Lan Ha Bay EDITOR

6 Vietnamese hotels honored at World Travel Awards

Two hotels in Ho Chi Minh City and one each in Hanoi, Sa Pa, Phu Quoc and Da Nang won different categories at this year’s World Travel Awards as voted by industry insiders and tourists.

6 Vietnamese hotels honored at World Travel Awards
 

Vinpearl Landmark 81 inside Landmark 81, the highest building in Vietnam, was named Asia's leading city hotel.

The hotel has 223 rooms and suites that sit on the 47th to 77th floors of the building with views overlooking the Saigon River in the eastern stretch of Vietnam's economic hub.

The hotel is about 11 kilometers from Tan Son Nhat Airport.

On the 47th floor, there is an infinity swimming pool and a bar lounge.

6 Vietnamese hotels honored at World Travel Awards
 

The hotel's Oriental Pearl Restaurant on the 66th floor offers a refined buffet and a la carte dishes for breakfast, lunch and dinner.

Last month, it served a pho noodle soup that cost VND4 million (US$168) per person with expensive ingredients such as gold leaf, wagyu beef, and truffle mushroom.

Room rates cost from VND5.6 million (US$232.51) per person.

6 Vietnamese hotels honored at World Travel Awards
 

Hotel de la Coupole – Mgallery in the northern highlands town of Sa Pa was voted Asia's leading design hotel.

Its design takes inspiration from the Art Deco period in France.

 

Opposite a stone church in downtown Sa Pa, the hotel has 249 rooms and suites that allow tourists to enjoy views of the Hoang Lien Son mountain range and rice terraces.

6 Vietnamese hotels honored at World Travel Awards
 

A swimming pool on the seventh floor of the hotel.

With emerald green marble columns, bronze statues and pink chandeliers, the swimming pool features floor-to-ceiling windows with spectacular views of the Sa Pa valley.

From the hotel, guests will be ferried to Muong Hoa cable car station from where they can make a seven-minute trip to the Fansipan cable car station, enjoying the beauty of the Hoang Lien Son range with its rolling forests and valleys from a great height.

Room rates cost from VND2.9 million per person.

6 Vietnamese hotels honored at World Travel Awards
 

Hôtel des Arts Saigon, MGallery Collection in Ho Chi Minh City was voted Asia's leading lifestyle hotel.

The hotel on Nguyen Thi Minh Khai Street, District 3, carries French colonial architecture and has a total of 168 rooms.

It boasts the city's highest rooftop infinity pool, which allows guests to view the southern metropolis from above.

6 Vietnamese hotels honored at World Travel Awards
 

It has a bar lounge on the 23rd floor praised by foreign tourists for its fantastic views.

The rooftop bar lies next to a swimming pool and serves guests different kinds of cocktails.

A night's stay costs from VND3.4 million.

6 Vietnamese hotels honored at World Travel Awards
 

Capella Hanoi on Le Phung Hieu Street in Hanoi's Old Quarter was named Asia's leading luxury boutique hotel.

It has 47 rooms and suites, each individually styled with operatic artefacts and custom portraiture that pay tribute to legendary Opera artists, composers, designers and performances.

The hotel has gained more popularity after South Korean girl group Blackpink stayed during their two-day concert tour on July 29-30.

A night's stay costs from VND6.5 million per person.

6 Vietnamese hotels honored at World Travel Awards
 

Akio Bar & Lounge (pictured) in the lobby area of Koki restaurant, which made history to become one of the first four Vietnamese restaurants to receive a Michelin one-star rating last June.

This area has Asian-style architecture with shelves displaying ceramic products. The lounge serves a menu with 60 varieties of sake from various regions. This is also home to a variety of teas imported from Japan.

6 Vietnamese hotels honored at World Travel Awards
 

Premier Residences Phu Quoc Emerald Bay, along Khem beach in Vietnam’s largest island Phu Quoc in the south, was named Asia’s leading hotel residences.

The hotel features 745 rooms and suites surrounded by green trees.

It has outdoor swimming pools overlooking Khem Beach.

6 Vietnamese hotels honored at World Travel Awards
 

The hotel is 25-minute ride from Phu Quoc International Airport

From the hotel, visitors can easily visit Sung Hung Pagoda or take a cable car ride to Hon Thom Island.

Room rates cost from VND2.2 million.

 
6 Vietnamese hotels honored at World Travel Awards
 

Bai Bac Bay Villa at InterContinental Danang Sun Peninsula Resort in the central city Da Nang was voted Asia’s leading luxury hotel villa.

Nestled on the pristine mountainside of Son Tra peninsula, the three-bedroom villa covers an area of 500 square meters and is surrounded by dense jungles.

One of the unique features of this villa is the three infinity pools with expansive outdoor terraces.

6 Vietnamese hotels honored at World Travel Awards
 

The villa has three bedrooms, each with a walk-in closet and ensuite bath.

It can accommodate nine adults.

Each high-style bedroom offers its own infinity pool, outdoor shower, and bathroom with two vanity areas and a designer marble bathtub.

