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The secrets of the phoenix
Phuong HoangOne of the four Magic Animals, the phoenix holds a special place in Vietnamese culture.

The phoenix and the dragon make an excellent pair, representing many noble virtues. Popular throughout Asia and Europe, the phoenix symbol may even have its roots in Vietnam.

The symbol of the phoenix appears quite early in Chinese culture. More than 7, 000 years ago, images were found on Chinese ceramic objects depicting a giant bird with a well – proportioned body, and a long neck and tail. These birds were probably worshipped as a totem symbol.

The forgotten valley
Na HangMaybe because of my adventurous nature, or maybe because I’m fed up with the routines of urban life, I travel a lot. I long for pristine nature, exotic landscapes and the chance to relax.

In first days of the Red River Delta to Son Nam, the hilly area near Tuyen Quang town then crossed the Lo River basin and Ham Yen, the region of oranges, to Chiem Hoa. From there I traveled on to Na Hang, an interesting but not too long journey. The 260km – log journey took about five hours.

Dzao wedding
Dzao weddingThe Dzao Tien ethnic minority wedding has three steps like Kinh (the Vietnamese ethnic majority) tradition. Yet the ceremony is also unique. The entire village guests from surrounding villages, sharing the happy family event. This is a social occasion to celebrate marriage, family and community.

Preparation for Dzao Tien wedding takes a relatively long time period – from two to five years. After the wedding date is fixed by a shaman, the groom’s family will bring offerings to the bride’s family: 400kilograms of pork piled neatly in bamboo baskets, 12 packs of salt (4 big packs, 8 small packs) wrapped around a pot of silver ingots or nuggets, depending on each families of the Dzao Tien ethnicity.

Beauty from within
Thien Duong CavePhong Nha- Ke Bang national park in central Quang Binh Province was already known for its stunning caves, and then a 2005 discovery set the bar even higher.

In 2005 a team from British Caving Association discovered stalactites that were so stunning they could only exclaim “Paradise.” Since then, Thien Duong Cave (Paradise Cave) in Quang Binh Province has earned fame as one of the world’s most beautiful and magnificent caves.

An uphill battle
Du lich bang xe mayFor the adventurous travelers who tour Vietnam’s rugged Truong So Mountains by motorbike, taking the road less traveled is a matter of honor. But even diehards bikers have their limits. Alistair Orr Ewing discovered his – and got a lesson in Vietnamese history to boot

Mai Chau is a beautiful place, perfect for trekking. There are walks that take you from the top of escarpments down through forests into rice terraces and lush fields, past happy kids frolicking with buffalos stilt houses and all the rest. One such walk stars at Pac Co and descends 1, 000, into the valley at Cun Pheo. The first 500 meters are so steep that a staircase was built there some years ago Temple of Doo caricature. My friend Digby and I pushed our motorcycles up this staircase. It took us six hours. You might well ask why we did it.

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