mekong delta homestay

Cambodia secrets a wealth of natural beauty and culture that has yet to be discovered by a world of tourists still only obsessed with Angkor. The city of Phnom Penh functions not only as the capital of modern Cambodia but also serves as a spring board to the surrounding natural and cultural attractions. A simple boat ride from Phnom Penh along the Mekong River will bring you to the isolated tracts of Mekong Island, a popular tourist destination that is home to a vista of untouched natural beauty and authentic Cambodian homesteads.

At this remarkable island, travellers find a place where time stands still. Many people find the culture to be wonderfully simple without the trappings of modernity, the island denizens enjoying a very easygoing, uncomplicated lifestyle in close-knit village communities. The people of the island engage in traditional industries such as fishing and silk-weaving, with homes built on stilts to protect the interiors in case of floods. Although the villages are very much self-contained, the locals are very welcoming; travellers have described their hospitality as heart-warming, embracing one into the community with ease and familiarity.

Many people come back regularly just because they love the peace, beauty and the incredible culture that has made mekong tour ho chi minh Island so unique. Many nature enthusiasts take Mekong Island tours along the Mekong River to revel in the peace, tranquillity and serenity of the water and woodlands. It is the ideal recipe to soothe away the cares of urban life and provide an escape from the pressures of modernity while immersing oneself in the atmospheric charm of unsullied nature.

If you’re looking for a hotel Phnom Penh to stay at while touring the many wonders along Mekong River, the Raffles Hotel Le Royal must top your list of choices. An elite luxury hotel Cambodia, this establishment provides you the best of Khmer accommodation and hospitality.

Thailand cracks down on migrant workers as anti-immigration feeling…

By Amy Sawitta Lefevre and Panarat Thepgumpanat

mekong toursBANGKOK, Sept 29 (Reuters) – Thailand is cracking down on migrant workers from neighbouring countries, saying they are “stealing jobs from Thais”, amid fears that anti-immigrant sentiment is rising as Southeast Asia’s second-largest economy stagnates.

In an operation led by the Thai labour department, police and troops on Wednesday raided a fresh produce market in Bangkok and arrested 14 people, most of them from neighbouring Myanmar.

“We have received many complaints about illegal immigrants working in markets including Vietnamese and even South Asians who were stealing jobs from Thais,” Thai immigration police chief Nathorn Phrosunthorn told Reuters.

“They should be doing the jobs that Thais don’t want to do like work as house cleaners,” he said.

Under the terms of a 2015 memorandum of understanding Vietnamese citizens are restricted in their employment in Thailand and can work only as manual labourers in Thailand’s fishing or construction sectors.

Cambodians also have been nabbed in the raids, along with people from Myanmar and Vietnam.

ANTI-IMMIGRATION FEELINGS

More than 3 million migrants work in Thailand, the vast majority from neighbouring Myanmar, according to the International Organization for Migration.

Thailand became wealthy compared to its neighbours when its economy boasted annual growth rates of over 7 percent in the 1980s and 1990s, drawing migrant workers from across the Greater mekong tours Delta region and other parts of Asia. They mostly did jobs Thais tend to spurn, including backbreaking work in the fishing and construction sectors.

But, more than two years after the military government seized power and with Thailand’s economy on shaky ground, rights groups also see rising resentment against immigrants in Thailand, mirroring such sentiment elsewhere in the world.

“There seems to be a surge of national sentiment in Thai immigration policy claiming migrants from Vietnam, for example, are taking jobs that are reserved for Thai nationals,” Sunai Phasuk from Human Rights Watch told Reuters.

“We haven’t seen this kind of rise in anti-immigrant sentiment for decades. This has a lot to do economic concerns.”

Sanit Choklamlert, a shop keeper in Bangkok’s Silom business district, said migrants are seen as competitors for some Thais.

“There are too many Myanmar people here now and they’re fighting for the same jobs as us,” he said. “We need to send some back.”

HUMAN TRAFFICKING

Thailand’s economy is on course to grow 3.0 percent in 2016 after expanding 2.8 percent in 2015 and only 0.7 percent in 2014.

Nathorn said the crackdown was not driven by an anti-immigrant policy. “We still need migrant labour. We just want to keep some order,” he said.