Room rates cost from VND75.4 million ($3,170) a night.

UK boy band 911 relish Ha Long, Vietnam street foods

After performing their first show in Ha Long on September 10, members of the British boy band 911 had the chance to take in the legendary beauty of the UNESCO World Heritage Site, Ha Long Bay. With its towering limestone karst formations jutting out of the shimmering waters, both Lee Brennan and Spike Dawbarn were awestruck by the view. Furthermore, while in Ha Long, the band had the opportunity to explore the area by kayaking around the bay and golfing on some of Vietnam's stunning golf courses. Dawbarn declared, “Vietnam has so many beautiful golf courses!” The group also made sure to try out some of the incredible street food, leaving them more than impressed with their journey to the iconic bay.

Spike Dawbarn sails kayak with Lee Brennan on the waters in Ha Long Bay, September 2023. Photo courtesy of 911 boybands Instagram

Spike Dawbarn (R) sails kayak with Lee Brennan on the waters in Ha Long Bay, September 2023. Photo courtesy of 911's Instagram

Ha Long's beaches are really beautiful and quiet,” Brennan said.

“Being outside for a long time, he felt like he was about to melt like a snowman,” he said about Dawbarn.

His mother, who was delighted with the photos her son had taken during his visit to Vietnam, hopes to have a vacation there with him one day. In Hanoi, the 911 group explored the vicinity of Hoan Kiem (Sword) Lake and the Old Quarter, savouring delicacies such as bun cha (grilled pork with rice noodles) and Trang Tien ice cream.

Jimmy Constable (L) and Lee Brennan try bun cha (grilled pork with rice noodles) at a restaurant in Hanoi, September 2023. Photo courtesy of 911 boybands Instagram

Jimmy Constable (L) and Lee Brennan try bun cha (grilled pork with rice noodles) at a restaurant in Hanoi, September 2023. Photo courtesy of 911's Instagram

Jimmy Constable, the other member of the band, said he was impressed by the ancient beauty of Vietnam’s capital.

“I wish I could visit Vietnam once a week to explore more.”

On Saturday, the three-piece pop group, formed in London in 1995, will be in Ho Chi Minh City to take part in the 2023 United Kingdom Festival. This festival is being held to commemorate 50 years of Vietnam-United Kingdom relations, after the group’s recent performances in Hanoi and Ha Long Bay.

They are known for their 90s and 2000s hits “The Day We Find Love,” “Love Sensation,” “Don't Make Me Wait,” and the acclaimed love anthem “I Do.”

Lan Ha Bay presents nature’s full palette

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Located on the eastern side of Cat Ba Island and the southern side of the world-renowned Ha Long Bay, Lan Ha Bay is part of Quang Ninh Province, boasting 400 islands and more than 100 small and pristine sandy beaches. In May 2020, this marvelous area was recognized as part of the exclusive Club of the Most Beautiful Bays in the World. A visit to Cat Ba Island is incomplete without touring Lan Ha Bay.

Lan Ha Bay seen from the above. Photo by VnExpress/Pham Huy Trung

WHERE TO GO

Cat Ba National Park

Located in Cat Hai District, this unique park is one of Vietnam's biggest special-use forests and has been designated an UNESCO world biosphere reserve since 2004. It houses an immense variety of marine ecosystems and terrestrial and submerged forests, in addition to a multitude of rare plants and animals. Adventure seekers can choose from numerous activities such as 4-8-hour mountain hikes or 2-hour strolls alongside cyclists, drivers, and motorcyclists.

Excursions will lead you to the Kim Giao Forest, Ngu Lam Peak with its breathtaking views, nighttime wildlife spotting, cave exploration, and ultimately, the village of Viet Hai. Admission fees are VND40,000 for adults and VND20,000 for kids.

Viet Hai Village

Nestled within Cat Ba National Park, in Cat Hai District, and connected to Lan Ha Bay, lies Viet Hai Village. Previously only accessible via a winding road through the forest, keeping it isolated from the outside world, now it is a popular destination for both domestic and international travelers, with nature-centric bike tours and trekking adventures.

Monkey Island

Situated in the heart of Lan Ha Bay, Monkey Island is the second largest island of Cat Ba and used to be known as Cat Dua Island due to its vast number of pineapple trees. Home to more than 20 monkeys, these friendly creatures can often be found at the beach, interacting with tourists. While their demeanor is typically pleasant, it is important to take caution when approached as they may unintentionally cause harm or snatch items.

Luon Cave

Luon Cave is nestled among a small cluster of islands and can only be accessed from the sea via the 4-meter-wide, 3-meter-high and 100-meter-long cave entrance. It is enveloped by four mountains and it contains a tranquil lake brimming with fossilized freshwater snail shells—which is a rarity in Lan Ha Bay. It makes for an extraordinary kayaking experience and travelers can admire the serenity of Luon Cave's interior after sailing past its entrance.

