Halong Bay, Vietnam is one of world’s natural wonders and is one of the top tourist attractions in Vietnam. The literal meaning of “Halong” is “Bay of Descending Dragons”. A local legend says that a family of dragons was sent to defend the land long ago when the Vietnamese were fighting the Chinese invaders. These dragons had descended upon what is now Halong Bay. Halong Bay, Vietnam, famous for its scenic rock formations, has been listed among the World Heritage Sites by UNESCO.

Halong Bay, Vietnam is a spectacular location for sightseeing in Vietnam. Located in the Gulf of Tonkin, it forms an amazing seascape of limestone pillars along with more than 1,600 islands and islets. The visitors seem to discover paradise in Halong Bay with the clear water of the Bay, with some large islands and small alcoves with sandy beaches facilitating a relaxed swimming in the calm bay water.

Halong Bay is one of the most visited and recognized of the Vietnam tourist attractions. It houses a greatdiversity of ecosystems including coral reefs, freshwater swamp forests, mangrove forest, small freshwater lakes, and sandy beaches. The islands feature beautiful grottos and caves with interesting stone formations and hidden ponds. Some of the most visited Halong Bay, Vietnam tourist attractions are

 

Bai Chay (Scorched Beach)

The visitors have to drive along Bai Chay beach to reach Halong Bay, Vietnam. Unlike its name, Bai Chay is a very pleasant black sand beach significant for a historical event attached to it. Bai Chay was once a forest until 1287 when the Mongols attacking Vietnam were driven back and many Mongol ships were set on fire. High winds drifted these ships to the shore setting the forest on fire creating a stretch of beach in this area which came to be known as Bai Chay or scorched beach.

 

Caves and Grottos

The mystical caves and grottos in Halong Bay, Vietnam comes with strange shapes and structures. One of the most prominent among them is Virgin Cave(Hang Trinh Nu), also called the Mid Gate cave, which derives its name from the statue of a woman lying atop a flat surface of the cave. Legend says that beautiful woman committed suicide in the cave, unable to return home after being forcefully married to an old mandarin. Here her body tuned into stone. The tunnels in the Virgin Cave crisscross the island for around 2 kilometers with many chambers along the tunnel.

The next cave attraction is Hung Sung Sot Cave, Thien Cunglocated in the same island as Virgin Cave and has a steep path lined with shady trees. There are two chambers in the cave with a square shaped outer chamber and a ceiling of about 30meters height. The inner chamber formations look like sentries conversing with one another, animals and a formation resembling a general surveying his troops in the middle of the chamber. The light reflected from the water outside seems to bring these formations to life.

The other caves existing here are the historically significant Hang Dau Go (Flowers on Stone) and Pelican Cave (Hang Bo Nau). Besides these the visitors can go kayaking, swimming and hiking in the mountains in the islands. There are several cruises offering tours in and around Halong Bay.

Accommodation in Halong Bay is available with many hotels present in the islands of Halong Bay, Vietnam. Halong Bay can be reached from Hanoi by road which is a three and a half hour drive covering 165 kilometers.

INTRODUCTION TO ANGKOR WAT – CAMBODIA
Angkor Wat is the largest and the most impressive of the monuments of Angkor . It is also the best preserved and never fails to reward repeat visitors with previously unnoticed details. Most
probably it was constructed as a funerary temple for Suryavarman II (ruled 1112-52) to honor Vishnu, the Hindu deity who the king identified with.

There is much about Angkor Wat that is unique among the temples of Angkor. The most significant point is its westward orientation. West is symbolically the direction of death, which once led many scholars to conclude that Angkor Wat was primarily a tomb. This was supported by the fact that the magnificent bas-reliefs of Angkor Wat were designed to be viewed in an anticlockwise direction, a practice which has antecedents in Hindu funerary rites. Vishnu, however, is often associated with the west, and it is commonly accepted nowadays that Angkor Wat was probably both a temple and a mausoleum for

 

VISITING THE MONUMENTS
It is based on the amount of time the visitor has to spend at Angkor and take into consideration the roads, proximity of the temples, and favorable light conditions.

