Vietnam Tourism: Past, Present and Future

By: Mark Gwyther

"Vietnam. It grabs you and doesn’t let you go. Once you love it, you love it forever." - Anthony Bourdain

The First Generation – Adventure Tourism

If you are reading this article in Vietnam, there is a fair chance it is in part because of Anthony Bourdain. As Vietnam slowly opened its doors to the world during the last few years of the 20th century, celebrity chef and author Anthony Bourdain epitomised the country’s first generation of tourism: adventurous Westerners with backpacks travelling halfway around the world to explore the sights, sounds and tastes of an exotic country. Only 20 years ago, Vietnam received a meagre 1.5 million international visitors. These early adventure travellers increased in numbers over the next decade and as they explored the country, their favourite places became Vietnam’s first generation of tourist locations. By 2008, arrivals nearly tripled. Of course not all were these adventure travellers: Asian businesspeople, Chinese cross-border shoppers, veterans of the war and Russian oil expats were also in the mix.

tourismImage source: st-christophers.co.uk

It was not all smooth sailing. During the last decade of the 20th century and the first decade of the 21st century, growth was not linear or even a certainty. The SARS scare of 2003 reduced the total inbound visitors nearly 8 percent from the year before, and the Thailand political unrest in 2009 affected the entire region, dropping the number of arrivals to Vietnam in 2009 by more than 10 percent from the year before.

Despite the ups and downs, businesses serving these adventure tourists multiplied as savvy Vietnamese saw the profitability of focusing on foreign visitors. A small number of foreigners fell in love with the country (or someone) and became expats, often opening a business for the adventure travellers who followed. Inside the cities, Pham Ngu Lao (Ho Chi Minh) and the French Quarter (Hanoi) became known as “the backpacker area”. Outside of these two major cities, travel was difficult in the early days and many of the first-generation locations arose because they were accessible. Phan Thiet/Mui Ne was the first spot where Highway 1A meets the ocean. Nha Trang and Danang/Hoi An had military airports converted to civilian airports which increased access.

Adventure tourism is not unique to Vietnam; it is often associated with developing countries and it often comes with problems. Ironically, adventure travellers en masse tend to destroy what they love. First-generation destinations are almost always not prepared for the growth in tourism. Adequate waste disposal, business regulations and security never quite catch up with demand. Once shops, restaurants and hotels are built along the roads, improving transportation infrastructure becomes much more difficult and costly. Many first-generation locations in Vietnam still struggle with these issues.

Vietnam will continue to be an adventure traveller’s dream in the foreseeable future. New locations such as Sapa are being discovered (and ruined) by travellers trying to get off the proverbial beaten path. Infrastructure improvements and a loosening of visa requirements will lower the learning curve, making the country more accessible to more people looking for that once-in-a-lifetime experience.

Video source: Benn TK

The Second Generation – Mass Tourism

In January of this year, Vietnam received nearly as many international visitors as all of 1998, but not because of a huge increase in adventure travellers. A recent seismic shift in the type of visitors changed the industry. To illustrate the point, only eight years ago nearly as many Americans visited Vietnam as Chinese. Now the Chinese visitors outnumber Americans by almost six to one.

tourismImage source: citypassguide.com

The second generation of tourists to Vietnam are the new Asian middle-class from nearby countries. The growth of people with disposable income in Asia is unprecedented in the history of humankind, surpassing post-World War II United States. That leads to interesting questions about where those new American middle-class consumers travelled and what they did. The answer is they overwhelmingly headed south to Mexico, a warm country with beautiful beaches, where Americans had more purchasing power, and the culture was interesting but not too exotic. By the end of the century Mexico was a top-10 international destination with 90 percent of arrivals originating from its northern neighbour. Vietnam is positioned almost exactly the same geographically to China as Mexico is to the United States. Mexico’s tourism industry is an excellent guide for understanding the past, present and future development of tourism in Vietnam.

