action, you will always be welcomed.

8. Over-reliance on Guidebooks 
Making a travel plan using only your guidebook is like making a plan to stand in line at the bank for a week.

Guidebooks are great – we use them all the time – but it’s better to pull just one or two suggestions per day from a guide that thousands of like-minded travelers have read or downloaded.

9. Not buying the full insurance policy
We’re not a bunch of free spenders — except when the boss whips out the company credit card at the pub — but a lot of the mistakes on this list come down to adding a significant amount of stress to your life in the name of saving a few bucks.

If you actually end up needing the travel insurance you purchased (a move a significant percentage of our staff thinks is silly in the first place), you’re going to want the full coverage.

Just because you’re in a country where the beer is cheap, it doesn’t mean the healthcare is.

That bargain insurance policy might pay for your flight home when you crash your motor scooter on a winding road in some island paradise.

But it won’t cover the $5,000 in stitches and sponge baths you racked up during your three-day international hospital stay.

10. Obsessive photography 
The obsession/obligation to document every street scene, statue and starter course kills the spontaneity and visceral experience that should be the backbone of travel.

It’s now so easy to take photos that one click leads to another.

Before you know it, you have 300 pictures on your phone comprising old buildings, blurry sunsets and plates of food.

Congratulations. Your trip is now defined by low-quality images on a handset that, trust us, nobody back home wants to spend 20 minutes scrolling through.

11. Not checking visa requirements before departure 
It’s a nightmare come true when you get turned away at the ticket counter on departure day because you didn’t realize Brazil requires citizens of your benighted country to secure a visa before travel.

For certainty, find all necessary information about visa requirements at places you are supposed to go and make sure that you have enough time to comlete all before departure.

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Not checking visa requirements before departure makes you unable to come to where you want.

12. Using a credit card to get cash
This is the fastest way of paying through the nose for the privilege of paying through the nose.

Credit card companies charge a high transaction fee (up to 15%) for using a card to get cash.

These special transactions also attract a higher associated fees than other purchases: the ATM-owning bank will charge a fee; if you’re withdrawing a foreign currency the exchange rate will be miserly; and if you’re not paying off your balance each month, credit card companies in some countries will apply your partial payments to normal purchases (with a lower interest rate, say 9%) before applying them to those cash advances (which have a much higher interest rate), milking your desperation for every pitiless penny.

13. Not printing out reservation details
They’re already on your phone and computer, so why bother with hard copies of your hotel name and address?

Because your phone, computer, tablet and other electronics might not work with the local network as soon as you land, especially after crossing oceans.

Now, where are you supposed to go, dear guys?


GREAT NEWS FOR TOURISTS: HANOI’s HOTLINES FOR THOSE WHO NEED HELP

A very good news for tourist in Hanoi, from Aug 1st, the Authority of Hanoi set up a Tourist Supporting Center with a hotline to support any emergency need of visitor to the city.

 

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A tourist enjoying his first cyclo ride in Hanoi – Photo by David D. Lin

The Support Center is operating at the head quarter of Ha Noi Department of Culture, Sports and Tourism, at 47 Hang Dau Street, Hoan Kiem District, Hanoi. The Hotline is announced with with 2 numbers:

 

Landline: 04. 3926 1515 (From 08:00 AM until 22h00 PM)

Mobile: 0946791955 (24/7)

 

So far, the people on duty with these number can speak Vietnamese and English only. The Support Center team is working on other language and hope that the

 

Due to the recent regular reports of taxi scams, harrassment street vendors, cheating shops, pick pockets, ect., the Support Center is set up in a determined effort to mitigate the negative impacts toward tourist to in Hanoi, and to create a safe and welcoming tourist environment for the city.

 

Crossing Hanoi Street

Friends helping each other cross the busy street of Hanoi on their first day at the city – Photo by David D. Lin

So far, ther are a number of cases had been resolved quickly thanks to this hotline. An Australian family was overcharged by a taxi driver, then with the immediate appearance of the local authority, the taxi driver had to return the redundent money and apologied to his passenger. Another case reported an American tourist who got help from the Center while he got into a problem with a xichlo (cyclo) driver.

 

Yet it’s better to well prepare for your time in Hanoi. Read a lot a bout the city, especially upon what you are interested in doing, seeing, eating, shopping… Plan your itinerary to fit best with your time and always have a hotel card, your local tour guide and your ground travel agent number.

 

In critical situation above the control of your local travel agent, the Support Center is always the best choice, so do not forget to have those numbers with you when you are around Hanoi. Certainly no one actually wants to use them, but it’s always a great help.

 

Good thing is that after Hanoi, other tourist destionations around the country have been setting up such Support Centers. Indochina Pioneer will keep you updated with address and hotlines in the following posts.

 

 

 

 

 


The reasons why come to Viet nam

Known with many famous tourist sites with natural beauties, tranquil villages, ancient pagodas, beautiful lakes, Vietnam has been a popular tourist destination in the world. Not convinced as yet? Here are the top reasons why Vietnam should be your next destination.

Magnificent terrace field

Magnificent terrace field

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Best places to enjoy Christmas in Ha noi

Christmas is popular in Vietnam nowadays, however, only in big cities or tourist destinations, there will be a lot of activities to celebrate Christmas. From the beginning of December, all the streets in big cities are decorated with the Noel’s patterns. Besides, hotels, restaurants, shopping centers, and amusement parts also give a lot of activities which will be take place during the time of Christmas holiday.
The weather in December is cold, it’s suitable for Christmas atmosphere. In Hanoi, there are a lot of places for you to enjoy Christmas:

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Vietnam tour 2012 – A memoir from an American Veteran

In July 2012, Indochina Pioneer team assist a Veteran family to visit Vietnam for their holiday. Col. R shared his experience to his fellow buddies on 87th APS Association Aerial Reporter, 2012 Fall Edition. Indochina Pioneer team, with his permission, publish his writing on this page for your reference: Continue reading


Traffic in Phnom Penh during the ASEAN SUMMIT – Nov 17-21, 2012

Phnom Penh Airport

Phnom Penh Airport

Dear our Valued Clients,

Under Cambodia’s ASEAN Chairmanship, on 17-21 October 2012, the 21st ASEAN SUMMIT has convened in the Capital of Cambodia, Phnom Penh. Delegations from world leaders, all ASEAN Member States, and the ASEAN Secretariat attended the summit. Continue reading