Asia Pacific Travel Team
Although they are not as stunning as the terraced rice fields in Mu Cang Chai, Hoang Su Phi and Sa Pa in the northern upland, the rice fields in the north-central province of Thanh Hoa still have their own hidden charm.
Visitors still discover the charm of the fields in the mountainous district of Ba Thuoc in Thanh Hoa. Due to the rough roads leading to Ba Thuoc, which are mostly trodden paths, this locality is little known.
Early in the morning, clouds hang above the mountains and rice fields which turn into the shining yellow color, creating a picturesque painting complete with smoke rising from small stilt houses. Visitors certainly have a feel of peace and tranquility in a cool climate.
Farmers harvest paddy (unhusked rice). Muong, Mong and Thai ethnic peoples in the upland of Thanh Hoa lead a hard life, so a bumper rice crop means a lot to them.
Two Thai women carry paddy on the back
Thai ethnic people are seen working on the terraced rice field in Lung Niem Commune, Ba Thuoc District, Thanh Hoa Province
A trodden path in the middle of the rice field in Ba Thuoc District
The first Tam Giac Mach Flower Festival will be organised in the northwest province of Ha Giang from November 13-15.
The festival will be held in districts of Dong Van, Quan Ba, Yen Minh and Meo Vac. It aims to promote the special cultural feature of the Dong Van Highlands.
The festival will include many activities about the history and origin of the Tam Giac Mach flower, the symbol of Ha Giang and the Dong Van Highlands.
Other events include a wine festival and photo exhibition.
Tam Giac Mach, or "triangle oat", is a tiny wild flower with triangular-shaped leaves with a pink colour. The "triangle oat" fields attract many visitors to Ha Giang.
The Ministry of Culture, Sports and Tourism has recognised Hoang Lien Son Pass in the northern province of Lai Chau as a national landscape site.
The 50km pass links Lai Chau and Lao Cai provinces, and is one of the longest and most magnificent in the north.
At its highest point, it is nearly 2,000 meters above sea level and covered in clouds all year round. The pass has beautiful landscapes and waterfalls.
Locals, including the ethnic Dao and Mong peoples, sell their agriculture produce at places along the pass and also run small eateries selling hot baked corn, sweet potato, eggs, and com lam (rice cooked in a bamboo cylinder).
Low-cost airline VietJet Air has announced a shocking promotion on ticket fares for domestic routes and international ones from Viet Nam to the Republic of Korea, Myanmar, Singapore and Thailand during the traditional New Year (Tet) holiday.
The special offers will range from 199,000 VND to 399,000 VND per one-way ticket on flights from now to April 22, 2016. Between 12:00 and 14:00 on September 16-18, the airline will offer 500,000 zero VND tickets for flights from January 1 to April 22, 2016.
According to Desmond Lin, Vietjet Air’s Director for Business Development, the Tet promotion aims to create favourable conditions for passengers to travel and reunite with their families during the holiday.
Tickets can be purchased on the website www.vietjetair.com, on smartphones at http://m.vietjetair.com and Facebook at www.facebook.com/vietjetvietnam.
Authorities in northern Ninh Binh Province held a workshop on September 10 to consult experts about efficient methods to mange and preserve the local Trang An Complex.
Participants discussed harmful factor identification, scientific research and public support mobilisation.
According to Ryan Rabett, an archaeologist from the UK’s Queen University, the complex draws tourists with its scenic beauty and historical values, as it has been home to proof of human adaptation to environmental changes since the prehistoric age.
Well-managed excavation and exhibition plans could further promote these values, he noted.
An expert at the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN) said besides policies harmonising conservation and development, forming a strong connection among Ninh Binh authorities, residents and tourists is necessary for the site’s protection.
Deputy Minister of Culture, Sports and Tourism Dang Thi Bich Lien urged the locality to speed up its overall management and preservation plans, invest in manpower and publish research studies on the site.
The Trang An Complex was recognised by UNESCO as a Cultural and Natural World Heritage Site in 2014.
In UNESCO's words, "Trang An is a resplendent complex of limestone karst peaks which are permeated with valleys, including submerged ones, and surrounded by steep, almost vertical cliffs," nestling on the southern shore of the Red River Delta.
Archaeological traces of human activity dating back thousands of years have been found within the complex.
The Trang An Complex boasts several nationally recognised sites like the Trang An ecotourism site and Hoa Lu, Viet Nam's capital in the 10th and 11th centuries.
The area also has many other temples, pagodas, paddy fields, villages and other sacred sites.
It is home to around 500 flora species, 73 species of birds and 41 species of other animals and has a diverse ecosystem with unique geological characteristics.
The efforts of travel firms and Ho Chi Minh City’s authorities have helped the local tourism sector maintain its growth trend despite declines in the number of tourist arrivals to Viet Nam this year.
Local travel agencies have recently launched a wide range of new services that meet tourists’ tastes and win their favour, including a city tour by bike and another tour discovering Nhieu Loc-Thi Nghe canal.
The city organised and planned to hold a number of promotion activities this year, including an Ao Dai (traditional long dress) festival in March, a southern food festival in May, a southern fruits festival in June, an international travel expo in September and an international delicious dishes festival in December.
In addition, promotion activities were also organised in Australia, Japan, the Republic of Korea, Russia, Eastern Europe and Indonesia.
Ho Chi Minh City is improving and standardising tourism service quality via a programme to select the city’s 100 interesting things, which aims to discover quality cultural values, cuisine and tourism services to be introduced to tourists.
Many tourism publications such as an English-language book on the city’s tourism and a city map. Besides, the website of the Ho Chi Minh City Department of Tourism and the call centre 1087 were established to help tourists explore the city.
