#Vietnam – Once a barrier against invaders, now a beautiful valley

Chi Lang Passage in Lang Son Province used to be a strategic bulwark for Vietnam and now boasts tourist attractions.
 
Chi Lang Passage is a narrow valley between the Bao Dai mountain range in the east and the Cai Kinh range in the west in the northern province. The mountains form two natural barriers. 
 
Running zigzag along the valley is the Thuong River. Historical accounts show the valley was once regarded as an impenetrable barrier that keep out invaders from the north. King Le Dai Hanh (941-1005) once said the area helped destroy enemies no matter how large and powerful their armies were.
 
From Hanoi, you can follow National Highway 1A to get to the place. It stretches for around 20 km, with the main sights being Chi Lang and Quang Lang communes in Chi Lang District, Lang Son Province.
 Bai Hao Lake, one of the sights in Chi Lang, is surrounded by undulating mountains.
 

The Chi Lang Temple is currently being built by the lake as a spiritual
and cultural complex to cherish the historical values of Chi Lang.
 
 The train runs through Bac Thuy Bridge in Chi Lang District on the Hanoi – Dong Dang (Lang Son Province) route. 
 
The train also connects with Dong Mo and Ban Thi stations in Chi Lang District.
 
 About 30 km from the center of Chi Lang District is Khau Sao hill (Khau Slao), a popular destination for visitors. Situated in Suoi Ma A Village, Huu Kien Commune, it is dubbed the ‘Green steppe of Lang Son’.
 
The hill is 760 meters high and its terrain makes it a strenuous climb. Locals allow their horses and cattle to graze there. There are more than 1,700 horses being raised here, of which nearly 700 are pure white.
 
 The Tay and Nung ethnic minorities here mainly make a living by raising horses. The abundant grass, clean water and salubrious climate help the horses breed rapidly.
 
The animals are left completely free. In the morning people bring their horses to the hill and leave them there until afternoon when they are taken to each family’s private area to drink water.
 
 
Custard apples are another Chi Lang specialty. They are grown throughout Chi Lang and the trees are ubiquitous along National Highway 1A.
 
One of the most famous places where the fruit is grown in Chi Lang is Dong Banh rock mountain, which is about 200 m tall. The harvest is transported in baskets by pulley from the top to the foot of the hill.
 
he custard apples are then delivered over a bamboo bridge by farmers to Dong Banh Market next to National Highway 1A. A lot of them are also sent to markets elsewhere including in Hanoi and Ho Chi Minh City.
 
On Sunday the third Chi Lang custard apple festival took place with many promotional activities and tips on growing the fruit. There were competitions between farmers to see who grew the best custard apples.
 
Source – VN Express
 

 

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#Cambodia – Beating the heat at mango plantation waterfall in Battambang

The relaxation begins as soon as you see the blossoming yellow flowers lining the road leading up to the mango plantation.
 
Passing through a large entrance with a sign saying “Welcome to Mango Plantation Waterfall Resort”, visitors drive down a wide road that dissects rows of thousands of mango trees dominating the landscape of Battambang province’s Samlot district.
 
The main attraction at Chamkar Svay Waterfall Resort, as it is known in Khmer, is the river running through it, where visitors sit in gazebos eating and relaxing along its banks.
 
“This resort attracts people since it is not developed. They love swimming and eating on mats, as well as relaxing until dusk before they go home,” Monn Mika, 52, the resort’s owner, told The Post.
 
“I initially began planting mango trees without thinking about creating a resort. But with the mountainous water flow I thought it could be a tourism attraction. So I began developing it step-by-step until it started attracting many people.
 
Situated next to 87ha of land that after two years is entirely cultivated with mango trees, Chamkar Svay Waterfall Resort now welcomes hundreds of visitors daily who bathe in the river that flows from Chambang Mountain.
 
