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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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Tuesday, November 20, 2012

Where you eat in Sapa:
Restaurants and your reviews

See the locations on Sapa Restaurants Google Map

Follow the locals has always been the way of this blogwriter. So you should try the food stalls along Pham Xuan Huan. Here you get pho and rice, barbecued meat and rice wine.

Picture by felixtriller

Restaurants in Sapa:

Baguette & Chocolat: Thac Bac. Part of the Hoa Sua School, that trains disadvantaged children in hospitality. Excellent sweets, good breakfasts, salads, pastas and Vietnamese dishes. Also the teas (ginger, lemongrass) get good reviews on tripadvisor.com.

Picture by sega128

Delta Restaurant: 33 Cau May Street. "Renowned for its pizzas, which are the most authentic in town, though the pasta is pretty decent too", notes lonelyplanet.com. Good reviews on tripadvisor.com.

Gerbera Restaurant: 04B Thac bac Street. Delicious vietnamese meals, for example hotpots, according to tripadvisor.com.

Picture by n robynejay

Red Dao House Restaurant: Thac Bac Street. In a traditional wooden house on stilts. Vietnamese and Western cuisine. Very good reviews on tripadvisor.com.

Picture by marhas
Red Dao House

Picture by marhas
Pumpkin soup

Picture by marhas
Funny menu card, but not a culinary desert

Sapa Coffee Corner: 20 Pham Xuan Huan. Long tables with chairs create a community spirit.

Sapa O'Chau Cafe: 8 Thac Bac Street. Information centre about Sapa O'Chau Project. With the help of four Australian tourists, Shu Tan, a young, single mother from the Black Hmong tribe, was able to open the first Hmong owned homestay in Sapa and supported Shu to establish a socially conscious trekking sevice. Sapa O’Chau put the money earned back into the community through projects such as providing winter clothes to children and improvements to the village schools. Later Shu organized informal English night classes for young tour guides. Today Sapa O’Chau has over 70 students (35 of which live at the Centre) and runs classes in English and Vietnamese literacy, vocational training, traditional song & dance and arts and crafts. In addition Sapa O'Chau provides support for students and their families so that they do not have to return to street-selling for income. Read more.

Sapa Rooms: Vegetarian, Vietnamese, Organic cuisine and Winery. Very good reviews on tripadvisor.com, be it for roast pumpkin soup, banana flower salad with grilled chicken, pork in fresh coconut in a claypot served with steamed rice or juices with names like summer morning, spring boost and sapa special.

The French Bakery: 46 Cau May Street. Excellent patisseries.

The Hill Station: 07 Muong Hoa Street. This restaurant gets good notes for wine, ham, cheese and sandwiches on tripadvisor.com.

Viet Emotion: 27 Cau May. Pancakes, Pizza, Tapas, Asian Food, books and magazines. Good reviews on tripadvisor.com.

More restaurants in Sapa:

Learn first about Sapa: Sapa Impressions

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

Where to go from Sapa: Discoveries around Sapa

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Saturday, September 15, 2012

The Ethnic minorities around Sapa:
What makes the difference

Many ethnic minorities are living in and around Sapa: Hmong (pronounced Mong), Dao (pronounced Yao), Tay, Giay (pronounced Zai), Muong, Thai, Hoa (ethnic Chinese) and Xa Pho (a denomination of the Phu La minority group).

The Flower Hmong:
Flower Hmong have this name because of the bright colorful embroidery (called pa ndau, literally "flower cloth"). This needlework has geometric, symmetric and derived from nature motifs. "Pa ndau originated with ceremonial clothing for major life events including births, weddings, deaths, and for celebrating Tet, the New Year Festival", says wanderlustandlipstick.com.

Picture by Shawn Smith
A Flower Hmong woman sampling tobacco at the market in Bac Ha

Picture by exfordy

The Black Hmong: In SaPa Black Hmong are dressed in dark clothing dyed black with indigo. Black Hmong sub-groups have differentiated themselves by adopting different headwear; those with a large comb embedded in their long hair (but without a hat) call themselves Tao, those with a pillbox hat name themselves Giay, and those with a checked headscarf are Yao. The Black Hmong are thought to have immigrated to Northern Vietnam from China in the late 18th century and are descendants of the Miao people. See a video about Black Hmong in Sapa.

