ASEAN Foundation and SAP  

The ASEAN Foundation and SAP SE (NYSE: SAP) today announced a strategic partnership to create positive social impact in South East Asia, including social enterprises in Vietnam. This joint effort will focus on areas of Education, Volunteerism and Entrepreneurship. Through this partnership, the ASEAN Foundation and SAP aim to support the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) in building a cohesive regional community and deliver inclusively-shared economic benefits by encouraging strategic and innovative participation of youths and social entrepreneurs.
The Memorandum of Understanding between the two organisations is a part of SAP's Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR) policy to equip youths with the skills they need to tackle society's problems and thrive in the digital economy; build the capacity of innovative social enterprises that put young people on the path to successful careers and build a skilled workforce for the IT sector with training and workforce development programmes. Key initiatives that will be executed under this agreement will focus on driving digital literacy to support sustainable growth for the communities that the programmes aim to benefit.
"A sustainable ASEAN community lies in the hands of ASEAN's youth. I believe that our joint initiatives with SAP will increase the involvement of ASEAN youths in national and regional activities to give them an opportunity to actively contribute to the ASEAN community," says Elaine Tan, the Executive Director of the ASEAN Foundation.
Youth empowerment has been a salient topic in ASEAN since the Declaration of Principles to Strengthen ASEAN Collaboration on Youth that was presented in Bangkok in 1983. "The three initiatives under the ASEAN Foundation and SAP partnership have touched upon five priority focus of the most recent ASEAN Work Plan on Youth 2016-2020 which include youth entrepreneurship, youth employment, youth awareness, youth volunteerism and leadership, as well as youth resilience," Elaine added.
"ASEAN represents not just one economic community; it also represents one social community. As ASEAN celebrates 50 years of deepening unity and rising prosperity this year, we are excited with the opportunities that are in store in this Growth Frontier region. With almost half of the region's population being under 30 years of age by 2020, there is a growing pool of talent that we can invest in and work with for a better future. Through our joint initiatives with ASEAN Foundation, we aim to help prepare young people for the digital economy and support ASEAN drive sustainable socio-economic growth in the Fourth Industrial Revolution," said Mr. Scott Russell, President and Managing Director, SAP South East Asia.
He added, "SAP's vision is to help the world run better and improve people's lives. This is our enduring cause. In service to this higher purpose, we are investing efforts in our Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR) programme to equip youths with the skills they need to tackle society's problems and thrive in the digital economy. I believe that this partnership will help scale our CSR efforts to create greater reach and positively impact lives in this region".
Under this agreement, the ASEAN Foundation and SAP will roll out three initiatives in 2017 to address the ASEAN's economic, environmental, and societal issues, through three focus areas of education, volunteerism and entrepreneurship.
Education
Targeting tertiary students across all 10 ASEAN member states from any discipline, this data analytics competition -- "ASEAN Data Science Explorers" aims to enhance awareness and appreciation of the ASEAN community amongst young people through digital literacy intervention. By learning and using the SAP BusinessObjects Cloud tool, the initiative encourages participants to deliver data-driven insights for ASEAN across six United Nation (UN) Sustainable Development Goals, namely (1) good health and well-being, (2) quality education, (3) gender equality, (4) clean water and sanitation, (5) decent work and economic growth, and (6) sustainable cities and communities. The competition will be organized across all ASEAN member states with a regional final taking place in Jakarta, Indonesia in November this year.
Volunteerism
In collaboration with United Nations Volunteers (UNV) programme and the Federal Ministry for Economic Cooperation and Development of Germany, ASEAN Secretariat, ASEAN Foundation and SAP along with other partners have launched the Youth Volunteering Innovation Challenge (YVIC) in ASEAN. Under the theme "Impact ASEAN", the initiative supports young volunteers throughout the ASEAN countries in their journey to catalyze youth-led innovation for social impact and sustainable development. YVIC will provide entrepreneurship knowledge and skills through national workshops. The national workshop winners will be awarded micro-grants to prototype their ideas and later participate in the regional mentorship orientation in Bangkok, Thailand. In addition, employees from SAP will be volunteering their time to provide guidance and support to refine and scale up the youth's Impact Projects.
Entrepreneurship
Through structured capacity building and mentoring initiatives planned through local and overseas missions, high performing employees from SAP will support social impact intermediaries through mentoring and pro-bono consulting. The programme in association with several partners will impact close to 20 social enterprises across Cambodia, Indonesia, Lao PDR, Malaysia, Myanmar, Singapore, Thailand, and Vietnam in 2017.
About ASEAN Foundation
Three decades after ASEAN was established, ASEAN leaders recognised that: there remained inadequate shared prosperity, ASEAN awareness and contact among people of ASEAN. It was of this concern that ASEAN leaders established ASEAN Foundation during ASEAN's 30th Anniversary Commemorative Summit in Kuala Lumpur Malaysia on 15 December 1997. ASEAN Foundation is an organisation from and for the people of ASEAN. The Foundation exists because of one vision: to build a cohesive and prosperous ASEAN Community. As an ASEAN's body, the Foundation is tasked to support ASEAN mainly in promoting awareness, identity, interaction and development of the people of ASEAN. For more info about the ASEAN Foundation, visit: www.aseanfoundation.org
About SAP
As market leader in enterprise application software, SAP (NYSE: SAP) helps companies of all sizes and industries run better. From back office to boardroom, warehouse to storefront, desktop to mobile device -- SAP empowers people and organizations to work together more efficiently and use business insight more effectively to stay ahead of the competition. SAP applications and services enable more than 350,000 business and public sector customers to operate profitably, adapt continuously, and grow sustainably. For more information, visit www.sap.com.

