Cat Tien National Park

By: Fabrice Turri

True rainforest of South Vietnam

Cat Tien National Park is located in the centre of three provinces: Dong Nai, Lam Dong and Binh Phuoc. Threatened by human activity, Cat Tien is nonetheless a treasure of biodiversity and has been recognized by UNESCO.

Cat Tien National ParkDipping a paddle into the lake, my friend casts an anxious glance at the water, looking for air bubbles rising to the surface – a clear sign of the presence of a predatory reptile likely to capsize our small boat!

Located in the northern part of Cat Tien National Park, the famous Crocodile Lake is indeed a breeding ground for the Siamese crocodile, reintroduced in 2000. But this is not the only species lurking in Cat Tien. The park, which covers 71,920 hectares of forests, plains and marshes, is home to many birds and mammals.

It is, in fact, the last true rainforest of South Vietnam.

More than a jungle, Cat Tien is a legacy of an ancient time when Vietnam was still covered with thick vegetation. Aware of the park’s ecosystem’s extreme fragility, UNESCO decided in 2001 to inscribe Cat Tien in its World Network of Biosphere Reserves.

This recognition, however, did not manage to save the last Vietnamese Javan rhinoceros, discovered in 2010 Cat Tien National Parkwith its skull shattered, a sad victim of poaching, killed for the value of its horn.

The rhinoceros’s horn’s supposed therapeutic and aphrodisiac effects have unfortunately led to the extinction of the last specimen.

Cat Tien National Park had already greatly suffered during the Vietnam War when it was sprayed with herbicides, arguably the most notorious of which was Agent Orange, a defoliant.

Today the most pressing threats to the park are unfettered deforestation, agricultural encroachment and poaching.

The plan to build two dams upstream of Crocodile Lake on the Dong Nai River continues to provoke outcries among defenders of this expansive biological sanctuary.

Despite the park's deteriorating biodiversity over the years, it still houses more than 1,610 different plants, 105 species of mammals, 351 species of birds, 120 species of reptiles and amphibians, and hundreds of species of butterflies and insects – a remarkable nature spot for lovers of wilderness hiking.

Practical Information:

Cat Tien National ParkPlaces to visit in Cat Tien National Park:

- Tung Tree (1.5 km, 3 hours by foot)

- The Heavenly Waterfall (5.5 km)

- The Fig Tree (16 km)

- The archaeological site of Cat Tien (12 km)

- Ethnic villages of Ma and S'tieng (12 km)

- The Botanical Garden (2 km)

- Elephant Hill (3.5 km)

- Crocodile Lake (14 km)

- Ta ​​Lai (home to different types of forests)

- The Primate Rescue Centre

Accommodation:

At Cat Tien, there are 50 standard rooms at the park headquarters, a traditional house built and administered by Tay, S'tieng and Ma Ta Lai (12 km south of park headquarters) and a Ben Cu hut beside the Dong Nai River (1.5 km north of park headquarters).

 

There are also rooms in stilt houses on Crocodile Lake that offer spectacular views of wildlife at dawn and dusk.

Access:

The easiest way to get to Cat Tien is to take a bus from Ho Chi Minh City. Book a bus to Dalat (VND35,000, four hours) and tell the driver to drop you off at Vuon Quoc Gia Cat Tien. From there, you can rent a bike to complete the remaining 25 km to the entrance. Once you’ve arrived at the park office, you can buy a ticket that includes a ride on the ferry across the Dong Nai River (about VND40,000).


What to do in Phu Yen, Tuy Hoa?

By: Bob Johnston

Phu Yen, Tuy Hoa…why bother

That’s the question however, the answer is getting easier with every year. Lonely Planet tells you to pass it by; most of the other guidebooks give it a small paragraph at best but say about the same thing. The ones that provide any information at all are telling you things which are six to ten years out of date at best.

Until last summer, when someone got off the bus or train here and found our place, the few visitors would ask ‘So, how many tourists do you normally get here?’ My pat answer was ‘Tourists here are like Bigfoot sightings in other places.’ Then, last spring, some Russians picked Tuy Hoa as a destination; since then (through no fault of the Ministry of Travel and Tourism) we seem to be getting more casual visitors to the area.

