Tuesday, November 12, 2013

Dong Van Old Quarter

Dong Van old quarter-100 years old located in Dong Van District, Dong Van, Ha Giang. With the ancient architecture, it still keeps intact contour. Dong Van old quarter is the pride of people here. The lifestyle and daily life of ethnic people such as: Kinh, Tay, Mong, Hoa... is very impressive.

Dong Van Town is located in the middle of valley surrounded by rocks. In the morning, picture of old quarter is blended two colors: bright yellow of the sunshine and gray of ancient houses. The quarter is formed form the early 20th century, only has a few families of the H’mong, Tay and Chinese, gradually, more and more other local residents find it. Overall, old quarter has Chinese’s architecture with two-story houses of yin and yang roofs, red lantem… 

From above looking down, next to three markets arranged in U-shape with yin and yang roofs are two ancient streets that lead to the mountain. A mainly residential area of the Tay and dozens of ancient houses is concerned as the important part of Dong Van old quarter. According to documents from a workshop about Dong Van old quarter, there have about 40 ancient houses with 100 years old. Especially, there has a house nearly 200 years old of Mr. Luong Huy Ngo, built in 1860. The common architecture here is the two-story house and yin and yang roofs. 

 Dong Van market area has tubular ancient houses to use advantages as Hanoi old quarter. From 2006, Dong Van district held “night in old quater” in March on 14, 15, 16 lunar calendar. All households in the old quarter hang red lanterns, display ethnic brocade, and sell traditional food. “Night in old quarter” in Dong Van karst plateau is also working for propagation to attract tourists. 

Tourists can learn more about culture of ethnic people through local people and soak into dance of the Lo Lo, enjoy traditional dishes such as: Thang Co, Men Men, Ta Chua, of the H’Mong and visit the area display local produce. Dong Van old quarter is an ideal destination in the North of Vietnam, which preserves the tradition and cultural intangible values of ethnic people.

Dong Van Plateau

Dong Van karst plateau has an area of 2.350 square kilometers, spreads over four districts of Ha Giang province: Quan Ba, Yen Minh, Dong Van and Meo Vac at an average height of 1.400 - 1.600 meters with a number of beautiful limestone and winding road. Here, scientists have found 33 tectonics heritages, 45 geomorphology heritages and many unique fossils in sedimentary rock, which creates opportunities for the tourist attraction, brings income for indigenous people.

From Ha Giang town, along 4C Highway about 50 kilometers, tourists step into Quan Ba districts with spectacular and grandeur mountain scenery. In the journey to the rocky plateau, visitors can enjoy the beauty of Can Ty Pass.

 Dong Van karst plateau has 80% limestone, is one of the most distinctive karst in Vietnam with black and majestic boulders. The shapes of boulders are created by environmental conditions and different stages of development. Here, the whole scene is rocks with various shapes such as petals, flowers, flower branch (Khau vai rock garden, Veo Vac District) or the shape of tiger (Lung Cu rock garden). 

Van Chai rock garden has green grass that creates the majestic and grandeur beauty for landscape. Besides the geological value, Dong Van karst plateau also attracts tourists by the unique cultural and spiritual values associated with the ethnic Mong, Dao, Lo Lo… living on the plateau. They picked up stones to build house, walls. They carved stone to grow corn. They renovated the mountainside into a vast of rice. 

The beauty and grandeur of Dong Van plateau comes from not only the huge natural boulders but also the fair of the H’mong, Dao, Lo Lo… 
In the morning, ethnic people from neighbor districts come to fair with colorful costumes. From the geological unique, in the end of 2010, Dong Van karst plateau was recognized as the first geological park of Vietnam and Geoparks of the world.

Dong Van karst plateau is one of the special limestone mountain, including the marks of the history of the earth’s crust process and tradition of indigenous communities. 

Dong Van karst plateau has all elements convergence to become global Geoparks. Rocky plateau also has national relic such as: mansion of Vuong family, Lung Cu flag pole, Dong Van ancient, Ma Li Peng pass, Quan Ba Twin Mountain…

Thursday, November 7, 2013

Hoan Kiem Lake

Hoan Kiem Lake of the Returned Sword was once a part of the Red river (song Hong). Through thousands of years of changes in the geography, the lake moved eastward to its present position many kilometers from the river. The lake was once called Luc Thuy or Green Water because the water was green year round. In the fifteen century, the lake was named Hoan Kiem Lake, based of a legend that is quite similar to King Arthur and the Lady of the Lake's legend. 