River tours in the Mekong Delta  

There are many ways to explore the hinterland of Vietnam's lush Mekong Delta. Tours of this vicinity range from luxurious boat cruises to cycle tours to cross-country hiking. The latter are popular because the terrain is quite flat, and the roads are all in reasonable condition. But because the whole of the southwestern region of the country is criss-crossed by the Mekong's nine main tributaries and various canals, travelling by boat is undoubtedly the best way to visit the delta.
The good news for cyclists and hikers is that a large number of the passenger boats and cruise ships go out of their way to cater for these modes of transport. They offer facilities that allow cyclists or bakers to bring their vehicles on board, allowing them to use boats to navigate the more awkward parts of the waterlogged landscape. Many of the traditional sampans will also welcome bicycles on-board their little vessels, thus making allowances for the fact that the bike remains the staple form of transport in Vietnam – even in areas where there are abundant rivers and canals!
Much of the Mekong Delta gives the impression of having frozen in time. Sampans still float gracefully along the rivers, with fishermen persisting in their centuries old traditions. Farmers still use water buffalo to help them cultivate the rice fields. Throughout the dense covering of trees and mangroves, you will glimpse ancient pagodas and temples.
The actual vessels plying their trade on this river vary considerably. As mentioned, there are small sampans that allow you to gain an authentic feel for the river as you slowly coast along, a matter of inches above the rippling surface. Closer to the Gulf of Thailand, there are large ocean-going cruise ships, complete with bars and five star restaurants. The latter is surely one of the best ways to view life on the Mekong Delta. As you take your comfortable seat in the panoramic bar, you can enjoy cocktails while watching the world go by.
The more intrepid visitors often take the opportunity to actually get into the Mekong River. Scuba diving is very popular in many Vietnamese locations, but especially the Mekong Delta resorts, or the beaches south of Ho Chi Minh City, and around the town of Vung Tau. There are many interesting indigenous species of wildlife that can be viewed in the delta, although the waters can be fairly muddy, so the serious scuba divers tend to gravitate further north, especially to Ha Long Bay.
The costal resorts cater for a wide variety of activities. Scuba diving is just one of these; your hotels will also be able to point you in the direction of a range of watersports. If you would prefer to simply relax on the beach, then there are miles and miles of golden sands to be enjoyed. Golf is also available at the Paradise Golf Resort. One of Vietnam's best golf courses, this boasts 27 holes. Many of these are played while overlooking the azure grandeur of the South China Sea.

