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Dreaming's Trip Report: Bangkok, Siem Reap, Phnom Penh, HCMC & Narita

Dreaming's Trip Report: Bangkok, Siem Reap, Phnom Penh, HCMC & Narita

Dec 9th, 2009, 12:36 AM
  #41  
 
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Thanks Dreaming for your reply and the link.
scomars is offline  
Dec 9th, 2009, 06:15 AM
  #42  
 
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Oops! The link doesn't seem to work properly!
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Dec 9th, 2009, 07:29 AM
  #43  
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If you take off the ")" at the end of the link it should work. I meant to mention that the fees I paid were for single entry 30 day stays. Fees vary based on single vs multi entry and length of stay.
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Dec 9th, 2009, 07:41 AM
  #44  
 
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Dreamin - agree about the bar at the top of the Caravalle its a tad depressing but the view is ok. Did you make it to the top of the Rex? that bar made me feel sad that it could be so utterly awful
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Dec 9th, 2009, 05:06 PM
  #45  
 
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Thanks again, Dreaming.
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Dec 9th, 2009, 06:03 PM
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Dreaming - we are considering changing our travel plans to include Phenom Phen. Did you think it was worth it for only two days? Did you feel you got in everything you had hoped to see? If we add Phenom Phen that would mean less time for Saigon and the Delta. Wondering how much time you think should be devoted to those areas.
Looking forward to the rest of your report!
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Dec 10th, 2009, 07:18 PM
  #47  
 
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anxious for more
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Dec 12th, 2009, 08:06 PM
  #48  
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Smeagol - I didn't make it to the Rex. TC made it there while I lay in bed with a cold and she was pretty low key about it when she came back.

Dgunbug - I saw on another post that you're have a full Vietnam itinerary. I'm not sure if I'd make the trip over to Phnom Penh just for PP. It's a pretty sobering place, but well worth a visit if you can fit it in. I was there for less than 30 hours, which isn't long to spend if you're going out of the way to get there. If you do add PP, you might consider going to PP, then taking the Victoria Hotel boat to Chau Doc (I think you need to stay at the hotel to use the boat though) and picking up your Mekong cruise from there. (I think you've already got the Mekong on your itinerary?)
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Dec 12th, 2009, 08:08 PM
  #49  
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So I'm falling behind with updating the Vietnam portion of this report... I did post a link to some of my Mekong photos on another thread and thought I'd add it here:

Some of my photos from the Bassac II are at this link: http://www.kodakgallery.com/gallery/...03%3A855959717

Includes a selection of photos of the boat, bedroom and bathroom, food, photos on the Mekong, etc.
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Dec 12th, 2009, 08:15 PM
  #50  
 
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Dreaming - we will probably forgo Phnom Penh and opt for an extra day in the Mekong Delta to further explore that area. We are also considering revising the travel plans to allow us to be in Hoi An during the lantern festival, although we are having great difficulty figuring out the date. I'm anxiously awaiting your report! Did you get to Chau Doc and if so, is it worth going that far coming from Saigon?
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Dec 12th, 2009, 09:11 PM
  #51  
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I didn't get to Chau Doc. We went from Phnom Penh to HCMC to the Mekong, back to HCMC and then home via Narita.

I wouldn't make any travel plans around this, but I found a Gregorian/Lunar conversion for 2010 here: http://www.hko.gov.hk/gts/time/calendar/pdf/2010e.pdf Which makes it appear that the 14th day of the 4th lunar month would be the 27th of May?
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Dec 13th, 2009, 04:59 AM
  #52  
 
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Dreaming - thanks for the calendar. Now we just have to figure out if the festival falls on the 14th or 15th day. We've read conflicting info.
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Feb 9th, 2010, 07:51 PM
  #53  
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Coming Up: HCMC (Overall Trip Day 9)

Trying to remember where I left off! Some of my info is going to get pretty sketchy, as I've let some time slip by and the details have drifted away.

We had some business to take care of on our first day in HCMC. We needed to go to Vietnamstay (aka Aurora Travel) and pay for our travel plans. You might remember that I booked our flight from Phnom Penh to HCMC as well as our Mekong Delta cruise through VietnamStay. We also wanted to find a tailor, as TC had some tunics and I had a couple of blouses we wanted copied.

We didn't have breakfast included in our room rate, so we went out looking for breakfast. We found breakfast directly catty corner the Caravelle... Lost in translation I order what I thought was a cheese and egg omelet, but turned out to be an egg and onion omelet. That was a strike out, but I fell for the cafe sua da.... Yum Yum!

