Connect with us


Ninh Binh among world’s best-hidden family vacation spots



Canadian travel magazine “The Travel” has released their top 10 of the world’s best-hidden family vacation spots to visit in 2023, including Ninh Binh in Vietnam.

Nestled in the northern part of Vietnam, The Travel wrote, Ninh Binh is one of the best-hidden family vacations in the world and guarantees a unique experience.

“It’s scenic nature is one of the most attractive things about the place. It also boasts a fascinating history and an amazing culture,” it added.

According to the magazine, both kids and adults will enjoy marveling at stunning caves, hiking through lush forests, going rock climbing, and enjoying a boat ride along the Tam Coc River./.



Explore untouched islands in Kiên Giang Province



The Nam Du archipelago in Kiên Giang Province consists of over 20 islands, islets and rocky outcroppings. VNS Photo Văn Châu

If you are too familiar with the famous beaches or islands of Việt Nam, like Mỹ Khê Beach in Đà Nẵng City, Nha Trang Bay and Phú Quốc Island, and are looking for a wholly new place, then try Nam Du and the Hòn Sơn islands in Kiên Giang Province.

Near Phú Quốc Island in the southeastern province, Nam Du and Hòn Sơn islands, with their blue sea and unique and delicious seafood, are attracting more and more tourists to come to admire their beauty. The islands give you the chance to do things freely, enjoy and explore them in your own way without any modern facilities. It is surely the most special experience that you could ever have.

Nam Du is a beautiful archipelago consisting of 21 large and small islands in the Gulf of Thailand, of which Củ Tron is the largest. In the distance are Dầu, Ông, Ngang, and Mấu Islands, forming a charming area. The wild beauty and unexplored tourism services attract tourists to this archipelago.

With beautiful pristine beaches such as Chướng Beach and Đá Đen Beach, with shallow water levels and coconut trees, Nam Du will bring you an extremely comfortable summer trip and freedom with nature.

Currently, there are also a variety of motels, hostels and even homestays. You can also set up camping tents right at the beaches on the island.

Diving is a popular activity among foreign tourists in Nam Du Islands.

Snorkelling in coral reefs is an unforgettable experience in the Nam Du archipelago. VNS Photo Văn Châu

A favourite destination for diving is pristine Hòn Mấu Island. Visitors hire diving suits and fins as well as diving tanks to start training. They learn signs to communicate under water and tips to deal with tough situations.

They then go underwater in their diving suits in a shallow area. Each guest is accompanied by one coach who gives instructions. Finally, guests dive further into the sea. Those without prior experience will dive no deeper than 10 metres.

Due to water pressure, tourists might have symptoms of tinnitus or find it difficult to breathe. But after a few minutes, people get used to it.

In the past few years, the island residents have developed community tourism models, making contributions to socio-economic development for Nam Du Commune.

Visitor Trần Thị Trung from HCM City said, “While diving, you will have a chance to catch sea urchins. They are often eaten raw with a bit of mustard after being caught. The meat has a light yellow hue and a creamy taste.”

Trần Chí Trung, a local guide, shared that one of the favourite experiences of tourists when coming to Nam Du is diving to catch sea urchins. They usually spawn in the third to sixth month of the lunar calendar, and reside in cliffs, so you have to know how to catch them properly, otherwise they will prick with their thorns. Despite their thorny shape, urchins are one of the most nutritious and fattiest seafoods.

Coming to the Nam Du archipelago, visitors will be conquered by the charming scenery and fresh air. VNS Photo Văn Châu

Tourists are swimming in Nam Du seas. – VNS Photo Văn Châu

 Trần Hương Ly, from Bình Dương Province, said: “My friends and I really enjoyed diving to catch urchins when we had the opportunity to travel to Nam Du in early August.”

She shared her impression of the unspoiled and peaceful beauty of the islands. 

“We spent half a day diving to catch urchins and enjoyed preparing many delicious dishes. Joining this experience is also a way to help relax after stressful working days.”

Untouched beauty of Hòn Sơn

Hòn Sơn Island, located between Hòn Tre Island and Nam Du Islands, is one of the newest destinations for a summer retreat, with beautiful white sandy beaches and imposing mountains.

Considered one of the most beautiful islands in Kiên Giang, Hòn Sơn is a new hidden gem for nature-loving tourists. With its pristine beauty and graceful beaches reflecting the vast ocean, Hòn Sơn appears as a sparkling jewel surrounded by coconut groves, with a wild look.

Hòn Sơn is a new destination that tourists should not miss when coming to Kiên Giang. VNS Photo Văn Châu

Hòn Sơn boasts beautiful beaches like Bãi Nhà, Bãi Giếng, Bãi Bấc, and Bãi Bàng, lined with endless coconut palm groves.

Tourists can trek 450m above sea level to the peak of Ma Thiên Lãnh Mountain, which may take at least half a day both ways, made worthwhile by the panoramic view of the island.

