‘They told people not to come’: #Australia’s bushfires ravage tourism industry

Pillars of fire and smoke from bushfires are tarnishing Australia’s reputation for pristine vistas abounding in wildlife and wreaking havoc on tourism, operators say, as authorities are forced to cancel concerts, close parks and evacuate towns.The smoke has shrouded entire cities and driven air quality to unhealthy levels, with at least 10 people dying in the fires in the past week, while colonies of animals such as koalas and flying foxes have been destroyed.

“Seeing all the images of fires on television and social media is not going to help, it puts a dent in Australia’s reputation as a safe tourist destination,” said Shane Oliver, chief economist at AMP Capital.

“It’s come at a time when the economy was already fragile,” he added, ranking tourism as Australia’s fourth biggest export whose strength officials had been counting on to help offset a domestic reluctance to spend.

Bushfires burning for weeks near the world heritage site of the Blue Mountains west of Sydney in the southeastern state of New South Wales have driven away tourists.

As visitors take to social media to warn others to steer clear, the number of busloads of tourists each day has fallen to about four from 15 or 20, said Stacey Reynolds, a receptionist at the Blue Mountains Backpacker Hostel in Katoomba.

“They told people not to come in and it’s affected everything, from restaurants to motels to backpackers to cafes,” she added. “The streets are empty.”

Although there is no published nationwide data on tourism since the fires took hold in late spring, Australia attracted 2.71 million holiday makers last summer, up 3.2% from the previous year, as many fled the northern hemisphere winter.

Hotels in the largest city of Sydney saw a fall of 10% in guest numbers in December, the Accommodation Association of Australia said.

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“The fires and the smoke have had a real brand and reputational damage in Sydney,” added its chief executive, Dean Long.The train and cable network of Scenic World in the Blue Mountains had 50,000 fewer visitors in December, down 50% from last year, Chief Experience Officer Amanda Byrne said.

Scenic World was open, but the hotels around the area are having more cancellations than bookings, she said.

Government agency Tourism Australia, which released a new advertisement last month to lure Britons to beautiful beaches and stunning scenery, did not immediately respond to requests for comment.

The scorching temperatures and bushfires, which have also burnt vineyards in South Australia and warmed the usually cool island state of Tasmania, will hit the sector hard, said Judith Mair, who studies tourism, environment and consumer behavior.

“It will be in stages – immediately with evacuations, dislocations and cancellations, but also in the longer term, because tourists buy holidays based on the image of a destination and Australia’s is being badly affected,” said Mair, a professor at the University of Queensland Business School.

Hundreds of national parks in the southeastern states of New South Wales and Victoria, thronged by 100 million visitors a year, have closed.

With fires burning nearby, Christopher Warren, co-proprietor of a bed and breakfast in Kangaroo Valley in New South Wales, said he had to evacuate his guests.

“The worst-case scenario is that we would be hit by a fire and our business would be destroyed,” said Warren, who saw the best case as a loss of income exceeding A$80,000 ($56,048), through the disruption of three of his busiest months.

Paul Mackie, who uses AirBnB to rent out an apartment on Sydney’s Bondi Beach to British and European tourists in the peak summer holiday period was hit by last-minute cancellations.

“I had bookings for the whole of this period going for the next couple of months, but a lot have cancelled because they said they saw the news of the fires,” Mackie added.

AirBnB declined to comment.

A Sydney airport spokesman said it did not have recent statistics on whether the fires were hitting arrival. A Qantas spokeswoman declined to comment on whether the wildfires had hurt bookings.

The fires have spotlighted Australia’s environment policies, criticized most recently at a U.N. summit in Madrid, said Susanne Becken, a professor of sustainable tourism at Griffith University in Queensland.

“The government’s response to the climate crisis does not bode well…and this is not good for tourism,” 

Source – TheJakartaPost

 

#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 – 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
 

 

Thailand’s Ang Thong National Marine Park, the ‘new’ Maya Bay

With Thailand’s Maya Bay in Koh Phi Phi Ley remains closed
indefinitely to allow the tourist-magnet some much-needed time to
recover, it’s time to look for another natural wonder.
 