 

Scuba diving in Vietnam  

Vietnam's diverse natural seascapes, abundant marine ecosytems and tropical waters all lead to one thing: scuba diving has become one of the country's most sought-after holiday experiences.
Amongst the many fabulous resorts, one of the best known is Nha Trang. Basically a central coastal town (Nha Trang) surrounded by islands, the Hon Mun Marine Park was established three years ago. Since then it has gone from strength to strength, and is presently one of Vietnam's principal draws for visitors from all parts of the Far East and beyond.
Diving in this part of the world is particularly popular because of the crystal clear waters. While there are not as many vast shoals of bigger fish as in other parts of the world, with less likelihood of coming across manta rays or sharks, the vicinity is renowned for being teeming with large numbers of brightly-coloured reef fish and molluscs. The high concentration of marine life in a relatively enclosed area means that Nha Trang scuba diving is ideal for the beginner, while those with a bit more experience can spend time getting reacquainted with their favourite pastime.
Conditions
The environment beneath the surface here is extremely diverse. Coral reefs range from hard and soft and are uniformly in pristine condition. As such, the reefs form the ideal habitat for a large variety of marine creatures. The fish darting to and fro amongst coral, feeding on microscopic sea creatures or, indeed, smaller fish, seem to come in every conceivable colour or pattern under the sun. Often the coral beneath the fish is completely obscured by the huge quantities of damselfish, fairy basslets, and a myriad number of other species. If you are extremely fortunate, you may catch sight of the mysterious dugong – a secretive and extremely rare marine mammal that has often been regarded as the source of ancient mermaid myths.
Islands
There are numerous islands in the Nha Trang vicinity that form ideal launch pads for your undersea exploration. Con Dao is a tight-knit group of islands lying 180 kilometres from Vung Tau. The local population is around 5,000, and the main island's previous claim to fame was the fact it once housed a feared penal colony (you'll be relieved to know this closed in 1975).
Elsewhere in the archipelago, the World Wife Fund for Nature has been actively protecting dugong and sea turtles since 1995. Over 300,000 baby turtles have been released into the waters around here, and over 1,000 adults have been tagged during the same period of time.
Whale Island (or Nha Trang) allows shore diving to a depth of around 15 metres. Wall dives are possible to a depth of 40 metres, with coral gardens commencing at the 15-metre mark. Despite the island's name, sightings of whales, whale sharks or larger rays are rare – although not unknown. You might just be lucky.
Cu Lao Cham Marine Park is around 25 minutes away by speedboat ride. The eight islands that comprise this park are home to an incredibly diverse range of marine wildlife. In all, there are over 150 species of coral, over 80 species of molluscs, four lobster species and over 200 species of fish.

 

Soaking up the culture during Vietnam holidays  

Vietnam is a land of diverse experiences and changing landscapes. Its location at the tip of the Far East portion of mainland Asia has meant that it has seen more than its fair share of civilizations crossing its land mass. This melting pot characteristic has given rise to an incredibly rich historical heritage. So, for those visiting Vietnam who are looking for a bit more than visits to its renowned floating markets, what are the cultural highlights?
When many visitors first consider visiting the Far East, Vietnam is not always the first choice. Perhaps there are lingering thoughts of all those war films that once featured Vietnam as their backdrop. However, the conflicts that once afflicted this beautiful Asian country occurred decades ago. Since the end of hostilities way back in the 1970s, Vietnam has become one of the most prosperous nations in this corner of the globe. When visiting Vietnam, it is possible to get a hint of what the civil war was like by paying a visit to the Cu Chi tunnels.
Lighting in a suburb of Ho Chi Minh City, this subterranean lair stretches for some 300 miles underneath dense jungle. Surprising though it may seem, this tunnel system is actually one of the country's most impressive tourist draws. By clambering down into this hidden world, it is possible to experience what life was like for the forces of the National Liberation Front, who used this hideaway as a secret position for waging guerilla warfare against the occupying American forces and their government allies.
It is possible to see former kitchens, bedrooms, communal areas where children were educated, and even the printing presses where propaganda literature was created, right under the noses of the enemy. Tours to the underground tunnel system are operated from Ho Chi Minh City all year round.
Du Hang Pagoda (on lonelyplanet.com)
While Vietnam certainly has no shortage of pagodas, the Du Hang is one of the most interesting. Dating as far back as the 18th century, this vast temple is renowned for its amazing interior decoration. You'll spend quite some time just taking in the incredible detail of its ornate patterns and ancient furnishings.
Hanoi History Museum
If you are looking to gain a snapshot of Vietnam's rich historical development, then Hanoi's History Museum is a recommended starting point. It contains numerous relics of the country's prehistoric and historic evolution, including many displays dedicated to its earliest civilizations, right through to the Dong Son period. Key to understanding the potent nature of Vietnam's national identity are its struggles against colonial aggressors, particularly the Chinese, and then the French. There is also a diverse range of exhibits which are dedicated to the rise and triumph of the communists, particularly during the American War.
Just outside Hanoi is the National Preserve of Cuc Phuong. Located deep inside the Vietnamese countryside, this area is characterized by primeval forests. Cuc Phuong is known as a large area of tropical vegetation, riddled with caves and exotic subterranean grottoes. As well as a landscape of rich natural history, successive human visitors have left their mark here over the centuries.
Take Notes Before Visiting Vietnam  

