Hoi An city at night is a fascinating mixture of history, culture, architecture and human life.
In its ancient streets, recognised as World Cultural Heritage, many things have remained intact as precious relics apart from the war-ravaged ones.
Hoi An is a living museum created and carefully preserved by the city dwellers.
At night it feels like a life form in the fullest sense of the word.
Saturday, November 19, 2011
AÂ*view of the Ha Long Bay, which stretches along 120 kilometers of coastline in northern Vietnam
The joy at Vietnam’s Ha Long Bay entering the temporary list of the seven new wonders of nature has been tempered by concerns the high profile could see an unmanageable spurt in tourism, damaging the world heritage site.
The announcement that it is on the temporary list is based on first counting of global votes on Friday. It sparked celebrations all over the country. Local tourism firms said it would be a boost for the industry as a whole.
Hundreds of millions of voters around the world have cast their votes for Ha Long Bay in Quang Ninh Province along with the Amazon Rainforest in South America, Iguazu Falls at the border of Brazil and Argentina, Jeju volcanic island off South Korea, Komodo National Park in Indonesia, Puerto Princesa Underground River in the Philippines, and South Africa’s Table Mountain.
A source from the New Open World organization that initiated the popularity pollÂ*said the voting calculation will be checked, validated and independently verified before official results are announced three months from now. There could be changes in the list after the verification process, it said.
A total of 440 destinations in 220 countries were nominated for the contest, from which 28 finalists were chosen.
Pham Minh Chinh, head of Quang Ninh Party unit, said the new title will require local authorities to launch campaigns to promote the bay professionally.
Meanwhile, local tour operators like Hanoitourist and Vietnam Tourism Company immediately added the winning information to their leaflets and websites.
Viet Tourism Company has initiated a series of Ha Long Bay tours with a cash promotion of VND500,000 (US$24).
Nguyen Van Tran, director of Apex Tourism Company, a Vietnam-Japan joint venture, said his firm will especially benefit from the information because “Japanese tourists love Ha Long Bay.”
Many people across Vietnam contributed to the victory via their cell phone votes.
A national campaign promoting Ha Long Bay over the past four years has been joined by many people of all ages and overseas Vietnamese as well.
Tran Nhat Hoang, an official from Vietnam Ministry of Culture, Sports and Tourism, said a new television program about Ha Long Bay will be launched to provide more information and make more people know about the bay after its global recognition.
But the joy has been accompanied by concerns that more people coming to visit the site will make it more difficult to preserve it. Ha Long Bay was already recognized as a UNESCO World Heritage Site twice in 1994 and 2000.
Ngo Van Hung, director of the center managing the bay, said more visitors will put more pressure on the environment because more tourism facilities will need to be built to serve them.
“If the number of visitors increases dramatically, we will not be able to meet all the demands,” Hung said.
By Nguyen Tran Tam – Minh Ngoc, Thanh Nien News
Read More: New Ha Long Bay status sparks preservation concerns*
Approximately two and a half hours south of Hanoi lies the city of Ninh Binh, a fairly grim industrial looking town that would never deserve a mention if it was not for the fact it is located next to a very special piece of countryside.
Most travellers use it as a base to explore the spectacular scenery in the region - the jagged limestone cliff and rock formations that rise out of the paddy fields reminiscent of Ha Long Bay or the cliffs of Krabi, Thailand.
These fantastic hills, or karsts as they should be called, are an impressive, memorable sight as they rise out of the mists of North Vietnam. Although the key attractions in the area are Tam Coc or Hoa Lu we were content to spend a day on bikes simply getting lost amongst the hills, the rural roads winding between a far cry from the hectic main road that cuts through Ninh Binh.
The closest attraction to Ninh Binh is Tam Coc, a network of three beautiful caves carved by the local river as it winds through the karsts. Surrounded by paddy fields and dwarfed by the karsts towering above, a row down this river is a serene, peaceful experience that allows you to take in the natural beauty of the area at a gentle pace.
There are almost 2,000 low income families in the area who take turns to row boats up the river, spending the rest of their time working in the paddy fields. Obviously this means their chance to row may only come up once every week or two, and since the cost of a river trip is just a couple of dollars most try to top up their row-boat income by selling handicrafts, embroidery and T-shirts on the boats.
If you would prefer to relax and take in the scenery rather than spend your boat ride haggling consider offering a generous tip or making a token purchase - the boat ride is already fantastic value and people living in the area depend on the additional income from tourists.
Hoa Lu was the ancient capital of Vietnam, circa 800 BC, and the ruined remains of pagodas and imperial courtyards can be found dotted around the area, although many are focused a short journey north-west of Ninh Binh.
It is a great place to explore on a bicycle or perhaps a motorbike if you are feeling brave, but tours can also be arranged both from hotels in Ninh Binh and from Hanoi itself - though we would suggest you will get more out of your visit to Ninh Binh if you take it at your own pace.
