Holidays on the unexplored beaches of Vietnam and Myanmar

Summer is getting closer and you might start dreaming of sun, beaches and sea. White sand under your feet, waves rushing in the background and a cool coconut in your hand… Unfortunately, relaxing on the beach can sometimes be difficult. Huge resorts with private beaches, tourist crowds or mountains of rubbish can spoil your vacation. So to help you find the perfect spot where it’s still possible to enjoy a lonely walk at sunset, we picked three of our favorite beaches in South East Asia :

Vietnam which has now become a popular destination has still many undiscovered places, wild national parks and lonely beaches. Away from the banana-pancake-trail, Vietnam can be explored without any tourist hype. 

Quy Nhon Beach

One of our favorite beach in Vietnam is Quy Nhon. Every year more and more tourists discover this peaceful sandy beach but Quy Nhon is still a perfect spot for relaxation. Another highlight of Quy Nhon is the colorful wicker boats that you can find on some sections of the beach. These beautiful boats are not only perfect for pictures, so you should definitely get on one of them and go out to sea !

 

Myanmar is the land of pagodas and cultural sites. But the country has much more to offer. Picturesque landscapes invite for long walks, undiscovered places and new adventures. As tourism is still developing, Myanmar’s beaches are only known to a few.

Ngwe Saung

Mergui archipelago is a perfect destination for relaxation thanks to its long white-sand beaches. Its hundreds of unspoiled islands will make you feel like a new Robinson Crusoe. Rent a kayak and spend a day snorkeling and exploring an uninhabited island.

Ngwe Saun beach is located about 250km from the capital Yangon.

The long journey is worth it. The beach at Ngwe Saung is popular among the locals and therefore comparatively busier. A few mopeds and cyclists use the beach as a street during the day but it gets quieter in the evening and the beach is partly deserted.

 

Dreams can quickly become reality. Simply plan your vacation for 2021 and secure an early bird discount! Send us an email to info@images-travel to ask for our assistance to prepare a tailor made trip for your next holidays.

 

Laos – Hidden Places

Almost all tourists who head off on vacation to discover the fascinating Laos follow the so-called “Banana Pancake Trail”. Vientiane, Vang Vieng and Luang Prabang are the most visited cities. Tourism is well developed in these places. There are hotels of all categories, international airports and luxurious restaurants.

But instead of just following the Banana Pancake Trail from Luang Prabang in the north to the 4000 islands in the south, you should make a couple of stops to not only get a glimpse of the authentic Laos, but also to experience its beautiful nature.

The city of Phonsavan is unknown to many. However, anyone who hears about the field of jars is more likely to know whats talked about. It is this mystical plain with thousands of stone jugs that lies near the city of Phonsavan. Listen to the legends and take some unforgettable photos without any crowds of tourists.

Tad Fane Waterfall

From Vientiane, on the way south, you should plan a stop over in the city of Thakhek. Colorful colonial villas and romantic temples can be found in the former trading town. The city is located directly on the Mekong and borders to Thailand. In the evening you can watch a stunning sunset over the Mekong or rather the border with Thailand. The best way to explore the mountainous landscape of Thakhek with incredible karst caves is on a moped.

Between Thakhek and the 4000 islands, a short stay in Pakse is highly recommended. The third largest city in the country in the Bolaven Plateau shines with the most beautiful waterfalls in Laos. Untouched nature and extensive coffee and tea plantations surround the city. On a short hike you can discover the Tad Fane, Tad Lo, Tad Suong and Tad Hang waterfalls hidden in the rainforest. A refreshing dip in the natural pool completes the trip!

Vietnam – Perfect destination for families

Are you planning your next family vacation? Vietnam is certainly one of the best destinations for families with children of all ages. But the long journey might be a deterrent. Even if you fly directly from Frankfurt, it takes about 12 hours to get there. Half a day on the plane with young children, most parents start to ponder. But a vacation in Vietnam is worth the long journey! You will not regret it as the next day you will have forgotten the lack of sleep on the plane and the glances of other passengers at your children.

What makes Vietnam an attractive family destination?