With limited infrastructure, islanders are highly sensitive to the environment, employing eco-friendly paper straws at coffee houses.

Surrounded by the deep blue sea, the most distinctive characteristic of Hòn Sơn is the gorgeous beaches and bays. The water quality there is the best and clearest among the many islands of Việt Nam.

Coconut trees with strange shapes are common in Hòn Sơn Islands. VNS Photo Văn Châu

Bãi Nhà lies in the southwest of the island and can be accessed via a steep and grassy path from the main road. This spot is not perfect for swimming but it’s good for hiking along the rugged cliffs that stretch on both sides of the beach.

Bãi Bàng is one of the most beautiful beaches of Hòn Sơn with a crescent shape hemmed in by rock outcroppings. The soft sand beach is small but very good for swimming. The sea here is blue year around. This is an ideal place for tourists who want to immerse themselves in nature.

There is a large cliff facing the sea, with waves hitting the cliff creating majestic scenery.

Bãi Bấc is another great swimming spot where you can spend a whole day. It boasts a long, wide stretch of white sand backed by casuarina trees. Their shade is perfect for indulging in a lazy, peaceful picnic.

To enjoy more sparkling seas and soft sands, arrange a boat trip to some of the small islets around Hòn Sơn. For an all-round memorable ‘sea experience’, get your host to arrange a tour where you catch fish to eat on a raft house for lunch.

In addition to seascapes on the island, there are now a number of long-standing spiritual tourist sites that visitors can combine to visit such as: Bà Cố Chủ Temple, Nam Hải Tomb, Lại Sơn Temple and Hải Sơn Pagoda.

Going to the island, the famous dish that no one can ignore is seafood. Visitors can easily find famous Kiên Giang specialties such as mantis shrimp with garlic, grilled sea urchin, steamed crab with ginger and lemongrass, sea cucumbers, etc. are on offer at restaurants at Bãi Nhà wharf.

Nam Du and Hòn Sơn islands are a paradise for seafood lovers. VNS Photo Văn Châu

Kiên Giang develops island tourism

With the advantage of having many islands with beautiful scenery and the U Minh Thượng Forest, the Mekong Delta province of Kiên Giang welcomed nearly 2.3 million visitors in the first quarter of this year, up 44.7 per cent year-on-year, according to the provincial tourism authority.

In the first quarter of the year, more than 207,000 international tourists visited the province, up ninefold over the same period last year.

Tourism revenue totalled more than VNĐ5.36 trillion (US$229 billion), a year-on-year increase of 263 per cent.

Phú Quốc Island received more than 1.55 million tourists in the first three months, up 43 per cent year-on-year.

The province will put more investment in tourism infrastructure development to improve the quality of tourism products and services, according to Bùi Quốc Thái, director of the provincial Tourism Department.

It has strengthened tourism linkages with other cities and provinces and boosted promotion and marketing activities at home and abroad to attract more domestic and foreign tourists, Thái said.

To date, the province has attracted investments worth VNĐ380 trillion in 328 tourism projects.

Of that figure, 75 projects worth more than VNĐ19.2 trillion are on stream and 84 projects worth VNĐ197.5 trillion are under construction. The remaining 169 projects have been approved and are undergoing investment preparation procedures.

The province’s master plan on tourism development for the 2021-30 period outlines four key areas: Phú Quốc, Hà Tiên Kiên Lương, Rạch Giá Kiên Hải, and U Minh Thượng.

Its target is to receive 8.3 million tourists this year, a year-on-year increase of 9.7 per cent. VNS

How to get to Nam Du, Hòn Sơn

The only way to go to Nam Du and Hòn Sơn islands is by speed boat. So you need to get to the port in Rạch Giá City to catch a boat to the island. Depending on the type of boat, the journey will take 2.5 to 3.5 hours.

Visitors can fly from HCM City or Hà Nội to Rạch Giá Airport.

Travellers prone to getting seasick are advised to take motion-sickness medication beforehand. On the island, you can rent a bicycle or motorbike with a cost of only about VNĐ150,000-200,000 (US$6.4-8.5) per day.

The best time of the year to explore Nam Du and Hòn Sơn islands are during the dry season, between December and June. But the ideal swimming months are March through April, when the seas are calm.

On the islands, there are currently no high-class accommodations, only motels, inns and hotels.

For regular days, you can comfortably book a hostel or homestay. But if you come here during Vietnamese holiday season, you should book in advance. Also, staying in a homestay is the most interesting option.

The price of hotels and motels is only from VNĐ100,000 to VNĐ800,000 (US$4-34) per night.


Continue Reading


Video clip promoting Vietnamese cuisine launched



A video clip entitled “Variations – Thousands of Ingredients, Cooking Millions of Vietnamese Dishes” was released recently to promote Vietnam’s rich culinary culture.

The clip aims to instil a sense of pride in Vietnam’s culinary heritage, which has evolved over thousands of years.

It showcases the diverse specialties found around the country, including iconic “pho” – a flavourful broth of herbs and meat with rice noodles.

