#Laos – Pakxong – a fine place to chill out

 
People who are lucky enough to spend a few days on the Bolaven Plateau in southern Laos always want to return because of the pleasant climate – it never gets really hot, either in the dry or wet seasons.
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The Bolaven Plateau, which is often referred to simply as Pakxong, is located in the hills of Champassak province. I feel I know the area pretty well.
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A long time ago I made many visits there when my wife was working for a coffee project in Pakxong. I have never forgotten it and liked this place very much as it was always cool throughout the year, both day and night.
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The town of Pakxong is about 50 kilometres from the provincial capital Pakxe. I once went there in April when it’s usually extremely hot in Laos, especially in the south. 
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I stayed at km 35 and always felt comfortable but as soon as I ventured beyond Pakxong, the temperate spiked and it was really hot.
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At that time of the year, many people can’t sleep because of the hot weather. Residents of large towns such as Vientiane and Pakxe have to use air conditioning to help them sleep.
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But in Pakxong there is no need to use an artificial cooling device and Mother Nature will ensure you remain comfortable. The fresh air that surrounds you throughout the night will keep you refreshed so you don’t wake up feeling exhausted.
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Some Thai visitors have been known to say they don’t need to go to Europe to enjoy a cool climate but can come to Pakxong district instead.
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I don’t know if things are still the same in Pakxong because I haven’t been there for 15 years. But some people who have spent time in this beautiful area recently tell me that it’s as pleasing as ever.
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The Bolaven Plateau runs through Champassak province’s Pakxong district, Saravan province’s Lao-ngam, and Xekong province’s Thataeng district, and boasts a wealth of scenic beauty.
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Some of the most dramatic waterfalls in Champassak are Nheuang, Fan, Phasuam, Nong Luang and Champee Nang Sida.
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There are also three more waterfalls of note in Saravan province, namely Lo, Hang and Xeset, and then there is the Sinouk Resort in Xekong province, which are all very popular with both local and foreign visitors.
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The Bolaven Plateau is set to be developed as the country’s top agri-business and agri-tourism destination thanks to its year round temperate climate and picturesque landscape.
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When visiting Champassak province over the past few years, Prime Minister Thongloun Sisoulith has advised officials to seek more investment from domestic and overseas sources so that the coffee industry can be further developed and other crops can be cultivated on the Bolaven Plateau and nearby.
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From Vientiane, tourists can reach Champassak by either road or air transport. And thanks to shared borders with Thailand and Cambodia, there are close tourist links with both those countries.

The local food is another attraction, with a wide variety of dishes on offer that will satisfy all palates. Set a date for a visit soon!

Source – Vientiane Times

 

#Vietnam – Rough Guides names Ha Long Bay among world’s 100 best places to visit

 British travel magazine Rough Guides has voted for Ha Long Bay as one of the 100 most beautiful places to visit next year.
 
In the “The Rough Guides to the 100 Best Places on Earth,” the magazine described “the scattering of limestone pinnacles jutting out of the smooth waters of Ha Long Bay”, around four hours east of Hanoi, as an “incredible sight.”
It is the only Vietnamese destination in the list, which covers many historical and cultural sites around the world such as the Angkor Wat in Cambodia, the Forbidden City in China, Kamniške-Savinja Alps in Slovenia, the Ngorongoro Conservation Area in Tanzania, and the Genghis Khan Equestrian Statue in Mongolia.
 
Dropping anchor in the bay to explore small islands and caves is a once-in-a-lifetime experience, Rough Guides said, adding that “the best junk boats have private cabins and serve gourmet food and in the early morning you can pull back the curtains to watch the sunlight dancing on the emerald green water.”
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Since its recognition as a UNESCO natural world heritage in 1994 Ha Long Bay has entrenched itself on the global tourism map, receiving rave reviews from travel bloggers and filmmakers. Around 5.2 million foreigners visited the bay last year, up 22 percent from a year earlier. A total of 15.6 million visited the country.
 
In its latest conservation move, the Ha Long Bay management said all tourism services in the bay would limit the use of plastic bags and straws from September 1. Fifteen local firms providing tourist boats, kayaks and high-speed boats will embark on a pilot program, banning the use of plastic products on sightseeing boats, starting August 1.
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The recent improvements in infrastructure have made traveling to and around Ha Long much easier for foreigners. Last December Van Don International Airport, 50 kilometers from Ha Long Bay, opened.
 
