Posts Tagged ‘Hanoi’

Vietnam – courtesy of Lonely Planet

Monday, July 21st, 2014

Lonely Planet Guide to Vietnam – A Mecca for foodies and a paradise for beach bums, Vietnam is also loaded with cultural interest.

The Hue Citadel and its royal buildings in Central Vietnam

The Hue Citadel and its royal buildings in Central Vietnam

Sensory Overload

Unforgettable experiences are everywhere in Vietnam.

There’s the sublime: gazing over a surreal seascape of limestone islands from the deck of a Chinese junk in Halong Bay.

The ridiculous: taking 10 minutes just to cross the street through a tsunami of motorbikes in Hanoi.

The inspirational: exploring the world’s most spectacular cave systems in Phong Nha-Ke Bang National Park.

The comical: watching a moped loaded with oinking pigs weave a wobbly route along a country lane.

And the contemplative: witnessing a solitary grave in a cemetery of tens of thousands of war victims.

A Culinary Superpower

The Thais may grumble but in South-East Asia nothing really comes close: Vietnamese food is that good. Incredibly subtle in its flavours and outstanding in its diversity, Vietnamese cooking is a fascinating draw for travellers – the dozens of cooking schools in Hoi An are testament to this. Geography plays a crucial role, with Chinese flavours influencing the soups of northern Vietnam, spices sparking up southern cuisine and myriad herbs and complex techniques typifying the central region, rightly renowned as Vietnam’s epicurean epicentre.

Thrills & Chills

If you’ve got the bills, Vietnam’s got the thrills and chills. Some activities require physical effort, like motorbiking up the jaw-dropping Hai Van Pass in central Vietnam. Others require even more sweat: kitesurfing the tropical waters off Mui Ne or hiking the evergreen hills around Bac Ha or Sapa.

And after the adrenalin rush, relax and indulge in Vietnam’s outstanding spas – from marble temples of treatments, to simple family-run massage salons with backpacker-friendly rates.

Meet the Locals

The Vietnamese are energetic, direct, sharp in commerce and resilient by nature. The locals love a laugh and you’ll have plenty of opportunities to socialise with them and hear their tales.

Generally, the rule is the more uncomfortable the (always tiny) seats in the bar or cafe, the more fun you’ll have.

Poor in parts but never squalid, Vietnam is developing at an astonishing pace and inevitably there are some issues to consider (including a few minor scams).

However, on the whole this is an extremely safe (apart from the traffic!) and wonderfully rewarding country to explore.

Vietnam Top Five

1. Hoi An

Vietnam’s most cosmopolitan and civilised town, this beautiful, ancient port is bursting with gourmet Vietnamese restaurants, hip bars and cafes, quirky boutiques and expert tailors. Immerse yourself in history in the warren-like lanes of the Old Town, shop till you drop, tour the temples and pagodas, and dine like an emperor on a peasant’s budget (and even learn how to cook like the locals). Then hit glorious An Bang Beach, wander along the riverside and bike the back roads. Yes, Hoi An has it all.

2. Food

Perhaps Asia’s greatest culinary secret, Vietnamese food is on the radar but hardly a global phenomenon. Essentially it’s all about the freshness of the ingredients – chefs shop twice daily to source just-picked herbs from the market. The result? Incomparable texture and flavour combinations. For the Vietnamese, a meal should balance sour and sweet, crunchy and silky, fried and steamed, soup and salad. Wherever you are, you’ll find exquisite local specialities – the “white rose” of Hoi An, the canh chua of the Mekong Delta or the good ol’ pho of the north.

3. Mui Ne

Perhaps the adrenalin epicentre of Vietnam, the relaxed, prosperous beach resort of Mui Ne is a kitesurfing capital with world-class wind and conditions, and excellent schools for professional training. For those who prefer dry land, sandboarding and golf are popular alternatives. The resort itself has more than 20km of palm-fringed beachfront that stretches invitingly along the shores of the South China Sea. From guesthouses to boutique resorts, designer bars to fine-value spas, Mui Ne has a broad appeal.

4. Sapa and the Tonkinese Alps

Dubbed the Tonkinese Alps by the French, the spectacular Hoang Lien Mountains soar skywards along the rugged edges of northwest Vietnam towards the Chinese border. Shape-shifting clouds and mist ebb and flow in the mountainous area around Sapa, parting to reveal a glimpse of Fansipan, Vietnam’s highest peak. From the sinuous and spidery ridges, rice terraces cascade down into river valleys, home for several centuries to ethnic minority villages of H’mong, Red Dzao and Giay peoples.