Historic sites, old architecture, museums, festivals, traditional culture and flower villages are being renovated to ensure the city’s sustainable tourism growth. Ho Chi Minh City is also cooperating with eight provinces in the north to develop tourism.
Ho Chi Minh City boasts 144 natural and cultural heritages and tourist sites, and plays an important role in the country’s tourism development. It is now the largest tourism hub of the country, attracting 70% of the total tourist arrivals.
In 2014, the city welcomed 22 million tourists, including 4.4 million foreigners, earning more than VND86 trillion (US$3.9 billion) in revenue.
In the first eight months of 2015, 2.83 million foreigners visited the city, a year-on-year increase of 5%. It earned over VND60.7 trillion (US$2.76 billion) from tourism activities during the period, up 4% year-on-year.
The predicted figures for the whole year are 4.7 million and VND94.6 trillion (US$4.21 billion). Most tourists visiting the city come from the US, Japan, the Republic of Korea, China, Australia, France and Singapore.
The Tram Chim National Park's Tourism and Environment Education Centre in the Cuu Long (Mekong) Delta province of Dong Thap has launched a 12km green tour, including 4km on land, and 8km on water, for tourists to view the park by electric cars and solar-powered boats.
The electric cars and solar-powered boats run at a speed of 30km and 15km an hour, respectively, and do not cause noise. Their travel will not affect the living environment of fauna, especially birds.
Located in Tam Nong District, the 7,612-ha Tram Chim, a world Ramsar site (wetlands of international importance), has 198 bird species, including red-headed cranes listed in the World Red Book of endangered species. The park is one of eight important bird conservation areas in Viet Nam.
The park also has vast areas of cajeput trees, lotuses and water lilies which present a stunning landscape during the annual flooding season.
On September 25-27, Tram Chim will hold a festival themed "Tram Chim in the Flooding Season". The festival will include a bird contest, a photo exhibition about the national park's fauna and flora species, and a bird egg museum.
A national week of culture, sports and tourism honouring the values of terraced paddy fields and Mong culture is underway in Mu Cang Chai mountainous district in the northern province of Yen Bai from September 12-20.
During the week, there will be a music contest featuring the traditional bamboo instrument known as “khèn”, a hang-gliding competition, goat fighting, ecological and community tours, local cuisine offerings, sports events and sales of traditional costumes.
Mu Cang Chai has 500 hectares of rice terraces in La Pan Tan, Che Cu Nha and De Xu Phinh communes, cultivated by the H'mong people for centuries. The local terraces are among the 2,500 hectares recognised as national heritage sites in 2007 by the Ministry of Culture, Sports and Tourism.
Mu Cang Chai is about 1,000 metres above sea level, making it impossible to grow rice fields as they are in the delta. Thus, local residents grow their own rice on terraced fields to prevent the water from flowing downhill.
These fields lay among rugged green mountain valleys under clear blue sky, bringing to eyes imposing scenery and serving as a big attraction to photographers and trekkers.
Terraced fields in Mu Cang Chai are beautiful all year round. Visitors in March are treated to the sight of glittering ponds before locals transplant rice seedlings from April to May. After May, the hills are covered in green until the fields start to turn yellow with ripe rice in early September.
During the harvest in October, the golden rice field stands out of green forests, creating a magnificent picture in Viet Nam’s northern area.
The ninth tourism, sports and culture festival of ethnic groups will take place on September 10-12 in Bac Kan.
The ten participating provinces include Bac Kan, Phu Tho, Ha Giang, Tuyen Quang, Cao Bang, Thai Nguyen, Lang Son, Bac Giang, Quang Ninh and Vinh Phuc.
Many cultural activities will include performances of excerpts of outstanding ethnic group festivals, mass art performances, traditional ethnic clothing shows, an exhibition on cultural products and tourism and a photo exhibition on specific cultural identities in the region. Sports and tourism activities will be organized, such as football matches and seminars on tourism development in the region.
The festival aims to promote and preserve the cultural identities of ethnic minority groups in the northeast region while contributing to develop the economy and improving the material and spiritual life of local residents.
The Department of Tourism together with the Department of Transport of Ho Chi Minh City and the Saigon Boat JSC launched a boat tour on the Nhieu Loc-Thi Nghe canal in the city on September 1.
Visitors have the option to stay in splendidly decorated boats with roofs and safety equipment to float past poetic scenes along the 4.5-kilometre-long canal, which runs through Districts 1 and 3, Binh Thanh and Phu Nhuan.
Tourists are informed with stories about the foundation and development of the canal as well as the evolution history of Saigon – now known as Ho Chi Minh City.
Vacationers currently have two options. The first tour includes 10 “Phung” (Gondola) boats - each can carry 2-6 passengers together with one boat rider. Besides exploring the city’s sceneries, visitors are treated to folk music.
The second tour includes two boats – each designed with capacity of 7-20 passengers, mainly serving families or companies. Tourists can bring food and beverages on board.
To join the tour, visitors can purchase tickets at District 1’s station on Hoang Sa road, next to Thi Nghe bridge, and District 3’s station on Hoang Sa road, close to Chantaransay pagoda.
Tourists can also book tickets at tour offices, travel agencies and hotel receptions in the city with prices ranging 110,000-220,000 VND (4.9-9.9 USD) per passenger.
Vice Chairwoman of the municipal People’s Committee Nguyen Thi Hong said the city has focused on developing waterway tourism over the past two years by carrying out river tours around Can Gio district and District 9.
She added that the launch of such tours is expected to bring new exploration experiences for tourists and develop the city’s inland waterway tourism.