Join us in Hoian

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Following our dream to be present in the main tourist spots in Vietnam, since last month we have one more office in Hoian. As usual, one of our goals will be to connect with local cyclists, both locals and foreigners, both expats and tourists, and help people discover the wonderful potential of Hoian and Danang region. It is very common to see groups of tourists with their bikes along the rice fields or in the ancient town of Hoian, a perfect place for bikes. But we want to go a bit further and discover some of the secret gems for cycling in the area. We like discovering the countryside, but also the cultural treasures, and they are a lot in the area. For instance, yesterday, in the second Sunday Bike Ride in Hoian, we had a wonderful ride to Tra Que Herb Village, where after an interesting ride you can experiment being a farmer, preparing rice paper or cooking in the traditional style from the center. From Hoian you can easily pedal to My Son Heritage site, where you can discvoer some ancient Cham culture structures that survived through the centuries, go to Lang Co bay and Hue or go further South to Nha Trang.

hoian addThe office will also be a starting point for cycling tours in the region, one more possibility of exploring the center after the one in Hue. Those who need to rent bikes will be able to enjoy our GT Avalanche, with 27,5 inches wheels, or the bigger Karakorum elite with 29 inches wheels. Both are very comfortable off road and feel very light when you are on the road.  And because we value safety more than anything, the helmets we offer are not just ok helmets, but very good Giro Hex with a market price over 100 USD.

There is no excuse to miss the chance to visit Hoian with a new perspective from the saddle! Don’t miss our office in 162/22b Ly Thuong Kiet, Hoi An (0974131032).

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3 mountain passes you can’t miss in Vietnam

Author: Tuabiht Rellahcs
Author: Tuabiht Rellahcs

Hai Van: the star

Probably the most popular mountain pass in Vietnam, the bike ride through the “clouds ocean pass” gathers almost all the elements that make cycling in Vietnam so enjoyable. The route from Hoi An to Hue (or vice-versa) has a beautiful coast road, a charming winding road uphill (but there is always a downhill at the end), a little bit of challenge for those who like climbing but nothing unfeasible if you are used to riding a bike. And it has something no other pass has, two different climates, as the weather changes a lot if you are on the northern or the southern part of the pass. Towards the south, there are only two seasons, the rainy and the dry, towards the north, there are three or four (depending on who you ask), but it never gets extremely cold during the winter. If you choose to go from Hoi An to Hue (South to North) you will have time to warm up during 50 gentle kilometers following the coast, passing by the central city of Danang, pedaling along the bay where both French and American military ships first arrived, and be prepared for the start of the climb. It is the longest and highest mountain pass in the famous road number 1 (which is mostly flat) with a length of 21km. From its summit (496m above sea level)  you will have stunning views of the coast in Da Nang and Thua Thien Province.

O Quy Ho: the longest

If you want big mountains in Vietnam, you should go to the north. And if you are not scared by big challenges, you can try the O Quy Ho pass between the provinces of Lao Cai and Lai Chau. People know it as the  “cloudy mountain pass” because its top is always cloudy, but its real name is much more poetic: the cry of the phoenix bird. According to the legend, in those mountains there was a couple of lovers who couldn’t marry. The girl became sick because of this and died, but turned into a phoenix bird which still cries in the forrest every night. True or not, this breathtaking and tough road that stands over 2,000 meters above the sea level goes through the Hoang Lien mountains, where stands the majestic Fan Si Pan, the highest mountain in Indochina. Only for expert cyclists.

P1050589Ma Pi Leng: the king

It is not the longest, it is not the highest, it is not the most popular, but Ma Pi Len (over 1,500 meters over sea level), in the northern province of Ha Giang, is probably the most legendary mountain pass in Vietnam. What makes it so special is not the toughness (yes, hard climb, but never too steep) but its beautiful, surreal cliff road at the top, surrounded by peaks that seem to pierce the sky. It was built during the sixties, mainly by workers from the Hmong ethnic minority. You will see dozens of members of this ethnic group as you go through this winding road. It is when you reach the top that the fun starts, you will feel like you are flying in the descent towards Meo Vac.  If you are fit, adventurous, you really like mountains and you can only do a short and different ride in Vietnam, go north and cycle those mountains, cross the Ma Pi Leng and feel like you are the king of the world. Usually it is cloudy, which makes it charming and mysterious, but if you get a sunny day, the views might even be better.

