Coming to Can Tho City, a quiet area that tourists should not ignore is Binh Thuy Communal House, known in the past as Long Tuyen Communal House.
Ong tu (guard) inside the Binh Thuy Communal House in Can Tho City - Photo: My Tran
Located in Binh Thuy Ward, about five kilometers from the center of Can Tho, the site is not as famous as other sites in the city such as Binh Thuy Old House, Cai Rang Floating Market, Ninh Kieu Wharf or Ong Pagoda.
However, the communal house, which has existed for over two centuries, will bring another side of Can Tho’s history with its fine architecture and antiques.
Built in the 19th century, the Communal House was named Bon Canh Thanh Hoang on November 9th 1893 by King Tu Duc.
Later the Communal House was dedicated to national heroes including Dinh Cong Trang, Nguyen Trung Truc, Bui Huu Nghia and Vo Huy Tap. It was completely renovated in 1910.
If you are an architecture enthusiast, you will recognize that the communal house’s architecture is different from communal houses in the north. The front and the back buildings are square, and its side has six rows of columns, and all the columns’ bases are extra-wide, making these buildings more stable.
The roofs of the two front buildings were built overlapping each other. The main temple at the rear has three roofs. The top of the roof is covered with statues of people, lions and fish.
In the front of the building, there are cement columns. Inside the ancestor-worshipping house, there are altars dedicated to worship the animal gods.
It is considered a valuable monument of art and architectural style in the newly-expanded south western area. Although it was built at the beginning of the 20th century, its architecture has many traditional characteristics with carved and engraved wooden boards.
Bas-reliefs, lacquered boards and paralleled sentences or royal costumes and old paintings is an interesting area for art lovers.
Another impressive thing is the attendance of ong tu (the guard) of the house. He is very old with white hair and slowcoach gait. He will accompany you around the house and show you where to take the best photographs.
Some giant trees in the spacious yard shading the house make it more ancient and peaceful.
The house is also a venue for traditional ceremonies and festivals.
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If Linton Borthwick gets his wish, on your next visit to Vietnam, you’ll be unlocking your room door via mobile phone, signing an iPad for dinner, and expending but a single sheet of paper for an entire week’s stay.
Considering that Borthwick has already gotten several of his other recent wishes, that scenario may be just around the corner.
In June of 2011, the Caravelle Hotel Saigon in downtown Ho Chi Minh City joined a handful of leading hotels worldwide that have converted from magnetized room keys to advanced RFID (radio frequency identification) technology. The new keys only need to be in the proximity of the door to unlock it.
Making service more convenient, efficient and personal is an overplayed mantra in the hospitality industry. Yet a surprising trend is emerging in far-flung Vietnam, where iconic heritage properties are striding to the front of the lineup by offering guests the most innovative high-tech gadgets and software on the market.
The 52-year-old Caravelle Hotel, best known for its role as a journalist haven during the Vietnam War, followed its room key upgrade by installing GPS tracking in all its Mercedes vehicles, enabling perfectly-timed welcome rollouts for VIPs.
Borthwick’s real pet project, a remote check-in service that allows arriving guests to bypass the front desk altogether, only made its debut this month. Two Wii-pads, remote handheld tablets, enable check-ins to take place anywhere on the property. At present, the Caravelle is conducting its mobile check-in from the seating area of the lobby, but the hotel expects to extend this option to other areas: the rooftop bar, in the elevator, even by the pool.
What’s cutting edge on Wall Street, where a hotel was just hailed by one of the leading travel magazines in the world, is also making a mark on Dong Khoi Street.
While the Caravelle presses forward in bustling Ho Chi Minh City, in the cool capital city of Hanoi, the Sofitel Legend Metropole Hanoi, the undisputed grand dame of Vietnamese hospitality, is undergoing a digital makeover.
In contrast to the old-world ambience and elegant, French-inspired decor, an array of slick, modern devices have found their way into every corner of the historic hotel. Suites come with state-of-the-art Beosound 8 docking sound systems, plus the use of a personal iPad, just in case you opted not to pack your laptop.
