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Dec 31 2012

HAGL eyes Myanmar housing market

hagl eyes myanmar housing market

Housing-to-hydropower group HAGL, the first Vietnamese investor in Myanmar’s hotel and tourism industry, is also keen on that country’s housing market because of the prolonged slump back home.

Le Hung, its general director, told news website VnExpress that it is the right time for the group to invest in Myanmar since the market is “new.”

Earlier this month the Myanmar government approved HAGL’s proposed US$300 million Hoang Anh Gia Lai Myanmar Centre comprising of a five-star hotel, shopping mall, and office and residential towers.

It will be situated in Yangon, the country’s largest city and former capital.

The company is awaiting approval from Vietnam’s Ministry of Investment and Planning, Hung said.

It is expected to be finished in 2018.

The group is Myanmar’s biggest foreign investor, VnExpress quoted the country’s Minister of Hotels and Tourism U Htay Aung as saying.

According to the Ministry of Hotels and Tourism, many foreign investors had been interested in entering the country since the late 80s, but there were no significant inflows until last November when the US lifted a trade embargo.

Singapore used to be the biggest investor, followed by Thailand, Japan, and Hong Kong.

Myanmar has so far approved a total of 35 foreign-invested hotel projects.

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http://www.thanhniennews.com/2010/Pages/20121225-Vietnam-HAGL-group-eyes-Myanmar-property-market.aspx

Dec 31 2012

Massive culvert found under ancient Vietnam citadel

massive culvert found under ancient vietnam citadel

Archeologists at the excavation area in the Hanoi citadel

Vietnamese archeologists are unable to agree about what purpose a huge ancient culvert found recently beneath the ancient Hanoi citadel served.

The Institute of Archaeology on December 26 said the culvert, two meters wide and equally deep, was built by the Ly Dynasty (1009-1225) using bricks and has wooden stakes running along its sides.

Tong Trung Tin, head of the institute, said it could have been a drain for the center of the citadel or related to feng shui, which has for long played an important role in Vietnam, especially in construction, and other Asian countries like China and Japan.

Nguyen Quang Ngoc, former head of the Institute of Vietnamese Studies and Development Sciences, said it could have been a moat.

Tran Duc Cuong, head of the Institute of Social Sciences, opined it was an exit tunnel.

Hoang Van Khoan of the University of Social Sciences and Humanities in Hanoi said it may not have been a culvert but actually a pond to store water for the citadel.

Luu Tran Tieu, the chairman of the National Heritage Council, said the vestige needs to be studied further to reach a conclusion. Its excavation will meanwhile continue.

The Thang Long Imperial Citadel, now stands next to the National Assembly building, was built in the 11th century.

Recently the government opened for public viewing a secret bunker where war commanders lived and worked during the Vietnam War. It is also located under the citadel.

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http://www.thanhniennews.com/2010/Pages/20121228-Largest-vestige-Vietnam-found-under-Thang-Long-Imperial-Citadel.aspx

Dec 31 2012

Everything you ever wanted to know about pines

everything you ever wanted to know about pines

 

A square with a fireplace in front of Pine Village has opened recently in the Central Highlands town of pine Da Lat. The village is all about pines and the need to protect the iconic plant.

The common pine tree that covers the hills around Da Lat now has its own museum on the outskirts of the Central Highlands’ town.

The museum, set up by the Da Lat-based embroidery firm XQ, is the centerpiece of a Pine Village at 258 Mai Anh Dao Street, Ward 8, Da Lat, next to the famous and much-frequented Valley of Love.

All the different parts of the pine tree are on display - wood, resin, bark, pine needles and fruit - along with information about them and staff to explain the parts and their myriad uses.

Vo Van Quan, the founder and director of XQ, said pine might be the commonest tree in Da Lat, which is dubbed “the city of a thousand pines,” but few people knew much about it.

“The pine museum will help lovers of Da Lat know about the plant and feel the urge to protect it,” he said.

Protection of the pine is sorely needed as scores of pine forests in the Da Lat area have been destroyed by illegal tin mining at least since 1995.

The museum stands amid pine-clad hills where there are many houses built entirely of pine and decorated with the soft timber.

In front of the museum is a square with a fireplace where every Saturday visitors can hear about local legends, chat with the visiting artists, and watch performances of highland music.

The fireplace is decorated with pine wood and a new kind of paper called “pine threads.”

The paper was invented by painter Phan Hai Bang at XQ’s invitation after his successful decade developing bamboo paper to promote rural Vietnam.

It has found widespread acceptance as a decorative material in the town of Hue, where it originated. Bang himself considers the paper a work of art.

Like the bamboo threads, each piece of paper from his new pine threads is unique as Bang does not mass produce them.