Sok Theary, a visitor with two friends from Samlot town on a recent Sunday, praised the resorts “beautiful and cold water”. 
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Visitors can also order fresh food at the riverside, including roast chicken, roast fish, stir-fry or soup, as well as many appetisers and snacks, with prices ranging from 10,000 riel to 50,000 riel ($2.50 to $12.50).
 
Visitors are also welcome to camp in the mango plantation.
 
“Guests who come here do not only just swim in the natural river and explore the mango plantation, they can also go camping. We serve food and there is a cleanliness charge of $1.00 or $2.00 per person,” said Mika.
 
Mika said that in the dry season, the stream’s flow is lower and exposes many of the rocks on the riverbed for people to sit on. But in the rainy season, the river’s flow increases and people can enjoy bathing. 
 
“I pay much attention to cleanliness. I tell all staff to clean the rubbish daily so it doesn’t impact visitors and keeps the environment clean.
 
“My current main job is to take care of the plantation and resort, so I keep making the place more attractive, and me and my wife plan to buy boats for visitors,” he said.
 
Chamkar Svay Waterfall Resort is located in Sambout district’s Prey Sdao village, some 80km from Battambang town or 7km from Sek Sak Tourism Resort. Visitors pay 10,000 riel to bring their car into the resort.
Source – PhnomPhenPost
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#Laos Saw More Chinese, Less Korean Tourists in Past Six Months

The number of tourists visiting Laos has increased 5 percent in the past six months thanks to a rise in the number of Chinese visitors.
 
More than 2.2 million people visited Laos between January and June, according to Laos’s Tourism Development Department, Ministry of Information, Culture and Tourism.
 
The number of Chinese visitors jumped by 13 percent while that of Vietnamese visitors increased by 11 percent. The number of visitors from Thailand also rose by 1 percent.
 
Vientiane Times quoted an unnamed government official as saying that he believed visitor numbers were up because of the ongoing Visit Laos-China Year campaign.
 
However, the number of South Korean visitors plummeted by 20 percent while that of Japanese visitors sank by 13 percent.
 
The official told Vientiane Times that the decline in arrivals from some countries was due to circumstances beyond the authorities control.
 
“Some people stayed away because they were unsure of the quality of services here. And although Laos has many enticing tourism products there are several inconveniences, such as poor road access to tourist sites,” the official added.
 
Laos attracted more than 4.1 million foreign tourists last year, an 8.2 percent increase from the previous year. Tourism generated revenue of more than USD 755 million in 2018.
 
Meanwhile, it is expected that at least 4.5 million people will visit Laos this year, generating revenue of more than USD 700 million.
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More Chinese tourist expected
 
Officials believe that, out of 4.5 million expected tourists, 1 million would come from China.
 
To achieve such a goal, Laos is currently intensifying its efforts to improve services and create more facilities for visitors.
 
Vang Vieng, one of the most famous tourist destinations in Laos, for instance, has improved the quality of services and made changes to the price of food, accommodation, and the fees charged at tourist attractions.
 
In Luang Prabang, meanwhile, restaurants have added Chinese dishes to their menus and installed signs written in Chinese at popular tourist sites.
As for Luang Namtha Province, the authorities are encouraging officials to supply useful information to Chinese visitors.
 
There have also been some other positive developments that might boost the number of Chinese visitors to Laos.
 
Banque pour le Commerce Exterieur Lao Public (BCEL) has recently teamed up with Chinese payment service provider UnionPay International (UPI) to roll out new QR code payment services in Laos.
 
The move will enable UnionPay app users to make payments by scanning QR codes at local stores in the country.
 
UnionPay currently operates one of the most popular mobile payment apps in China, and this means BCEL’s collaboration with UPI would help Laos’s local businesses to reach out to more Chinese visitors, who make up one of the largest sources of tourists.
 
Separately, Thailand is currently preparing to launch the country’s first bullet train that will run between Bangkok and Beijing, China, with Laos as one of the intermediate stations.
 
