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Discover Halong Bay - World Heritage of Vietnam

If Hanoi is the grand old dame of Vietnam and Ho Chi Minh City is the brash young floozy, then Halong Bay, Hue and Hoi An are the alluring mistresses you encounter along the way.

How to find safe travel in Halong Bay

Having read the news about tourist boat sunk in Halong Bay, Vietnam some days ago, ACTIVETRAVEL ASIA would like to give out some advices about how to travel safely and enjoyably in Halong Bay.

Cruising Ha Long Bay, Vietnam

Ha Long Bay looked picturesque and was sunny and warm. Indochina sails, Ha Long bay , Vietnam We got up early today as we need to catch the bus for our trip to Ha Long Bay, about 3 hours west of Hanoi.

Kayaking and Cycling in a World Heritage Bay

Halong Bay is one of the most spectacular, and therefore heavily 'touristed' attractions in Vietnam. Kayak on Ha Long bay, Vietnam .

A Look into Beautiful Halong Bay, Vietnam

Halong Bay has been declared a UNESCO World heritage site and it really deserves the designation. It is one of the most exciting unusual places I have been to in my life.

1/31/2013

TET - the biggest festival in Vietnam

TET, Vietnamese New Year, occurs somewhere in the last ten days of January or the first twenty days of February, nearly halfway between winter solstice and spring equinox. This year (2013), Vietnam celebrates Tet on Feb 10th as the first day of the Lunar New Year. Although the Lunar New Year is observed throughout East Asia, each country celebrates Vietnamese New Year in its own way in conformity with its own national psyche and cultural conditions. 

For the Vietnamese people, Vietnamese New Year is like a combination of Western Saint Sylvester, New Year's Day, Christmas, Easter and Thanksgiving. It is the festival of Purity and Renewal.

Vietnamese New Year Customs
1. Clean and decorate the home
Homes are often cleaned and decorated before New Year's Eve. Children are in charge of sweeping and scrubbing the floor. The kitchen needs to be cleaned before the 23rd night of the last month. Usually, the head of the household cleans the dust and ashes (from incense) from the ancestral altars. It is a common belief that cleaning the house will get rid of the bad fortunes associated with the old year. Some people would paint their house and decorate with festive items.

2. Literally means "getting new clothes"
This is often the most exciting part of the Vietnamese New Year among children. Parents usually purchase new clothes and shoes for their children a month prior to the New Year. However, children cannot wear their new clothes until the first day of the New Year and onward. The best outfit is always worn on the first day of the year.

3. Farewell ceremony for the Kitchen Gods (Ong Tao)

Seven days (the 23rd night of the last lunar month) prior to Tet, each Vietnamese family offers a farewell ceremony for Ong Tao to go up to Heaven Palace. His task is to make an annual report to the Jade Emperor of the family's affairs throughout the year. 

4. New Year's Eve
However, in a literal translation, it means "Passage from the Old to the New Year". It is a common belief among Vietnamese people that there are 12 Sacred Animals from the Zodiac taking turn monitoring and controlling the affairs of the earth. Thus, Giao Thua (New Year's Eve) is the moment of seeing the old chief (Water Buffalo for 2009) end his ruling term and pass his power to the new chief (Tiger for 2010). Giao Thua is also the time for Ong Tao (Kitchen God) to return to earth after making the report to the Jade Emperor. Every single family should offer an open-air ceremony to welcome him back to their kitchen. 

5. The aura of the earth
Giao Thua is the most sacred time of the year. Therefore, the first house-guest to offer the first greeting is very important. If that particular guest has a good aura (well respected, well educated, successful, famous, etc.), then the family believes that they will receive luck and good fortune throughout the year. The belief of "Xong Dat" still remains nowadays, especially among families with businesses. 

6. Apricot flowers and peach flowers
Flower buds and blossoms are the symbols for new beginning. These two distinctive flowers are widely sold and purchased during Tet. Hoa Mai are the yellow apricot flowers often seen in Southern Vietnam. Hoa Mai are more adaptable to the hot weather of southern regions, thus, it is known as the primary flower in every home. Hoa Dao are the warm pink of the peach blossoms that match well with the dry, cold weather from the North. Tet is not Tet if there is no sight of Hoa Mai (south) or Hoa Dao (north) in every home.

Peach flowers
7. Giving away red envelopes (filled with lucky money) 
This is a cultural practice that has been maintained for generations. The red envelopes symbolize luck and wealth. It is very common to see older people giving away sealed red envelopes to younger people. Reciprocally, the older ones would return good advice and words of wisdom, encouraging the younger ones to keep up with the schoolwork, live harmoniously with others, and obey their parents. 

8. Making offers for the ancestors
This ceremony is held on the first day of the New Year before noontime. The head of the household should perform the proper ritual (offering food, wine, cakes, fruits, and burn incense) to invite the souls of the ancestors to join the celebration with the family. This is the time families honor the souls of their ancestors and present the welfare of the family.

Vietnamese New Year Foods

One of the most traditional special foods for New Year (Tet) of Vietnamese is Banh Chung or sticky rice cake. Banh Chung is made of sticky rice, pork meat and green bean, every ingredient is wrapper inside a special leaf which calls Dong. Making the Banh Chung requires care and precision in every step. The rice and green bean has to be soaked in water for a day to make it stickier. The pork meat is usually soaked with pepper for several hours. Squaring off and tying the cakes with bamboo strings require skillful hands to make it a perfect square.

Banh Chung is a must among other foods to be placed on the ancestors’ altars during Tet holiday. In the old time, one or two days before Tet, every family prepares and cooks the Banh Chung around the warm fire. It is also the time for parents to tell their children folklore stories. 

