2 great weeks in Hanoi and Siem Reap

Nov 21st, 2009, 05:42 PM
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2 great weeks in Hanoi and Siem Reap

Just sitting in the club floor at the Metropole waiting to head out to the airport after 2 wonderful weeks in Hanoi, Halong Bay and Siem Reap. My friend Sue and I had been in Asia 3 years ago to celebrate a special birthday (60th) but used an individualized travel company, Asia Transpacific, the first and last time I use any sort of group/planned travel. Thanks to this forum, I felt confident enough to put this one together myself----special thanks to Kristina, Kathie, Gpanda, RHKKMK, Ekscrunchy, Craig and Jeanne, and especially Lori for the outstanding guidance! I haven't done a really long and detailed report before but feel I owe it to others since the forum was so very helpful to me.

We took advantage of the Singapore Air sale prices--me flying out of DC to JFK and SUe coming from Boston and meeting up in NYC for the flight to Hanoi via FRankfurt and Singapore. Last trip I had taken the non-stop Thai Air flight from NY and flown business class using miles but this economy fare was too good to resist, even though the Siem Reap aprt ended up costing $420 roundtrip (and was the primary reason for coming). The flights were very full but I did end up with an empty middle seat on the VY to Frankfurt part. The service with Singapore was definfitely a cut above other airlines (I remember when Air France was like that but no longer). The food was fine and they brought around drinks and snacks which were also available whenever you'd want them. It was the older 747 but fine and the Singapore-Hanoi was a newer and nicer, 777. It was easy to kill time walking around the Singapore airport and at last, we landed in Hanoi.

After reading all the great reviews on Trip Advisor, I settled on Elegance 4 for the first 4 nights of thr trip (plan was to stay in Hanoi, overnight in Halong Bay, 6 days in Siem Reap, return to Hanoi for 2 nights at the Metroppole). I can't say enough good things about Elegance 4. From the smoothie they gave us upon arrival to their booking a car for us on our return to Hanoi (to take us to the Metropole!!), it was a great experience and the staff was truly extraordinary. I was in room 605 (I think), a jurior suite for $75 + tax for single use and Sue was in the superior twin for $45 for single use. Both were clean, bright and pretty quiet except for some street noise, no surprise in Hanoi. Loved the location, a small alley off of Hang Gai and a perfect location for roaming the Old Quarter. The hotel had big glass doors and when coming into the lobby it looked like a movie going on outside with the motor bikes, woman carrying vegetables and fruit on their shoulders, the pho being made across the street, etc.

Walked around a little then had an early dinner at Hanoi Garden which was about a block away. It was pretty hot but still lesant sitting outside in the garden terrace area. For about $12 US we had spring rolls, shrimp in tamarind sauce a whole fried fish, 2 beers and bottled water. It was conveneint, fine, but ot great---worked well for a first night.

Time to head for the airport so more to follow when I get home.........
kathrynj is offline  
Nov 22nd, 2009, 04:00 AM
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Thanks for posting. I am looking forward to the rest of your report as Vietnam is on my 'to do" list.
shelleyk is offline  
Nov 22nd, 2009, 05:24 AM
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Looking forward to the rest. Glad to hear you liked the Elegance 4 - one of the Elegance's is on my list to stay.
absolutkz is offline  
Nov 24th, 2009, 05:07 PM
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Back in DC now so will try and stay up to do some more trip posting! In my thank yous to the many Vietnam posters on Fordors, I forgot to mention NY Woman whose descriptions I also enjoyed a lot pre-trip. Also will try and write without all the typos I am now noticing in what I wrote already!

Wednesday

We had booked Hanoikids for 10am, figuring it would be good to not book them too early since it was our real first day. Given how we slept, we could have started with them by 6am. They, Trang and Vu, came promptly at 10 and we took a taxi over to the Temple of Literature and walked around as they explained about how it was built. It was lovely and very peaceful and calm. There was a group of students all dressed up taking pictures, apparently for some photo contest and it was fun taking pictures of them taking their pictures.

We talked about some places for lunch and agreed on Quan An Ngon which I had read about and was a taxi ride away. Fun place and we were seated right in the main section and could see what others had ordered. We ordered a variety of things including spring rolls, shrimp pancakes, grilled fish, sauteed greens and, my favorite, bahn cuon which was absolutely scrumptuous. We all had something to drink and the whole meal cost about $14 for all of us.

