Cambodia & Vietnam Trip Report

Mar 5th, 2019, 12:56 AM
  #1  
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Cambodia & Vietnam Trip Report

So...after a year of planning we are on our way to Cambodia and Vietnam and we are about to finish our first week! I want to thank everyone who helped us and detail how are trip is going. We flew to Siem Reap so I could spend my 65 birthday looking at Angkor Wat. Flew Cathay Pacific and it was a decent flight. Layover in Hong Kong for two hours, then 3 hours to Siem Reap. Stayed at the Chateau d’Angkor la Residence and found it to be nice. On the way in from the airport, you will pass these massive fancy resorts, most like filled with bus loads of Chinese tourists. Not for us. The hotel let us in by 11AM, which was nice, close to the Royal gardens and the Old Market. Ate tonite at La Malraux, just off Pub Street. Very quiet, good food. More to follow.





Tdiddy12 is offline  
Mar 5th, 2019, 06:31 AM
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Days 2 - 4 Siem Reap. As I said the purpose of our trip was to experience Angkor Wat. We booked a two day tour with Happy Angkor Tour and in general I was very happy with them, good guide, showed up on time w/ a Lexus SUV. Better than my car at home! The two day tour was very inclusive, but a word to the wise, I bet every guide does the tour they want to give. The program said the first day was Angkor Thom w/ all that would entail, Bayon, Baphoun, Terraces etc. Then Ta Prohm, then Angkor Wat and finally Phnom Bakheng for the sunset. We didn’t start until about 8:30am, our choice. Samath, our guide breezed us through the ticket process. That was a big help. It’s a little complicated so a guide really helped. Then we started at Angkor Wat, not Thom, and from the Eastside not the Westside. At first I’m thinking, what’s going on, however, if you come in on the Westside in the morning, you are looking right into the sun. Also not a lot of tourists on the Eastside.
Plus the famous promenade is under construction, so you don’t walk on it anyways! Spent 3 hrs at AW and saw a lot. Broke for lunch, obviosly a place the small tours go.

Another word about using a guide, I’ve heard people rent a Tuk-Tuk for the day, come back at lunchtime, then go back in the afternoon. Since we were in an air conditioned Lexus, we stayed on the tour. With cold water and a cold wash cloth after every stop, it was very bearable. After lunch we went to Ta Prohm, now it’s about 3PM, according to the schedule we should hit Angkor Thom, then the sunset, but this is where I think the whole plan starts to unravel a little bit and Ihave to believe it’s part of the guide’s plan. Samath starts talking about how long we have to wait in line for Phnom Bakheng and how hot it will be, etc. So we decide to skip it and leave Angkor Thom for tomorrow. The point is, to get to caught up in the detailed itinerary and think you are going to get it al in. You probably won’t.

Next day up at 4AM for sunrise at AW, awesome, guide found the perfect spot. Then left for Banteay Srei. Genius, got there by 8:30AM, with two cars in the parking lot! Almost had the place to our selves. On the way back into town, must have seen 10 big busses with the aforementioned Chinese tourists. Stopped at Preah Kulen, worth it, and then 2 hours at Angkor Thom. Now it’s 11:30AM and since we don’t want to go to the floating market, the tour is over. So our 2 day tour was actually about a day and a half but still perfect. Next morning, I took. Tuk-tuk to Angkor Thom early in the morning for quality time.

Last night in Siem Reap, we want to the Phare circus. It’ s worth it to support it. Kind of a Cirque Soleil type show, not as good, bit a good cause.

