Thứ Năm, 29 tháng 11, 2012

Monsoon rains in Hue

At this time of the year visitors to Hue in central Vietnam are very impressed by light rains falling almost without let-up for days. They view the prolonged drizzles as a unique feature of the old imperial city. In their eyes such famous cites as the Royal Palace, Phuc Duyen Tower, Linh Mu Pagoda and Truong Tien Bridge always look stunningly beautiful, rain or shine.

Source: dtinews

Thứ Ba, 13 tháng 11, 2012

View Vietnam from the train

Hanoi to Saigon by train, in 9 minutes Mark Smith, better known as The Man in Seat 61, travels the length of Vietnam by train. Source: Telegraph

Thứ Hai, 5 tháng 11, 2012

How to Tour Cambodia & Vietnam

By Fiona Wilkinson

The easiest way to tour Cambodia and Vietnam is to take one of the many all-inclusive packages available, which can include everything from your flight, to hotel, meals and accommodation along your chosen route. If you have more time, going-it-alone is a more relaxed way to travel, and will give you the flexibility to chose your route and length of time you want to stay in each place. Traveling around Cambodia and Vietnam as an independent traveler is relatively safe and easy.

        1. Book a package tour if you are pressed for time or do not want to travel on your own. These range from eight, 14 or 16 to 18 days or longer. Organized tours can include: Angor Thom and Angkor Wat, Banteay Srey, a boat trip on Tonle Sap Great Lake, Hanoi, Phnom Penh, Siem Reap, Hochiminh or Saigon, Chinabeach and Halongbay. You can choose between luxury or standard accommodation, and all meals and entry fees are usually included.

        2. Look for an adventure tour. These can include beach, kayaking or golf tours. You can take a cycling tour, a historical tour or a cruise down one of the region's many rivers. There are also spa tours of the area's most exotic spas, or take a trekking tour if you are feeling more adventurous and energetic.

        3. Buy a good travel guide if you decide to travel on your own. Traveling between Cambodia and Vietnam is relatively easy. There are direct flights daily between Vietnam and Cambodia itinerary, either to Phnom Penh or Siem Reap. You can also travel overland between the two, crossing at one of the three border posts. These are open daily between 8 a.m. and 5 p.m. Visas are available at the border for a small fee.

        4. One of the most popular crossings is by ferry or boat via the Chau Doc/Kaam Samnor river-border on the Mekong River. It is a nice trip and you can see floating houses and local daily village life on the way. It takes around six hours to reach Phnon Penh from here, and visas can be obtained at the border here too.

        5. There is a good train and bus system in Vietnam and Cambodia. The railway links many of the region's main towns. It is an affordable way to cover a lot of the countryside. Tickets can be bought at the main stations or at a travel agency. You have a choice of air-conditioning or non air-conditioned carriages, sleeper and soft or hard seats, depending on the length of your trip.

Thứ Năm, 1 tháng 11, 2012

Travel tips: Getting by train to Sapa

From Hanoi it is a 9-hour train journey to Sapa.

Vietnam Rail operates some of the cars, but other cars in the train are operated by private companies (Tulico, Ratraco, Victoria Hotels, and others). Some of these cars are significantly nicer than the standard cars. You may need to arrange with a travel agency to get tickets on these tourist cars, but any traveler can purchase tickets for the VNR cars at the Hanoi train station.

Cheaper tickets, especially in hard sleeper class, can be hard to come by at times, as tour companies and travel agents will snap up these to foist on their own customers (too frequently a promised soft sleeper berth will turn into a hard sleeper when it comes time to board). To avoid rip offs better go to the train station by yourself and get the ticket from the ticket office. This is the only way to make sure that you will get what you have paid for. Travel Agencies in Vietnam are known for their bad business practice. Another possibility is to ask for help at your hostel (if it's a good one).

Insider travel tip:
Although one cannot be assured of finding a place, it is often possible to arrive at the station a short while before boarding time, as there are usually young men hanging around trying to hawk unfilled berths at the last minute. The price of these tickets will fall dramatically as departure time draws near.

Prices vary according to both the type of seat purchased and the season during which you are traveling. The times around Vietnamese holidays are particularly expensive and tickets cannot be assumed available for same day travel, so book ahead if possible. Travelers are recommended to purchase a berth in a soft or hard sleeper car, though the trip in soft seat class is not intolerable (that's what we did and it was ok). For a bed, expect to pay in the area of 150,000-250,000 dong (one-way). There is usually a dining car serving good, surprisingly affordable noodles (8000 dong) and rice porridge (6000 dong), but it's always wise to bring your own snacks and drinks as well.

The train ends at Lao Cai. From there, dozens of shuttle buses will be waiting outside the station to take you the remaining distance to Sapa, usually at a 'fixed' rate of 25,000 dong. It's often possible to bargain down to 20,000 dong or lower, depending on demand. The ride is about an hour of beautiful views (if the weather is good, it may be an hour of fog at other times) more than 1000 meters up into the mountains.

You may want to book a return ticket when you buy your outward journey, as picking up tickets in Lao Cai is harder than in Hanoi. The staff do not speak as much English, and they possibly only sell tickets for travel on the same day so sleepers may already be sold out unless you go first thing in the morning. Pay attention to the time of your return train. Trains leaving Lao Cai around 7PM will arrive in Hanoi at 4AM. If you don't make prior arrangements to return at an early hour, you may find yourself sitting outside of your hostel, waiting for the desk to open.

Another possibility is to get a bus ride to Dien Bien Phu at the northern border to Laos. That's a complete day in the bus, riding through terrific landscapes!

Source: traveldudes