 

Hoi An, the charm city

The small town of Hoi An is settled in the center of Vietnam, a fisherman‘s village that will transport us to a relaxed and ancient world.

Its Japanese, Chinese and French past has left a huge legacy, making Hoi An a World Heritage city under UNESCO and has been recognized by tourists and locals many times as the most beautiful city in the country. The city center is very well preserved as the war attacks were mostly in the city of Hue, and the city laws forbade the traffic of cars in the downtown streets, making it a pleasure to ride our bikes around Hoi An.

Along the Thu Bon river we will find many bridges, but there is no doubt that the symbol of the city is of Japanese origins due to its commercial past, so riding through this magical place on this tour is an unavoidable opportunity. Its beaches are world famous, with really clear waters and white sand shores. We will have the opportunity to take a rest in this paradise and regain the necessary energy to continue biking.

In our tour along the city we will stop at the Quang Dong Assembly Hall, a historical building with an outstanding architectural heritage. And during our ride we will need to do several stops to vistit not only the markets, but the multitude of handicraft shops in the city where we can buy silk clothes, paintings or the famous and colorful lanterns.

Ride with us to this piece of history, which is probably the most well-preserved city in the country, and relax by biking its magical streets!

Hoi An, the charm city
Hoi An, the charm city

Early morning in Hoi An

Leaving the guest house situated on Nguyen Hue Street, I went to the market in tranquil Hoi An in the early morning.

It was drizzling; the streets were not crowded. Some pupils were going to school; some people were sitting drinking coffee at the corner of Phan Chau Trinh and Nguyen Hue Streets. From time to time I saw a motorcyclist carrying goods to the market.

Hardly any shops were open. On the pavement of Nguyen Hue Street near the market, some people were displaying their goods, such as vegetables, dry green bean cakes, muffins (specialties of the Ancient Town), and coconut candy.

Also on the pavement, a woman was displaying her ceramic items, ready to welcome customers. Dang Thi Thong, 41 years old, is the mother of 11 and has been stuck on the same spot for the last 18 years. She sells various ceramic items for souvenirs.

Her products were bought from Hanh Ha Ceramics Village, about a 5-7-minute motorbike ride from the center of Hoi An.

About 500 years ago, that village was at its peak of prosperity, well-known for its ceramic and terracotta products sold throughout Central Vietnam. The trade disappeared into obscurity but in the past 20 years, the ceramic craft has been restored thanks to the tourist boom.

Mrs. Thong said: “This is a traditional craft, so the authorities in Hoi An allow the goods to be sold on the pavements. Five other sellers are with me. Each of us has to pay a tax of only VND100,000 per month.”

It seems that Hoi An in the early morning belongs to hard-working people. Mr. Nguyen Duong, 82, has to carry water in town, a job he’s been doing for two decades; for every two buckets of water he gets VND5,000 and tips.

Although struggling to survive Mr. Duong’s family isn’t classed as poor. According to the government’s stipulations on the standards of urban poor households from 2011 to 2015, a poor household means the one whose average income per family member must be under VND500,000 a month.

Mr. Duong’s family is actually classed at “trading in transport” (his son with a mental illness carries water too), and can earn more than VND1 million a month. It is utterly pitiful for old men like him to be working at all.

Mr. Duong said that he gets the water from the Ba Le Well. The water from Ba Le Well is specially used for rice noodles, cao lau noodles, and making coffee.

On the way to Chua Cau (Japanese Bridge) from Tran Phu Street, many ancient houses near the Market are seen with bougainvillias stretching out towards the street.

On Tran Phu Street, besides stores with souvenirs and fabric there are a number of bistros and eateries. Trung Bac bistro, which is rather well-known, used to sell only cao lau, but now it has branched out to wonton soup, dumplings, meat pies, Vietnamese pancakes, chicken rice, even pizza and spaghetti for the tourists.

