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Topas Ecolodge named on Nat Geo list

Việt Nam’s Topas Ecolodge
HÀ NỘI — National Geographic has named Việt Nam’s Topas Ecolodge on its list of unique lodges around the world.
It is the first resort from Việt Nam and the fifth resort in Asia to be included in the list, including Sukau Rainforest Lodge in Malaysia and Three Camel Lodge in Mongolia.

Earlier, National Geographic also named Topas Ecolodge top of its list of “21 places to stay if you care about the planet”. According to National Geographic, these lodges have unique designs and architecture with creative solutions and wonderful food. They are located in spectacular areas.

High on a hilltop outside Sa Pa in north Việt Nam, Topas Ecolodge is an amazing mountain hideaway. 
As one of the longest-running and most philanthropic lodges in the region, Topas Ecolodge has nurtured strong relationships with the local hill tribes and with each passing year, the lodge conceives new ways to give back to these communities that are so integral to their operation. — VNS

Chủ Nhật, 13 tháng 5, 2018

Việt Nam’s pirate island develops community tourism

Tiên Hải is the only island commune in Hà Tiên District, southern province of Kiên Giang. The commune also has another name: Hải Tặc (Pirates) Archipelago. It boasts 16 islands and total area of 283ha. In the past few years, the island commune has developed community tourism models, making contributions to socio-economic development for Hà Tiên District.
In December 2017, the Kiên Giang People’s Committee recognised the archipelago as a local tourism site.
Tourists coming to Hà Tiên District are always curious of Hải Tặc archipelago, a famed place in the southwest sea of the country. According to local historic documents, in 17th century, Mạc Thiên Tích, a leader of the region, many times ordered his troops to fight against local pirates, who lived in the area. The archipelago name Hải Tặc originated from that time.

“Besides its mysterious name, Tiên Hải island commune has great potential for developing tourism thanks to its primitive landscapes, fresh and cool atmosphere,” said Tăng Hồng Phước, deputy director of Hà Tiên Town’s Centre for Trade and Tourism Promotion.
In order to utilise the tourism potential, in 2014 the local authorities implemented a community tourism project for the period 2014-2020.
The commune consists of 16 large and small islands, locating 20km from Hà Tiên Town and 40km from Phú Quốc Island.
The commune hosts 500 families with 2,000 people, who live mainly in Hòn Tre Lớn, Hòn Giang, Hòn Đước and Hòn Ụ.
The biggest among the islands is Hòn Tre Lớn (also know as Hòn Đốc), which is an administration and socio-economic centre for the Tiên Hải island commune.
All people and agencies in the commune are informed about the project and encouraged to join in voluntarily.
Hòn Tre Village was chosen as a trial model with 17 families, who meet the requirements, to join the community tourism project.
Eleven households among them offer food and accommodation services, four households have acted as guides to take visitors to islands and fishing; and two households keep sea fish for visitors to understand raising local fish. Two companies have been specialised in transporting tourists to and from the mainland.
“Over the last three years, the project has brought along active results,” said Phước, “The number of guests coming every year has significantly increased and is now up to 70,000 tourists per year.”
Visitor Nguyễn Thị Hồng Phượng from Rạch Giá City, northern province of Kiên Giang said she spent two vacations in the area.
“What I like most when stay at the home of locals in Tiên Hải is that I can live near them, see their routines and imagine as if I were a local,” she said.
However, the area is still lack of fresh water and electricity.
“By 2020, the national electricity system will reach the islands,” Phước said, “Tourism service will be better”.
“Its name “Hải Tặc” (Pirates) is scary but actually the islands are beautiful in peace and many romantic beaches with white sand and blue water run long,” Phượng said.

Scary story of pirates
Hai Việt, an old resident on Hòn Tre Vinh Island recalled his grandfather’s story on the pirates.
“There was once a pirate group named Cánh Buồm Đen (Black Sail) on this island,” he said, “They mostly robbed trading ships passing Hà Tiên – Rạch Giá Bay.
“On the pirates’ ship hung a mop, meaning sweeping off all ships passing by.
“The gang controlled a big sea area of the Gulf of Thailand. Up to now, there are still rumours of treasure hidden by the pirates somewhere on this archipelago,” he said.
Many locals still believe there is treasure hidden on Hòn Đốc and scattering around the archipelago.
The only ancient mark on the island is a pagoda named Sơn Hòa Tự.
It is said that once there was a head of a pirate gang named Nguyễn Thanh Vân. Rumours say he was strong, was a brilliant swimmer and could dive as well as an otter, rebellious but at the same time, had a kind heart.
Once his gang travelled to Thailand, he fell in love with a beautiful woman and took her to Việt Nam. Since then, he quit the pirate life. They had a daughter called Nguyễn Thị Gái, who was then respected by locals as she built the only pagoda on the islands.
The Sơn Hòa Tự Pagoda remains up to now as an evidence of rumours on local pirates, a special attraction for tourists to the pristine islands. — VNS


