Explore unique Vietnam from the top to the bottom, meeting locals at top tourist destinations. (English and Vietnamese Language)
*Heritage listed Ha Long Bay is a major tourist attraction in Vietnam, and rightly so.The bay is home to over a thousand jungle clad limestone pillars, several of which are hollow and contain enormous caves.
*I next visit Cat Ba Island, the largest island in the bay. Half of Cat ba is National Park.I interview Tuan, a local cafe owner. He takes me for a tour of the island and we also visit a floating village, where people farm fish in small enclosures.
*Homestay with a Hill Tribe family. There are 54 ethnic groups in Vietnam.?Most are located in the remote highlands. The village of Ban Luc, where we stayed, was made up of an ethnic group called White Thai. It was a great experience to stay with a family in their traditional stilt house, with bamboo slate floor and palm leaf roof. To see how they cook, to wander the idyllic village and get a glimpse of rural life. We got to try local specialities like bamboo rice and a home made alcoholic beverage drank through bamboo straws. The community put on a song and dance show featuring traditional dance and instruments.
*Hanoi has a 1000 year history as a city. It has been invaded by the Chinese, French and Japanese. The French Colonial period in particular has had a noticeable influence on the aesthetics of the City. I visit a Bia Hoi Bar where I find relief from the constant rush and din. Lan, a student in International Relations, gives me a half day tour of Hanoi. We visit the flower market, watch people exercise around Hoan Kiem Lake, and visit Lan’s favorite restaurant, Hai Vuong Quan.
*Hue was the ancient imperial city of the Nguyen Dynasty. I visit the Citadel which once contained the forbidden city, and take a dragon boat tour along the Perfume River to view the Thien Mu Pagoda and the Tombs of the Emperors. I meet up with Nhi, a commerce student who takes me to Thanh Toan Bridge where we meet a fortune teller. Nhi discusses superstition in Vietnam and we both get our palms read.
*Hoi An was the most important trading port in South East Asia in the 16th and 17th Century. It traded items like silk, ceramics and spices with China, Japan, Europe, India, and even Arabia.Then due to certain changes, it sat dormant for 200 years, remaining unchanged, until recently discovered by tourists.I interviewed Eric Kappeler, a Swiss-born sculptor living in Hoi An.I also get to see a display of Cham dancing, and visit Marble Mountain, where sculptors have made a vision of hell in the subterranean caves.
*In Nha Trang I do a story on the positive impact tourists can have on local people. Mai Loc was a cyclo driver, a chance meeting with a Norwegian couple and their gift to Loc, of a small camera, lead to him changing careers and realising his talent as a photographer. Self taught, Loc’s photos have been exhibited around the world. I also visit Monkey Island where monkeys have been taught to ride bikes.
*The hill village of Dalat is a temperate tourist escape from the tropical heat of the rest of Vietnam. The most common tourist activity in Dalat is to take an Easy Rider guided motorcycle of the surrounding countryside. I take a tour and visit a silk worm farm, a waterfall, watch traditional weaving, and visit a rural blacksmith who offers me a homemade alcoholic brew made of rice and reptile animal parts! For lunch we visit a local diner where we learn how Pho, beef noodle soup, is prepared.
*I think the first thing that you notice about Ho Chi Minh City is the traffic, elbow to elbow, a constant drone of motorcycle motors and horns. In Saigon, I interviewed video artist, Tran Dan, asking him where he finds inspiration in such a bustling city.
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