The raids have targeted fresh markets, restaurants, supermarkets and shopping malls. Around 153 immigrants were rounded up between Sept. 1 and Sept. 26, according to labour department figures. Those caught face up to five years in prison, a fine of up to 3,000 baht ($100) or deportation.

Migrants are often at risk of falling into the hands of human trafficking rings, who sell them into virtual slavery on plantations, timber mills and fishing boats, human rights groups say.

Thailand was removed from the bottom rung of the U.S. State Department’s annual list of worst human trafficking offenders this year despite what the department described as “widespread forced labour” in the country’s vital seafood industry.

(Additional reporting by Jutarat Skulpichetrat; Editing by Bill Tarrant)

AP’s legendary ‘Napalm Girl’ photographer Nick Ut to retire

LOS ANGELES (AP) – It would seem all but impossible to sum up one of the most distinguished careers in photojournalism in only four words, but that’s just what Nick Ut does when he says, “From hell to Hollywood.”

mekong river tour ho chi minhAnd the Pulitzer Prize-winning photographer, who is retiring this month after 51 years with The Associated Press, has the pictures to prove it, the most famous being a stunning black-and-white image from the Vietnam War that’s come to be known simply as “Napalm Girl.”

It’s the photo of a terrified child running naked down a country road, her body literally burning from the napalm bombs dropped on her village just moments before Ut captured the iconic image.

FILE – In this June 8, 1972 file photo taken by Huynh Cong “Nick’ Ut, South Vietnamese forces follow terrified children, including 9-year-old Kim Phuc, center, as they run down Route 1 near Trang Bang after an aerial napalm attack on suspected Viet Cong hiding places. After making the photo, he set aside his camera, gave the badly burned girl water, poured more on her wounds, then loaded her and others into his AP van to take them to a hospital. When doctors refused to admit her, saying she was too badly burned to be saved, he angrily flashed his press pass. The next day, he told them, pictures of her would be displayed all over the world, along with an explanation of how the hospital refused to help. (AP Photo/Nick Ut, File)

“That photograph illustrated dramatically what had become a regular occurrence in Vietnam over the years – napalm on distant villages, civilians killed and scared by the war, pictures we’d rarely had in the past,” said Peter Arnett, a distinguished network news war correspondent and Pulitzer Prize winner himself. “This picture revealed the kind of details that were an integral part of what the war had been about, which made it so significant and important to be published.”

Ut was only 21 when he took that photo on June 8, 1972, then set his camera aside to rush 9-year-old Kim Phuc to a hospital, where doctors saved her life. He would go on to take tens of thousands more over the next 44 years, including images of practically every A-list celebrity who walked a Hollywood red carpet or entered a courtroom on the wrong side of the law.

“Every star who has trouble, they will see me,” jokes the friendly 65-year-old photographer who, although his thick, dark hair has grayed over the years, retains both a boyish charm and irrepressible enthusiasm for his work.

On a recent morning in a conference room of the AP’s Los Angeles bureau, Ut clicks through a portfolio showing a few of his most famous images.

There’s one of a sobbing Robert Blake, the actor’s head on a courtroom table moments after he was acquitted of killing his wife. In another, Michael Jackson is dancing on an SUV outside a courtroom where he would be acquitted of child molestation. Perhaps the most ironic of all, of a tearful Paris Hilton headed to jail for driving violations, was taken on June 8, 2007, the 35th anniversary of the day he took the “Napalm Girl” picture.

Warren Beatty once called Ut aside at a Hollywood Walk of Fame ceremony to spend 30 minutes talking about the “Napalm Girl” photo. After learning he was the one who took it, actress Joan Collins opened a bottle of champagne for Ut during a shoot at her home. It was a much friendlier reaction, he says, than the one he got when he previously photographed her heading into a courtroom to settle an acrimonious divorce.

“That picture changed my life. It changed Kim’s life,” he says of the pair’s chance meeting in a dusty Vietnamese village called Trang Bang. He’d just finished photographing four planes flying low to drop the napalm that would set Phuc’s village ablaze when he saw a terrified group of men, women and children running for their lives from a pagoda.

After getting that perfectly framed photo, he set aside his camera, gave the badly burned girl water, poured more on her wounds, then loaded her and others into his AP van to take them to a hospital. When doctors refused to admit her, saying she was too badly burned to be saved, he angrily flashed his press pass. The next day, he told them, pictures of her would be displayed all over the world, along with an explanation of how the hospital refused to help.