Cu Lao Cham (Cham Islands)

Cu Lao Cham (Cham Islands)

Location: Cu Lao Cham (Cham Islands) is situated in Tan Hiep Commune, Hoi An City, Quang Nam Province, about 20 kilometers off the Cua Dai coast.
Characteristics: It consists of eight islets set as an arc, very close together: Hon Lao, Hon Kho Me, Hon Kho Con, Hon Tai, Hon Dai, Hon La, Hon Mo and Hon Ong, serve as a protective barrier for the ancient town. The area is renowned for its beauty, clean and vast biodiversity with pristine white-sand beaches and crystal-clear water.
According to archaeologists, Cu Lao Cham first settled there 3,000 years ago and established business contacts with external countries some 1,000 years ago. The islands was more well-known when Hoi An - one of the most ancient cities of Southeast Asia has been recognized as a World Cultural Heritage Site by UNESCO in 1999; the Cu Lao Cham Natural Reserve was set up in 2003 and the national sea reserve was  found here in 2004 - the second island reserves in Viet Nam.

The first was the Mun Islet reserve in Khanh Hoa Province - established in 2001. However, the green Cu Lao Cham seem to really awake as suddenly receive hundreds of visitors every day after UNESCO recognized the islands as a global biosphere reserve in 2009.

The reserve includes 165 hectares of coral reefs and 500 hectares of underwater plant life. They are also home to 947 aquatic species. The islands are also considered as one of the few places in Viet Nam that still has a large area of vegetation and a wide range of rare and endangered animals. The protection of the environment and the natural habitat of rare and precious species of fauna and flora here are paid more and more special attentions.
Cu Lao Cham has still preserved many architectural constructions which date back to the 18th - 20th century such as the shrine dedicated to Than Yen Sao, built in 1843 at Bai Huong and Hai Tang Pagoda, built in 1753 on the western hillside of Hon Lao.

◊ Activities for Visitors
Various tourist activities are offered to meet almost all demands of tourists. Visitors can relax, go hunting, fishing even fishing octopuses... Visitors also have chances to view the sea swallows' nests clinging to the towering cliff. Especially, tourists can admire the beauty of coral by diving. The best season for diving is the summer (from June to the end of August) when sun light is strongest. Cu Lao Cham is popular for its seafood and delicacies (octopuses, lobsters, fish's fin, abalone, kaki, cholonia's eggs, birds' nests...) and fascinating souvenirs (pearls, conches, tortoise-shells...).

◊ How To Get There
From Cua Dai coast, after about 20 minutes by hydrofoil or 25 to 30 minutes by high-speed canoe or if someone want to enjoy the enormous of the beautiful view from tourist boat, it will take about 60 to 90 minutes depend on the weather, travelers will reach Cu Lao Cham, where possess abundant in tourism potential.
Thứ Sáu, 11 tháng 5, 2018

Hoi An Ancient Town

Hoi An Ancient Town

Location: Hoi An City, Quang Nam Province, 30km south of Da Nang City along the Thu Bon River.
Characteristics: Hoi An Ancient Town is an exceptionally well-preserved example of a traditional trading port in Southeast Asia between the 16th and 17th centuries. It is also an outstanding material manifestation of the fusion of cultures over time, considered as a living museum of architecture and urban lifestyle.
Hoi An used to be known on the international market with many different names such as Lam Ap, Faifo, Hoai Pho and Hoi An.

 ◊ Outstanding Universal Values
After many centuries, Hoi An is still respectful of its traditions, folk festivals, beliefs and of its sophisticated culinary art. Set in a quiet environment, Hoi An is surrounded by peaceful villages that have crafts such as carpentry, bronze making, ceramic... This little port town is in an incredible state of preservation.