After ten years of hard fighting (1418 - 1428), the Lam Son insurrectionists led by Le Loi swept the foreign invaders out of the country of Dai Viet (Great Viet), ending the Ming's 20-year domination over the Viet people. Le Loi became a national hero, proclaiming himself kings, called Le Thai To and establishing his capital in Thang Long. 
On a beautiful afternoon, the king and his entourage took a dragon-shaped boat for sight-seeing on Luc Thuy (Green Water) Lake, which was located in the centre of Thang Long Capital (present-day Hanoi). As the boat was gliding on the lake, suddenly there was a great wave and on top of the wave, the Golden Tortoise Genie appeared, telling the king: "Your Majesty, the great work is completed. Would you please return the sacred sword to the King of the Sea?". 

The precious sword was formerly lent to Le Loi by the King of the Sea and was always beside him throughout his battles and helped him win over the Ming invaders. At the time the Tortoise Genie spoke, the sword hung at the King's waist. It then moved out of the scabbard and flew towards the Genie. The Genie kept the sword in his mouth and dived under the water and bright lightning flashed up to the sky. Since then, Luc Thuy Lake has been called the Restored Sword Lake or the Sword Lake for short. 

The Sword Lake is not only a historical site but also a beauty-spot of the capital. When visiting Hanoi, Ludemis, a Greek poet, exclaimed: The Sword Lake - An emerald jewel set in the heart of the city, With the Red River as a silk ribbon around. 

It is said that when visiting Hanoi, if the visitor does not see the Sword Lake, then they would not have actually been in Hanoi. The lake is an endless topic and inspiration for painters, poets, writers, music composers, etc, and innumerable works about the lake have been produced. 
Once, a famous Japanese painter said to the late-painter Van Giao that he had painted dozens of pictures of Mount Fuji - the second to none beauty spot of Japan. Then painter Van Giao replied by saying that he had painted hundreds of pictures of the Sword Lake. 

The Sword Lake is really an emerald jewel of Hanoi. For generations, the Vietnamese believed that deep in the green water of the Sword Lake, there is a sacred sword of their ancestors, which is carefully safeguarded by the golden tortoise. When the weather changes, the tortoise emerges on the water surface to take a sun bath, seeming to prove his existence and remind the young generation of their national history of defending their country from foreign invaders.

Monday, September 23, 2013

Domestic travel in autumn, which spot is attractive?

You will find the answer when finding by clicking “Google” or browser through fan pages, Fan page for travel-lovers. This is the “West North yellow season” with hundreds of invitations o visit paddy fields in Yen Bai, Lao Cai, Son la…There has been so many waves of yellow rice overlaying together up to the mountain summits, which vibrates the deep souls of travelers.
Now ther have been so may vehicles to travel to the West north like going backpacking by motorbikes or register tours of travel agencies so that you can easily give the best choice for your many pockets. In comparison with so many other destinations, the time for travel is very important because it decide whether your travel is successful or not. The West North only grows one season of rice for a year at different times so that rice is yellow as its period. Rice in Spa, Quan Ba ripens earliest, the next ones are Mu Cang Chai, Hoang Su Phi…According to local people, the wonderful period is from the middle of September to the end of October when localities are in the rice summers. In this occasion, the weather is so dry that it is comfortable and easy for travel, especially when you want to go backpacking for travel.

Terraced fields in Sapa
There are so many routes that how much time you pass through, you are always surprised at the breathtakingly wonderful landscape. Mu Cang Chai (Yen Bai) is such a wonderful destination. Terraced fields in la Pan Tan, Che Cu Nha and De Xu Phinh-the national-standard beauty spot where you can travel as much as you can. Some one compares Mu Cang Chai in rice harvesting season like as a yellow terrace to the heaven, some other praises it as a splendid musical instrument  