5. Hue

The nation’s capital for 150 years in the 19th and early 20th centuries, Hue is perhaps the easiest Vietnamese city to love. Its situation on the banks of the Perfume River is sublime, its complex cuisine is justifiably famous and its streets are relatively traffic free. And that’s without the majesty of the Hue Citadel, with its royal residences and elegant temples, formidable walled defences and gateways. On the city’s fringes are some of Vietnam’s most impressive pagodas and royal tombs, many in wonderful natural settings.

What’s New

> Zone 9, Hanoi

Filling a former pharmaceutical factory with bars, galleries and art spaces, Hanoi’s Zone 9 precinct is the city’s hippest and most vibrant new destination.

> Hill Station Signature Restaurant

In chic surroundings in Sapa, learn how to cook H’mong cuisine at the Hill Station Signature Restaurant. Wash it all down with a tasting set of delicious ruou (traditional rice wine).

> Cat Ba Island Hotels

New hotels are opening up on private islands in the Cat Ba area, including Cat Ong Beach Cottages, which has its own private beach and bungalows.

Getting There

Vietnam Airlines, the state-owned carrier, flies to 28 international destinations, including Australia.

Top Tips

Prepare yourself for the crazy driving: traffic can come at you every which way, and in the cities swarms of motorbikes reach biblical proportions.

Try to keep calm and consider arranging a massage after a long journey. Be aware that Vietnam has more than its fair share of scams; most concern overcharging.

Though very rare, there are some more serious dangers (like unexploded ordnance) to also be aware of. Relevant warnings are given in destinations throughout this guide.

In towns like Hue and Sapa, and beaches popular with tourists, expect plenty of hustle from street vendors, cyclo drivers and the like.

Off the beaten track there’s little or no hassle.

This is an edited extract from Lonely Planet Vietnam (12th Edition) by Iain Stewart and Hanuman’s own Nick Ray amongst others.. © Lonely Planet 2014. Published this month.

Indochina’s Heritage

Saturday, October 19th, 2013

Immerse yourself in the trio of beautiful and varied World Heritage locations in Luang Prabang, Halong Bay and Angkor with our 15-day journey of discovery.

Monks at Angkor Wat

Monks at Angkor Wat

Indochina is home to several stunning UNESCO World Heritage Sites and this signature trip takes in the most impressive of these in Cambodia, Laos and Vietnam. Starting in lovely and languid Luang Prabang, we enjoy the combination of rich culture and lush nature in this charming town. Flying to elegant Hanoi, we pay our respects to Uncle Ho and explore the exotic Old Quarter. Halong Bay is the only natural World Heritage Site on this list, but it is undoubtedly one of the most memorable with a forest of karst peaks soaring skywards from the sea. Flying south, we stop in Hoi An to explore the compelling historic house, tailor shops, galleries and cafes of this atmospheric place. We leave some time to enjoy the beach before flying on to Siem Reap, our base to visit the simply sublime temples of Angkor. Our visit includes all the world famous temples such as Angkor Wat, the world’s largest religious building, as well as some of the floating communities of the Tonle Sap.

Contact our Sales Team at Hanuman for more information or visit our website at http://www.hanuman.travel/Tours/Indochina/World_Heritage_Indochina.html.

Tour of the Week: Tickle Your Tastebuds

Thursday, March 14th, 2013

Our Tour of the Week provides an opportunity to tickle your tastebuds with our Culinary Vietnam special.

Culinary Tour of Vietnam

Culinary Tour of Vietnam

This week-long trip is designed to stimulate the senses by introducing visitors to the delicate aromas and spices that make Vietnamese food such a delectable experience. Starting in Hanoi, we bring visitors face to face with the sights, sounds and smells of the Old Quarter. Our first epicurean encounter is at Highway 4 Restaurant, famed for its blend of modern Vietnamese and traditional hilltribe cuisine. We learn some signature recipes before continuing our journey to Halong Bay, a stunning world heritage site where nature has run amok. After enjoying a night on a traditional junk, we travel south to Hoi An, a timeless trading port on the Thu Bon River. We visit a local market to shop for produce before travelling downriver to the Red Bridge Cooking School. Set amid ricefields on the banks of the river, it is an inspiring location to learn the art of the Vietnamese table. We leave some free time to soak up the charms of Hoi An or explore nearby Marble Mountains or the Cham Museum in Danang.