Meanwhile, guests on the hunt for tour information at the concierge desk are offered iPads for online searches, as diners in the Italian restaurant, Angelina, peruse the wine list on another of the trendy e-tablets. Free WiFi will debut in all the Metropole’s rooms by October.
Behind the scenes, the hotel is swapping breakthrough industry software with its current guest request tracking system, concierge databases and front office operations.
Of these, the popular Go Concierge program is set to do away with a host of guest frustrations. Soon the concierge on duty will respond to requests for ticket reservations or restaurant recommendations by printing information from a pre-loaded database. Ideally, guests could have confirmation letters, itineraries and even directions in their hands within minutes.
“The biggest changes we’re making are invisible, most of our guests will probably never be aware of them,” says Kai Speth, general manager of the 110-year-old property. “What they will experience are shorter wait times, and smoother, more efficient service when putting up at the Metropole Hotel.”
For one heritage property however, acquiring the newest technology has more to do with ensuring peace of mind than with ironing the seams out of service.
Gliding serenely through dramatic limestone karsts and turquoise waters, Emeraude Classic Cruises on Halong Bay entices guests with a vessel designed to evoke a lost age of glamour and discovery, drifting in one of the most stunning natural settings in the world.
For Jacques Le Fur, the French captain of the Emeraude, there is no pageantry to shelling out for gadgets and instruments like Fingerprinted Clock-In/Clock-Out, 3D radar and advanced GPS tracking. Though not required by Vietnamese regulations, these tools could one day spell a critical difference for the Emeraude and its passengers.
Finely-tuned GPS tracking automatically sounds an alarm any time the anchor drifts, or the vessel lists to an unusual degree. Le Fur is able to ascertain that engineers and sailors complete hourly rounds by examining the clock-in fingerprint log the Emeraude obtained from a manufacturer in Taiwan.
By bucking the obstacles to transplant modern technology into the country, these hotels are sending out a digital sign that when it comes to innovation, Vietnam is keen to perform on par with the best in the industry.
Talking about Quang Nam province, probably many people would think about Hoi An street or My Son holy city; however, the beautiful landscape in the west of Que Son town, at the headwaters of Thu Bon River is also a very attractive destination.
Tay Vien hot spring brings enjoyment and relaxation
Distant from My Son vestige about three kilometers towards the west is Tay Vien hot spring. This place is taken form from some earthquakes in the entrails of the earth millions of years ago.
The water in these two streams is very clear, with the average temperature of about 85 degrees.
This is an ideal place for tourist to steam bath. The stream’s water contains many precious mineral substances such as calcium, potassium, sulphur and iron.Tourists can also have a mud – bath here, which can help them to relax and cure some sickness.
At a distance of about five kilometers from Tay Vien towards the east, there is a very beautiful stream, named Fairy Stream. This is one of the most beautiful streams in the Central region.
Located in two sides of the stream are the rocky mountains. In the afternoon, the sunset contrasts and creates miraculous colors, and makes the landscape become a natural painting, which is so beautiful and impressive.
About 2.5 kilometres from Tay Vien hot spring towards the west, there is a cultural village, Dai Binh village. It is located nearby Thu Bon River.
Coming there, tourists can totally feel comfortable when relaxing in the ancient houses and enjoy the countryside fruits. The gardens here are just like ones in the South with so many kinds of fruit such as durian, mangosteen, rambutan, langsat, orange and grapefruit.
There is also ferry – boats for tourists to enjoy the scene along Thu Bon River. On the two sides of the river, people grow many mulberry. Tourists would be very impressed with the immense green of these mulberry gardens.
Tourist can stop their ferry – boats at any white sand – banks along the river to enjoy the beautiful landscape around as well as swimming, catching fishes and the delicious baked fishes.
The flow crosses two mountains. The cliffs look just like the huge dykes that divide the water into two parts. The scene is just so imposing.
When the ferry – boat floats downstream, tourists would have chance to visit Le Pass, with a beauty that is not very different from Fairy Stream. On this way back, Que Chau village would welcome tourists with the traditional Vietnamese opera and Non village would make tourists interested with the process of making “non la” (conical hat)- the traditional hat of Vietnamee people.
