Tag: "Vietnam"

San Doong cave in Vietnam

An awesome cave in central Vietnam. Previously unknown species, a river, 3 kilometers in there’s a rain forest. And almost no one has seen it.

It was discovered in 1991, but the local who found it never entered the Son Doong Cave. Visitors have rappel 80 meters to enter Son Doong. It’s the biggest cave in the world – over 5.5 miles long and could fit a 40-story skyscraper within its walls.

British cavers were the first to explore it in 2009. The tour company Oxalis is running trial tours of the cave and accepting sign-ups for real six-day tours to take place next year.

How awesome would it be to spend 6 days in this place?

You’d have to have about $3,000 to make it happen, not counting the airfare to Vietnam. Also not included are the rappelling lessons you’ll want to take before you go.

Awesome pictures in this Huffington Post story. Click the thumbnail to enlarge or hit the link to see more pics.

Rock formation shines in Hang Son Doong

Book Review – Gold Rush in the Jungle: The Race to Discover and Defend the Rarest Animals of Vietnam’s “Lost World” by Dan Drollette Jr.

Dan Drollette Jr, award-winning Science and Environmental journalist, writes of a different Vietnam, where conservation, preservation, and protection of wildlife and their environment take precedence over the ugliness of war. This is the “Lost World” of Vietnam, the area bordering on Laos and Cambodia where rare animals such as the muntjac (deer that barks), the langur (leaf-eating monkey), the kouprey (forest ox), and the unique saola (antelope/unicorn) can be found. The valleys, karsts, and caves of the Annamese Cordillera offer safe refuge for these animals away from people and outside influences. They escaped the devastation of the Vietnam War and the effects of Agent Orange and Agent Blue to survive in their natural habitats free of toxic dioxins and herbicides.

Drollette has written a fascinating book detailing the past, the present, and the future of wildlife rescue with emphasis on the importance of saving their environment. He provides excellent descriptions of the rare animals in the “Lost World,” and relates his personal experiences while traveling through Vietnam on the back of a motorcycle, the familiar “bike’s hug” local transportation. We learn about biodiversity and conservation of ecosystems in Vietnam, as well as the projects for captive breeding of rare and endangered species in his visits to Tilo Nadler’s EPRC (Endangered Primate Rescue Center) and Cuc Phuong National Park. The author tells us the history of the turtle reserve at Hoan Kiem Lake in Hanoi and the future of the turtle as the venerable protector and one of four sacred animals of Vietnam.

The rush for gold, a race for money, is a worldwide phenomenon and one that seems to have no end. It is an ongoing contest between the lucrative, but illegal black market trade and the diligence of the conservationists. Vietnam constantly works to improve their economy, but economic development must be regulated to maintain a balance between the rush for money and the preservation of the natural beauty of the land. Rare animals, whether in cages, parks, or on nature reserves, are big tourist attractions which boost the economy, but often leave negative effects on the environment. People rush to see and purchase all types of things taken from these rare animals who live in distant, mysterious worlds. Some buy in huge quantities to sell or trade and before long the supply is depleted. Unless these rare animals are saved, the various species will soon become extinct (rhino horns are a good example). Others buy these animals for trophies or status symbols to bring home from their journey, much like those captured on an African safari. Many visit Vietnam to purchase rare items such as bear bile for medicinal uses, claiming they perform miracles.

Although a little difficult to begin because of the rather lengthy prologue, I read further and found the book contains a wealth of information based on extensive research, facts, and historical background. Drollette has presented this information in an interesting narrative fashion, with a few pictures adding to the content (more would be beneficial, but photography may have been limited.) I had a tendency to skim through the chapters on Linnaeus and the Hawaii conservation efforts used for comparison, which seemed to digress from the focus on Vietnam. In contrast, however, the innovative plan of Costa Rica’s government to pay landowners to maintain the forest rather than cut it down definitely caught my attention.

I thoroughly enjoyed Drollette’s story of personal experiences on his journey of adventure and discovery in which he emphasizes the importance of educating the people and requiring stricter enforcement of regulations by the government to promote wildlife rescue and environmental protection. Drollette believes that Vietnam has been given a “second chance” to survive and preserve its natural resources. He reminds us that new species often disappear before they are even discovered. Readers who were probably unfamiliar with the “Lost World,” as I was, will be intrigued by its history, its future, and its significance for Vietnam and the rest of the world.

