Soak up culture while sipping on coffee in charming Hanoi

Posted by - June 14, 2018

CONTRARY TO POPULAR BELIEF, the capital of Vietnam is not Ho Chi Minh (more commonly known as Saigon).
It’s Hanoi, a metropolis located in northern region of the country.
Vietnam’s tourism sector spreads its wings, aims for the sky The “Hanoi vs. Ho Chi Minh” debate is not new, but if you’re hankering for a holiday destination with history (Hanoi’s stretches back 4,000 years while Ho Chi Minh City is at just 300 years), coffee, culture, and charm, then Hanoi should be your top priority.
Known for its centuries-old architecture and a rich culture with Southeast Asian, Chinese, and French influences, Hanoi’s tourism has been gaining traction as of late. This is in large part due to the rise of low-cost carriers such as AirAsia, Scoot, and VietJet, making the charming destination easier to reach from just about anywhere in the world.
It’s also the second cheapest Asian country to travel around, according to Skyscanner, which makes a Hanoi vacation a bang for the buck.
In fact, VIETNAMNET Bridge reported that Hanoi served more than 13 million tourists in the first five months of 2018, a year-on-year rise of 10 percent.
What draws people to Hanoi? Plenty of things.
The main names that will turn up in search results when you Google “tourist attractions in Hanoi” include (but not limited to) the Imperial Citadel of Thang Long, water puppet theatre, Ho Chi Minh Mausoleum, The Perfume Pagoda, Ngoc Son temple, Dong Suan market, Vietnam Museum of Ethnology, Hanoi Opera House, Ba Vi National Park, and the Temple of Literature.
The Temple of Literature entrance decorated with flags and lanterns for the mid-autumn festival in Hanoi. Source: Shutterstock.
Let’s not forget the heart of Hanoi, the chaotic but endearing Old Quarter, where Hoan Kiem Lake (Turtle Lake) is.
The fascination never ends as you walk along the narrow streets of the Old Quarter that are dotted with well-preserved colonial buildings. Scooters and bikes may whizz past you carelessly as you explore the town. Just take deep breaths and stay on your path because the area is best explored on foot.
The streets are arranged by trade, which makes shopping a breeze. Sidewalk food stalls selling pho (rice noodles with herbs and meat in broth) and bahn mi (baguette sandwich various savory ingredients) are a dime a dozen, and you can fill your tummy with satisfyingly delicious Vietnamese food for pennies.
Heads up though, the kiddy-sized low stools and tables will take some getting used to. But nothing an adventurous traveller can’t handle, for sure.
Stuff your bahn mi any number of protein options, from sweet minced pork to sardines and even pate. Source: Shutterstock.
Be sure to wash it all down with a generous serving of Vietnamese ca phe (coffee), famed for the way it’s made – with a small metal drip filter. For those who are particularly bold, the yummy ca phe sua chua (yogurt coffee) is a must-try.
Don’t forget to take a leisurely stroll at Hoan Kiem Lake, a central feature in Hanoi.
Legend has it that Hoan Kiem Lake is where the Golden Turtle God (Kim Qui) lives. In reality, the lake is home to large soft-shell turtles. If you’re planning to visit, don’t forget to walk across the striking red Huc Bridge to get to Ngoc Son Temple on the small island in the center.
By day, Hoan Kiem Lake bursts with activities, as it’s a popular place for joggers, couples on a date, the elderly practicing tai chi, locals line dancing, and families enjoying themselves.
Hoan Kiem Lake at night with the striking red Huc Bridge. Source: Shutterstock.
After sunset, however, the lake becomes beautifully illuminated, giving it a romantic atmosphere.
What else is there to do? Its prime location makes Ha Long Bay, a Unesco World Heritage Site and the most visited tourist site in the north of Vietnam, very accessible. The bay is only about 170km east of Hanoi.
“Ha Long” means “Bay of Descending Dragons”, but it’s likely that no actual dragons were spotted there. It’s more famous for its scenic views, as it boasts hundreds (1969, to be exact) of limestone islets in different shapes and sizes rising up from the water.
Hạ Long Bay is known for its emerald waters and hundreds of towering limestone islands topped by rainforests. Source: Shutterstock.
To really experience Ha Long Bay, stay on board a cruise for a night. It’ll give you ample time to explore the bay on a smaller bamboo boat, visit hidden caves and floating villages, kayak or even swim if you’d like, before retiring and falling asleep beneath the stars on the top deck of your cruise.
How to get there? There are no direct flights to Ha Long Bay but getting there is fairly simple and straightforward.
The most popular and inexpensive way is to get on a local coach. The journey should take you about four to five hours long. Prices are anywhere between US$3.50 to US$7. Get your ticket to your ride here.
Alternatively, you can hire a private car and have yourself a little road trip from Hanoi to Ha Long Bay. Prices depend on car and day (can be higher on weekends and holidays) but you should expect to splurge about US$25 to US$65 per day. Go to this website for more information.
There are a number of ways to get to Ha Long Bay from Hanoi. Source: Shutterstock.
Finally, the easiest and most fuss-free option of making your way to Ha Long Bay is to book a cruise package here or here.
Most packages include a roundtrip transfer in which a shuttle will pick you up and drop you off at your hotel’s doorstep.
How to be an eco-friendly, alternative traveler Meanwhile, Hanoi’s Hoan Kiem district launched its own tourism website to promote its tourism potential and attract more tourists to the area.
The Hanoi Department of Tourism has also been working with CNN to give its promotional efforts more mileage via CNN’s “Destination Hanoi” programme.
This year, Hanoi expects to serve more than 25.4 million holidaymakers, including 5.5 million foreigners, which will bring in some VND75.78 trillion (US$3.33 billion) in revenue.
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Vietnam’s tourism sector spreads it wings, aims for the sky