For some temples it is important to begin at the principal entrance to perceive the space and decoration as the builder intended, and entrances are indicated in the text. The monuments are oriented according to the four points of a compass which can be used as a point of reference. the temple of Angkor Wat is covered in detail in this book because of its importance, complexity and size.

Angkor provides wonderful photographic opportunities. the monuments and the surrounding jungle afford unlimited textural and lighting opportunities for composing a picture.

 Clouds are common and tend to diffuse the light which is somewhat flat even though it is intense. As most of the temples face east the best lighting conditions are in the morning except for Angkor Wat where the best light is in the afternoon because it faces west. the temples surrounded by jungle such as Ta Prohm and Preah Khan can be photographed with good results when the sun is directly overhead and shining through the foliage. Just as one is never prepared for the enormous size and overwhelming beauty of Angkor, one is never ready to leave it. With photographs and visions etched in memory, one need never say good-by to Angkor, for its magic will go with you wherever fate and the gods may take you to colour your thoughts and dreams to life’s very end. The name of the monuments at Angkor are often modern ones designated by Cambodians or early European travellers. In publications by the French the enclosures of a temple are numbered starting from the central sanctuary and progressing towards the enclosing walls. The system used in this book reverses the order for the convenience of the visitor. Thus the first enclosing wall the visitor encounters when entering a temple is number one. the numbers ascend from the exterior to the interior of the monument. In many distances, though, only traces of the enclosing walls, particularly the outer one, remain.

Phnom Penh Cambodia – The capital of the Kingdom of Cambodia, Phnom Penh, is located at the confluence of three rivers – the Mekong, the Bassac and Tonle Sap.  The city is divided into three sections – the north, an attractive residential area; the south or the French part of the city with its ministries, banks and colonial houses; and the centre or the heart with its narrow lanes, markets, foods stalls and shops.

Over the past four years, the city has undergone tremendous changes – businesses are springing up constantly and tourism is once again booming.  Cambodia has one of the most liberal investment laws to further boost managed to retain its charm and character – cyclos that weave through traffic with ease, broad boulevards, old colonial buildings, parks and green spaces that reminds one of the country’s French heritage, and above all its people who always have a smile for you.

A stone’s throw away from the Tonle Sap is the royal Palace built on the site of the Banteay Kev, a citadel built in 1813. The Palace grounds contain several buildings: the Throne Room of Prasat Tevea Vinichhay which is used for the coronation of kings, official receptions and traditional ceremonies; the Chan Chhaya Pavilion which is a venue for dance performances; the king’s official residence called the Khemarin; the Napoleon Pavilion and the spectacular Silver Pagoda. This pagoda is worth exploring.  It owes its name to the 5,000 silver tiles weighing 1kg each which cover the entire floor.

The emerald Buddha sits on a pedestal high atop the dias.  In front of the dias stands a life-size Buddha made of solid gold and weighs 75kg. It is decked with precious gems including diamonds, the largest of which is 25 carats.  Also on display at the sides are the coronation apparel and numerous miniature Buddha in gold and silver.

The walls surrounding the compound which is the oldest part of the palace, are covered with frescos depicting scenes from the Khmer version of the Ramayana.

INDEPENDENCE MONUMENT:

The monument was built in 1958 to symbolize the independence that Cambodia gained from France in 1953. The French fully abandoned their interests in Indochina following defeat by the Vietnamese at the battle of Dien Bien Phu in May 1954. Independence is marked in Cambodia o­n the 9th November. The monument has a unique and peculiar style and doubles as a memorial to Cambodian patriots who died for their country.


NATIONAL MUSEUM:

The NATIONAL MUSEUM of Cambodia is housed in a graceful terracotta structure of traditional design (built 1917-20) just north of the Royal Palace. It is open Tuesday to Sunday from 8 to 11 am and from 2 to 5 pm; entry is $3. Photography is prohibited inside. The School of Fine Arts (École des Beaux-arts) has its headquarters in a structure behind the main building.

