Monday, November 24, 2008

The Luxurious Halong Cruise - Ginger and Its Creators’ Story

The Luxurious Halong Cruise - Ginger and Its Creators’ Story

By: Yen Mai | Posted: 02-10-2008

Ha Long Bay is one of Vietnam’s top ten experiences for foreign travelers. When Ha Long Bay wasrecognized by UNESCO as a world cultural heritage site in 1997, tourism seemed to be bursting at the seams in this truly unique place. Hundreds of tourist companies, both domestic and international, built their tours on cruises around Ha Long Bay, providing tourists with a wide range of choices for their journeys to enjoy the unique beauty of the bay, which lies along the Hon Gai coastal town in Quang Ninh province.

Vietnam flag by chribou

Most people chose to stay one or two nights on board, with elegant food presentations and adventure options to entertain more rugged travelers. I chose to spend a night at Ha Long Bay with the the Ha Long Ginger, a large wooden ship dripping with old-world charm. I really wanted to spend more than one night on this boat after quietly chugging along through the innumerable aquatic paths created by each uninhabited island.

Cruise manager Michelle Thong stood on deck waving as the Ginger approached, her white ao dai billowing in the wind – a true vision against the blue sea and sky of Ha Long Bay in the afternoon. Then we sailed deep into the bay for about four hours, breathing in the fresh sea air the whole way. After the captain ordered his crew to set sail, new sounds and colors filled the air, giving us a truly beautiful experience.

Cruise manager Sonny Bui escorted us to our cabins and handed us keys in the shape of a fish. The air-conditioned room really won us over with large windows for viewing the scenery, a sparkling bathroom, five-star fluffy beds and all amenities. And the person whose passion attaches to traveling and cruising was open to share his story about this wonderful ship.
Ginger Cruise

Bui Cao Son, or Sonny Bui, who worked 12 years in tourism traveling to many places inside and outside Viet Nam, is the man behind the Ginger. Son said he wanted to do something on his own to capitalize and develop what he had learnt and experienced after years working as a tour guide. The 36-year-old, called Sonny Bui by his foreign friends, wanted to make something different from the tours which have been mostly designed on the same route. "Our route is wider and goes through new interesting places that others do not," said Son. "That’s the first thing we aimed at when we started building up our tour two years ago."

"The most discouraging thing for us is the idea that there is not a professional wooden shipbuilding company," said Bui Cao Son, who eventually got the Ha Long Ginger built after 14 months of working with fishing boat builders. The US$500,000 beauty, which has 10 rooms and can serve a maximum of 20 travelers, was put into operation early this year. The boat was built through the co-ordination of Huong Hai Company, which has more than 10 years of experience designing and building boats for tourists to stay on overnight. Huong Hai
boats are among the first giving overnight tours at Ha Long Bay.

The Ginger blends classical beauty with modern comfort, catering to groups of between six and 20 people. Measuring 38m in length and 8m in width, it has three decks that house the elegant restaurant, a lounge, two bars, a small boutique and a library, as well as ten luxurious sleeping cabins. Fitted out with wood and bamboo, its interior is charming. The stylish decoration of the dining room – not to mention the fact that the staff change their uniforms to serve meals – is highly impressive, seemingly more suited to a five-star hotel.

"Sonny and I designed the cruise," said Thong, a Malaysian-American who worked as a tour escort/leader in the US before coming to Viet Nam four years ago. "We worked hard together to create a design which could give the best comfort to our customers," said Thong who has been working on the Ginger cruise for a year. "We put a lot of ideas into the blueprint with an aim to infuse Vietnamese style in western comfort," added Thong. She did a boat project in HCM City two years ago before working with Son on the Ginger.

Thong said the cruise was designed to emphasize taking care of customers and the staffs are present to provide anything needed. Amenities on the cruise are from the same provider of Park Hyatt, ensuring guests feel they are in a world of luxury.

"To give visitors a good night of sleep, we equipped the rooms with high-quality beds," said Son, adding that he wanted large windows (1.2m x 1.3m) to give customers the best view from their rooms. Bamboo is a major feature in the restaurant and lounge, which is associated with other kinds of wooden materials and flower designs making the whole middle deck’s ceiling into more of an artwork. The mixture of elegant decorations, food and service left lasting impressions on customers after leaving the Ginger, most of which have plans to come back for a group celebration or possible honeymoon trips. With the expected increase in number of customers, the Ginger will be joined by sisters to meet the demand of visitors. "We are building two other cruises of such kind with the hope of giving more interesting tours to the visitors," said Son, whose customers are mostly from five-star hotels like Metropole Ha Noi, Hilton and Sofitel Plaza. The two new ships are to be named after two kinds of flowers, Jasmine and Violet, with which Son wants to add more elegant colors to Ha Long Bay.

About the Author:
Vietnam Holiday Now offering both online and call center bookings for hotels, tours, flights, visa, travel packages, holidays, city breaks, car rental in Vietnam, Laos and Cambodia
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Related topic: Enjoy These Ten Places in Vietnam

Thursday, November 20, 2008

Top 10 Restaurants in Chicago

Top 10 Restaurants in Chicago

By Paul Scottyn

With some of the America's best chefs calling the city's restaurants their home, eating out in Chicago is a gastronomic treat. For travelers in the city, food can be a definite highlight and, with so many diverse options catering to different budgets and options, it rarely disappoints.