Leaving tomorrow for Phnom Penh
Tdiddy12 is offline  
Mar 5th, 2019, 08:35 AM
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I am enjoying your report and look forward to reading more. I just returned from Vietnam and Cambodia and loved it. I am glad it sounds like you are having a great time. Happy Birthday!
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Mar 5th, 2019, 02:56 PM
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Thanks KTtravel, it was an awesome birthday! Last words about Siem Reap, had some great food, as mentioned, Le Malraux. Excellent dinner at Sugar Palm and lunch at Amok, near the market. We are pretty new to Asia, but my observation is that life is lived outside. The street life is rich, chaotic and plan fun. Always something to see, smell and feel. Sivutha St runs into the Old Market and Pub Street and it is packed with people, makes New Orleans seem like kindergarten, but doesn ‘t feel decadent. Cambodia, or at least Siem Reap loves their neon!! Everyone is selling something, you are barely out of the hotel and someone is yelling Tuk-Tuk? In short, leave the US, embrace the moment and it is fantastic.
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Mar 5th, 2019, 03:34 PM
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Day 5-7 Phnom Penh. We opted to fly to Phnom Penh. Fairly cheap, $244 for two. I would like to say first, that I am reading Jason Molinari’s Trip Report, and we are retired so we are able to stay longer. We didn’t plan on staying in Phnom Penh but many people on this Forum recommended it. We flew in around 4:30PM, probably not great timing. We are staying down by the river and Royal Palace. So, 45 minutes from Siem Reap to Phnom Penh, and an hour from Phnom Penh to Phnom Penh. Hard to describe the traffic and I live in LA! It is almost animalistic, scooters, cars, trucks, tuk Tuks crawling all over each other, fighting for every foot of space. Dodging, weaving then we start hitting the city. It’s even more intense, so much activity. Rows and rows of restaurants, shops, we went by at least ten stores selling TVs, then ten more selling sinks! All outside on the sidewalk, I think it’s a sidewalk, it’s so covered with scooters, people, cooking, i’m Just guessing there is sidewalk.

By the time we get to the Queen Grand Boutique Hotel are eyes are bulging like frog eyes. We’ve been inside a car for an hour but we feel exhausted. LOL. Nice hotel, friendly staff but a much smaller room than in Siem Reap. The street is a little funky, by our American standards, lot’s of trash, but there are two very nice hotels side by side, and about 6 massage places. Ate at Kravinh near hotel. OK meal. We are across the street from the Cambodia/ Vietnam friendship statue in a big park and it appears there is an aerobics class going with about 50 people,music blasting. Needed earplugs to sleep, but sleep we did.

I was up early and walked along the waterfront, pretty trashed from the night before but they are cleaning. This is interesting, there are 2 small temples across from the Royal Palace that people give flower offerings to Buddha, but there are so many offerings that the next day, there are three huge dumpsters filled with flowers!

Today we hit the Russian market and the National Museum. IMO, skip the Russian Market and go to the Central Market instead. Personally, it’s the same stuff and the Central Market building is way cooler. National museum was really good. Had dinner across from museum at Muse.

Last full day, Royal Palace in the morning. Quick note, they close it down at 11:30AM and kick everyone out, so we missed going inside the Silver Pagoda. They re-open at 2:00PM but your ticket is good anymore, so the whole time we should have been checking out the Silver Pagoda we were getting zen with a cold Coke.

Sunset at Frangipani Royal Hotel looking at the River, Aspara dance at the National Museum, I would recommend that, although Cambodian Music isn’t as bad as it sounds. Tomorrow, river boat to Chau Doc, Vietnam.
Tdiddy12 is offline  
Mar 5th, 2019, 10:35 PM
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Nic report tdiddy. If you think Phnom Penh traffic is bad, wait till you reach Saigon! Enjoy your boat ride and Chau Doc.
crellston is offline  
Mar 6th, 2019, 01:49 AM
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Definitely a face-mask job in tha traffic, particularly in a tuk-tuk.

First time we went to Phnom Penh we didn't visit either the Killing Fields or S21, and regretted that decision. Second time we went we visited both, and were so glad we did.

They are both must-visit places, part of Living Social History, and as there is still so much evidence in living human terms of the atrocities, it really is a shame to miss both sites.....and most of all the Cambodian people want visitors to see what they went through under Pol Pot.
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Mar 6th, 2019, 05:46 AM
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LancasterLad, I know a lot of people want and probably should see the sites you mentioned, but we are staying war free this trip. The really sad thing is that turning 65, most if not all of this stuff happened during my time and I hardly remember it! I got out of the service in 1976, and we were all so caught up in the bi-centenial Vietnam and Cambodia were left in the dust. Typical American amnesia
Tdiddy12 is offline  
Mar 7th, 2019, 12:03 AM
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Tdiddy12. Thanks.

If you're still in PP, a great place to end the daylight hours is at the Happy Hour in the Foreign Correspondents Club [FCC] on Sisowath Quay. It's between 1700-1900. Arrive a little early, and bag a seat overlooking the river, and the traffic chaos on the road below .