Posted by - May 4, 2018

VIETNAM, the land of timeless charm, has welcomed a record number of international tourists in the first quarter of 2018.
According to the General Statistics Office, 5.5 million foreign visitors have entered Vietnam since January 2018 until April.
Of the total 29.5 percent increase in tourism, 36 percent came in from other Asian countries, accounting for 4.16 million of the total visitors.
Asia: Beyond the tourist hot spots Like many other Asian countries, China acted as the main source of foreign visitors with just under 1.77 million travelers going to Vietnam in the last four months.
These figures will secure Vietnam’s tourism boom for a while longer.
They also adhere to a 2017 report released by the United Nation World Tourism Organization stating Vietnam’s tourism industry is the world’s seventh fastest growing.
How is Vietnam pulling in tourists? Last year, Vietnam implemented an easy to use online visa application service. Citizens from 40 countries including South Korea, the Philippines, Timor-Leste, Japan, Mongolia, and Brunei could start using the platform.
Vietjet, the nation’s main low-cost airline has also recently announced new flight routes to Taiwan and South Korea.
The route from Hanoi to Taichung is planned to run every day, twice a day except for Tuesdays and Thursdays.
The Danang to Daegu route will fly daily making one flight to South Korea and then back to Vietnam.
Vietjet aims to become a predominant player in the budget airline game, and this new move will certainly help to attract more visitors.
Vietnam’s tourism goal The last decade has seen the number of international visitors triple and tourism-driven revenue has increased by nine times.
These shows in Asia are more tempting than a Broadway musical Tourism has since been identified as a key economic sector which will help to create jobs in real estate, retail, education, hospitality, and construction.
According to Bloomberg, the Vietnamese government is targeting 15-17 million visitors in 2018. This amounts to around US$98 billion of revenue for the economy.
Why visit Vietnam? A post shared by Sepps (@donkeykongrap) on May 3, 2018 at 2:19am PDT
Let’s begin with food Vietnamese food is a trademark of the nation. A fusion of French and Pan-Asian cuisine is mixed together for heavenly enjoyment.
From beef pho topped with a myriad of fragrant herbs, to the crunchy banh mi baguettes stuffed with carrot, scallions, daikon, crisp pork, lettuce, Siracha, coriander, and mint.
A post shared by The Hood Is Yours (@thehoodparis) on May 3, 2018 at 12:03am PDT
Not forgetting, arguably the world’s best coffee. Watch as the rich black coffee drips onto thick and creamy condensed milk – sure to give you the best start to the day.
Outstanding natural beauty A post shared by Văn Thành Công (@louisvanthanh) on May 1, 2018 at 9:23pm PDT
From miles of white beaches to the hazy mountains, Vietnam boasts some of the most Instagrammable spots in Asia.
Whether you want to sip cocktails on a unicorn float in a private bay or hike to the top of Fansipan, the landscapes won’t let you down.
Shopping A post shared by Piti Pri (@pricardamone) on Apr 12, 2017 at 7:18pm PDT
If you want to be bougie-on-a-budget, then Vietnam is the place for you.
Get a suit tailored for as little as US$100, indulge in streams of silk scarves or top up your jewelry collection.
Nothing is particularly expensive. In fact, Vietnam is the second cheapest Asian country to travel around, according to Skyscanner.
So, will you be helping Vietnam reach its tourism goal?
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So Uber got Grabbed but what does it mean for travelers?