According to the Zagat survey, Tru is the number-one restaurant in Chicago. Visitors on a budget, however, will find that the Prix Fixe - a fixed price a three-course meal - can still be very affordable!

For a meal that reflects the city's multiculturalism, try the fusion cuisine at La Fette. Combining French and American influences, this bistro is a truly budget-friendly option and offers five-course meals for as little as $35.

Café des Architects is a more expensive French option in downtown Chicago. This fashionable modern brasserie specializes in seafood (such as shrimp and scallops) but also does a great filet mignon.

For a taste of the east, visitors can head to Siam Marina and their mouth-wateringly authentic Thai food. One of the best Thai restaurants in the state of Illinois, the restaurants offers a wide range of dishes from seafood to vegetarian options.

Meat-lovers may wish to try out the steaks at La Cantina Enoteca. Here, there are steak and seafood options available from different regions of Italy, and diners are treated to a view of the salt-water fish tanks housing the super-fresh lobsters and fish whilst they enjoy their chosen meal.

Sushi fans will find their tastes well-catered for at Chicago's newest Japanese spot, Ai Japanese Restaurant and Lounge. Located in the River North area, the extensive menu includes such signature dishes as Wasabi Filet Mignon and Parmesan Salmon Teriyaki.

For a more informal evening, travelers might like to head out to The Village from their Chicago hostels. Located on the second floor of the Chicago Landmark building, this casual eatery offers guests a variety of pizza, pasta, Panini and salads and is a great place for a light, early dinner before going on to enjoy the city's famous nightlife.

Meanwhile, Andies is a good place for meals with a family or a large group of friends. Greek and Lebanese dishes dominate the menu here, and there is a good range of vegetarian fare. The best part, however, is that all the food is very healthy.

Sicilian food comes alive at RoSal's Italian Cucina. Served in typically big portions, the pasta, meat and cheeses will still leave you wanting more!

Finally, The Dining Room at Kendell College offers a great - and unusual - option for budget travelers. It's basically a professional classroom, with the restaurant serving up guests the 'homework' of the students. Don't be put off, though - the college has created some of the best chefs in the Midwest.

Before settling down and becoming a copywriter for, Paul Scottyn travelled extensively and stayed in numerous Chicago hostels and restaurants.

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Tuesday, November 18, 2008

Things To See In Malaysia

Things To See In Malaysia

By Richard Chapo

If you are planning on taking a vacation in the near future, I recommend that you travel to Malaysia. Malaysia is a beautiful place to really enjoy yourself. There are plenty of places that you can visit while you are there if you are traveling to site-see. If you prefer to just relax, there are plenty of places devoted to that past time as well.

In all actuality, Malaysia is a place that all nature lovers should visit because it has pristine beaches, tropical islands, haunting caves and untamed jungles. The natural beauty of Malaysia will open your senses and capture your heart.

Kuala Lumpur

Kuala Lumpur is the hub of Malaysia and is often overlooked by tourists. This is a mistake as there is a lot to see that will take your breath away including:

1) Petronas Twin Towers

Twin Tower by whossein

2) Sultan Abdul Samad Building which is full of Victorian and Moorish architectural styles.

Sultan Abdul Samad by Felix_KL

3) Tasek Perdana Lake Gardens which is a perfect place to have a picnic with your family or enjoy a nice walk.

4) Parliament House

5) National Monument

6) National Museum which is the home to many historical exhibits and also houses craftwork from many different parts of the nation and a wide variety of architectural styles that make it so unique.

7) National Mosque which is surrounded by spectacular lawns and elegant fountains that decorate the lawn like a Christmas tree, as strange as that may sound. The National Mosque was built in 1965; the dome on the Mosque is in the shape of an eighteen point star to represent the thirteen states in the country and the five central pillars of Islam.

8) Old Chinese Clan House where Chan See Yuen lived.

9) The Friday Mosque which is located in the middle of the Klang and Gombak rivers is the most popular place to visit in the city. A great place to watch the sun set.

Kuala Lumpur also offers many eating and shopping opportunities.

Magnificent Caves and Parks

1) The Batu Caves are located north of the city of Kuala Lumpur. They can be reached by climbing two hundred and seventy two steps. Wow, that is a lot of steps, isn’t it? These caves house the Hindu Shrine of Lord Subramanian.

Batu Caves by Thomas_Shaw

2) The Museum Caves are full of brightly colored statues and murals from Hindu mythology.

3) Templar Park is nothing but all natural rainforest that is bubbling with beauty for everyone to see. It is full of jungle paths, swimming lagoons and waterfalls that all lie within the park boundaries. A magical place, indeed.

4) Malaysia’s agricultural park which is located in Shah Alam, Selangor at Cherakah has a large play area for all the skateboarders and roller skaters out there. If you have teens with you, this is the place for them.

Overall, Malaysia is a wonderful place to take a vacation. It is still considered exotic, but is becoming more of a mainstream destination as it gains in popularity.