The United Nations and the UN Industrial Development Organisation will provide Hoi An city in central Quang Nam province with technical assistance to help turn the locality into an ecological one under a project that began on August 16.
Under the project, the Hoi An municipal People’s Committee will encourage green industrial activities at small and medium-sized enterprises, especially those operating in tourism, handicraft and relevant fields, while stepping up the provision of energy and environmental services based on the international “eco-city” model.
Outcomes and experiences of the project will be shared with other cities and provinces nationwide.
In the first seven months of this year, the world heritage site of Hoi An received more than 750,000 tourists, fulfilling 75 percent of its set target for the whole year.
The number of visitors choosing the city as a destination for their long stay also increases more than 20 percent compared with previous years.
The results are attributable to the close coordination between the city’s tourism sector and travel companies to welcome both domestic and foreign arrivals with best conditions.
Like Can Gio or Giang Dien Waterfall, Vuon Xoai Ecotourism Park in Dong Nai Province is a peaceful oasis for Saigonese to visit for a picnic or sightseeing trip on a short weekend break.
Some visitors take a bamboo boat cruise along a lake in Vuon Xoai Ecotourism Park in Dong Nai Province
Located 30 kilometres from Ho Chi Minh city in Tan Cang Village, Phuoc Tan Commune, Long Thanh District, and covering over 30 hectares, Vuon Xoai is a fun place where visitors can enjoy some outdoor games such as go-karting, swimming, tennis, fishing and ostrich riding. Visiting a crocodile swamp and tramping around a bamboo garden and orchard is also on offer to tourists.
If you are sitting at home having a quiet weekend, eating food or watching movies all day, why not get yourself out there to Vuon Xoai.
It’s not far from the city and for those who love a long walk on a weekend break, strolling around the bamboo garden or orchard, viewing cottages or the many bonsai trees and flowers is a good way to get some nice fresh air into your lungs and fresh local food is also good for your health.
If you like to contemplate or ponder life while you relax, a spot of fishing is a great choice as you take in the tranquil surroundings with the still water surface under the shade of trees, bamboo bridge and some small floating cottages on the lake.
If you like to just float on the still water and take it all in, there are tours around lakes or canals in the Mekong Delta on bamboo boats. However, tourists should make sure they put on life vests as a safety precaution.
Adventurous visitors can also try go-karting or ostrich riding.
Taking an electronic car at VND10,000 to go around the park is also good for those who are too tired to go the extra distance. Along the road, visitors have the chance to see crocodiles, caged bears, snakes, wild pigs, birds and peacocks.
There is no need to worry about getting thirsty or hungry as restaurants serve various Vietnamese dishes and drinks.
Visitors, who have plenty of time to spare, can stay overnight at some guest houses in the area and make a camp fire at night to top off an unforgettable trip.
Go-karting is popular with young visitors in Vuon Xoai – Photos: My Tran
The Thu Bon River basin covers an area of over 10,000 square kilometers in Quang Nam Province and is ranked fourth for hydropower potential in Vietnam. But to the local people, the river is considered the lifeblood that has helped raise many generations of residents on both banks.
|Part of the Thu Bon River with cloud-covered mountains in the background
Originating from Ngoc Linh Mountain in Dak Glei District, Kon Tum Province, the Thu Bon River flows into the sea via Cua Dai Estuary in Hoi An Town in Quang Nam Province. A tributary runs to the Vinh Dien River to pour water into the Han River in Danang City. And before going to the sea, part of the Thu Bon River courses through the Truong Giang River to pour into An Hoa Tam Quang Bay in Nui Thanh District.
From Vinh Dien up to Giao Thuy T-junction, one can see mulberry fields along the river banks. A folk art was born here, using literary figures to show the intelligence, optimism and sentiments of the locals.
For a long time, the Thu Bon River has been famous for the craft of raising silkworms and weaving fabric, and for the endless green mulberry farms stretching along its banks. Along the banks are many well-known craft centers such as Thanh Ha for pottery, Phuoc Kieu for bronze casting, Kim Bong for carpentry, Tra Que for vegetables, Ma Chau for silk, Phu Chiem for rice paper and Que Minh for conical hats.
