During the 160 kilometres from Ha Giang to Dong Van, you can experience the beautiful and dangerous mountain passes that snake between rocky mountains and an ocean of clouds. Ha Giang’s landscape is beautiful all year round.. In the spring, Ha Giang may be cold but it is good time to come in order to see peach, plum and mustard flowers blossom, and experience the ethnic minority peoples’ new year, offering the chance to take part in their traditional games.
With bars, cafes and restaurants in Hanoi’s Old Quarter playing up their gritty, Old Hanoi faux-French colonial credentials, it comes as a pleasant surprise to find a place that is willing to grasp modernity, comfort and the tastes of home as their guiding principle.
2010 was a great year for Vietnam’s tourism industry, with an estimated 5 million visitors – the best ever. Here are my hopes for 2011…
1. Visa on arrival
I know I bang on about this incessantly but there is little point marketing Vietnam as a tourist destination and then making it difficult for people to actually get in. Introducing a genuine visa on arrival process, and scrapping visas for key markets altogether, would see a huge leap in numbers for both new and returning visitors.
EAS has recently learnt that people have been surprised by several changes at the Vietnamese Embassy in Phnom Penh. Firstly, new application forms, secondly, a $10 increase in the price of a 3 month multiple entry visa, and thirdly, people are being offered 6 and 12 month multiple entry visas which have not been available for some time now.
In the middle of November, 4000 Vietnamese rock fans had the chance to experience the combination of Rock and Temporary art show, Tiger Translate Metropolis, with the performances of local bands Ngu Cung (Pentatonic), RoseWood, the Canadian native metal band Hail The Villian and two painters Tran Trung Linh and Bertrand Peret.
Sample 24 hours of non-stop entertainment in Hanoi, as we go from the traditional to the modern.
5 am: Exercise
The whole of Hanoi stirs gently as if it is itself waking from a sound sleep. Autumn breezes make the weather cooler, and the scent of milk flowers hangs in the air. It is the best time to breathe in Hanoi’s air at its purest. Many people start the new day with morning exercise. People flock to Hoan Kiem Lake, Thong Nhat Park and Thu Le Zoo to exercise. No one pays attention to others but all of them concentrate on the music from old radios. Old people in white outfits slowly dance with swords and fans, creating an idyllic picture of morning which lacks the usual bustle of Hanoian life.
Asking what makes some districts more desirable to live in than others is like asking why red sportcars are more popular than pick-up trucks. It’s obvious, isn’t it? Jeremy King explains
Have you ever wondered why we live where we live? You may have thought that developers use a ‘pin the tail on the donkey’ approach to choosing the next residential hub, or that, like a flock of sheep, we see one person moving to a desirable looking area in pastures new and get this overwhelming urge to follow. You may be surprised to learn then that there is, in fact, an anthropological reason behind where we reside. There’s even a scientific formula to explain it.
For my regular commutes between Saigon and Phnom Penh I usually take the Mekong Express Bus. Yesterday I decided to try the Sapaco Tourist Bus for a change. Finally reaching the safety of home I can now laugh about the journey as I sit here safely ensconced in my familiar surroundings, so unless you are completely barmy, or a thrill seeking nutter, this company should be avoided like the plague.
I spent today with a lieutenant in the Vietnamese army, sitting behind him for seven hours as he showed me the sights of Dalat's countryside and told us about his life in the war.
Huang Van Hong is now one of the members of Dalat's Easy Rider Club , a group of 80 motorbike guides who whiz around the countryside (and beyond) to show visitors the beauty of this region up in the hills of the Vietnamese Highlands.