Cao Lau is a typical foodstuff of Hoi An. It consists of long yellow noodles, roast pork, vegetables, and some bouillon. The noodles are made from rice mixed with Ba Le water and ash of cajuputs from the Cham isle. The mixture must be steeped, ground, pressed, boiled, kneaded, rolled, steamed, and finally cut into strands. It is meticulous and difficult to make but worth the effort for a fabulous end result.

Lastly, I came across Mrs. Ngo Thi Luyen’s plain rice flans and wrapping cakes. The flan is made from rice flour with shrimp and meat stuffing; the wrapping cake consists of only meat stuffing wrapped in banana leaves. Her cakes were not expensive either –  a real bargain at VND5,000 each explaining why her profit target of VND100,000 is so low but she was happy. In fact all these people put in a hard shift for little gain but still smiling and those people made for an eventful morning in Hoi An. By Ngoc Tran in Hoi An

Eighty year old Nguyen Duong of Hoi An is still trading his labor for a living – Photo: Ngoc Tran

Step back in time at Hoi An Town

 

 

Tourists or locals keen to admire landscapes and Vietnam of the past, are most likely to head to Hoi An. There the passion of discovering the natural beauty of the nation is easily done with the romantic and unique features of the world heritage ancient town.

The diversity of a complex of relics, pristine landscapes of old streets, river banks, religious, civil and folk architectural works in an urban area by Thu Bon River, near Dai Beach, combined with the town’s history and natural conditions make Hoi An such an attractive spot.

Coming to Hoi An, strolling along Hoai River or walking amidst the ancient town, tourists may not realize it but the town used to be a busy trading center in the 17th and 18th centuries.

Hoi An was the cradle of Sa Huynh Civilization and home to cultural relics of My Son, Tra Kieu and Cu Lao Cham cultures.

Highlights of the old town include various relics and diverse architecture and designs and chilling under the shade of malabar almond trees.

Tourists will be able to appreciate the vestiges of time and the lull of space on ancient homes with green moss, old trees and bas reliefs. There are many old pagodas worth a visit such as Cau, Long Tuyen, Phu Kien or Ba Mu.

Amidst the town are also many old communal houses, ancient wells and traditional long houses of ethnic people.

Architecture in Hoi An is a harmonious combination of Vietnam, China and Japan, creating an unique look in this area. Moreover, Hoi An is also blessed with a fresh and cool climate.

On Thursday, Hoi An is more upbeat with outdoor folk artistic performances on full-moon nights. Lingering under the moonlight with colorful lights of lanterns, hanging around the old streets and listening to folk songs of the past and joining folk games, tourists will have some amazing and unforgettable moments. By Nguyen Boi Nhien in Hoi An

Tourists stroll along Hoi An ancient town

An ancient view in Hoi An – Photos: Dinh Quat

 

 

Cua Dai treasure is heaven on earth

 

The best thing about Vietnam is its beaches which are mostly untouched unlike its Thai rivals which are swamped by tourists on a daily basis.

I hope and pray that although the nation does have a healthy income from tourism, let’s hope the visitors invasion doesn’t ruin our natural beauty.

I have been to literally dozens of beaches in Vietnam but my favorite has to be Cua Dai.

Located 10 km from Danang City in Cam An Ward, Quang Nam Province, it is the perfect place to enjoy the sea, sand and surf and or course the seafood.

The beach goes on and on for about 3 or 4 km has water sporting activities of scuba diving, snorkeling and the likes due to the gorgeous bluey-green sea and the gorgeous white sand palm trees swaying to and fro in the gentle sea breeze. At times like this I feel all my stresses from working hard all week and my usual petty complaints about the crazy and noisy city of Saigon all washed away as I close my eyes and dream of owning my own house on the beach.

However, this time I was so lazy that I gave all the watersports a miss and just relaxed with my girlfriend, listened to music, had a few drinks and soaked up some sun. The beach has sand littered with coral reef pieces and little shells which I love because they massage your feet which are sore from all the walking we do and we must have covered quite a few kms in Cua Dai. It was a weekend for romance.

