Vietnam's small and pleasant capital Hanoi is a fascinating blend of East and West, with French design from its colonial past and Chinese influence from centuries of dominance.
Founded in 1010, in 1954 it became the official capital of independent Vietnam. A peaceful city of lakes with leafy boulevards, Hanoi lies at the heart of the northern Red River Delta and somehow reflects an European feel. Especially the streets of the Old Quarter preserve age-old customs, where trade takes one back half a century, and temples, pagodas and monuments reflect the historic character of Vietnam. In this area there are many hotels which have been recently refurbished with a special care to the traditional architecture and design. Hanoi Hotels are surprisingly modest but preserve a unique charming environment.
Some of them are set in historical buildings: the Ritz Hotel for example or Joy Hotel Return Hotel, the Pearls hotel, the Old street Hotel, Y Van Riverside Hotel, Hanoi Plaza hotel and Hanoi Queen Plaza. They are all front serene Hoan Kiem lake and - quite surprisingly for the standard they provide-, the prices are extremely cheap. Spending a night in any of these Vietnamese hotels will cost you from around 3,5 euros per person up to 15 euros per person. Although Hanoi, and Vietnam in general, have been absorbing a tourist boom since1993, which of course has seen an infiltration of western-style food and fashions into the once inaccessible city, Hanoi has retained its appealing sense of the old world.
This means that the city provides many services for tourists as nice boutique hotels, internet cafés and restaurants offering wide range of food. Do not forget that tourism has in general a bad influence in the way local people live, too often being responsible for changing their tastes, habits and underlining economic gaps and unequal access to resources. So forth, it is important each one of us makes a difference in the way we wish to live the city.
Respecting local traditions and habits is important, from the way of dressing to general behaviour while in public areas, to gender differences roles. Regarding shopping for example, do not indulge in mass tourist souvenirs. Sometimes, the best way to take home part of the spirit, is taking a good shot, or buying some spices, or typical things that a local person would buy. From a notebook, to a normal pen, or a traditional t-shirt or a votive candle or a dolly used by Hanoi girls. This will help much more the local community than anything else.
The hotels listed above are also Vietnamese run and your money will not feed some Western Fat Industries. Think about it.
This article was written by Michele De Capitani with support from http://www.flashbooking.com for any information, please visit cheap hotel Hanoi or for travel insurance visit Hanoi hotels.
Friday, March 28, 2008
Vietnam's small and pleasant capital Hanoi is a fascinating blend of East and West, with French design from its colonial past and Chinese influence from centuries of dominance.
Surely, if not for the hot and humid weather that characterizes Hanoi for most of the year, the best time to go visiting Vietnam cultural capital is between September and December, when rainfalls have ended and humidity levels are lowest.
Hanoi is located in northern Vietnam and will certainly offer to its visitors incredible sceneries, beautiful landscapes, pointed with colours, gorgeous food, friendly people and a millenary culture.
In terms of accommodation Hanoi has nothing to envy to some traditional fascinating cities providing at the same time good services to the travel industry. Being less developed than Ho Chi Minh City, and thanks to this, Hanoi has preserved a special vibe given by old colonial and traditional buildings, green boulevards, and colourful temples. In terms of accessibility, Hanoi provides many services as comfortable boutique hotels, internet point and restaurants with a good variety of food.
In the Old Quarter that preserves an ineludibly French taste, many boutique hotels offer modest but unique charming environments to their guests. In fact, the recent refurbishments have been respecting the traditional architecture and design of Vietnam. Many of them, like the Pearls hotel for example, or the Old street Hotel, Hanoi Queen Plaza, the Ritz Hotel, the Joy Hotel, the Return Hotel, the Y Van Riverside Hotel or the Hanoi Plaza hotel are facing the still water of Lake Hoan Kiem offering sometimes a gorgeous view to the guests that ask for it.
In terms of cultural events Hanoi’s calendar and Vietnamese calendar in general are spotted with many interesting festivals. Despite not within December, however some of the most important events of Vietnamese culture are in January when you can still hope to get a mild wheatear.