◊ Relatively Intact Ancient Architecture
It offers some of the most densely-concentrated sights in Viet Nam with more than a thousand architectural relic sites like its old streets bordered with ancient houses and assembly halls, its pagodas, temples, ancient wells and tombs…
Japanese Cover Bridge
The architecture of Hoi An is characterised by a harmonious blend of Vietnamese, Chinese and Japanese influences. The ancient architecture shown most clearly in the Ancient Town that located in Minh An Ward. It covers about 2 square kilometres and almost of all famous relics in Hoi An are gathered here. The streets are very short and narrow, having a winding, crossing as the chessboard style. The topography of the ancient town tilted gradually from north to south. The buildings in the old town are built mostly with traditional materials such as: brick, wood and no more than two floors. The traces of time is able to find not only on the architectural design of each building but also everywhere like: on the yin-yang roof tiles covered with moss and plants; the old gray mold walls; the pictures carved on a strange animal, or describing a old story… Having inherited a multi-cultural architecture so varied and sophisticated, Hoi An must have attracted numerous and talented workers in carpentry, ceramics, and woodcarving from China, Japan and other regions of Viet Nam.

◊ Unique and Diversified Culture
For centuries, Hoi An had developed into a melting pot of various nationalities who came to the area, bringing along their own cultures. Accordingly, Hoi An features the co-existence of indigenous customs and habits and those imported by foreign settlers.

There are animist cults, of the Genie-Whale and worship of deities of natural phenomena (such as rain, wind, thunder), but also the worship of Holy Protectors like Thien Hau, Quan Cong, Bao Sinh Dai De, Avalokitesvara, especially among the Chinese community. They hold regular festivals or cultural and religious activities on the occasion of Tet Nguyen Tieu (the 16th day of the 1st lunar month), Thanh Minh (3rd lunar month), Doan Ngo (the 5th day of the 5th lunar month), Trung Thu (the 15th day of the 8thlunar month), Trung Cuu (the 9th day of the 9th lunar month), and Ha Nguyen (the 15th day of the 10thlunar month).

The social and cultural diversity adds up to the uniqueness of Hoi An’s inhabitants. Rich in traditions and early exposed to the outside world, the Hoi An people feature a unique cultural identity, which has been well preserved from generation to generation. Lives of people who stay here incline to be interior with subtle quiet. In the mind of the natives of Hoi An, this town constitutes a large ancient home that shelters a big family of many descendants including hospitable dwellers, friendly hosts and hostesses, kind-hearted women, obedient children and so on. They together form a harmonious community who has lived peacefully side by side through successive generations.

Coming to Hoi An, visitors will immediately feel the hospitality and friendship the locals extend to them. One thing that has withstood the test of time, one thing that the Hoi An people today can be proud of and therefore, make every efforts to preserve is their popular ho (chants) and age-old cultural festivals. Among them, the "Nights of Hoi An" is held on the 1st and 14th nights of every lunar month. Visitors can immerse themselves in a festive atmosphere imbued with the traditional identities of Hoi An.

◊ Inspirational Cuisine
Abundant and delicious cuisine is also Hoi An’s attractiveness. Must-taste specialties in the ancient town include mi quang (Quang Nam-styled noodles), cao lau (a traditional food considered by Quang Nam people as a special symbol of Hoi An), com ga (chicken rice), hoanh thanh (hot shrimp dumplings), banh beo (rice cake with shrimp powder)…

With its outstanding values, at the end of 1999, Hoi An Ancient Town has been recognized by UNESCO as a World Cultural Heritage Site.

◊ Must-see Attractions
Exploring this UNESCO World Heritage Site, visitors can contemplate sightseeing places:

· Japanese Covered Bridge, Cam Pho  Communal House,  Minh Huong  Communal House, House of Tuy Tien Duong, Quan Cong Temple.
· Museums: History and Culture, Trade Ceramics, Sa Huynh Culture, Folk Culture.
· Old houses: Quan Thang, Duc An, Phung Hung, Tran Family's Chapel, Tan Ky.
· Assembly Halls: Trieu Chau, Quang Dong, Phuc   Kien.
· Handicraft workshop and traditional arts performance, XQ Hoi An.
· Ancient tombs of Japanese traders: Mr Gu Sokukun, Mr Tani Yajirobei, Mr Banjiro.

They can also visit streets in the ancient town, enjoy artistic activities, folk games, night market.

In addition, for those who love sea, sun and sand, Hoi An offers two lovely beaches of Cua Dai and An Bang, which located five kilometres away from the town centre.