Along the banks are numerous wharves and markets reflecting the rural lifestyle, and simple villages steeped in memories. The Trung Phuoc floating market is the busiest trading place in the region.
The Thu Bon River is likened to the Ganges River in India because it is a silt source forming the delta. Strangely, despite cultural interchange, the very northern and southern banks of the Thu Bon River have their own cultural differences characterised by voices, routine activities, festivals and even relics from each area. In the southern bank, the Champa culture still figures in daily activities, customs and festivals for local residents.
The Thu Bon Goddess Festival falls on the 12th day of the second lunar month, and is held solemnly in My Luoc Village, where a water procession is the most important part of the ceremony. Locals scoop water from the Thu Bon River and pour it into the jars, then carry them on their heads back to the village in deference to the river.
In the upstream district of Hiep Duc, locals set up a long house with an altar on the top to suspend a boat. The rituals around the boats aim to honor the “river mother” in the spiritual lives of locals.
For tourists who are interested in a river tour or an eco-tour to the countryside of Vietnam, taking a boat ride on the Thu Bon River may be their most enjoyable experience when they come to Quang Nam-Danang.
They can also visit Dai Buong, an orchard village similar to those found in the southern region with rambutan, durian and mangosteen. Tourists will have the chance to enjoy durian wine, which has an unforgettable flavor.
In Hon Kem-Da Dung area, where the river is narrowed by the cliffs on either bank, novelist Thai Ba Loi stood and gazed at the Thu Bon River and regretted: “On the river, hydropower dams were built, thousands of hectares of forest have been destroyed. Sand is exploited excessively. With such unethical behavior toward nature, people must reap what they sow.”
If the Thu Bon River, a water mother who opens her arms to hold the holy land which is home to the epic legends of Quang Nam, a traditional cultural stream filled with the colors of the central region’s countryside, and an attractive tour itinerary, is not protected from being destroyed by humans, it cannot retain its beautiful images in the minds of people who love the land.
Within one day of your visit to Nha Trang city, you’ll have a chance to discover wild islands and enjoy what you can’t do in the mainland.
|Monkey shines: A tourist feeds monkeys on Lao Island. When you are lying on the beach, don’t be surprised to see some monkeys lying nearby.
|Rich in fauna: Tourists can feed wild deer from their hands, one of the many wildlife interactions to be experienced in Nha Trang.
|Castaway: A pristine beach and pine forest on Thi Island where visitors can enjoy in water sports, such as parasailing, kayaking and jet skiing.
A tour to Nha Phu Bay, 12km from Nha Trang city by boat, is the most popular activity. Different from others, this tour offers a trip to three islands where you can come close to the nature and hide away from dusty life, said Anh Vu, a tour guide from Long Phu Company.
The first destination is Hon Thi, the 500ha island covered by pine trees. You can walk in the forest of decandrous persimmon, the tree that is the namesake of the island.
You can find ostriches and deer in the forest. The deer will approach you if you offer them a hand full of maize, their favourite food.
The island is clean and pristine, and if you are an adventurous tourist, you can ask the guide leading you to go deep into woods to discover the caves.
Orchid Stream on Hon Heo Peninsula offer tourists spectacular scenes. It is a picturesque sight from the sparkling mirror of the water to the mountain tops.
Walking along Orchid Stream, tourists reach a world of hundreds of wild orchids collected abroad and throughout the country.
The orchid garden is designed as a thousand-year forest. Continuing up the mountain, tourists can enjoy the pure water from the Orchid Waterfall at 900m above the sea level.
You may skip the trek for a swim at An Binh Beach, relaxing by a hot spring nearby, or enjoying an animal circus performance. Or, you could entertain yourself with water sports, such as parasailing, kayaking and jet skiing.
Vu affirmed that no island in the central sea has as many freshwater streams as Hon Heo Peninsula. He proved it by digging a hole in a forest near the seaside, then in front of our surprised eyes, scooped up a bowl of freshwater.
Orchid Stream is rooted in an old love story between a poor man and a girl born to a rich family. The man was asked to bring aloe and salanganes’, two of the region’s precious specialities, as betrothal gifts. The girl decided to go with her lover to find the offerings for her parents. They went but found nothing.