First of all, the child-friendliness of the Vietnamese. The family is really important to the Vietnamese. The family not only includes close relatives as in Europe, but also distant ones, often beyond the 5th generation. Children are welcome everywhere in Vietnam. Already at the check-in at the hotel, no matter which category, you will notice that the children are welcomed and the staff will try to make their stay as pleasant as possible. Families with children are usually welcomed with a huge smile in restaurants and on excursions.

Ha Long, Vietnam

But not only the child-friendliness of the locals speaks for a vacation in Vietnam. The country has much more to offer. In a few countries, adventure and relaxation can be combined as well as in Vietnam. You can explore hidden caves in national parks, take mud baths, swim at the feet of waterfalls, and cycle through rice fields. The more than 3000 km long coast offers numerous sandy beaches where the whole family can relax.

Another reason for a trip through the land of the dragon is that children can learn more about a completely different culture in an immersive way. Parents and children can stay overnight in a house on stilts, watching or helping the inhabitants in their daily activities. A unique and unforgettable experience!

 

Of course before travelling through Vietnam, some things need to be taken into account. So you should not only pack sunscreen and mosquito protection, but also a child seat for the car or a bicycle helmet. In Vietnam there is no seat belt required for children, usually they just sit on their parents’ lap. We also recommend to do a bit of grocery shopping in the big city supermarkets as the Vietnamese countryside does not have as many grocery stores.

It is also important to plan many long breaks. The sunny weather and the new environment let the little ones feel sleepy. You can do it like the Vietnamese; Get up early and take a long lunch break from around 11:30 a.m. to 2:30 p.m. So you will avoid the warmest time of the day and be ready to continue your journey!

The Authentic Cai Rang floating market of the Mekong Delta

On the iconic Mekong River, the Cai Rang floating market gathers thousands of small boats every day to trade from various fruits and vegetables grown in the farms to delicious Vietnamese soups and coffees prepared on board.

Close to the city of Can Tho, the largest city in southern Vietnam with more than a million inhabitants, the day starts early, as the first light of dawn launches the largest floating market of the country. It’s there, at the Cai Rang Market, that the inhabitants of the towns bordering the mouth of the Mekong River, come to sell their crops and buy products to resell in the local markets.

The Cai Rang market provides visitors with a unique and authentic experience of the local people everyday life. Here, where the trade is real and wholesale, merchants buy the goods to supply their retail businesses, in their hometowns.

Cai Rang

The best way to visit Cai Rang is to stay from the day before in the city of Can Tho, where you can find hotels of all categories and all the necessary services for tourists. 

On the day of the visit you must get up early, the market starts at 5 in the morning and ends before 11am. Plus, the best time to discover the market is at sunrise. From the center of Can Tho, a few steps from the hotels, dozens of small boats will be ready to give you a ride and visit the market.

 

After about 30 minutes of sailing in a typical local boat, you will find a sign crossing a bridge to welcome you to “Cho Noi Cai Rang“, the floating market of Cai Rang. Immediately, you will be able to see thousands of boats full of merchandise exchanging their products. The largest are anchored, in groups of up to 5 boats and the small ones circulate among them in search of the best prices and products.

Bun Bo Seller

To know what each boat sells is very easy, each seller has their products displayed on a long bamboo pole, reminiscent of a mast and its flag. But instead of a flag you will see Watermelons, pineapples, pumpkins, dragon fruits and hundreds of other local products. 

Waking up at dawn, you will probably be hungry. But that is not a problem, small boats will come to offer you their meals, such as Pho or Bún Bó (typical soups with rice noodles, vegetables and meat) and if you are still not used to having a delicious soup for breakfast, they also sell baguette sandwiches for all tastes. Do not forget to try the typical Vietnamese coffee with condensed milk and ice, a local delicacy. 

And if you’re feeling lucky, you can take a chance at the local lottery. You’ll probably see many boats selling those tickets.

 

At the end of the visit, you can ask to disembark at the local market located on the banks of the river. There you will be able to witness the retailers market what they previously bought on the river and now selling them to the inhabitants looking for products to cook a nice dish for their families or their restaurants.