When the sun went down we enjoyed a delicious seafood meal and a few drinks before it was time for bonfires and partying. We went along for a few hours but decided to enjoy a romantic stroll along the quieter parts of the beach as we gazed into each other’s eyes and everything about the world seem just perfect.

However, those guys at the barbecue must have been drinking and dancing until daybreak and by the time we arrived early in the morning my newfound friends were sleeping on the beach looking a little worse for wear. I was going to leave them but thought that was cruel and woke them up before they went home as red as a lobster.

We decided to walk along the beach before we spotted early morning droves of fishermen heading out from the small fishing villages near the beach to catch the seafood which will become tourists’ meals later that day.

And of course as well as being located close to Danang and the delights it has to offer Cua Dai it is also close to Hoi An Ancient Town.

There are a number of famous resorts on the beach and all of them have private beach areas for guests only. Can’t wait until the next time we head to Cua Dai. By James Phan in Quang Nam

The gorgeous Cua Dai beach located 10km from Danang City – Photo: James Phan

 

Silk village – treasure of Hoi An

 

If you are fortunate enough to take in the splendor that is Hoi An ancient town in Quang Nam Province should not miss a new tour to Lang Lua (silk village) by QuangNamSilk Company at 28 Nguyen Tat Thanh Street.

From an idea of an original Quang Nam people who has long time attached to silkworm and mulberry tree in Duy Xuyen Commune of Dai Loc District, the village was born to restore the culture of weaving fabric career and to provide tourists more knowledge on the history of this traditional career. Hoi An in the past was a port shipping silk to the world. Local people take pride of the place where the silk road on the sea took shape.

The village is where tourists can get a glimpse into the making process of Quang Nam’s traditional silk and Cham people’s brocade cloths. Tourists to the venue can study 40 kinds of mulberry, ancient styles of looms and silkworm breeds, among others.

“The Silk Village is where we preserve a precious collection of related items to the weaving fabric career and a collection of ruong houses (traditional houses in Quang Nam architectural styles). Additionally, we also make Quang Nam silks here,”  said Le Thai Vu, director of QuangNamSilk Company.

“For over ten years, I have put effort on collecting ruong houses nationwide, hundreds of years old mulberry kinds and ancient looms to equip for the village,” Vu added.

Tourists can also admire a collection of old costumes by 54 ethnic minority people in Vietnam displayed in ancient houses there. Those who wish to have a tailored costume or eat traditional Quang Nam food like cao lau (a soup made with noodles, pork and greens), mi Quang (noodles in Quang Nam style) and com nieu (rice cooked in earthenware pot) can ask artisans at the village.

Silk Village is located on the road leading to Hoi An ancient town. This tourist and cultural site is 30km away from Danang downtown to the Road 607. Tourists can take a 30-minute bus which costs them VND20,000 (around US$1) to get to the site. For further information, contact the QuangNamsilk at 28 Nguyen Tat Thanh Street, Tan An Ward, Hoi An City, Quang Nam Province, tel: (84-510) 392 1144. By An Huy in Quang Nam

Tourists inspect an artisan weaving fabric at Silk Village in Quang Nam Province – Photo: An Huy

 

Craft village spins tales of centuries-old silk trade

 

Nguyen Dang Quoc Te feeds his silkworms while explaining the intricacies of silk production at the Hoi An-based Silk Village.

The silk trade, which began in the central city during the 17th century when Hoi An was a busy trading port, is now a drawcard for local and foreign tourists.

The village, which is 30km south of Da Nang City and covers 2ha, is a place where visitors can get an insight into silk production by exploring the mulberry gardens and breeding houses where silk worms are cultivated. Visitors will also see workers reeling silk yarn and weaving silk products.

“I’ve been working in the trade since I was a child and the job is my family’s main source of income,” says Te. “Now I have chance to promote the trade by introducing its tricks to the public.”

The 28-year-old is in charge of feeding silkworms with mulberry leaves in the silk village.