Visitors can partake in a kayaking journey, gliding through the entrance of Luon Cave. Photo by VnExpress/Tam Anh

Van Boi Beach

Perched amongst a protruding part of the mountains, Van Boi Beach lures sightseers with the lure of water- based activities like swimming and boating, providing spectacular panoramic views that feature powder-soft white sand beaches, sharp blue seas, and an atmosphere of tranquillity.

Cai Beo fishing village

Cai Beo fishing village, one of the largest in Vietnam, is made up of hundreds of floating households.

Located in the Cat Ba Archipelago and Cat Hai District, the Cai Beo Fishing Village was proclaimed a national relic by the Ministry of Culture, Sports and Tourism in 2009. This large fishing village is home to more than 500 households that are involved in both fishing and cage fish farming in the bay. Travelers can get to the Cai Beo Fishing Village from Cat Ba Island by traveling approximately 20 kilometers and seeing a collection of villages scattered across the water, which creates a small cityscape.

Light Cave – Dark Cave

Dark and Light Cave, located around twelve kilometers from Beo Wharf, is a must-visit destination for those looking to relax in Lan Ha Bay. Spanning seventy meters of the mountain, visitors would need to row in a bamboo boat or kayak to explore. Many day boats also travel here to ferry tourists for the day. Overnight yacht guests particularly enjoy this spot for its tranquility.

Sports activities

Tourists, particularly foreigners, are drawn to climbing as a favorite activity, with numerous spots located throughout Lan Ha Bay islands, mainland areas, and around Cat Ba, providing an exhilarating adventure among formidable cliffs.

Kayaking is a favorite sport among foreigners. Photo courtesy of Lux Cruises

If you're looking to enjoy swimming or kayaking while visiting, it's recommended that you rent a boat or join a kayak tour to explore the bay. These boats often guide you to more tranquil waters close to the shore, adding convenience and safety for your time in the water. Popular locations include Dark Cave – Bright Cave, Luon Cave, and Ba Trai Dao Beach. When it comes to swimming, it's important to note that it's only permitted at designated spots. For your peace of mind, make sure to wear a life jacket if you're going out farther into the water.

WHAT TO EAT

Seafood is the star of dishes offered in Lan Ha Bay, ranging from horseshoe crab and geoduck clam to grouper, mantis shrimp, shrimp, and snails. Gifts such as horseshoe crab pairings range in price from VND 500,000 – 700,000 ($21.05 – $29.50) while mantis shrimp can be purchased for around VND200,000 – 250,000 per kilogram.

In the past, guests would dine in raft houses, but now, they can opt to eat on the beach of Cat Ba Island or coordinate BBQ meals on different isles such as Monkey or Tu Do Island. To ensure a pleasant stay in the bay, it is recommended to ask for prices before buying, especially during peak months May – August.

WHERE TO STAY

Tu Do Island features a beach on both sides.

As of late 2022, Lan Ha Bay has ceased the operation of informal resorts in order to better protect its marine ecosystems. Today, tourists can stay in local hotels with attractive bay views, such as Flamingo Cat Ba Beach Resort and Hôtel Perle d'Orient Cat Ba – MGallery. These two premier resorts are conveniently connected by a road along Cat Co Beach. Flamingo Cat Ba Beach Resort has three buildings, 756 guest rooms with scenic views of the bay, and exciting activities such as parasailing, jet skiing, and kayaking. Nightly rates start at VND2 million ($84.20).

Hôtel Perle d'Orient Cat Ba – MGallery offers a luxury experience and features attractive amenities such as a restaurant, a bar, a rooftop pool, a spa, and a beach. Prices for a night's stay begin at VND3.5 million ($150.35). Additionally, Freedom Island Retreat on Tu Do Island provides an exciting opportunity to explore and experience a beach with two sides of the sea, separated by a small strip of sand.

Visitors can have unique encounters with the nature of Lan Ha Bay by opting for an overnight cruise on one of its many yachts, such as Heritage Cruises Binh Chuan, Mon Cheri, Scarlet Pearl, Stellar of the Seas, and Paradise Grand. These modern vessels offer complete guest services and typically last for two days and one night or three days and two nights, with a cost of VND2.5 million per person per night ($105.30).

Overnight cruises on Lan Ha Bay from above. Photo courtesy of Lux Cruises

Viet Hai fishing village is perfect for nature enthusiasts. It lacks large hotels, so visitors can opt for homestays like Viet Hai Lan, Lan, Lotus, Whisper Nature bungalow, and Long Phuong motel. Room prices range from approximately VND200,000 to VND700,000 ($8.40 to $29.50).

WHEN TO GO

From May to August, Lan Ha Bay enjoys the pleasant conditions of the northern summer season with its calm seas, bright skies, and inviting winds, making it the prime time for outdoor activities such as swimming, cruising, and bay explorations. This period sees the largest influx of tourists. In the months of September to November, the gentle waves of the bay provide a serene atmosphere for those seeking tranquility and peace. Temperature at this time remains cool and so swimming is still possible. The remaining times of the year are highly suited for individuals hoping to appreciate nature, go on forest trails, and fill their lungs with fresh air.