What Phu Yen, Tuy Hoa can offer

Tower in Phu YenThose looking for a highly charged night life will be sadly disappointed, it just ain’t here. There is one ‘disco’ operated by the same group who own the CenDelux hotel complex. It’s populated by a very small group of zombie-like young men most of the time. The same area is peppered with karaoke bars as is the rest of the town.

What we do offer is a dip into the real Vietnam with very short travel times to do so…we can offer relaxation and a severe lack of street peddlers. Chill time of the first order.

Miles of deserted beaches, short trip times will get you deep into the farming country or into the lush green of the local mountains. Tuy Hoa is a nice clean town to walk around in with friendly people where you will still find relaxed tourism. Trekking around or into the hills is relaxing, enjoyable and convenient. However, you won’t find many amenities so plan on bringing your own.

Also, you won’t find tourist information readily available. A simple thing like a local map with points of interest listed makes a showing once in a while then quickly becomes unavailable. The major points of interest (in the province) can be found by doing a quick search on-line; getting to most of them takes some work.

When to visit Phu Yen, Tuy Hoa

There is no hard and fast rule about ‘best time’; the best guess answer to that is normally April through the end of September, give or take a month on either end. It all depends on the weather patterns. Two years ago a Vnese friend announced that the monsoon season was over when the sun came out for a week in February; at the end of that week the sun went away and it rained for the next three weeks solid.

How to get to Phu Yen, Tuy Hoa

Located about half way between Nha Trang and Qui Nhon it’s about a two and a half hour trip by bus from either city. There is a local bus service from Qui Nhon which runs pretty much hourly seven days a week. Both north and southbound trains have this as a stop about 6 times a day and there is a ‘local’ which originates in Qui Nhon and runs south to Phan Rieng some days (they don’t really have that schedule nailed down yet).

By air, no problem. There’s a small plane going north or south once a day so you can arrive in the morning or mid-afternoon. The airport is a short taxi ride from town.

You can also find some tips for accommodation and food in Phu Yen, Tuy Hoa in my next article.


Other articles:

Top 5 things to do in Saigon

Top 5 things to do in Danang

Top 5 souvenirs to buy in Vietnam

Top 5 things to do in Quy Nhon

Top 5 dishes to try in Nha Trang

Top 5 things to do in Nha Trang

Top 5 dishes to eat in Hanoi

Top 5 places to go shopping in Ho Chi Minh City

Top 5 Che-sweet soups must try in Saigon



Top things to do in Quy Nhon

By: Fabrice Turri

Relatively unknown and free of mass tourism, the coastal city of Quy Nhon (the capital of Binh Dinh province in central Vietnam) will seduce those who love to travel off the beaten tracks.

Called ‘Pulo Cambi’ by Portuguese Jesuits who settled there in the 1620s, its origins date back to 11th century Champa culture.

Quy Nhon is also known as the birthplace of the eighteenth Vietnamese Emperor, Nguyen Hue. The city experienced a major U.S. military presence and its hinterland was the scene of heavy fighting during the Vietnam War. However, only a half-buried U.S. tank (on the beach, south of the Lan Anh Hotel) reflects this dark parenthesis of history.

Quy Nhon made up the main port for all military forces in Vietnam’s Central Highlands region. Almost all the supplies for the area were unloaded from ships moored in the port before being transported by aircraft.

A large number of U.S. Army support units were also based in the city and its suburbs, including a field hospital and a large supply center.

Quy Nhon In 1975 the South Vietnam Navy evacuated its soldiers and some civilians before abandoning the strategic city of Nha Trang in May 1975, leaving North Vietnamese tanks and infantry to occupy nearly half of the territory of the Republic of South Vietnam.

Today, things have changed.

Quy Nhon has just begun to capitalize on its huge potential for tourism. At 42 km long, the coast is indeed ​​remarkable with its white sand beaches. Abundant seafood is served in local restaurants at a price that defies competition.

And if historical remnants aren’t Quy Nhon’s greatest strength, we must admit the city and its outskirts still contain some interesting sites worth visiting.

Quy NhonThe picturesque Queen’s Beach, in particular, deserves a visit.

Named in memory of last Vietnamese Emperor Bao Dai’s wife, Queen’s Beach is accessible via An Duong Vuong Street, with your back to the peninsula.