Posted by - March 27, 2018

GOODBYE, UBER. It has been swell, and all good things have to come to an end.
But has it, really?
On March 26, 2018, Grab released a statement confirming rumors that the company will be taking over Uber’s operations and assets in Southeast Asia as both ride-sharing giants will merge into one, effectively turning Grab into a ride-hailing juggernaut.
This includes Cambodia, Indonesia, Malaysia, Myanmar, the Philippines, Singapore, Thailand and Vietnam.
Uber is not giving up on Singapore Uber, which is preparing for a potential initial public offering in 2019, lost US$4.5 billion last year and is facing fierce competition at home and in Asia, as well as a regulatory crackdown in Europe, Tech Wire Asia wrote.
“Grab today announced that it has acquired Uber’s Southeast Asia operations. This deal is the largest-ever of its kind in Southeast Asia,” Grab wrote.
“Grab will integrate Uber’s ridesharing and food delivery business in the region into Grab’s existing multi-modal transportation and fintech platform.”
As part of the acquisition, Uber will take a 27.5 percent stake in Grab and Uber CEO Dara Khosrowshahi will join Grab’s board.
Singapore-based Grab has confirmed purchase of Uber’s Southeast Asian business. Source: Shutterstock.
While Uber employees in Singapore and Malaysia were scrambling to evacuate the offices, Uber’s loyal riders took to social media to wail: “What about my five-star rating on Uber?”, “With no competition, does this mean no more competitive pricing?”, “Will I still be able to order food from UberEats?”
Here’s what you need to know:
What’s going to happen to your Uber account? As a rider, getting a five-star rating on Uber is such an immensely gratifying achievement. What’s going to happen now that the ride-sharing giants are merging?
Your account will still be active, so your five-star rating is not going to just disappear into the virtual abyss. But you can only use it in countries where Uber operates.
With Grab and Uber coming together, your account’s data will be transferred over to the Grab app. Source: Shutterstock.
You will still be able to view your past trips and ratings in the Uber app, but data that you’ve previously shared with Uber (excluding payment information) will be transferred to Grab and it will not be visible in the Grab app.
If you don’t have the Grab app, you will need to download it and register your account.
Will fares change? No competition equals no competitive pricing?
Grab says fret not.
According to Grab, the calculation of fares will still be fair. Source: Shutterstock.
Just like before, fares will continue to be calculated based on a base distance, with an applicable surcharge based on demand and supply, traffic conditions and estimated time taken for the journey.
For the GrabTaxi (Metered) and GrabTaxi (Executive) options, passengers will continue to pay by metered fares set by taxi companies.
Does this mean faster booking? The assumption is that the Uber and Grab merger will result in more drivers on the road and therefore, shorter waiting times and faster bookings.
And that is the dream.
Eventually, riders will be able to experience shorter wait times. Source: Shutterstock.
However, as the companies are going through a transitional period, so will the drivers. Grab will need to get Uber drivers on board the Grab platform and also iron out the kinks.
As a rider, expect some service disruptions during the transition timeframe. But all will be well once the trial and error period is over, and you should be able to enjoy a faster booking experience.
What about UberEats? Did you just start loving Uber’s food delivery app and how you can literally have food delivered right to your doorstep at work?
Unfortunately, UberEats will cease to exist in Southeast Asia in May.
Grab’s food delivery business just bit an entire chunk out of Uber’s. Source: Shutterstock.
In its place will be a new food delivery platform, GrabFood. GrabFood already exists in Indonesia and Thailand but an expansion to Singapore and Malaysia, and other major countries in Southeast Asia, is currently underway.
All your favourite restaurants on UberEats will be available in the new GrabFood app and the prices are expected to remain the same as before. To use the service, you will have to sign up with a fresh account and profile on GrabFood.
I’m an Uber for Business user. What gives? Just like Uber’s service in Southeast Asia, the Uber for Business service will no longer be supported for trips taken in Southeast Asia.
The merger affects Uber for Business users too. Source: Shutterstock.
Uber for Business lets companies set up corporate accounts through which employees can charge their rides directly to their employers.
If you’ve been using Uber for Business, it’s best to start looking for alternatives if you need to be shuttled about in Southeast Asia for work.
Is Asia all Uber-ed out? The Uber app will continue to operate for two weeks to ensure stability for Uber drivers.
Come April 8, 2018, Uber’s services in Southeast Asia will be unavailable.
The post So Uber got Grabbed but what does it mean for travelers? appeared first on Travel Wire Asia.

