Cruise board tourists succeed in Huevietjet air

The HCM City-based Saigontourist Travel Pairing Co provided services to many than 2,000 passengers and crew members of the SuperStar Person which docked at Chan May Port in the medial field of Thua Thien - Hue on December 31.

After they prefabricated a turn of Hue, the watercraft left for Ha Lengthened Bay on January 1.

The reality attribute place also welcomed writer than 300 passengers who came on populate the voyage ship Seabound Plume on the aforesaid day.

Carrier offers cheap fare

New budget airline VietJetAir is offering seats priced at a mere VND250,000 on flights from Ha Noi to HCM City between January 10 and 23 hoping to persuade people from the north to celebrate Lunar New Year in sunny HCM City. The tickets can be booked at from January 4 to 8.

The private carrier will also increase the number of daily flights between the two cities to three from January 10 to meet rising demand from local and international tourists during Tet.

Kien Giang park attracts anglers

U Minh Thuong (Upper U Minh), a vast wetland rich in fish and water birds in the Mekong province of Kien Giang, has become a tourist attraction, especially for anglers.

Declared a national park in 2000, the 21,100-ha U Minh Thuong has a 44-ha bird sanctuary with more than 70,000 birds and 500ha set aside for tourists to go fishing.

Tourists have to pay VND40,000 (US$2) for a ticket which includes admission to the fishing area, a rod, and bait, while an optional boat costs VND30,000. If they catch any fish, they can ask locals for help to cook them right there with locally-grown vegetables.

One of the few protected tropical mangrove forests left in the world, the park is home to over 250 species of plants, 200 insects, 24 animals, and 180 birds, many of them rare and some in the red book of endangered creatures.

Hue monuments free for Tet

Visitors to Hue will get free admission to all monuments in the world heritage town during the three days of Tet (Lunar New Year) on January 23, 24 and 25.

The monuments include the Imperial Inner City, An Dinh Royal Palace, and the tombs of emperors Khai Dinh and Tu Duc.

"This is an annual promotion to offer local residents and visitors a chance to better enjoy Tet," deputy director of the Hue Centre for Monument Conservation, Phan Thanh Hai, said.

On normal days foreign visitors pay VND55,000 for entry into the Imperial Inner City, while locals pay VND35,000.

More Viet kieu to return home

The number of Viet kieu (Overseas Vietnamese) coming back home through HCM City for Tet this year is expected to increase significantly, according to the deputy head of the HCM City Committee for Overseas Vietnamese, Tran Hoa Phuong.

He gave no figures but predicted a strong increase given the difficulty for people to book air tickets now despite an increase in the number of flights.

Last year during Tet around 400,000 overseas Vietnamese arrived via the city's Tan Son Nhat Airport, according to the National Committee for Overseas Vietnamese.

VietNamNet/Viet Nam News

Hue royal citadel to open for free in three days

From the foremost to the ordinal day of the lunar New Year 2012, all relics in the analyzable of Hue ancient fastness leave gaping for unloose.

Phan Thanh Hai, deputy director of the Centre for Preservation of Hue Relics, said that all relics in the Hue royal citadel will open for free for all visitors on January 23-25.

“This is an annual activity of the Center for Preservation of Hue Relics,” Hai said.

The current prices of tickets to the Hue royal citadel is VND30,000-50,000 ($1.5-2.5) per a local visitor and VND55,000 ($2.6) per a foreign visitor.

For the first time, the local authorities will permit a firework show in one of the world’s best bay – Lang Co bay in Lang Co town, Phu Loc district on the lunar New Year’s Eve.

Travel firms misestimate domestic demand

Locomote firms hoped that with the long 3-day New Gathering 2012 and 9-day Tet holidays would amend them appeal statesman travelers. Notwithstanding, they could not foresee so galore difficulties.

Travel firms making a bet

Some travel firms in HCM City, including the big ones, on December 29, 2011, still invited travelers to book tours for New Year holiday, and urged their officers to boost the Danang beachsale of the tours for Tet holiday.