There are many other attractions in the area - you could take a ride on a buffalo cart through the karsts to a beautiful pagoda, or perhaps make a trip up to Cuc Phuong National Park. Whatever you do, make sure you don't get turned off by the sight of Ninh Binh on arrival as there is a lot more to the area than the city itself.
VISIT VIETNAM WITH ASIANWAY TRAVEL
Vietnam tours and Vietnam Hotel
HANOI - HALONG - SAPA - NINH BINH
VIETNAM NORTHER TOUR
VIETNAM CENTRAL TOUR
VIETNAM SOUTHERN TOUR
Tourists venturing into Hai Phong City cannot miss Do Son Beach which is one of the most popular beaches in the north.
Located around 105 kilometers from Hanoi, Do Son is a stunning beach located in an ideal topography which is easily accessible via local transportation. It is a small peninsula formed by the stretch of Rong Mountains to the sea. The harmonious mix of ranges of mountains and hills with forests of pine trees cover the beach area like a blanket. The sand in Do Son is light and reflects sunlight so it is pinky red at sunset but silky yellow in morning. Zigzag roads along the mountains, and pine forests make the beach an attractive location in the tropical region.
The area used to be a summer resort for French colonists and Vietnamese upper-class and there is still an old house of Kinh Bao Dai, the last king of Vietnam.
Do Son is composed of tree zones, each having bathing beaches, hills and forests. One is at the beginning of Do Son Township, the second area has a lot of modern hotels and resorts and the last area features a quiet and ancient style.
Coming to Do Son, tourists should not miss out on visiting Dau Island which is home to a bird yard, an animal zoo and an entertainment area as well as an historic lighthouse. Hoa Phuong Island is where travelers can experience luxury tourist services as they can shop in a trade center, relax in the pool, enjoy seafood in Food Street and stay in luxury resorts and hotels.
Tourists should also come to the historical relic of tau khong so (unnumbered ships) wharf located at the food of Nghia Phong Hill to learn more about Ho Chi Minh Road on the sea.
Do Son town is famous for its ritual buffalo fights, the finals of which are held annually on the 10th day in the eighth lunar month, usually late September or October. This time, tourists will be indulged in animated atmosphere and witness buffalos decorated colorfully and learn more about local traditions
The Park is considered a paradise for researchers and explorers of grottoes and caves and is the home to 140 families, 427 branches, and 751 species of precious plantsPhong Nha - Ke Bang is a national park in the center of Quang Binh province in north-central Vietnam. It protects one of the world's two largest karst regions with several hundred caves and grottoes. Its name derives from Phong Nha cave, the most beautiful one, with numerous fascinating rock formations, and Ke Bang forest. The plateau is probably one of the finest and most distinctive examples of a complex karst landform in Southeast Asia.Location:Geographically, the Phong Nha-Ke Bang National Park (PNKBNP) is located in central Vietnam, about 500km south of the capital, Hanoi, within the Quang Binh Province.The western boundary of the Park partially forms Laos-Vietnamese border, which is only 42km from the sea. The Park is found within the geographical co-ordinates of 170 20'-170 48' N and 1050 46-1060 24' E in Bo Trach and Minh Hoa Districts.Recognition by UNESCO in 2003Phong Nha-Ke Bang National Park was first nominated as a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 1998. The dossier submited to UNESCO was for the recognition of Phong Nha nature reserve as a world natural heritage under the name “Phong Nha Nature Reserve”. The reason given for the nomination was that this nature reserve satisfied the criteria of biodiversity, unique beauty and geodiversity (criteria I and iv).It was recognized as a world natural heritage site at the UNESCO's 27th general assembly session being held in Paris in June 30th – July 5th, 2003. At the session, delegates from over 160 member countries of UNESCO World Heritage Convention agreed to include Phong Nha-Ke Bang park and 30 others worldwide in the list of world heritage sites. Phong Nha-Ke Bang National Park meets with criteria viiii in accordance with UNESCO’s appraisal scale since it displays an impressive amount of evidence of earth’s history and is a site of importance for increasing human understanding of the geologic, geomorphic and geo-chronological history of the region.Physical features:Criterion (viii): Phong Nha is part of a larger dissected plateau, which also encompasses the Ke Bang and Hin Namno karsts. The limestone incontinuously demonstrates the complexity interbedding with shales and sandstones. This, together with the capping of schists and apparent granites has led to a particularly distinctive topography.Looking into the caves, you may recognize discrete episodic sequences of events, leaving behind various levels of fossil passages, formerly buried and now uncovered palaeokarst (karst from previous, perhaps very ancient, periods of solution); evidence of major changes in the routes of underground rivers; changes in the solutional regime; deposition and later re-solution of giant speleothems and unusual features such as sub-aerial stromatolites. The location and form of the caves suggest that they might owe much of their size and morphology