Sisowath Quay is also awash with some excellent places to eat and drink. You'll also see a lot of evidence of the Pol Pot era along there.
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Mar 7th, 2019, 04:04 AM
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Day 8 - 9 Start of our Vietnam tour. Based on some recommendations, Crellston for one, we decide to river boat to Chau Doc. There are a number of companies. I went to the office next to the river and reserved for Wednesday on the Hang Chau, a little cheaper than the Blue Cruiser but same boat, I was told by Mr. Savon. He did warn me that it was busy on Wednesday and the boat may leave late. They picked us up from the hotel about a half hour late. And they were busy, in fact the very last Hang Chau boat was completely filled and we were going with Mandarin Cruises. It really felt odd but we went with it. Well the boat was much smaller, and older, and we felt like Mr. And Mrs. Howell with Gilligan and the Skipper. However, there were only eight of us on a boat for 20, so we had a lot of space. I started talking with a crew member, Vien, from Chau Doc. “How long in Chau Doc, what are you doing tomorrow?” Going to Tra Su Forest. “Oh, my brother has a car, he can take you.”

Everyone is looking for an opportunity to make a little side cash! And I’m not saying that as a bad thing. Here is some advice to anyone reading this or planning to go to Vietnam ����, it’s way easier than you are making it, or thinking it will be. I stressed, how do I get tickets for the boat, how will I get there? Believe me you will get there, there are Viens out there who will help you. The courtesy you will experience Is light years beyond anything you will see in the States or Europe.

Today, Vien
picked us up in his brother’s new Kia and for $35 took us to the Forest. Going rate is usually around
$50. We talked about his family, life in Vietnam and had a great afternoon. Chau Doc has been wonderful. Take the boat if your are coming from Phnom Penh. As you cruise down the Bassac River you see all the people on the River bank waving and the kids are the best. My wife and I were singing Proud Mary, Tina version all the way into town!!
Tdiddy12 is offline  
Mar 7th, 2019, 06:33 AM
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Excellent post.....#10.
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Mar 7th, 2019, 06:15 PM
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Last thoughts about Chau Doc. We are staying Wayne’s Guesthouse. Wayne is a fascinating person, worked in 20 different countries and runs a very nice guesthouse. Best thing this morning, we borrowed bikes, took the Ferry across to the Cham Village and road 3M rectangular route that Wayne recommended. Different style of houses, a couple of real cool mosques, less traffic, and tons of people saying, Hello. Also huge fields of bright green rice. This is what makes traveling worthwhile.

Off to Can Tho on the Futa Bus.
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Mar 7th, 2019, 09:51 PM
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Glad you enjoyed Chau Doc, Tra Su Etc. My favourite part of the delta! You are spot on re how easy it is to travel around there. It does seem daunting from afar but in reality, on the ground it is very straightforward and so much more interesting than a taxi to the airport and a flight.. Excellent report, keep it coming .
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Mar 10th, 2019, 07:19 PM
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Thanks Crellston! So now we bike through the Cham village on the far bank of Ch u Doc. Very nice and easy, everyone yells hello as we cycle. Probably the only word they know in English, but what better word could there be? Maybe Peace, but I will settle for Hello. Back to Murray’s, Murray has already left on his 36 KM daily bike ride. We need a bus to Can Tho, they ordered one for us the night before. Actually a mini van picks you up and takes you to the big bus station, no extra charge! Can you even imagine having that happen in LA? On the Futa bus, we have seen YouTube’s of these sleeper type buses, but we get a standard bus. Now we expect to drive through bucolic country side with rice and water buffalo. Wrong. For three straight hours we drive through village after village the whole way. No break at all. Struck a conversation w/ Minh, he said the bus goes through the towns because that’s where the people are. Duh. We get to Can Tho, we are quite a ways from Downtown, but they direct us to another mini bus that takes us right to our hotel.
International Hotel on the water front. This whole bus trip cost $8 for two. Hotel is nothing special but we are here about 12 hours. I take a little walk to check in w/ the tour company. A hotel right on the water seemed like a pretty good idea. It’s about 4PM and the street is empty. By 6 it is completely flooded with people! Our hotel is very noisy, but ear plugs do the trick. One last thing about Can Tho, we are sitting on a bench, having a coconut ice cream, when a young woman came up to us, said she was an English teacher, would we talk to some of her students? Yes, of course, all of a sudden we are surrounded by 12 students, all asking us questions, where are we from, do we like Vietnam? It will be something we will remember the rest of our lives!
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Mar 10th, 2019, 07:20 PM
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Just realize I posted twice about bikee ride!!
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Mar 10th, 2019, 11:44 PM
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March 8-9 Can Tho to Saigon. We are taking a two day/ 1 night tour of the Mekong with Hieu Tours out of Can Tho. Seemed a little pricey at $450 for two but they packed a lot in. Picked us up at 5AM for Cai Rang floating market, could have got a tourist boat Can Tho but we were leaving when the mass of tourists came in a 8am. This a wholesale market, if you want to buy a watermelon they will laugh you off the river, 10 - 50 Kilos, let’s talk. Went to a rice noodle factory after that. I know this is for tourists.A lot ofVietnamese tourists actually. Then back in the car to chocolate making factory. This might be legit. Now on to our home stay. Over 20 branches of the Mekong or so it seemed. Home stay is in the middle of nowhere but nice, except for the beds. Made us lunch and just kept bringing Us food.