Tourism in Mexico began with adventure travellers, just like Vietnam. As the numbers increased, Mexico learned from the problems first generation tourism hotspots like Acapulco encountered. Rather than continue to let development occur naturally, it allocated huge tracts of land for large developers in designated locations and provided incentives to build mammoth modern resorts. Mexico invested its oil revenues to develop the infrastructure surrounding these designated tourism locations. Unlike adventure travellers, the new middle-class travellers preferred resorts with walls that kept them inside and the locals outside. This successful strategy resulted in Cancun developing 26,500 hotel rooms and welcoming six million visitors a year by 2005.

Given these developments in Vietnam as well, it might lose some of the less mass-tourism-inclined visitors to less developed neighbouring countries, but many will be motivated to find less-known locations in Vietnam. An indirect benefit could be that tourism revenue may spread to some of the poorer areas of the country.

Vietnam’s second-generation of tourism is just beginning, despite tremendous growth in the last few years. The government is targeting 20 million international arrivals by the end of this decade. It is likely that nearly 30 million visitors will come to Vietnam by 2022. Destinations such as Phu Quoc, Cam Ranh and Danang are turning into Asia’s versions of Cancun and Cabos.

Video source: Hi Hai

Individually, these travellers might not spend as much money as more experienced travellers, but their sheer numbers make up for that and more. Additionally, the environmental and social impact is contained in a proportionately small area. For a developing country like Vietnam, the economic impact might be great enough to push the country towards the top end of the middle-income scale. For that to happen, the government’s proceeds from tourism should be reinvested back into programs that offer a high rate of return such as better infrastructure and education. While that may be uncertain, what is certain is that investors, developers and the Vietnamese government will continue to focus on this growing market segment.

The Third Generation – Sustainable Tourism

Once people travel internationally a few times, they become more adventurous and look for quality experiences outside the resort wall. The third-generation of tourism arises when the experience or activity is integrated into the surrounding environment. Specific cultural, geographic and historic properties are integral to the vacation. Companies engaging in third-generation tourism act in a more sustainable manner since their business model depends on the surrounding environment remaining relatively the same. This is also what industry experts mean when they discuss diversifying tourism products. Rather than focusing on a geographic market, the focus is on people from around the globe interested in some activity. Third generation tourists are searching for specific experiences and thus are willing to pay more. Price becomes less of an issue. This is the holy grail of tourism.

tourismImage source: baodulich.net.vn

How will tourism companies in Vietnam take this next step? Culturally, Vietnamese food is gaining an excellent reputation for being both tasty and healthy. Foodies all over the world might be interested in coming to Vietnam to experience their favourite dishes cooked and served authentically, especially if they know it is safe to eat. While an adventure traveller is comfortable eating on the street without guides, third-generation travellers need value added by a company that understands their needs. They pay more and expect more. Home stays and indigenous villages also offer a view into Vietnam’s unique culture. Vietnam has great potential for medical tourism as a low-cost alternative to Western medical procedures.

Vietnam’s incredible and diverse geography is another advantage companies may use to entice sophisticated travellers. Photography, adventure sports and spelunking are just some of the activities that potentially could bring vacationers from around the world.

Historical tourism will be a tougher road. Vietnam’s recent past damaged or destroyed many of its ancient sites. Although many Cham structures still stand, most could use renovation and support services to make the experience better. While war tourism is not a big market, maybe a small niche might arise for tours focused on the recent past wars. The Cu Chi Tunnels, after all, are a popular attraction.

tourismImage source: huracars.com

The evolution of tourism in Vietnam can and will happen concurrently. Third generation tourism businesses already operate quietly. Examples include the Amano’i Resort in Ninh Thuan Province which offers spa and wellness services to the super rich and famous. Eco-lodges in both the North and South try and co-exist with locals outside of the popular destinations. It will be up to individual businesses like these to move past the mega resort model since the Vietnamese government’s focus should be directed towards the low hanging fruit from the North. But Mexico’s tourism industry learned that as Americans gained more travel experience they eventually desired more than a beach and buffet. The new Asian middle-class travellers will also evolve past mass tourism, and those working in the tourism industry in Vietnam need to be prepared for the shift and get ahead of the curve.