For more details on our 7 day/6 night Culinary Vietnam itinerary, visit the Hanuman website at: http://www.hanuman.travel/Tours/Vietnam/Culinary_Vietnam.html.

Featured Tour: Hanoi to Luang Prabang Overland

Monday, January 28th, 2013

Following on from a busy ATF in Vientiane last week, the Hanuman team was inspired to pick this 15-day overland trip through some of the most remote and beautiful parts of mainland Southeast Asia as the tour of the month.

Where the Mekong River meets the Nam Ou

Where the Mekong River meets the Nam Ou

One of Hanuman’s more adventurous itineraries, this trip offers an intriguing overland journey from Hanoi to Luang Prabang via some remote and beautiful regions. Starting out in historic Hanoi, we explore the lively Old Quarter of the city and some of the city’s most famous sights. We travel to majestic Halong Bay to experience a night aboard a traditional junk, perfect to soak up the stunning scenery. From here, we swing west into the striking mountain landscapes around Mai Chau, our base for some trekking amid the ricefields and villages of the White Thai minority. We then cross the mountainous border with Laos to explore the infamous Vieng Xai Caves, which served as a secret base for the Pathet Lao leadership during the war. Our journey continues through some remote parts of Laos to the enigmatic Plain of Jars. The culmination of this adventurous trip is the charming World Heritage Site of Luang Prabang, an atmospheric town of ancient wats and designer shops.

For more details on this off-the-beaten-track itinerary, see: http://www.hanuman.travel/Tours/Indochina/Vietnam_Laos_Revealed.html

Hoa Sua Offers a Helping Hand in Hanoi

Wednesday, December 5th, 2012

Romdeng in Cambodia, Mak Phet in Laos, KOTO in Vietnam, the Mekong region is famous for its training restaurants, but one of the first to open, Hoa Sua in Hanoi, continues its excellent work in the Vietnamese capital and beyond.

Hoa Sua: Restaurant and cooking classes in Hanoi

Creative Cuisine at Hoa Sua Restaurant

Creative Cuisine at Hoa Sua Restaurant

Who and What: Hoa Sua is a vocational school offering tourism and hospitality training in Hanoi. Our objective is to contribute to the fight against poverty in Vietnam by training young people, especially disadvantaged and disabled youth. Established in 1994, to date the school has helped nearly 4,000 youth find stable jobs. Every year, the school recruits 500 young people who live in difficult circumstances.

The Experience: Visit Hoa Sua restaurant (28A Ha Hoi), Le Croissant (21 Ha Hoi and 54 Xuan Dieu) and Café Smile (5 Van Mieu) for meals or snacks. Everything that you eat in these places has been made by the students as part of their training. Attend our Vietnamese cooking classes and learn about the country’s gastronomic culture.

From Hanuman: Hoa Sua is a very successful vocation training restaurant offering students a helping hand into hospitality. Cooking classes are an excellent way to discover the secrets of the Vietnamese kitchen and include tips on beautiful presentation. The restaurant offers set menus of French and Vietnamese cuisine, plus there are more cafes dotted about the city, including Croissant and Cafe Smile.

Baguette & Chocolat: Cafe helping disadvantaged youth in Sapa and Hanoi

A Touch of Paris at Baguette & Chocolat

A Touch of Paris at Baguette & Chocolat

Who and What: Baguette & Chocolat provides disadvantaged and disabled youth with tourism and hospitality training. We have a beautiful Baguette & Chocolat restaurant in Hanoi on the spacious and lush grounds of the Museum of Ethnology as well as a Baguette&Chocolat charming café and mini hotel in the highlands of Sapa.

The Experience: Stay or dine at Baguette & Chocolat Sapa. Your participation is integral to the project’s ongoing success to give ethnic minority youth an opportunity to put their skills and knowledge into practice. Visit Baguette & Chocolat Hanoi and relax in the calm shade of the Vietnam Museum of Ethnology. The menu includes both Vietnamese and western favourites, French bakery and drinks.

