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Oct 19 2011

Tour operators downbeat on int’l arrivals

tour operators downbeat on int%e2%80%99l arrivals
Most tour operators in the inbound segment worry about a fall in international visitor arrivals though the high season has started, as the global economic slump has taken its toll on the hospitality industry.

The high season for inbound tourism lasts from October to March, but the number of customers from Asian markets this season is estimated to fall 20%-30% year-on-year at Lac Hong Voyages Co., Ltd.
Similarly, Vietravel has recorded a sharp fall in the number of tourists from Europe and the United States. Some other tour operators forecast a slump of up to 30% in arrivals from Europe.

“Sometimes, we receive no bookings from customers even though we have done our best to attract them,” said Vietravel’s general director Nguyen Quoc Ky.

The global crisis has forced many travelers to cut down on spending, he said.

Europe known as the main visitor-generating market for Vietnam is now mired in the sovereign debt crisis, while Japan among other Northeast Asian nations is suffering from heavy damages caused by natural disasters.

Travel firms also attributed the fall in foreign visitors to the uncompetitive price on the local tourism market coupled with boring tourism products.

Most travel agencies reported a price hike of at least 15%-25% for package tours compared to the same period last year. Consequently, the local industry players find it hard to compete with foreign rivals who offer customers better prices.

“In other countries, when the price of gasoline increases, members in the tourism industry join forces together to overcome the difficulty, which hasn’t been seen in Vietnam so far,” Ky of Vietravel complained.

Another woe of the domestic tourism industry is poor products, pointed out Tran Vinh Loc, director of Lac Hong Voyages.

Local travel agencies have merely offered tours based on natural attractions along with shopping venues only, instead of arranging attractive entertainment services and other night programs for visitors.

Loc took the case of South Korea and Thailand as examples, in which the former offers a wide selection of shows to travelers and the latter often enriches its artistic programs with the participation of foreign art troupes in a bid to lure tourists.

“Given poor programs, we have failed to satisfy our customers who are offered only the Cu Chi Tunnels-Binh Tay Market-Ben Thanh Market route for one-day travel,” Loc said.


Oct 10 2011

Germany, France vow to further integrate eurozone, expedite bank recapitalization

germany france vow to further integrate eurozone expedite bank recapitalization

France and Germany will present new proposals to stabilize the eurozone by the end of this month and push forward some “important changes” in the European treaties, visiting French President Nicolas Sarkozy said on Sunday.

German Chancellor Angela Merkel (L) and visiting French President Nicolas Sarkozy attend a press conference in Berlin, Germany, Oct. 9, 2011. Merkel said Sunday that Germany and France have agreed to recapitalise banks according to common criteria. (Xinhua/Ma Ning)

While addressing a joint news conference with Chancellor Angela Merkel in Berlin, Sarkozy said France and Germany stress even more steps towards the further integration of the euro single currency zone, and to exert closer and more binding cooperation of eurozone countries to forestall any wanton spending extravagance.

“We are fully aware of that France and Germany are especially responsibility for maintaining the stability of the single currency of euro,” Sarkozy said, adding both sides need to respond to sustainability and comprehensiveness of eurozone prospect by the end of the month as “Europe must solve its problems by the G20 summit in Cannes.”

Both leaders expressed the willingness to have a plan for recapitalization of commercial banks in Europe to be in full swing in a bid to expedite the economic coordination in the eurozone and solving Greece’s debt crisis.

Germany and France are jointly take more concrete measures to have the commercial banks recapitalized in a more systematical method with regard to basic standard, said Merkel at the joint press conference, while vouching Germany’s willness push through the recapitalization of its commercial banks with whatever measures necessary.

“We will present a complete package” for stabilizing the eurozone at the end of the month, Merkel added.

Sarkozy and Merkel met in Berlin for a much anticipated talk elaborating on European debt crisis, as both leaders agreed to settle the problems on the G20 leaders summit in the French Riviera resort of Cannes in early November.

Sarkozy said “global, lasting and quick response” to the crisis must be imminent.

Both leaders reached a concensus on immediate recapitalization of commercial banks once it is necessiated in a bid to guarantee the granting of credit to the normal economic activity.

However, the two leading economies in Europe disagree on the concrete measures to support commercial banks vulnerable to the spiralling sovereign debt crisis, to which the IMF estimates some 100 to 200 billion euros (135 billion to 270 billion U.S. dollars) to cover potential losses.

Germany wants the banks in trouble first resort to investors’ funds, while France, on account of its concern of top-notched AAA credit rating, would get into European funds initially.


