Ecotourism in Vietnam: Potential and Reality
With 13,000 floral species and over 15,000 faunal species, three newly discovered big animal species, and a ratio of country/world species of 6.3%, Vietnam is one of sixteen countries with the highest biodiversity in the world. Its wide range of ecosystems and shift to an open economy make it a very favorable site for ecotourism development. Indeed, tourism has been identified by the government as a spearhead economic industry and there has been a seven-fold increase in international tourist visits with Vietnam visa in the last decade. Ecotourists account for over 30% of international and nearly 50% of domestic tourists. Ecotourism is distinguished from mass or resort tourism by its lower impact on the environment, lower infrastructure requirements, and educational role regarding natural environments and cultural values.
Potential target areas for ecotourism include coastal ecosystems (sea-grass, coral reef, lagoon, sandy beach, and mangrove habitats), limestone mountains, national parks and nature reserves, and fruit gardens. Most of these are not only interesting landscapes, but home to Vietnam’s rich cultural identity. Ethnic minorities-resident in most potential ecotourist sites have a deep understanding of traditional festivals, land use customs, culinary culture, traditional lifestyle and handicrafts, and historical places.
Despite such great potential, this paper identifies several areas in which so-called ecotourism in Vietnam falls short of the ideal. There has been investment in nature reserves by the state and in restaurants and hotels in Nha Trang, Ho Chi Minh City, Hanoi by foreign investors, but not the kind of investment in human resources needed by tourist guides and staff, especially training in environmental knowledge. Tourism is still largely spontaneous and unregulated, resulting in environmental degradation. Local populations, their cultural identities, and traditional customs are not much involved in ecotourism, nor are they reaping its economic benefits. Finally, tourism management and policy are fragmented among various levels of government, resulting in a lack of national strategy.
The paper recommends: coordination among concerned bodies to develop ecotourism while conserving vulnerable ecosystems and defending cultural integrity; environmental impact assessments and research on carrying capacities; compulsory human resource training for ecotourism staff; and the engagement of local communities, not only in income-generating activities but also in conservation work.
Eco-tourism is in its infancy in Vietnam
Eco-tourism is a relatively new idea that has dramatically captured the attention of many people from a variety of backgrounds. It seems to be a catch-all word that has different meaning to different persons. To some it means ecologically-sound tourism; to others it is synonymous with nature tourism, alternative, appropriate, responsible, ethical, green, environmentally friendly or sustainable tourism. Despite the continued debate about exactly what eco-tourism entails, it seems that most agree that Eco-tourism must be a force for sustaining natural resources. Eco-tourism is nature travel that advances conservation and sustainable development efforts.
Eco-tourism is in its infancy in Vietnam, yet it has certainly become a buzz word in a short period of time. Everyone appears to be talking about it - and the media are latching onto the term wholeheartedly. My preliminary observation is that there is a general lack of understanding, in both the local media and tourism industry, of what constitutes an eco-tourism experience, what an eco-tourism venture/initiative entails, and what the underlying rationale for eco-tourism is.
Eco-tourism is a specialized, niche market that has evolved with the diversification of the tourism industry into ‘alternative’ or ‘special interest’ forms of tourism, including nature and adventure tourism.
With the pace of industrial life in a hurry, the people did not always have time to live with nature, discover nature. It's hard to believe that now, many children do not understand how grown vegetables, trees, how animals grow. There are many herbs that grow around the house and are very useful for our lives, but we do not know.
Today, many tourists do not like to stay in 4-star, 5 stars hotels, they want to live more closely with the Vietnamese people to better understand the lives of local people.
Based on the above conditions, we would like to introduce our (customer intimacy) a new destination located 150 km from Hanoi, 15 km from the Cathedral of Phat Diem stone - one of the famous cathedrals of Asia. From here you can take the road to Hai Phong and Ha Long, Ha Noi. You can spend there after visiting the former capital of Vietnam dated tenth century (Hoa Lu), sightseeing in Halong Bay Land (Tam Coc) and the Cathedral of Phat Diem. The ferry crossing can imagine the tourists themselves are moving into the Mekong River as the girl in the movie (The Lover) by Marguerite Duras. Here, tourists can live with nature in the quiet, peaceful, pure among inhabitants, make known medicinal herbs, learn to make bonsai and sample local delicacies. This destination is called "The Ecology Center of Hai Hau", it’s located in the district of Hai Hau, Nam Dinh province. It is directly to the possession of the Agency's Travel Vietnam Ecotour.
Vietnamese food is about accomplishing a perfect balance in taste, in texture and the lightness of being. Many people naturally follow the yin and yang principles in combining ingredients, for example, a soup with hearty ginger to warm up the body is contrasted with refreshing, cool leaves like pak choi to harmonies the feeling in your body. Eating in balance is a major factor in keeping healthy and many believe that food is medicine.