Lan Ha Bay is adorned with a lush green hue. Photo courtesy of Quy Coc Tu

HOW TO GET THERE

Travelling to Lan Ha Bay is primarily done by boat and Cat Ba Island is the fastest way to get there. Beo Wharf, located in the island's centre, is where ferry tickets can be bought, costing VND80,000 ($3.40) for adults and VND40,000 ($1.70) for children. For those travelling in large groups, it is possible to rent private boats, with costs varying according to the group's size and the type of boat required.

For groups of 10 to 20, boat rentals range from VND1.6 million to VND5 million ($67.40 to $210.60), while for larger groups of 25 to 50 people, prices range between VND2.2 million to VND7 million, depending on boat type and visiting time.

Beo Wharf serves as the embarkation point for cruise ships to explore Lan Ha Bay. Photo by VnExpress/Tam Anh

There are several routes available for visiting Lan Ha Bay:

1. Route 1: Beo Wharf – Fishing Village – Monkey Island

2. Route 2: Beo Wharf – Monkey Island – Turtle Island – Viet Hai Village – Ba Trai Dao Islet (Three Peaches Islet) – Dark Cave – Light Cave

3. Route 3: Got Wharf – Gia Luan Commune – Tra Bau Village – Ang Ong Cam Island – Dark Cave – Light Cave

4. Route 4: Cat Ba Tourist Center Pier – Cat Ong Island – Thien Ung Pagoda

Golden visas for longer stays in Southeast Asia: how to apply

Indonesia

In the beginning of the month, Indonesia revealed its brand new “golden visa” program that allows foreign investors to stay for any period of time between 5 and 10 years, depending on the investment they make. To obtain a 5-year stay permit, investors have to establish a business worth at least $2.5 million. In order to receive a 10-year stay permit, their investment needs to amount to $5 million. Foreign investors who don’t wish to open a business in Indonesia must deposit a fund of $350,000 for the 5-year and $700,000 for the 10-year stay permit.

These funds can be used for the purchase of Indonesian government bonds, shares of publicly traded companies, or saving/deposit accounts in Indonesia. Upon acquiring the golden visa, foreign nationals are not required to seek a temporary stay permit but will benefit from VIP security check-ups at airports, easier entry and exit processes when traveling. Following in Indonesia’s footsteps, Cambodia debuted its golden visa program, otherwise referred to as the “My 2nd Home” program, back in July 2022. Applicants must be 18 years or older and posses a capital investment of at least $100,000 in Cambodia.

Moreover, they are obliged to invest in an approved real estate project by the Cambodian government. This program does not demand Khmer language proficiency or academic qualifications from those who want to take part. Those who qualify will be issued a 10-year stay permit and become eligible for Cambodian citizenship after 5 years. Additionally, My 2nd Home Golden Visa Program provides its members with insurance coverage, VIP medical treatment, and unlimited entry/exit flexibility.

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Thailand

Thailand released its long-term residence visa program, commonly referred to as the “Golden Visa,” last year. valid for 10 years, this program allows for multiple entries and is available to foreign individuals in four categories: wealthy global citizens, wealthy pensioners, work-from-Thailand professionals, and highly-skilled professionals. Common requirements include health insurance with coverage of at least $50,000 or a $100,000 Thai bank account deposit.

However, eligibility demands vary depending on the category. Wealthy applicants must provide proof of at least $1 million in assets and proof of annual income of $80,000 for the past two years, with a minimum investment of $500,000 in Thai government bonds, foreign direct investment, Thai property, or any combination thereof. Retirees aged 50 and above must demonstrate at least $80,000 a year in personal income. Those between $40,000 and $80,000 a year must invest at least $250,000. For remote workers and highly-skilled foreign workers, the minimum personal income requisites are two years of professional earnings of at least $80,000 a year.

For those with earnings between $40,000 and $80,000 a year, proof of a Master’s degree, a valid form of intellectual property, or Series A investments are accepted. The single fee for the LTR program is 50,000 baht, and exclusive benefits include fast track service at international airports, multiple re-entry privileges, work permission, andoid tax exemptions for overseas income. Malaysia launched its premium visa program in the same period, granting visa holders 20-year stays that can be renewed for an additional 20-year duration. The criteria include a local fixed deposit placement of RM1M (US$213,500) with no withdrawals allowed on the principle value for the first year, and proof of offshore income of at least RM40,000 per month or RM480,000 a year.

A Letter of Good Conduct from the authorities of the visa holder’s present country of residence is also required, in addition to the one-off RM200,000 participation fee and an RM100,000 participation fee for each dependent. Visa holders may conduct business, purchase real estate, study, or invest money in approved sectors.

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Singapore

Those interested in what is known as the Global Investor Program (GIP), one of the best golden visa schemes in Asia which was launched in 2004, must have a minimum investment of SGD 2.5 million in a new business entity or to expand an existing business operation. Alternatively, an investment of SGD2.5 million in one of the GIP-approved funds qualifies for the visa scheme.