I’ve picked up a bug. In So Cal we would call it Montezuma’s revenge. I’ve dubbed this the Wrath of Ho Chi Minh! And he’s pissed. My lower Mekong Delta is muddier than the Mekong if I can be so indelicate. I’m miserable! Now it’s time for kayaking. Kayaking is a lot like riding an elephant, it’ far more romantic on paper. Up stream to the Mekong in this muddy dirty water, which I am poring all over my wife and I.

Back to the home stay for cooking class. I keep running to the room and don’t feel
Ike eating anything And it’s really good, I just have no appetite. I don’ t sleep a wink. I’m serious, there was a sign that said John McCain slept here, God bless him. Up at 7 for a bike ride to a coconut factory. Pretty cool. Now in the car for more driving, across every big River, is this the Mekong? A branch, Starbucks should have so many branches.

Next activity, on another boat to brick making factory, honey bee farm, coconut candy, then lunch, Huy our guide takes wrong turn and we walk for ten minutes and he says we missed the turn off.
Finally, rowed through a canal back to our boat to our car. Now two hours from Ben Tre to HCMC.
Good guide, long trip and I’m sick. Arrived at Rex Hotel, super nice for us and hit the most comfortable bed! Glad this day is over.




Tdiddy12 is offline  
Mar 11th, 2019, 05:43 PM
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Hope you are feeling better! We had a drink on the top of the Rex Hotel last month and thought it would be a lovely place to stay.
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Mar 13th, 2019, 09:54 PM
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Tdiddy12 Thanks for a cool travel diary. Have a blast.
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Mar 15th, 2019, 03:02 AM
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March 10 - 13 The Fall of Saigon 2019 version. Imagine that iconic picture of the North Vietnamese tank busting down the gate to the Norodom Palace. Now imagine that tank is a parasite knocking down the gate to my immune system! I am sick in Saigon, which is actually the title of my new book! We get into the Rex, classic old hotel and I go right to bed and will pretty much stay there for the next two days. So I can go two ways with this, lament the fact that all the research I’ve done on Saigon, the many miles of streets walked on Google maps is going right down the toilet. Or, I can be happy that the Universe has decided I should be sick in the nicest hotel on our trip in a big city with a water dispensing Circle K every 100 yards.

By the second day wife is sick also. We go to the doctor. Wife has a fever, I’m on the mend’ so he doesn’t prescribe much for me, Azithromycin. I tell the assistant we call that the Z-PAC in the states and he gets a kick out of that. Wife gets 2 rounds of IV anti-biotics, we hole up in the Rex like Sid and Nancy in the Chelsea Hotel, except we don’t OD! Happy Ending.

I won’t add much more about Saigon. Hoi An next
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Mar 15th, 2019, 05:04 AM
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Deepest sympathies tdiddy! I can remember spending a couple of days over New Years in the bathroom of La Residence, Hue’s best hotel. I just dare not move. My own fault for eating from a hotel buffet! Should have stuck to the street food!

Hope you and your wife get well soon.
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