According to Rough Guides, Vietnam for years is among relatively safe country for travelers including solo women visitors. But there are some, in particularly things to be taken into consideration before wanderlust comes to Vietnam. Let's check out below:
When to visit Vietnam?
Sounds like an old question, but yes, really important because it will play a great role contributing to your awesome trip. Luckily, visitors can come to Vietnam anytime in a year but with just some notices and they can choose the right place to go.
Northern area: There are 4 distinct seasons including Spring, Summer, Autumn and Winter. Each season has its own exquisiteness so just arrange suitable time depends on schedule of the trip.
Central area: The most typical climate feature Central is the rainy and dry season, of which summer is the hottest time of this land.
Southern area: Humid tropical climate with 2 main rainy and dry seasons.
Ideal time suggested: Visit Hanoi or Sapa in October/ November/ December; Ho Chi Minh in February/ March; Hue down to Nha Trang from January to July.
What to eat in Vietnam?
Another simple wonder when discovering a new land, then it should be about food and culinary. First-time comers must have been searching much for all related information and here are some popular dishes listed: Pho (noodles), Bun cha (grilled pork, eaten with thin noodles, sauce, herbs and vegetable), Banh mi, Bia hoi (beer), etc. But they are just a small part of various food map in Vietnam, so for more information, have a look at the example list:
Ha Giang: Buffalo meat hanging on the traditional wood stove
Hanoi: Pho, Bun cha, Bun thang, etc.
Nha Trang: Jellyfish noodles
Ho Chi Minh: Rice with pork ribs
If you want to experience all in a guided tour, then we recommend you a gourmet tour with https://vietnamdiscovery.com/gourmet-vietnam-tours-28.
How to cross the streets in Vietnam?
For those coming and staying in Vietnam, especially in big cities like Hanoi/ Ho Chi Minh for the first time, there will have no hassle more than passing the streets full of rushing motorbikes, taxi, cars, buses, etc. Traffic is a little bit scary as you'll still have to watch out although pedestrian lights are on and if other vehicles want to pass you, they signals by horning as much and loudly as they can. It will take you some time to get used to it then!
So here're the tips:
  • Take it slowly
  • Look out cars/buses, etc. carefully
  • Follow locals – they are masters of crossing labyrinthine streets
What to prepare before flying?
Of course it should be about required documents for entering Vietnam including Vietnam visa, air tickets and money. The first one, visa, can be seen the most complicated procedure to be accepted getting in a country but now it's all so easy with visa on arrival. Applicants will only need to fill in online form, get approval letter via email and then get passport stamped at Vietnam airport, which is definitely stress free! Vietnam visa on arrival is issued for those who travel to Vietnam by AIR only so please take note this one and have your wise arrangement!

 