Oct 05 2011

Long-living Sounds of Tay Nguyen Gong

long living sounds of tay nguyen gong

Anyone who visits Tay Nguyen (the Central Highlands) and enjoys the mysterious sounds of gongs near the flickering campfire in the mountains and forests, they will see the strong vitality of the local people. For this reason, gong is considered the “soul” of the highlanders.

A gong performance in Tay Nguyen. Photo: Minh Quoc

Small artists performing with gongs. Photo: Hoang Giap

A set of Tay Nguyen gongs. Photo: Kim Son

A gong artist. Photo: Minh Quoc

Foreign tourists discover the art of gong performance in Tay Nguyen. Photo: Minh Quoc

The cultural space of Tay Nguyen gong spreads over five provinces, including Kon Tum, Gia Lai, Dak Lak, Dak Nong and Lam Dong and the masters of gong culture are the ethnic groups, including Bana, Xedang, Mnong, Caho, Romam, Ede and Giarai. For them, gongs and gong culture present a means to affirm the community and its cultural identities. As time goes by, gongs have become an appealing symbol of the culture of the Central Highlands and an activity associated with the cultural and spiritual life, and the beliefs of ethnic people when they are born, grow up and return to the soil. Gong ensembles are indispensable parts of various ceremonies and festivals, such as the ceremony to pray for the dead soul, new rice ceremony, water trough worshipping ceremony and the buffalo stabbing ceremony. Therefore, the gong culture seems to be mingled into the blood of the highlanders, penetrating into every aspect of their life and majestic epics. The mysterious and powerful sound of gongs is described in the epics as: “Beating gongs to make ghosts absorbed in listening to and forget harming people; make mice forget digging their mouse holes, make snakes lie stiffly; make rabbits start, make deer forget grazing and make all listen attentively to the gongs of Dam San…..”

Despite having outstanding cultural value and being regarded as the privileged language bridging humanity and the supernatural world, it is worrisome that it may fall into oblivion due to the dark sides of modern life and thoughts of local people. The local people may sell their precious sets of gongs due to poverty. The younger generation is no longer interested in learning the traditional art of their ancestors.

To preserve gongs and promote the gong culture, it is necessary for both authorities and people to boost economic development in Tay Nguyen, improve the living standards of local people, protect and collect rare sets of gongs and promote learning about the performance of gongs.

At present, each hamlet in Tay Nguyen has its own gong team to perform at the community’s cultural activities and festivals. Therefore, tourists to Tay Nguyen will have a chance to enjoy different pieces of gong music performed by talented folk artisans.

Source: VietnamPictorial

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Oct 01 2011

Hạ Long Bay enters New7Wonders final

h%e1%ba%a1 long bay enters new7wonders final

President of the NewopenWorld Bernaro on September 27 in the northern province of Quảng Ninh handed over a certificate to local authorities to confirm that Hạ Long Bay entered the final round of the online poll for seven new world natural wonders (New7Wonders).

A corner of Hạ Long Bay – Illustration photo

Mr. Bernaro expressed his impression of the natural picturesque beauty of Hạ Long Bay, affirming that he would vote it for the UNESCO World Heritage Site. He also promised to send voting message to the outside world.

In the coming time, Quảng Ninh province will sprint to gather more votes for Hạ Long Bay, especially via short message service (SMS), said Mr. Phạm Minh Chính, Quảng Ninh Provincial Party Secretary.

In addition, Quảng Ninh will invest more in tourism activities and preserve the environment for Hạ Long Bay to become an attractive and impressive destination for both domestic and foreign visitors.

NewopenWorld will officially announce the voting outcomes of the New7Wonders on November 11, 2011./.

Source: VGP News

Sep 29 2011

Mu Cang Chai’s terraced fields in harvest season

mu cang chai%e2%80%99s terraced fields in harvest season

VietNamNet Bridge – Photographers flock to Mu Cang Chai district in the northern mountainous province of Yen Bai–in the harvest season to grasp incredible moments of the terraced fields.

Mu Cang Chai is about 300km away from Hanoi, to the northwest. The location has been closer and more famous for domestic and overseas travelers. Overseas backpackers and photographers usually tramp to Yen Bai just to witness the terraced fields, enjoy fresh air, taking nice and splendid photos.

September and October are the finest months in Mu Cang Chai and also the most attractive month to tourists and travelers.

The rice terraced fields of Mu Cang Chai have been recognized as a national heritage site.

Hoang Hac

Sep 29 2011

Airlines’ attempt to raise airfares frighten travel firms

airlines%e2%80%99 attempt to raise airfares frighten travel firms

VietNamNet Bridge – The information that the national flag air carrier Vietnam Airlines is seeking the permission to raise the ceiling on airfares has raised an objection from the public. People believe that the state owned airline is still making fat profits and there’s no need to increase the airfares.