Rick Chapo is with Nomad Journals - makers of travel journals to preserve your travel experiences. Great Gifts!

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Wednesday, November 12, 2008


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Tuesday, November 11, 2008

Travel To Bali, Indonesia

Travel To Bali, Indonesia

Author: Criss Lee

Traveling to Indonesia is definitely a trip you will never forget.Plan for a long ride to get there, as it is a 31 hour flight from New York. Bali is a wonderful area with an array of fun filled activities to choose from. It is the main tourist area of Indonesia.

Image by

The people of Bali are very friendly, and enjoy having visitors come to their area. Many speak English to interact with tourists. They have chosen to preserve their culture for all to see rather than change it to become like other countries. The beaches are a main attraction with surfing being one of the most popular activities. Others enjoy renting a boat for the day to relax on the open waters.

Lodging in Bali ranges from small bungalows to huge fancy hotels, all with basic accommodations to meet the needs of tourists. The view from your hotel will be wonderful because of the rich beauty of the area regardless of where you choose to stay.

The people of Bali are very artistic. They enjoy painting, weaving, carving, basket making, and other arts. Children are taught art from a very early age. They often display their makings to sell to the tourists.

Temples are a main attraction in Bali. They are called Pura. The temples provide an opportunity to explore religion and art of the culture. The people of Bali are still very religious, and it is very important that those visiting the Temples show respect for their religious beliefs.

Image by by Paul & Kelly

Art galleries exhibit creative and attractive art work to view. Wildlife and nature reserves are popular in Bali. Many people go to get a glimpse of the very dangerous Komodo Dragon, a large lizard that is found only in the area and is extinct. The rare Java tiger is also displayed.

Image by

There are more than 400 volcanoes in Indonesia, 128 are still active. They offer a historical view of this natural creation to observe. Botanic Gardens are also a very popular attraction. Displaying flora and fauna as well as promoting conservation, people are drawn to the beauty of such attractions.

While Indonesia is a beautiful and serene place to visit, it is strongly advised at this time to be cautious with such visits due to the possibility of terrorist attacks. If you do choose to travel to the area do not travel alone and make sure you have registered with the US Embassy.

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About the Author:

Criss manages Travel Asia and Angkor Wat.Criss is also the author of Asia Travel Guide.

Tuesday, November 4, 2008

The Lost City of the Incas, Machu Picchu

The Lost City of the Incas, Machu Picchu

Author: Tatyana Kogut.

Surrounded by enchanting silence, 80 km from Cuzco, on a steep mountain washed by the Urubamba River, there stands one of the most beautiful archaeological sites in the world, Machu Picchu (Quechua: "Old Peak"), "The Lost City of the Incas". This is a mystical place, some even think it is filled with positive energy. Machu Picchu impresses with its monolithic nature and architecture, its balance and harmony, thanks to which it fits well to the surrounding mountains.

Image by chuha

The credited discoverer of the cite is Hiram Bingham, an archaeologist from the North America. The place was found in 1911 on top of a flat mountain, hidden from people's eyes. The unapproachable Machu Picchu is still a mystery, and the more they dig, the more riddles they find. The main question is: what was it aimed for? Why would Incas make so much effort to built their city at such an inaccessible place?

iMage by LeoKoolhoven

During the excavations they found 173 human bodies, including 150 female ones. However, neither gold, nor other treasures were found. It seems that people left the city all at a time. But what made them leave the place — natural cataclysms, diseases, wars or something else — we still don't know it for sure. Neither Spanish, nor Indian chronicles contain any information about Machu Picchu. Some scientists say this was a sanctuary for the Incas aristocracy, priests, best craftsmen, and, what is more important, for Virgins of the Suns. The Incas did their best to make their city very convenient, functional and long-lived. There are still excellent aqueducts standing there which provide Machu Picchu with clear water, some of the constructions look incredibly «new», like they were left just recently. Residential buildings occupy just a small part of this territory, the rest of it are temples, observatories and other religious constructions. That is why other researchers say this was a settlement built to control local economy, or to make discoveries about the surrounding world.

The whole city is built of stone and is surrounded with green terraces, used to plant crops and flowers. You can feel that local people really loved their city, and this love is shared with everyone who arrives to Machu Picchu. Some even go to "The Lost City of the Incas" to spend their time sitting on the stones deeped into their thoughts.

Some facts.

Machu Picchu is located 2,400 meters above sea level.

How to get there. By train: 110 km Cuzco to Machu Picchu Pueblo (3-4 hours), then 20 minutes on a bus.

Hotels: there are some medium three-star hotels in Machu Picchu Pueblo, toilets, call boxes and a restaurant by the entrance to the archaeological site.

Things to do: sightseeing, historic and archaeological studies, shopping for craft works. It is also excellent to enjoy local flora and fauna.

Spend a minimum of 1 day to study Machu Picchu and 5-7 days to visit nearby attractions, lying between the site and Incas path.

Weather: Machu Picchu can be visited at any time of the year, but the best period for a visit is: April — October. November — March is a summer time, but there are scattered showers and the humidity level is high. April — October is sunny and dry.

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