An expressway connecting the Hanoi-Hai Phong Expressway with Ha Long, opened to traffic last September, reducing the Hanoi-Ha Long commute by 50 km to 130 km.
 
In addition to the popular kayaking and cruise tours, visitors can book Ha Long Heli Tours, a new helicopter tour, through Fastsky, the country’s first helicopter ride-sharing service offered by ride-hailing firm FastGo.
 
The South China Morning Post recently named Ha Long Bay in its list of 10 most popular Asian attractions. British magazine Woman and Home last May labeled the bay one of the most mentioned global cruise destinations on Instagram.
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Source – VN Express

 

#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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#Vietnam – Son Doong Cave an incredible find

The Son Doong Cave in Quang Binh Province is among the most incredible places in the world recently found, The Telegraph says.

 
The cave, part of the Phong Nha-Ke Bang National Park in central Vietnam, is the world’s largest, but it did not feature on Vietnam’s tourism map until it was opened for tourists in 2013.
 
The Telegraph has included the once-hidden cave on the list of 11 newly-discovered places that are worth an amazing exploration journey.
 
Son Doong opened to tourists in 2013, four years after members of the British Cave Research Association concluded their initial exploration and declared it the world’s largest cave.
 
The five kilometer-long system, which is 150 meters high and 200 meters wide, contains at least 150 individual caves, a dense subterranean jungle and several underground rivers.
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 Due to limited space, registration for Son Doong tours must be made well in advance. According to Oxalis, now the only company licensed to bring tourists to the cave, only 300 spaces are available for 2019 tours.
 
A four-day expedition costs $3,000, and there are bus routes running from Hanoi to Dong Hoi, the capital town of Quang Binh, and then to the park.
 
The Quang Binh government recently raised the limit for number of tourists allowed to visit the cave from 640 to 900 a year.
 
Other incredible places that are recent finds include the Pico da Neblina mountain in Brazil, Xianren Bridge in China, Cape Melville in Australia, Machu Picchu citadel in Peru and Mount Mabu in Mozambique.
 
Last month, the U.K.-based travel guide publisher, Lonely Planet, named Son Doong Cave in Quang Binh among the best places to visit in 2019.
 
The New York Times has named it among the world’s top eight travel destinations, while the National Geographic has called it a “natural wonder.”
 
 Source – VN Express
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Phu Yen, #Vietnam’s land of the rising sun

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 The easternmost province is a top choice for adventures and to enjoy the beauty of nature including some out-of-the-world landscapes.Phu Yen, located on the south central coast, is the first point on the Vietnamese mainland to welcome the sun every morning.

It has a diverse topography consisting of mountains, rivers, lagoons, bays, and islands and a myriad of beautiful natural sights for visitors to explore.

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Phu Yen’s sunny season is from January to around August, and is perfect for sightseeing. There are also lots of local festivals during these months, so remember to check their dates if you want to see them.But April and May can be quite hot, so visitors who choose to go during this period should be mindful and take sun-protection gear and water.

From May until the end of July is the peak domestic tourist season, and during this period Phu Yen can get pretty crowded. It might not be an ideal time for those who prefer a quiet and relaxing holiday.

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Dai Lanh Cape, around 35km from Tuy Hoa, the capital city of Phu Yen, is the first place in the country where the sun rises. The best spots to catch the sunrise from are up the lighthouse or on Mon Beach, both spectacular places.Visitors can spend the night at Mui Dien lighthouse, and, when the time comes, take in the view of the bay and the ocean wide open right before their eyes. The feeling when standing on the top, with the wind carrying the smell of the ocean and caressing your skin and hair, and watching the spectacular scene unfold is indescribable.

You need to call up the lighthouse and make arrangements the day before. Tickets cost around VND10,000 ($0.43)

Camping on Mon Beach for the night and waiting for the sunrise can be an unforgettable experience. The beach is located behind Dai Lanh Lighthouse.