In January, there is probably what it is considered to be the biggest festival that celebrates the Lunar New Year. The Tet Nguyen Dan festival lasts for an entire week and involves families in particular. In fact, each family member is reunited and everyone is offered some little presents with special wishes for health and happiness. It is also a moment where family discussions, old difficulties and hangers are levelled in an atmosphere of forgiveness. But as the traditional family cannot forget the ancient relatives, the ancestors, many candles and incense sticks are burst for them. In the same month the annual Dong Da Festival celebrates the triumphant historical victory of King Quang Trung (Nguyen Hue) against the invaders of the Vietnamese nation. There are different venues where processions, activities and games, competitions, war stories, fires of colourful dragons and much more will entertain adults and kids!
Still in January, but on the 6th day of Tet Hanoi and Vietnam celebrate the 5 elements (metal, wood, water, fire and earth) with music and sacrifices with the so called Co Loa Festival. Colourful flags and Dai Flags (great ones) in the wind and sculptures adorning the temples, are just some of the magic things you will be assisting to.
Last but not least, The Cau Ngu Festival celebrates an ancient native who came from the north to teach the village locals many arts and techniques like fishing, trading etc. The name of this man was Truong Quy Cong, or Truong Thieu.
This article was written by Michele De Capitani with support from http://www.flashbooking.com for any information, please visit budget Vietnamese hotels or for travel insurance visit Vietnamese hotels.
The 1,000-year-old capital, a low-rise city of lakes and peaceful parks, Hanoi will enchant its visitors with simple but unique moments.
Early morning mist rises from the Hoan Kiem Lake while elders perform the slow movements of tai chi in green parks, streets become filled with mopeds and cyclo drivers (three-wheeled bicycle taxis) clamour for people attention.
Although a city of historical importance considered to be the social and cultural centre of Vietnam, Hanoi is a far slower and less developed than Ho Chi Minh City. Luckily, this slow pace development has preserved the special vibe you will live in Hanoi, with old fascinating buildings, green views on treed boulevards and smiling local people. Especially the historic Old Quarter with its French style streets and arts and crafts bargains.
Especially in this area there are many recently refurbished hotels that kept an eye to the traditional architecture and design. Modest but with an unique charming environment some Hanoi Hotels are located in historical or colonial buildings. Just to mention some that you can easily find and book directly online are the Pearls hotel for example, the Old street Hotel, Hanoi Queen Plaza, the Ritz Hotel, Joy Hotel, Return Hotel, Y Van Riverside Hotel or Hanoi Plaza hotel. Most of them face the quiet Hoan Kiem lake providing guests with beautiful views from terraces and windows. Quite unexpectedly for the standard they offer, the room rates in Hanoi Vietnamese Hotels are modest in general, ranging from 3,5 euros per person up to 15 euros per person.
As a cultural centre, Hanoi has quite a lot to offer. In fact, during the year Hanoi guests many traditional events from water puppet shows, to music and religious festivals, dance performances and a lot more. Just to mention a couple of curious ones held in springtime, that will certainly worth a visit to Vietnam and Hanoi in particular, are the Whale Festival and the Elephant Race, both in March.
The former is a fishermen festival typical of Quang Nam Village in Da Nang province, where people worship Whales and their gods asking for prosperity; the latter is more traditional in the countryside in Don Village or in forests near the Sevepoi River (Dac Lak). The race track is large enough for 10 elephants running on even ground near the forest for 1-2 km. At the signal, the mahouts command their elephants to go to the starting line and will start running excited by the sound of the drums, gongs, and cheering from the viewers.
At the end of the race, the winning one wave to the viewers with its trunk and is offered sugarcane and banana leafs!
This article was written by Michele De Capitani with support from http://www.flashbooking.com for any information, please visit cheap hotel in Vietnam or for travel insurance visit Vietnam hotels.
2008 offers many reasons why one should pack up and catch a flight to Beijing.
The 2008 Olympics are for sure a world-wide event attracting thousands and thousands of visitors. Let’s see how the Government will adjust together the 15 millions citizens with the foreign human flood in hot and humid August…
For sure is not the best time to go. And somehow we perceive a kind of contradiction between the sport ethic of fair play.. and the human right deception China is constantly trying to mask. Luckily impossible in its 100%.