WAT PHNOM:

You may also want to check out WAT PHNOM which sits on a tree covered hill about 30m high in the northeast of the city.  It is said that the first pagoda was built in 1373 to house four statues of the Buddha deposited here by the Mekong river. It was discovered by a woman named Penh.  Thus, the name Phnom Penh, the hill of Penh.

The people believe that this temple is powerful in that anyone who makes a wish will have it granted.

It is not surprising to see many people coming here to pray for protection or healing.  Many bring lotus flowers as offerings for prayers answered. At the bottom of the hill is a small zoo, but its most endearing residents, the monkeys, live free in the trees.

 

TUOL SLENG MUSEUM:

In 1975,Tuol Svay Prey High School was taken over by Pol Pot’s security force and turned into a prison known as Security Prison 21 (S-21) It soon became the largest such centre of detention and torture in the country. Over 17,000 people held at S-21 were taken to the extermination camp at Choeung Ek to be executed; detainees who die during torture were buried in mass graves in the prison grounds.

Articles about Toul Sleng Musem

  • Toul Sleng Museum 1
  • Toul Sleng Museum 2
  • Toul Sleng Museum 3
  • Toul Sleng Museum 4

 

CHEUNG EK KILLING FIELD:

Between 1975 and 1978,aabout 17,000 men, women, children and infants (including nine westerners), detained and tortured at S-21 prison (now Tuol Sleng Museum), were transported to the extermination to death to avoid wasting precious bullets.

Travellers tend to worry about contracting infectious diseases when in the tropics, but infections are a rare cause of serious illness or death in travellers. Pre-existing medical conditions such as heart disease, and accidental injury (especially traffic accidents), account for most life-threatening problems. Becoming ill in some way, however, is a relatively common thing. Fortunately, most common illnesses can either be prevented with some common-sense behaviour or be treated easily with a well-stocked traveller’s medical kit.
Health issues and the quality of medical facilities vary enormously depending on where and how you travel in Vietnam. Many of the major cities are now very well developed, although travel to rural areas can expose you to a variety of health risks and inadequate medical care.
Some international hospitals/clinics in Hanoi and Ho Chi Minh City (American, French and German doctors on staff)

In Hanoi: (tel code: 84-4)
Hanoi French Hospital
1 Phuong Mai Str.
Tel: 577-1100, emergency: 574-1111

Family Medical Practice
Unit 109-112, Van Phuc, Blog A1, Kim Ma Str.
Tel: 843-0748 (24hours))

International SOS
31 Hai Ba Trung Str.
Tel: 934-0666, emergency: 934-0555

In Ho Chi Minh City: (tel code: 84-8)
Vietnam-Korea Friendship Hospital
12 Chu Van An Str.
Tel: 843-7231

International SOS
65, Nguyen Du Str.
Tel: 829-8520, emergency: 829-8424

Saigon International Clinic
8 Alexandre de Rhodes Str., District 1
Tel: 823-8888

Gia Dinh International Hospital
1 Trang Long Str., Bin Thanh District
Tel: 803-0678

Franco Vietnamese Hospital
6 Nguyen Luong Bang Str., District 7
Tel: 411-3333

Resources of Health Advice for Travellers
Read the General considerations about International Travel & Health, including these issues:
Travel-related risks
Medical consultation before travel
Medical kit and toilet items
Travellers with pre-existing medical conditions and special needs
Insurance for travellers
Role of travel industry professionals
Responsibility of the traveller
Medical examination after travel
(Source: World Health Organization (WHO) www.who.int/ith/en/)

You need a valid visa to enter Vietnam, Laos and Cambodia. The expiration date of your passport should be no less than 6 months from the end day of your visa or the end of your stay in Vietnam.