“I cried when I saw her running,” Ut once told an AP reporter. “If I don’t help her – if something happened and she died – I think I’d kill myself after that.”

Now a 53-year-old wife and mother of two who lives in Canada, Kim Phuc remains Ut’s close friend.

But her photo, dramatic as it was, represented only a small slice of the horror Ut saw during those war years.

As he flips through photos of villages destroyed, dead bodies piled everywhere and parents grieving over dead children, Ut tells how he came to be a combat photographer.

The 11th of 12 children, he grew up idolizing one of his older brothers, Huynh Thanh My, an actor whose good looks seemed to have him destined for movie stardom until the Vietnam War got in the way. Huynh was hired by the AP and was on assignment in 1965 when he and a group of soldiers he was with were overrun by Viet Cong rebels who killed everyone.

At his brother’s funeral, Ut approached the late Horst Faas, photo editor for AP’s Saigon bureau, to ask for a job. But Faas, a two-time Pulitzer winner, turned him down cold. He didn’t want the Huynh family losing another son.

After weeks of Ut’s pestering, Faas finally relented, hiring him on Jan. 1, 1966, but giving the 15-year-old strict orders: Under no circumstances was he to carry his camera into a war zone.

So Ut spent the next couple of years working in the darkroom and shooting feature photos around Saigon until one January morning in 1968 when the war came to him.

“I remember Nick coming in later that morning very excited and saying, ‘The Viet Cong are fighting near my house. I have pictures of Vietnamese troops attacking them, great pictures,” Arnett, who worked for the AP then, recalled in a recent interview.

From that day forward, 17-year-old Huynh Cong Ut was a combat photographer.

Over the coming years he would be wounded four times and have a rocket come so close to his head that it parted his hair. His closest friend in the Saigon bureau, noted photographer Henri Huet, died in 1971 after volunteering to take the weary Ut’s place on an assignment during which the helicopter he was in was shot down.

It was Huet, Ut says, who gave him his nickname, Nick, after others in the bureau had trouble getting his given name straight.

“That’s why I keep the name Nick Ut. In Henri’s honor,” he says in a voice momentarily thick with emotion.

When Saigon fell to the rebels in 1975, two years after the U.S. military pulled out, Ut had to flee Vietnam like thousands of others. After a brief stay in a California refugee camp, the AP put him to work in its Tokyo bureau.

It was there he met his wife, Hong Huynh, another Vietnamese ex-pat. She even hailed from the same neighborhood as Ut, but the two had never met. They moved to Los Angeles in 1977 when Ut began the Hollywood chapter of his photo career. They have two grown children and two grandchildren, ages 8 and 10.

He plans to spend retirement helping take care of those grandchildren and, oh yes, taking more pictures.

“I’ll take pictures until I die,” laughs the diminutive photographer who is instantly recognizable around Los Angeles for his 5-foot-3-inch frame and his ear-to-ear grin. “My camera is like my doctor, my medicine.”

FILE – In this Tuesday, April 19, 2011 photo, Associated Press Pulitzer Prize-winning photographer Nick Ut poses for a photo in Los Angeles. Ut will be retiring from the AP in March 2017 after 51 years of taking photographs from the front lines of the Vietnam War to the red carpets of Hollywood. (AP Photo/Richard Vogel)

FILE – In this 1973 file photo, Phan Thi Kim Phuc, left, is visited by Associated Press photographer Nick Ut at her home in Trang Bang, Vietnam. As a 9-year-old, Kim Phuc was the subject of a Pulitzer Prize-winning photo by Ut as she fled in pain from a misdirected napalm attack against her village by South Vietnamese planes in 1972. After taking the photograph, Ut came to the girl’s aid and transported her to a hospital. (AP Photo)

FILE – In this Sunday, June 3, 2012 file photo, Associated Press staff photographer Nick Ut, left, meets Phan Thi Kim Phuc during a presentation at the Liberty Baptist Church in Newport Beach, Calif. “That picture changed my life. It changed Kim’s life,” he says of the pair’s chance meeting in a dusty Vietnamese village called Trang Bang. He’d just finished photographing four planes flying low to drop the napalm that would set Phuc’s village ablaze when he saw a terrified group of men, women and children running for their lives from a pagoda. (AP Photo/Damian Dovarganes)