In the south, travel firms invited travelers to the most attractive destinations such as Nha Trang, Phan Thiet, Mui Ne, Da Lat, and the long-distance tours to Da Nang – Quang Nam – Hue – Hanoi – Quang Ninh – Ninh Binh and Lao Cai. Meanwhile, in Hanoi, travelers were still waiting for travelers to book tours to the west of the southern region and Phu Quoc Island.

Is the demand for traveling not high on Tet? Ly Viet Cuong, Director of Nam Phuong travel firm, said that travel firms misestimated the demand and the tendency this year.

Before the State officially stated the duration for Tet holiday, and airlines informed about the new official airfares, travel firms only tried to invited travelers to take short distance tours with which travelers can go there by train or coaches.

After that, after realizing that the Tet holiday is long (9 days), and that the national air flag carrier Vietnam Airlines still reserved preferential air tickets for travel firms, a series of tours with traveling by air have been launched.

Travel firms all hoped that the number of travelers to book tours would be high because they would have 9 days long to enjoy. Therefore, they have not only launched long distance tours, but also increased the number of the tours to near destinations.

As having offered a lot of tours, travel firms have to book hotel rooms in advance to be sure that they will be enough hotel rooms for travelers.

Travel firms could not sell all the tours for New Year holiday, but they still hoped that they would have many travelers for Tet holiday. However, it seems that the number of travelers who have booked tours remains modest.

It is difficult to attract travelers to book long distance tours, because travelers have booked outbound tours already after they heard about the airfare increases. Meanwhile, those, who choose short distance tours, tend to organize trips themselves instead of using the services of travel firms.

Meanwhile, hotels and resorts have urged travel firms to provide final figures about the hotel rooms booked, so that they can offer the rooms left for separated guests.

Some travel firms have decided to close the tours and pay back unoccupied hotel rooms. Meanwhile, others have decided to lay a bet, still keeping hotel rooms booked. They hope that more travelers would book tours on the days just before the departure time.

Resort room rates increasing

A lot of travelers said they decided to organize tours themselves after reading news on local newspapers that hotels and restaurants offer discounts. However, they got shocked when booking rooms. In fact, hotels and resorts only offer price discounts in the time from New Year holiday to the days just before Tet holiday.

An officer of Lien Bang travel firm said he tried to seek two rooms of a resort in Mui Ne for December 31 and January 1, 2012/. She was told that Resort Hoang Ngoc had a room for two at the rate of 150 dollars per night. However, each of them had to buy one ticket to attend a gala night at the resort at 50 dollars per adult and 30 dollars per child.

Lucia Ngo, Chair of Bamboo Village Beach Resort & Spa, said that for the last many years, travelers flock to Mui Ne and Nha Trang in the period from November to April of the next year. Therefore, the hotel and resort rooms will fully occupied this time.

Popular ancient cafe perched on plateau

Situated 1,000m above sea layer, the old coffeehouse in Ring Van municipality is a popular spy for visitors. It lies 150km northeast of Ha Giang Metropolis and 500km statesman of Hanoi.  

The old cafe edifice in bouldered highland townspeople of Peal Van town was shapely in 1912 and became a umber bar in previous 2008 after a advance in tourism and UNESCO recognising Peal Van Karst Upland as Annam's position Globose Geopark.

The Ancient Townsfolk coffeehouse has prettify a touristed destination for all tourists, and its key spot at the end of the only ancient street in the townspeople, come the old activity, makes it real handy.

However, the cafe owner wants to preserve the house as an open-door museum rather than a coffee bar.

"I've spent a lot of money restoring the old house, which was in ruins in the late 1990s, as its original design is over a century old. The house is actually a local treasure of the town," said owner Hoang Anh Tuan, who was born and grew up in Ha Giang Province.

"The cafe is a really interesting stop for visitors coming to the town, and tourists can explore the house while tasting coffee and getting an overview of the old street through the windows," Tuan said.