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Vung Ro spreads over an area of 16.4 square kilometers, with beautiful beaches and the ocean on one side and forested mountains like Deo Ca and Hon Ba, and the highest peak, Da Bia (Tombstone Mountain), on the other.It is situated in the commune of Hoa Xuan Nam, Dong Hoa District, at the edge of Ca Pass. The drive, whether from the south or north, is extremely scenic. The coastal road offers a magnificent, unbroken view of the bay’s blue waters, fishing villages, the craggy pass, the green mountains, and the white sandy beaches.

There are hundreds of floating homes, fish farms and wooden fishing boats in the main bay. From here, visitors can take a boat to visit seafood farms, try to be a fisherman for a day and learn how locals catch lobsters or go catching fish or squid.

The seafood at the floating restaurants here are obviously as fresh as it possibly can be as it goes straight to the kitchen from the floating farms around. Some beers while floating on the blue lagoon, and this becomes an experience one just should not miss.

There are also other recreation options such as jet-skiing, snorkeling and visiting historical relics for visitors.

 Vung Ro Bay has 12  beautiful, pristine beaches such as Lach, Mu U, Chua, Chan Trau which are perfect for a refreshing dip in the cool, clear water or just unwinding in a tranquil, quiet place on the white sand.

 

#Bangkok leads ranking of top travel destinations during Lunar New Year

Bangkok has emerged the most popular destination for travelers in
Asia-Pacific during the Lunar New Year period, the world’s largest
annual human migration, which is currently underway. 
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The Thai capital reclaimed the top spot this year as the most popular
travel destination in online booking platform Agoda’s list of top
spring festival destinations 2019, knocking last year’s winner Tokyo to
second spot, followed by Taipei. 
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The results are based on hotel booking data on Lunar New Year dates for 2019. 
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This year, it’s estimated that Chinese travelers will undertake
nearly three billion trips by car, train and plane in the 40-day period
between January 21 and March 1, an increase of 0.6 percent from 2018. 
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On February 5, China, South Korea, Vietnam, Taiwan, Mongolia,
Indonesia and Malaysia will celebrate the lunar new year and usher in
the year of the pig, the 12th and last position on the Chinese zodiac. 
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In general, Pigs are born in the years 1935, 1947, 1959, 1971, 1983, 1995, 2007 and 2019. 
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 Here are the top 10 most popular travel destinations according to Agoda:  

1. Bangkok, Thailand

2. Tokyo, Japan

3. Taipei, Taiwan

4. Hong Kong

5. Kaohsiung, Taiwan

6. Osaka, Japan

7. Taichung, Taiwan

8; Sapporo, Japan

9. Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia

10. Singapore

Source – TheJakartaPost
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#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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 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

 

Thailand is Asia’s ‘most-searched’ Travel Destination

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Thailand was the only Asian country to make it into the top 10 most searched destinations on travel search engine Skyscanner in the first half of this year.

According to Skyscanner, the variety of destinations and activities suitable for various lifestyles and needs has enabled Thailand to remain a year-round hot destination for travellers.

“Our wealth of data indicates Thailand is an evergreen destination, attracting visitors both locally and internationally with our natural and cultural beauty,” said Grace Areerat, marketing manager at Skyscanner Thailand.

Thailand’s position as the only Asian country on the top 10 list is a reflection of efforts to promote it as a destination for locals and foreigners alike to travel to and within the country all year round.

The 10 most searched destinations from January-June by Skyscanner are in order: Spain, the US, Britain, Italy, Russia, Greece, Turkey, France, Germany and Thailand.

Additionally, Skyscanner’s search data showed the top three trending destinations in Thailand were Bangkok, Phuket and Koh Samui.

With a 45% year-on-year increase in searches, Bangkok’s highlights are world-class shopping complexes, renowned hospitality, an outstanding variety of cuisines and quality dining experiences, nightlife, events and entertainment.

Phuket, with a year-on-year search increase of 44%, is home to many high-end seaside resorts, spas and restaurants, great outdoor adventure activities and deep-sea diving as well as outstanding nightlife.

Witnessing a 39% year-on-year increase in searches, Koh Samui is packed with backpacker shanties on quiet stretches of sand and secluded Buddhist temples.

Source: BangkokPost

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