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Friday, January 22, 2016

Hanoi mourns turtle Cu Rua - and Vietnams Communist Party is worried

The death of a turtle has shocked Vietnams Communist Party: The Yangtze giant softshell turtle Cu Rua was found dead in Hoan Kiem Lake in the centre of Hanoi. A legend says that the turtle - believed to be more than 100 years old - was the incarnation of a mythical creature living in the lake in the 15th Century. According to the legend Le Loi, who became emperor of Vietnam, borrowed a magical sword to fight against Vietnam's Chinese oppressors. After claiming independence, he came to the lake and returned the sword to a giant turtle in the lake. Thats how Hoan Kiem lake got its name: the Lake of the Returned Sword.

Some in the Communist Party, where a power struggle is ongoing and that started its Congress on Thursday, saw the death of Cu Rua as bad omen. Censors tried to prevent media to report the death, reported bbc.com. But the news of the death via Social Media could not be stopped.

The National Party Congress takes place every five years. Around the 12th Congress, opened on Thursday, there has been a lot of speculation about the outcome: the elections of the general secretary and the Prime Minister, the two top posts of the country. Anti-Chinese sentiments in Vietnam have grown in the past years after China’s actions in the South China Sea, where Vietnam and its larger northern neighbor both claim sovereignty over islands. The congress will end on January 28. General Secretary Nguyen Phu Trong is expected to keep his post according to aljazeera.com, "albeit for half the five-year term in an apparent compromise with his rival, Prime Minister Nguyen Tan Dung".

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Friday, May 16, 2014

Vietnam has become very dangerous for Chinese People - the Reasons behind

At least 21 dead and nearly 100 injured in Vietnam after riots. Crowds set fire to industrial parks they believed to belong to Chinese people and hunted down workers. Read more on theguardian.com. Thursday morning a mob of thousand people stormed a giant Taiwanese steel mill in Ha Tinh province, central Vietnam.

This came two days after other mobs burned and looted foreign-owned factories in south Vietnam, believing they were Chinese-run, though many were actually Taiwanese or South Korean.

Chinese nationals have fled out of Vietnam. Cambodian Interior Ministry Spokesman Khieu Sopheak told the Anadolu Agency on Thursday that nearly 600 Chinese citizens had left Vietnam through the Bavet border crossing on Wednesday.

Anti-Chinese sentiment in Vietnam goes back to the time, when it was a Chinese colony - more than thousand years ago.

But there are more reasons for the Vietnamese people to be angry at Chinese people, as chinhdangvu.blogspot.com points out. Vietnamese are livid about China's attempt to drill for oil in waters claimed by Vietnam. But this is not the only reason. "Over the past few years there have been dozens of strikes at foreign-owned plants in Vietnam. Complaints about low pay, bad workplace conditions (poor canteen food, limits on using the toilet and so on) and bullying management have triggered disputes", writes Bill Hayton on bbc.com. These complaints have focused on plants owned by Taiwanese, Korean, Thai and Singaporean. And some factories, particularly Taiwanese-owned plants, "have been employing Chinese workers in favour of local Vietnamese".

The riots have consequences: Foxconn, the Taiwanese company that manufacturers iPhones and iPads for Apple, has shut operations in Vietnam for three days according to Financial Times. Meanwhile Samsung, which is a large investor in Vietnam, and Canon, the Japanese camera maker, said they had no plans to halt operations in the country. But Vietnam's Council of Taiwanese Chambers of Commerce has issued a warning to Chinese businesses that may be targeted in the next few days. It urged these firms to raise the Vietnamese flag over their offices and to remove or cover Chinese characters on their buildings or gates, reports South China Morning Post.

Police has detained about 1,300 people in anti-Chinese protests that have recently swept across southern and central Vietnam, a source in Vietnamese police told ITAR-TASS on Friday.

Vietnamese Prime Minister Nguyen Tan Dung sent a text message to Vietnamese cellular subscribers yesterday. He wrote Patriotic Vietnamese shouldn’t allow “bad elements” to “harm the interests and images of the country”.

