Can Gio Mangrove Forest

    Known as the 'green lungs of Saigon', the Can Gio biosphere reserve to the south of the city covers around 80,000 ha of the river delta and is cloaked in rich mangrove forest that is full of wildlife, with over 200 species of fauna and 52 flora. This huge mass of green so close to the centre of Ho Chi Minh City helps clean the air of the city, and protect against coastal erosion and storms coming in from the sea.

    The mangrove forest in Can Gio was originally over 2000 years old, and so dense that the interior was cold, foggy and dark, and full of dangerous animals such as tigers and crocodiles. During the war the mangroves were a dense hiding place from which to launch attacks on the city, which both the Vietnamese and Americans found extremely difficult to penetrate or patrol. Sadly this lead to the Americans dropping a huge amount of chemical defoliant or dixoins on the area, significantly damaging the mangrove forest, in an attempt to maintain control.

    Now the mangrove is beginning to recover and is protected by the government and international law, and there are efforts to reintroduce much of the wildlife that fled the area. It is a great place to visit from Saigon, whether as a day trip or for a longer stay - there is a resort to the south with a pool and small (though slightly muddy) beach.

    Round up: Vedan Pollution Investigation + Storm Warning

    Sorry to be so quiet lately - its been a bit mental what with packing and finishing things up at work.

    There is a major storm approaching the North of Vietnam so take care on your travels - boat trips are certainly out and trains to the North West may be affected. Tourists in areas likely to be hit by severe weather such as Sapa are advised to return to Hanoi.

    In a fortunate piece of timing, Adam Bray at , famous for his marathon cyclo journey from Hanoi to Ho Chi Minh in aid of the street childrens' charity , has reminded us about his free travel guide to Hanoi as a PDF download that is definately worth checking out, particularly if you like to pop things onto a mobile or ipod for reading on the move. Perfect for learning more about Hanoi, especially if the weather means you'll be there for more days than you had planned!

    Big in the news in Vietnam has been the legal action against Vedan, a manufacturer of MSG, for repeated pollution of the Thi Vai river. It appears a secret tunnel was built to discharge untreated waste, and the fines could amount to as much as $5.5 million. (VIR)

    According to the VIR article the government is considering closing several industrial parks that have failed to implement waste treatment facilities, and tightening up on licences for new industrial areas. Its good to see such an important issue getting such wide coverage, lets hope this is the start of more environmentally aware phase of Vietnam's development.

    Back to Saigon

    It's been quite a busy week - I handed in my notice last week, booked my tickets on Wednesday and we will be returning to Vietnam at the start of November - very exciting stuff. It's been over a year since we were in Saigon last and it feels like a very long time indeed!

    Posts like the aroma of Saigon from Chris Harvey are making me rather impatient, as does rainy days in Saigon from EatingAsia - not to mention the great photos by Simon Kutcher at which have kept me going for most of the past year.. just a few more weeks to go!

    Still, I need to crack on and get some more travel content finished for the site - it was always the plan to include more interesting, out of the way places on this site and right now it reads like a Sinh Cafe itinerary for a time stretched traveller.

    Don't forget your travel insurance!

    Yes, it seems very basic indeed, but it is amazing how many people 'forget' to buy travel insurance before they leave for faraway shores. Perhaps its a particularly British trait - we're used to our government covering us across Europe so when we venture further we just don't think - but getting stuck on the wrong side of the world with no insurance is no joke when the worst happens.

    A friend of mine came to visit me in Saigon - he'd been working on a yacht from the Mediterranean to the Indian Ocean and so had been covered by his employer for that stretch of the journey. He decided to leave his job and come and visit, but didn't think to get cover for the rest of his travels. One night in Saigon he came off his motorbike and managed to break his jaw in five places - very nasty but it could have been far worse. It still meant getting his jaw wired shut for six weeks and metal plates in his mouth, as well as a whopping medical bill for thousands of pounds.

    Happily he is healed and scar free, but I doubt he'll make the same mistake again. I felt very sorry for the family when I read this article in the Telegraph - a family was left with a £25,000 medical bill when a motorbike accident landed their son in hospital.

    Airlines add fuel surcharge for domestic flights

    From August 15th domestic airlines including Vietnam Airlines, Jetstar Pacific and Vasco will start adding a fuel surcharge to flights to help beat increased costs. Charges will range from $3 to $11 depending on the distance travelled, and will help offset some of the losses made by the airlines this year.

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