If the ceiling on airfares suggested by Vietnam Airlines get approval, airlines will be able to raise the airfares by 1.5 times from the current levels. Prior to that, at the working session between the Civil Aviation Authority of Vietnam (CAAV) and aviation enterprises on September 14, Minister of Transport, Dinh La Thang, agreed in principle to the proposal and told airlines to draw up reasonable pricing plans to submit to the ministry before the ministry reports the issue to the Prime Minister.

If the airfare ceiling increases by 1.5 times, the one-way ticket for the Hanoi-HCM City flight would be priced at 4-5 million dong. It is unclear if the proposal relating to the airfare increase is accepted, but people have been rushing to book air tickets for the flights on Tet holiday, because they fear that the tickets may run out and the airfares would increase.

Thoi bao Kinh te Saigon has quoted its sources as saying that the Tet holiday will only come in four months, but the air tickets for the domestic flights from HCM city to the provinces in the central region and in the north have become rarer.

Booking agents said they have not received any notices from airlines about the additional flights for Tet holiday, though the number of passengers booking tickets for the flights from HCM City to Hanoi, Hai Phong, Da Nang and Nha Trang has been increasing dramatically.

The newspaper has also quoted its sources as saying that airlines deliberately slowed the sale of air tickets, because they hope the proposal on raising the ceiling airfares would be approved in some days.

One can see on Jetstar Pacific’s official website that all the seats on the flights from HCM City to Vinh and Hai Phong Cities in the week just before Tet have been booked. The running out of tickets is also can be seen with Vietnam Airlines’ flights on the HCM City-Quy Nhon air route, while only business class tickets priced at 4.4 million dong have been left for the HCM City-Hai Phong flights.

Explaining the proposal to raise the ceiling airfares, Vietnam Airlines said that this aims to stop the losses incurred when providing domestic air routes. However, Phap luat TP HCM newspaper has quoted its sources that Vietnam Airlines still can make fat profits with international air routes which can provide money to offset the unprofitable air routes.

Besides, Vietnam Airlines can also make profits from ground services, catering and other services.

Mai Trong Tuan, a former pilot, said on Phap luat TP HCM City that most of the subsidiaries of Vietnam Airlines are making profits, and that Vietnam Airlines should use the profits from the subsidiaries to offset the losses in providing domestic flights instead of attempting to raise the airfares.

Railway, coach tickets may raise accordingly

Experts have warned that the airfare increases, if approved, would kick off a new wave of railway and coach ticket increases.

Tuan went on to say that the overly high airfares and travel fees would not make good to the national economy. It is clear that high airfares will not help encourage tourism and attract investments. This explains why Vietnamese travelers now tend to choose outbound tours instead of domestic tours.

According to the HCM City Department for Culture, Sports and Tourism, the travelers, who book domestic tour packages, have to pay the tour fees higher by 15-25 percent since the beginning of the year.

Tran The Dung, Director of the The He Tre Travel Firm, said that the number of travelers decreased by 35 percent from the same period of the last year, especially the number of travelers by air. In the past, the tour fees only increased on high season or holidays, while the tour fees increase at any times of the year due to the higher service fees and higher travel fees.

C. V

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Sep 29 2011

Blockhouse coffee shop in Hanoi

blockhouse coffee shop in hanoi

VietNamNet Bridge – At this coffee shop, you will sit down near a black loophole to sip a cup of black coffee and see the sunset on the West Lake.

At the crossroad between To Ngoc Van and the road around the West Lake, there is a special coffee shop inside a blockhouse.

This blockhouse is called “Mother blockhouse”, which is connected to the “child blockhouse” by a trench. The two blockhouses are in the dense system of blockhouses in the Red River delta, built by the French. Sitting in the blockhouse, one can observe a vast area.

The “Mother blockhouse” is over 100sq.m, built by white stone and concrete, with thickness of 60-80cm. The blockhouse has two doors, which are very small. One door is sufficient for one person, and the another door is very low, which requires guests to bend to get through.

There are narrow corridors inside the blockhouse, with loopholes. An iron staircase stands at the center of the blockhouse, leading to the cylinder-shaped tower on the second floor. There are also many loopholes on the tower.

Let’s visit the coffee shop with VietNamNet:

Sep 22 2011

Comprehensive efforts needed to save coral reefs: Indonesia expert

comprehensive efforts needed to save coral reefs indonesia expert

Comprehensive efforts are needed to save coral reefs as their living compound is prone to environmental damage, an Indonesian expert told Xinhua in an exclusive interview on Tuesday.