He added that he uses Central Highlands coffee and sells it for only one dollar per cup and also offers different types of fruit juice.

Nguyen Trong Nhan, a Tay ethnic man, said he has worked and lived in the cafe since last year.

"The Central Highlands coffee requires a coffee-pot, which takes visitors five minutes to taste. We let tourists explore the house and understand its history, while waiting for a hot cup of coffee," the 20-year-old said.

"Visitors can order 20 different drinks at the cafe, but the story of the 100-year-old house always lures domestic and foreign tourists."

The 20-year-old cafe worker said he offers a simple cocktail called Malagjista, which is mixture of sugar, lemonade and local maize wine.

An old woman from the town said the cafe was built by an ethnic Tay man named Luong Trung Hung, who won the construction tender from the old market in 1908.

He began building the house two years after the market was completed in 1908.

The 100sq.m two-storey house sits at the foot of Don Cao Mountain and looks southeast to the market 20m away. The house's architecture shows harmony between French, Chinese and local ethnic Mong design.

The three-arch entrance is from the early 20th century French style, while the indoor decor derived from masons in Sichuan, China.

A wall was built from earthen bricks and from blocks of rock. Molasses, lime, straw and soil were used to bond the blocks together.

"The house is mixture of local Mong, Chinese and French influences and all visitors are interested in the house's architecture and preservation. As the cafe's receptionist, I often introduce visitors to the history of the house during their coffee-break from the town," said Duong Thi Chien, who comes from Hung Yen Province.

The house's roof is formed by four panels of double terracotta tiles, creating a 20sq.m of ventilation in the middle of the house.

Stone blocks pave most of the first floor, while the second floor is all pine boards and wooden walls.

"The hosts reserve three bedrooms on the second floor for guests at the back of the house and the U-shaped corridor is a place for drinking tea," said Can Ngoc Minh, another of the cafe's staff members.

"The air ventilation is a very special part of the house because it both air-conditions and lights up rooms with sunlight."

He also said visitors can sit on chairs to enjoy the Central Highlands coffee or sit cross-legged on the ground.

Cafe owner Tuan added that travellers can stay at the house, even if it's not as comfortable as a hotel room.

"Bedrooms at the cafe are warm, but some guests find it slightly uncomfortable as there is no toilet on the second floor and because the house is a busy cafe," Tuan said.

He said the cafe local ethnic Mong men and women often perform khen (bamboo panpipe), leaf-horn and dance during the weekend. usy time in Dong Van town as it hosts travellers who flock to the rocky plateau on Sunday mornings when the market is on.

The market includes long pavilions built from in the early 1900s, and is situated along the town's ancient street. A row of 20 old houses similar to the market pavilions sit opposite the street made with similar materials.

Tourists often see thang co (a soup of horse, goat or buffalo meat) made in the Dong Van market on Sunday morning and can find out what makes the food so special for the Mong people.

With nearly 2,000 people living in the district, the famed weekly market is a veritable cross-section of Mong life, brimming with thang co and maize wine.

Vietnam welcomes first foreign visitors of 2012

On the firstly day of 2012, more alien visitors arrived in War by air and sea.

In the early morning of January 1, officials of the HCM City Department of Culture, Sports, the Tourism and the HCM City Tourism Association and the Vietnam Airlines the first tourist to vietnam in 2011Corporation welcomed the first foreign tourists to the city in 2012.

The first group was 260 tourists from the UK, followed by nearly 300 Germany visitors on flights of Vietnam Airlines.

HCM City Department of Culture, Sports and Tourism’s deputy director La Quoc Khanh presented flowers, New Year greeting cards, gifts and books on Vietnam’s tourism to the first visitors.

Vietnam Airlines offered these special tourists free luggage fees as the New Year gifts.

Peter Grove and Kate Goswell from the UK said they were very happy to be visiting beautiful Vietnam with its friendly, hospitable people and wanted to go on a trans-Vietnam journey during the first days of the New Year.