To maintain an equilibrium, plenty of refreshing shakes, like avocado, papaya, pennywort and watermelon, are drank as snacks, especially in the evenings to freshen the body before bedtime.
CNN in "Travel to Vietnam program", has introduced Vietnam’s 40 delicious dishes, including “pho” (Noodles), “banh xeo” (pancakes) and “cha ca” fried fish, soup (pho), spring rolls, grilled shrimp paste, grilled minced fish, etc.
“Pho” ranks top of the list. The channel also broadcast other courses from Vietnam’s Northern, Central and Southern provinces, such as “Cao lau” (vermicelli), “bun cha” (noodle salad with pork patties), Southern “bun bo” (spicy beef noodle soup), “nom hoa chuoi” (banana blossom salad) and sweetened porridge and so on. What list of Vietnamese cuisine would be complete without pho? It’s almost impossible to walk a block in Vietnam’s major cities without bumping into a crowd of hungry patrons slurping noodles at a makeshift pho stand.
This simple staple consisting of a salty broth, fresh rice noodles, a sprinkling of herbs and chicken or beef, features predominately in the local diet -- and understandably so. It’s cheap, tasty, and widely available at all hours.
Hanoians consider cha ca to be so exceptional that there is a street in the capital dedicated to these fried morsels of fish. This namesake alley is home to Cha Ca La Vong, which serves sizzling chunks of fish seasoned with garlic, ginger, turmeric and dill on a hot pan tableside.
A good banh xeo is a crispy crepe bulging with pork, shrimp, and bean sprouts, plus the garnish of fresh herbs that are characteristic of most authentic Vietnamese dishes.
To enjoy one like a local, cut it into manageable slices, roll it up in rice paper or lettuce leaves and dunk it in whatever special sauce the chef has mixed up for you.
This pork noodle dish from Hoi An is a bit like the various cultures that visited the trading port at its prime. The thicker noodles are similar to Japanese udon, the crispy won-ton crackers and pork are a Chinese touch, while the broth and herbs are clearly Vietnamese. Authentic cau lao is made only with water drawn from the local Ba Le well.
Some might call it river weed -- with good reason -- but that doesn’t stop the masses from scarfing down platefuls of morning glory, usually stir-fried and seasoned with slithers of potent garlic. Rau muong is common at Vietnamese restaurants and beer gardens.
Nem ran/cha gio
Vietnam’s bite-sized crunchy spring rolls might not enjoy the same popularity as their healthier fresh equivalent, but they deserve a special mention. The crispy shell with a soft veggie and meat filling dunked in a tangy sauce gets the gastronomic juices flowing before a main course. In the north these parcels go by the name nem ran while southerners call them cha gio.
These light and healthy fresh spring rolls are a wholesome choice when you’ve been indulging in too much of the fried food in Vietnam. The translucent parcels are first packed with salad greens, a slither of meat or seafood and a layer of coriander, before being neatly rolled and dunked in Vietnam’s favorite condiment -- fish sauce.
Bun bo Hue
Central Vietnam’s take on noodles caters to carnivores with its meaty broth and piles of beef and pork. The thick slippery rice noodles also make for a heartier meal than noodles found in the north and south.
This dainty variation of a Vietnamese pancake has all the same tasty ingredients but is a fraction of the size. Each banh knot can be scoffed in one ambitious but satisfying mouthful. The crunchy outside is made using coconut milk and the filling usually consists of shrimp, mung beans, and spring onions with a dusting of dried shrimp flakes on top.
Got the sniffles? Opt for ga tan, a broth that’s Vietnam’s answer to the proverbial cup of chicken noodle soup. Sure, it’s not quite how your mother used to make it, with its greenish tinge from the herbs and hunks of chicken parts, but it’s worth a try if you’re needing a Vietnamese tonic.
Nom hoa chuoi
Vietnam’s banana flower salad packs a much bigger punch than a typical plate of mixed greens. Banana flowers (thick purple lumps that will later turn into bunches of bananas) are peeled and thinly sliced then mixed with green papaya, carrots, and cilantro along with chicken and a heavy-handed pour of a salty fish sauce dressing and crunchy peanuts.
Bun bo nam bo
This bowl of noodles comes sans broth, keeping the ingredients from becoming sodden and the various textures intact. The tender slices of beef mingle with crunchy peanuts and bean sprouts, and are flavored with fresh herbs, crisp dried shallots, and a splash of fish sauce and fiery chili pepper.
Hoa qua dam
This chunky blend of fresh tropical fruit in a cup is the perfect local treat when the heat of Vietnamese summer starts to wear you down. It could be considered a healthy alternative to ice cream -- if you stick to the shaved ice variation -- but for the full experience it’s best had with diabetes-inducing condensed milk mixed in.