Vietnam – festivals and other events  
Because Vietnam is such a melting pot of different cultures, it is no wonder that there is any number of festivals being celebrated, throughout the country, and throughout the year.
January
The Tet Festival is when the people of Vietnam celebrate the lunar New Year. This is a massive festival in the country, during which people will travel home to be with their families, taking part in a variety of activities – principally eating, drinking and general socializing. At this time of year there will be something going on to interest visitors in every town and city.
February
The Lim Festival is held in Lim, near Hanoi, every February. This comprises a celebration of various traditional activities, such as folk music and handicrafts, especially weaving. The Lim Festival is traditionally held on the 13th day of the first lunar month. Folk songs are enthusiastically sung by male singers (known as lien anh) and their female counterparts (lien chi). Visitors are also invited to browse various stalls where weavers perform their intricate activities. The local fishermen and farmers also display their wares, while in the background colourful processions and ceremonies are enacted throughout the vicinity.
March
One popular festival that takes place every every March is the Perfume Pagoda Festival. This takes place in My Duc, near Hanoi, and features a pilgrimage to the local Buddhist temple. Visitors are encouraged to join in with this pilgrimage, and as well as having the opportunity to become immersed in local culture, it offers some splendid views of the local scenery.
Perhaps a less austere celebration is the Cow Racing Festival, enacted every March in An Giang. Originally imported from neighbouring Cambodia, this event is based on paying respects to departed friends or family members, and features a pilgrimage to a pagoda. As part of the festivities involves the mass-lighting of incense sticks, this is the feast for the nose as much as the eyes! After these activities come the actual races alluded to in the festival's title.
April
The Chu Dong Tu Festival occurring each April is dedicated to the hero, Saint Chu Dong Tu. This all about promoting an awareness of agriculture, and the importance that it continues to play in Vietnamese life. The festival lasts for three days and culminates in an ornate procession.
May
Ba Chua Xu takes place over a four-day period in Chau Doc, on Sam Mountain. Because there are many shrines and temples in this vicinity, numerous events are held during their time, to which all tourists are respectfully invited to enjoy the activities.
Another Vietnamese celebration which takes place in this month is Labour Day or May Day. This is celebrated throughout Vietnam with parades, feasts, and colourful (and noisy) firework displays.
June
The Chem Temple Festival takes place in Vietnam in June, celebrating the momentous events in the country's history. Celebrants recall Ly Ong Trong, a supporter of the Chinese Emperor at the time of a Mongol invasion. This festival has deep religious significance for many Vietnamese citizens.
Another important event in the Vietnamese calendar for June is Buddha's birthday. Celebrated throughout the Far East, especially Vietnam, this event occurs on the 15th day of the fourth lunar month.
Vietnam – festivals and other events. Part2  
There are many cultural events occurring throughout Vietnam over the second half of each year.
August
Compared to many of the religious celebrations held in Vietnam over the first six months each year, which rightly call for a degree of formality and veneration, August's Honchien Temple Festival is all about fun. Here the revelers put on imperial costumes as they take part in a vibrant procession near the Perfume River. Tourists are encouraged to participate in the exciting festivities.
September
The Kiep Bac Festival is one of Vietnam's most important historical celebrations. This is all about marking the moment in the nation's story when the Chinese Nguyen Mang invaders were finally repulsed. Kiep Bac is celebrated in the temple in Luc Dau, and commemorates the victorious Vietnamese general Saint Tran.
Festivities run over a five-day period, featuring a pilgrimage to the sacred temple, when Saint Tran's ancestral tablet is held aloft aboard a golden chair, and transported through bustling streets. Coinciding with this procession is a boat race held in the Luc Dau River.
Octoberace held in the Luc Dau River.
The Keo Pagoda Festival is a wild celebration of Duong Khong Lo. Amidst the jovial proceedings there are traditional pastimes, such as duck catching, cooking of rice and firecracker throwing.
November
The Oc Om Boc Festival is held in Soc Trang in the south of the country, each November. The main participants are the Kho Me people, who use this festival as a time to pay veneration to the Moon. Amongst the highlights of this festival is a noisy boat race that draws large and enthusiastic crowds to cheer on the rival participants.
Che Ngo is when indigenous Khmers celebrate their new year. This is another colourful event that is wonderful for visitors to witness. As well as noisy music and costumes, there is much feasting and a boat race or two! The skies are also lit with myriad lantern rockets.
The excellent thing about Vietnam's festivals as that they offer visitors a unique insight into local customs. Many of the activities that unfold at these annual events have been enacted for centuries. While Vietnam is certainly a technologically advanced and economically prosperous Asian nation, it is also a very ancient one. As a melting pot, it contains a variety of ethnic groups who can trace their respective developments back over many centuries. The various festivals pay homage to all manner of events and dieties.
While much of the proceedings appeared to be shrouded in deeply religious significance, there is never any hint that what visitors are witnessing is in any way private or sacred. Indeed, newcomers to the country are openly welcomed into the various processions and pilgrimages as active participants.
The festival celebrants become especially sociable in the evenings, once the pilgrimages and visits to the pagodas and temples have been concluded. As the sun sets, the banquet tables become laden with all manner of local delicacies. Against a backdrop of traditional music, visitors are invited to partake in sumptuous feasts. Enjoying the Vietnamese cuisine in this way, as an integral part of longstanding cultural events, is far more meaningful than grabbing a carry-out box from a market stall around the corner from a hotel!
Unspoiled Vietnam - exploring the central Highland  
Vietnam is one of the world's fastest up and coming tourist resorts. The upside of this is that many of its resorts are now fully geared towards making every visitors' experience as comfortable as possible. The one downside, however, is that a lot of people will have thought of paying a visit to the same resorts that you have. The good news is that if you would really like to get away from it all, there are still many parts of the country that are relatively unspoiled.
The bulk of visitors to this beautiful Far Eastern country tend to head along to the eastern coast, drawn to the beautiful beaches and the limestone islands of the likes of Ha Long Bay. Those who are drawn to mountains usually head northwards to the more spectacular ranges. While the mountain ranges in the centre of Vietnam can't match their northern counterparts in terms of sheer beauty, there is still an immense amount of landscape here waiting for the more intrepid explorer.
The mountains here are shrouded in mist and harbour countless thundering waterfalls. There are a immense longhouses, which are hardly struggling to cope with the demand of tourists clamouring for accommodation! Vietnam's central highlands share their western border with Cambodia, and spread to the high peaks and wide plateaus of the Truong Son Mountains. This region is renowned for its fertile red soils that yield a lot of natural resources. Chief amongst these are tea, coffee, silk, hardwood, and rubber. Although plantations obviously take up a lot of this land, there are still pockets of Forrest dating back to primeval times. Amongst these secretive trees there are elephants gibbons and bears that have managed to survive the advances of civilization surrounding them.
For visitors coming to the central highlands, the first target of choice is often Da Lat. Christened by the former French colonists of this country, this mountain retreat looms above pine-crested hilltops. It does have to be said that it can be somewhat disappointing to arrive here because the architecture is fairly dreamy and it has succumbed to some of the excesses of being a tourist trap. On the other hand, it does contain some charming colonial buildings and if you enjoy bike rides, some extremely picturesque trails. Its market is also overflowing with local delicacies to whet your appetite prior to exploring further in the hills.
North of Da Lat you'll come across Lak Lake. This picturesque body of water is surrounded by tiny villages, whose inhabitants always welcome visitors. Be prepared to be offered all manner of hand-crafted trinkets to be taken away to remind you of your time spent in the central Highlands.
Indeed, one of the keenest memories of this area you are likely to leave with is a snapshot of a varied indigenous mix. Amongst the people living in this hilly terrain are tribes like Jarai and Bahnar. Despite the way that Vietnam has evolved into a contemporary country at the forefront of the new Asian economies, these proud peoples remain relatively cocooned from the worst consumer excesses of the outside world. A glimpse into their charming lifestyles is bound to be heartwarming for any visitor.
Vietnam attractions – Ha Long Bay  