The importance of Banh Chung has already gone into poetry:
‘Rich meats, Salty onions, red couplets
Nêu tree, firecracker, green banh chung’.

1/23/2013

The Fishermen of Halong Bay, Vietnam


“We live in a wonderful world that is full of beauty, charm and adventure. There is no end to the adventures we can have if only we seek them with our eyes open.” – Jawaharial Nehru

Mesmerizing panoramas of limestone karsts often covered with lush green vegetation. Adding to this backdrop was the ever present fishermen who live on these waters. We were never completely alone.

The put-put of their engines was the first indicator.

A single boat with Quonset hut and colorful flags passed by our junk oblivious to us watching.

Oftentimes boats were rafted together. This was home for them and a way of life dating back generations.

We notice a lone man in his boat tied to this grey ragged landscape collecting crustaceans. It is food for the table and to sell.

A cultural and colorful highlight was visiting a floating village tucked along the jagged edge of karsts in a somewhat protected area from the winds. Consisting of 120 people, mostly families with children, they have been there since 1994 and encouraged by the government to fish these waters. They do so with nets as well as fish-farms. There are three other such floating villages scattered throughout Halong Bay and some quite large. Collectively, these fishermen supply seafood to all of Vietnam, particularly Hanoi. In addition, they are developing markets for farm-raised sea grasses, sea weed, and shrimp.

Houses were painted in cheerful colors and each appeared to have a resident watch dog. Roosters crowed.

Generators provide electricity for the floating village and fresh water is brought in from the mainland and stored in tanks.

We were taken to the community building to meet the village elder, his family and to have tea. The structure also serves as a school while efforts are being made to replace the one that was destroyed in a typhoon. The government provides a teacher, but he or she needs to be married, which reflects the cultural morays. Older children who wish to further their education often live on the mainland with a relative.

Managing tourism is of importance. This village has a partnership with several junk touring companies. Only the smaller vessels can approach this particular floating village, which was a cultural bonus for us. Instead of selling us trinkets or local crafts, we were taken on small boat excursions. There were four couples in our group and each couple was assigned to a row boat made from a woven reed basket.

Our rower was a girl named Win who was shy and had such a lovely smile. By tipping these rowers we are told this is a “workable” situation for tourists and the village. I had to agree. These women worked hard at what they were doing. An extra cultural treat for Ron and I was Duc, our guide, joined our little boat as well as the village chief’s son and niece. It was fun listening to the children chatter away and Duc translate.

Laughing at each other in our conical hats was a reminder that we were acting the tourist part. There was one particular area that Duc wanted us to see, but the lead rower could not get her boat through because of the current.

We weren't disappointed. The beauty around us was worth this experience of being rowed in a basket.

Once back on the junk, the long term sustainability of these floating villages was discussed. There is a balance between the fishermen, tourism, and the fragile eco-system which can change because of industrial run off, storms affecting fishing and increasing pollution. Halong Bay is a beautiful natural wonder. Protection of these waters while preserving a cultural way of life is an ongoing challenge.

Source: onthegowithlynne
For more information about Halong Bay cruise, please refer: http://www.indochinasails.com/

1/11/2013

Halong Bay‘s sunset praised on CNN


Thanks to its unique beauty, Halong Bay was selected as one of Asia’s top five tropical island paradises which possess the most beautiful sunset.

Sunset over Ha Long Bay
With this spirit of maritime adventure in mind, CNN asked Herman Ho, Boat Asia 2012 managing director, and Stuart McDonald, founder and editor of Asian travel website, travelfish.org, to give the lowdown on Southeast Asia's most spectacular coastal spots. Vietnam’s Halong Bay was selected in the list of top five tropical island paradises.

Halong Bay in northwestern Vietnam is one of the most stunning boating destinations anywhere in the world, says McDonald.

Comprising a vast coastal waterway of roughly 2,000 islands spread over an area of 1,500 square kilometers, carving out your own sailing space shouldn't be too much of a problem. While tranquil waters year round make sure going for a swim is always a pleasure.

The mysterious limestone caves on Halong Bay's bigger islands and the "incredible sunsets" meanwhile are two sights not to be missed, advises McDonald.

Other tropical island paradises includes Indonesia’s Anambas islands, Thailand’s Koh Chang, Malaysia’s Langkawi and Thailand’s Similan Islands.

1/04/2013

Indochina Sails attends International Tourism Fair in Spain


Indochina Sails announces to attend the International Tourism Fair in Spain from January 30, 2013 to February 3, 2013. We welcomes all attendees to discuss about the possibilities of working together.

Indochina Sails is the first and biggest company to offer overnight cruises on the bay, now widely known as the number one choice for discerning travelers, operating a fleet of six newly built wooden junks designed in time-honored traditional style, with contemporary and luxurious cabins and facilities. All Indochina Sails' boats feature spacious, well-appointed cabins and suites with large en-suite bathrooms, large sundecks with comfortable lounging furniture and elegant dining rooms and bars; they are designed and fitted to international standards while maintaining traditional styling, creating the perfect balance of modern comforts and nostalgic ambiance.
From January 30, 2013 to February 3, 2013, the International Tourism Fair - Fitur is going to be held in Spain. Indochina Sails aims to promote Luxury Cruises in Ha Long Bay, Vietnam with the luxury segment, which is addressed to people who want to live a unique experience, with personalized service, privacy, tranquility and simplicity about the New Seven Wonder of the World. 

Fitur - International Tourism Fair in Spain.
Attendee: Le Phuong Nhi – Director of Sales and Marketing
Hall: Pabellón 8
Stand Number: 8E26
Tel.: 84 4 3984 2362 / Fax: 84 4 3984 4150

We look forward to meeting you!

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