After lunch, we took another taxi to the Museum of Ethnology which we enjoyed a great deal. It was interestng learning about all of the different ethnic tribes and the displays were done very well. I would definitely recommmend going there (had hoped to get to Craftlink there but Trang was running late for her class so we needed to leave). We also went into the houses that are outside and Vu showed us the type of place his grandfather currently lives in, out in the country. They also showed us the wood carvings that were done as decoration for the dead. I honestly don't know how to describe this but if you have been there, you know what I am talking about and if you have not been and plan to go, look for them. I really thought it was worth exploring.

After leaving Trang and Vu, who were fun and enthusiastic guides, we stopped back at the hotel briefly before going out again to explore. Roamed around the Old Quarter and started the conquest for silk on Hang Gai Street. The biggest challenge was getting across the street---took us time to build the confidence and rhythm necessary to plunge into crossing (had some fits and starts crosses that were aborted!). I loved the sounds (incessant honking, "sales pitches" from the rickshaw drivers and fruit sellers) and sights (people eating out in front of stores, sitting on those teeny children's stools, the architecture, the lake).

For dinner, we walked over to Highway 4 which was in an even more hectic area than ours but also fun to explore and teeming with people and motorbikes. Interestingly enough, it is a law that a helmet is required---for adults. So you see a young child sitting right on the front of the bike with no helmet but sitting on the lap of an adult wearing one! It was really a good day and I had fallen hard for the vibrancy of Hanoi and all of its sights.

Thursday

Another very early 4:30 am morning but compensated for the lack of a good night's sleep with the dense, rich coffee of Vietnam (had it at Elegance but the coffee at the Metropole later was not nearly as strong).

We had originally planned to go to Halong Bay for Thursday-Friday and return to Hanoi but changed it to Saturday-Sunday, going directly from Halong Bay to Siem Reap. Only had to pay a $20 change fee to Vietnam Airlines and someone from Elegance 4 actually took our tickets and passport to the airline office, paid the fee and then billed it to our room. Elegance 4 was book so they arranged for us to spend one night at Elegance 2, stored our 2 larger bags and moved our overnight bags directly to the hotel, then back again (it was only the one night that they were booked---the night we were not going to be staying there). Point of my telling all this is to rave about the incredible degree of customer service they provided. They were just so willing to work with you to make things easy and comfortable.

We found out from them that Ho Chi Minh Mausoleum wasn't open on Friday morning when we had planned to go so we got going so we could make it Thursday. What a strange and curious experience. We took a cab over and were immediately led into the line, but seemingly separated from "the natives". Had to check our water in one location then cameras in another and just kept following directions. Very serious stuff. One woman was walking with her hands folded behend her back and was directed to unfold them. Not sure what that was all about but she did as she was told! It had gotten quite hot outside so even if I hadn't been enjoying the experience, it wouold have been worth it for the great air conditioning. I found the whole thing fascinatng, and as someone had mentioned here, emotionally moving. We didn't do the museum but did walk over to the Presidential Palace, a gorgeous French bright yellow building and walked around the house on stilts where he chose to live.

Checked into Elegance 2 and walked over to Green Tangerine which was in the neighborhood. We sat outside in the lovely courtyard and had the Vietnam sampler lunch, at $21.50 each (figured we would have a light dinner). The hotel was right on Ma May, next to the famous tube house there. Many interesting buildings around those streets and also some good, inexpensive shopping. Bought a reversible silk jacket, a tribal woven shawl and a silk scarf at Kim Dung SIlk (9 Hang Be Street)---they were shortening the sleeves and I could pick it up when we returned to Hanoi after Siem Reap. Also browsed the lacquer store "Bamboo & Lacquer in Vietnam" at 40 Hang Bac where we ended up purchasing a lot of gifts upon our return to Hanoi. They have items like exquisite lacquer boxes with dragonfly closures and beautiful lacquer photo albums and their things are unusual and high quality (ran into an American living for 17 years in Hanoi who had brought his friends there and got all his gifts there when he went back to the States).