Pho cuon packages the flavors of pho and goi cuon in one neat little parcel. This Hanoi take on fresh spring rolls uses sheets of uncut pho noodles to encase fried beef, herbs and lettuce or cucumber.
KFC may be everywhere in Vietnam these days, but skip the fast food for the local version. Honey marinated then grilled over large flaming barbecues, the chicken legs, wings and feet served are unusually tender, while the skin stays crispy but not dry.
Pho xao may just be a slightly healthier take on my xao -- but the beauty is in the details. The flat, smoother pho noodle doesn’t crisp up like its pre-boiled instant cousin.
When done well the outer edges acquire a browned crunchiness, whilst the center stays soft and glutinous. This dish tastes best with a fried egg and seasoned with chili or soy sauce.
Ca phe trung
Vietnamese “egg coffee” is technically a drink but we prefer to put it in the dessert category. The creamy soft, meringue-like egg white foam perched on the dense Vietnamese coffee will have even those who don’t normally crave a cup of joe licking their spoons with delight.
Bo la lot
Vietnamese are masters of wrapping their food. Bo la lot is neither raw nor deep-fried, but flamed on an open grill to soften the exterior and infuse the betel leaf’s peppery aroma into the ground beef inside.
Savory sticky rice is less of an accompaniment to meals in Vietnam, more a meal itself. The glutinous staple comes with any number of mix-ins (from slithers of chicken, or pork to fried or preserved eggs), but almost always with a scattering of dried shallots on top.
These rolled up rice flour pancakes are best when served piping hot, still soft and delicate. Although seemingly slender and empty they have a savory filling of minced pork and mushrooms. Zest is also added by dunking the slippery parcels in a fishy dipping sauce.
Ca tim kho to
Eggplant alone tends not to get us excited. Although when it’s diced and sautéed in a clay pot along with tomatoes, soy sauce, sugar, and (depending on the recipe) minced meat, the once bland vegetable redeems itself.
Saigon’s favorite street-side snack, bot chien, is popular with both the afterschool and the after-midnight crowd. Chunks of rice flour dough are fried in a large wok until crispy and then an egg is broken into the mix. Once cooked it’s served with slices of papaya, shallots and green onions, before more flavor is added with pickled chili sauce and rice vinegar.
Bun dau mam tom
This plain-looking tofu and noodle dish is served with mam tom sauce -- the Vegemite of Vietnam. The pungent purple dipping sauce is used to flavor the slabs of deep-fried fofu that are at the core of the meal.
These pockets of deep-fried goodness are often described as the equivalent of a Cornish pastry or as a Vietnamese samosa, depending on the nationality of the person explaining. Inside the crispy exterior you’ll find that it’s similar to neither description, with its filling of finely minced pork, mushrooms and vermicelli noodles.
Com suon nuong
This simple meal is the Saigonese equivalent of bun cha -- with rice in place of noodles. A tender pork cutlet is barbecued over hot coals to give it a rich, smoky flavor, and laid over the fluffy white com.
With its thick and creamy texture Vietnam’s rice porridge is the best pick when your queasy stomach can’t handle much else. If you want to jazz it up you can always add slices of chicken, fish, beef, duck or pork ribs, along with a sprinkling of herbs and shallots.
Bo luc lac
Cubes of beef are tossed around a steaming wok with garlic, pepper, and some vegetables to make shaking beef. There’s nothing special about the beef that makes it shaking.
The name is just a literal translation that refers to the process of mixing the beef around while cooking.
Hat de nong
The smell of chestnuts roasting on an open fire can bring back fond memories of Christmas carols -- until a moped transporting a giant blow-up Santa whizz by. Pick the street vendor with the most enticing smell.
Source: Get Vietnam Visa
Hai Phong Vietnam
Among Vietnam's traditional cities, Hai Phong was formed in a special situation. Considering the North region only, Hai Phong was a young city developed after many other cities that have a long existing process such as: Ha Noi, Nam Dinh, Ninh Binh, Son Tay, Bac Ninh, Hai Duong...
The downtown of Hai Phong nowadays used to be 'Hai tan Phong thu' (Defensive coastal area) of Le Chan Woman General under Trung dynasty the suburban of Duong Kinh - the second capital of the Mac dynasty (1527-1592). At the end of Tu Duc King belonging to Nguyen dynasty, the head office of An Duong district was also moved to Hang Kenh, now belonging to Nguyen Cong Tru street, Le Chan district.
As the trading was getting more and more fruitful, many foreign businessmen, mainly Chinese, Thai and Nam Duong ones came so that the Nguyen dynasty establish Nhu Vien station on the bank of Tam Bac river (now the police station on the river) in order to collect taxes. In the early of 70's of the 19th century, more and more Chinese, French and English businessmen... came and asked for doing business at Ninh Hai wharf at the cross road of the Tam Bac river and Cam gate because they discovered that Ninh Hai road could lead to Laokay, and then to Con Minh, Van Nam of China to exploit the enormous region Van Nam-Qui Chau-Tu Xuyen which were very rich in natural resources.