Ha Long Bay Is one of Vietnam's most instantly recognizable tourist destinations. Located in Quang Ning Province, in the north-west of Vietnam, the bay consists of thousands of limestone ‘karsts' (karsts being geological formations, usually formed from limestone, which in the case of Ha Long Bay, have created spectacular cliffs and islands).
The bay itself is part of a much wider geological zone which includes Bai Tur Long, and the Cat Ba ialands. Ha Long Bay has a total area of around 1,500 square kilometres. There are upwards of 2000 islets dotted just off the coasts, and within easy exploration distance for visitors wishing to book boat trips, or hire kayaks. The bay is an incredibly diverse environment, not only for its impressive geological structures, but also for its wildlife. There are over 60 species of animals living in this part of Vietnam.
History
Anyone visiting the bay is following in impressively ancient footsteps. Ancient folklore describes a family of dragons being sent by the gods to assist the Vietnamese in fighting off invaders. Rather than the traditional western version of breathing fire, these mythical beasts spat out jewels and jade. These transformed into the thousands of islands dotted around the bay.
The vicinity was first settled in prehistoric times. Successive cultures have included the Soi Nhu, who flourished for thousands of years until around 7,000 BC, the Cai Beo, who lasted until 5,000 BC, and the Ha Long who gave the area its name, but who died out around 3,500 years ago. The bay's position has been ideal for human habitation, with its convenient access to the sea and therefore trade routes with other neighbouring civilizations, and the comparative shelter offered by its natural landscapes. Many artifacts have been discovered in the area's limestone caves – with some examples remarkably well-preserved considering their antiquity.
Geology
The natural landscapes of Ha Long Bay are amongst the most striking anywhere in the world. Visitors are struck by the sheer spectacle of the monolithic islands, rising spectacularly from the waters. French explorers from colonial times have left graffiti on some of the caves, although today's visitors are far more likely to be impressed by the vast chambers within the islands, containing stalactites and stalagmites.
Communitiesssed by the vast chambers within the islands, containing stalactites and stalagmites.
Two of the larger islnds, Cat Ba and Tuan Chau, are permanently inhabited. Here you'll find excellent tourist facilities, as well as well-appointed hotels overlooking beautiful beaches. Around 1,600 Vietnamese live around the bay are, centred in four fishing communities – Cur Van, Cong Tau, Ba Hang and Vong Veng. Their traditional accommodation consists of floating homes. The locals sustain themselves with fishing, and the cultivation of marine life. There are around 200 fish species in the bay, and over 400 types of mollusk.
First listed as a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 1994 due to its universal aesthetic value, the bay has been welcoming visitors to this part of Vietnam for some time. Tourists have many leisure options available to them, from exploring the islets and inlets from kayaks, to boat cruises along the bay. Larger boats offer restaurants and overnight stays. There are opportunities to fish, or to indulge in watersports such as snorkeling or diving. The more intrepid can try out undersea caving, although this only be done with experienced guides.