Further reasons why this metropolis is worth a visit are to be discovered in its past rather then in its present. From Chinese mythic bicycles, to Tai-Chi practice, tea houses and old hutongs or special foot massages you will have a glance of what the Chinese Republic is and was.
To escape from the mass touristy attractions, entertainment, anonymous luxury accommodations and expensive cliché, or simply to hide away from the city smog and confusion there are a few things that someone can do to discover some Beijing traditional pearls.
Fragrant Hills, in the north-western corner of Beijing, is a good place for weekend outings and picnics. Formerly a Qing imperial garden, today Fragrant Hills makes an easy short climb in the suburbs of Beijing. It's also home to the Fragrant Hills Hotel, designed by I.M. Pei (Louvre Museaum Pyramid). Take buses 331, 726 to the last stop. ¥10, students ¥5. From here, if you like green, have a visit to the Botanical Garden, next door.
Steps away from the east gate of Fragrant Hill, Beijing Botanical Gardens offer acres of greenery and flowers where Sir Johnston, teacher of the last emperor Puyi, had a villa in Cherry Glen, a silent and beautiful retreat in the Gardens. In the spring, the gardens hosts special exhibits of tulips, peach, plum blossoms and peonies. Buses 331, 726. ¥10, students ¥5.
A smart cool place to visit, not so common among tourists, is the 798 Art Zone, a part of the Chaoyang District. A thriving artist community set among 50-year old decommissioned military factory buildings of unique architectural style. It is often compared with New York's Greenwich Village or SoHo, but faces impending destruction from the forces driving Beijing's urban sprawl.
The Hutong Villages of Beijing most represent the traditional housing of Chinese locals. Some of the streets in the Qianmen Hutong have a history of about 500 years, with unchanged street layouts. The Hutongs are the perfect place to get a glimpse of Chinese daily life. Unfortunately, the majority of Hutongs have been demolished to make space for modern buildings. However some of them are still well preserved and converted in lodgings for tourists. They offer the warmest atmosphere you can imagine while keeping the traditional architecture, decoration and style. Hutongs are considered very valuable and are popular to some kind of tourists. If you can transform an attraction into a place where you can rest, and live for a while as you were in XIX century, well, maybe this is the best way to experience Beijijng.
Many of the hutongs have been transformed in youth hostels often run by former European travellers that decided to stop their run, save this enchanted peaceful places and establish a business. They offer all the comforts you can expect on private rooms decorated with taste and making use of traditional colours and red-wax piece of furniture. All rooms, as in traditional hutongs, face an inner secret garden well kept and decorated with marble statues and plants.
And finally, how would you move around these typical Hutong Villages? Rickshaws that can weave in and out of their narrow streets are the answer. But for a more personalized and traditional approach to this Country of bicycles, (the so called Bike kingdom) we recommend you rent a bike a healthy, environmentally friendly, convenient, economical, safe and fun means of travel transportation and recreation! China truly is producing and using more bicycles than any other nation in the world. Cycling in China is a kind of life style for the Chinese people. Don’t forget that in the traffic and in the narrow alleys of the Hutongs bikes are the best means to explore the city and is a super-individual way of transport by your own pace! There are some companies like The Bicycle Kingdom.com to rent your own bike.
So what are you waiting for? See the Olympics in the freshness of your home with a beer and some friends and let other melt in the “smoggy sun”. Experience Beijing in Springtime.
This article was written by Michele De Capitani with support from http://www.flashbooking.com for any information, please visit hostel Beijing or for travel insurance visit backpackers in Beijing.
Nowadays, with a population of 15 millions of people that live and gravitate around it, Beijing is China's second largest city after Shanghai.
Whereas Shanghai and Hong Kong predominate in the economic field, Peking is widely recognized as the political, educational and cultural centre of the Country, with a jurisdiction over 18 districts and counties. To get around this metropolis you might find useful these brief suggestions on public transports once you land there.
