Pitch a tent and light a BBQ at Vietnam’s top hillside getaways

The path leading to Phia Thắp Village, home to 50 families from the Nùng ethnic minority in Cao Bằng Province, is surrounded by green rice paddy fields. Homestay of Hoàng Ngọc Kim in Phia Thắp Villgae, Cao Bằng Province.-VNS Photo Khánh Dương Nùng people live in stilt houses right next to their fields with domestic cattle being raised in the shade under the house. Hoàng Ngọc Kim’s home stands out. Outside the newly-repaired house constructed from brightly-polished wood hangs a small sign reading “Welcome to Homestay Mr Kim”. The traditional structure of Kim’s stilt house is still preserved. The house’s first floor, which used to be a cattle holding area, has been extended to make a cozy living room with wooden tables and chairs. The well-organised second floor is where tourists can sleep, providing more than 20 mattresses and eco-friendly decoration. Each mattress is well prepared with a pillow, a mosquito net, a lamp and an electricity socket. Kim is the only one in the village with a homestay facility. Community-based tourism (CBT) projects aided by the Centre for Rural Economy Development (CRED) have been implemented in the northern mountain provinces of Hà Giang and Cao Bằng, where ethnic minorities face many disadvantages. The model aims to create sustainable income sources and employment opportunities for ethnic minority communities, improve their sanitation and natural environment, and preserve traditional cultural identities. Everyone gets involved …... [read more]

The "green garden” project was launched on 13 July 2017. It aims to develop the province’s standards of agro-tourism by making use of local agricultural resources for the maximum benefit and on a sustainable basis. The project is also intended to stimulate the local economy and provide employment opportunities for local residents. Toward this aim, seven agro-tourist sites with good potential in all districts have been selected for further development. They have been beautified, with the installation of guide posts and necessary facilities to impress visitors. At the selected sites, tourists are welcome to local orchards that grow many crop varieties, such as melon, mangosteen, durian, longkong, banana, pineapple, and rice. Several activities will be arranged for visitors, such as the tapping of rubber trees and the arrangements of fruit buffets. Nang Talung, or shadow puppetry, which is a famous southern traditional art, will also be staged, as well. Nang Talung may be performed during all festive occasions in the southern region. About 700 kilometers south of Bangkok, Phang-nga is adjacent to the internationally-renowned Phuket Island. It is attractive to adventurous holiday-makers, because the province offers many interesting activities, such as canoeing, scuba diving, island cruising, hiking, and trekking. Phang-nga is recognized as one of the provinces with many natural wonders for eco-tourists. Various eco-tourist sites in this province are well worth visiting. Today Phang-nga has grown significantly and it also hosts more and more visitors each year. Many visitors…... [read more]

More than 20,000 migrants, many of them refugees from the Syrian war, have trekked into Croatia since September 15, when Hungary used a metal fence, tear gas and water cannon on its southern border with Serbia to bar their route into the European Union. EU leaders, deeply divided, are due to meet on Wednesday in a fresh attempt to agree on how and where to distribute 160,000 refugees among their countries, but the noises from some of the newer members of the bloc were far from friendly. Hungary, where the right-wing government of Viktor Orban has vowed to defend “Christian Europe” against the mainly Muslim migrants, accused Croatia of "violating Hungary's sovereignty" by sending buses and trains packed with migrants over their joint border. It warned it might block Zagreb’s accession to Europe’s Schengen zone of passport-free travel. "Croatia's government has continuously lied in the face of Hungarians, Croatians, of the EU and its citizens," Foreign Minister Peter Szijjarto told a news conference. "What kind of European solidarity is this?" Croatian Prime Minister Zoran Milanovic said that, unlike Hungary, he would not use “brute force” to keep people out, nor would his government make them stay against their will. The buses and trains would keep running to Hungary, he said. “We forced them (to accept the migrants), by sending people up there. And we’ll keep doing it,” he told reporters.... [read more]