 

Vietnam adventure holidays  
Vietnam has so much to offer its visitors, from tours of its beautiful landscapes, to full-on adventure experiences for the more intrepid individuals. Where the latter are concerned, here is a run-down of some of the more popular Vietnamese adventure activities.
Kayaking
Whether you are a hardened canoeist, or just someone who fancies dabbling around shores in a kayak, you are spoilt for choice in this beautiful countryside. There are some wonderful bays, marshes and rivers in Vietnam. These offer amazing water visibility, as well as an abundance of marine wildlife to be uncovered. To the north east of Vietnam lies Ha Long Bay, a long stretch of coastline that is world-renowned for its limestone cliffs and islands. This area is a magnet for kayakers, who enjoy the combination of tranquil waters, and the inlets and caves that can be most readily explored by boat. The one not of caution is that some of the natural geology of this area lends itself to unpredictable passages – so travelling with a guide to some of the more obscure islands or cliffs is the recommended option.
Horse riding
Traveling across the countryside on horseback is a very popular pastime in Vietnam. The Vietnamese Hmong is a ubiquitous animal beloved of native riders, and is popular with trekkers of all nationalities. Whether you are wishing to undertake a gentle tour of the interior, or a more vigorous canter along Vietnam's long beaches, horses are ideal. Riding rates are usually charged by the hour, although if you are planning to embark on a full day's sightseeing with your trusty steed, then you can rent accordingly.
Hiking and trekking
The famous Ho Chi Minh trail is a popular visitor draw. This comprises an intricate series of paths, trails, and even tunnels that were used by Vietcong fighters during the long war of resistance against America and their southern government allies in the 1960s and 70s. This trail runs from the north of the country to the south, bypassing the Truong Son mountain range, and concluding in neighbouring western Laos. Nearby Ho Chi Minh you'll come across the extensive Cu Chi underground system, and there are also Vinh Moc tunnels. While the portion of the trail that runs above sea level will take you over some of Vietnam's most breathtaking landscapes, the locations below the ground, while certainly worth a visit for interested parties, can be a problem for claustrophobic visitors.
Water sports
Boasts over 1,800 miles of coastline. This equates to a vast area of beaches with scope for water sports. Near the Mekong Delta to the south of Vietnam, you'll come across Vung Tau and Nha Trang. These resorts have been well geared towards visitors, and contain some of the country's most popular and extensive beaches. Whether you wish to dive beneath the seas, or simply explore the turquoise waters with a snorkel, you can hire equipment from any number of outlets.
Phan Thiet in central Vietnam is another magnet for water sport enthusiasts, while Mui Ne is renowned for its sand dunes. Many visitors gravitate to Ha Long Bay in the north, for its veritable maze of islands and inlets to be explored.
  
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