1. VISA VIETNAM – LAOS – CAMBODIA

Vietnam Visas:
It is compulsory to have a visa to enter Vietnam.
Example: With an ordinary tourist visa (for a one-month trip in Vietnam) from the 15/03; your passport must be valid until at least 15/10; you may then stay in Vietnam until the 15/04.
Tourist visas are generally valid for one month and can be single or multiple entry visas (you may or may not be able to leave the country and return again on the same visa). If you wish to make several entries during your travel (for example you go to Vietnam, from there in Laos and come back to Vietnam), you need a multiple entry visa.
In case of transit via Vietnam, to another country, you may not need a multiple entry visa.

There are several ways to obtain a tourist visa:
Here are the 3 main ways to obtain the visa and the stamp needed to enter Vietnam
The visa obtained directly by the traveler from a representative body of Vietnam abroad (embassy, consular service or service in charge of the consular functions), with or without invitation of a receptive travel agency established in the country. This kind of visa is more expensive. For the concrete formalities, please contact the Vietnamese Embassy in your home country.
The visa is agreed by the Hanoi Central Department of Immigration and, delivered by a representative body of Vietnam abroad. The traveler can pass on the responsibility to the travel agency to ask, in his favor, for an acceptance letter from the central Department of Immigration, which he will give to the embassy to take the visa. The only advantage of this kind of visa is that it is less expensive than the first type of visa.
The visa is issued in advance by the Central Department of Immigration in Hanoi, at the request of a licensed travel agency and is given on arrival in Vietnam (“Visa on Arrival”).

Restrictions: The Visa on Arrival system only supports tourist visas issued to international airports (Hanoi, Danang, and Saigon). So entering by land is not possible.

Advantages: This type of visa is the least expensive and easily obtainable remotely, even multiple entry visas, especially for those who cannot easily get to a Vietnamese Embassy.

Cambodia Visas:
In order to enter Cambodia, it is compulsory to have a visa. The expiration date of the passport should be no less than 6 months from the last day of the visa or the end of the visitor’s stay in Cambodia.
The “Visa on Arrival” is generally used in Cambodia. With a valid passport, a passport photo, ID, and few dollars, you can have your visa (1 month, tourist) at the frontier in 5 to 10 minutes, without the need of any previous formalities.

Laos Visas:
Just like Cambodia, the most time and energy efficient option for Laos’s entry is “Visa on Arrival” for 30 days with passport photo + 02 photos (4×6) and a few dollars (US$37, cash only). No previous formalities are required.

2. PAPER NEEDED
Your passport and visa (or a “prior approval” in the event of obtaining the Vietnam Visa on Arrival) is obviously essential. It is advised to make a copy of your passport and to preserve it separately from your passport. Thus, in case you should lose your passport, you have all the information needed to proceed with the necessary declarations and formalities with the consular services of your country, established in Vietnam.
It is imperative to have on oneself the international emergency telephone number of your insurance company, as well as the contract number of your insurance policy.
In the case of health problems, it is imperative to preserve all the documents (medical bills, police statements, etc), in order to have proof of purchases for the re-imbursement of expenses.
In hotels, as well as in people’s house where you will be hosted, you will be asked to present your passport in order allow the proprietors to make a declaration of your presence to the local police authorities. This is a prerequisite by law.

3. TRAVEL INSURANCE
It is necessary to obtain health insurance in order to cover medical costs that you may incur abroad (prices in private institutes can be rather high). The insurance must be thorough for those wishing to travel with us and must cover medical evacuation. An insurance covering all cancellation fees and lost luggage is also recommended.
We do not include subscription to insurance in any of our tours for the following reasons:
We believe that insurance services will better in your country rather than in Vietnam.
It will be easier if you buy the insurance in your own country because you will be in direct contact with the insurance company and can therefore choose the insurance that suits you.
When paying for travel by credit card, some banks offer automatic insurance subscriptions.
Vietlanddiscovery Travel is committed to giving you all necessary assistance in case of incident, where you may require compensation from the insurance company.