The video highlights rolled dishes, salt-roasted crab, and broken rice with grilled pork, among other delectable offerings.

The abundance of ingredients and dishes is a reflection of the cultural diversity of Vietnam’s 54 ethnic groups as well as the varied terrain, climate, and soil in different regions.

Viewers are taken on a journey through the country’s notable cultural landmarks, such as the Temple of Literature in Hanoi – the country’s first university.

They can also immerse themselves in the vibrant atmosphere of a floating market in the Mekong Delta region./.


Continue Reading


Exploring Mỹ Sơn Sanctuary: a journey into ancient mysteries



By Lê Việt Dũng

Within the elevated mountain-surrounded basin of Duy Xuyên District in the south-central province of Quảng Nam lies a site that was once the centre for spirituality and worship of the Champa Kingdom and a burial place for its royal and national heroes for centuries.

Mỹ Sơn Sanctuary, so be its name, encompasses a series of red-brick temples and sandstone shrines adorned with bas-reliefs of Hinduism divinities and their epic battles against the devils. All were brought to life through the skilled hands of ancient Champa artisans.

“When it comes to building things with bricks, Champa people have a special skill that no one else in Southeast Asia can beat,” said a local tour guide when he unravelled layers of history hidden in the ancient ruins.

And he didn’t exaggerate at all. The most recently built temple in the sanctuary boasts an age of at least eight centuries yet stands well against the test of time.

Temple C1, believed to be the earliest-built temple on the site. It was rebuilt in the 10th and 11th centuries to be dedicated to the human statue of the god Shiva. — VNS Photo Lê Việt Dũng

Stepping inside, visitors would be immediately struck by the resemblance its rock-cut pillars bear to those of Rome. The architectural similarity was a reflection of how Roman aesthetics were carried through India and found their way to Southeast Asia.

In close proximity to the temple is a series of steles engraved with ancient Champa inscriptions, which traced its origin to Sanskrit – a sacred form of writing reserved exclusively for academics and rituals.

Centuries of atmospheric erosion have worn down the less resistant surface of the steles but not enough to turn their carvings into illegibility.  

Yet the inscriptions remain largely unintelligible for current scholars as their writing system has vanished along with the social class that used it, the Champa priests.   

A stele engraved with ancient Champa inscriptions that remain legible after eight centuries.  — VNS Photo Lê Việt Dũng

Not far to the east of the steles is a solemn hall that was dedicated to offering preparation but has now been revamped as a place for the exhibition of cultural heritage.

What truly captivates visitors’ eyes within this transformed haven is a stone bas-relief depicting the divine deity Shiva performing the vigorous cosmic dance of creation, preservation, and destruction, or tandava in Sanskrit. 

Though the bas-relief was badly damaged by bombings during the Vietnam War, its artistic value remains intact and bears witness to the extraordinary carving skills of ancient Champa artisans.

The war-torn bas-relief depicting Shiva performing ‘tandava’, a dance that triggers the cosmic cycle of creation, preservation and dissolution. — VNS Photo Lê Việt Dũng

A bas-relief of similar size but in better condition could be found in another exhibition room adjacent to the first, depicting Shiva dancing on the back of the mythical sea creature Makara. In Hinduism mythology, Makara always strongly opposes Shiva, but the act of “standing on its back” reflects the deity’s ability to subdue the crocodile-like monster.   

Another bas-relief depicting dancing Shiva on the back of the sea-serpent Makara. — VNS Photo Lê Việt Dũng

Scattered throughout the hall are many other ancient relics of archaeological significance. Although few were left untouched by wartime destruction, they continue to beckon visitors to delve into the Champa narrative that spans centuries.

A stone statue of a Champa noblewoman with its upper part badly damaged by war.  VNS Photo Lê Việt Dũng

Bas-relief depicting Gajasimha, a mythical hybrid animal appearing as a lion with the head or trunk of an elephant.  — VNS Photo Lê Việt Dũng

Borbala Banya, a visitor from Hungary, has dreamed for nearly six years to visit Việt Nam, and Mỹ Sơn Sanctuary is one of her favourite sites for its unique architecture that is far different from that of the ancient Hungarian kingdom.

“I have a teacher who is an anthropologist and has lived in an ethnic minority community in Việt Nam for one and a half years. He really inspired me to dig deeper and now I have a really colourful view of the country,” said the visitor.

The limitations of physical travel have propelled the historical destination to take a leap into the metaverse to offer visitors a virtual experience of its rich past. With a smartphone, users worldwide can traverse its intricately carved temples from the comfort of their own homes while an AI bot provides them with the historical context, architectural insights, and the cultural significance of each structure.

A 3D view of Mỹ Sơn Sanctuary in the metaverse world Bizverse. VNS Photo Lê Việt Dũng

Today, efforts to preserve and restore the heritage site continue, ensuring that its stories endure for generations yet to come. — VNS


Continue Reading