Vietnam has a lot to loose if its anti-Chinese riots continue, writes Quartz. Vietnam relies heavily on foreign investment and tourism. Industrial output from foreign-owned industries has been rising, and made up 46% of the country’s overall industrial output in 2012.

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Tuesday, April 2, 2013

Where have all the colours of Halong Bay gone?

Picture by Fathzer
White is now the colour of all the boats on Halong Bay. The traditional brown colour of the wooden junks has gone.

Where has the old beauty and charm of Halong Bay suddenly gone? "When we look out over the bay, we saw hundreds of cruise boats, all of them painted white and in desperate need of a fresh coat of paint", write neilandjackie. "Flanked by high-end condominium developments, the port today looked so sanitized, so developed, a bit Disney-esque, in fact. Exotic no more", complain Traveling Soulmates. "All the boats where white, wooden and in noticeable disrepair. I’m starting to guess that paint is more expensive than gold in Vietnam, since no one seems to have used any in the last 30 year", comments Here Comes The Planet. Where have the old times gone, when exotic traditional junk boats in brown, read and black were sailing the bay?

It was on January 5 in 2012, when the provincial People’s Committee of Quang Ninh issued a suprising decision: All tourist boats on Halong Bay, except dragon boats, should be white with brown sails. Boats which fail to follow the decision by April 30 would have their licenses revoked. Boats with dragon heads are permitted to paint the dragon heads by traditional colour. "The move aimed to tighten government control over tourist transport, especially the boats providing over-night accommodations in Ha Long Bay", wrote Thanh Nien News. More than 500 boats were affected by this decision. A letter sent to the authorities by the Association for Ha Long Tourist Boats expressing disagreement had no effect. Pham Van Hoa, director of Bai Tho Transport Co., said the change was unnecessary, because tourists tend to like the traditional brown of Ha Long Bay’s wooden boats. He was not heard. Doan Van Dung, chief of the tourist boat association, said by painting all boats white, Ha Long Bay would lose an endearing characteristic – the traditional brown of Asian culture. He was not heard. “Foreign tourists have been always impressed with the brown and black colours of the boats on the bay, which are imbued with Vietnamese cultural identity,” said the deputy director of the Vietsky Travel Company, Dao Hong Thuong. “That’s why we shouldn’t copy foreign cruise ships and require the boats to be white.” He was not heard.

It is not clear, what really lead to the decision of painting all the boats in white. Some rumours say, the officials wanted to copy the white of the yachts seen in the ports of Sydney in Australia or Greece in Europe. Some say, the idea was to attract more tourists to Halong Bay. Bu this seems to be backfiring more and more: "What we found really upsetting was the rubbish floating around everywhere. No way I would go swimming there! Having lived in New Zealand for five years where nature is very well looked after coming here was a real disappointment. From what we were told the majority of boats do not have sewage tanks so everything goes straight into the water", observes flauschipoohbear on tripadvisor.com. "It smelled horrible from the pollution in the bay. Such a shame. we saw raw sewage being dumped and it was common to see toilet paper that had not broken down yet, trash and oil floating on the surface", adds travelswithmimi.

In Halong Bay you can see today, that Vietnam is in danger of committing tourism hara-kiri. On March 24 in 2013 Thanh Nien News has published an alarming report about distructure of nature and natural landscapes also by tourism. Ha The Tien, an engineer working on a ship in Ha Long says most vessels discharge waste, including from toilets, directly into the water. “Each passenger boats discharge an average of 2,000-3,000 liters of waste every day. With 500 tourism boats, it’s up to 1.5 million liters of untreated waste discharged into the bay." Such a report by a newspaper which is owned by the Vietnam National Youth Federation and has become one of the most influential newspapers in Vietnam, shows, that the Vietnamese authorities start to recognise the problems created by uncontrolled tourism development. May be the white colour of all the boats on Halong Bay does not stand just for whitewashing.

Read earlier stories:
How to choose the right junk for Halong Bay
How the dream turned into a nightmare on Halong Bay

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How to choose the right junk for Halong Bay

The kissing rocks, also called Hon Ga Troi (Fighting Cocks), picture by tamlynallison. More pictures.