FILE – In this June 8, 1972 file photo taken by Associated Press photographer Huynh Cong “Nick” Ut, a Skyraider, a propeller driven plane of the Vietnamese Airforce (VNAF) 518th Squadron, drops a bomb with incendiary napalm and white phosphorus jelly over Trang Bang village. (AP Photo/Nick Ut, File)

FILE – In this June 8, 1972 file photo, vombs with a mixture of napalm and white phosphorus jelly dropped by Vietnamese AF Skyraider bombers explode across Route-1, amidst homes and in front of the Cao Dai temple in the outskirts of Trang Bang, Vietnam. In the foreground are Vietnamese soldiers and journalists from various international news organizations. The towers of the Trang Bang Cao Dai temple are visible in the centre of the explosions. (AP Photo/Nick Ut)

FILE – This undated file photo shows Associated Press photographer Nick Ut in Vietnam. Ut will be retiring from the AP in March 2017 after 51 years of taking photographs from the front lines of the Vietnam War to the red carpets of Hollywood. (AP Photo)

FILE – In this June 8, 1972 file photo, vombs with a mixture of napalm and white phosphorus jelly dropped by Vietnamese AF Skyraider bombers explode across Route-1, amidst homes and in front of the Cao Dai temple in the outskirts of Trang Bang, Vietnam. In the foreground are Vietnamese soldiers and journalists from various international news organizations. The towers of the Trang Bang Cao Dai temple are visible in the centre of the explosions. (AP Photo/Nick Ut)

FILE – In this Wednesday, June 23, 1976 file photo, Muhammad Ali throws a left punch at a sandbag during workout at a gym in Tokyo. Later in the week, the world heavyweight boxing champion met Japanese pro wrestler Antonio Inoki in the world’s Martial Arts Championship. (AP Photo/Nick Ut)

FILE – In this March 11, 1972 file photo, a South Vietnamese soldier holds his personal belongings in a plastic bag between his teeth as his unit crosses a muddy Mekong Delta stream in Vietnam near the Cambodian border. His unit was charged with stemming Communist infiltration from Cambodia into South Vietnam in the heavily populated mekong tours Delta area. (AP Photo/Nick Ut)

FILE – In this Saturday, May 29, 2004 file photo, people gather on a pier in Huntington Beach, Calif., as the sun sets. AP Photographer Nick Ut will be retiring from the AP in March 2017 after 51 years of taking photographs from the front lines of the Vietnam War to the red carpets of Hollywood. (AP Photo/Nick Ut)

FILE – In this Friday, Aug. 26, 1994 file photo, O.J. Simpson and defense attorney Robert Shapiro sit in a Los Angeles Superior courtroom as Judge Lance Ito refused a request to open an afternoon session to the media. AP Photographer Nick Ut will be retiring from the AP in March 2017 after 51 years of taking photographs from the front lines of the Vietnam War to the red carpets of Hollywood. (AP Photo/Nick Ut, Pool)

FILE – In this Friday, June 8, 2007 file photo, Paris Hilton is transported in a police car from her home to court by the Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Department in Los Angeles. As she was taken to jail for driving violations, this photo was made on the 35th anniversary of the day Ut made the “Napalm Girl” picture in Vietnam. (AP Photo/Nick Ut)

FILE – In this April 6, 1982 file photo, screen legend Bette Davis smokes a cigarette at an awards presentation in her honor in Beverly Hills, Calif. Davis was feted by the Film Advisory Board for her “outstanding contribution to the film and entertainment industry.” (AP Photo/Nick Ut)

FILE – In this Friday, Jan. 16, 2004 file photo, Michael Jackson waves to his fans from atop his limousine after his arraignment on child molestation charges at the courthouse in Santa Maria, Calif. AP Photographer Nick Ut will be retiring from the AP in March 2017 after 51 years of taking photographs from the front lines of the Vietnam War to the red carpets of Hollywood. (AP Photo/Nick Ut)

FILE – In this Tuesday, Sept. 8, 2009 file photo, a Los Angeles firefighter looks under a fire truck stuck in a sinkhole in the Valley Village neighborhood of Los Angeles. Four firefighters escaped injury early Tuesday after their vehicle sunk into the hole caused by a burst water main in the San Fernando Valley, authorities said. (AP Photo/Nick Ut)