Discover the Mekong Delta at the rhythm of the bicycle

The Mekong River flows from the Himalayas, runs for more than 4350 km and crosses many Asian countries until it reaches the southern Vietnam where it splits into 9 arms, giving name to the famous Mekong Delta. Thousands of tourists visit the banks of the river every day, but only a few manage to discover its true spirit. Exploring the Delta by bicycle is one of the best ways to do it.

It does not matter if you are an experienced cyclist or you only use the bicycle occasionally, with a wide variety of landscapes and terrain without great difficulties, organizing a bicycle trip through this region is the perfect option if you want to be in contact with small communities while contributing to rural tourism in an environmentally friendly way.

Tra Vinh, Pagoda Lake

Ho Chi Minh City is the ideal starting point to venture into the Mekong Delta and with a variety of flight options you can easily reach the city from anywhere in the world !

The Delta is not a small region, it stretches on 40,000 km² and is divided into 12 provinces.

It’s possible to visit the region in one day but to enjoy its splendor, we recommend to stay for at least three days.

 

 

Ferry Crossing

Less than two hours from Ho Chi Minh, the province of Ben Tre is one of the best starting points. Small trails, between fruit plantations and large coconut palms, will welcome you. You can travel more than 40 kilometers along these rural roads almost without noticing it.

Many rivers stand in the way, but there will always be a small local bridge or a ferry to help you cross them.

When your legs ask for a break, you can support local businesses and buy delicious coconuts or sugar cane juices prepared in front of you. At the end of each day you can choose from numerous accommodations: small local residences or comfortable hotels of international standards.

 

 

On the second day you can choose to explore the Tra Vinh region, which offers a completely different scenario. On the route you will find numerous Khmer pagodas, similar to those you can find in Cambodia, due to the large number of inhabitants of Cambodian origins in the province. In rural areas, rice fields are the stars of the day, large green fields stretches as far as your eyes can see. The distance to cover is not the most important thing as it will be adapted to the physical condition of the group.

Khmer Pagoda – Tra vinh

For the last day, the province of Camau, in the extreme south of the country, is one of the least explored area of the region. In each town, many local inhabitants tend to approach visitors, happy to see a new face in their lands, and take the opportunity to offer you a drink or ask for a photo. Along with the trails of the province, the shrimp and fish farms will surprise you, as they are very close to the sea. All rivers are mixed with salt water, making it difficult to cultivate the lands.

Bicycle touring in Vietnam is not very developed, but it is possible to organize this type of trip, with international quality equipment, a wide variety of itineraries and expert guides. By traveling at a slow pace and out of traditional circuits, you will be helping rural economies, bringing the benefits of tourism to those who need it the most.

Visit Vietnam’s colorful ethnic minority market in the mountains of Bac Ha

In the town of Bac Ha, Sundays are not only the beginning of a new week, it is also the most important day, when thousands of people will travel to be part of the great Bac Ha market. And no matter what they sell or buy, everyone visits the market wearing its traditional colored suits, representative of its ethnic group.

Colorful fabrics of Bac Ha market

With the first lights of the day, amid the mist of the mountains and its imposing rice terraces, thousands of people begin to descend from their villages, some carrying baskets full of crops, textiles or spices on their backs. Others descend slowly, herding their buffalo or other cattle. No matter what their merchandise is, they all head to the same place. The great Sunday market in Bac Ha, a town in northern Vietnam, just a few kilometers from the border with China.

Vietnam is home to 54 ethnic minorities, and the mountains in the north of the country are where most of them live. One of the most important custom of the region is trade and barter and the Bac Ha Sunday market is the perfect opportunity to sell their products and buy those they need.

 

 

Sellers and buyers include men and women from the Hmong Flores, White Hmong, Red Dao, Black Dao, Lolo Negro and Tay ethnic minorities, among many others. They usually wear colorful clothing which identifies them to their respective ethnic groups.

Bac Ha Market

The Bac Ha market, despite being more popular among tourists, is still a very authentic place where the local inhabitants do not miss the opportunity to offer the most varied products. 

You will find everything: from rice, sugar cane, and firewood to heat the houses in the cold winter, to handmade clothes and colorful fabrics of great quality.

 

But that is not all, exploring the streets, you will be able to see chickens as well as impressive buffaloes used to work in the rice fields. If you look carefully, you will find everything you need to survive in the isolated mountains of the region.