See the locations of Halong Bay and Bai Tu Long Bay on Halong Bay Google Map
Read background about the Karst and Caves of Ha Long Bay by Speleogenesis. Halong Bay is a Unesco World Heritage Site, read more

You have to choose and get some help here

Everybody goes to Halong Bay, more than 2.5 millions of people every year, so there are crowds of tourists in some places. And there are many operators of tours and some of them specialized on rip off: not delivering good quality. That's why I collected reviews of guests, who have been to Halong Bay. And that's why you find three categories in this blog:
- Good reviews
- Critical reviews
- No reviews

Some tipps:
- Don't await to see brown, red or black ships as you see on many pictures: the provincial authorities have ordered all the owners to paint their ships in white. Read about this: Where have all the colours of Halong Bay gone?
- Don't look for the cheapest tours, the risk is high, that the service and the safety are cheap too
- Ask the tour seller: how old is the boat?
- Check, if the boat has glass windows - boats with wood windows are older. Newer boats have hammers to break the glass
- Check, if Kayaking or the transfer from Hanoi to Halong is included in the package, check if lifewests for Kayaking are included
- Check, if the route goes to Bai Tu Long Bay, which is less crowded than Halong Bay
- Check the weather, before you start. If storms are forcasted, you should not go. In September 2009 five people died, as a brand new tourist boat sank (read more). Be aware, that the tour operater might not have an insurance, so take care, you have one yourself
- When going on board: ask for the security instruction. Check, where the lifewests are
- If you are not an experienced swimmer, take care, there can be streams in the water, may be the way back to the ship is much harder than the way away from the ship, there can also be jellyfish
- If you are not experienced in kayaking, don't go alone but with somebody who is experienced. Especially inside the caves there can be streams difficult to manage.
- Read, how cupidwithoutarrows compares the junks

Good reviews

Bai Tho Junk: View blog by Stefan Daiberl and see pictures by tamlynallison and GaryGS1. Good reviews on tripadvisor.com by kimw, Actregular Traveller and Travelling Tart.

Before boarding

Bai Tho Junk

Top deck

Dining room

More bay

All pictures by tamlynallison Stop at the beach of Ti Top island

Bhaya Cruises: Three days/two nights for two from 700 USD. The Bhaya is a new boat with an ancient history. It has been rebuilt after drawings of a junk, who was used by the Vietnamese Emperor Khai Dinh (1885-1925, read the full story). "Great experience", comments alicejlille, "perfect", notes Air Journey. Also Drew amd Liz liked the trip and Gipsy Lemonade was not only fond of the "elaborate lunch buffet" on board. In Vung Vieng floating village you change for a moment to sampans rowed by "incredibly strong" women, as Sam and David report, who show a lot of pictures of the trip. There is also a pearl farm to visit. See the detailed itineraries.

Bhaya Classic

Picture David McKelvey

Picture andreakw

Picture David McKelvey
Bhaya Spirit

Emeraude Classic Cruises: A steamer. "You wont ever be more spoiled than on the Emeraude. We had the time of our lives", comments tressophis. Read Naysay's report about the trip and see pictures. And Michael L. Grace knows the history of Emeraude.

Picture robertlafond2009


Picture sega10028
Emeraude Deck.

Luxury Cruise Collection: 3 days two nights for two from 664 USD. Read review of Hanoi Ginger by frommers.com. Good review by Anantara. Gretchen 2.0 notes, that she was transferred to amother, not so nice boat on the second day.

Picture David McKelvey
Halong Ginger

Picture David McKelvey
Halong Ginger

Picture The Exo Guy
Halong Jasmine

Halong Jasmine

Huy Hoang: See pictures and read about the experience by Photodiary of a Nomand and Alan Shih at sea and Tar chittarath and by Karen and Matt. See picture of Huy Hoang Boat

Huy Hoang

Indochina Sails and Valentine: Good reviews on tripadvisor.com. Anniejet was "totally satisfied". Bobw2046 had a "5 star time". Read also "A day on Halong Bay" with a lot of pictures by Mattandjean.