It will definitely appeal to every scientist, environmentalist, educator, and journalist, as well as to people who are always curious about new discoveries of rare and unusual animals. The reader may be encouraged enough by the book to follow and perhaps participate in conservation efforts and wildlife rescues in their own part of the world. I think most of us will agree with Drollette’s quote from the renowned biologist George Schaller who said “Everything we want, need, and use is dependent on nature.”

Crown Publishers – Division of Random House
April 16, 2013
U.S. $25.00
Amazon – $17.23 Hard Cover, $12.99 Kindle

Sharon L Slayton

Indo China and China tour itineraries: Vietnam and Cambodia travel plan

I just learned that Indochina refers to Vietnam, Laos, and Cambodia from this site that does Indochina tours. Cambodia and Vietnam have been on my list for a while but now I have to add Laos as well – I didn’t know they had a UNESCO listed town in Luang Prabang on the banks of the Mekong River.

This is the one tour that covers my three main targets: Luang Prabang, Halong Bay, and Angkor Watt. 28 days is a long tour and however awesome it may be, I’m not sure I’ll get to do this anytime soon. But I love their little search engine where you click the places you most want to go and they tell you which tours do it. So I tried again with only Angkor Wat and Halong Bay.

This search turned up a few results including a couple of group tours and a couple of private tours. Here’s one of the private tours somewhat abbreviated.

Days 1-2: UK – Hanoi

Fly overnight to Hanoi.

Day 3: Hanoi

See the Ho Chi Minh Mausoleum (closed Sep-Dec), Stilt House, One Pillar Pagoda and the Temple of Literature. Also enjoy a walking tour of the Old Quarter and a drive around Hoan Kiem Lake. In the evening, enjoy a performance of the famous Water Puppets.

Day 4 : Halong Bay Junk Cruise

Cruise the UNESCO World Heritage Site of Halong Bay. Return to Hanoi in the afternoon, driving through the striking rural countryside of the Red River Delta.

Day 5 : Hanoi – Hoi An

Fly to Danang and transfer to Hoi An (another UNESCO listed town I hadn’t heard of). See the Cham Museum, Marble Mountains and China Beach en-route. Later, take part in a cooking class focusing on select local dishes designed for the Royal Courts.

Day 6 : Hoi An

A walking tour of Hoi An visits a 200-year-old home, the Japanese Bridge, Hoi An Market and a local Chinese Pagoda. In the afternoon and evening, visit the renowned tailors, stroll through the local markets, or relax in a riverside cafè.

Day 7 : Hoi An – Saigon

Fly to Saigon. Visit to the former Presidential Palace, the War Remnants Museum, the imposing Notre Dame Cathedral and the French-style Post Office. Also visit Cholon (Chinatown), Thien Hau Pagoda and Ben Thanh Market for some shopping.

Day 8 : Cu Chi Tunnels & Tay Ninh day tour

Visit the famous tunnel system at Cu Chi and then attend the noon service at the Cao Dai Temple.

Day 9 : Mekong Delta day tour

Travel to My Tho and enjoy a cruise on the Mekong. Visit floating markets, villages, home industries and plantations as well as Thoi Son Island and Vinh Trang Pagoda. Later, fly to Siem Reap.

Day 10 : Siem Reap

Travel to the fortified city of Angkor Thom. Start at the Southern Gate and continue to The Bayon, which is beautifully carved with numerous striking faces followed by a visit to the Elephant Terrace, the Terrace of the Leper King and the magnificent Angkor Wat.

Day 11 : Siem Reap

Visit Banteay Srei, a Hindu temple which is dedicated to Shiva. Also visit Srah Srang, Banteay Kdei, Kravan, Ta Keo and the fabulous Ta Prohm Temple.

Day 12 : Siem Reap – Phnom Penh

Fly to Phnom Penh and visit the Killing Fields and Tuol Sleng Museum of Genocidal Crimes.

Days 13-14 : Phnom Penh – UK

Sightseeing today includes visits to the Silver Pagoda, the striking Emerald Buddha and the National Museum. Later, fly overnight to the UK, arriving home the following day filled with many happy memories.

You can also take a China tour with the same people. For example the “China Contrasts” tour is said to “combine the striking and breathtaking landscape scenery of limestone karsts, tranquil fishing scenes and lush green rice paddies along the Li River with the famous sights of cosmopolitan Shanghai, historic Xian and China’s capital city – Beijing. This truly is a tour of contrasts.” This 11 day tour will run you £1,490 per person.