In particular, the first route, a Thai-Sino project linking Bangkok, Nong Khai, Laos and a Chinese city Mohan in the far Northeast, is currently under construction and is scheduled to be completed by 2023.
 
Where are the Koreans?
 
Laos has been one of the most popular destinations for South Korean tourists thanks to the reality TV show, “Youth Over Flowers,” which aired in 2014.
 
The number of visitors from South Korea to Laos grew in 2015 and 2016, finally beginning to plateau in 2017. The overall market share of South Korea rose to 4.4 percent in 2017, however, according to a report by Laos’s Ministry of Information, Culture and Tourism. The number jumped from 96,085 in 2014 to 170,571 in 2017.
 
However, local tourism experts have repeatedly suggested that such a number is decreasing, but there had been no official number released by the Lao government until now.
 
Confirmation from the tourism ministry that the number of South Korean visitors plummeted by 20 percent in the first six months is therefore highly significant.
 
One Vientiane-based tourism expert cited a lack of promotional efforts as one of the reasons to contribute to the drop in such number.
 
“The TV show that led to the surge came out five years ago. Out of sight, out of mind. No one made any more major Korean TV shows or films, to my knowledge,” the expert told The Laotian Times.
 
As he pointed out, several South Korean broadcasters released similar shows to repeat the success of “Youth Over Flowers,” but none of them was able to attract similar viewer numbers.
 
The expert also noted that not enough has been done to promote and encourage people to return to Laos.
 
According to the latest survey conducted by the tourism ministry, only 7.9 percent of respondents said it was their returning visit to Laos. In contrast, first-time visitors accounted for 75.2 percent.
Time for a Diversification?
 
The Lao government invited 12 representatives from Malaysia, Singapore, Thailand, China, Japan and South Korea to Bolikhamxay and Khammouane provinces, in a bid to promote other parts of the country.
 
The familiarization trip to the two provinces took place between July 12 and 17 and was designed to publicize some of Laos’ tourist attractions and encourage the tour operators to include some of these locations in their package tours.
 
It marked the Lao government’s latest effort to promote lesser-known tourist sites to foreigners, and this work is expected to continue in the coming years.
Source – The Laotian Times
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Thailand set to introduce visa-free travel for Chinese and Indians

Thailand to open up visa-free stays
 
BANGKOK, 7 August 2019: As China and India emerge as priority targets for Thailand’s latest tourism promotions, visa-free-travel is back on the table for urgent consideration.
Last week, Minister of Tourism and Sports, Pipat Ratchakitprakarn, told Prachachat Business he intends to introduce visa-free travel for Chinese and Indians later this year.
Currently, citizens of both countries need to apply for a visa-on-arrival although the THB2,000 service fee has been waived until October this year.
The new minister says all that might change with both countries joining a long list of countries that enjoy visa-free entry for a stay of 14 days, possibly as early as 1 November.
This year’s target for tourism revenue, including domestic travel, has been set at THB3.4 trillion. Earnings from international tourists will reach around THB2.2 trillion while tourist arrivals should exceed 40.5 million.
The move is part of a broader policy to increase tourism revenue and reverse the slow down in the tourism growth rate.
Pipat says the Chinese market could still deliver as many as 11 million tourists this year up from 10.5 million. While tourist arrivals from India in 2018 reached 1.5 million, making it the sixth-largest source of visitors. The growth rate was an impressive 27% over 2017.
The latest proposal will introduce a one-year pilot project offering Chinese and Indian tourists visa-free entry starting 1 November, a day after the current Visa-on-Arrival project ends.
Pipat told Prachachat Business: “This time I would like to propose visa-free travel, not a free Visa-on-Arrival. I believe it would stimulate the tourism industry and result in a much stronger conclusion for the high season later this year.”
Source – ThaiVisa

 

 

 

Tad Xai waterfalls, Laos

Tad Xai waterfall: the trek is what makes it special
 
For Visit Laos-China Year 2019, Vientiane Times
is publishing a series of feature articles and images promoting the
two countries’ collaboration in tourism and hoping to inspire more
people, especially from China, to experience the nature, culture,
history and hospitality of Laos, the jewel of the Mekong.
 
