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Airline, casino builder target Vietnam’s skies and beaches

An Australian low-cost airline and a Canadian luxury resort and casino developer have launched two ambitious projects that aim to revolutionise Vietnam's fast-growing tourism industry. Jetstar, the budget offshoot of Australian carrier Qantas, teamed up with Vietnam's Pacific Airlines to launch Jetstar Pacific on Friday.

Tourism threatens beauty of former Lao royal capital

World heritage status has turned the former Lao capital, Luang Prabang, from a ghost town into a tourism hub, but too much of a good thing could soon prove the kiss of death, say experts and residents. In recent years a trickle of backpackers has turned into a flood of tourists coming to the sleepy town of glistening Buddhist temples and palm-shaded French colonial mansions sitting pretty on a Mekong river peninsula.

Elephants carry hopes of Lao eco-tourism

The elephant population of Laos is shrinking fast, a decline ecologists blame on habitat loss and a trend all too familiar to many humans -- too much work, not enough play. Ancient Laos was known as <i>Lan Xang</i>, the "Land of One Million Elephants", but today fewer than 2 000 of the animals survive.

Survival of the fittest on Vietnam’s roads

It's a common experience for the first-time visitor to a Vietnamese city: trying to cross a road and waiting in vain for a break in the traffic, a seemingly endless stream of motorised madness. Watching on with fascination and fear, many a newcomer has been glued to the pavement marvelling at the honking avalanche of steel and plastic that is a snapshot of modern Vietnam.

Vietnam’s illegal bile trade traps bears in agony

Near-demented and with bloodshot eyes, a large Asiatic black bear is trapped inside a rusty cage barely larger than its hefty body in the dank backroom of a hotel near Hanoi. The owner beats the cage with a stick to stir the tormented beast and hails the medicinal benefits of the bile siphoned from its gall bladder, a practice animal welfare and environmental groups are trying to stamp out.

Bill Gates to visit Vietnam, push licensed software

Bill Gates is set to meet communist Vietnam's leaders on Saturday to promote licensed Microsoft products in the country where an estimated 90% of software is counterfeit. Gates was expected to speak about joint efforts with government bodies and schools and visit a village post office outside Hanoi on Saturday to launch a project that uses Vietnamese-made computers with Microsoft programs.

Gary Glitter jailed for three years for child sex abuse

A Vietnamese court on Friday convicted former British glam rocker Gary Glitter of sexually abusing two underage Vietnamese girls and sentenced him to three years in prison. The faded 1970s pop star was found guilty of "committing obscene acts with children" -- two girls aged 11 and 12 -- last year in the South China Sea resort town of Vung Tau.

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