Should the application be successful, the successful applicant will have a permanent residence permit valid for 5 years. After two years of a permanent residence in Singapore, applicants may then apply for citizenship; however, it is important to note that Singapore is a strictly single-citizenship country so each applicant must forgo any other existing citizenships before naturalization is possible.

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Embark⁤ on an‌ Idyllic Escape with Victory Cruise: Halong Bay’s Perfect Voyage

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Embark on an Idyllic Escape ‌with Victory Cruise:⁤ Halong Bay's Perfect Voyage

Are you yearning to immerse yourself in the beauty of nature and experience a sense of tranquility like never before? Look no further than Victory Cruise, offering a dreamlike journey ⁢through the enchanting waters of Halong Bay. This idyllic escape ⁤promises to be the perfect ​voyage for those seeking to unwind and discover hidden treasures amidst breathtaking landscapes.

Setting Sail: A Dreamlike Journey through Halong⁤ Bay's Enchanting Waters

As you step aboard Victory Cruise, be prepared to be enchanted by the mesmerizing allure of Halong Bay. Nestled⁤ in the heart of Vietnam, this UNESCO World Heritage Site offers a truly surreal experience.⁣ The journey begins as the boat gracefully navigates through the emerald-green waters, surrounded by rugged limestone islands that seem to emerge magically from ⁢the sea. Prepare to be captivated by ‍the natural beauty of Halong⁢ Bay, ⁢an ethereal wonder that will leave an indelible mark on your soul.

As you sail through the bay, take in the breathtaking⁣ scenery that ‌unfolds before your eyes. ‍The ⁣towering limestone karsts, draped in lush vegetation, create a picturesque backdrop against ‍the ​shimmering waters. Marvel at the network of caves and grottoes that have been sculpted over thousands of years by nature's gentle‌ hand. Make sure to keep your camera handy, as you ‍don't ⁤want to ⁣miss capturing the magical moments that ​Halong Bay has in store for you.

Each day on Victory Cruise brings ‍new adventures and countless opportunities to connect ‌with nature. Embark on kayaking ‌excursions⁤ to hidden lagoons, where you can⁤ paddle through crystal-clear waters and explore hidden ‌caves. Dive into the refreshing embrace‌ of the sea on swimming stops, allowing the⁣ unparalleled beauty of ⁤Halong Bay to wash over you. Indulge in leisurely tai chi sessions on the sun deck, as you synchronize your movements with the rhythm of the⁣ bay. This dreamlike journey‍ promises to be a sensory feast, leaving you with memories to cherish‌ for a ‌lifetime.

Unveiling the⁤ Treasures: Unforgettable‌ Experiences Await ⁣on Victory Cruise's Idyllic Escape

Victory Cruise goes beyond the ordinary, unveiling treasures that will leave you awestruck. From visiting floating ​fishing villages to exploring mysterious caves, a world‍ of wonder ‌awaits you. Visit the mesmerizing Titov Island, named after the famous Soviet cosmonaut⁢ Yuri Gagarin, and ascend to the peak for panoramic views of the ⁢bay. Immerse yourself in the​ local culture with a visit to Vung Vieng Village, where you can interact with the fishermen and witness their daily lives firsthand.

In addition to the captivating excursions, Victory Cruise ensures that each⁢ moment of your journey is marked by luxury and comfort. Indulge in sumptuous⁤ gourmet meals, showcasing the best of Vietnamese cuisine. Relax ⁢in the spacious and elegantly designed cabins, equipped with ⁣modern ‌amenities​ and offering breathtaking views ‍from your private balcony. ⁤The attentive and friendly crew⁢ members are dedicated to providing impeccable service, ensuring that your experience on ​Victory Cruise is nothing short of extraordinary.

A journey with Victory Cruise guarantees an idyllic escape that‍ will ‍rejuvenate⁤ your mind, body, and soul. Let ⁢the wonders of Halong Bay envelop you as you sail ⁤through its enchanting waters. Unveil the hidden treasures this UNESCO World Heritage Site has to ‍offer, and create memories that will last a lifetime. Embark on the perfect voyage with Victory Cruise and ⁣embrace the beauty of Halong Bay.

Embarking ‌on⁣ a journey with ⁤Victory Cruise through the enchanting waters of Halong Bay is a dream come true for nature lovers and adventure seekers alike. The idyllic escape promises to be a perfect voyage,‍ offering​ a ⁣surreal experience that ignites the senses. Unveil the hidden treasures of ‍Halong Bay, admire its breathtaking landscapes, and immerse yourself in the local culture. With luxurious accommodations ⁤and attentive service, Victory Cruise ensures that every moment of your journey is truly unforgettable. So, set sail on this perfect voyage and let the beauty of Halong Bay captivate your‍ soul.

Phu Quoc National Park: A hidden gem for trekking enthusiasts

Covering almost 31,500 hectares, the park features three distinct forest ecosystems, namely the evergreen broadleaf forest, Melaleuca forest, and mangrove forest. According to the park's official website, it is home to approximately 1,400 plant species and nearly 500 animal species.

Đường trekking trong VQG Phú Quốc.