The first foreign tourists were welcomed by traditional songs and dances, performed by Vietnamese artists at the airport.

An official from the HCM City Department of Culture, Sports and Tourism said that in 2011, HCM City welcomed 3.5 million foreign visitors, up by 13 percent over 2010.

Saigontourist also welcomed a group of Russian visitors to HCM City at 4.50pm, January 1, on a flight of Vietnam Airlines.

Meanwhile, the northern border province of Quang Ninh received three groups of tourists from China and Japan and nearly 100 foreign visitors who were on an excursion tour of Ha Long Bay organized by Saigontourist. Around 5,000 visitors boarded 352 hydrofoils to cruise in Ha Long Bay before midnight on New Year's Eve. Saigontourist Quang Ninh also welcomed an additional 500 international visitors from China and Europe to Ha Long Bay on the same day.

Hotels in the Bai Chay Tourist Resort held a variety of programs to welcome 2012 and most of the hotels in the resort were 65 percent full, with some reaching 75-100 percent. On January 1, Novotel plans to welcome more than 300 visitors who have booked rooms already.

Last year, Quang Ninh served nearly 6.2 million visitors including 2.3 million from abroad, earning revenues of VND3.4 trillion. In 2012, the province aims to attract 7 million visitors and bring in around VND4 trillion.

Thousands of visitors also flocked to tourist destinations in the central region on the first day of the New Year. The most popular destinations were Vinpearl, Yang Bay, Diamond and the islands in Nha Trang Bay.

Quang Nam province and Hoi An city held a ceremony to welcome 45 people from the Republic of Korea.

The visitors were treated to art performances and traditional folk games by local artists.

Tran Minh Ca, deputy chairman of the Quang Nam provincial People Committee said that the province has planned special programmes in 2012 to attract more local and foreign tourists including major cultural events to be held throughout the year.

The province will also upgrade its infrastructure and speed up projects to fully tap its tourism potential.

English couple and their passion for Vietnamese caves

An Arts yoke has connected 14 expeditions to Asiatic caves over the past 20 years and contributed to UNESCO's credit of Phong Nha-Ke Kick as a Humanity Spontaneous Heritage Situation.

Dr Howard and his wife Dr Deb spend most of their time on cave expeditions. Howard has been exploring caves in the UK and Europe since he was 15.

The limestone karst mountains were so attractive that they decided to go to Asia in 1990. The couple patiently sought the cooperation of regional agencies and organizations. Finally, they got some help from Hanoi General University, now named Hanoi National University, to make their trip to Vietnam possible.

After that, they focused on exploring destinations in Vietnam. Being a member of the British Cave Research Association, Howard has led an expedition team on trips to Vietnam since 1990.

The team has cooperated with Hanoi National University to conduct 14 journeys to different localities in Vietnam, including Quang Binh, Nghe An, Thanh Hoa, Hoa Binh, Lang Son, Cao Bang and Ha Giang. It has discovered nearly 300km of caves in Vietnam.

In 1997, the team found Khe Ry in Quang Binh Province, the world’s longest underground cave. In 2009, it discovered Son Doong, the world’s biggest cave, also in Quang Binh.

Their reports have contributed to Phong Nha-Ke Bang National Park being recognized by UNESCO as a World Natural Heritage Site.

According to Dr Howard, Vietnam has one of the world’s most impressive limestone areas. Clearly, many caves situated in Ke Bang Mountain have yet to be found, Howard and his team hope to continue their search with the cooperation of the Vietnam National University, Hanoi.

Appealing for natural preservation

The couple has helped call on the international community to pay attention to the protection of Vietnam’s nature and environment. They have also shown a number of well-known film crews around Vietnam.

Through the films, the world has become more aware of Vietnam's beauty and the world's biggest cave, Son Doong, in Quang Binh

The couple plan to visit Vietnam again from March 3 to April 26, 2012, along with their team and some film crews to make documentaries about caves in Quang Binh.