Picture txfiddlechick
Indochina Sails

Picture txfiddlechick
Deluxe cabin

Lagoon Explorer: Tropical Sails Co. LTD, wo ran The Lagoon Explorer, has been merged into Indochina Junk. There are tours to Halong Bay but also to Quan Lan Island (itineraries). Trawelwolrd23 notes, that Lagoon Explorer 1 is the older boat and Lagoon Explorer 2 more comfortable. "Intimate boat", comments Kirby 319 on tripadvisor.com, good review by Alicie Green. "The two lunches and one dinner were all epic events", remembers Brady. Johnandjustine enjoyed it too. See picture by BrianMcMorrow and by Brady.

Picture tallphil
Lagoon Explorer

Picture Kurt J

Pinta: 3 days two nights for two from 408 USD. Pinta Gold has been taken out of traffic by an inspector for security reasons on 20 november 2009. The author of this blog was on board, when this happened. You can read the story here and with pictures in this blog. The author does not know, if its operating again. See itineraries of Pinta Gold Cruiser. Read how Vaax enjoyed the trip with Pinta Cruiser, and so did Jacky on Pinta Gold Cruiser. "Great guide", "gorgeous deck"(sunlounges with white covers), "dinner was just as yummy as lunch and every time we thought that was the last dish they would bring more out", adds Chez N Andys, who critizises the mattress in the bedroom as too hard. "They served gourmet, had tons of fruits on board", notes Culinary Conquests. And Erin and Jeff were fond of the ten-course-dinner served on a beach. Good reviews on tripadvisor.com

Picture Brandon
Pinta Gold Cruiser

The deck

Prince: 3 days two nights for two for 530 USD. Itinerary. You don't have to change to another boat on the third day. Good reviews on tripadvisor.com and here. "We were looked after so well", write Dane adn Dave. "The crew was great on our boat and treated us well", adds KuchtaWorld.

Picture Indochina Travel News

Critical reviews

Dream Voyage: This boat had a bad accident with 12 tourists dead in February 2011. Read How the dream turned to a nightmare on Halong Bay. Before this accident you could find reviews like theese: "A bit dowdy, with cracked and lifting deckplanks, broken wicker benches, erratic lighting and air conditioning; poor food and expensive drinks", comments Jeremy Hay on Inkspot. Good review by Trizzyb. But "Boat in bad condition", found WicNYC, "dont use this bout", is the advise of whizzyjayne.

Picture quack2121
Dream Voyage

No reviews

Hai Long Dream: 3 days two nights for two from 460 USD. Eveline & Noel liked it.

Binh Minh: See pictures by BrianMcMorrwow

Trinh Vu: See pictures and read about the experience by Photodiary of a Nomand

Read more about attractions near Halong Bay

Bai Tu Long Bay
Islands, caves and more in Lan Ha Bay
Quan Lan Island
Co To Island

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Sunday, December 16, 2012

Bac Ha Market: The colours of life

See the locations on Bac Ha Google Map

Picture by Canadian Veggie

Every Sunday the market of Bắc Hà is an overwhelming mixture of colours and tastes. Embroidered clothes and bags of the Flower Hmong and the visible joy around trying and bartering between sellers and buyers are in the centre of all, but buffalos, horses, dogs, cats and chicken are traded here as well as local vegetables, corns and fruits. The market attracts villagers from the surrounding hill tribes: H’mong, Red Dao and Ha Nhi people. Some walk several hours from their villages, others arrive by motorbikes.

Picture by marhas
Embroidered clothes of the Flower Hmong

Picture my marhas

Picture by marhas
The much sought-after bags of the Flower Hmong

Picture by marhas

Picture by marhas
The chicken are going to change the owner

Picture by marhas
The horse market

Picture by marhas
A bird and the money change hands

Picture by marhas
At the buffalo market

Picture by marhas

Picture by marhas

Picture by marhas
Puppets and silver jewelry

Picture by marhas
The animals of Bac Ha

Picture by marhas
Shimmering cups

Picture by marhas
What grows nearby

Picture by marhas
Bananas not from far away

No market is complete without the food corner:

Picture by marhas
Meat soup (horse or buffalo) sizzling on a coal fire. The horse soup is called “Thang co”.