From Hanuman: Baguette & Chocolat produces some of the most delightful cakes and pastries this side of Paris and the prices are very reasonable, as it is part of training initiative by Hoa Sua to give disadvantaged people a headstart in tourism. The Sapa bakery is a lovely place to escape on a foggy day and enjoy a moist croissant with some strong coffee. The Hanoi branch is located in the impressive Museum of Ethnology.

The new Hanuman Travel Collection 2013/14

Monday, October 22nd, 2012

The latest Hanuman Travel Collection 2013/14 is back from the printer and we have uploaded it live to the Hanuman website at www. hanuman.travel.

The Hanuman Travel Collection 2013/14 is now available for browsing, including Inspirational Holidays, Authentic Journeys, Original Adventures and Unique Experiences. The collection features our recommended hotels and cruises around the region, as well as themed trips to help your journey planning.

Myanmar is new for 2013/14, including 10 pages of inspirational advice on planning trips to this enigmatic destination. As well as our recommended destinations and journey planner, we also showcase our signature unique experiences and some responsible tourism initiatives.  Stand out hotels include the historic Strand in Yangon, the Rupar Mandalar Hotel in Mandalay and the Amara Ocean Resort in Ngapali. We also feature two of the most popular cruises, Ayravata Cruise and the Road to Mandalay under our Cruising section.

Here is an excerpt to whet your appetite:

Introducing Myanmar

“Myanmar is one of the most desirable destinations on the planet in this day and age, now that Daw Aung San Suu Kyi has invited travellers to visit once again and the government continues to surpise observers with its reform programme. The shimmering spire of Shwedagon Paya is a symbol of the nation, but this enigmatic country is home to the incredible temples of Bagan, the crumbling ancient capitals around Mandalay and the stunning natural beauty of Inle Lake. Further afield lie unspoilt beaches, charming colonial relics and unique local cultures. Quite simply, as Kipling once said, “Burma is quite unlike any place you know about”.

To view the brochure online, please visit http://www.hanuman.travel/pdf/HNM-brochure-2012-13Edition.pdf

 

KOTO Comes Good

Wednesday, September 12th, 2012
KOTO in Hanoi

KOTO in Hanoi

KOTO is making a real difference to lives in Hanoi and Saigon.

KOTO is an extraordinarily successful not-for-profit project that provides career training and guidance to disadvantaged kids in Hanoi and now Saigon. Its flagship stunning four-storey modernist cafe-bar-restaurant overlooking the Temple of Literature is in Hanoi, where the interior design has been taken very seriously, from the stylish seating to the fresh flowers by the till. Daily specials are chalked up on a blackboard and the short menu has everything from excellent Vietnamese food to yummy pita wraps and beer-battered fish n chips. KOTO (meaning for Know One, Teach One) offers a vocational training program that is changing the lives of many street children, providing them with skills, dignity and pride. Every six months they recruit 25 to 30 trainees in a 2-year programme. Founded by one of our old friends, former tour leader Jimmy Pham, KOTO played host to then President Bill Clinton on his visit to Vietnam. KOTO chefs pass on the secrets of Vietnamese cuisine with daily cooking classes if you want to become an expert yourself. In Hanoi, they open for breakfast and lunch seven days a week and for dinner every night except Mondays. In their Saigon restaurant, they open for lunch daily and for evening dinner from Wednesday through to Saturday. And earlier this year, a new venture, Pots ‘n Pans’ with a focus on innovative Vietnamese cuisine opened in Hanoi, offering lunch and dinner seven days a week. Take our recommendation and pay them a visit.

Water Spectacular

Monday, September 10th, 2012
Vietnam's Water Puppets

Vietnam’s Water Puppets

Hanoi’s Water Puppets are Vietnam’s Punch & Judy.

Northern Vietnam is the birthplace of water puppetry (roi nuoc) and is at least 1,000 years old. Hanoi is the best place to catch a water puppet show, with the Municipal Water Puppet Theatre at the center of the action with six daily performances, though it’s wise to book well ahead. Contemporary performances use a square tank of waist-deep water for their stage; the water is murky to conceal the mechanisms that operate the puppets. The wooden puppets, up to 50cm long and weighing as much as 15kg, are decorated with glossy paint. Each lasts only about three to four months if used continually, so puppet production provides several villages outside Hanoi with a full-time livelihood. Eleven puppeteers, each trained for a minimum of three years, are involved in the performance. They stand in the water behind a bamboo screen and unfortunately suffer from a host of water-borne diseases, an occupational hazard. Some puppets are attached to a long pole, while others are on a floating base, with rudders to help guide them. The skills required to operate the puppets were always kept secret and passed only from father to son, never to daughters who might marry and take the secrets with them.