Their manufacture is based on that for Dó, a Vietnamese traditional paper named after the Thymelaeaceae family of flowering plants.

It starts with peeling the pine, then cutting it into small pieces, soaking them in water overnight, then cooking them in a lime solution for around 12 hours, washing them with water, and later, mashing them into powder. The powder is then mixed with water and the mixture is poured onto thin frames and the water removed by pressing and drying, using machines or blotting sheets.

Water can be sprayed on the paper when it’s still wet to create the desired pattern.

The paper, made from pine wood, is the first ever in Vietnam.

Bang and several other invited artists are displaying their creations made from local material at the Artists’ Corner of the Pine Village.

While he has lanterns and other decorations made from pine paper on display, Bang’s fellow Hue artist Trieu Tam Anh is exhibiting poems and paintings about Da Lat that are carved on pine blocks.

Da Lat-born photographer Nguyen Van Phuoc is showing a collection of his photos of pine trees, trunks and limbs in all their diversity of shape and texture.

Phuoc, known better as MPK, said he took the photos when he first stepped foot in the village and saw people cutting pieces of pine for decorations.

He said he had taken many photos of pine forests but this was the first time he had captured the actual timber.

Quan said several artists from the US and Mexico had agreed to participate next year.

He said, “By establishing the pine village, I want to send a message that the pine forests are an invaluable asset. Da Lat would not be Da Lat without them.”

The village will be open to tourists until the end of next year, when the town celebrates 120 years since the French scientist and physician Alexandre Yersin first visited the area in 1983. Tickets cost VND20,000 (less than one US dollar) apiece.

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http://www.thanhniennews.com/2010/Pages/20121231-Everything-you-ever-wanted-to-know-about-pines.aspx

Dec 30 2012

Works begins on resort next to Vietnam’s famous Ban Gioc Waterfall

works begins on resort next to vietnam%e2%80%99s famous ban gioc waterfall

Construction on a 31.15 hectare resort next to the famous Ban Gioc Waterfall, which lies on the border between Vietnam and China, was started in the northern province of Cao Bang on Sunday.

With the total investment of VND170 billion (US$8.06 million), the project will start operating next year end when its first stage is completed.

Tran Hung Viet, director general Saigontourist, the project’s investor, said the resort’s design was inspired by local architecture.

It will give tourists a place to observe the surrounding scenery, especially Ban Gioc, one of the most beautiful waterfalls in Vietnam with a height of 53 meters and a width of 300 meters, he said.


It will be built into a four-star resort with 60 rooms, 24 bungalows and several restaurants.

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http://www.thanhniennews.com/2010/Pages/20121208-Works-start-on-resort-near-Ban-Gioc-Waterfall.aspx

Dec 30 2012

Researchers say tourism is ruining Vietnam’s world famous caves

researchers say tourism is ruining vietnam%e2%80%99s world famous caves

The gate to the Phong Nha-Ke Bang caves of central Vietnam

A group of Vietnamese and British researchers have suggested caves at the world heritage site Phong Nha – Ke Bang in central Vietnam be closed to tourism for a while in order for the stalactites to recover.

Two British researchers and four geographers from Vietnam National University in Hanoi said tourism to the caves in the central province of Quang Binh have helped alleviate poverty in the area since opening in 1990.

But they said it was a lucky few who had the chance to see the caves back then, when the stalactites had yet to lose their colors, become dry or covered by moss due to constant illumination required for tourists to see them.

Tourism has had a negative impact on the caves, they said at a recent Vietnam Studies conference in Hanoi.

“The lighting system has caused many stalactites not to be fresh anymore, many masses have become dry,” professor Nguyen Quang My said.

“Direct impact from tourists has peeled the cover of the floor at fossilized caves, and caused the underground sand to lose their porous quality.

“Several unreasonable settings in the caves also made them look unnatural and no longer pristine,” My added.

The researchers, who said the more than the 500-million-year-old caves are manifestations of grand ecological system with great biodiversity, suggested scientific methods to keep them intact.


Howard Limbert, from the British Cave Research Association, who was the first Westerner to explore the Phong Nha caves and made them known worldwide, including Son Doong as the world’s largest cave, said any modern development at the caves must be done in a way which minimizes negative environmental impact.

Any necessary construction needs to be made with natural materials like wood, the power of the lights need to be reduced or there should be no lights and only footpaths should be illuminated, he said.

But before all that, the researchers said the caves need to be closed now, and then regularly, to give time for the natural environment to recover.

Phong Nha-Ke Bang National Park was recognized a UNESCO world heritage site in 2003 for its unique beauty, biodiversity and geological diversity.

But the system of 300 different grottoes and caves was explored years earlier by British scientists, who made it well-known for world records, including the longest underground river, the broadest and most beautiful sand beaches, and the most spectacular stalagmites and stalactites.