On the way, a paved road leads to a ledge where you can see the tomb of famous Vietnamese writer Han Mac Tu, one of the great figures of Vietnamese literature. Further on, you’ll come to the famous beach where you can stop for refreshments.

Although not a good place for swimming, Queen’s Beach is interesting because of its many blue, egg-shaped, smooth stones superimposed on the small beach pummeled by waves. That is why Queen’s Beach is also called ‘Egg Stone Beach’.

Continuing on the road along the headland, you arrive at Qui Hoa Beach, very quiet and ideal for swimming. A hospital Leproserythat specialises in treating leprosy has been built nearby. In its charming garden, you can admire statues of famous French and Vietnamese doctors. Visitors are welcome.

Arguably the best spot for swimming is probably Bai Dai Beach, a beautiful stretch of white, fine sand.

Located on 13.5 hectares, Bai Dai Beach is frequented by few tourists. With a beautiful view of Cu Lao Xanh Island, Bai Dai remains quite wild. Activities available from the beach include kayak trips to neighboring islands.

The Cham towers of Banh It (20 km north of Quy Nhon, at the top of a hill that boasts panoramic views of the countryside) and those nearest to Thap Doi are remarkable for their sculptures. Despite their years, both sites are in good condition and worth visiting.

If you have time, you can also have a look at Long Khanh Pagoda, Quy Nhon’s main pagoda, built in the 18th century and famous for its 17-meter-high Buddha.

Practical Information:

- Binh Dinh Province is 1065 km from Hanoi and 680 km from Ho Chi Minh City. You can get to Binh Dinh by car, train or plane. Note that the train stops at Dieu Tri Train Station, about 10 km west of Quy Nhon.

- There is a VND 5000 admission fee to Queen Beach (plus an extra 2000 if you’re riding a motorcycle).

- You can go to the hospital that treats leprosy by turning left at the end of An Duong Vuong Street. The hospital entrance is well marked, a few hundred meters further down the road.


Other articles:

Top 5 things to do in Saigon

Top 5 things to do in Danang

Top 5 souvenirs to buy in Vietnam

Top 5 dishes to try in Nha Trang

Top 5 things to do in Nha Trang

Top 5 dishes to eat in Hanoi

Top 5 places to go shopping in Ho Chi Minh City

Top 5 Che-sweet soups must try in Saigon



Best places to see in Vietnam’s central highlands

By: Lien Nguyen

The central highland of Vietnam has been opening to more tourists over the past decade. Foreign visitors have increasingly easy passage to come and explore the region’s attractions. The Central Highlands have beautiful natural features such as relatively untouched forests, waterfalls and spectacular scenery. Moreover, its high altitude offers a slightly cooler temperature than the almost unbearable heat of the southern plains. If you’re in the area, these places are not to be missed.

T’Nung lake or Bien Ho Lake Pleiku

This freshwater lake belongs to the Pleiku city, which is within the Gia Lai province. This lake provides water for most of the neighboring city’s dwellers. The 230-hectare lake is full of water year round and has a depth of up to 40 metres. Interestingly, the lake is a dormant volcano that has been inactive for millions of years. Also, according to the locals, the shape of the lake looks like sparkling eyes when seen from above, so people called it “the Eyes of Pleiku”. The road leading to the lake is as beautiful as a picture with the green pine groves flanking the path. At the end of the road is a small, romantic house for visitors at the top. You can pause here for a moment and see the lake with its blue water, a pearl in the highland so clear that you can even see the fish underwater.

highlandImage source: dulichpleiku.gialai.gov.vn

SEE MAP

Ta Dung lake

Ta Dung is a 21-square-meter lake located in Dak Nong province. The blue, gem-like color of Ta Dung comes from the color of the lakewater. Coupled with the thousand trees there, the scene makes for a beautiful view and draws travelers who wish to enjoy the stunning vistas. Furthermore, there is a garden homestay on the top of the mountain near the lake. Once travelers come to Ta Dung, they can enjoy the natural beauty of not only the lake, but also the sunflowers to other wildflowers blooming around the homestay.

Video source: Gia Lộc

SEE MAP

Lak Tented Camp

Are you tired of the noise of the city and under pressure from your job? If you answered “yes”, this is the place for you.