Trekking route in Phu Quoc National Park. Photo by Nguyen Anh Tien

Nguyen Anh Tien, a tour guide in Phu Quoc, reveals that trekking through the forest is a relatively new experience that has emerged in the last couple of years, still undiscovered by many tourists. Tien organizes 5-7 tours per month, accommodating groups ranging of up to 12 guests.

Le Minh Tan, a 29-year-old traveler from Ho Chi Minh City, embarked on a 9-kilometer trek in May. The route has distinct paths for the outbound and return journeys, with three stops along the way.

“The trek is relatively easy, with moderate slopes, making it suitable for beginners,” Tan said. It took him approximately three hours to reach the destination and around 90 minutes to return.

The mushrooms are bigger than a human hand. Photo by VnExpress/Nguyen Anh Tien

The mushrooms are bigger than a human hand. Photo by VnExpress/Nguyen Anh Tien

Tan had the time to enjoy gathering and tasting forest fruits like myrtle, fruits and leaves from the garcinia cambogia tree, and mushrooms. Depending on the season, various fruits and leaves can be found.

Aside from mosses, mollusks, fruit trees, and other edible plants, the tour guide introduces visitors to rare and valuable plant species listed in the Red Book, as well as plants whose names are unfamiliar to many.

The trek also unveils a variety of medicinal plants and precious herbs, including ganoderma lucidum, trametes versicolor, and the ant plant.

The ant plant is a precious herb, formed when ants come to live symbiotically on the tree. Photo by VnExpress/Nguyen Anh Tien

The ant plant is a precious herb, formed when ants come to live symbiotically on a tree. Photo by Nguyen Anh Tien

The fortunate trekkers may even catch glimpses of wild animals like monkeys, weasels, shrimps, and lizards. Several insects and reptiles, including snakes, centipedes, and lizards, are relatively easier to spot.

Tien highlights that encountering snakes in the forest often triggers panic among many trekkers. In such situations, visitors are advised to remain calm, refrain from chasing or provoking the snakes, and avoid causing harm or attracting attacks. Experienced guides are well-equipped to handle these situations.

The red-tailed green ratsnake is non-poisonous and is often kept as a pet.  Photo by VnExpress/Nguyen Anh Tien

A non-poisonous red-tailed green ratsnake is found in Phu Quoc National Park. Photo by Nguyen Anh Tien

The final destination of the trek is Thay Tu Waterfall, measuring approximately 5 meters in height.

Surrounding the waterfall, visitors can find shelter under arched rocks that provide respite from rain and sunlight, doubling as cooking and resting areas.

Adjacent to the waterfall, there is a sinkhole where visitors can capture photographs.

Thay Tu Waterfall is located deep in the park. Photo by VnExpress/Nguyen Anh Tien

Thay Tu Waterfall is located deep in Phu Quoc National Park. Photo by Nguyen Anh Tien

The water from the waterfall flows into a sizable lake directly beneath, offering clear and refreshing waters.

Visitors can swim, fish, or take photographs. Ample flat rocks in the vicinity are ideal for camping, moon-watching, and stargazing during night time.

“It rained during the trek, and I initially thought luck was not on my side. However, upon reaching the waterfall, the rising water made the spectacle even more impressive,” Tan said of his May trip.

To make the most of the trekking experience, Tien suggests that the optimal season is the dry period, spanning from September to February of the following year when rainfall is minimal, yet waterfalls and streams remain abundant, and foliage thrives. Currently, Phu Quoc is in its rainy season; however, visitors can still enjoy trekking, provided they avoid storms or heavy rainfall.

Tien advises visitors to bring sunscreen, bug sprays, long-sleeved clothing, hats, sunglasses, swimwear, sports shoes, and waterproof bags for their phones.

The food is prepared by the guides in advance. Along the trek, visitors have the opportunity to gather mushrooms and wild vegetables, which are then grilled and served.

Shiitake mushrooms are often used as a daily food. Photo by VnExpress/Nguyen Anh Tien

Shiitake mushrooms found inside Phu Quoc National Park are cooked to serve the visitors. Photo by Nguyen Anh Tien

The park strictly regulates fire usage, hunting, and gathering, necessitating adherence to the guides' instructions.

Visitors are reminded not to litter, refrain from touching animals and plants indiscriminately, and avoid cutting down or removing anything from the forest. Tan's tour guides actively collect and dispose of all waste encountered during the trek.

“Gazing at these green trees, one could hardly believe this is Phu Quoc's forest,” Tan mused, as he had previously regarded it as rather boring. He suggests that those familiar with the blue hues of Phu Quoc's seas should venture into the forest to appreciate its greenery, guaranteeing a remarkable experience.

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Saigon weekend: what to do and where to go

HCMC Foodex 2023

The Ho Chi Minh City International Exhibition of Food and Beverages 2023 (HCMC FOODEX 2023) kicked off on Wednesday. The exhibition is organized by the Ho Chi Minh City Investment and Trade Promotion Center (ITPC) in collaboration with the Consulate General of Italy in HCMC, as part of the activities to celebrate the 50th anniversary of diplomatic relations between Vietnam and Italy.