Accompanying the action in the water is the music provided by a band. It includes wooden flutes, gongs, drums, bamboo xylophones and the stringed zither. The performances consist of a number of vignettes depicting pastoral scenes and legends, like the battle of the fisherman with his prey, or fire-breathing dragons. These performances are a lot of fun, the puppets are amusing and graceful and the water setting allows the puppets to appear and disappear as if by magic. Spectators sitting in the front-row seats can expect a bit of a splash. You have been warned. If you are not heading to Hanoi, then there are a couple of locations in Ho Chi Minh City that cater for the one of the “must-see” tourist experiences.

Tour of the Week – Adrenaline Cambodia & Vietnam

Thursday, July 19th, 2012
The adrenaline rush in Vietnam

The adrenaline rush in Vietnam

Try the excitement of our 16-day Adrenaline Tour of Cambodia and Vietnam featuring the best of the adventures to be found in both countries.

Enjoying a different type of journey through Cambodia begins our adrenaline tour which includes a wide range of activities from cycling to horse-riding to quad-biking and much more besides. We begin in Siem Reap with sunrise visits to Angkor Wat and Ta Prohm, cycling out to ancient temples and floating villages, quad-bike fun at sunset and a helicopter flight over the Angkor temples. We head south to lively Phnom Penh and take to the water for two boat trips, cycling on an island in the Mekong River and the rest of the highlights of this cool capital city. Our next stop is Vietnam and this section of your trip will get the blood coursing through your veins with some adventurous cycling and beautiful hiking in the mountains, as well as kayaking and climbing in Halong Bay. Starting out in elegant Hanoi with a cyclo experience through the buzzing Old Quarter, we then head north by night train to Sapa, the unofficial capital of Vietnam’s highlands. We enjoy some trekking and biking around the valleys and villages of the Sapa region before travelling to majestic Halong Bay. Heading off the visitor trail, we kayak some caves and grottoes and then wind up on Cat Ba Island where we can try some rock climbing amid the karsts or explore some of the remote and hidden coves and beaches. If it’s adventure you want, Cambodia and Vietnam will certainly deliver. You can take a relaxing side trip to the coastal beaches to wind down or if you need even more adventure, try our adrenaline tour of Laos.

Kids stuff in Vietnam

Friday, July 6th, 2012
Vietnamese children at play

Vietnamese children at play

Going to Vietnam with your family? Here are some things to look out for on your travels.

In north Vietnam, Hanoi is a fun city for children thanks to the all-action Old Quarter and the city’s many parks and lakes. Keep an eye open for motorbikes, but wandering the streets of the Old Quarter has enough diversions to keep older children entertained, and plenty of ice-cream shops and fruit markets for little treats along the way. If they like to dabble with a bit of cooking, then try the special interactive Kids Club session at the Hanoi Cooking Centre. Boating is a fun family activity and there is the choice of bigger boats on Tay Ho or pedal-powered boats in Lenin Park. Hanoi Water Park is a great place for children to cool off, but it’s only open half the year (Apr-Nov) and is fifteen minutes from central Hanoi by taxi. Come evening-time and the water-puppet shows are a must for any Punch and Judy lovers, but beware if you sit in the front row, you might get wet.

In Ho Chi Minh City there are a couple of water parks at Dam Sen and Dai The Gioi complete with water slides, rope swings and large pools, lots of leafy gardens and many cafes and ice-cream shops that are family-friendly. There are also plenty of activities for older children to enjoy such as ten-pin bowling at Diamond Superbowl and rock-climbing at X-Rock, which has a 16-metre climbing wall. Beyond the city is Dai Nam Theme Park, the closest thing to Disneyland in Vietnam. Here you can enjoy the amusement park, a zoo, a beach and temple complex.

Your children will become the center of attention everywhere you go so be prepared. Outside of Hanoi and Ho Chi Minh, then the beaches of Nha Trang are a big attraction, sleeping on a boat and exploring the caves at Halong Bay is an adventure, and the monkeys and education elements of the Cuc Phuong Primate Rescue Center may be just what your children are looking for to spice up their Vietnam holiday.