Lak Tented Camp is a resort placed on the bank of Lak lake in Dak Lak province. It’s 50 kilometres from Buon Ma Thuot. To get to Lak Tented Camp, you must complete part of the journey by boat. It takes around 10 minutes.

highlandImage source: r.bstatic.com

At Lak Tented Camp, you can fly away from your stressful life to live with nature. The accommodation includes activities that visitors can do such as riding the bicycle around the lake, rowing a kayak, or trekking to the Bim Bip waterfall nearby.

Staying in Lak Tented Camp, your view is a magnificent scene of lake and forest. So how about enjoying a glass of wine with your love in the room next to the lake? It will be a great trip in which you can enjoy the peace that will be as complete as the lake itself.

highlandImage source: aff.bstatic.com

SEE MAP

Tuyen Lam lake

This 350-hectare lake six kilometres south of Dalat was discovered in the 1930s. The lake is famous for fresh air, mild atmosphere, and a natural landscape. It has various activities for visitors such as sightseeing, camping, fishing, trekking, and more.

Don’t worry about where you can stay on your vacation on the lake, there are many nice resorts in which to enjoy the trip. For example, there’s the 240-room Terracotta, which has 21 riverside villas and top-notch facilities covered by a pine forest. Another one is Edensee Lake Resort spa, which is designed like a little European village. So enjoy the Dalat red wine with a romantic view with your true love. How awesome it is indeed!

highlandImage source: chudu24.com

What’s more, there is a maple leaf forest on the other side of the lake, and you can rent a boat service for around VND300.000 to 500.000. This is perfect for groups of up to 15 people who want to take a boat trip.

SEE MAP

Chu B’luk Volcano Cave

Have you ever walked in a volcano? If not, this is a must-try for your holiday in the highland of Vietnam.

The Chu B’luk volcanic cave has been recognized as the longest volcano in southeast Asia with over 100 caves differing in shape and size. Each of the caves is an attraction created from lava millions of years ago. This is in Buon Choah commune in Dak Nong province. The numbers of people who come here to visit have increased more and more. The mystery and wilderness of the cave attract people who want to experience it themselves.

highlandImage source: cvdvn.files.wordpress.com

SEE MAP

Banner Image source: channel.mediacdn.vn


Is Tet Trung Thu still there ?

By: Quang Mai

“Why not? It is still there! Can’t you see all the mooncake boxes ready for gifts? Aren’t you going to the neighborhood with all the lanterns where children are asking their parents for the most beautiful festival stuff? Mooncake StallAnd surely you didn’t miss the preparations for the festival events for this weekend?” Yes, Vietnam is surely preparing to celebrate one of the most traditional and popular family holidays.


According to legend, Tet Trung Thu, Full moon Festival or Mid-autumn moon Festival is for parents to make up for lost time with their children after harvest season. Appropriately, this could be called the Children’s festival. With the harvest finished in September, parents turn their attention back to family life with an opportunity to show love and appreciation for their kid in the most charming and fanciful night of the year – the full moon night of August in lunar calendar. The festival brings the family back together, as well as to celebrate a successful harvest that has separated family members for at least 3 months.



Children’s festival


Baby with lanternIn the cities, the streets are still full of people celebrating the tradition of family bonding. During the festival, parents buy their children toys such as rattles, drums and lanterns at the lantern neighborhood. In the past glossy paper lanterns with tiny candles inside were common place as the traditional festival toy, more child-safe modern battery-run lanterns have become more popular.


Carrying beautiful lanterns while singing and parading along the streets is a tradition of Tet Trung Thu. Little boys and girls walk hand in hand along the streets and show the best of their lanterns to their friends. They may also enjoy hearing from elders the legend of Cuội, whose wife was jealous of the magical banyan tree which can cure illnesses. In a jealous rage, she desecrated the tree. The tree then unrooted itself and rose up until it finally reached the moon. Desperate to keep the tree, Cuội tried his best to pull it down but unfortunately was pulled up with the tree and left his wife lonely on the ground. Every year, during the Tet Trung Thu, children light lanterns and participate in a procession to show Cuội the way back to Earth.



Side activities during Tet Trung Thu


Lion Dance


In Vietnam, there are many traditional activities for both adults and children during the festival including lion dances performed by both trained professional groups and amateurs. Lion dance groups perform on the streets and go to houses asking for permission to perform for the people living there. If accepted by the hosts, the ‘lion’ will go in and start dancing to wish the household good luck and fortune. The Earth Lord, ‘OngDia’, dances around the dragon, urging it on. 'OngDia', who has a smiling moon-shaped face, represents the prosperity and wealth of the earth.