FILE – In this Monday, Nov. 5, 1984 file photo, President Ronald Reagan points toward the crowd as he speaks during a rally at Pierce College in the Woodland Hills area of Los Angeles. AP Photographer Nick Ut will be retiring from the AP in March 2017 after 51 years of taking photographs from the front lines of the Vietnam War to the red carpets of Hollywood. (AP Photo/Nick Ut)

FILE – In this March 22, 1975 file photo, a refugee clutches a baby as a government helicopter gunship carries them away near Tuy Hoa, Vietnam, 235 miles northeast of Saigon. They were among thousands fleeing from Communist advances. (AP Photo/Nick Ut)

Kerry to make final globe-trotting trip as top US diplomat

WASHINGTON (AP) – John Kerry, the most traveled secretary of state in U.S. history, will make a final round-the-world trip before he steps down next week.

Kerry will go overseas for six days, with stops in Vietnam, France, Britain and Switzerland.

He starts Friday in Vietnam, where he will deliver a speech on U.S.-Vietnam relations and visit the Southeast Asian nation’s mekong river tour ho chi minh Delta to discuss environmental issues.

Kerry then travels to Paris to attend a conference on Middle East peace, and on to London, where he will meet British Foreign Secretary Boris Johnson to discuss Syria.

He rounds out his trip by attending the World Economic Forum annual meeting in Davos, Switzerland.

Since Kerry became the top U.S. diplomat in 2013, he has traveled 1,395,606 miles and visited 91 countries.

China to release water from dam to alleviate SE Asia drought

BEIJING, March 15 (Reuters) – China will release water from a dam in its southwestern province of Yunnan to help alleviate a drought in parts of Southeast Asia, including Vietnam, China’s Foreign Ministry said on Tuesday.

The water will be released until April 10 from the Jinghong dam, ministry spokesman Lu Kang told a daily news briefing.

It will benefit Cambodia, Laos, Myanmar, Thailand and Vietnam, Lu added.

China “hopes it can be of help in alleviating the drought downstream”, he said.

According to Vietnamese media, some 140,000 ha of rice in the tour mekong delta Delta has been damaged by the drought with around 600,000 people facing drinking water shortages.

While China and Vietnam are involved in an increasingly bitter territorial dispute in the South China Sea, the two Communist-lead countries have traditionally had close ties.

Beijing and Hanoi have also been trying to repair ties severely harmed in 2014 when Beijing parked an oil rig in waters off the Vietnamese coast, leading to anti-China riots. (Reporting by Ben Blanchard; Editing by Nick Macfie)

Why go Cambodia This is a country proud of its ancient beginnings but recovering from a dark, more recent past

Why go Cambodia

mekong river tourThis is a country proud of its ancient beginnings but recovering from a dark, more recent past.

Around two million people a year come to visit the great Khmer temple complex at Angkor and the tourism industry has mushroomed to accommodate them. Hidden in the jungle are the majestic corncob towers and lily-pond moat of Angkor Wat, hundreds of smiling stone faces at Bayon, and romantic Ta Prohm, left as it was discovered, with moss-covered reliefs buckling under the stranglehold of overgrown trees.

A three-day pass costing $40 (28) is advisable. Start with a guided tour, and then rent a bicycle or play at being royalty by riding an elephant from the south gate.

Phnom Penh is a city that is fast rejuvenating, with boutique shops and new bars springing up along the riverside. Sights include the Royal Palace, whose gilded pagodas are similar to those in Bangkok. For those wanting to understand the horrors endured under Pol Pots regime, the Tuol Sleng Museum and collection of bones at the Killing Fields offer a sobering lesson.

The Cambodian coastline hugs the wild Cardamom Mountains in the west and curls past down-at-heel Sihanoukville to the more appealing resort of Kep, close to the Vietnamese border. Both are jumping-off points for trips to unspoilt islands ringed with golden sand. Kep was once a wealthy retreat, and some of its villas have reopened as chic hotels. Foodies should try local seafood and Kampot pepper crab at the crab market a row of shacks on the waters edge.

Tip: Experience rural life on a slow boat across the Tonle Sap, the largest freshwater lake in south-east Asia, passing bird-filled wetlands, rickety fishing boats and villagers waving excitedly from the shore.