The rooms at Elegance 2 were different than at Elegance 4---mine was on the 2nd floor, set back from the lobby but you could look down on it. The wood was darker and although it was pleasant, it was noisy and we missed "home" and were glad we would be returning there the next night. We were pretty tired from our days activities and the heat so we had some salad/vegetables for dinner at Tamarind Cafe, a vegetarian restaurant right across from our hotel.

Friday

Our morning breakfast as usual at Elegance 2, eggs and the banana pancake (hgihgly recommedned if staying there). Walked around the neighborhood and found an intersting food market, praying that I wouldn't see any cooked dog which was making me sick, just thinking of it. Concentrated instead on looking at the variety of vegetables, seafood, and fruits.

Went back over to Elegance 4 and had new rooms on the 4th floor. Sue had a twin and I had the family suite which was really fantastic. It was a big room, again overlooking the alley (Yen Thei)where I could watch the woman across the alley maing her pho in the morning and still take a picture of the "Charming Hotel" sign from my room. Bright, cheerful, well decorated and quiet. I loved the names of many of the hotels in Hanoi from Elegance to Charming to Sunshine to Happiness.

Had saved Lori's bun cha place (Bun Cha Dac Kim) for lunch on Friday as I thought they were only open for lunch. In going in, I didn't realize it was a 4 story building since you see them cooking on the ground floor in front and there are tables and stools. We entered and were led up the spiral staircase which was an intriguing two way climb and I wondered how it would be descending. We were plunked down at a table and were the only non-Asians and the only ones looking like "What am I supposed to do now?". No matter, they give you your food and kind of show you what to do with the pork patties, rice noodles, sliced pork and greens. It was delicious, fun and cheap, a great combination.

Walked around some different areas and also went back over to the lake area, stopping at the Water Puppet Theatre. Elegance 4 had only been able to get us the cheaper seats for the 9:15pm show since most of the performances were sold out so we decided to stop and see if they had any better seats for earlier that night. Turned out they did so we sprang for the "expensive" seats (I think they were between $4-$5) and figured we'd give the others away or give them back to the box office since they only cost $3.

Walked along the lake and saw a number of designer shops which were on the ground floor of the buildings but the 2nd and 3rd floors looked like living quarters and were fairly run down, a strange juxtaposition. Much less crowded and fewer people selling things than in the Old Quarter. We stopped at Fanny and had ice cream---durian, green tea and young rice which was delicious. Walked over to the beautiful Opera House and enjoyed walking around, especially since it had gotten cooler.

Went to Pho 24 for.....Pho! We saw an American couple there and asked if they wanted our extra Puppet Theatre tickets and they were thrilled since they had tried to get tickets but were told it was sold out (guess we were lucky with our timing). To kill time we walked around the other side of the lake watching the groups doing their exercises---very entertaining watching the women doing disco numbers.

As we got close to the the Water Puppet Theatre, the sales attack began with someone hawking postcards. He was relentless, we couldn't seem to find a place to successfully cross the street, and ended up going about 3 blocks out of the way simply to escape from him. Finally crossed the street when another couple were also trying to do the same.

The water puppet performance was enjoyable, although a tad long. The sound system was very bad (or maybe it was that night) but all in all, I liked it and think it is definitely worth doing.

We walked back to the hotel via the night market where an Australian vendor was trying to hawk donuts to us. One observation. In our entire time in Hanoi at the beginning and end of the trip, we only encountered two people we spoke with who were not trying to sell us something. One was a student who really did want to practice her English and another was a young woman at an ATM who was telling us that the ATM wasn't working. Any other time people started talking to us, even if it seemed like an innocent encounter, turned out they were trying to sell us something. I felt badly about it but we stopped talking to people and just walked straight ahead to avoid it all. That said, even though I found that people could be very aggressive, they also had a very good sense of humor and could start laughing pretty easily. I loved Hanoi.

We did some emails back at the hotel, really appreciating the computers in all of the Elegance hotel rooms. Packed our things up for the next day to Halong Bay but was glad to know we would have two more nights in Hanoi at the end of our trip.