Never-ending yellow fields
Each layer of yellow waves is stretched out from valleys to hillsides and extends for foggy and high summits. Bands of colors change from strong green, light yellow, shining yellow to brown yellow, which as a brand of shining silk in the autumn. When viewing the Tu Le valley and breath full of the perfume of ripe rice to conquer the hill top Khau Pha in the foggy, you will feel the fresh vitality spreading in our hearts.
Formed hundreds years ago by La Chi, Dao, Nun communities, Hoang Su Phi terraced paddy field ( Ha Giang) was recognized as national vestige. In the harvesting season, hundreds of great engraved tracks on mountains shine a never-lasting yellow. Rice stretches on terraces and wrings on yellow mountains which is as picture-like green.
Elected as one of the seven gigantic terraced fields in Asia and in the world, Spa is in the dreamlike yellow mature over mountain villages like Trung Chai, Sa pa, Ta Phin, Lao Cai, Ta Van..Nothing romantic like in an autumn morning when travelling on zigzagging ways which are full of countryside perfumes and we suddenly catch an immense yellow paddy field in the winds.  After a four-day trip to the West North with my friends, simple ways and gaze with waves of fogs in early mornings. With unchanged ways, roofs, pictures but the feelings of being taken breath away are still like those when I first came to the West North of Vietnam, said Mr. Hoang, an experienced backpacker.
 Not only the green brand of silk or light yellow or shining yellow ones, there is also colorful reflections of our life. It is that the smiles of children, gentle and up bright looking of elderly people and happiness shining on young women’s faces in highlands are unforgettable memories in our life. You will feel nowhere is as beautiful as our country so that whenever we’re tired because of life in the city, we craze for a pack of sticky rice Tu Le or a crispy beef castle hang on the kitchen…The yellow autumn always wait for you! 

Gallery: American history in Hanoi's Vietnam Army Museum

Like trophies commemorating Vietnam's finest hour, the majority of exhibits in the Vietnam Army Museum are American military relics.
As an American touring Hanoi, I couldn't leave without seeing some of the history related to the Vietnam War. The two most notable sites are the "Hanoi Hilton", a prison where American pilots were held (John McCain included), and the Vietnam Army Museum. Travelers to Vietnam have written about the "war-torn lands and rice paddies" to such an extent that mentioning the after-effects of the Vietnam War on the country leaves you in danger of sounding clichéd, or even boring. One CNNGo writer has some tips for those looking to document their trip through the (war-torn) country. 
But the Vietnam Army Museum as a "tourist attraction" is somewhat of an enigma. One enters expecting to see tributes to the Vietnamese Army, only to discover more captured and wrecked American military hardware than Vietnamese. The most impressive of these displays is the "war meets art" mound of plane debris including a B-52, F-111 and a French transporter stacked high in the center of the courtyard and surrounded by other intact planes, a helicopter, and artillery. At the center of the pile is a poster of a female Viet Cong soldier dragging the wing of an American plane. 
While the hardware in the courtyard is the most impressive on display, and the focus of this post, it is not all there is to the museum. The Vietnamese are tough, and they know it. The understandable nationalistic pride on display can be seen in every room as various accounts detail the defeat of the invaders.

Vietnam Army Museum courtyard
The centerpiece of the Vietnam Army Museum courtyard.
Seen from another angle, the stacked wreckage commands attention.
Old engines from downed aircraft.
An ensignia of the U.S. Airforce's "Tactical Command" as seen on the wreckage.
US Airforce ensignia on wing
A U.S. Airforce ensignia.

This couple waved at me from the wing of the plane to take their picture.

Tuesday, September 17, 2013

Coconut palms, the symbol of Ben Tre

Travelling by boats along rivers and canals intertwined under the shade of coconut trees in Ben Tre Province, you can enjoy traditional special dishes in its orchards and coconut gardens.

Coconut garden in Ben Tre
Ben Tre is a province that lies in the lowest part of the Mekong River Basin, some 85 km south of Ho Chi Minh City. Ben Tre Province is made up of three main islands wedged between the Tien Giang River to the north and to Co Chien River to the south with the Ham Luong River running straight down the centre. All are effectively offshoots of the Mekong River as it splits out into many fingers before spilling out into the Southern Asia Sea.