Active Travel Cambodia offers a Cambodia highlight mekong delta tour flying into Siem Reap from Singapore or Vietnam, taking in Angkor, Phnom Penh and Kep. 6 days from 515, depending on hotels, not including international flights.

For further information contact the Cambodias Ministry of Tourism website travel Cambodia & tips

As Asia’s rice crop shrivels, food security fears resurface

By Naveen Thukral

SINGAPORE, May 2 (Reuters) – Nearly a decade after a spike in global food prices sent shockwaves around the world, Asia’s top rice producers are suffering from a blistering drought that threatens to cut output and boost prices of a staple for half the world’s population.

World rice production is expected to decline for the first time this year since 2010, as failing rains linked to an El Nino weather pattern cut crop yields in Asia’s rice bowl.

A heat wave is sweeping top rice exporter India, while the No.2 supplier Thailand is facing a second year of drought. Swathes of farmland in Vietnam, the third-biggest supplier, are also parched as irrigation fed by the Mekong river runs dry.

The three account for more than 60 percent of the global rice trade of about 43 million tonnes.

“As of now we haven’t seen a large price reaction to hot and dry weather because we have had such significant surplus stocks in India and Thailand. But that can’t last forever,” said James Fell, an economist at the International Grains Council (IGC).

Rice inventories in the three top exporters are set to fall by about a third at the end of 2016 to 19 million tonnes, the biggest year-on-year drop since 2003, according to Reuters calculations based on U.S. Department of Agriculture data.

Any big supply disruption can be extremely sensitive. In 2008, lower Asian rice output due to an El Nino prompted India to ban exports, sending global prices sky-rocketing and causing food riots in Haiti and panic measures in big importers such as the Philippines.

Manila at the time scrambled to crack down on hoarding, ordered troops to supervise subsidised rice sales and asked fast food chains to serve half-portions, as well as urging Vietnam and others to sell the country more rice.

The world has suffered a series of food crises over the past decade involving a range of grains due to adverse weather.

In the case of rice, benchmark Thai prices hit a record around $1,000 a tonne in 2008. Price spikes like this typically also boost demand for other grains such as wheat, widely used for noodles in Asia, and soybeans and corn used for food or feed.

While currently far below 2008 highs, rice earlier this month hit $389.50, the strongest since July and up 13 percent from an eight-year low of $344 in September.

FIRST FALL IN WORLD CROP SEEN FOR 6 YEARS

Bruce Tolentino of the Philippines-based International Rice Research Institute is concerned about Asia’s vulnerability.

“In general prices are still stable right now. They’re inching up though, and what will drive things over the edge will be a major calamity in one of the major producing countries.”

Although India’s rice output in 2015 was largely stable, extremely hot temperatures are threatening a second crop in eastern regions.

Traders see further price gains by June as India’s next big crop is not due until September and Thailand’s main crop by year end.

The IGC sees a 2016 world harvest of 473 million tonnes, down from 479 million tonnes in 2015 and the first decline in six years.

MEKONG DELTA

Thailand’s last main crop was only about half of the peak production a few years ago and the USDA has forecast output will drop by more than a fifth to 15.8 million tonnes this year.

“The government has been asking farmers not to plant rice as there is little water in the reservoirs after two years of drought,” said one Bangkok-based trader.

In Vietnam, output could fall 1.5 percent this year to 44.5 million tonnes, while exports would be 8.7 million tonnes, steady on a previous projection, the government said.

As much as 240,000 hectares (593,000 acres) of paddy have been destroyed by drought and salination in the central area and southern best mekong delta tour Delta region, it said.

A Singapore-based trader said that while the annual decline appeared modest Vietnam’s latest harvest “is 5 to 6 percent lower than last year.”

Thailand and Vietnam harvest three crops a year.

IMPORTERS ALSO SUFFER

Some Asian countries are already looking to raise imports.

Indonesia is expected to see 2016 purchases jump by more than 60 percent to two million tonnes from a few years ago.

China, the world’s top importer, taking about 5 million tonnes annually, is expected to continue this buying pace. IGC has forecast China’s 2016 production will fall short of consumption for a third consecutive year.

The Philippines had the lowest stocks since October in March despite importing 750,000 tonnes and its procurement agency has standby authority to ship an additional 500,000 tonnes.