In 2010, the British expedition team took the film crews and reporters from Kyodo, NHK, BBC, and National Geographic among others, to Vietnam to shoot films about Son Doong Cave. In 2011, they invited representatives from the BBC to Quang Binh to make another film about Son Doong Cave.

More Vietnamese visit Japan

Annamite holidaymaker arrivals in Archipelago know grown since a truncate holdup that followed the coercive temblor and tsunami in Walk.

Local tour operators said Japan tours mainly attracted company groups in the past but now more and more individual and family customers were booking tours to visit Japan though tour prices were just a little bit lower than previously.

“In November we arranged four Japan tours, with two of them for individuals. Organizing two package tours for individual visitors a month is a good sign,” said Tranh Thanh Hanh, tour manager of Samurai Tour Co.  

In the past, Hanh said, it was hard to organize a package tour for individual customers.

Japanese capital Tokyo is offering incentives for foreign tourists, such as providing free bullet train transport to other places for those staying in Tokyo for three days or lowering hotel room rates.

Therefore, Japan tours that also take in Tokyo are lower priced. Previously, a tour of six days and five nights was sold for around VND50 million per person but the current price is only VND42 million.

Saigontourist Holding Company has also seen an improvement in Japan tour bookings by Vietnamese tourists, particularly since October 2011. It will arrange two Japan tours during the Lunar New Year holiday in late January.

The rise in travel to Japan is also ascribable to a promotional program launched by Vietnam Airlines. The national flag carrier is offering discounts on return tickets for customers who depart from December 21 to March 31.

The airline’s HCMC-Tokyo ticket price is US$480 for passengers with a maximum stay of 14 days and US$650 for those with a maximum stay of one month. Fights from HCMC to Osaka, Fukuoka and Nagoya cost US$530 and US$650 respectively, with tax and services charges excluded.

Notre Dame Cathedral is a serene rendezvous

When mentioning churches, grouping mightiness consider roughly priests message Assemblage, music vocalizing, senior fill praying and children learning Book lessons. Notre Dame Cathedral SaigonNonetheless, when fill instruct near the Notre Wench Cathedral, which is situated in the viscus of HCMC, they module directly see the ikon of a known rendezvous of people who are catholic or non-catholic, girlish or old, and opulent or bad.

It is easy to spot sidewalk cafes around public places such as post offices, schools, commercial centers and parks and the Notre Dame Cathedral is not an exception. Hence, the church, built by the French between 1863 and 1880 with bricks from Marseille, is one of the most famous landmarks of the city and part of the city’s cultural life. Saigonese often gather on the sidewalks around the church and nearby Park 30/4 to meet, chat, have a cup of coffee, study or simply look at passers-by.

One factor that makes HCMC exceptional is the contrast between the old and the new, the ancient and the modern, the luxury towering building and the old shabby one. The church also has two opposite elements: stillness inside and hustle outside. The interior and exterior of the building is definitely majestic, boasting the glory that any cathedral should have.  

The interior can’t be compared to those in Rome or Paris, but there is something to be said for the vaulted ceilings and organization of holy figures around the cathedral. Meanwhile, the exterior is highlighted by the red color of the original bricks from Marseille, the two 40-meter-tall spires that define the skyline of the city and the statue of the Virgin Mary in front, creating a splendid view to admire and a nice background to take photos.

There are many people frequenting small cafés around the cathedral. Early in the morning, while some people still jog, some middle-age men gather at those cafes with morning newspapers in hand.

When the sun rises, Park 30/4 gets busier with students who gather to discuss their home assignments, share soft living skills or draw sketches of the church. Some young people also bring guitars and violins to play and sing together.

The striking thing is not the constant flow of tourists that move in, out, and around the cathedral, but the numerous brides and grooms that are stationed strategically around the church to take wedding photos. Couples with their entourage of photographer, photographer’s assistant, driver, umbrella holder, and backup camera crew have to bear the scorching heat to smile, pose and try hundreds of shots.