Picture by marhas Fried delicacies

Picture by marhas
Buy some corn

Picture by marhas
End of life for the pig

Eating and seeing the cook cooking - the show kitchen

See more pictures of Bac Ha Market by marhas

Picture by Joel Abroad

Bac Ha (700 m above sea level) reveals its most stunning beauty in the spring when peach and Tam Hoa plum trees are in full blossom. You discover the most beautiful plum gardens in Ban Pho Village at the foot of Co Tien Mountain, around 4km from Bac Ha Town. Therefore Bac Ha is also called "Cao nguyen trang" (White Valley). And the plum wine is excellent. 14 ethnic minority groups inhabit the area, among them Flower Hmong, Dzao, Giay (Nhang), Han (Hoa), Xa Fang, Lachi, Nung, Phula, Thai and Thulao and the Kinh (ethnic Vietnamese. Bac Ha Temple is dedicated to Gia Quoc Cong Vu Van Mat. On the seventh day of the seventh lunar month a festival is held at Bac Ha Temple.

Hoang A Tuong Castle - the palace of the Hmong King

Picture by Joel Abroad
Hmong Kings Palace at Ban Pho near Bac Ha

Hoang A Tuong Castle is located 300 m from Bac Ha Market. It is a combination of Western architecture and Oriental Feng Shui principles. The owner of this two- storey building was Hoang Yen Chao (of Tay origin). He was a local mandarin. The castle was built between 1914 and 1921 on a low hill overlooking the Bac Ha Valley.

Villages around Bac Ha provide a good opportunity to see how the people live. Ban Pho is the nearest. The Flower Hmong villagers are extremely hospitable and very kind. Ban Pho is a 1.7 km return trip from Bac Ha. Other nearby villages are Trieu Cai, an 8 km return walk; Na Ag, a 6 km return walk; and Na Hoi, a 4 km return walk.

Picture by marhas
Outlook from Ban Pho

Where you stay in Bac Ha

Anh Duong Guesthouse: Phone (+84-203) 880329. "Is a friendly place that overlooks the market. Rooms are small, but are bright and were renovated in 2002", writes vanhaitourism.com.
Cong Fu Hotel: 152 Ngoc Uyen street. Mixed reviews on tripadvisor.com
Dai Thanh Hotel: Phone (+84-203) 880488.
Dang Khoa Hotel: Phone (+84-203) 880290.
Minh Quan Hotel: Phone (+84-203) 880222. "A good hotel, with comfortable rooms, and balconies with views over the Bac Ha market and mountains", writes vanhaitourism.com.
Ngan Nga Hotel: Quite good reviews on tripadvisor.com.
Sao Mai Hotel: Phone (+84-203) 880288. Rooms in old concrete building and two newer wooden houses. Mixed reviews on tripadvisor.com.
Sunday Hotel: From 25 USD. 001 Vũ Văn Mật.
Tran Sin Hotel: Phone (+84-203) 880240. Overlooking the market, has balconies and mountain views from some rooms.
Tuan Anh Guesthouse: Phone (+84-203) 880377.
Tuan Lien: Phone (+84-203) 880261. Just next door to the Tran Sin.

Bac Ha Homestay: This homestay is located in Na Lo village, Ta Chai commune. The owner is Mr Vang A Van, he belong to the Tay people. Here they have hot water for shower. If you want you can have dinner & breakfast with their family.

How you arrive in Bac Ha

Minibuses depart from Lao Cai (40,000 Dong, two hours) around 6.30 am, 11 am and 1 pm daily. Buses from Bac Ha leave around 5.30 am, 11.30 am and 1 pm.

Learn about Sapa: Sapa Impressions

Where to stay in Sapa: Hotels and Guesthouses in Sapa and reviews of guests

Restaurants in Sapa: Where you eat in Sapa

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