The Guardian publishes my article on Top 10 affordable boutique hotels, homestays and hostels in Vietnam’s capital, Hanoi: http://www.theguardian.com/travel/2013/dec/11/top-10-boutique-budget-hotels-hanoi-vietnam
The world’s largest cave found in Phong Nha-Ke Bang National Park in central Vietnam opens for pilot tours this month.
Son Doong Cave was explored in 2009 by the British Cave Research Association with the expedition detailed in National Geographic: http://news.nationalgeographic.co.uk/news/2009/07/090724-biggest-cave-vietnam/
Now, Howard Limbert, who led the 2009 expedition has teamed up with Oxalis to offer tours this month, and in February and March 2014. He will lead the two pilot tours this month and will be joined by other caving experts in 2014.
Limbert told me that the pilot tours have been permitted by Quang Binh province and future public tours of the cave will depend on the success of the upcoming pilot tours.
“These pilot tours will be safe and environmentally sustainable. We proposed this tour to the Quang Binh authorities as an alternative to major investment and construction in order to make the cave a mass tourism site. This would have damaged the core zone of the National Park and World Heritage site. This would undoubtedly have lost the World Heritage status for the park.
“We shall be taking in groups of six people who all have to complete a medical/fitness questionnaire to ensure that they can manage what is quite a strenuous tour.”
Handspan Travel Indochina will organize a tour-event in Halong Bay in Vietnam. This is a cruising and kayaking tour throughout one of the natural wonders of the world. The purpose is to clean it up and send a strong environmental message about the danger faced by the local maritime biosphere.
Travel for the good, Halong Clean Up tour 2013.
Vinh Ha Long, in Vietnamese, refers to Halong archipelago. A maritime region on the Northern part of Vietnamese coast made of 5 main bays (Quan Lan, Van Don, Bai Tu Long, Halong and Lan Ha from North to South) and spotted with thousands of limestone rocks and islets that made the spot’s world fame.
This is where Handspan Travel Indochina will run in June, for the seventh consecutive year, the original Halong Clean Up Tour. Handspan Travel Indochina was created in 1997 and has since developed to become a pioneer in Vietnam in responsible travel, mini-groups soft adventure tours and tailor-made innovative travel solutions.
The concept of this tour-event is simple and the message delivered is clear. A group of about 30 people travel to Halong on a weekend. They gently kayak to the remotest part of the bay and collect on their way all floating and grounded garbage. The Clean Up tour is also an opportunity to show that we can visit Halong bay without participating in the polluting mass tourism that rules there. We go human-powered, visit lagoons and desert sandy beaches that very few tourists ever had a chance to see. The purpose is to have fun, to discover pristine parts of the area and to spread locally a message toward communities of floating villages and authorities. The tour is offered at cost price and proposed in a limited number of places.
Since 2006, this tour-event aimed at raising environmental consciousness among tourists, Vietnam residents, Halong’s communities and local authorities. The increasing volume of tourism in Halong and the recent access of “floating communities” to polluting products such as plastic, styrofoam and soap set the environment at greater risk. The maritime biosphere suffers from a lack of environmental consciousness and a poor nature conservation management. Important and irreversible damages have already been caused, it is time to act and change things.
This year, this tour organized by Handspan Travel Indochina will be hosted on Treasure Junk and supported by several companies and organizations. The tour will be hold on the 22nd and 23rd of June, with a barbecue party dinner and overnight on boat.
Handspan Travel Indochina
Video of the Clean Up Tour 2012
Luis Andres Henao (@LuisAndresHenao) of AP wrote a piece last week on embalming President Hugo Chávez:
Like Ho Chi Minh of Vietnam, Chávez’ burial wish is about to be ignored.
Here’s an extract from my Footprint Vietnam guide on the embalming and display of President Ho Chi Minh in Hanoi:
The Vietnamese have made the mausoleum housing Ho Chi Minh’s body a holy place of pilgrimage and visitors march in file to see Ho’s embalmed corpse inside the mausoleum (Lang Chu Tich Ho Chi Minh). The embalming and eternal display of Ho Chi Minh’s body was contrary to Ho’s own wishes: he wanted to be cremated and his ashes placed in three urns to be positioned atop three unmarked hills in the north, centre and south of the country. He once wrote that “cremation is not only good from the point of view of hygiene, but it also saves farmland”. The embalming of Ho’s body was undertaken by the chief Soviet embalmer, Dr Sergei Debrov, who also pickled such Communist luminaries as Klenient Gottwald (President of Czechoslovakia), Georgi Dimitrov (Prime Minister of Bulgaria) and Forbes Burnham (President of Guyana). Debrov was flown to Hanoi from Moscow as Ho lay dying, bringing with him two transport planes packed with air conditioners (to keep the corpse cool) and other equipment. To escape US bombing, the team moved Ho to a cave, taking a full year to complete the embalming process. Russian scientists still check-up on their handiwork, servicing Ho’s body regularly. Their embalming methods and the fluids they use are still a closely guarded secret. In an interview, Debrov noted with pleasure the poor state of China’s Chairman Mao’s body, which was embalmed without Soviet help.
The mausoleum, built between 1973 and 1975, is a massive, square and forbidding structure and must be among the best constructed, maintained and air-conditioned buildings in Vietnam. Opened in 1975, it is modelled closely on Lenin’s Mausoleum in Moscow. Ho lies with a guard at each corner of his bier and visitors march past in file to see his body.