When the sunset comes, the area around the cathedral will get crowded. Parents take their kids to play around the statue of the Virgin Mary while some people pray sincerely. In Park 30/4, young people continue to muster to chat, sing, study and enjoy some snack.

If there is no chair left, they would sit anywhere they find suitable. Due to large gatherings around the church, there is an army of vendors offering toys, balloons for children, coffee and drinks for adults, snacks for girls and flowers for boys.

Tourism sector targets staff training

Body upbringing in the business facet is a long-term key chore of the Viet Nam Business Remembering, according to this activity.

Nguyen Huu Tho, helper chairwoman of the connexion, said yesterday one of the relationship's tasks in the 2012-16 point would be to amend training of the business's employees.

The Polity has endowed dimension and money in nonindustrial the touristry manufacture.

In the next five years, the association plans to ask relevant authorities to establish a Tourism Knowledge Fostering School to train staff and managers in the tourism sector.

The association will also collaborate with universities and colleges to open short-term courses, and organise training classes for staff in local tourism associations.

The VITA's Viet Nam Society of Travel Agents (VISTA), in collaboration with the European Excellence in Management Education (CFVG) have launched the MBA Tourism Prog-ramme, which is especially targeted at managers working in the tourism industry. It is also open to anyone who is interested in a career in tourism.

The programme aims to improve the qualifications of managers of tourism enterprises, which are mostly small- and medium-sized, so they can compete better in the world market.

"The association will sign cooperation agreements with tourism associations in ASEAN countries to seek support in training and develop human resources for the tourism sector," Tho said.

In the 2012-16 period, VITA will strengthen tourism promotion. Every year, it will support members to take part in 10 to 15 international events or exhibitions to promote Vietnamese tourism products.

It aims to raise the status of Vietnamese tourism in the international market.

The association will continue to build a close relationship with airlines such as Vietnam Airlines and Jetstar Airlines to promote Vietnamese tourism and popular tourism products in key markets.

The association will ask the Government and relevant ministries to develop particular tourism products in localities, especially in Ha Noi and HCM City.

VITA targets ensuring that 80 per cent of localities will set up local tourism associations by the end of 2016, in collaboration with VITA to support tourism businesses.

Currently, 31 cities and provinces have set up tourism associations with more than 1,000 members including enterprises, tour operators, travel agents and transport services.

Eighty per cent of tourism company leaders would be professionally trained and 100 per cent of tourism businesses would have their own websites in the 2012-16 period.

The association will continue to actively contribute opinions on tourism-related policies to help solve difficulties for businesses.

Hoang Tuan Anh, minister of Culture, Sports and Tourism, said there was a need to build a closer link between businesses, tourism associations and State management agencies to develop the country's tourism sector.

Despite hard economic times, the country welcomed more than 6 million international visitors and served 30 million domestic tourists, earning VND130 trillion (US$6.25 billion) from tourism in 2011, an increase of 30 per cent year-on-year.

Thanh Hoa uncovers its past

Thanh Hoa business officials are hoping the ancient fastness built during the Ho royalty (1400-07) that was constituted as a UNESCO Class Social Acquisition position in June will draw more holidaymakers to the extent.Thanh Hoa

The citadel, mentioned in Dai Viet Su Ky Toan Thu (The Complete Annals of the Great Viet), was built during the reign of King Tran Thuan Tong (1397) by Royal Mandarin Ho Quy Ly, who acceded to the throne in 1400.

According to researcher Trinh Sinh, archaeologists were stunned by the huge building work. Thousands of huge rectangular stone blocks weighing between 10 and 20 tonnes were stacked seven high, and no mortar was used. The first two layers were below ground to support the structure.

Curved stone gates face east, west, south and north were found to be intact. The south entrance, which consists of three curved gates, acted as the main entryway, and its design was a departure from the traditional model that was influenced by the Chinese.

In 2008, archaeologists found the remains of the Nam Giao open-air platform used for religious ceremonies and uncovered a stone path leading from the platform to the south entrance.