Next we walked up to the Post Office & made some phone calls from little air conditioned booths, bought a phone card and noted that there were a bunch of different bank ATMS in other air conditioned booths.

We found our way to the VietnamStay offices - just a few blocks away. I was concerned that they would want to charge us for the flight that we had ended up paying cash for the night before. I think it was a good thing that I had gotten a receipt from the airlines for our payment. We ended up waiting - very comfortably and with a guest computer with internet access - for about 45 minutes while they researched what had happened with our flight. Once they determined what had happened (and that it was the airlines fault and not theirs) all was well, and we paid the remaining balance due. We also booked a Cu Chi trip for after our Mekong cruise.

We had two possible tailors. The concierge had suggested LaBella and the NY Times 36 hours in HCMC had suggested Tricia & Verona on Dong Du Street - one street over from the hotel. We stopped by Tricia & Verona and were happy with what we found, so didn't go any further. We handed over blouses that we wanted copied, spent some time finding fabric that we'd like and placed our orders. They took our measurements, deposits and scheduled our fittings for after our return from the Mekong and we were done. Their shop was modern looking (although orders were manually recorded in a large ledger and a client asking them to copy something off the internet was asked to print out a copy and bring it back) and busy - with men and women coming in - seemed to be mostly expat type business people? They had some lovely shirt materials for button down shirts.

Done with business, we were off to the market (could we possibly need another scarf?). We walked from Tricia & Veronas over to the Ben Thanh Market, risking life and limb crossing the crazy streets. Total strangers stopped to give me advice about crossing. Number one rule is never step backwards. We wandered the market looking at gaudy hair accessories, more scarfs, purses, shoes, etc. Turns out that I did indeed need more silk purses.

We had lunch at a stall in the center of the market. We looked for one that seemed busy and picked it - Ba Tam. I order Tam Bi Banh (25,000 dong) From the English translation, I was ordering shredded pork on special noodles with coconut creme. What came looked like big fat worm noodles with a gelatinous glop on the top. I pushed it to TC insisting it was hers, but alas, no suckers here. But, it was FABULOUS. And with the hot sauce, just incredible.

I bought some weasel coffee as a gift. The smell was surprisingly rich and promising. I vaguely noticed that they handed me a pre-packaged container - not a scoop from the small bin. In hindsight I probably should have asked to see them package it, as my brother gave both the smell and the final coffee a big thumbs down.

We wandered the streets from Ben Thanh, working our way to the Reunification Palace, got tickets and went through the security screening (please note, no bombs allowed). At this point it's seriously hot and I'm wilting. We made our way to the exhibit of photos in the basement where there is actually an air conditioner and I stood in front of it cooling down.

After the Palace we headed back toward the hotel, deciding to go for a massage. We had been handed flyers for massages all day, so we picked one near the hotel and found it. Senses Story Spa 54/1 Dong Du St. It was off of Dong Du down a short little alley. I got a 1 1/2 hour long foot massage while TC got a foot massage and a pedicure. The first sign that things might not be quite what we were expecting was when they had us change into shorts and t-shirts for the massage. It started off like a regular foot massage, but veered off sharply into sort of a push me pull you Gumby massage, where my masseuse was using his feet on the side of the chair to gain leverage to pull my body this way and that. At one point I was lying on my stomach and he was kneeling on the back of my thighs pulling back on my arms like I was Superman. Then, when TC starting getting a pedicure, I got a hot stone back massage. Not what I expected, but I melted into a relaxed puddle...

For dinner we set off looking for a place in one of the guidebooks. We didn't find it and ended up at a Pho 24 (again just around the corner from the Caravelle). Dinner was just ok - a little greasy, but filling and inexpensive.

Coming Up: Mekong Delta (Overall Trip Day 10)
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Feb 9th, 2010, 08:26 PM
  #54  
 
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So glad to see you back to finishing your report!
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Feb 10th, 2010, 07:56 AM
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Hi Dreaming:

I'm off to BKK and Siem Reap on Feb 23..Thanks for all your info. My husband and I will be using Saron (sp?) as our guide in Anghor Watt, but we never connected with Tong for BKK. So we'll be using Ratt there....

I see you ended up buying phone cards. Did you need different ones for each country? And how many foot massages are too many? I take it you could still walk after the painful ones...Right?