Banner Image source: yenbai.org


Mekong Plus: Making a Difference with Bamboo Bikes

By: Keely Burkey

Vietnam and Cambodia are undoubtedly among the most beautiful countries in the world, complete with vibrant cultures and long, interesting histories. However, it’s also undoubtedly true that there’s a lot of room for development. In many of the small villages dotting the countryside, lives are often hard and fraught with anxieties about health and money. In some instances, villagers will subsist on just around .32¢ a day on average.

The Mekong Plus Association, an NGO founded in 1994 by Bernard Kervyn and two friends, Gilberte Do-Huu and Robert Eberhardt, is working to change this statistic. In its 20 years of operation, Mekong Plus has supported a number of projects in over 800 villages spread across three provinces in Vietnam and Cambodia. These projects are ambitious and cover issues as far-reaching as developing village economies, health, hygiene, agriculture and education. So far, Mekong Plus has enjoyed tremendous success, affecting over 200,000 people each year.

Of course, these initiatives do need money to do well, and Mekong Plus has gotten creative with their fundraising efforts. While people can donate on the Mekong Plus website or volunteer their time, one of the most ingenious ways Mekong Plus has been making money has been with their Bamboo Bike tours. For the past four years, this incredible organization has been putting together tours through Vietnam and Cambodia, focusing on the Mekong River Valley. By donating around $100 per day plus living expenses, bikers can tour the many projects Mekong Plus has set in motion, and work with the villagers to produce real sustainable results.

As co-founder Bernard Kervyn said, one of the best parts of these bike tours is the fact that they’re customisable. He knows that not everybody who wants to explore the Vietnamese and Cambodian countrysides will enter the Tour de France, and Mekong Plus has prepared for this accordingly. Depending on experience levels, there are four different routes bikers can sign up for: the Mekong Flowers (a 10-day journey); the Mekong Shoots option, which is best for families; the Mekong Mission, ideal for school groups; and the Mekong Trophy, designed for sporty bikers. Check out these different options here.

While all of these bike tours vary in terms of duration and length, they all provide a stunning tour of the Mekong River Valley and let participants make a difference in Mekong Plus’ developmental projects. And while one might think that participants need to be young and athletic to join a bike tour and make a difference, this is absolutely not the case. Many of the participants have been retired individuals looking for an alternative way to vacation abroad. Bernard also mentioned that a nine-month-old baby was also part of a recent expedition and fared quite well and comfortably on the bike journey. One thing is definitely clear: if you’re looking for a way to support a fantastic NGO while getting personally involved, the Bamboo Bike tours are certainly a great option.


How to Enjoy the Dry Season

By: Keely Burkey

Take a Day Trip

Explore the Cu Chi Tunnels

Not the most original idea in the world, but still worth a visit. Although these tunnels have been slightly repurposed to fit larger frames, you’ll get a closer look at the everyday living conditions of thousands of people during the American War.

How to get there: About 40km from the city centre, there are a few options: take one of the many tours offered through just about every travel agency in Pham Ngu Lao, or do it yourself by motorbike (it’ll take around two hours).

travelImage source: huracars.com

Cruise the Mekong Delta

The Region is more than 40,000 sq km, so you’ll have to make a choice or two about where to go and what to do. For a relaxing bike ride and a leisurely nap in a hammock, check Ben Tre, My Tho and An Binh Island. For small-town city life, there’s no better place than Can Tho.

How to get there: We recommend the Phuong Trang bus line or, for the scenic route, pick a river cruise with the typical Mekong Delta tour package: the floating market, coconut candy factory and set lunch.

travelImage source: baolau.com

Monkey Island (Can Gio)

An underrated spot definitely worth a day visit. About 75km from HCMC, this is doable if you’re confident on your bike; be sure to have some small change on you, as it does involve a ferry ride to Can Gio. The main point of interest here is definitely the mangrove island, which features a recreation of a Viet Minh army station and hundreds of incredibly social monkeys, just waiting to snatch your sunglasses.