Nui Cam (Forbidden Mountain) overlooks the Mekong Delta province and is steeped in legends, ancient relics and historic places. To get to Nui Cam from the provincial capital of Long Xuyen, you just drive 70 kilometres along National Highway 91 westbound, then turn to Provincial Highway 948 and pretty soon find Nui Cam, or Thien Cam Son (Heaven’s Forbidden Mountain), in An Hao Commune in Tinh Bien district. Many streams originate on the peak and flow into local canals, which form the main hydrological system in this part of the Mekong Delta. Standing on top of the mountain, you can see a large valley surrounded by other smaller mountains belonging to Thien Cam Son such as Vo Dau, Vo Bo Hong and Vo Thien Tue. Endowed with such spectacular mountainous terrain, Nui Cam is considered "Da Lat" of the Mekong Delta. Da Lat is a famous highland resort town in the Central Highlands province of Lam Dong. The Forbidden Mountain’s year-round cool climate contrasts with its natural sights associated with heart-warming legends and myths that lure an increasing number of holiday-makers. Why is the peak called Forbidden Mountain? According to a folk tale, the rugged mountain was once the home of many ferocious beasts and only deities and invisible spirits lived there. The local people were too scared to climb it. Another legend said a prince named Nguyen Anh, who later proclaimed himself the first emperor of the Nguyen Dynasty (1802-1945), sought refuge in the mountain from the Tay Son…... [read more]

According to Axalis, the travel agency offering the Son Doong adventure their tours are fully booked until 2016. What is more, over a thousand international tourists who applied to take the tour were rejected due to a lack of fitness. The price of the tour is around US$3,000 per person. Son Doong cave is a very special place and only 224 tourists are allowed to enter per year. The local authority also limits the number of tours to four per month. It is hidden in Phong Nha-Ke Bang National Park in Bo Trach district, Quang Binh province, near the Laos-Vietnam border. The name Son Doong means ‘mountain river cave’. It was created 2-5 million years ago by river water eroding the limestone underneath the mountain. It was found by a local man named Ho Khanh in 1991 and then discovered in 2009 by British cavers in an expedition led by Howard Limbert. During the first expedition, the team explored two and a half miles of the cave before a 200 foot wall of muddy calcite stopped them. They named it the Great Wall of Vietnam. Limbert says the cave is five times larger than Phong Nha cave, which was previously considered the biggest cave in Vietnam. The biggest chamber of Son Doong is over 5km in length, 200m high and 150m wide. Due to the adventurous nature of the tour British caving expert Limbert has set many strict criteria. The tour is for tourists in good health and with a…... [read more]

The ABC show accentuating the astounding magnificence of Son Doong and En (Swallow) Caves broadcast on May 13 on “Good Morning America,” a much-loved program watched by an average of six million subscribers every day. The caves are secluded in the core area of the UNESCO-recognized Phong Nha-Ke Bang National Park, located in the north-central province of Quang Binh. En Cave is around two kilometers from Son Doong. Many viewers in both the U.S. and Vietnam marveled at the caves’ resplendence and said that the two are now on their must-go destination lists after watching the program. The show’s success might not have been possible without porters, who are muscular young local men tasked with carrying bulky filming equipment, camping gear, food, and expedition makers’ luggage on a long, treacherous way from outside into the caves. The men were also responsible for preparing meals for the ABC crew members and are willing to do so for groups of tourists during adventure tours to Son Doong. According to Ho Khanh, who is credited with discovering Son Doong and head of the porter team, porters generally carry between 30 and 35 kilograms of goods each but they are still capable of trekking on rugged, precarious terrain even with whopping loads of 80 to 120 kilograms on their backs. There are at least some carriers on each team who are able to do so and they can get injured expedition takers outside for medical care in the quickest of time as well. Since…... [read more]

The number of reported deaths from the unfolding tragedy is 32 including 17 tourists. However, the death toll is expected to rise. Twenty-five year old My Linh said in her Facebook page that she feels she is the luckiest girl in the world to have been saved by villagers from Mutinath and survive. Representatives from Trekking Agencies' Association of Nepal (TAAN) said it has mobilized all available resources to rescue victims in the snowstorm and it cannot provide any detailed information on another missing Vietnamese person. All information on rescue work will be updated at http://www.taan.org.np The Vietnam Ministry of Foreign Affairs has asked the Vietnam Embassy in India to contact relevant agencies to clarify the information that a Vietnamese person died in the snowstorm. So far, an additional seven people were found alive by rescue forces while 150 people were safely rescued from the mountain.... [read more]

