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Vietnam/Cambodia/Asia

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I am planning a trip to Vietnam/Cambodia and perhaps Laos for this January for 3 weeks and have a bit of a challenge in planning. I will be travelling with my 18 year old son! This in itself will be quite an undertaking as he has minor developmental delays and I would like to insure that he has a great time. He loves everything Asian...music, food and culture. So I was hoping to get a few ideas and perhaps a bit of direction in where to start. I am torn between booking an escorted tour of Vietnam and Cambodia or arranging everything separately. I am an experienced traveler and have spent some time in China and Thailand. So a few specific questions I have are: would a one-week cruise on the Mekong be a good idea? If we don't take a 1 weeks cruise would it be more interesting to take a fast boat trip to Siem Reap and if so, any suggestions for a company to use. Is there a cooking school in HCMC that would be recommended? Is there a tour booking company that someone could recommend? Is Laos a good idea or too quiet for an 18 year old?
Thanks so much for your help.
Chris

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    First of all, if your son has any kind of special needs, then a tour is a bad idea. Tours are very rigid and structured and I think he (and you) would be miserable. I would be miserable on an escorted tour.

    Be aware that group tours are not the only option. Any travel agent in VN could set up a private tour for you and your son.

    With three weeks, I'd think of this as a trip to VN with a side trip to Cambodia to see Angkor. You don't have time to add a third country.

    Cruise? I vote no. If you think of group tours as being regimented, a cruise is even more so - no flexibility for someone to be late returning to the ship. And the big ships now cruising the Mekong (the Viking, AMA, etc,) are huge and impersonal. Boat ride to Siem Reap? These are long, boring and often miserable. The fast boat is dangerous.

    I'd suggest you start with you and your son sitting down with some good guidebooks and deciding what you want to see/do on this trip. From there a good agent can make all of your arrangements if you'd like or you can do it yourself. Activities like cooking classes are easily arranged on the spot once you are there.

    Many people here have used Tonkin Travel to make land arrangements in VN. Be aware that any company you engage will initially want to book everything for you, including constant guides. if that is what you want, fine, but you don't have to agree to everything. I never take any guides from a tour company, and just have them arrange lodging and perhaps in-country transport - flights, trains, car and driver as needed.

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