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Best time to visit Central Highlands

The Tay Nguyen (Central Highlands) is always a mysterious destination for travellers who like to explore the pristine beauty of primeval forest, marvellous waterfalls and the rich cultural values of 44 local ethnic groups.

Yet in spring, especially during March and the third lunar month, the area seems to be even more beautiful than usual as the colours of nature awaken to the new season. One of the most prominent colours amid the vivid rainbow is the pure white of coffee flowers and waterfall foam, which are the inspiration behind the recently launched coffee tour by Dang Le Company.

Dubbed as the nation's coffee capital, Buon Ma Thuot, with its unique basalt soil, offers some of the most flavourful coffee in the central province of Dak Lak's nearly 200,000ha of coffee plantations.

Dak Lak produces much of the world's coffee, with the second highest volume of exports (first for robusta) after Brazil.

"Our first challenge in opening the coffee-themed tour is addressing the fact that tours to the seaside are more popular among Vietnamese tourists and Dak Lak has yet become a real tourism hub," Pham Thi Thu Hoan, deputy executive director of the company, told Viet Nam News. "We have to make a breakthrough in ideas about adventure travel."

For this reason, the coffee tour is more suitable for people who love coffee and really want to explore the wilderness, she said.

Last November, the company received a patent for its coffee tour from the Ministry of Science and Technology.

To offer a glimpse of the region's natural wonders, the tour features visits to various waterfalls along the local Serepok River, a tributary of the Mekong, like Draynur Falls and Trinh Nu Falls.

It also includes various ecological destinations like CuHLam Hill and Mdrak Farm, where tourists can experience a rich array of wild flora and fauna as well as farm life at a home which raises rare horse breeds from the UK, Australia, France, Mongolia, and a wild dog breed from Phu Quoc Island.

A key stop on the tour is Buon Ma Thuot City, where tourists are guided to the World Coffee Museum which features coffee-related information such as history, geology, technology and culture of various coffee producing countries.

A stop by a coffee farm offers a real treat as visitors can feast their eyes on an immense field full of white coffee flowers, a striking view with green leaves and red basalt soil in the background.

Don Village is the final stop on the schedule and is already a popular tourism destination, where people can learn about the UNESCO-recognised gong culture and the tradition of taming wild elephants.

Hoan said the company currently organises five to seven packaged coffee tours per month to both Vietnamese and foreign visitors. Each group gathers up to 30 people.

Another peak season for the tour is during coffee harvest season in December which almost coincides with winter break in western countries, she said.

The company is collaborating with other travel agencies to bring tourists to the tour destinations such as the waterfalls and the museum.

"This tour is interesting," noted Nguyen Van, a representative from the Ha Noi Tourism Association. "Travel agencies in Ha Noi would like to further co-operate with the company to introduce the coffee tour to broader audiences in the north."

Harumitsu Hida, the Japanese Consulate General in HCM City, wrote about his impressions and memories of the tour during his first trip there last April.

"I know more things about Trung Nguyen coffee, which I drink every day at work, … as well as the early day of setting up and developing a local coffee plant and the Made-in-Viet Nam coffee trademark…" he wrote in the Vietnamese language.

He also expressed regret about not having the chance to taste weasel coffee during the trip.

The company opened a buffet at the museum in March which offers 50 dishes from the country's three regions at weekends and holidays.

A resort with 90 rooms and a meeting hall with the capacity to hold 300 seats will open in June at the museum.

For the truly adventurous, an extreme sports centre will open on Draynur Isle, 25km south of the city centre, later this year. — VNS

 
Satellite-based navigation system installed for Ha Long cruises

QUANG NINH -- More than 230 tourist vessels in northern Quang Ninh Province's Ha Long Bay have been equipped with global positioning systems, or GPS.

The province plans to complete a programme on installing the satellite navigation system on all 500 vessels cruising the bay by April 30.

The installation, which started last year, is a part of the province's VND12 billion (US$572,000) programme on improving management of tourist vessels and better ensuring the safety of tourists in the bay, which is prone to storms. -- VNS

 
Ha Long Bay among top tropical island paradises

Ha Long Bay among top tropical island paradises

HA NOI – CNN television station has ranked Ha Long Bay as one of the top five tropical island paradises in Asia, based on the opinions of several "specialists", including Stuart McDonald, founder and editor of the website: http://www.travelfish.org

McDonald said in an interview on CNN television that Ha Long Bay in north-western Viet Nam was one of the most stunning boating destinations anywhere in the world.

The mysterious limestone caves on Ha Long Bay's bigger islands and the "incredible sunsets" were two sights not to be missed, McDonald said on CNN.

Ha Long Bay comprises a vast coastal waterway of about 2,000 islands spread over an area of 1,500sq km.

Tranquil waters year round made swimming always a pleasure, McDonald said.

The other destinations were the Anambas Islands in Indonesia, the Koh Chang and Similan Islands in Thailand and Langkawi, Malaysia. – VNS

 
Cong ethnic group
Lables: Cong ethnic group, Ethnic Groups, Tibeto-Burman Group
Proper names: Xam Khoong, Phuy A.
Population: 1,261 people (1999 census).
Language: Cong language, as well as languages spoken by the Lahu, Phula and Sila, belong to the Tibeto-Burmese group (of the Sino-Tibetan language family), and is close to Burmese language. Thai language is also used in daily conversation.
History: The Cong traveled directly to Vietnam from Laos.
Production activities: The Cong mainly cultivate widen fields by hand, preparing their fields using slash-and- burn method. Recently, however, they have started to use oxen or a buffalo to draw ploughs, though in the past hand-held hoes were used to work the land. Gathering still plays a major role in Cong life. The Cong do not weave cloth, but they do grow cotton which they trade for textiles made by other groups. They are skilled in making rattan mats, ornamented with red dyes, and bamboo-woven containers such as gui (back carriers), baskets, cases, etc. Because the Cong settled down along the Da River, they have grown accustomed to using boats to travel along the river.
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Colao ethnic group
Colao-ethnic-groupLables: Colao ethnic group, Ethnic Groups, Kadai Group
Proper name: Colao.
Other names: Tu Du, Ho Ki and Voa De.
Local groups: Colao Xanh (or green Colao), Colao Trang (white Colao) and Colao Do (red Colao).
Population: 1,473 people.(1999 census).
History: The Colao came to Vietnam about 150-200 years ago.
Language: Colao language belongs to the Kadai group, which also includes La Ha, La Chi and Pupeo languages (part of the Tai-Kadai language family). In the past, local Colao sub-groups spoke different dialects. Nowadays, however, they no longer use their own mother tongues. Instead, they speak Cantonese, Pupeo and Hmong languages.
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