To visit the market there are several options available, the town of Bac Ha has numerous homestays or family residences where you can discover more of the region and share time with locals. If you want a more comfortable option, the famous city of Sa Pa, only two hours from Bac Ha, offers hotels of all categories and amenities available, and it’s a great option to visit the north of Vietnam, a place that will not stop surprising you.

New Year Festival in Cambodia, Laos, Thailand and Myanmar

Cambodia, Laos, Myanmar and Thailand may be bordering countries but they all have their own way of life and traditions. Yet, they have one custom in common: the New Year Festival, celebrated for three days from 13/14.04 to 15/16.04 after the harvest and before the beginning of the rainy season. During this time all people of the 4 countries are dancing, singing and playing. And if you’re taking part of the celebrations, be aware it’s going to be wet! Everywhere people splash each others with water and even as a tourist you won’t be spared. During the festival you will inevitably leave the hotel with dry clothes and come back soaking wet.

But why does water play a central role in New Year traditions?

Water is used for symbolic cleansing. People clean themselves and the entire house with water to wash off all the bad things and bad luck accumulated so they can have a fresh start for the New Year. Buddha statues are washed by monks. Parents as well as grandparents are washed by their children or grand children.

However, every country has its own rituals and ways of celebrating the New Year festival. Here a brief introduction on how New Year is celebrated in each country.

Cambodia

The New Year celebration is called Choul Chnam Thmey in Cambodia. At the beginning of the festival, people light up candles in the shrines and give fruits as offerings to the ancestors or spirits of the house. In addition, Cambodians clean their body and their house with flower water.

Cambodia

On the second day, it is customary to visit the family and do something charitable.

On the third day, Buddha statues are cleaned by monks and volunteers. Parents and grand-parents are washed by the children of the family in order to wash away symbolically the misdeeds and other misfortunes. It is also the perfect time to erase all the mischief committed in the past year so children in Cambodia can start the new year free of guilt.

 

 Laos

Buddha statues at Wat Xieng Thong temple 

The New Year festival in Laos is called Pi Mai. The celebrations begin on the last day of the old year. On this day, besides the traditional cleansing, people go to the temples. All over the country Laotians pray together in the temples. Many believe that the more temples you visit, the more luck you have in the new year.

Also in Laos, children ask their parents and grandparents for forgiveness for all the trouble they caused in the past year (the ritual is called “Baasii”).

  

Thailand 

Water is an essential element of Thai New year

Thai people call the New Year celebrations Songkran. The festival is celebrated extensively on the streets of Bangkok. Year by year it becomes more of a fun spectacle for tourists. water is sprayed day and night and faces are painted with talcum powder. On New Year’s Day, fruits and other dishes are brought to the Wats as offerings. The festival is also the perfect occasion to visit other family members.

 

Myanmar 

Myanmar celebrates the New Year one day later, on April 17th. Thingyan is the name of Myanmar New Year festival. Large parades are held in the cities. Happiness is shared by dancing and enjoying the music.

In all countries, the festival attracts more and more tourists every year. Huge parties are celebrated on the streets often with loud music. Tourists who are in Southeast Asia during the celebrations must not only expect to get wet, but also to witness overflowing temples, enjoy restless nights and stroll in crowded streets. 

 

Vietnamese Food Guide

When you start researching about Vietnam, you inevitably come across images of local delicacies. Vietnam is known for its cuisine, especially for its street food. Hot noodle soups with fresh herbs, fried bananas, grilled mussels, roasted corn and much more are offered at the edge of the street. 

No matter where, as soon as you leave the hotel you will find small food stalls. A vacation in Vietnam without weight gain doesn’t seem to be possible, but the extra pounds on the ribs are worth it! You can’t avoid it, the present temptation is too big and you won’t be able to resist. 

Here a list of Vietnam’s best food from North, Central and South Vietnam, which you shouldn’t miss under any circumstances!

A delicious bowl of Pho

Pho soup is an absolute must in North Vietnam. Nowhere does Pho taste as good as in Hanoi. The fresh herbs and the juicy filet thin slices make the dish a real feast for the palate. The best pho soup is at 49 Bat Dan Street in the Old Quarter.