Picture by Lon&Queta
Hmong woman with plow and water buffalo; between Ta Van and Sapa

Picture by Lon&Queta

The Red Dao, also Red Zao: Easily recognized by the red colour. See a film about the Red Da in Ta Van and Ta Phin on youtube. Read: The unique ceremony of the Red Dao in Sa Pa

Picture by Von Wagner T. Cassimiro "Aranha" Tweet This

Saturday, September 1, 2012

Discoveries around Sapa

See the locations on Sapa Google Map

This blog recommends the following tours from Sapa:

Bac Ha Market, every Sunday: This market attracts villagers from the surrounding hill tribes as H’mong, Red Dao and Ha Nhi. Read more and see pictures: Bac Ha Market: The colours of life

Can Cau Market, every Saturday: The meeting point of the hilltribe people. It’s 20 km north of Bac Ha and just 9 km south of the Chinese border. Can Cau attracts a large number of Chinese traders, dog trade is booming here. Read more on bachatour.com

Picture by fotosjcavalheiro

Coc Ly Market, every Tuesday: About 35km from Bac Ha. The drive from Sapa takes around 2 1/2 hours. At the market you find Flower Hmong, Phu La and Dao Tuyen people. You can get here via a fairly good road or by road and river

Muong Hum Market, every Sunday: From Sapa you drive takes around three hours. The market is frequented by Tu Di, Dao Tuyen, H’Nhi, Flower Hmong and Giay people. You can also visit a H’Nhi village.

Mountain Biking to Red Dao Village and Topas Ecolodge: You head out from Sapa by cycling downhill into Muong Hoa and then Ban Ho valleys. The ride offers beautiful views. At the lodge you will have lunch in the Tay stilt restaurant. After lunch you walk to Topas Ecolodge, from where you enjoy breathtaking views across the valleys below, which are home to villages of Tay, Red Dao and Xa Pho minorities. Later you will cycle over to the nearby Red Dao village of Lech. After visiting the village you cycle back to the lodge from where you will return to Sapa by car. Approx: 2 hours driving/ 4 hours cycling/ 1 hour walking.

Picture by Topas Ecolodge

Ham Rong Mountain: You follow the road by the church in the center of Sapa Town to the end and take the left turn, then continue hiking up the gradient leading to Ham Rong Mountain. Up there you find the San May (Cloud Yard) to enjoy the panorama of Sapa Town. But you discover as well orchid gardens with colorful flowers. Ham Rong Mountain also has numerous caves and stones in extraordinary shapes. It may take you from 1 to 2 hours to go up to the top and return. If you start in the early morning you will see a traditional performance of ethnic music. It usually starts at 10 am.

Picture by Nguyễn Tuấn Quang
Sapa seen from Ham Rong Mountain

Ta Van Village: It is located at an altitude of 1816 meters in the valley of Muong Hoa. Ta van is a village of Giay people, who look more like the traditional Viet living the Red delta, and Black Hmong. To get here from Sapa hire a car or motorbike for the 9km road down to the Hmong village of Lao Chai. It’s a nice ride with great views of the rice terraces.

Picture by marhas
Shortly after Sapa the Muong Hoa Valley comes into your view - with Lao Chai in the background

Picture by marhas
On the way you discover butterflies

Picture by marhas
Buffalos glance at you before they eat on

Picture by marhas
Ricefield in Lao Chai

Picture by marhas
Local women - here a Black Hmong woman - follow you to sell their goods

Picture by marhas
Muong Hoa River in front of you

Picture by marhas
Black Hmong woman on her way

From Lao Chai you follow the valley to Ta Van. You will walk through terraced rice fields and among picturesque villages and experience the rural life of Hmong an Dao people. In Ta Van you gan get a home stay with a family of Giay people, sharing dinner with them (see picture by Shona McCallum), read homestay experience by Elandri. See also the description of the hike from Sapa to Ta Van by planetcraig.id.au and by MsTamHo. And read more on life in Ta Van Village. Teacher Elandri about English teaching in Ta Van.

Picture by kaige
Rice fields on the way to Ta Van

Picture by Anete og Jan
In the village of Ta Van

Long Tong Festival in Sapa: Early in spring, often from the 5th to the 15th day of the first lunar month. During this festival the Tay people and other ethnic groups worship Village gods, Mountain and Stream gods. Cult of fecundity. You can see xoe dancing.