Tad Xai waterfall in Borikhamxay province is not just a place to go for
the wonderful scenery, a picnic, and the waterfall itself, but is also
a great place for trekking. 

In training for a Vangvieng Trail hike at the end
of this year, my friends and I would normally walk along the Mekong
riverbank to prepare for such an event but one recent weekend we
decided to try somewhere different. 

Out of the many places we considered, we settled
upon the Tad Xai waterfall at Ban Hatkhai in Borikhamxay province,
which lies within the Phou Khaokhouay National Protected Area.

Reached by travelling on Road 13 South, it’s near
the border between Vientiane and Borikhamxay province, and is about
three hours drive from Vientiane. 

We chose this place because we heard that trekking
guides are available, which we thought was a good idea because we were
by no means experienced trekkers.  

I have been to Tad Xai a few times before, but
mostly just to have a picnic and enjoy the waterfall, which is one of
the most beautiful of the many that are to be found in the national
protected area. This was the first time I would be able to explore the
area more fully.  

We arrived at Ban Hatkhai around 10 am where a
local tourist officer was waiting to guide us on the walk. The fee for
each of us was 45,000 kip. It was several kilometres from the village
to the park itself and some sections of the road were quite rough.
Drivers would need a vehicle with good clearance or four-wheel drive. 

 
e arrived at the parking place which was shaded by
large trees and bordered by a stream which burbled through various
shaped rocks. It would make a good picnic spot and you could also have a
dip as the water was not at all deep. A sign pointed the way to Tad Xai
waterfall, which could be found at the end of a 400 metre path. 

But we were intent on having a long walk so we went
in another direction along a small trail which passed through woods,
so the tree canopy protected us from the hot sun.

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 We quickly became immersed in our environment and stopped to look at
the unfamiliar plants and flowers that we encountered in profusion. 
 
Our surroundings were so enjoyable that we walked
slowly and took loads of photos, forgetting that the purpose of the
expedition was to get in training for the strenuous Vangvieng Trail.
Never mind, the whole experience was all part of the goal, we told
ourselves.  
 
After a while we heard the unmistakable sound of a
waterfall, which soon came into view. The water cascaded down from a
high cliff, so it is aptly named Pha Xay waterfall, or cliff waterfall.
It was one of those hidden gems that you would only encounter by
walking deep into this scenic area. 
 
After lingering for a while to enjoy the view and
taking more photos, we continued on our way through more oddly-shaped
trees and plants and then came to an open field of green grass
interspersed with rocks.
 
Then we were back in the forest again, walking
through small and large trees, listening to the sounds of insects and
birds against the backdrop of faraway waterfalls, and observing the
strange plant life around us. We became engrossed in our surroundings
and never had time to feel tired. Now and again we saw groups of
colourful butterflies, and stopped to relax near a small stream. 
 
The many streams that traverse the park meant we
sometimes had to walk across wooden bridges and near the end of the
trail we came upon a mass of different sized boulders piled up on top of
each other alongside a large stream overhung with dense foliage. 
 
The tall thick trees were a wonderful sight and
created a calming atmosphere so we took a long break and breathed in
the smells. We felt we had earned a rest as this was the first trek we
had made in this kind of environment. 
 
From here we took a different path back, which led
us to the main Tad Xai cascade where most people come to enjoy a
picnic. 
 
The waterfall has seven levels over which pours a
torrent of foaming white water on its way through Phou Khaokhouay,
creating a spectacular sight. 
 
This made another great rest stop and we loitered
here for some time before making our way back to the parking area,
deeply satisfied with our achievement and our decision to visit this
awe-inspiring area.
 