We also go to HCMC, Hoi An and Hanoi...so looking forward to your next post.
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Feb 10th, 2010, 08:34 AM
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i'm enjoying this
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Feb 10th, 2010, 08:49 AM
  #57  
 
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Thanks for continuing
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Feb 10th, 2010, 10:20 AM
  #58  
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Thanks to dgunbug, rhkkmk, Sandra and Leslie. I'm so glad someone is reading this!

Sandra - We needed different phone cards for Thailand and Vietnam. We were told we couldn't buy phone cards in Cambodia and used a phone/internet center to make calls. When my family called me from home, they used Skype.

As far as foot massages, I think you can tell from my report that I'd have one every day if I could! I don't like really painful massages, so I'd ask for gentle or "no pain" before they even started. It was still firm, just trying to avoid sheer pain. The massage at Bodia Spa was just bad and the next day was uncomfortable, but I was still able to walk.

I hope you enjoy Saron as much as we did. Please let us know how it went when you come back!
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Feb 10th, 2010, 04:42 PM
  #59  
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Mekong Delta (Overall Trip Day 10)

I've already given something of a run-down on the Mekong Delta cruise as a response to another post, so I'm cheating a bit and doing some copying and pasting with some modifications.

We booked the Bassac 1 night cruise through VietnamStay. They have on their website a 1 night cruise on the Mekong Eyes, but after I looked online at a number of the companies, I liked the Bassac better solely because it seemed like it had fewer cabins. Our itinerary departed Can Tho and ended in Cai Be on the Bassac II. Vietnamstay.com arranged for transport from the Caravelle Hotel to the boat in Can Tho and then for pick up in Cai Be returning to our hotel in HCMC.

We ate breakfast directly across from the Caravelle in an outdoor patio cafe and then went to meet our transport in the lobby of the Caravelle. And walked into chaos. The lobby was packed with all sorts of groups meeting busses, work groups, taxis, etc. It took us a while to find our driver, as he had been sent around the block while the hotel found us. Actually they didn't find us. After waiting, we went to the concierge and discovered him with a note with my name on it. Once we met up with our driver, all was well; but those 20 minutes or so we lost would have been nice to have later on.

It was about 4 hours to Can Tho in with a short restroom/ coffee stop on the way. A little more cafe sua da was just the ticket for me! We arrived in Can Tho and waited in some crazy back up for the ferry crossing. It went surprisingly fast. We arrive at the dock just past noon and departed on the Bassac II immediately. This was where I would have liked a few minutes to have a drink at the restaurant on the dock, or browse the shops, or just to breathe, but it was straight onto the boat - which was waiting for us to depart.

The boat was made of a beautiful wood and was quite sturdy. The rooms were small, but with adequate space for two people plus luggage. Twin beds were comfortable, could have used a blanket, but that's because we were blasting the AC! AC was a wall unit in each room with controls in the room. The bathroom was small, shower was a handheld faucet from the sink that could mount on the wall in between the sink and the toilet. I used it and it worked out fine, my travel companion decided to wait for our return to the hotel in HCMC. The shared spaces had comfortable lounge chairs.

The food was quite good. Some of the more notable were some incredible prawns in coconut milk at our first lunch; sauted pumpkin (?) flowers; jack fruit. The food was plentiful and good. Alcoholic drinks were extra and there was a full bar although the selection wasn't extensive. The food was served on the upper deck in a covered outdoor area. At night there were quite a few bugs swarming around the lights on the boat, but the tables were moved away from the lights that were on. I wore insect repellant and only got 1 bite on the boat... My travel companion didn't get any bites on the boat.

In the evening we visited a local village and sampled some of the local fruit. It was a small group from the boat - an English couple, a French family and us, with the boat manager, Ann, serving as our tour guide.

We anchored in the night and didn't have any issues with noise, although I should mention that I had earplugs in when I first just to bed just in case.

Mekong Delta (Overall Trip Day 11)

In the morning we transfered to a smaller boat, visited a floating market - which really didn't have much activity going on. It wasn't a tourist market though, and it was interesting to see the trade and life on the delta. We then went to Cai Be and visit a number of local industries - candy, rice crackers, fish sauce, etc. Very interesting to see the methods of production and get a feel for the area. We were picked up for our trip back to HCMC around 10 or 10:30 - I had originally thought the trip was longer and that we'd be returning to HCMC in the early evening.

If you're in the US and watched the Amazing Race this season, they had a stop on the Mekong - they stopped on the Bassac III, so you can get a glimpse of it on the show.

Up thread I posted a link to a couple of pictures from the cruise.
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Feb 11th, 2010, 06:14 AM
  #60  
 
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Enjoying your report!
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