VIETNAMESE NORTHERN HIGHLANDS: A JOURNEY AMONG HMONG PEOPLE
Among the 54 ethnic minorities of Vietnam with a population of nearly 1 million, the Hmong are one of the most important people. They are spread throughout the whole region - in Southeastern China, Laos, Thailand, and even a small number in Myanmar. Mainly concentrated in the hilly and mountainous Vietnamese Northern provinces around Sapa, their rich culture and colorful costumes is a delight to discover.
For most ethnic settlements, the areas inhabited by each group are segregated by altitude, and those who arrived later had settled at higher elevations. They began their southward migration from Tibet and Southern China in the 19th century, due to political unrest and to find more suitable land to cultivate. Hmong tribes live at the highest altitudes and this explains their settlement in Sapa region.
They are subdivided in many distinctive tribes identified by colors according to their ornately embroidered clothes, which make them easy to recognize among other clans such as: the White, Black, Flower and Red Hmong, to name the major ones. Visiting the local ethnic markets is a unique and lively opportunity to meet other tens of different tribes who are mixed with a majority of Hmong people, such as the Red Dao, Giay, Tay, Nung, Phu La and more, and of course to purchase their embroidered artifacts, drums, Jew's harps and silver jewelries. This is definitely an experience to share!
As for their livelihood, their only crop for many were years was opium and they produced more than any other tribes; but now, they are farmers cultivating rice and corn, breed cattle, pigs and chicken. You will be amused as you observe these live stocks freely wandering among their bamboo houses in their villages.
Visiting the Hmong and other ethnic villages and markets is a delight for all photo amateurs, and definitely an interesting experience for each of our tours in the North of Vietnam around Sapa.
For more than 10 years, Phoenix Voyages hiked in-depth on remote roads and valleys and through villages in the Northern regions of Vietnam, Laos, Thailand and Myanmar. We even searched for new tours and treks in Southern China, and were among the pioneers to open interesting programs allowing tourists to discover fascinating ethnic tribes. Some of our most loyal customers continually trust us on a yearly basis to discover new ethnic tribes, new ethnic culture, new amazing ways of life, and would never give up their wish for such a quest. Their valuable support is a reward for our commitment and it proves that ethnic tribes are of major interest to discover in Southeast Asia.
Edouard George, President of Phoenix Voyages
SUSTAINABLE TOURISM AMONG ETHNIC GROUPS
Meeting ethnic minorities could be an issue of cultural shock for the tribes, and one can easily understand that most of those tribes are living in a very delicate condition balancing between their own roots and the modern world, represented by the tourists. Effects of tourism industry may be considered as a threat for distinctive cultures to vanish. Their growing numbers and further exposure to lowlanders develop a trend toward commercialism among those groups. It is therefore a duty of every visitor to respect their customs and traditions, to make sure that their visit to those villages will have no negative impact on their native culture.
MON-KHMER, HIGHLAND TRIBES IN CAMBODIA
Cambodia is home to a wide variety of ethnic groups too. If some small groups originally came from Southeastern Thailand to settle in Battambang and Siem Reap provinces, the main group has settled in Northeastern provinces of Ratanakiri and Mondulkiri. The Khmer Loeu, or Mon-Khmer has originated from neighboring coastal Vietnam before they moved to inner highlands. Supposedly the very first inhabitants of Indochinese peninsula, they fled various invaders and found a new home in this hilly area. They are very peaceful rice growers, hunters and fishermen; living in scattered temporary villages, their houses vary from huge multifamily longhouses to small single-family structures built close to the ground or on stilts.
A population now of some 100'000 inhabitants, the Mon-Khmer progressively adapted their culture to the dominant Khmer ethnics, some of them preserving their original language from a linguistic distinctive group (the Jarai and the Rade). Besides the Chams, Muslim community in Cambodia, and various ethnic groups such as the Brao, Tampuan and Mnong, they are the living proof of Cambodian ethnic richness.
TET TIME, A PARTICULAR TIME TO EXPERIENCE
Lunar New Year, better known as "Têt", is a very particular time worth experiencing in Vietnam. A significant part of the population goes back to their family to celebrate the start of the New Year together. Trains are overbooked and airline companies alike. Vietnam Airlines informed it would increase about 50% of its flights frequency to main domestic routes. Huge and very popular events are organized, such as floral show on Nguyen Hue Boulevard in Ho Chi Minh City, or fireworks display in the Capital City Hanoi as well as other main cities. From 2nd to 6th February, 2011, it's time to join the Vietnamese people in one of their most traditional and authentic celebration.
