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Games promote tours to Laos

2009-12-14 (GMT + 7)

Nguyen Hoang Thinh from the National Economics University in Ha Noi is heading a group of 20 friends and family members on a trip to Laos to support Vietnamese athletes taking part in the SEA Games.

"We will go by bus and cross the border with Laos at the central province of Ha Tinh’s Cau Treo border checkpoint at a very affordable price," Thinh said, adding that his group chose this time because there will be hundreds of Vietnamese flocking to Laos.

Thinh said it would be a very rare opportunity for so many Vietnamese to join together to support the national football teams and other athletes competing at the Games.

"My 60-year-old mother and her friends are very excited at the prospect of attending the games in Laos’s capital Vientiane as well as touring some of tourism sites such as Luang Prabang, Xiengkhouang and Savanakhet."

Overseas Vietnamese Nguyen Van Thanh, who is from the northern province of Nam Dinh and works as a trader at Savanakhet Market, said his souvenirs had been selling very well during the first two days of the Games.

Apart from souvenirs made of stone from Viet Nam’s ancient town of Hoi An, Thanh also sells shoes, t-shirts and cosmetics.

There is a bustling atmosphere in the market of overseas Vietnamese who sell various goods, particularly national flags, hats and many other items to serve supporters, especially those who are fans of the national football squad.

Tran Thi Tam also from Nam Dinh said she and her daughter have been doing business in Laos for almost five years.

"We bring the souvenirs to every corner of Laos. We rent a shop near the Lao National Stadium to sell our goods, almost of them imported from Viet Nam to sell to tourists in an effort to introduce Vietnamese culture to the world."

But the busiest stalls offer traditional foods, fast food and drinks supplied by locals and overseas Vietnamese living in Laos.

Thongrataylo, a small business supplier at the Savanakhet Market, said she has invested as much as millions of kips (Lao currency) to buy hand-made traditional Lao clothes and costumes to sell as souvenirs to tourists.

A fellow journalist, who was assigned to report on the Games, said he had already brought a brocade skirt priced at 500 kips as a gift for his wife.

"I hope my wife will be very pleased with the hand-made skirt, I’ve never seen anything like it before," said the reporter.

Nguyen Ngoc Tuan, from Thai Binh said he rushed to Laos last Saturday to enjoy the football match between Viet Nam and Malaysia in which Viet Nam won by two goals.

The five-day tour cost about VND2.7 million or US$135.

"I’m very happy to celebrate the national football team’s triumph in Laos with traditional foods. It is rather peppery but very tasty and delicious and suits Vietnamese taste," Tuan told Viet Nam News.

Travel agencies have reported a scramble to book tours to Laos by football fans hoping to watch Viet Nam play in the semi-finals of the SEA Games that is going on in the neighbouring country.

They said it began after Viet Nam beat Malaysia in a qualifying match last weekend.

The most popular tours are by bus with most travel firms offering similar rates. Saigontourist’s four- or five-day tours range from $239 to $299 without match tickets. A ticket for the semi-final and final mean an additional $40 and $50, respectively.

The Ha Noi-based Vietravel booked trips for 700 customers this week and HCM City’s Saigontourist, 600. Over 100 people bought Vientiane tours from Fiditour on December 10.

"The number of bookings may be higher next week because many people predict Viet Nam will reach the final on December 17," Nguyen Thanh Luu, the director of Saigontourist’s office in Da Nang, said.

Vietnam Airlines spokesman Le Hoang Dung said demand for tickets to Laos is increasing.

"Vietnam Airlines will fly bigger aircraft to Laos. We’re thinking of operating more daily flights to Laos this week," he said.

"The 150-seat Airbus A-320 will be replaced by the 184-seat A-321."

Many football fans are also travelling to Laos under their own steam.

Le Duc Trung, acting president of the Viet Nam Football Supporters Association, said: "Over 100 other football fans and I will leave Ha Noi for Vientiane on December 10.

"Hundreds of football supporters from the central and southern regions will leave for Laos on the same day.

"We’ll take with us a giant Vietnamese flag that will be more than 200sq.m. The flag will fly high at the stadiums where Viet Nam will play."

Many young people also plan to travel to Vientiane by coaches from Ha Noi.

"Leaving Ha Noi at 7pm, I can arrive in Vientiane at around 3pm the next day," Tran Quoc Dat, a young football fan, said.

Dat said he would go to Laos with a group of nine young people.

"The number of tickets sold from Ha Noi to Vientiane has more than doubled after Viet Nam beat Malaysia," sources at the Ha Noi coach said.

A ticket costs VND300,000 to 400,000.

For football fans, travelling to Laos is easy and cheap but many are worried about getting tickets for the matches.

"Travel companies buy tickets for their customers. But when we travel on our own, we’re not sure if we can get tickets for the semi-final or final because most Vientiane stadiums are small," Ngoc Dinh, another young fan, said.

Nguyen Van Phung, a businessman who has been travelling for over 10 years between Laos and Viet Nam, said he and his friends would drive to Laos through the Cau Treo border checkpoint.

"Our tour will include sightseeing as well as the football.

"Vientiane has a shortage of hotel rooms. But visitors can rent rooms at locals’ houses," he said.

According to unofficial figures from the Viet Nam National Administration of Tourism, some 17,000 Vietnamese will visit Laos during the on-going 25th SEA Games which run until December 18.

Source: VietNamNet/Viet Nam News

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