The girl dropped off to sleep as she was too tired. When she woke up, she didn’t see the man. Seeking him, she found blood stains everywhere. She believed that he was attacked by beasts. She cried again and again until she dissolved in her stream of tears. This is the legend of the stream that now runs throughout the peninsula. Where the man bled, now we find various orchids growing and blossoming.
“The legend of old explains the beautiful land,” Vu said, “Even though I think underground water sources from Hon Heo Mountain bring water for lakes and streams here.”
“The peninsula connects to Truong Son Mountain Range, which also receives running water. The wet environment is good for wild orchids to grow,” he explained.
Amy Morris from the US said she loves the tropical gardens on Hon Heo Peninsula.
“A beautiful garden with a running stream and good size fish, some enchanting bridges to walk across, and a log to lay on for a beautiful photo, this place is amazing.”
“Watching orchids in bloom and the other colourful flowers is a little bit of paradise in Nha Trang,” she said.
Hon Lao or Monkey Island, home to thousands of monkeys, is the final destination of this tour. The island is like a pearl in the ocean.
Monkeys are everywhere on the island and are taught to not steal tourists’ belongings and attack people. When you are lying on the beach, don’t be surprised when you suddenly see some monkeys lying nearby.
The monkeys are smart and friendly. Their origin on the island dates back to 1983 when Vietnam and the former Soviet Union did research on primates for vaccines.
Although the monkeys are trained, the tour guide will warn you to be careful while feeding and playing with them.
“Looking at them, you may feel interested but don’t grin, they may misinterpret it as a threat,” he said.
“You’ll find it fun to play with the wild monkeys, but remember to obey the tourist area’s regulations to guarantee your safety and protect the natural life of the monkeys.”
Green beautiful stretches of flowers and a long strip of fine sand, about 500m long, is an ideal place for you to feed the monkeys and take pictures of them.
You can rent jetskis and kayaks on the island. If you are an enthusiasts of speed and adrenaline, you can enjoy racing karts. From scuba diving to snorkelling, you have access to a view of the beautiful ocean floor and the possibility of exploring the castles of coral and marine life.
Moments spent relaxing in nature or approaching wild animals are unforgettable. If you have more time, don’t limit yourself to just one day. Simple houses and bungalows are available, if you can spend a night without modern conveniences, to enjoy a quiet atmosphere.
Go Thap Archaeological Area in the Mekong Delta is nothing but ruins reflecting the once proud Oc Eo, a culture that had its glorious development 1,500 years ago.
People pay tribute to statues of Doc Binh Kieu and Vo Duy Duong, two of the leaders of the resistance against French troops in Go Thap
On Wednesday, brownish mossy bricks are what is left of the foundation of a tower which served as a worship area for local people in 500 AD.
The area was uncovered in 1984 when archeologists found a number of artifacts of the Oc Eo civilization in the site about 43 kilometers from Cao Lanh City.
Further excavations and findings saw the discovery of the foundation of the tower, which was built 25 meters long and 13.85 meters wide and in the eastwestern direction to allow the sun to cast its first and last light on the building.
After excavation work the tower’s foundation was renovated in 1995 and then opened to scientists, researchers and those who were keen to dig deep into the history of the Oc Eo culture which was part of the legendary kingdom of Phu Nam.
Recognised as a national vestige, the site in Thap Muoi District, Dong Thap Province is also home to Go Thap Muoi (Thap Muoi Hill), the grave and temple which honors Doc Binh Kieu – one of the leaders of the resistance against French occupation. Nearby is Ba Chua Xu Temple and Co Tu Tower which are located north of Thap Muoi Hill and built during the 19th century.
Go Thap Muoi also served as a base for revolutionary soldiers to fight against U.S. troops during the American War in Vietnam. A lot of people visit the site every year to learn how brave soldiers fought for independence.
The Go Thap Archaeological Area is quite a peaceful area as well as its cultural and historical value. The sounds of boat engines on nearby canals and the rustling sound of leaves falling from old trees make the site an oasis for visitors to rest and relax away from their daily life.
The ruins of a worship tower in Go Thap Archaeological Area – Photos: Mong Binh