How to get there: If a motorbike is not for you, there are several tour companies for about US$50 for the day.

travelImage source: citypassguide.com

Family Fun

Experience Giang Dien Waterfall

Great for a family day with the little ones. Hidden away in Dong Nai, not many people know about this hidden gem. Here you can swim (or wade with a life jacket), kayak, bike, camp, lounge and generally just enjoy life.

How to get there: About 50km from HCMC, it’ll take about an hour-and-a-half by car, two-and-a-half hours by bike. Be sure to save the directions on Google maps, as a lot of the drive is in the countryside, with limited reception.

travelImage source: visavietnam.net.vn

Have fun at a water park

HCMC has water parks aplenty. Head to Binh Duong to enjoy the sun at Dai Nam Van Hien, or slip and slide in District 11 at Dam Sen Water Park. In District 9, check The BCR Club, which features a large pool and a paintball and archery shooting range, or Suoi Tien Park, probably the most established amusement park in the city.

travelImage source: vietnamtravel.co

Give Back to the Community

OK, not strictly an outdoor activity, but admirable nonetheless. Several organisations and institutions are always looking for help; although it certainly helps if you speak Vietnamese, for many it’s not a requirement. Here are some of our top choices:

Helping Orphans Worldwide (HOW)

HOW has a Vietnam branch, Free Hugs Vietnam, that does great work with underprivileged children. They’ve been helping out the community since 2007. Check helpinghow.org.

travelImage source: directconnectaid.org

Thien Phuoc Orphanage

All the way out in District 12, gives orphaned children the love and care they need. About 60 children, most with severe disabilities, reside here, and Sister Kim, the organiser, is always looking for people to spend time with them. See their website for more information.

Animal Rescue Service

In District 2 holds two daily dog walks, and would love you to take part! With a morning walk and an afternoon walk, you can play with a pooch and get outside at the same time. Maybe you’ll even find the canine companion of your dreams.

Banner image source: enchantingtravels.com


The Ethical Dilemma of Ethnic Tourism in Vietnam

By: Molly Headley

Their faces speak to another time and place. Some ancient, lines so deeply engraved in their skin that they’ve become a map of their hard-working years. Other faces unmarked by age and geographical area, youthful and grinning as if caught mid-play. They are the H’Mong, and Ha Nhi, Cao Lan and La Chi among others, the tribes that populate the minority regions of Vietnam captured through the lens of Réhahn, a photographer who has made it his life’s work to shoot all 54 of the ethnic minorities in Vietnam.

Minority TourismImage source: vietnamtravelblog.info

Most of these tribes speak their own dialects rather than Vietnamese and do not read or write the national language. As a result of this and a complicated history with French colonialism, the American war and current discrimination, people from these tribes have historically remained disconnected from the rest of Vietnam. Minority areas have a high degree of poverty and illiteracy, yet despite their daily struggles they maintain their rich cultural identity, which attracts tourists seeking experiential travel.

Heritage = High Yield

Sapa is the hub of this type of tourism and travellers flock there at sometimes alarming rates for the otherworldly vistas, the chance to have an experience in Vietnam that feels ‘authentic’, and the Fansipan Legend cable car. The Sapa Statistical Office reports that in 2017, close to 1 million tourists visited Sapa, while the number of official residents in Sapa District comes in at just under 60,000. Ethnic minorities from six hill tribes make up around 82 percent of that number.

However, it is important to note that the vast majority of these tourists are domestic travellers who are more interested in the cable car than trekking to visit minority cultures. Visitors who do come for cultural tourism coalesce in four main villages while the other 89 hardly get any footfall at all.

According to a study by Dr. Keith Nurse of the University of the West Indies:

“Heritage tourists are one of the highest yield tourism groups.” They tend to spend 38 percent more per day than traditional travellers. In addition, they stay longer.

As a result of this profitability the minority regions around Sapa in northern Vietnam have exploded with packaged tours. Yet, a debate about ethics arose when it became apparent that the major beneficiaries of these tours are the companies, and that the minorities are often badly paid or, in the case of homestays, not paid at all.

Images Speak

At the time this article was written, Réhahn had photographed and documented 49 tribes. Réhahn’s images manage to depict not just the faces but also the spirit of the people and their heritage.