Source – Vientiane Times 

 

 

#Indonesia sixth in top-20 ranking of ‘most beautiful countries’

British guidebook publisher Rough Guides has included Indonesia in its list of the world’s most beautiful countries – and quite high up, too.
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The ranking was updated on Jan. 4 based on Rough Guides’ readers voting on social media channels.
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This was not lost on President Joko “Jokowi” Widodo, who hailed the achievement with a video shared on his Instagram account.
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“Renowned UK publisher Rough Guides recently conducted a global
survey on the world’s most beautiful countries. The result [shows] that
Indonesia was ranked sixth in the world, but [was named] the most
beautiful country in Asia,”
Jokowi wrote in the same post.
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The video shows some of the most popular tourist attractions, from
temples to surfing spots in Bali, beautiful beaches in Lombok, West Nusa
Tenggara, and orangutans in Kalimantan.
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“Rough Guides’ polling strengthens Indonesia’s position as a world-class tourist destination,”  said Jokowi.
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https://www.hotelscombined.com/?a_aid=145054
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 Source – TheJakartaPost
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Here’s the full of the world’s 20 most beautiful countries, according to Rough Guides readers.

  1. Scotland
  2. Canada
  3. New Zealand
  4. Italy
  5. South Africa
  6. Indonesia
  7. England
  8. Iceland
  9. United States 
  10. Wales
  11. Slovenia
  12. Mexico
  13. India
  14. Finland
  15. Switzerland
  16. Peru
  17. Norway
  18. Ireland
  19. Croatia
  20. Vietnam

 

Asia’s largest railway station being built in #Beijing

Fengtai Railway Station

The reconstruction work on Beijng’s Fengtai Railway Station, the capital’s oldest, has recently begun, and it is expected to result in Asia’s largest railway station, the peoplerail.com reported on Tuesday.

Authorities have diverted the Beijing-Guangzhou railway line, which normally passes through the station, as of Monday night to facilitate the new construction.

Dating back to the year 1898, the Beijing Fengtai Railway Station, located at Zhengyang Avenue in Fengtai District of southern Beijing, used to be a small comprehensive railway station incorporating passenger trains and freight trains.

The station has been closed for passenger service since June 2010, ending a running history as long as 115 years.

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According to its contractor China Railway Construction Engineering Group, the new station will have seven floors with four floors aboveground and three floors underground. Covering an area of 398,800 square kilometers, it will accommodate a maximum of 14,000 passengers. Subway lines 10 and 16 will be linked to the station to bring more convenience to travelers.

The reconstruction work is set to finish in 2020, when the railway station is expected to become the biggest in Asia and a major transportation hub. It will serve high-speed trains on the Beijing-Guangzhou, Beijing-Kowloon and Beijing-Shijiazhuang lines, and will provide suburban railway services.

The station will also help ease the capital’s traffic burden, facilitate transportation to Xiongan New Area, and better promote the integration of the Beijing-Tianjin-Hebei region.

Source – TheJakartaPost

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#Malaysia – 5 ways to get around Kuala Lumpur

Kuala Lumpur hotels 21-8

When it comes to getting around the city of Kuala Lumpur, travelers have several options of getting around. Whether it’s by train or taxi, transportation around the city is relatively hassle-free.

Here are some transport suggestions for getting around KL.

Train

With the recent completion of the Mass Rapid Transit (MRT), more parts of KL are now connected by rail. Apart from the MRT, other rail service include the Light Rail Transit (LRT), monorail and KTM Komuter.

The trains in the city pass through iconic attractions such as KLCC, Central Market and Muzium Negara.

If you’re on a long visit, consider purchasing the Touch ‘N’ Go card or weekly passes for cheaper fares. The card can be used on all trains, as well as RapidKL buses.

Bus

Travelling by bus in the city is a generally comfortable experience these days. Most of them are fully air conditioned and they get you to popular tourist attractions as well as quaint neighbourhoods. Look out for the free purple Go KL buses within the central business district that run along popular sites and famous shopping districts. You can also travel further on the RapidKL buses.

