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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

Feb 12th, 2010, 12:59 PM
Join Date: Mar 2003
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I'm enjoying it also! Would you stay at the Caravelle again? What about the Pavillion in PP?

Do you think if time is short a one-day tour from HCMC to the Mekong Delta could be worthwhile?

Thanks for any advice.
Leslie_S is offline  
Feb 12th, 2010, 01:20 PM
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I'm still reading as well and I have been looking forward to reading this account of your Mekong Delta overnight trip.

Leslie_S, we did the one-day trip from HCMC and found it...er...cheesy.
marya_ is offline  
Feb 12th, 2010, 01:23 PM
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Yeah, I know that is probably mostly the case. I wonder if there are some versions that aren't so much so. I've read some good things about trips through Come & Go Vietnam - could be done for just the 2 of us and slightly off the beaten path. Maybe in that case it would be ok.

Marya - if not a one day trip any other thoughts? Would you have wanted to spend the night on a boat like dreaming did?
Leslie_S is offline  
Feb 12th, 2010, 07:40 PM
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Leslie - you do not have to spend the night on a boat. You can stay in Can Tho at either the Victoria Can Tho if you want luxury or any number of other hotels. The boat idea certainly sounds like fun though.
dgunbug is offline  
Feb 17th, 2010, 06:34 PM
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Thanks. Looking forward to reading the rest of your report.

happy_life is offline  
Feb 18th, 2010, 01:34 PM
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Dreaming - Where's the last two days? You left us hanging!
dgunbug is offline  
Feb 24th, 2010, 01:05 PM
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My apologies for leaving you hanging dgunbug! I was trying to finish the report before my trip to Japan, but just couldn't make it happen. So, now I'm back from Japan and will try to wrap it up.

Leslie - I would stay at either the Caravelle or the Pavilion again... but I'd be more likely to check for other options in HCMC. The Caravelle was nice and nothing wrong with it, but it was a typical hotel. The Pavilion was a little more unique. Not a 4 star hotel, but a nice, clean place in a good location. I wouldn't hesitate to stay there again.

You've already gotten some feedback on the
dreaming is offline  
Feb 24th, 2010, 01:06 PM
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Whooops. Don't know what I pressed, but I somehow submitted that too soon! Leslie - you've already gotten some feedback on the 1 day Mekong trip... I wouldn't do it. There would be a lot of time on the road and I don't believe you'd experience what I liked most about the Mekong - which was just watching life go by... Not the tourist stops, but just watching day to day business on the river.
dreaming is offline  
Feb 24th, 2010, 01:38 PM
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Mekong Delta/HCMC (Overall Trip Day 11)

Our driver from VietnamStay picked us up at the pier in Cai Be. We were able to use a rest room at the pier prior to the drive back, but needed some small change to pay the fee for the toilet. I think it was 1000 or 2000 dong...

The drive back was 1 1/2 to 2 hours to HCMC and we returned back to the Caravelle. We checked in and they even gave us the exact same room that we had before! This time we had gotten a weekend rate that included breakfast and a 6 pm checkout on our last day - which was terrific, as we had a night flight out.

We had a western lunch at Al Fresco's on Du Dong Street, just around the corner from the hotel and just down the street from the tailor. After lunch we stopped by the tailor - they weren't expecting us until the next day as we had thought we were getting back to HCMC in the evening. But they had a tunic for TC to try on & while I was waiting I ended up ordering a couple more shirts.... Like a kid in a candy store, I just couldn't resist.

We rested in the hotel for a bit, then decided to try to see the Puppet Show at the Golden Dragon Puppet Theater (another thing that was shown on The Amazing Race.) We left the hotel around 6 for the 6:30 show... and our taxi driver couldn't find it! TC finally pulled out a map and when we got close we had the driver drop us off. He refused to take the full fee on the meter, which was nice. So, we got to the theater just before showtime and bought our tickets. We were in the next to last row of the theater. The moment the show started, everyone in the seats in front of us lifted their digital cameras to take photos - it was like looking at a sea of digital cameras. Fortunately, no one sat in the last row, so we were able to stand for most of the performance.

It was interesting, but we didn't understand what was happening and we didn't have the best view. In hindsight, had we booked our tickets earlier we could have gotten better seats and if you're interested in watching the show, you can see the program here http://www.goldendragonwaterpuppet.com/Programme.asp which gives some idea of what is going on.

After the show, we walked over to Quan An Ngon. The location had moved from the address listed in the New York Times 36 hours in HCMC and is now on Pasteur in a fabulous airy two story house. There wasn't much of a line when we arrived at we went straight upstairs to a table. It was busy, a little chaotic, but service was pretty quick. I had some sort of chicken pho, which I wasn't crazy about and some sticky rice with shredded pork which was fantastic. With the usual lime soda this was fabulous. We also got the che suong sa hot luu as recommended by the NYTs and enjoyed it as well.

We left to walked back to the hotel and were caught just around the corner from the restaurant in a downpour. One minute there were just a few drops of rain, the next minute the streets were mini rivers! We hid under an awning until we caught a cab and were completely soaked in the few seconds we were lowering the umbrellas to get into the cab!

That was it for the day.

Up Next: Cu Chi Tunnels (Overall Trip Day 12)
dreaming is offline  
Feb 24th, 2010, 02:29 PM
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Cu Chi Tunnels Day 12

We booked our trip to the Cu Chi tunnels through VietnamStay. We had also checked with our hotel about booking through them. The hotel's price was more than double VietnamStay's - but they would have taken us in a Mercedes! The Mercedes not being important to us, we chose VietnamStay. We had talked to both the hotel and VietnamStay about booking the tour to include the Cao Dai temple. Both suggested not including the temple as they thought the amount of driving involved was too much.