The subjects dressed in their handmade finery, their hands often stained with the deep indigo colour they use to dye their garments, gaze out from the prints as if inviting the viewer to come and get to know them, to experience a different style of life through them.

Minority TourismImage source: dulichmucangchai.com.vn

Réhahn recently opened the Precious Heritage Museum in Hoi An, which displays his photographic work as well as the traditional costumes and intangible histories of each tribe. For Réhahn the museum is a way to both pay homage to his subjects as well as to bring awareness of their cultural identity before their ancient traditions are effaced by modern society. Réhahn has been published in every major international photography and travel journal but he says that photography is not his real obsession.

“I’m not interested in talking about what type of camera I use because it is just a tool”, Réhahn said. “What brought me to this project is that I love people. I love culture. I love history and I want to understand. Photography is just a means to be able to approach [the minority tribes].”

Réhahn is not the only one to have this compulsion to connect with these rapidly disappearing cultures. Travellers come to Vietnam from all over the world to make the trek up into Sapa to see the H’Mong and the Red Dao, in particular, and to marvel at the intricate embroidery, tassels and colours of their traditional dress. Réhahn says that tourists are often looking for an experience with ‘the exotic’. When they go into a village and see people living in wooden houses, wearing beautiful costumes or silver jewellery made from French coins, they are able to witness something new.

“It is maybe a cliche”, Réhahn says, “but they seem to be happy. Happy with less. So I think tourists are trying to find some adrenaline, some type of emotion. They are trying to find out if they’re on the right path.”

Minority TourismImage source: rehahnphotographer.com

Cultural Curiosities and Human Zoos

Ethnic, cultural, minority or heritage tourism has gained in popularity since the 1970s, when tourism marketers realized that some people sought out travel experiences primarily so that they could gain a deeper comprehension of cultures dissimilar to their own. Yet, in all actuality, people have been attracted to the ‘other’ since the dawn of nationalism. In 1493, Christopher Columbus sailed back from the Americas with indigenous peoples to show them to the Spanish court. By the 1800s, ‘human zoos’ were à la mode across Europe and people were removed from their home countries to be presented in what were called “ethnographic museums”, a name that was chosen to give these exhibitions intellectual weight.

‘Native’ villages were reconstructed at World Fairs and populated with actual people whose humanity blurred into specimen. Visitors came to gape at what were then considered ‘primitive cultures’ by the thousands.

This dark history is at the source of the ethical debate about minority tourism. Phrases such as cultural appropriation and cultural voyeurism sprang from the guilt associated with this past and are often used to disparage businesses that are seen to profit from people’s inherent interest in people from different cultures.

New Hope and Tourism with Dignity

According to the South Dakota State Historical Society, a governmental organisation dedicated to preserving cultural heritage in the US, heritage tourism done well “creates jobs, new business opportunities, and strengthens local economies. It protects natural and cultural resources, which improve the quality of life for residents and travellers who participate in the services and attractions.”

This is the ideology behind Ethos - Spirit of the Community, a “social enterprise that strives to offer experiential adventures”. Ethos is located in Sapa town, which is the starting point for most ethnic tourism in Vietnam. Ethos mainly employs people from the H’Mong tribe to act as tour guides as well as offering homestays, textile and cooking classes and trekking.

Video source: ETHOS - Spirit of the Community

Phil Hoolihan, the managing director of Ethos, said that “all trips work on real conversations. I feel that any ethical experiences should be about positive exchanges. We all learn from each other. What that means is guests and local minority people discuss and converse dynamically.”

Hoolihan said that locals who are employed in standard tours are often paid a pittance and are unable to continue their traditional way of life. Full time guides have no time for rice planting, farming, embroidering or any of their other traditional daily life tasks. There is irony in the fact that in order to create income and attempt to preserve their cultural heritage these guides must completely remove themselves from their culture. Ethos’ team is bigger than necessary so that each guide can continue his/her regular way of life alongside receiving compensation for their work. The money that Ethos receives from tours is then returned to the communities by way of projects achieved in unison with the Sapa District Women’s Union that are centred around healthcare, education and literacy, human trafficking prevention and health and hygiene.