Go KL City Bus is a free bus service that serving the city centre of Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia.

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Taxi

Taxi is probably one of the most convenient ways to travel from one place to another in KL. Always insist on using the metre – do not be duped into haggling for a price.

According to the Land Public Transport Commission, regular budget taxis (usually painted in red and white, or red and blue) charge RM3 for the first three minutes. Subsequent distance or time are charged at RM0.25 every 200m or 36 seconds.

Blue cabs (Teksi Eksekutif) and gold cabs (Teks1M) are better for large groups, but they do charge a higher fee.

Taxis queue along KL Sentral in the city. Photo: The Star

Self drive

KL is a big city and having a car would allow travellers to get to surrounding townships such as Petaling Jaya or Shah Alam in Selangor easily. There are plenty of car rental options available online or at the airport. Driving in the city is generally safe. You might want to avoid peak hours though when traffic congestion can set you back an hour on average.

Driving around KL is relatively breezy, just be sure to avoid rush hours! Photo: The Star

Ride hailing

Malaysia actually has a few ride-hailing options, with Grab being one of the more popular options among locals. Utilising the service is as easy as downloading an app. The downside is you would need mobile data or WiFi to operate the service. But that shouldn’t be an issue as more people are connected on their travels these days.

You can also book taxis, trains, and more …  on some of these apps.

Cambodia – Tourism feels shifting axis

the-beauty-of-cambodia

While Vietnamese visitors continued to top the list of international tourist arrivals to Cambodia in 2016, their numbers dipped as the number of Chinese tourists continued to surge and looks set to take the top notch this year, according to newly released Tourism Ministry annual figures.

The data showed total tourist arrivals from Vietnam fell 3 percent to 950,000 last year, while Chinese arrivals surged 19 percent to 830,000 over the same period.

Chhay Sivlin, president of the Cambodia Association of Travel Agents (CATA), expressed confidence that China would soon overtake Vietnam as the main source of the Kingdom’s tourists.

“Following the strengthening of the relationship between Cambodia and China and the government’s strategy to promote more Chinese tourist arrivals, China will soon be the leader for tourism visits in Cambodia,” she said yesterday.

Sivlin noted that the Ministry of Tourism still needs to increase the number of direct flights to the Kingdom in order to reach the country’s target of welcoming 7 million tourists by 2020, including 2 million Chinese visitors.

“Compared to neighboring countries, the number of international arrivals is still small because the shortage of direct flights is limiting international arrivals,” she said. “The government needs to speed up the process of approving direct flights to reach its tourism goals.”

According to the Ministry of Tourism, total tourist arrivals topped 5 million in 2016, from 4.8 million a year earlier, while total revenue from tourism decreased to $3 billion in 2016, from $3.5 billion in 2015.

Sivlin said one reason for the decline in tourism revenue was a failure to recognise the changes in tourist demographics. She pointed to the high number of souvenir products sold in the country imported from China, Vietnam and Thailand, which were difficult to sell when many tourists came from those same countries.

“We sell souvenir products that are not produced locally, and this is not attractive to international visitors when they know it is from their country,” she said.

Ang Kim Eang, general manager of Great Angkor Tours, said the marginal decline in Vietnamese arrivals had no significant impact on the tourism sector as most Vietnamese visitors arrive by bus and do not spend large sums of money. On the other hand, the higher number of Chinese tourists was good news for Cambodia as they tend to be more prolific spenders.

“Chinese tourism offers great potential for the local tourism sector because they like to spend a lot on entertainment services,” he said.

And with China’s outbound tourists topping 122 million last year, far more than the entire population of Vietnam, government initiatives to attract a larger share to Cambodia are hardly surprising.

“Chinese tourists are one of the main targets for promoting the Cambodian economy,” Eang said.

Source: PhnomPenhPost