Public Bus and trolley Bus: you need to keep in mind some numbers. Buses Nos. 1-200 and trolley buses run in the city ( 1 yuan per person); buses Nos. 201-212 run at night; buses Nos. 300-599 go to the suburbs, charging according to the distance covered. Air conditioned buses starting with n. 8 are charged according to the distance covered. They usually run through the bustling streets. Buses starting with n. 6 go to the residential areas…and so on. (for details see bjbus.com).
Beijing Capital International Airport (010 645 63 604) is one of China's major gateways. It is 28 km from the city centre, about 40 minutes' ride by car. Taxi costs about 100 yuan.
There are 4 railways stations in the city: Beijing Railway Station (ph. 5101 99 99), Beijing West (the largest; ph: 5182 6253), South (ph: 63030031) and North Railway stations. Passengers may buy train tickets from the ticket offices 10 days in advance or book by phone ( ph. 010- 51827188 from 9am-9pm every day) or internet (036.com.cn ) 5 to 11 days in advance.
There are 3 different types of taxi charges (1.2, 1.6, and 2 yuan per kilometer) and they are very convenient to explore the city. ( Call the taxi centre: 010- 683 73399)
Subway: 4 lines criss-cross the city of Beijing . Line 1, Line 2, Line 13 and Batong line. The latter two are city rails. They run from 5am till approximately 10 or 11 in the night. Subway entrances feature a gray cement structure with a symbolized lamp box. A one-way ticket is about 3-5 yuan.
Bikes and bikes! As always we cannot avoid mentioning a healthy, environmentally friendly, convenient, economical, safe and fun means of travel transportation and recreation! The bike! China truly is the ‘Bicycle Kingdom’, producing and using more bicycles than any other nation in the world. Cycling in China is a kind of life style for the Chinese people. Don’t forget that in the traffic and in the narrow alleys of the Hutongs bikes are the best means to explore the city and is a super-individual way of transport by your own pace! Try companies like The Bicycle Kingdom to rent your own bike.
Also, to avoid long stressful researches on where to go and what to do, here we have highlighted for you some of the central Beijing districts divided by main interest. Haidian District is home of China's Silicon Valley -Zhongguancun- and 39 universities including Beijing, Tsinghua and Renmin Universities, so basically good for shopping feaver. Xuanwu District is a good area for everything related to traditional medicine whilst the Chaoyang District is the 798 Art District and flea market district. Dongcheng District is an area where many nice backpackers youth hostels are located. Just to mention some names: the 9 dragons youth hostel, Beijing City Central youth Hostel, the Courtyard Hotel, Beijing Harbour Inn Hostel, the Saga youth Hostel, the Beijing New Dragon Hostel.
Xicheng District hosts some public parks as the Beihai park, Jingshan Park, Yuetan Park and the Beijing Zoo. In the area the famous Zhongnanhai and the popular Houhai bar . If you like this ‘green’ area, we also suggest a very nice boutique value hotel nested in an hold traditional hutong called the Spring Garden Courtyard Hotel. A hotel in a Chinese traditional, deluxe courtyard, comprises a autumn and a spring garden offering a unique cultural connotation. In fact, each of the rooms introduces you to the life of different distinguished emperors in Chinese history and the dynasties that they lived in. In the multifunction hall, there are approximately one hundred photos with English translations depicting Beijing (Peking) past. These include places of interest, culture, religion, and every day life in the city. There is also a staff member available to answer questions and explain the 800 years of Beijing history).
Other central location districts are: Fengtai District; Shijingshan District; Chongwen District.
This article was written by Michele De Capitani with support from http://www.flashbooking.com for any information, please visit B&B Beijing or for travel insurance visit accommodation in Beijing.
The opening up of Beijing to the West has had a profound impact on shopping. A wide range of consumer goods – both local and imported – are now available and there are many bargains to be found throughout the city.
Remember: most shops are open daily 9am-8pm . There is no sales tax in China.
Do not forget that haggle is essential especially in touristy markets and shopping areas for common items. Starting your bargain at least with 1/3 of the price…still sounds good whilst keeping the “walking-away technique” as your last chance to get the lowest price!