According to the National Trust for Historic Preservation in the US: “The keys to a successful cultural heritage program include five principals:
1) Collaborate

2) Find the fit between a community and tourism
3) Make sites and programs come alive
4) Focus on quality and authenticity
5) Preserve and protect resources.”

Unfortunately, the current state of tourism in Sapa is far from these ideals. Package tours guide travellers towards prefabricated ‘handicraft’ shops in which crafts traditional to the region are copied and sold at much cheaper rates. There is no comparison for a hand-stitched H’Mong blanket that may have taken one year to make, but tourists that are uneducated about the difference and the damage that buying knock-offs can have for the local population can easily fall into the trap. To make matters worse, authorities have posted signs asking tourists not to buy from the villages and to buy from the shops in Sapa town instead.

As a result, though the villages around Sapa are crowded with tourists, the locals make very little money from the influx. Hoolihan puts it this way: “When you are simply surviving, you can’t dream. Most people here are going through the motions and unless they gain specifically from tourism, they get the inconveniences—litter in the villages, cameras in their faces etc., without the positives.”

Artists like Réhahn who try to bring awareness, respect and preservation to the minority cultures, and companies like Ethos, Sapa O Chau, and Sapa Sisters whose aim is less financial than social, are scarce but there is hope in the fact that they are out there trying to shift the status quo.

“If there was no tourism [in Sapa] the culture might have disappeared already”, Réhahn said. “Villagers might have to send their kids to Sapa town and become a housekeeper in a hotel or home there. Tourism can help to build up the village rather than dispersing the people to other towns to get income.”

Ker, a young H’Mong woman who works as a guide for Ethos, talked about the opportunities properly managed tourism have brought to her, “Tourism is good for me because it helps me a lot for the future. I can have a better house and a better shower room and it has also allowed me to travel.”

Minority TourismImage source: assets.community.lomography.com

The experience for her has been mutual. She said that she enjoys working as a guide because it gives her the opportunity to learn about other people’s cultures in the same way that they learn about hers.

Both Hoolihan and Réhahn emphasise that despite the influx of tourism Sapa is still a magical place for those interested in stepping off the beaten path and experiencing genuine cultural tourism.

 For more information about the diverse minorities residing in Vietnam, download the Precious Heritage app, which includes Réhahn’s photographs, the story of each tribe and recordings of their traditional music. Or go to Ethos’ website to learn more about the history of Sapa.

Video source: Hachi8Media

Banner Image source: over-blog-kiwi.com


July 2014 B2B Newsletter

By: City Pass Guide

 

July, 2014
The City Pass Post: An Insider Look

MY JOURNEY THROUGH THE HOSPITALITY INDUSTRY


YEGA THIYAGARAJAN


This is the first in an occasional series in which we profile a successful industry identity. We find out what makes them tick, how they got to where they are now, and what they learned along the way.

We caught up with Yega Thiyagarajan, the general manager of Villa Song SaigonRead the full article that reveals the path to his success.

If you have an interesting business background and would like to participate in our series, don´t hesitate to contact us: send an email to carlos@citypassguide.com or emilio@citypassguide.com

by Rob van Driesum
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TRAVEL NEWS: INSIDE & OUT

STAY UP TO DATE WITH NEW ONLINE MARKETING TECHNIQUES

 
The latest news in the Travel and Hospitality Business. We've gathered the best articles to keep up to date with the latest Online Marketing practices in our industry:
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MOBILE USAGE CHANGES TRAVEL EXPERIENCE

PLACEABLE RESEARCH


Hoi An Entrance Fee
The rapid move to mobile research and bookings means travelers require easier ways to access content. In 2014, approximately 40% of leisure travelers and 35% of business travelers will use mobile search engines to find hotels, and this number will only grow, with 72% of travelers worldwide saying that the ability to book via mobile device is useful.

Placeable has recently conducted a survey where they surveyed 1,000 consumers to find out about how they research and find businesses before and during their travels. Read the FULL ARTICLE for key findings and nicely illustrated infographic.