Nurul Dhewani Mirah Sjafrie, coordinator of Coral Reef Information and Training Center (CRITC) for western Indonesia at the Indonesian Science Institute, the government think-tank institution, said that currently only more than five percent of coral reefs in Indonesia are in “excellent condition.”“Based on monitoring of the thousands of observation stations we have, the rest are in damage, bad and moderate condition,” Sjafrie said in her office.

She said that it is not impossible to increase the number as long as all people are aware of the importance to save coral reefs.

“People should be aware that coral reefs live in sea with warm enough temperature of 18-25 Celsius degree with certain level of brightness, among others. If the requirements are fulfilled, we can see coral reef growing safely,” said Sjafrie.

She also said it needs upstream-to-downstream arrangement to support the efforts.

“For example, in western Indonesia, we have many big rivers. If illegal logging practice keeps continuing, it will cause sedimentation in the sea. It means there is a decreasing quality. So, coral reef salvation is not only conducted in ocean,” Sjafrie said.

She also expressed concern that many people dump garbage in rivers.

“They throw their garbage in plastic bags. For plastic only, it takes 100 years to be completely decomposed. Let’s say 10-15 percent of our people do the malpractice everyday, you can imagine how many garbage entering the sea,” she said.

Sjafrie said that the key to guard coral reef sustainability is in human habit.

“Coral reef destruction could be caused by nature such as tsunami, earthquake, crown torn (Acanthaster plancii) that consumes coral reefs. But the biggest factor is human with their destructive fishing using bombs,” she said.

According to Sjafrie, people do the practice with three causes, namely ignorance, needs and greed.

She added that efforts have been conducted by the government, private sector and non governmental organizations (NGOs) to save coral reefs.

“We have a program called the CORMAP of Coral Reef Rehabilitation and Management Program. The government uses instrument of National Program of People Empowerment while NGOs do their part. If we could combine the actions, we could reach the same goal,” she said.

She added that the government train people to be productive by providing skills and in the same time, her organization and NGOs socialize and campaign the importance of coral reefs.

“When people have better jobs and activities and they are equipped with the awareness, they will do positive thing and stop destroying the sea,” Sjafrie said.


Sep 21 2011

World’s best street food listed by CNN

world%e2%80%99s best street food listed by cnn

Certain cities around the globe have cult followings built entirely around their street-food cultures. Below, a definitive guide to seeking out the best bites in the world’s most bountiful (and greasy-fingered) destinations.

1. Hanoi, vietnam

The narrow alleyways of the city’s Old Quarter yield a treasure trove of breakfast delicacies for the jet-lagged traveler. Street vendors set up as early as 5:30 a.m. to prepare sweet green rice wrapped in banana leaves, sesame- and coconut-filled dumplings in ginger syrup, and rich coffee poured over sweetened condensed milk (but watch the ice).

2. Los Angeles, California

Near L.A.’s MacArthur Park (at South Park View Street between Wilshire Boulevard and West 7th Street) is old-school vendors trade with hundred of local feature food stores.

3. Ensenada, Mexico

It’s a rare city in Mexico that doesn’t have great street food, but the tacos de pescado in the Baja port town of Ensenada, demand a special pilgrimage. Join the masses at the city’s fish market for corn tortillas piled high with battered fried halibut, shredded cabbage, pickled onions, avocado, jalapeños, and sweet-tangy crema-mayonnaise sauce.

4. Philadelphia, Pennsylvania

The nation’s first capital is also home to some of its oldest and most beloved portable fare: soft pretzels, Italian ices, and, of course, cheese steaks, now being reimagined in Vietnamese and Mexican versions. Locals get theirs at the century-old, seven-block-long Philadelphia’s 9th Street Italian Market.

5. Singapore

In its many hawker centers (or food courts), such as Chinatown’s Maxwell Food Centre, Singapore delivers a civilized street-food experience — complete with table service. Patrons can usually ditch their belongings at one of the marked tables, browse the offerings (ranging from Chinese fish ball soup to spicy Malaysian pork-rib prawn noodles), and give their table number at the counter.

6. Puerto Rico

The food stands along Piñones Road about 30 miles east of San Juan make some of the island’s best frituras, or fried snacks: coconut arepas, piononos (plantains stuffed with beef), and bacalaítos, a mixture of pancake dough and salted cod. If you hit the strip around sunset, you might even catch an impromptu salsa-thon.

7. Rio de Janeiro, Brazil

Health-conscious Cariocas, as locals are known, hit up Ipanema’s Sunday market in Praça General Osório square, open from 8 a.m. to 6 p.m., for grilled-shrimp skewers and the occasional dessert splurge: churros stuffed with dulce de leche. The less guilt-inducing alternative: a fresh coconut drink or an açaí shake from one of the stands along Copacabana Beach.