Next---Halong Bay
kathrynj is offline  
Nov 24th, 2009, 05:25 PM
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I'm enjoying this vicarious ride
Femi is offline  
Nov 25th, 2009, 03:24 AM
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Thanks for the encouragement Shelleyk, Absolutkz and Femi! Absolutkz, you mentioned Elegance hotels being on your stay list. While we felt Elegance 2 was fine, the location, on a main street, was much different than Elegance 4 which we really loved (as well as the enighborhood).
Kathy
kathrynj is offline  
Nov 25th, 2009, 07:06 AM
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Thanks for the great trip report! I didn't know you could fly from Halong Bay so now I'm going to look into whether I can fly to Danang from there...it sure would help not to break up the Hanoi visit.
barefootbeach is online now  
Nov 25th, 2009, 08:13 AM
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barefoot beach--sorry if I mislead you!! We had to go back to the airport in Hanoi to fly to Siem Reap but went directly from Halong Bay to the Hanoi airport rather than staying in the city!
kathrynj is offline  
Nov 25th, 2009, 02:38 PM
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Thanks for clarifying that. I think I checked on flight times to Danang and there weren't any late enough flights to catch. I really hate to have to recheck into another hotel in Hanoi for a night or two.
barefootbeach is online now  
Nov 25th, 2009, 03:52 PM
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Our flight was at 3:10pm and the driver had us there around 1, driven pretty aggresively. We had originally planned to be in Hanoi for 2 nights, leave our big bags and overnight in Halong Bay, then return for another night to Hanoi. We took all of our luggage with us and went directly to the aiport which was much easier (don't know what I was thinking??!!) so I know what you mean about needing to go back to another hotel.
kathrynj is offline  
Nov 25th, 2009, 04:06 PM
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I just saw this post. I'm so glad you made it to the Bun Cha place. I would go back to Hanoi just to eat there.
I agree with the nonstop sales pitches. Gets tiring, doesn't it?
Just wondering, where was the night market?

Enjoying your report and looking forward to more.
Kristina is offline  
Nov 25th, 2009, 04:14 PM
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Hi Kristina--I loved your reports and took a print out with me. Your pre-planning was really helpful too, so thanks!

As far as the sales pitch, it was a pleasure getting to Cambodia. Although the tuk tuk drivers give it a go, they let up quickly, laugh and smile and let you go on your way. That said, I'd go back to Hanoi in a flash. The night market was kind of between the Puppet Theatre and the major silk shop section of Hang Gai (at least that was where we hit it when we came back from the puppet theatre performance). Thanksgiving cooking beckons tonight but will try and continue posting the trip tomorrow night. Happy Thanksgiving!
kathrynj is offline  
Nov 26th, 2009, 09:27 AM
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I look forward to hearing about your Cambodian adventures!
WhatAreYouWaitingFor is offline  
Nov 27th, 2009, 01:49 PM
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Saturday-Halong Bay

Still getting up around 4:30 am so had plenty of time before the 8am pickup to go to Halong Bay--and plenty of time to enjoy our last delicious banana pancakes and the terrific coffee. The hotel had made the arrangements for us on the Emeraude with a private driver to get there. As I think Ekscrunchy wrote, we also had the "rest stop" on the way with the large shopping center (where we did succumb to some purchases). One interesting thing on the way down was seeing all of the concrete buildings that remain gray on the sides and back but have brightly colored fronts. Not much else very exciting.

Got to the boat in time to check in and pretty much went directly to the buffet lunch which I thought ended up being better than the dinner. Included steamed Manilla clams, some nice salads like papaya salad, fruit, cheese and the dining area was plesant enough. Dinner was only fair with standard buffet type food, less interesting than I expected.

The boat itself was very nice but the deluxe room I had booked was smaller than I expected. Twin beds, no chair, tiny bath/shower(which I did think would be the case). My friend Sue gets seasick so I had opted for this larger boat rather than a smaller junk which I thought might be less stable.

It was a delightful day and a half. The boat salied over to Surprise Cave and we were able to climb to a good viewing site, overlooking the harbor. Halong Bay is really beautiful. It was very peaceful and calming, especially after a few days in Hanoi! We were lucky that we had a decent day for our major sightseeing since it was drizzly and foggy on Sunday when we got up for breakfast and remained that way.

On the way back we drove past rows of people selling small pineapples--each stand looked exactly the same but there were lots and lots of them. Later, as we got closer to Hanoi, they were replaced by people selling corn (on the way down it had been people selling baguettes under plastic wrap.) We were hurrying to get to the airport and we got there quickly---no "rest stop" so I think that's the way to do it! We made our flight to Siem Reap with plenty of time to spare.