Tour agents for Sapa:

Learn first about Sapa: Sapa Impressions

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

Restaurants in Sapa: Where you eat in Sapa

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Thursday, August 30, 2012

Hanoi Impressions

See all the locations on Hanoi Google Map

Joss-sticks at Ngoc Son Pagoda, picture © ishmael 78

Listen to music about Old Hanoi:

Salt (muoi), roasted fish (cha ca), chicken (ga), beans (dau) or leather (da), baskets (bo) and bamboo (tre) or herbal medicine (thuoc bac): Whatever people used for daily life has it's own street name in the old town of Hanoi. The development of the old quarter started in the 11th century, when King Ly Thai built his palace. Craftsmen and their families settled in small villages around the palace walls. Later artisan guilds were formed. This was the birth of streets specialised in similar services. Today many guides write about "36 old streets", but actually there are around 70 streets in the old quarter. Some researchers believe that there were 36 guilds in the 15th century (read more in an article by Barbara Cohen).

What can we discover in the old quarter today? Frommer's has published a nice walking tour and we follow their route and start at the north end of Hoan Kiem Lake (Lake of the returned sword).

Den Ngoc Son (Jade mountain temple): On an island in Hoan Kiem Lake, built in the 18th century. From the shore we reach the pagooda through this gate:

Picture © marhas1

We cross the lake on The Huc (Morning sunlight bridge):

Wood is under the red painting, picture © marhas1

And we enjoy the look at this gate:

Picture © marhas1

Now smell the incence:

Picture © marhas1

Ngon Soc Pagoda, picture © iko

Hang Gai (Hemp street): Today you won't find hemp shops but boutiques, art galleries and silk tailors - and an old Banyan tree at 85 Hang Gai. There is a concentration of galleries near the intersection of Hang Gai and To Tich street (Thang Long Art Gallery and Dragon Art Gallery). Read more about shops along Hang Gai.

Tan My Design, picture © marhas1

Tan My Design is a small new shopping emporium selling local Vietnamese design as Chartage, Ha Truong, Minh Hanh, Ha Linh Thu, Huy Vo, Casa d'Oriental and Grace as well as brands from abroad.

Picture © marhas1

Picture © marhas1

Hang Gai, picture © Mimi

Silk, picture © dominiqueb

Banyan Tree, picture © Hanoi Mark

Tam Thuong Alley: Turn right from Hang Gai. Just some steps inside you discover Din Yen Thai Communal House. Read more about the Tam Thuong community. Here there used to be a palace of Y Lan, one of the most inspiring and captivating female figures in Vietnamese history (more here).

Flags during Tet in Tam Thuong, picture © Hanoi Mark

Ceremonial room in Yen Thai Temple, picture © hermmermferm

Yen Thai Street: You find yourself in a small openair market.

Yen Thai, picture © Sally Anderson.
See also picture by Optimism One and by Hanoi Jazz

Yen Thai Street, picture by 160cm

Hang Da Market (Leather Market): Here you used to find an old market from the 19th century with meat, vegetables, fruits and pottery on the ground floor, clothes and fabrics on the upper floors. See picture by Ariel Seche and Erin Armstrong. But now this building has been demolished and the construction of a new shopping complex is planned. Read "The Last day of Hang Da Market". See Mariel Bautista's photos of the old market. And read the blog of Vietnamese God about the transformation of shopping in Hanoi from old to new.

Old Hang Da Market, picture by rathmax

Hang Dieu Street (Street of pipes): It used to be the street of the tobacco- and pipesellers.

Bat Dan Street (Wooden Bowles): It was once the street of the sellers of clay bowls. See the communal house at 33 Bat Dan, temple at the corner of Bat Dan and Hang Ga

Bat Dan, picture by 160cm

Thuoc Bac Street (Herbal Medicine Street): This used to be the place for traditionel medicine. Thuoc Bac is the traditional Northern Medicine, also called Chinese traditional medicine. Read a background story by Lena Lopez. Today metallic stuff dominates the street. See street-picture by Williewonker

Thuoc Bac Street, picture by permanently scatterbrained

Hang Phen Street (Alum Street): See picture by Willie Wonker. At 25 Hang Phen you find Mr Lee's Style Shop, one of some clothing boutiques in this area. Also Bat Su has.