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CITY PASS GUIDE DISTRIBUTION

CITY PASS GUIDE INCREASES ITS DISTRIBUTION NETWORK


Julien Robellet, Distribution Manager at City Pass Guide, talks about the quick and high increase of the distribution network.

Lee Starnes - Content Manager
Aiming to reach a larger number of readers and provide useful and meaningful information to travellers and residents, City Pass team has done a great effort on its distribution channels. READ FULL STORY

SEE THE INFOGRAPHIC DISPLAYED ON THE LEFT IN FULL SIZE

If you wish to contact Julien directly, email him at distribution@citypassguide.com





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FOOTBALL TOURNAMENT
FOR CHARITY IN HCMC

SPORT & FUN ON SAT 19TH JULY

 
CityPass Guide is a proud sponsor of the 1st Inter-Company Football Tournament, organized by BBGV. The event will bring 16 teams together to compete for the Championship title. Colleagues, families, sponsors, associates and volunteers will support and cheer on the football teams throughout the day.

Date: Saturday 19th July 2014
Time: 08:30 to 17:30
Where: RMIT University, 702 Nguyen Van Linh, District 7, HCMC
  • Fun and games for adults and children
  • All proceeds go to support local charities in Vietnam
For more info visit the Event Page
Top Three Souvenir Shops in Hanoi

If you´re interested in collaborating with City Pass Guide in the promotion of your Events/Deals, please write an email to carlos@citypassguide.com

For more Events in Vietnam, visit our Deals & Events Calendar

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Kitesurfing Repairs: A Matter of Trust

By: Michael Mahe

Kitesurfing Repairs: A Matter of Trust 

kite repairKitesurfing equipment has become safer and more durable over the last years.  Still, it’s quite possible to damage the kite or the board.  During the high season in Mui Ne, waves can reach two meters height and the wind is strong with 25 knots.   In these conditions, a kite falling into the water might get damaged by the energy from the ocean or the wind. 

When the kite crashes in the water, the fabric may stretch to the point where the seams break.  This is an easy repair, and usually this is done with a old-fashioned sewing machine and special repair tape, called rip-stop.   A kite repaired by a professional, will fly like new.

Sometimes, the “bladder” (inner tube) which holds the air to stabilize the kite, may have problems.   Sometimes bladders leak air due to a small puncture.  This can be fixed with repair tape, not unlike fixing a flat tire on the bicycle.

Other times, the bladder might have more damage, it can even explode when it’s pumped to hard.   There, the only kitesurfsolution is to replace the bladder, and good kite-repair shops will have bladders in many sizes in stock.

The lines and the bar which is used to steer the kite, can also get damaged.  Lines can stretch from, for example, jumping, or simply due to the power of the wind, or they even can break.  Experienced kite-repairers are able to shorten stretched lines, but broken lines have to be replaced.  Other parts of the equipment, like the bar or the “pulleys” (which is the attachment between the lines and the kite) may break, in particular given the salty water in Mui Ne.   In those cases, it’s best to just replace the damaged equipment.

Kiteboards are rarely broken.  In Mui Ne, there are no stones or corals which present a danger for the boards.  The only exception may be “surfboards”, which may break due to high jumps.  Depending on the amount of damage, surfboards may not be suitable for repair.

kite repairIn Mui Ne, there are a number of specialized kite repair shops.  One of the more established kite-repairers is Frenchman Christian Bouillon who works at the Kitesurf Ananda Shop.  Christian is probably the most experienced in this profession: in his his native France a professional sailmaker.  There are also a number of local kitesurfers who have the necessary skills to repair kites.  They usually work at any of the many kiteschools during the day.  It turns out that most damage is done by novices of kitesurfing, and kiteschools are probably the biggest customer of any kite repair shop.

The best prevention for any damage that may occur is to take good care of the equipment (rinse the bar and lines and the board with fresh water after a kite session, for example), and not to leave the kite on the beach in the wind and sun during the entire day, and to be be careful in high waves.

Writer: Michael Mahe

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