The main shopping area is around Wangfujing Dajie and XiDan, where there are a number of department stores, including the Beijing Department Store, which primarily caters for the Chinese market whilst ZhongGuanCun, often dubbed 'China's Silicon Valley', continues to be a centre for electronics and computer-related industries. In other words Zhong Guan Cun (中关村）is a must! You can find almost everything from speakers to computer parts at an astonishingly low price. It is located just a couple miles from Tsinghua University. Avoid vendors inviting in their shops. Remember that there is a lack of standards in these items and there’s no ‘return policy’.
So at least don’t pay too much. Regarding pirated CDs and DVDs, you can get them for not more than 5 to 10 Yuan. Although quality is not too high, at least make sure you are buying the English version! Look for this: '英文' = yingwen. But maybe one of the best suggestions we can give you is for you to exercise ‘collective shopping’!! It works quite well!! If you are with friends, try buying things at the same time. Vendors are ‘obliged’ to make discounts!
If you wish to buy where Chinese buy, with the best prices, almost no need to bargain and a lot of genuine goods, try the clothing market in Xizhi Men, next to the Zoo. Once there look for the new giant building standing just in front and walk behind it.
Is you wish to buy silk then reach SanLiTun YaShou Market (58, Gongti Beilu) with good prices and not so popular among tourists as the Silk Street (8 East Xiushui Street Jianguo Men Wai Dajie).
If you need very cheap items for your trip, see the leading Outdoor Gear Stores Sanfo located in different areas of the Beijing. (Try at Building 4, Entrance 5, Nancun, Madian. Take metro 2 to Zhishuitan; or bus 315, 344 or 345 to Madian. The store is located southside of Bei Sanhuan, west of Madian intersection. Or other departments at Jinzhiqiao Dasha, Guomen, Chaoyang District).
Xidan Market (West of Tiananmen square): in the area around the subway station there are several large malls but there is also a market which is quite good! Remember that, especially in these markets, credit cards are not so extensively accepted. Anyways, this situation is getting better as the Olympics Games approach. Last but not least, be wary of fake money: there are a lot of counterfeit bills in circulation.
As saving money is a common traveller’s aim in order to experience as much as possible, accommodation is often an important voice. Dongcheng District is mostly a middle-class residential area hosting significant locations you’ll love to see: Forbidden City, Tian'anmen Square, Zhongshan Park and Ditan Park and the National Museum of China. In the same area there are quite a lot youth hostels for international backpackers. The 9 dragons youth hostel, the Beijing New Dragon Hostel, Beijing City Central youth Hostel, the Saga youth Hostel, the Courtyard Hotel, Beijing Harbour Inn Hostel are for sure some budget solutions.
We hopefully have been of any help and we wish you a fantastic shopping time in Beijing, China!
This article was written by Michele De Capitani with support from http://www.flashbooking.com for any information, please visit hotel Beijing or for travel insurance visit budget hotels Beijing.
Far from boring you with further historical news and information, remember that this year would be particularly expensive to head to China’s capitals, unless you are particularly fond of sports.
On this matter, we pass you the sarcastic truth of a vignette published this week on the Internazionale magazine where someone says “China is highly developed in many things, but not in human rights To say ‘all that glitters is not gold…
In any case Beijing has a lot to offer either for first time visitors, either for veterans.
If you are among the ones that can choose the period to travel to Beijing, be aware that it is exposed to a continental monsoon climate with clear-cut seasons. Best time to go is during Autumn with generous sunshine and fewer tourists are in town. Locals describe this short season as tiangao qishuang - literally 'the sky is high and the air is fresh”. Spring is less pleasant - not many tourists but lots of wind and dust.
Some of the best activities one can indulge in can be the following:
- renting a bicycle and discovering some of the latest preserved hutongs.
- getting into a vision of early morning Tai Chi practitioner at the ‘divine’ Temple of Heaven starting their day.