Bat Su Street (China Bowls Street): About the Café on 61 Bat Su writes Motormouth from Ipoh. "Look for a preserved traditional house, characterized by its low tile roofline, at no. 52 Bat Su", advises frommers.com

Read more: http://www.frommers.com/destinations/hanoi/0197010008.html#ixzz0SyEB5mJc

Pho Bat Su, picture by loveme

Architecture in Bat Su, picture by Hon Weng

Cua Dong Street: It leads you to Hanoi Citadel, the former residence of Vietnam monarchs. The Ly Dinasty constructed it in 1010 (read about the history on the World Heritage site of Unesco and Jennifer Pinkowski's article in the New York Times). The Roayal Palaces and other buildings have been destroyed by the Frech in the 19th century. Some buildings remained: Doan Mon gate, the Watchtower, the steps of Kinh Thien Palace and Hau Lau (Princess Palace). The Vietnamese military command under General Giap had its headquarters in the citadel (building D67). See pictures by ngocpq

Doan Mon:

The left gate, picture by dohuyen

From the basement up, picture by dohuyen

Doan Mon Gate, picture by ThanhTam

The Watchtower:

The Watchtower, picture by cluzzie

Dinh Kien Tien: See a video-animation on youtube.com

Phung Hung:

Picture © DucLoi

Picture © Hanoi Mark

Hang Vai (Cloth Street): You find stands of cut bamboo poles for construction. See picture by kk_wpg and eujintay

Picture © hermmerferm

Picture © vui

Picture © Alex Gooi

Lang Ong: See picture of crossroads Hang Ngang, Hang Duong, Lan Ong and Hang Buom and see picture of Lan Ong.

Picture © dainee

Pho Cha Ca (Roasted Fish Street):

Picture © Duc Loi

Hang Ca
: See picture by dopdk love you

Picture © DucLoi

Hang Duong (Sugar street):

Traffic at Hang Ma and Hang Duong Crossroads. Picture © aquanica68

Picture © Hanoi Mark

Hang Chieu (Mats street):

Stall selling fried prawn with flour, dipped in Viet sauce and eaten with vegetables in a small lane between Hang Chieu and Cau Dong street. Picture © * etoile

Picture © DucLoi

Quan Chuong Gate:

Picture © Dan

Nguyen Sieu:

Picture © DucLoi. See also picture by Yvonnechan

Hang Giay (Shoes street ?):

Picture © marhas

Picture © Alfred Wilhelm

Picture © Alfred Wilhelm

Picture © Alfred Wilhelm

Hang Buom (Sail street): The people living here made and sold sails, because there were water channels between the Red River and the To River. Later Hang Buom became the commercial and residential center of Chinese merchants. Look at the colonial buildings and traditional Vietnamese houses.

Picture © Maocho

View from Ladybird Restaurant at 57 Hang Buom, picture © handinhand

Den Bach Ma, picture © aquanica68

Den Bach Ma (The White Horse Temple) dates from 1010. What you see today is a reconstruction from the 18th and 19th centuries. Read the story of the White Horse on orientalarchitecture.com. Open from 7:30 to 11:30 am and 1:30 to 6 pm daily.

Inside Den Bach Ma, picture © marhas1

© marhas1

Ma May: At 87 Ma May you find a restored traditional house from the late 19th century. Here, for a fee of just 20,000 VND, a young guide dressed in a traditional ao dai will show you the building and tell you about the life in the past. The renovation has been funded by a UNESCO-, French- and Canadian-backed organization. 87 Ma May is a typical "tube house": These houses "can be as long as 70 meters and as narrow as two meters - this developed as an attempt to minimize taxes, as each property was taxed according to the width of the street-facing facade. To allow for sufficient light in these narrow dwellings, it was necessary to design multiple courtyards along the length of each house.", notes orientalarchitecture.com

87 Ma May, picture © Kathryn

View of the middle room from the veranda, picture © marhas 1

View across the outermost courtyard, picture © Maggie

The rear patio, picture © marhas 1

On the bed, picture © marhas1

Ma May, picture © StrudelMonkey

22 Ma May, picture © Loris Candylaftis

The Food Laboratory describes a walking tour through the old town of Hanoi, read.

One Pillar Pagoda:

Picture by Mimi

Dong Xuan Market

Cho Dong Xuan, picture by ThanhTam

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