“Tourists are often scared of silkworms at the first sight, but they soon find the worms so interesting, especially when feeding the insect with mulberry leaves on a flat basket,” he said.

Each silkworm will take about 21 days to spin a cocoon.

Pham Nguyen Khoi, a visitor, said he came to the village as he wanted to find out more about silk production.

“It’s the first time I saw silkworms eating mulberry leaves. I can not image that silk is produced by a natural process,” Khoi said.

At another part of the village, workers from Ma Chau Village – the only silk trade village in Hoi An – carry out other parts of the silk production process.

Nguyen Que and Le Thi Phuong have to boil the yellow cocoons and wind silk fibre onto rolls.

“It’s not easy and takes time. We have to keep the water at 90oC and then dry the silk under the sun for days,” Que said.

“We have been struggling with this work for years because it’s hard to make a substantial profit. Now we are hoping to boost the trade by introducing the craft to tourists.

“Tourists are invited to practise the trade in the village. They are instructed by craftsmen and women in weaving silk.”

Van Ba Dung, a silk worker from Duy Xuyen District, guides tourists on how to use a wooden loom that was used by weavers in the 17th century.

“Our village craftsmen specialise in making silk in the traditional way, even though these techniques were almost lost in the early 1990s. Now we have a chance to promote the trade as a tourism activity,” Dung said.

Tourists are offered the chance to also harvest mulberry leaves in bamboo baskets before feeding the leaves to the silkworms, as well as joining crafts people in reeling silk and weaving silk items.

Dan Thi Tinh, 63, a Cham ethnic woman from Phan Rang city, was invited to work at the village.

“The trade has a long history as silk production in Hoi An was brought by the ethnic Cham people so I also want to show tourists the history of the trade in Hoi An,” Tinh said.

“It’s also an insight into traditional techniques as hand-made silk production can only be seen in the village now.”

Nguyen Thi Hong Thuy, a visitor from Ha Nam Province, said she found her visit useful and informative.

“I now have a complete understanding of the silk trade in Hoi An City. I saw farmers get mulberry leaves from the garden and feed the silkworms and can see it’s a long and difficult process to make silk,” Thuy said.

“I’m not very skilful, and I’m clumsy with the loom which has pedals to make the wheel spin. I did a good job with reeling the silk because it’s easier.”

The silk village is also a type of museum which features a collection of nha ruong (houses built with wooden beams and pillars) and old tools used in the craft.

Manager of the Silk Village Le The Vu, says the village is a very new destination for tourists in Hoi An.

“It will be a centre introducing the old craft to tourists,” Vu said.

“We also have a cuisine centre and home-stay service for tourists when they want to make a longer visit, not only to the village, but around Hoi An Town.”

The village is just a 15-minute walk from Hoi An’s old quarter and close to a bus station that links Hoi An and Da Nang City. — VNS by Hoai Nam

Captivating: An old house in the Silk Village in Hoi An. The village has become a new draw for tourists.

Dream weaver: A woman weaves silk with a handmade loom.

Squirmy: Nguyen Dang Quoc Te feeds silkworms with mulberry leaves. — VNS Photos Cong Thanh

 

Russian tourists to flock to Da Nang on new charter flights

Tourism officials in central Vietnam said a large number of Russian visitors will soon fly to the city to assess its tourism potentials via a temporary charter flight program.

The visitors from major Russian cities like Novosibirks, Irkutsk and Krasnoyarsk will visit Da Nang and the nearby UNESCO heritage site of Hoi An on May 12, 15 and 16.

They will come on three charter flights, each to carry between 200-300 passengers.

Besides tourists, the flights will bring Russian tour operators and press agencies.

The charter flights are expected to continue until October, with 54 flights and around 12,000 visitors.

A non-stop air route between Russia and Da Nang can be opened if the charter flights reveal further opportunities for profit.

Russia is not a major Vietnamese tourism customer, though in recent years Russian tourists have been visiting several locations in Binh Thuan and Khanh Hoa provinces en masse.