The small-scale rescue, announced on May 3 by a home ministry official, brought fresh hope to a badly-hit district northeast of the capital Kathmandu, but about 50 bodies were also discovered on a northern trekking route obliterated by an avalanche that the April 25 quake triggered. That increased the death toll to 7,059, and the figure was likely to rise further as an entire village was carried away by the same avalanche and scores more people - both locals and foreign trekkers - were missing, officials said. US military aircraft and personnel were due to begin helping ferry relief supplies to stricken areas outside the capital, a US Marines spokeswoman said, after arriving in Nepal on May 3, a day later than expected. Meanwhile United Nations Resident Representative Jamie McGoldrick said the government needed to loosen its normal customs restrictions, as criticism mounted over a pile-up of aid at Kathmandu airport, Nepal's only international gateway. Ganga Sagar Pant, the head of the Trekking Agencies Association of Nepal, said the avalanche had wiped out the village of Langtang. "All that is left is scattered belongings like bags and coats, all the houses have been thrown down the mountain," he said. "There is nothing left. I don't think anyone can survive that." The village in the northern district of Rasuwa was on a popular trekking route and had 55 guesthouses. It was not clear how many people were there at the time of the avalanche.... [read more]

Vo Thi My Linh, founder of the Volunteer House Vietnam (VHV), said her non-profit organization is working with more than 300 volunteer members on around 6 free-of-charge English classes for poor children in Vietnam. The 26-year-old girl said one of her motivations is how she felt when people admired her as a survivor in the historic Nepal avalanche and blizzard in October last year. “After the blizzard I suddenly became famous and were featured in the news, someone even made a poem about me,” Linh told Tuoi Tre News in a recent interview. “People admired me after I survived the calamity, but I think it’s nothing related to bravery. It’s just the survival instinct,” she added. “It’s like when you are chased by a rabid dog, you’ll run for your life.” Linh was dubbed “the luckiest girl” by many for being able to survive the catastrophic disaster that killed numerous trekkers on a trip to the Thorung La Pass on the Annapurna Circuit mountain range in central Nepal. Instead of sitting there and admiring her, people should join her to do good things, she said. Actually, the idea to start VHV came to her when she was in Nepal and had the chance to stay with locals and worked with them doing their daily jobs like teaching and farming. That was when the Vietnamese explorer started to think of offering places to stay in the form of homestay for travelers coming to Vietnam and asking them to do something in…... [read more]

Having declared it would accept only 2,500 per day, Slovenia said 5,000 had arrived from Croatia October 19. Around 2,000 more trekked through fields and along railway tracks over the border, having apparently arrived by train; they were rounded up by Slovenian police on the other side as a helicopter circled overhead, and escorted to a camp with capacity for 400, a Reuters reporter said. "Croatia is ignoring our pleas, our plans," Bostjan Sefic, state secretary at Slovenia’s interior ministry, told a news conference, saying the army would be called in to help if such a rate continued. Attempts by Slovenia to ration the flow since Hungary sealed its border with Croatia at midnight on October 16 have triggered a knock-on effect through the Balkans; Croatia began holding back new arrivals and Serbia said it might do the same on its border with Macedonia. More than 10,000 were stranded in Serbia, the United Nations refugee agency (UNHCR) said, with more on the way but nowhere to go. "It's like a big river of people, and if you stop the flow, you will have floods somewhere. That's what's happening now,” UNHCR spokesman Melita Sunjic said from the Serbia-Croatia border, where about 2,000 people were forced to wait in a filthy, muddy no-man’s land. The UNHCR later said that police let the crowd of 2,000-3,000 through shortly before dusk. Groups of migrants fought with each other in the morning, aid workers said, after a night spent under open skies, lashed by autumn…... [read more]

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