UNESCO said in its world heritage assessment that the cave system “displays an impressive amount of evidence of the Earth’s history. It is a site of very great importance for increasing our understanding of the geologic, geomorphic and geo-chronological history of the region.”

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http://www.thanhniennews.com/2010/Pages/20121216-Researchers-say-Vietnam-grand-caves-need-to-rest-from-tourism.aspx

Dec 30 2012

Vietnam budget carrier opens route to Phu Quoc Island

vietnam budget carrier opens route to phu quoc island

Vietnam private budget airline VietJetAir is set to launch its ninth domestic route linking Ho Chi Minh City to the southern island Phu Quoc on December 22.

The airline will operate one roundtrip each day. The 50-minute flight will depart from Ho Chi Minh City at 7:15 a.m. and arrive on Phu Quoc Island at 8:40 a.m.

Vietnam on November 30 opened its newest international airport on Phu Quoc, which cost VND16.2 trillion (US$777.4 million) to build.

Prime Minister Nguyen Tan Dung joined the route launching ceremony, which was also marked by the carrier distributing 300 health insurance cards to poor people in Kien Giang Province.

VietJetAir entered the aviation market last December and has been operating routes to and from Hanoi, Ho Chi Minh City, Vinh, Hai Phong, Hue, Da Nang, Da Lat and Nha Trang.

It is set to make its first international flight on February 10, 2013, the first day of the Lunar New Year, from Ho Chi Minh City to Bangkok, Thailand, with one daily flight that departs at 11 a.m. and returns later the same afternoon.  

VietJetAir has also planned to offer routes to more destinations in Southeast Asia and Northeast Asia in 2013 and expand its fleet to 15 aircrafts by 2015.

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http://www.thanhniennews.com/2010/Pages/20121218-Vietnam-budget-carrier-flies-to-Phu-Quoc-discounts-Bangkok-fares.aspx

Dec 30 2012

Secret Vietnam War cellar in Hanoi opened for public viewing

secret vietnam war cellar in hanoi opened for public viewing

 Visitors in the commanders’ room, the largest one among the three rooms in the cellar

The Thang Long Ancient Citadel Preservation Centre on December 20 opened for public viewing the cellar in Hanoi where Vietnamese commanders stayed and worked during the Vietnam War.

News website VnExpress reported Thursday that the cellar, located under the Thang Long Imperial Citadel, was opened on the occasion of the 40th anniversary of a massive aerial bombardment of Hanoi by US forces during the height of the Vietnam War in late 1972.

The Thang Long Imperial Citadel stands next to the National Assembly building in Hanoi and is believed to be part of a citadel system built in 11th century.

Nguyen Van Minh, former deputy head of the Warfare Department, said opening up the cellar to the public will help Vietnamese youth as well as foreign visitors learn more about some of the most important times in the nation’s history.  

The 64-square-meter cellar, built in 1964, was designed to have three layers of concrete with sand in between in order to withstand bomb, radiation, and chemical attacks.

It has three rooms. The largest, which has an area of 34 square meters, is the place where all commanders decided fighting strategies and reported information to the government at that time.

The other two rooms were used to store equipment. A lot of the furniture including phones, maps and desks are still preserved in the cellar.

Katherine Muller Marin, head of UNESCO Office in Hanoi, said at the opening that she felt like she was living at a time of war.

The preservation of the cellar full meets UNESCO’s guidelines of heritage conservation, the VnExpress report said.

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http://www.thanhniennews.com/2010/Pages/20121222-Secret-cellar-used-during-the-Vietnam-War-made-public.aspx

Dec 30 2012

Lack of public toilets cramps Vietnam tourism sector

lack of public toilets cramps vietnam tourism sector

Foreign tourists check a guide book in downtown Ho Chi Minh City

For many years, it has been a familiar sight at Rex – a five-star hotel in the center of Ho Chi Minh City: foreign tourists queuing up in front of its toilets.

Later, the tourists would sit and wait for their bus to pick them up, making the luxury hotel’s lobby look like a “railway station,” Tao Van Nghe, general manager of the hotel, told Vietweek.

Given the serious lack of public toilets in the city downtown, many travel companies rely on hotels in the area for tourists to relieve themselves.

Asked why they did not choose toilets in the shopping malls instead, many tour operators said they feared that tourists would get lost, because the buildings have many entrances and exits, and the visitors could also get distracted by items displayed in shops, making them late for other destinations.

Phan Dinh Hue, director of the Vong Tron Viet (Vietcircle) Travel Company, said whether they advise tourists to use toilets at shopping malls or hotels, it was still an “unprofessional” move forced on the companies. He said the lack of public toilets in the city was “a difficult problem.”