Russian tourists account for around one third of international arrivals in Binh Thuan, which includes the resort town Mui Ne. They make up the second most important market in Khanh Hoa, which includes Nha Trang, according to official statistics.

By Vu Phuong Thao, Thanh Nien News
Russian tourists walk on a street of the central Vietnam resort town of Nha Trang.

The charming Cham islands

by Do Truong

It was a beautiful clear day when Long and his friends visited the Cham Islands hoping to see the World Biosphere Reserve, the pearl of Viet Nam recognised by UNESCO in 2009.

Although the islands can be seen from the land, it takes over 25 minutes to canoe to them from Cua Dai beach in Hoi An City of the central province of Quang Nam. The Cham Islands are made up of eight small islands, Hon Lao being the largest with fishermen living there and the three biggest beaches: Huong, Lang and Ong.

When Long’s group first stepped onto Huong beach, everyone was eager to take in the natural landscape and the local lifestyle.

“There are about 100 fisherman living on Huong beach. They used to run fisheries but when the Reserve was set up, most of them switched to the tourism sector,” the Reserve’s director Tran Thi Thuy says.

After listening to their guide Nguyen Van Thanh introduce the beach, Long and his friends set out on a fishing tour. “It is really an enjoyable feeling to sit on a small boat, bobbing along with sea waves and waiting to draw up the net,” Long says.

Thuy says that Cham Islands are home to 135 species of coral and about 950 other marine species, many of which are listed on Viet Nam’s and the World’s Red Book of endangered species.

She specified that the sea has grouper, lobster, oc vu nang (a kind of conical-shape snails), cuttle-fish, cua da (stone crab). Fishermen here all sign a commitment with the local authorities to not fish around shore areas to protect the marine system.

From Huong beach, tourists take a three-minute boat ride to Xep beach, where they have a chance to swim in clear sea water and dive to see coral and marine life, says Thanh

In the evening Long and his group joined a small dinner and camp-fire with local fishermen. Islander Nguyen Thi Nhi, 50, says when there are tour groups they are pleased, particularly the children.

Thuy said the cooks are local, “They go to Hoi An City to learn cooking and after that they return to serve tourism activities on the island.”

At present, the Cham Islands don’t have hotels and in the evening, visitors often stay in the fishermen’s homes. “The islands used to have no electricity, but that changed thanks to a solar powered system and petrol-run-electric generators, which operate alternately everyday from 8am to 11pm,” Thuy says.

Thanh says that Huong beach is not only well-known for its white sand, but also for many salangane caves here. He says these caves are protected by those who live in small tents nearby. He also says that visitors aren’t allowed to set foot in these caves.

Keepers often harvest salangane nests in April and August, which bring an income from the exports.

During the feudal period, the Cham Islands’ salangane nests were presented to kings. Today there remains a temple to worship ancestors of the salangane nest trade with a festival in March, Thanh adds.

Leaving Huong beach the next day, the group moved to Lang beach in Tan Hiep Commune’s administrative centre.

The first impression visitors get is the slogan: “Don’t use plastic bags” at the harbour. Thuy says that the sign dates from 2009 with the goal to protect the Islands’ environment.

At Lang beach, there are many historical sites, such as the Hai Tang pagoda, which was built nearly 250 years ago. According to Thanh, the pagoda’s impressive feature is the worshipping of Gods from three different religions, Buddhism, Taoism and Confucianism. “The pagoda is a very holy cultural site for islanders,” Thanh says.

Tourists also have the chance to visit an ancient well of the Cham ethnic minority as well as a small museum that displays ancient pottery products.

“I very much admire the way the local authority and people here respect the World Biosphere Reserve’s values when developing tourism. It creates a harmony between protecting nature and enhancing the islanders’ life here,” Long says. — VNS

Life’s a beach: Sunset at Huong beach. — VNS Photos Do Truong

All’s well: A visitor examines an ancient Cham well on Lang beach.

Seeing is believing: Hai Tang pagoda was built nearly 250 years ago. Its architecture is a mixture of Buddhist, Taoist and Confucianist styles.

Going along for the ride: A group of tourists go on a fishing trip with local fishermen.