Verdant and flat, the province is mostly given over to rice and fruit cultivation. Traditional Mekong life is the norm here and it's a very unadulterated scene -- wandering the market, sipping the coffee, doing a boat trip and skipping through the local museum are the main pastimes. 
Coconut palms has been seen as the symbol of Ben Tre ever since the early days of land opening in the Southern part. Famous for its coconut desserts, Ben Tre is suitably covered in coconut trees. During the war, these coconut trees were used to make coconut oil which was then used as a valuable substitute for kerosene. The province now has nearly 36,000 hectares of coconut woods. Even through years of fierce wars, coconut survived and stayed as close as a dear flesh-and-blood friend of the Ben Tre people. There was a time, many people in Ben Tre felled the tree for economic reasons, but have later been back with it because they realized it was with the coconut tree that their livelihood could be sustained for quite a long time. Today, Ben Tre's coconut area is approximately 36,000 hectares, yielding around 242 million nuts per year.
In Ben Tre, you have a chance to look at fine handicraft items made from coconut materials such as sandals, dolls, small baskets, bed lamps and vases. You can also watch how candy is made and taste it right at the workshops. If you take one of the tourist tours, you will be brought to some of the local shops. The most typical shop you will visit is coconut candy

Coconut tree
shop, a worker will explain you the process of making this product. At the end of the presentation, you can taste and buy the coconut candy.

Besides cononuts, Ben Tre is also the royal of others special fruits. Its area of orchards is around 41,000 ha, annually yielding 375,000 tonnes of fruits. The province also has a large number of famous speciality fruit trees, such as the milk yellow-meat and no-stone durian, the green-skin pomelo, the Cai Mon mangosteen, the high-yield Four Season mango, the special orange of Mo Cay, and tens of other specialities imported from other region or abroad.
Visiting Ben Tre, you can enjoy not only coconut candy and special fruits but also traditional crafts and folk culture, which are all the region's specific identity...

A tranquil destination for visitors

Located in Soc Trang Province, Doi Pagoda is attractive not only for its beautiful architecture but also for its very large roof that houses millions of bats. 
It is said that Doi Pagoda (Bat Pagoda) was built during the 16th century, and it has been renovated several times since. It is the forth oldest pagoda in Soc Trang township. From the gate, the pagoda, built by the Khmer, attracts passersby with skilful, symbolic decorations on its pillars and roof, reproducing Khome art. The walls are also covered with large paintings. Other halls in the pagoda are decorated with sophisticated designs and paintings depicting story of the Buddha. The windows are small, casting a mesmerising light inside that is particularly good for photography. Of the 600 Khmer pagodas in the Cuu Long (Mekong) River Delta, Doi Pagoda is so famous that regular tours from Ho Chi Minh City City, Can Tho and Ca Mau visit Soc Trang township. It was even featured on the TV show, Vietnam Guinness Records. The pagoda is located in a lush garden and a pointed tower sits at the summit. In the sunlight after a heavy downpour, the pagoda emerges with four snake-head shaped roofs hand-carved with masterful skill. On each support pillar, a Kemnar statue clasps her hands as if to welcome visitors. Inside the pagoda, soot-blackened statues keep mournful watch; a full year after the fire, the pagoda remains un-repaired. An ancient Buddha statue and a prayer-book written on palmyra leaves can be admired here. In 1999, Doi Pagoda was recognized as a national historical treasure.

The pagoda is known among domestic and international tourists as a "Mecca" for bats, which provide fertiliser for local farmers. The bats in the pagoda cling to tree branches all day, then fly away at dush to seek food, and usually home by four the next morning. Small bats always cling to their mother, even in the search for food. If visiting the pagoda, you can see bats hanging upside down from branches like over-ripe fruit. May to August is breeding season. Those visiting the pagoda at this time of year are expected to walk quietly for fear a sudden noise may startle a bat mother into dropping her child. The bats in the pagoda are actually flying-foxes. A new-born weighs 0.5kg with a wing span of about 50cm. Mature bats can weigh 1.5kg with a wing span of 1.5m. According to the monks, the flying-fox appeared at the pagoda 200 years ago. Interestingly enough, the presence of the bats has not affected the plants growing in and around the pagoda, they never eat the fruit in the garden.

Doi Pagoda with a large space for trees, making it a tranquil place to sit, is one of the best tourist attraction in Soc Trang. Watching the bats take to the skies, it will occur to you that the pagoda is a unique natural reserve. Though neither large nor particularly exquisite, all who hear of it wish to visit...