1 WEEK EXTENSION FROM HCMC
Taking advantage of the recent opening of a direct flight between HCMC and Yangon, Phoenix Voyages is offering a 10 percent discount on each booking materialized before December 15th for an 8-day / 7 -night tour in Myanmar, for trips between January and April 2011. We will take our clients for an unforgettable discovery of Myanmar's main attractions. Starting from the Capital City Yangon, they will experience the magical atmosphere of Lake Inle, the amazing temples surrounded by a jungle in Sagar, the former Burmese Capital City of Mandalay, and last but not least Bagan, the incredible site with its 2229 monuments. This could be considered as a possible extension after a stay in Vietnam. What a unique opportunity to discover in depth another country of wonders, under our experienced guidance.
HOR DHAMMASABHA, A NEW MILESTONE IN VIENTIANE
Vientiane 450th anniversary offered many events to enhance the image of the city and the nation, to celebrate unity of a country consisting of numerous ethnic groups. Each of the 51 provinces had the opportunity to perform its authentic dances and music at an Ethnic Cultural Festival which was held in the National Culture Hall. But the most tangible event of this anniversary will remain the official opening of the Hor Dhammasabha, a Buddhist centre dedicated to official ceremonies, located in the vicinity of the That Luang pagoda. This wonderful structure, completed after 10 years of work, is aimed to be a symbol of Buddhism's prosperity and modernity, the foundation of the national culture, and will add another milestone in the visit of the Lao capital city once it open its doors to tourists.
ANGKOR TOPS LIST OF "MOST RECOMMENDED" WORLD HERITAGE SITES
The biggest survey ever conducted by the UNESCO's World Heritage sites around the world, together with Trip Advisor, reveals Angkor is the most recommended site by a quarter million travelers worldwide. Surveyed travelers have visited 789 of UNESCO's recently expanded list of 911 World Heritage sites, and they gave the nod to Angkor, as the number one recommended site to visit in the world, describing it as amongst other quotes, "Absolutely breathtaking" and "One of the wonders of the world." Number 2 and 3 in this survey's ranking are both located in Europe, as they are Historic Center of Rome, the Properties of the Holy See, Italy; and Historic Center of Florence, Italy too. Other well ranked World Heritage sites in Asia are Halong Bay in Vietnam and the city of Luang Prabang in Laos.
BOOK YOUR TRIP FOR ARIRANG FESTIVAL 2011
One of the main attractions of a discovery stay in DPRK Korea is for sure attending one of the mass movement shows held in Pyongyang's Mayday Stadium. Dates for Arirang Festival 2011 are now confirmed: this unique and unforgettable event will be held from August 01 to September 09, 2011, every Monday, Wednesday, Thursday and Saturday. It is a perfect time as it is the best climate and recommended season to visit the country. The outdoor Arirang shows are performed by some 100'000 artists, athletes, students and children, and considered the biggest show ever produced and performed by people. It is a succession of colorful dances with songs of praises and successes of President Kim Il Sung and the North Korean socialism system.
HOTEL OF THE MONTH
BOUTIQUE SAPA HOTEL: THE PLACE TO EXPLORE THE BEST OF SAPA
Sapa is a vibrant mountain resort town which is the gateway to trekking tourism and a fascinating in-depth immersion into ethnic minorities' discovery in Vietnam. Located in the heart of Sapa town, a few steps from the ethnic market, Boutique Sapa Hotel offers the best services and location in town to enjoy both special atmosphere of the place and splendid scenery all around.
Consisting of 25 modern and well appointed rooms with fantastic views, ranging from single to family rooms and suites, Boutique Sapa Hotel's accommodation provides a cozy wooden chalet-like atmosphere. Dedicated to enhance its guests' feeling, its restaurant offers a wide range of delicious foods, tasteful house-made cakes and coffee brews, to enjoy while looking at the splendid scenery from the terrace: the Dragon's Jaw Mountain and Sapa town; the highest mountain in Southeast Asia, Mount Fansipan (3143 meters); and colourful Fansipan Lane and Muong Hoa Valley, twisting down towards Cat Cat village. Simply the best place to explore the best of Sapa.