- relaxing on an un-expensive foot massage
-seeing a Beijing opera in a typical Tea House
Last tip that can make you say “wow, this article rocks!” concerns very special lodgings you can experience. Maybe not everyone knows that the word hutongs (from the Mongolian hottog meaning "water well’) are narrow streets or alleys formed by lines of ‘siheyuan’, traditional courtyard residences. Many neighbourhoods were formed by joining one siheyuan to another to form a hutong, and then joining one hutong to another. The word hutong is also used to refer to such neighbourhoods. In these days hutongs are used to guest travellers and tourists. They will fascinate you with their décor, atmosphere and pieces of furniture.
Usually, as the traditional architecture imposed, guests rooms face an inner secret garden decorated with marble statues, ponds or fountains and plants. Some hutongs have been transformed in boutique hotels, some others keep the price on a budget and are classified as youth hostels. Just to mention some: the Saga Hostel, the Shongtang hotel, the 9 Dragon hostel, the Houhai Youth hostel, the Temple Side hutong hostel, the Hutongren or Autumn Garden Hotel. They are all well run and will make your stay better.
Following the founding of the People’s Republic of China in 1949, many of the old hutongs were demolished and disappeared, replaced by the high rises and wide boulevards of today’s Beijing. Some of Beijing’s ancient hutongs still stand as more recently they have been designated as protected areas in an attempt to preserve this aspect of Chinese cultural history. The hutongs in the vicinity of the Bell Tower and Shichahai Lake are especially well preserved and attracts many tourists.
This article was written by Michele De Capitani with support from http://www.flashbooking.com for any information, please visit Beijing Guest houses or for travel insurance visit hostelling in Beijing.
Beijing literally means northern capital, a role it has played many times in Chinas long history and in line with the common east Asian tradition whereby capital cities are explicitly named as such. Another Chinese city similarly named is NanJing, meaning south capital.
At times in history, the capital was declared to be NanJing rather than BeiJing, according to whether the then current powerbase lay to the north or south of China.
Emperor Wu was the first to declare the site of Beijing as the capital in 1057 BC. Subsequently, the city has gone by the names of Ji, ZhongDu, Dadu, then finally Beijing when the name was chosen by the Ming Dynasty Emperor ChengZu in 1421. Before 1949, Beijing was known as Peking by the Western world. Beijing was once again the capital only when Mao ZeDong declared the Peoples Republic of China on October 1st 1949.
Beijing first served as the capital of a (more or less) united China in 1264 when Kublai Khans victorious Mongol forces set up the city of Dadu (Great Capital) to rule their new empire, from a northern location closer to the Mongol homelands. After the fall of the Mongol Yuan dynasty in 1368, the capital was moved back to Nanjing, but in 1403, the 3rd Ming emperor Zhu Di moved it to Beijing again and also gave the city its present name.
This was Beijings golden era: the Forbidden City, the Temple of Heaven and many other Beijing landmarks were built at this time. Beijing remained the capital into the Qing era and into the revolutionary ferment of the early 1900s, but in the chaos following the abdication of the last Emperor, Beijing was beset by fighting warlords. The Kuomintang thus moved the capital to Nanjing again in 1928, renaming Beijing as Beijing ("Northern Peace") to emphasize that it was no longer a capital. However, the Kuomintang was eventually defeated by the Communists, who in 1949 proclaimed the Peoples Republic of China with its capital at Beijing.
Beijing is divided in 18 districts. Some central Beijing districts are Haidian District (home of Chinas Silicon Valley -Zhongguancun- and 39 universities including Beijing, Tsinghua and Renmin Universities); Chongwen District; Xuanwu District ( for traditional medicine); Chaoyang District (Art District and flea market district); Xicheng District and Dongcheng District. The last two ones are very nice areas where you can find some public parks and green areas and boutique hotels nestled in hold traditional hutongs ( like the Spring Garden Courtyard Hotel) in the former or a lot of youth hostels for international backpackers in the latter.
The 9 dragons youth hostel, the Saga youth Hostel, the Courtyard Hotel, Beijing Harbour Inn Hostel, the Beijing New Dragon Hostel, Beijing City Central youth Hostel are just some of them.
This article was written by Michele De Capitani with support from http://www.flashbooking.com for any information, please visit Beijing lodging or for travel insurance visit accommodation in Beijing.