HCMC Foodex 2023 brings together over 200 local and international food industry enterprises. The event promotes reputable products, facilitates business partnerships, trade connections, and investment opportunities. With nearly 250 booths, the exhibition showcases a wide range of food and beverage products, offering visitors free samples, discounts, lucky draws, and cooking demonstrations. Italian businesses and products are a highlight of the event, offering a glimpse into Italy's natural and cultural heritage through its cuisine.

The event welcomes the public until Friday, between 9 a.m. and 5 p.m., at the Saigon Exhibition and Convention Center (SECC), at 799 Nguyen Van Linh Street, Tan Phu Ward, District 7. Business attire is required, and admission is restricted to individuals aged 12 and above.

Talk shows and workshops FUSE

FUSE is a series of events that mark 50 years of friendship between Vietnam and Canada. Visitors can participate in workshops, talks, dances, and concerts featuring artists from the two countries. Discover the fusion of music and dance through “Fuse of Creation,” a fashion show with artist Denique and choreographer Nguyen Duy Thanh.

FUSE. Photo courtesy of Sun Life Viet Nam

FUSE poster. Photo courtesy of Sun Life Viet Nam

Visitors can also explore contemporary movements with “Fuse of Life” with performances by two circus artists Julien Desforges from Canada and Hien Phuoc from Vietnam, or experience the fusion of sensations and languages with Yama Laurent and Ngo Hong Quang through “Fuse of Language.”

The events will take place from 10 a.m. to 9:30 p.m. on July 1 at The Ants Studio, No. 3, Dong Tay 1 Street, An Phu Ward, District 2. To attend, visitors must register through this link. The concert night will be live-streamed on Sun Life Vietnam's Facebook page.

French movie “Les Magnétiques” (Magnetic Beats)

French cinema rendez-vous is a weekly event introducing the richness and diversity of French cinema by screening a variety of very different films. Screenings are held by French Cinema Rendez-vous and Institut français de HCMV.

Les Magnétiques. Photo courtesy of French Cinema Rendez-vous

“Les Magnétiques” poster. Photo courtesy of French Cinema Rendez-vous

This week's movie is “Les Magnétiques,” a coming-of-age film that explores the lives and dreams of a group of friends who create a free radio station in rural France. The film is set in the region of Brittany, where music, culture, and politics collide. It follows Jerome and his younger brother Philippe, as they face challenges and changes in their personal and professional lives. They have no idea that their lives will soon change, as Philippe has no choice but to leave for West Berlin as he is called for military service.

The screening will take place on July 1, 2023 at 7p.m. at DCiné Cinema, No.6 Mac Dinh Chi, District 1. The price of a ticket is VND60,000 ($2.55) per person.

Exhibition “From plein air to atelier”

The exhibition will open on July 1, featuring the artworks of two Vietnamese artists who were inspired by Italy's natural and cultural landscapes. The exhibition is organized by Patron Art Space in collaboration with the Consulate General of Italy in HCMC.

The artists, Bui Duy Khanh and Duong Thuy, who spent several months in Italy, used plein air techniques, which involve painting outdoors, to capture the essence of Italy's light, color, and atmosphere. They also added their own Vietnamese touch to their paintings, creating a fusion of styles and perspectives.

The exhibition will be open from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m., from July 1 until 9 at LAGarden Restaurant – Lan Anh Village, at No.2 Street 45, Thu Thiem Ward, District 2.

Sunday brunch buffet

Le Méridien Saigon has launched a new Sunday brunch buffet menu at the Latest Recipe Restaurant. The buffet features a wide range of delicacies, such as foie gras, lobster, French bulot, fresh seafood, and imported meats, as well as desserts, cheeses, salads, and more. Visitors can also enjoy free-flowing drinks, including sparkling wine, beer, juices, and soft drinks.

The new Sunday brunch buffet menu features a wide range of fresh seafood. Photo courtesy of Latest Recipe Restaurant

The new Sunday brunch buffet menu at Le Méridien Saigon features a wide range of seafood. Photo courtesy of Latest Recipe Restaurant

Latest Recipe Restaurant is a contemporary dining venue that offers global cuisines with a local twist. The restaurant has an open kitchen and a stylish décor, creating a welcoming atmosphere.

The buffet is available every Sunday from noon to 3 p.m. at the restaurant, situated on the M Floor of Le Méridien Saigon at 3C Ton Duc Thang Street, Ben Nghe Ward, District 1. The buffet menu starts from VND1,590,000 ($67.53) per guest. Discounts are available for Club Marriott and Marriott Bonvoy members.

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Chinese tourists could face imprisonment and fines for stepping on coral reefs and touching starfish in Thailand.

Chinese tourists face jail time for stepping on Thai coral reefs 

A man walks at Karon beach on Phuket Island, Thailand on April 1, 2021. Photo by Reuters

Photos and video clips of three Chinese divers picking up starfish and stepping on coral reefs during a south Phuket island diving tour on Koh Racha were posted on Tuesday on the Facebook page “Monsoon Garbage Thailand”, and quickly went viral on social media.