Check for more on: www.sapahotels.vn
ACTIVITY OF THE MONTH
6 DAYS AMONGST FASCINATING HILL TRIBES OF NORTHERN LAOS
Laos has to be described less as a nation state than a conglomeration of 49 ethnic tribes spread across the country; and after a discovery of UNESCO World Heritage town Luang Prabang, we propose a 6-day immersion into Northern hill tribes' daily life.
On the first day, you'll visit Black Thai and Hmong villages. Entering into Luang Namtha Province, you'll discover the largest concentration of Lanten population and enjoy visiting an eco-tourism development project that National Tourism Authority is conducting together with UNESCO which based in the region.
After your overnight in Luang Namtha, you'll visit its Museum's rich collection of regional tribal cultural artifacts, costumes, tools, including the rare Khmu bronze drums. In the afternoon, it will be the time to pay a visit to the ethnic group's villages.
The following day will be the unique chance to discover the very hub of opium trade until 1960: Muang Sing, in the very heart of the Golden Triangle, is the home of various ethnic villages and hill tribes such as Ikho, Hmong, Black and Red Thai, and Thai Kalom, which was previously impossible to visit as the region had been forbidden to access for a long time. Another day of visits will then bring you to meet the Yao ethnic tribe, whose women wear high turbans and long indigo gowns bordered by a bright pink woolen boa collar.
As for the last day of this program, before returning back to Luang Prabang, you'll finally trek through Beng River Valley and discover the best preserved traditional way of life at some Khmu and Red Thai villages. Definitely an extraordinary meaningful experience!
Conde Nast Traveler
The famous travel magazine elevated five Vietnamese hotels to top spots in its Readers' Choice Awards. Life Heritage Resort Hoi An, The Nam Hai and Evason Ana Mandara & Six Senses Spa each logged top-20 finishes as the Best Resorts in Asia. The Sofitel Legend Metropole Hanoi and the Park Hyatt Saigon each won top spots in the top 100 hotels in Asia.
Hotels Mövenpick, Vietnam
Swiss group becomes a partner with Green Globe, a quality label for environment and social aspects of sustainable tourism. The goal is to certify 20% of its hotels until late 2011, up to 100% within 2 years, through the implementation of an energy management tool and its employees' training. Mövenpick runs 2 hotels in Vietnam, in Hanoi and Hô Chi Minh City..
Bagan Princess Hotel, Myanmar
Owned by a famous cosmetics company, this new eco-friendly boutique hotel has started its operations since one month in the archeological zone of Old Bagan. It has 21 well appointed rooms and upper-class services including the finest traditional cuisine that will delight guests after a day for discovering the cultural wonders.
Hotel names' changes in Dalat, Vietnam
After Accor Group's withdrawal from their management, 2 renowned hotels in Dalat have changed their name last October: Hotel Sofitel Dalat Palace has now become Dalat Palace, while Mercure Dalat Hotel Du Parc has been simply rebranded as Dalat Hotel Du Parc.
PICTURE OF THE MONTH
NEW STAFF IN OUR YANGON OFFICE
Our Sales force in Myanmar has been restructured as our Manager, Mrs Saw Kalya, who has been with the company for 8 years has decided to fully dedicate her time to her family. Mrs Thi Thi Aung takes over the position. However, German- and English-speaking markets will still be handled by Mrs Nyo Nwe Win, and new comers Ms Kathy Aung and Ms Shwe May will support our French-speaking Sales staff. A warm welcome to our new colleagues!
NEWS FROM THE SKY
Airberlin has shared code with Bangkok Airlines to connect its network to Phnom Penh via Bangkok since 1st November, 2010..
To ensure of becoming one of Southeast Asia's leading carriers, Vietnam Airlines signed a deal to buy eight Boeing 787-9 Dreamliners. The airline is planning to increase its fleet to 115 aircrafts by 2015, from 70 at the end of this year.
Civil aviation administration of Myanmar will withdraw its license to Yangon Airways as from 3. December, 2010. Phoenix Voyages already replaced bookings by new flights on Air Mandalay and Air Bagan.
Absolutely wonderful trip! Great team, great food, great sights, great crew. Mekong is ...L'Amant! - From an American tourist.