Sunday-to Siem Reap

After visiting Siem Reap about three and a half years ago and going on a classroom visit there, I connected with Lori on the Fodor Forum as she was setting up a foundation to help raise money for supplies and uniforms for Cambodian kids to go to school. I had met Lori once but had not met Ponheary nor returned to Cambodia since getting involved. A former colleague of mine had gone to Siem Reap and stayed at Seven Candles on Wat Bo, the family's guesthouse, so we decided to stay there and it was the right choice for us. For $20 a night we had an air conditioned room with queen sized bed, toilet, shower, tv and the convenience of in house laundry than ran us less than $2 a load.

Our plan for the week included teaching some English, doing a field trip to the Temples with 20 students, and sponsoring lunch at Knar school where we would be teaching. It was an incredibly wonderful week and we were also lucky to have some terrific people staying at the guest house while we were there, adding to the fun.

Siem Reap had really changed since we had last been there. Last time we also stayed at a hotel where we had most of our dinners included. This time, Lori guided us to some really good and really inexpensive places starting with the Soup Dragon in the Pub Street area which is constantly hopping with tourists. I couldn't get over all of the new restaurants of every nationality---you name it from Italian to Indian to Khmer. Royal Bank of Scotland ATM, upscale shops, but unlike Hanoi, no Apple store......yet......

Very hot weather and very casual dress in Siem Reap. I have no idea what possessed me to bring long sleeve tops and long pants for evenings---with socks, no less. Obviously I must have been paranoid in my thinking about mosquitos and won't make that silly mistake again! DEET is much cooler to wear. Riding the tuk tuk to dinner cooled us off a bit at least.

Monday Siem Reap

Up early and walked to Star Rise Cheese Sandwich for breakfast which would become our morning ritual. The routine was going there and having eggs, either scrambled (with cheese), fried or an omelette--delicious potato one the last day, coffee and baguette. We never figured out the age of the young boy who was our waiter but he was a charmer from day one and we loved staarting our day there. Next was a stop a couple blocks up at the internet place where no matter how hard we tried, we couldn't spend more than 40 cents. It was by far the cheapest internet we had ever used while traveling---and when turned the rotating fan on you when you sat down, it was true bliss!

Took the tuk tuk out to Knar school, passing along farm land with the water buffalos, stands with the woven baskets and palm sugar candy, students on bicycles. All the images I remembered from the last trip and still replay now that I am home but are difficult to capture in pictures.

This first day we taught along with the teacher in the classroom and worked with the kids on their English. There is no adequate way to express the experience. The kids there are so adorable, work so hard and so want to learn. It was a lot of fun and enormously rewarding to work with them and to see all the Ponheary and Lori have been doing in the schools. Wonderful stuff.

Spent another hour with the teachers then returned to Siem Reap for lunch. Although our lunch took a long time in coming (and we went from having limeade to beers as we were waiting), the amok, made by the owner's mother, was well worth the wait.

Did some preparation for the next day's classes then went to the new night market in town which was not there on the last trip. Not quite up to what we had seen in Chang Mai but some good crafts, spices, bags, silks and a number of fish massage stands (if you don't know what that is, you put yoour feet in some water and the fish eat off the dead skin---I wasn't compelled to try).

Went back to Soup Dragon for a light dinner. Had spring rolls, pancakes with shrimp and pork and excellent prawn crackers (I'd like them right now). Mandy (who was also staying at the guest house and volunteering at the schools) and I ordered cocktails which were $3 for a drink. When we were about 3/4 done, they came out with a second drink which was free during happy hour, you buy one and get the second one free.....one could be very very happy, very inexpensively.....Packed and hopping in town (maybe due to the price of drinks?)

Back to my room for yet another shower. My clean clothes were waiting, neatly folded in cellophane.

Tuesday-Siem Reap

A great day. Started again at Star Rise, then internet and out to the school. It was fun being with the kids in the class and doing the English I lesson with them, especially helping with pronunciation. Tried to come up with some game types of things to make it more interactive and dynamic.