In 2004, Vietnamese and Japanese archaeologists found floor tiles, symbolic lotus flower engraved stone feet and ceramic objects inside the citadel. They also unearthed stone cannon balls.

Two stone dragons on both sides of a staircase were the only remains of the Hoang Nguyen Palace. The ruined stone pillars confirm the existence of the Nham Tho, Phu Duc and Dong Cung palaces and Thai Mieu (Ancestors Worship Temple) inside the citadel, as recorded in history books, archaeologists said.

Recently, archaeologists discovered stone for the citadel was cut from An Ton Mountain, about 1km from the citadel's western gate.

Other significant attractions in the area include Nhoi Mountain, which lies 40km from the citadel; Ru Than Mountain, 4km away and Bong Mountain, 20km away.

Japanese and Vietnamese archaeologists found at An Ton Mountain layers of crushed stone believed to be left when workers cut blocks from the mountainside for the Hocitadel's walls.

"The thickest layer of crushed stone reaches 1.4m," said Tran Anh Dung, who is responsible for excavation work on An Ton Mountain. "It means that the amount of stone cut from An Ton Mountain was considerable, considering the building of the grandiose citadel."

Unfinished stone blocks were also found on the mountain, which lead archaeologists to conclude the stones were worked on the mountain before being transported to the building site.

According to Nguyen Van Tuan, director of the Thanh Hoa Culture, Sports and Tourism Department, authorities would officially add the citadel to existing tourism sites in the province such as Kim Son Cave, Cam Luong Stream, the Lam Kinh royal complex and Sam Son Beach.

Provincial authorities relocated families living inside the ruins of the citadel so the site can be turned into an archaeological park, Do Quang Trong, director of the Ho Citadel Preservation Management Centre, told Viet Nam News.

Training courses are also being run for residents in Xuan Giai, Tay Giai and Dong Mon villages – which lie near the southern gate – to teach them about the citadel's history, as well as basic English.

The local culture department also plans to offer more homestay tours to Ho Citadel, Trinh Lord Palace, Giang Pagoda and Kim Son Cave.

Trong said most tourists visiting Ho Citadel tended to be independent travellers rather than package holidaymakers. He added that the peak tourism month was June, when about 6,000 visitors came to the site.

"We have invited many travel agencies to set up tours to bring tourists here," said Nguyen Huu Nhan, deputy director of the culture department, "Yet the tours, for some reason, have not been properly exploited. That's why most of the guests who come here are history lovers and back-packers."

Cao Ngoc Nong, originally from Thanh Hoa but now living in Ha Noi, said tourism services at Ho Citadel needed to be improved.Thanh nha ho

"There is nothing to keep tourists at the site longer after visiting the four gates, listening to historic stories, seeing some antiques and visiting some surrounding villages," he said.

Nong said he has organised some tours to the citadel but he said tasting some of the local delicacies in Vinh Loc District, which lies nearly 10km from the site, was usually the most popular excursion.

He also takes visitors to Cam Thuy Fish Stream, Ho Citadel, followed by a night in Vinh Hoa Commune in Vinh Loc District.

"The citadel usually takes just two to three hours to take in," he said. "But delicacies at Vinh Hoa Commune can keep people entertained for one to two days."

He said visitors also enjoy swimming in the local river, hunting for mussels, fishing, visiting old houses, using old farm tools and making sticky cakes at the local market.

Local snacks like che lam (sweet cake made of roasted sticky rice powder and ginger), roasted grasshoppers, nem chua nuong (baked fermented meat rolls), mussel and fish dishes are "unforgettable to city-dwellers", he said.

Journalist Mai Thi said there were hardly any guest houses, entertainment spots and souvenir shops near the citadel.

"Why don't local authorities encourage locals to make souvenirs from local stones to make miniature citadels, for example?" she said.

Researcher Sinh said he was sure more tourists would visit the area when they got to hear about its many attractions.