Gifting and tasting mooncakeswith relatives, friends and colleagues is an indispensable delicacy for this festival. Mooncakes are perfectly packaged in square box with red or gold theme to demonstrate prosperity and wealth.The cakes are filled with lotus seeds, ground beans and orange peels and have a bright egg yolk in the center to represent the moon.


Vietnamese parents tell their children fairy tales and serve mooncakes along with other special treats under the silvery moon. A favorite folklore tale is the story behind the mythical symbol, "Ca Hoa Rong" who was a carp that wanted to become a dragon. In the story, the carp worked harder and worked harder and eventually transformed itself into a dragon. Parents use this story to encourage their children to work hard so that they can become whatever they want to be.



Festive Events in 2012


In Hanoi, on September 28th and 29th, from 5:00 PM onward, West Lake Park will feature children musical shows with a special activity for kids to make mooncakes. The West Lake Water Park has also organized a special family event on September 30th.


Bao Son Paradise also organizes an outstanding performance with laser lights, fireworks with lots of well-known Hanoian co/medians.


Visit lantern neighborhood on Hàng Mã Street in Hanoi.


In Nha Trang, Vinpearl Land offers wide range of culutral activites for children such as lighting up lantern, parading around the playground and plenty of performances like dancing, singing, magical show, "nhảy sạp" (dance with bamboo poles) in 2 days 29th and 30th. From now, you can travel to Vinpearl Land and receive special mooncakes made by Vinpearl Luxury Đà Nẵng.


In HCMC, Saigon Sky Deck will display 200 lanterns in the “Lantern Galore” from September 23th – 29th


Visit lantern neighborhood on Lương Nhữ Học Street from now (please don’t take any pictures if you don’t intend to buy any products)


Not only locals, but also foreign tourists are warmly welcomed to join in this special festival. So come out and take part in the event, seeing children carrying the lanterns, eating cakes and receiving gifts of celebration during the Tet Trung Thu!



Discover Danang, Vietnam

By: Vinh Dao

Travel to Danang, Vietnam

With its rapidly developing economy, Danang Vietnam is fast becoming a modern world class city, yet manages to retain its cultural charm. High-rise buildings stand adjacent to local markets, and cyclos are still present in traffic despite the growing emergence of cars.

Established by the Champa Kingdom in the second century, the name Danang derives from the Cham word for ’opening of a large river’. Recognising its value as a major port, French imperialists began their Vietnamese campaign in Danang and the city rose in prominence. Now, it is the fifth most populated city in the country.

The surrounding area is known for its natural wonders, most notably the stretch of beaches offering pristine sand and gentle waters. In the mountains, head to Ba Na Hill, a former French hill station converted into a vacation hub. With hotels, restaurants, historical sites and children’s Fantasy Park and arcade, this idyllic jungle hideaway is perfect for the whole family.

While there, don’t miss out Ngu Hanh Son Mountain to see one of the largest stone carving villages in Vietnam. Climb to the top and you’ll be rewarded with magnificent views of Danang’s urban lightscape. When you’re ready to come down, buy some carved stones to bring home a piece of memory of this scenic city. For thrill seekers, check out Hai Van Pass with its hairpin turns and stunning views of the Truong Son Range.

Danang city is also famous for its bridges. The Dragon Bridge, which can actually breathe fire, is one of Danang’s most impressive structures and a must-see.

Take a late night walk along the Han River, relax in a coffee shop on its bank and wait until 1 am to witness the Han Bridge rotate 90 degrees to allow larger ships into the city port, definitely worth staying up for.

As Vietnam’s leading centre of urbanisation and industrial production, Danang’s economy is growing and diversifying to include everything from textiles to aviation technology. For a look at the city’s historical commercial hub, browse Han Market for an extensive array of consumer goods and souvenirs.

Danang’s international airport, the third busiest in Vietnam, was recently upgraded and expanded and receives flights from South Korea, China, Singapore, and Malaysia. The area is expected to attract, in particular, far more Chinese middle class tourists as it is the closest Vietnamese coastal location with 10 months of warm temperatures.

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