8. Marrakech, Morocco

In the city’s rambling medina, grilled-meat hawkers will cook to order any cut you bring from one of the many nearby butchers. In the evening, head to the night market at Jemaa el-Fna and settle in at the communal tables for chickpea stew, boiled snails, and strong mint tea poured the traditional way: from a pot held perilously high above the glass.

9. Brussels, Belgium

Art nouveau architecture, the European Union headquarters: Who cares? Brussels is all about the frites (which, we assume, account for the bulk of the nearly 250 pounds of potatoes a typical Belgian consumes annually). At the city’s standard-bearer, the Maison Antoine kiosk in Place Jourdan, the secret to success is in the sauces: pineapple ketchup, beer-flavored carbonnade, and mayonnaise so tasty it’s almost a dish unto itself.

10. Vienna, Austria

Stroll the city center and you’ll encounter numerous Imbisses, stands selling sausages and sliced Leberkäse (a baked loaf of ground beef and pork) topped with mustard and folded into Semmel rolls. And to try the local caffeine fix of choice, head to the cafés of the 18th-century riverside Naschmarkt for a Wiener Melange, an espresso drink with steamed milk and whipped cream.

11. Istanbul, Turkey

Happily for all the travelers who make their base in the Sultanahmet district (home to the Hagia Sophia), the stalls beside the nearby Grand Bazaar can compete with any in this food-rich city. Have your pick of mussel skewers in garlic sauce, grilled corn, roasted chestnuts, and permutations of kebab too plentiful to count. (Feeling adventurous? Try the kokoreç, chopped lamb intestines seasoned with hot pepper and oregano.)

12. Tel Aviv, Israel

Mouthwatering falafel abounds throughout the Middle East, but this waterfront city is also home to a unique treasure: the Iraqi Jewish specialty of sabich, a pita sandwich stuffed with fried eggplant, chopped hard-boiled egg, and pickled cabbage and beets. To get right to the source, head to the stands of neighboring Ramat Gan, where the dish was invented.

13. Bangkok, Thailand

For centuries, Thai food sellers operated out of boats along the canals that formed the city’s main transportation system. In recent years, roadside cafés have all but supplanted the custom, but at Taling Chan floating market on the western edge of the city, vendors still grill fish and steam crabs directly on their boats every weekend from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m.

14. Portland, Oregon

With more than 400 carts selling everything from Korean tacos to Carolina-style barbecue, Portland is a microcosm of mobile meals. Lunchtime crowds gather near SW 10th Avenue and SW Alder Street; later on, night owls head across the river to SE 12th Avenue and SE Hawthorne Boulevard for deep-fried cherry pies and savory crepes, served until 2 a.m.

Sep 21 2011

Archive for the ‘Vietnamese culture’ Category Saint Giong Festival – On the way to become an Intangible Heritage of Humanity

archive for the %e2%80%98vietnamese culture%e2%80%99 category saint giong festival %e2%80%93 on the way to become an intangible heritage of humanity

Following to the two former Intangible Heritages of Humanity, Nha nhac (the Royal Refined Music) and The Cultural Space of Gong, Giong Festival now “meets enough standards to be recognized as a new intangible cultural heritage”, affirmed by Katherin Muller-Marin, head of UNESCO’s office in Hanoi. At the present, Giong Festival passed the UNESCO’s first round.

Saint Giong Festival in Phu Dong Village, Gia Lam, Hanoi

Saint Giong Festival is a unique traditional event in Vietnam, held annually from the 6th-12th of the fourth lunar month in many places in Vietnam. However, the 9th of the fourth lunar month is the major day for the biggest Saint Giong festival at Phu Dong village in Gia Lam district of Hanoi where this national hero, called Emperor Phu Dong was born. Legend has it that, at the age of three, he smashed a powerful army of invaders and protected peace for the country (defeated the An invaders). After the victory, he rode his iron horse up to the sky. In order to show their gratitude to the hero of Giong Village who sacrificed his life to fight invaders, the people proclaimed him Saint Giong.

Saint Giong

Saint Giong Festival has the attraction in perfecting mankind’s personality, folks acknowledge about this festival by folk poetry:

“Ai ơi mùng chín tháng tư
Không đi Hội gióng cũng hư mất người”

(Known as: “If anyone does not join Giong Festival on the 9th April, he will not become a good person”)

The festival is a chance for attendants to watch the performance of traditional rituals and artistic activities which have been handed down from generations to generations./.

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