Get your Obama fan-girl on at this Vietnamese restaurant

Posted by - March 14, 2018

IF you’ve ever wondered how a president takes his bun cha (Vietnamese pork noodles), or you’re just missing Obama so much you want to gaze adoringly at his used chopsticks, then this Hanoi streetfood restaurant has you covered.
The small Bún chả Hương Liên shop shot to fame after the former president dined with US celebrity chef Anthony Bourdain back in May 2016. After garnering attention from customers wanting to know exactly where the two sat and what they ate, the owners decided to enshrine the table – complete with dinner set and empty beer bottles – in a glass case.
“The customers love it, many take photos next to the table,” Nguyen Thi Hang Nga, co-owner of the restaurant, told the BBC.
Hanoi’s Huong Lien, aka Bun Cha Obama, has apparently turned the table where @Bourdain & @BarackObama sat into a memorial. (Via FB)
— Mike Tatarski (@miketatarski) March 10, 2018
While the owners have attempted to lay out the plates, bowls, chopsticks and beer bottles exactly as Obama and Bourdain left them, they haven’t gone so far as to leave them unwashed.
Rather than a big surge in customers wanting to view the novelty items, Nguyen said business has remained pretty much unchanged.
“It is not a PR gimmick, I don’t think we get more clientele,” he said. “The display was set up just before the Lunar New Year [in mid-February] and I haven’t noticed any change in the flow of diners.
The President’s chopstick skills are on point . #buncha #hanoi
A post shared by anthonybourdain (@anthonybourdain) on May 23, 2016 at 7:22am PDT
In a Tweet featuring the preserved table, Bourdain said: “Not sure how I feel about this.”
As it is believed to be the only example of the practice being used on a foreign dignitary, perhaps it’s understandable he’s a bit taken aback. According to the BBC, the honor is normally reserved for the country’s top leaders such as Ho Chi Minh who had their meals kept this way for posterity.
But for the owners, who have also named a meal on their menu after Obama, it’s simply a special day they want to remember.
“For us, it is a nice memory that we will cherish forever,” said Nguyen.
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