A Saigon Giai Phong newspaper report in October said nearly 120 toilets have been installed along streets and next to markets and parks across HCMC, mainly in District 1. But most of them are unusable, especially for tourists, because they are too small for one to use with a backpack, or are abused by street vendors who use them as a place to take bath and wash clothes, or they are dirty and stink.

The report also said most of the public toilets are in downtown city, but there are none on crowded streets where tourists often gather or pass by.

The same situation also holds true of Hanoi, where the lack of public restrooms, especially in the famous Old Quarter, has been discussed in the local media for years.

A recent report on Dai Doan Ket, the news website of Vietnam’s Fatherland Front, which monitors government activities and policies, cited authorities in the Old Quarter as saying that there are 27 public restrooms in Hoan Kiem District, where the quarter is located.

The number is quite “modest” for an 81-hectare area with a population of some 66,660, apart from thousands of tourists who visit it every day, the news report said. Several toilets do not function properly and are not clean, it added.

In an interview with Vietweek, Phan Xuan Anh, director of Viet Excursions, urged local authorities to build tourism information centers which include toilets for tourists and souvenir shops.

With such buildings, besides promoting local tours, authorities can also earn money from the shops, he said. He said forcing tourists to use toilets at hotels all the time will have negative repercussions on Vietnam’s tourism industry.

Hue agreed, suggesting authorities build toilets in the basement while information counters and shops are on the ground floors and higher. He said that many other countries have already done it at big cities.

In the meantime, Nghe of Rex Hotel said that his hotel has let local travel companies send their tourists to use its toilets for many years, despite customers’ complaints about the “mess” caused by crowded groups of tourists.

The hotel has done it “for the sake of Vietnamese tourism,” but it was impossible to keep doing it forever, he said.

HCMC authorities need to come up with a good plan to tackle the problem, Nghe said.

Earlier, at an online conference on tourism, Minister of Culture, Sports and Tourism Hoang Tuan Anh ordered related agencies to build a system of standard public toilets for tourists. It was said then that public toilets would be built at around half of the country’s major tourism sites this year.

“Tourism sites need to be fully equipped with toilets; we can’t let the image of Vietnamese tourism worsen in the eye of tourists for the lack of toilets,” Anh told the conference.

According to the statistics reported by 33 provinces and cities at the conference, 767 out of 841 tourism sites, or 74 percent, had toilets but many of them were substandard and unfit for use by foreign tourists in particular.

http://www.thanhniennews.com/2010/Pages/20121224-Lack-of-public-toilets-cramps-tourism-sector.aspx

Dec 30 2012

Vietnam 2nd most popular emerging destination in 2013: US tour operators

vietnam 2nd most popular emerging destination in 2013 us tour operators

Vietnam is second in the list of emerging tourist destinations for next year, a survey by the United States Tour Operators Association has found, news website Vietnamplus reported December 26.

USTOA revealed the result of the survey made of its active members at its annual conference in Hawaii in early December.

Myanmar topped the list, while India was in third place followed by Peru and Cambodia.

Founded in 1972, USTOA is a professional association representing some of the top names in travel and tourism and accounting for a sizeable portion of the tour operators’ market in North America. 

Earlier this year it voted for Vietnam as the top emerging destination in 2012, followed by India, Ecuador, and China.

Vietnam attracted more than 6.6 million tourists this year, 9.5 percent more than last year, according to the General Statistics Office.

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http://www.thanhniennews.com/2010/Pages/20121226-Vietnam-comes-second-in-desired-destination-list-of-2013.aspx

Dec 28 2012

Vietnam dairy giant joins Asian Corporate Governance Association

vietnam dairy giant joins asian corporate governance association

Vinamilk’s factory in New  Zealand

Vietnam Dairy Products JSC, known more commonly as Vinamilk, has become first Vietnamese member of the Asian Corporate Governance Association, news website VnExpress reported December 21.

A Vinamilk spokesperson said being on the 94-member of the Hong Kong-based ACGA would provide a great opportunity for the firm to promote its growth in Asia and the world.

With 11 factories in Vietnam and one in New Zealand, Vinamilk exports products to 23 countries, including the US, Australia, Canada, Russia, Japan, Thailand, and the Philippines.

The firm targets total revenues of VND26.5 trillion (US$1.3 billion) this year, a 30 percent rise from last year.

ACGA, founded in 1999, is an independent, non-profit organization whose members include financial institutions, educational institutions, and accounting and law firms across the Asia-Pacific, Europe, and North America.

It provides information and analysis about corporate management in Asia and works with investors and companies to promote dialogues among commercial groups.

It also offers consultancy to governments on management issues.

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http://www.thanhniennews.com/2010/Pages/20121222-Vinamilk-joins-Asian-Corporate-Governance-Association.aspx

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