“Although El Nino has entered its weakening stage, the risk of higher food prices remains given the onset of the summer season,” said Philippine Economic Planning Secretary Emmanuel Esguerra

(Additional reporting by Enrico dela Cruz in MANILA, Fergus Jensen in JAKARTA, Ho Binh Minh in HANOI and Mayank Bhardwaj in NEW DELHI; Editing by Ed Davies)

Tram Chim National Park a green island of red-headed cranes

Tram Chim National Park is an eco-tourist area known as a green delta mekong tour island with a typical natural landscape of the submerged region of Dong Thap Muoi. The park is home to many botanical species and nearly 200 species of water birds which account for about a quarter of the birds in Vietnam.

This includes many rare and precious species of water birds. Among them, the most well-known are the red-headed cranes, one of 15 endangered species of cranes in the world. Nearly 60 percent of the population of red-headed cranes resides in Tram Chim National Park.

The red-headed crane is the tallest among the flying birds in the world. Many of them are nearly 2m tall. They have smooth grey fur
, long legs and a long neck. They walk slowly and stretch their wings wide when flying. The cry of the crane is loud and can be heard far away, up to 2-3km. This is because the crane has a long windpipe that creates a sound resonance phenomenon, just like the tube of a trumpet.

Scientists say that red-headed cranes appeared on the earth 60 million years ago, during the time of the gigantic reptile, and lived on all the continents. Tram Chim National Park also has other species of birds, such as the white-winged duck and pelicans.

From late December to early May, flocks of cranes return to Tram Chim to live after migrating to evade the floods. They fly over a vast carpet of green cajeput trees, creating a fantastic scene. Visiting the park during that time people will enjoy the landscape of beautiful skies, rivers and cajeput forests. Hundreds of species of birds, such as storks, teals, grebes, herons and wild ducks perch on branches of trees seeking food.

Tram Chim National Park has the natural identity of the Dong Thap Muoi (Plain of Reeds) region. There are cajeput forests that are 10-18 years old, various species of lotus (white, pink and half white and half pink, water lilies, rice and water morning glory.

In early 1999, Tram Chim was officially recognized as Tram Chim National Park by the Government. This brought a great source of joy and pride to local people in Dong Thap Muoi. Many international organizations for natural preservation have provided funds to protect this park.

Every year, thousands of tourists visit Tram Chim, of which about 30 percent are foreigners. Tourists will find a peaceful atmosphere and have a chance to watch flocks of cranes returning to live in this submerged area.

VOVNews/Vietnam Pictorial

Vietnam one of top 10 best destinations for 2012

mekong river tourThe world’s renowned travel guide, the Lonely Planet, has rated Vietnam’s mekong river tour ho chi minh Delta region ninth out of the top 10 destinations for 2012.

“Vietnam’s rice basket, the Mekong River Delta is a watery landscape of green fields and sleepy villages, everywhere crisscrossed by the brown canals and rivulets fed by the mighty Mekong River,” the Lonely Planet said in its website
The inhabitants of this region – friendly and easygoing people – have long toiled on the life-sustaining river, with the fruits of their labour depending on natural cycles that govern the waterways.
The delta, which produces enough rice to supply the domestic market and a sizable surplus, was formed by sediment from the Mekong River over many years. The process continues today, with silt deposits extending the shoreline by as much as 80m per year. The river is so large that it has two daily tides.
Lush with rice paddies and fish farms, this delta also nourishes the cultivation of sugarcane, fruit, coconuts and shrimp.
Although the area is primarily rural, it is one of the most densely populated regions in Vietnam and nearly every hectare is intensively farmed.
“The uniquely southern charm with its welcoming introduction to life along the river is the real draw, and visitors can explore quaint riverside towns, sample fruits bartered in the colourful floating markets or dine on home-cooked delicacies before overnighting as a homestay guest,” it said.
Other highlights include visits to local orchards, flower markets and fish farms. There are also bird sanctuaries, beach getaways and impressive Khmer pagodas in the region.
In addition to highlighting the Mekong Delta as one of the top ten best destinations, the travel guide also said that Vietnam is always a good value destination for tourists.
The nine other top destinations include the northeast of the US, San Francisco, Japan, Tajikistan, Porto in Portugal, Lesotho in southern Africa, Iquitos in Peru, Ohrid in Macedonia and Merida, Mexico.
Earlier, the US Tourism Association (USTOA) named Vietnam as a top destination for 2012.