In that case, Tu Duc King had to agree to set up a bureau in Hai Phong (bureau was an administrative agency helping Hai Duong province's chief to deal with work in place). In 1887, based on the Hai Phong bureau, the Nguyen dynasty permitted to expand this area to establish Hai Phong province with its head office in the current Le Chan area. In 1888, the French President issued a decree to set up Hai Phong city in the internal urban area, and the province was moved to Phu Lien and renamed as Phu Lien, and then Kien An. Although Hai Phong city was set up with small scale and poor streets at the beginning, the French government early ranked Hai Phong as the first-grade city, at the same grade with Sai Gon and Ha Noi of the Indochina region.
Since then, French colonialists speeded up urbanization process of Hai Phong city by building sea ports, river ports, warehouses; Ha Noi - Hai Phong railway, Hai Phong - Van Nam railway; national highway No.5 and No.10 and an airport at Khinh Dao then moved to Cat Bi, Kien An airport, Do Son airport making Hai Phong become the most complete traffic hub in the North. After that French, Chinese and Vietnamese ship building and repairing factories were established quickly. Industries, machinery, processing, chemistry were also expanded...
Some urban infrastructure such as: telecommunications, post office, electricity, water supply... were set up very early, and the electricity particularly was started in 1893, two years earlier than Ha Noi. Services such as: banking, trading, tourism, entertainment and hotels in Hai Phong were also established. The Hai Phong Chamber of Commerce operated within the area from Nghe Tinh to Quang Yen and it worked fairly effectively.
Just during 40 years (1888-1929) of constructing and developing, the former face of city was basically formed as it was taken over by our government in May, 1955. During the world economic crisis and the second world war (1939-1945), the construction speed came to a standstill and all the city expansion projects which had already been approved were not implemented.
In the period 1956-1965, Hai Phong city was recovered and further expanded but was heavily damaged by the American war with many destroyed places. The internal area of Hai Phong has been not only recovered but also expanded in quality and scale only since 1975, especially after the renovation era. Concentrated industrial zones, export processing zones; trade and services centers; universities, professional colleges, research institutes, technological application stations... have been set up creating a more and more complete network. The force of scientists, technicians, managers, businessmen and skillful workers have been professionally trained in majority and continued to be supplemented and retrained to meet the demand of the city development.
Nowadays, the area of the 5 central urban districts is up to 56.37km2 with a population of 708,000 people, not considering the development speed of satellite cities according to the approved master plan. The Party Committee, the People's Council, People's Committee of Hai Phong city have made a proposal to the central government to expand Le Chan district and set up a new district namely Hai An. In the future, the city will continue to propose for establishing 3 more new urban districts meet the need of Hai Phong development.
Source: Get Vietnam Visa
Our last 2 days we spent in New York. Amazing city, huuuge and really worth to check! Yesterday we made a quite nice ship cruise around the Manhattan Island; fantastic weather and a hot cup of tea helped to make the 3 hours journey in the icy conditions without being frozen to an iceberg.
To follow the recommendations, we’ve decided to spend our last evening of our tour 11 in New York Steakhouse instead of having another “plastic food”. Okay, it wasn’t that cheap as usually acceptable for our travel budget, but… Last evening… So what..;–) And the steak was fantastic!!! Some Long Island Ice Tea helped afterwards to fall asleep ;–)
Now our backpacks are packed again and the subway will bring us to the airport. In a few hours our plane will leave and we’re expected to ground in Good Old Germany tomorrow, 1st Nov, 10:15. Till then, we’ll enjoy the crazy street live of New York’s 31. October – the Halloween!!
You might have already noticed that our blog is lagging, which means it is way behind our actual schedule. Partly because of missing time (believe it or not, travelling can be stressy and time consuming), partly due to missing internet connectivity. Fact is, while our written blog is about to arrive in California and our video blog is still waiting to depart from Auckland, in fact (and reality) we arrived in New York today.
The truth is – our actual journey will end the day after tomorrow. We will try to inhale NYC as much as we can (which right now actually breaks down to inhaling mainly snow flakes, falling from New York’s dark grey – or gray – winter sky). But soon we will be back in Germany again, getting back to “normal” life.
So does the story end here, as you might expect? No, not at all. We will, as soon as we have dealt with our basic stuff at home, begin to sort out more material – texts, pictures and videos – to further document our tour. Or, to put it that way: it’s not an end, it’s a new beginning! So stay tuned, much more material to follow the next months on our homepage (especially blog) Facebook page and Twitter account.
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