Anyone who likes to eat fish should try Cha Ca La Vong. An entire street in Hanoi is named after this fish dish and of course the best restaurants can be found there. Address: 14 phố Chả Cá

 

 

Finally, we recommend Bun Cha, rice noodles with grilled meat and usually served with nems. The best address: số 1 Hàng Mành, quận Hoàn Kiếm, Hà Nội

And because the dessert shouldn’t be missed, you should either try the sweet fried balls filled with green bean paste (Bánh rán – đường 52 hàng chiếu) or the famous vietnamese egg coffee (Cafe Giang – 39 Nguyen Huu Huan).

It’s not a crime to gain weight on vacation, so keep enjoying the delicacies of Vietnam!

Bánh xèo 

As soon as you reach Central Vietnam, you will hopefully have made some room for more culinary delights, because without trying the Vietnamese salty pancakes (Bánh xèo) or the Udon noodles from Hoi An (Cao Lầu & Mì Quảng), you can neither continue your journey nor go home! 

Here the best addresses: Bánh xèo: K280/23 Hoàng Diệu, Hải Châu, Đà Nẵng – Cao Lầu: 49/3 Trần Hưng Đạo, Hội An – Mì Quảng: 14 Dương Văn An, T.P Huế

 

Banh Mi

Now that your belly is twice its size, you can continue to feast in South Vietnam without worries. You should start the day with a nice Banh mi and an iced coffee. 

In the very hot and humid Saigon we recommend a Bun thịt nướnga, a cool “rice noodle salad” with grilled meat and nems. Address: 175 Cô Giang, Quận 1, TP. HCM

Finally, in the Mekong Delta you should try the elephant ear-fish, a fried fish served with lettuce, herbs and other ingredients that rolled up in rice paper. Address: ấp Tân Thiện, xã Tân Phong, huyện Cai Lậy, tỉnh Tiền Giang.

 

 

 For the fearless among you, here are a few more exotic dishes:

– Trứng vịt lộn (Balut)

– Phá Lấu (offal in hot soup)

– Cháo Long (rice soup with pork stomach, tongue and ears)

 

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Vietnam is popular with travellers from all over the world due to its diverse landscapes, ethnic minorities and culinary delights. The north is a true paradise for hikers. Majestic mountains with bright green rice terraces paint a picturesque scenery. Anyone who crosses the mountains and valleys of the very north will be stunned.
The hiking trails in Mu Cang Chai and Pu Luong are especially recommended. These regions are less touristic, which gives you the opportunity to enjoy unspoiled landscapes and authentic scenes. On a hike through the mountains, you definitely should spend the night in a house on stilts at the ethnic minority village. An unforgettable experience. You will quickly notice that the ethnic groups, how different they may be, have one thing in common – their hospitality.

Mu Cang Chai

The north is still an attractive destination for those who don’t like sports. Nowhere else can Vietnamese traditions and gastronomy be discovered as well as in Hanoi. During a cruise through Ha Long Bay you can put your feet up and admire the nature.

Ha Long Bay

In the center of Vietnam you will discover the history of the country. The magnificent
historic buildings in Hue and Hoi An bring the past to life. Sandy beaches and huge national parks such as Phong Nha Ke Bang make the center attractive for families with small children.

Phong Nha Ke Bang

The central highlands are a must-do for everyone who likes to travel away from mass tourism. In the central highlands you will attend a gong show by the Bahnar ethnic group, hike on undiscovered paths, visit the coffee capital Buon Ma Thuot and ride an elephant.
There are huge waterfalls, forests and old colonial villas to be discovered – without tourist crowds. Authentic scenes and beautiful nature!
The conflict between tradition and modernity is extremely noticeable in the south. In Ho Chi Minh City, skyscrapers shape the skyline. Construction in the city center seems to be endless. The city is constantly changing. But despite modernization, traditions are
preserved. A city tour of the colonial district and subsequent boat trip on the Saigon River
from the city center to the outskirts offers an insight into the multifaceted Ho Chi Minh City.

Ho Chi Minh City

If you pay attention, you will find that the type of South Vietnamese is very different from the North Vietnamese. In the north traditions and customs are important to the people, their personality rather reserved. In the south, on the other hand, people are more open to modernization.