to some as yet undetermined implications of the schists and granites which overlay the limestone. On the surface, there is a striking series of landscapes, ranging from deeply dissected ranges and plateaux to an immense polje. There is evidence of at least one period of hydrothermal activity in the evolution of this ancient mature karst system. The plateau is probably one of the finest and most distinctive examples of a complex karst landform in SE Asia.Cultural heritage:The oldest evidence of human occupation of the area are Neolithic axe heads and similar artefacts found in some of the caves. There are some relics of Ham Nghi King, a final King of the Nguyen dynasty before the French colonial period, at the Maria Mountain in the north of the Park. Currently the Arem, Ma Coong and Ruc ethnic groups live in two villages in the core zone of Phong Nha Ke - Bang National Park. Until 1962 these indigenous people lived in the forest in houses made of bamboo and leaves or in the caves, living from forest products and hunting. They used simple tools and their clothes were made from the bark of a toxic forest tree (Antiaris toxicaria) and lianas.Since 1992 the Government of Vietnam has set up two new settlements for these 475 people, who are the two smallest ethnic groups in Vietnam. These people are familiar with a number of economically valuable species, especially precious timber such as Mun and Hue (Diospyros spp., Dalbergia rimosa), and oil-extraction from species such as Tau (Hopea hainanensis) and many medicinal plants. The Phong Nha Cave has long been a site of religious and touristic importance, with an old Cham Temple discovered in the cave and it was a site of worship in the ninth and tenth centuries. During the war with the USA the Phong Nha - Ke Bang forest and caves were a garrison and weapons store for the Vietnamese army.Conservation value:Phong Nha-Ke Bang National Park is of high conservation value as one of the largest areas of intact forest habitat remaining in Vietnam. As part of a continuous forest block with the neighbouring Him Namno Biodiversity Conservation Area in Laos it forms one of the largest areas of forest on limestone karst in Indochina. The presence of tall lowland forest, which is regionally threatened as a habitat type, in the National Park increases the area's conservation value.Tourist activities:The number of tourists has increased dramatically since the park was listed in UNESCO's World Heritage Sites. Tourism activities in the area are the responsibility of the Trading and Tourism Department of Quang Binh province, with 280 international standard rooms in the province and 8 vehicles with capacities of 4 to 15 seats for tourist transportation. The forest guards of Son Trach commune in Bo Trach district are placed on tourist security duty.Quang Binh Province has invested into upgrading the Phong Nha-Ke Bang visitor site to turn it into one of Vietnam's major tourist destinations.Multiple eco-tourist projects have been licensed for development and the area is being heavily developed by the province to turn it into a major tourist site in Vietnam. Phong Nha Ke Bang is part of a tourism promotion program called: "Middle World Heritage Road" which includes the ancient capital of Hue, the Champa relics of My Son, the city of Hoi An, nha nhac and the Space of Gong Culture in the Central Highlands of Vietnam.Tourist activities in Phong Nha-Ke Bang National Park are organized by local travel agencies and vary in form:Tour for expedition of caves and grottos in boats and with professional cave expedtion means.Ecotourism, discovering the florae and fauna in this national park in the Ke Bang Forest.Mountain climbing: There are extreme sloping mountains here with a height of over 1,000 m, which is a real challenge for adventurous climbersIn order to facilitate the increasing flow of tourists to the site, the Dong Hoi Airport was constructed and is due to be operational at the end of 2008.Phong Nha-Ke Bang, together with Ha Long Bay and Fanxipan of Vietnam, is listed as a candidate for 7 new world natural wonders vote. As of February 12, 2008 it ranked 10th in the voting listIn summary, Phong Nha displays an impressive amount of evidence of earth’s history. It is a site of very great importance for increasing our understanding of the geologic, geomorphic and geo-chronological history of the region.
Ten kilometers from Dalat City on the road to HCMC is the beautiful Prenn Waterfall and a temple site to commemorate the Hung Kings. The temples by skilled artisans from Hue in 2004 for local people that can’t travel to Phu Tho Province in the lunar March for the Hung King’s death anniversary.
One of the Hung Kings Temples at the site
The temples are one of the1,420 relic sites related to Hung Kings from the north to the south of Vietnam. On the Hung King day, people walk up the 500 meter path to the site, with lower, middle and upper temples which are replicas of the original temples in Phu Tho.
A tourist looks at the stone carving of hero Nguyen Trai
In front of the Upper Temple is Lac Long Quan-Au Co Park which has the six-meter high statues of Lac Long Quan and Au Co, the father and mother of Vietnamese people. A hundred rocks symbolize the eggs of Au Co Mother from the legend. The park also contains 18 large stones that are carved with the faces of national heroes such as Hai Ba Trung, Ba Trieu, Ngo Quyen, Tran Hung Dao, Le Loi, Ho Chi Minh