Sue, Mandy, Lori and I all went over to Home Cocktail on Wat Bo for lunch, another bargain delicious lunch of fried yellow noodle with prawns. Made a stop at Lucky Mall, a new western style shopping center we returned to later in the week on the field trip, then headed to Chey school to see the computer lab there and the industrious students utilizing it.

Back to the guest house where we helped the family prepare for the school lunch to be held on Wednesday. Ponheary wanted to make a curry for the students so we (tried) helping by chopping shallots and peppers. It was something to see how they were using the mortar and pestle and making the pastes.

Next, lunch and field trip in Siem Reap
kathrynj is offline  
Nov 27th, 2009, 02:09 PM
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I'm enjoying your report. Thanks!
Marija is online now  
Nov 28th, 2009, 05:20 AM
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Hey Kathy, I guess I was remiss in not showing you at least ONE of the TWO apple stores in Siem Reap...
offwego is offline  
Nov 28th, 2009, 05:23 AM
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At least that was all you were remiss in not showing me!

Am missing you all but did have a great cup of the Vietnamese coffee this morning to help keep the memories fresh.
kathrynj is offline  
Nov 29th, 2009, 01:15 PM
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Wednesday-Siem Reap

Up and out early to Knar school to prepare for the school lunch. Peeled sweet potatoes as others did more chopping to get everything ready to start cooking in the huge pots on the fire. We helped serve lunch to about 400 students and it was something to see. They loved it. What I didn't understand at first though was when meat or potatoes were left in their bowls it was not that they didn't like it, rather they were saving the "good" parts to take home. They happily ate their curry and baguettes. It was an incredible experience. We were lucky too since it looked like it might rain but did not and was cooler than previous days.

One of the teachers asked if Mandy and I would like to walk next door to her home and that also was an amazing experience. Her mother and aunt were drying rice for the family, a process I had never seen before. Her brother literally climbed a coconut palm, hacked the top off and gave us the coconut milk to drink with a straw. Delicious!

Took a tuk tuk over to Dead Fish Tower with Lori, Mandy and Sue. Sue and I had a yummy curry with chicken, eggplant, long bean and plumpkin, which I am pretty darn sure is pumpkin. Lori had snakefish which was terrific. I forget what Mandy had but with a pitcher of beer and water, it was our most expensive meal at $25 for the four of us!

We walked over to the old market where I had taken a ton of pictures last visit. It has definitely been cleaned up although Lori says that at the center part, it remains the same. Got teas as well as a coffee drip pot for the Vietnamese coffee we plan to bring home. Another scarf purchase (third on this trip, so far!), this time a beautiful black, cream and beige woven shawl style. So inexpensive that it is hard to resist---and it packs so easily.....

Relaxed back at the guest house then the whole gang went out to Abacus for another excellent dinner. There was a lot of really good eating going on while in Siem Reap, thanks to Lori's guidance. This dinner was much more like I would have at home but a wonderful duck breast in port wine sauce at half the price I would pay here and easily as good. We ate outside and it was a beautiful, cool for Siem Reap, evening.

Thursday-Siem Reap

Another terrific day. It was another cool morning and we were in no rush since we weren't meeting up with the 20 field trip kids from Knar until about 11am. Had our regular breakfast at Star Rise and used the internet again.

We went to Khmer Kitchen with the kids where we had spring rolls, fish curry, lemongrass soup and a minced chicken, all of which were downed eagerly by the students. From there it was off to Lucky Mall which was a riot---they had never been on escalators so it was really fun to see their reactions as they tried it and then couldn't do it enough! They were fascinated by the supermarket there and by the "magic" doors which opened in front of the mall entrance when you stepped close to them.

Our next stop was Angkor Wat, then Angkor Thom and Ta Phrom. We had been to all three before but they were interesting to see again, especially through the kids' eyes. Not sure whether they liked the Temples or taking pictures with Lori's and Sue's cameras more.

On the bus back to school, a student would come up and lead the group in song. We got into the spirit and did a rousing rendition of "Knees, Shoulders, Heads and Toes". It was a lot of fun and they were simply adorable.

We got back and met up with a new guest, Maureen from Boston. She joined Sue, Lori and me for our final dinner at Sugar Palm.