We started off the day with the hotel buffet breakfast - which was excellent. Wide variety of choices, great coffee, etc.

Our guide, Vins, and our driver picked up us in the morning, 8 or 8:30 ish for the drive out to the tunnels. Vins was well spoken, with excellent English, and was a interesting guide for the day. The driver, however, would cyclically press the accelerator so we had a nausea inducing ride.

The tunnels were crowded with tourists, but somehow Vins took us off of the usual pattern and avoided the majority of the crowds. TC actually ran into someone that she knew from work at the tunnels, one of those small world stories.

I had thought that going into the tunnels would be something like going into a cave, with a nice pleasant drop in air temperature. Nothing like it. Not only was it low, narrow, curving and tight, but it was hot and muggy. Hard to imagine just how miserable it would have been during the war. Especially once you had a good look at the variety of traps placed in and around the tunnels.

We did go to the shooting range and fired an AK-47. For ear protection they gave us a pair of headphones, but we had been forewarned and had brought along some earplugs as well. So, if you plan to use the firing range, do bring earplugs.

After the tunnels it was back to HCMC.

We didn't get back to HCMC until 1:30 ish. So, it was back to the tailors for another fitting. A couple of TC's shirts were done and a couple of mine were ready for a fitting. None of mine were ready in the first fitting (they weren't expected to be) - one needed to be let out a bit, the button up shirts needed buttons placed, etc. We arranged to have everything ready for pick up the next day at 3, although we did mention to them that we wouldn't be leaving HCMC until after 8pm.

Since it was late for lunch, we decided to have the Afternoon Tea at the Caravelle. The Caravelle offered an English selection or a Vietnamese selection for the tea - we both decided on the English selection. And it was SO good... a great selection of mini sandwiches and scones and treats. All for about US$10. People watching was quite good in the Lobby Lounge as well, as there are large windows to the street - so you can watch outside and in...

I wasn't feeling well, so I went to rest, which TC went out to the War Remnants Museum.

For dinner we went back to Quan An Ngon. This time we went to the seafood section of the menu and ended up with a number of shrimp items and some fresh spring rolls. This time it was much more crowded. Parties of three were being squeezed into tables clearly meant for two, but no one seemed to mind. The service was off as well, our drinks came near the end of the meal. But all in all, it was a yummy dinner. It rained again the moment we left the restaurant. This time we took a cab right from the start!

Back at the Caravelle we went to the Martini Bar on the third floor. Martinis without the views that Saigon Saigon had, but a better Martini and about 1/2 the price.

Up next Last Day in HCMC (Overall Trip Day 13)
dreaming is offline  
Feb 24th, 2010, 03:25 PM
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Still loving your report. Glad you enjoyed your time in Vietnam. We will be spending 3 full days in the Mekong on our own, staying in Can Tho the entire time and taking day trips on our own from there. (Hope we are not making a mistake!) I was hoping to hear about the temple as we want to go there on the day of the tunnel tour. Did they tell you how much further the temple is?

Just wondering, now that you are back home, are you enjoying the clothes you had made?

Hope you enjoyed Japan. Was the trip for pleasure or business? I envy all of you that are able to make multiple trips in one year!
dgunbug is offline  
Feb 24th, 2010, 04:54 PM
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Dgunbug - When do you leave? Isn't it soon?

I can't remember just what they said about how far it was, but I think it was 4+ hours to get to the temple. We decided that we didn't want to spend that long in the car. I'll look forward to your feedback if you make it there.

Funny about the clothes. I had 6 blouses made. I've worn 2 of them (same pattern) repeatedly. To the point where I wish I had the same blouse made into a second all black one and another material as well. The other 4 I haven't worn at all. Part of that is that they are really spring/summer blouses and it's cool here - but I'm in So CA, so I could pretty much wear them year round.

Japan was for pleasure! Don't be jealous, I usually can only make one big trip a year, but with the economy work has been very slow. So this year I have more time than usual (and consequently less money!).
dreaming is offline  
Feb 24th, 2010, 05:14 PM
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Much love your report! I assume the Mekong delta wasn't the last destination in Vietnam? Thank you.
Janvier_Moreno is offline  
Feb 24th, 2010, 05:23 PM
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Dreaming - we leave May 6th. Can't wait already. Feels like we've been planning this trip forever. Now we must start thinking about where to go next.
dgunbug is offline  
Feb 24th, 2010, 05:39 PM
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thanks for tieing things up nicely
rhkkmk is offline  
Feb 24th, 2010, 06:53 PM
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Thanks for a great, detailed report!
barefootbeach is offline  
Feb 25th, 2010, 07:20 AM
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Thanks for the feedback on the Caravelle, dreaming. I'll keep looking for a Saigon hotel.

I know the basic (cheaper) 1-day delta trips are very tourist-trappy and all go to the same area so you have crowds, etc. I've seen a couple of posts on TA about guides who take you to a different location - off the usual path. Might make the 1 day there worthwhile.
I guess the question would be if it's 1 day or nothing would you go?
Also, I've been reading about a new highway that just opened this month that cuts a significant (?) amount of time off travel from Saigon.

Thanks again for your report & advice.
Leslie_S is offline  
Feb 25th, 2010, 08:28 AM
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Leslie - Yes, I'd still go even if it's one day trip to the Mekong. I'd want to see what I could even if the trip was a little crazy.

I wonder if the new highway is the bridge that eliminates the need for the ferry in Can Tho?
dreaming is offline  
Feb 26th, 2010, 06:53 AM
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dreaming - yes, I believe that's what I read on a few TA posts - the bridge is complete which means you don't spend time waiting for the ferry.

I'm working on an itinerary now for spring 2011 (premature by most standards, I know) so I don't have to make final decisions now. I really appreciate your advice based on your experience.
Leslie_S is offline  

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