This prompted many calls on Thai authorities to investigate the act of environmental transgression, and Thai law states anyone who harms or disturbs such wildlife may be fined up to 100,000 baht and jailed for up to two years.

Two of the divers have already confessed and turned themselves into police, while the third suspect remains at large, as The Phuket News reported. The diving tour group included 30 members.



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One dish, 40 years, and a 4000 kilometer leap

Located on Lo Duc Street in Hanoi, Pho Thin is an unassuming eatery that has been serving its signature dish – Pho Tai Lan – for an impressive 40 years! While this single dish may not be particularly unique, the soup's popularity has been growing consistently – and that's hardly surprising given how renowned it is amongst regular diners. If you're a fan of pho, then Pho Thin should definitely be on your list of must-try places – for you may well discover that it serves one of the best bowls of pho you can find, in Hanoi and beyond!

One dish, 40 years, and a 4000 kilometer leap

Standing out from the crowd, Pho Tai Lan is a one-of-a-kind dish prepared with unique flair. The centerpiece of the plate is beef, first quickly cooked in a hot pan with garlic and ginger before being served with noodles and broth. There is no substituting the beef with chicken and no stir-frying the noodles. Despite only offering the single dish, Pho Tai Lan has been a hit for 40 years and remains beloved amongst foreigners.

One dish, 40 years, and a 4000 kilometer leap - 1

Despite some people's opinions that this eatery ought to be declared a ‘proper restaurant', many simply want Thin, the owner, to maintain the flavors, taste, and cleanliness. They are not concerned with its visibility or name.

As morning turns to afternoon, the fragrance of Thin's pho broth becomes increasingly enticing – a mixture of star anise and black cardamom that wafts throughout the area. Thin credits the recipe for his famous broth to a combination of continually learning from both the past and other pho makers in Hanoi.

When it is time to serve the broth, the beef has been stir-fried in a large basket; this is, apparently, quite a skill that necessitates lots of experience to get it just right!

One dish, 40 years, and a 4000 kilometer leap - 2

When you come to this restaurant, you will have to pay upfront for your meal. A typical bowl of pho tai lan will cost you VND60,000 ($2.5). Additionally, if you would like some side dishes, you can get three pieces of quay for VND10,000 ($0.4) and a poached egg for VND10,000 ($0.4) as well. Other popular side dishes here are deep fried flour sticks.

One dish, 40 years, and a 4000 kilometer leap - 3

With its wooden and plastic seating and metal tables, this no-frills diner provides customers with a clean, comfortable environment to enjoy their flavorful pho. The walls are decorated with framed black and white pictures of old Hanoi and newspaper articles written about this beloved eatery. American tourist Tibo Rivero was charmed, exclaiming, “This might be the most delicious dish I’ve ever tried in Vietnam. The broth is flavorful and the beef is very appetizing. I will definitely come back here.”

One dish, 40 years, and a 4000 kilometer leap - 4

The unassuming nature of this restaurant has certainly not held it back from its success; with the grand opening of its second location in Tokyo, Japan earlier this month, it has launched itself into a new stage of its journey. It has been met with a warm reception from customers thus far.



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Vietnam welcomes over 5.5 million international visitors in six months

The number of domestic tourists during the period was estimated at 64 million. Total revenue from tourists was estimated at VND343.1 trillion (US$14.6 billion).

In June alone, Vietnam welcomed over 975,000 international travellers, an increase of 6.4% from the previous month.

Major markets of Vietnam’s tourism were South Korea, mainland China, Taiwan, the U.S., Malaysia, Japan, Singapore, Cambodia, Thailand, and Australia.

Vietnam welcomes over 1.5 million foreign visitors in January hinh anh 1

The search volume for Vietnam's tourism via Google's market trend tracking tool has kept growing from the beginning of this year. It was the only Southeast Asian nation listed in the top 10 destinations with the highest growth worldwide.

According to the VNAT, the increasing search volume for Vietnam indicates a strong demand recovery. So, Vietnam sees good opportunities to attract international visitors in the coming time.

In a relevant development, the National Assembly on June 24 approved extending tourist e-visas from 30 to 90 days, starting from August 15, 2023.

Upon being granted an e-visa, a foreigner can enter and exit an unlimited number of times within 90 days, without having to go through procedures for obtaining a new visa.

Vietnam 3 Month Visa / E-Visa for Tourist and Business

Citizens of countries that are unilaterally exempted from visas by Vietnam will be granted temporary residence for 45 days (up from 15 days) and can be considered for visa issuance and temporary residence extension according to regulations.

Such new policies are expected to help Vietnam attract a large number of international visitors, especially during the peak season starting around September, according to the VNAT.

Vietnam received 3.66 million foreign tourists last year and strived to welcome 8 million this year, and earn around VND650 trillion ($27.6 billion) from tourism services. The target was set before China, the primary tourist market to Vietnam, announced its reopening in February.

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