Friday-Siem Reap

Our last day and an emotional one for sure. We had out final breakfast at Star Rise and packed up since we would be leaving after doing our teaching at Knar. We kept looking again at all that we were seeing on our way to the school with the water buffalo, bikes, basket stands and tried to freeze the memory since the pictures never capture it sufficiently.

Class was fun. My teacher wasn't there so I did it alone and we had a good time spelling different words, writing them on the board and using the plastic props that Jess had loaned me to use. They enjoyed the games and it made for a good finale. It was very sad when class ended. I went over to Sue's class where she and her teacher were saying sad farewells.

Headed back to town with Lori and stopped at Selentra for a delicious last lunch of minced beef with green beans, mango rice, vegetables, mango salad and prok dumplings. Forgot to mention having had banana blossom salad earlier in the week and loved it.

Dara drove us to the airport along with Ponheary, Fifi and Alyce. I can't describe how it felt to say goodbye and I can feel it now as I am writing. There is no way to sum up the week except to say it was a memorable, extraordinary experience and I have left a part of my heart there.

Saturday-Hanoi

What a study in contrasts. From water buffalo to the Metropole. Quite a leap. We had a 6pm flight out of Siem Reap and Elegance 4 had arranged a car/driver to take us to the Metropole. The Vietnam Airlines flight was fine but the dinner they served looked positively vile.

Checked in, were given a fruit drink (as with Elegance 4) then taken to our room on the club floor. I had waffled totally as to which section of the hotel I wanted. I liked the idea of an historical room since I love architecture and history and was leaning in that direction. Kept reading in this forum about how great the club floor was so decided to make the switch. It was a good move (sorry Lori)since we did get to see the historical rooms and they were considerably smaller and the decor was almost identical. I thought the room was beautifully decorated and, being on the 7th floor, was right next to the breakfast/cocktail area and the internet station. It was too late to have anything to eat or drink there but the internet was handy.

In the morning we had a choice of where to have breakfast (club floor, 2 restaurants or room) and we chose Le Beaulieu, in the old section and lovely. The buffet was excellent with many choices. My personal favorite was the creme caramel which I did not expect for breakfast but was happy to consume (any time of day). Only disappointment was the coffee which was not nearly as strong as the great coffee at the Elegance hotels.

We had a lot of major shopping to finalize on our last day. I had to pick up my silk jacket and we needed to decide on our lacquer purchases. I lugged home a ton of lacquer including a gorgeous box with a dragonfly closure, several photo albums, a tray, frame and a set of coasters. My suitcase really felt like a brick. When my daughter picked me up at the airport she couldn't get over how heavy it was, especially since I had said I wouldn't be buying that much. At the hotel I bought a beautiful lacquer apple---this in addition to my two water puppets.

Came back to the hotel to drop our purchases and ended up doing the lunch buffet at Spices. It was good but somewhat disappointing since I had expected more seafood choices. I also think I had gotten very spoiled with the cost of food in SIem Reap.

Got our energy up for the final silk round--looking for gifts and robes. Purchased a few as gifts but ended up liking the choices in the hotel shop which were pretty reasonable for what they were. A few other purchases then forced our bags closed (we each came with one suitcase and one carry on, not filled and left with packed suitcases, packed carry ons and one extra bag each which I had brought along, just in case......)

Sunday-Hanoi and home

Up early, used the internet then off to an early breakfast since we were leaving at 10:30. Picked up coffee and a few other things at the airport in Hanoi (who expected gift shops there?). Again, a nice flight from Hanoi to Singapore on the better plane than the longer one from Singapore to Frankfurt and Frankfurt to JFK. We had a long layover at the Singapore airport which is truly a fascinating place. Can't think of another airport that has a Ferrari Store. Of course that is along with every other imaginable designer brand. Most impressed with the service in economy on Singapore--but would welcome more leg space.

So that's it. A memeorable, special, wonderful two weeks.
kathrynj is offline  
Nov 29th, 2009, 01:37 PM
  #19  
 
Join Date: Jan 2003
Posts: 6,892
Great report - thanks for posting.
Craig is offline  
Nov 29th, 2009, 02:56 PM
  #20  
Original Poster
 
Join Date: Feb 2003
Posts: 418
Thanks Craig---you were responsible for our landing in the club floor at the Metropole! Think I read about Hanoikids in your report too---so thanks to you!
Kathy
kathrynj is offline  

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