One of Thailand’s astonishing natural wonders, not as well known as Maya Bay,
is the Ang Thong National Marine Park, located about 40 kilometers north
west of the coast of Koh Samui. Some would argue it’s even more
spectacular and worthy of at least a full day visit. 
 
There are manytours available to the National Park.
 
The Ang Thong National
Marine Park is made up of 42 islands spread over 102 square kilometers. Travelers will find beautiful beaches, limestone cliffs, caves, rock
formations and countless photo opportunities. Enjoy some views from the
air…
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It will take you about an hour to travel there from either the Surat
Thani mainland or from Koh Samui by speedboat. There are slower
ferry-style boat trips as well but you’ll lose a lot of time travelling
there (usually for day trips) and the speedboats can get into much
shallower waters.
 
Tours usually also squeeze in a visit to Koh
Phaluai, the park’s biggest island, where there’s a popular  stilted
restaurant in the island’s fishing village, serving a delicious seafood
lunch.
 
Another popular island worth visiting is Koh Wua Talap,
famed for wildlife spotting and what might just be the most beautiful
viewpoint in the entire park.
 
FUN FACT: Though
the 2000 movie “The Beach,” starring Leonardo DiCaprio, was filmed in
Koh Phi Phi’s Maya Bay in the Andaman Sea, the book by Alex Garland upon
which the film was based was actually set in Ang Thong in the Gulf of
Thailand.
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Source – The Thaiger
 
 

 

#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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#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

 

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 

 

 

Thai bay made famous by The Beach shut till 2021

Thai Bay

THE closure of the glittering Thai bay made famous by the movie The Beach has been extended for another two years to allow a full recovery of its corals and wildlife, an official said on Thursday, drawing a sharp rebuke from the tourism industry.

Maya Bay, ringed by cliffs on Ko Phi Phi Ley island and surrounded by azure waters, was made famous when it featured in the 2000 film starring Leonardo Dicaprio.

It was shut last June by Thai authorities due to worries the white-sand paradise was suffering from the pressure of thousands of day-trippers arriving by boat.

Authorities had initially said the beach – a massive draw for Thailand’s more than 38 million tourists – was going to be closed for four months, but the re-opening was repeatedly postponed.

Thon Thamrongnawasawat, adviser to the Department of National Parks, on Thursday said the ban on visitors will be extended until mid-2021.

“The resolution of the Department of Parks yesterday [May 8] is to extend the closure of Maya Bay for another two years to allow its ecology to fully recover,” he said.

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After it is reopened, measures such as limiting the number of daily visitors and banning boats from parking within the bay’s waters will be enacted, Thon said.

Before Maya Bay’s closure, up to 5,000 tourists visited daily, causing trees and smaller vegetation to be uprooted, creeping soil erosion, and severe damage to the corals in the bay.

A majority of the visitors were ferried there from tourist hotspot Krabi province by local longtail boatmen or tour operators who touted the movie-famous bay as a key attraction for day trips.

“Maya Bay is the heart of our tourism,” said Wattana Rerngsamut, chairman of Krabi Provincial Tourism Association which represents some 200 tourism and hotel operators.

Calling the two-year extension “unfair”, Wattana said the Department of National Parks should conduct public hearings so they can find “common ground . . . so that local people can earn a living”.

Chinese visitors, making up a quarter of Thailand’s tourists, have “plunged 50 per cent [in Krabi]”, he added.

Thailand experienced a three-month slowdown in tourism last year, most noticeably since July when a ferry sank and killed 47 Chinese visitors off nearby Phuket.

Since the tragedy, the government has rolled out inducements aimed at regaining trust and making travel easier – including exempting Chinese visitors from paying a visa-on-arrival fee.

Less than a year after its closure, blacktip reef sharks have been sighted swimming in Maya Bay, with conservationists saying their return signals signs of a recovery to the ecology.

Source – ThePhnomPenhPost

#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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