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Trip Report Glover's ongoing report 2 mos. In sea

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Will try to do this as we go. Hope I get better at using my iPad keyboard over time.

We've been planning this 2 month trip all year, with lots of help from. This board. Husband fell in love with Asia on a trip decades ago and always wanted to return. It's my first trip there. We've travelled a lot always independenty in Mexico, central and south America and Europe. We're nature and culture and food lovers.

Our itinerary is an ambitious busy oneweknow but we may not pass this way again. We used miles to get us to Singapore and back from hong kong (to dc. )

The iron is sing, Bali, java, Yogyakarta,Borneo, Cambodia,Laos, vn, and hong kong.
A lot of flying.

Sadly only enough miles for biz class one wY. So we did the Econ grueling flight onwY over. Hardes skinniest united seats ever. 5 hrs to SFO, 13 to hk, almost 4 more to sing
Slept nary a wink as always, but survived.

4 great nights at the very lovely and convenient intercontinental hotel in sing. We arrived just after the new year. Sorry we missed the celeb in sing as it sounded fabulous lights all over the amazing new marina bay area. Instead we just managed to score 2 very expensive drinks at the hotel bar before closing and crashed.

Generally took it easy in sing, but really enjoyed it. Thought it lush and lovely. Spent an afternoon at botanical gardens, had relaxing lovely but overpriced lunch at halia there.
Walked some distance back in tropical rain. Conquered mrt subway. Masses of people out on new years day. Loved looking at all the diversity. Spent another day walking around Arab sreet then over to new marina bay area. Amazing construction going on there. Couldn't resist riding Singapore flyer to view it all. Huge ferris wheel. Chilled fin a
Ly at brewpub at riverside. Spent other whole day at bird park. Thought it beautiful also. Had a nice spot for afternoon shower. Under pavilion at african waterfall exhibit. Hoped to do museums in afternoon but never made it. Two dinners Recs from hotel. The very cheap and local kamala villas. Indian veggie where we practiced eTing with only righthand challenging. Other was blue ginger. Both decent and reasonable.

Took air asia to Bali. All went well except for one hour wIt for visa on arrival there. We're now ensconced in the lovely puri santrian resort in Sanur. Sanur is not whT we expected, but it's grown on us. More later

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    sounds like a good trip so far....

    we really liked the intercontinental and its location...

    visa on arrival in bali is a crap shoot... once we waited 1.5 hours and last time we whizzed through...

    sanur is good.... make sure you eat at the village italian rest., expensive but worth it... nice pool at PS....

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    Good to hear from you glover! I have been thinking about you.

    I hope your IPad doesn't autocorrect like my IPhone - some of my text messages are cryptic and embarrassing.

    Check out Tandjung Sari for a drink one night... we liked Warung Pregina, (across the street from Wicket Parrot) for cheap cheap authentic Indonesian satays and curries.

    My husband is very interested in the old vespas and scooters and made his way from Sanur to Kuta to look through some auto body shops and parts stores.

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    Indeed pools here at puri santrian are wonderful. Grounds are beautiful. Spent yesterday just lazing around Pool. Will have massage today and go to hotell,s special dinner with entertainment etc. Great breakfast today at cafe batu jimban. North of hyatt. Wow hyatt is huge and gorgeous. Will dip toes in Indian ocean today. When we said Sanur is not what we expected, guess we're still wondering about quiet. Streets a very busy. Also very little beach down here below hyatt at ps. But we're happy. We move to alam shanti in ubud tomorrow.

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    have fun at AS... i so hope that you like it as much as we did....use their shuttle to your full advantage... order big at breakfast and allow plenty of time to eat on your porch

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    Thanks for reporting in.

    The Hyatt at Sanur is gorgeous. You say Hyatt and people think nah, just another chain hotel. My first trip to Bali many years ago, a travel agent recommended the Bali Hyatt. She convinced me to stay there, and it was (and is) indeed, beautiful. Award winning grounds, and the most "Balinese" swimming pools... I love the one with the cave.

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    Alam shanti Wow! We're ensconced in gayatri room. Looking out over rice fields from one of our two porches. I just hope we'll be able to leave the room to see the town!
    thanks for the great rec bob.

    Last night's special Bali dinner at puri santrian at Sanur .... Just ok food though beautifully presented.
    Great dancing and gamrelon music. Am reading collinmcfee's A House In Bali Old book from. 40's
    Filled with info on Gamelon and dance.

    Ok,off to see ubud

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    following bob's advice, we enjoyed some good porch time here in our alam shanti digs. We,re in Gayatri, the second floor of one the newer buildings looking over beautiful rice fields, A wonderfful breakfast is delivered to us each am. Today we had fruit, baanana pancake for husband and omelet for me. Then we went off to do a long walk from town out to and through rice fields. A great flat walk with lots to look at. Workers in fields. Folks commuting to town. Lush foliage everywhere. Aatrtist shops along the way. Very hot and humid though. Walked back to town too. Ate lunch in Satri's Warung. We'd read about it in frommers and thought it sounded interesting and noticed sign for it on street. satri is apparently well known for her smoked duck. But as that requires 24 hours notice, we had banana chicken instead. Satri gives Balinese cooking lessons. As we were alone there, she came over and talked to us. Chcikenand it's accompanying veggies were delicious.

    Walked back to alam and fell into pool. Thunder rain threatened but never materialized. Had alam shuttle deliver us to town to Dirty Duck for Dinner. I had the special chicken kebab with pepper sauce, h had nasi goring. Both were good. With a couple glasses of hat ten wine and a large bin tang, the bill was $32!!! the Only expensive restaurant item unfortunately is wine. why? Taxes? Importing?
    Seems even the cheapest Australian or nz wine is $10 or more $ pere glass, so I,ve ordered some Bali local stuff.s. It's not terrible,and costs half the price.

    Tomorrow we'll be up early for a day with the famous Putu. We're driving east. . . .

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    Yes, taxes on imported wines and alcohol of all kinds are exorbitant. Hatten and Artisan which are made in Bali from Australian grapes are a good value. Still a little rough but getting better.

    Enjoy Bali!

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    AS is the best.....did you see the other pool...its now so private for the bldg next to it only.... we always try to rent that bldg... the shuttle, for free, is a real bonus too...

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    We're loving it here in ubud. After 2 night's in alam shanti's beautiful newish gayatri room Out overlooking the rice fields, where we watched a worker dig for eels each am and saw a fabulous Javanese kingfisher light on a branch, we moved over to the perhaps even nicer shindu room near the office. Here rather than two outdoor upper porches we have a lovely porch surrounded by lush greenery, lotus ponds, etc. Huge room with two big beautiful paintings and hung textiles. An amazing outside walled bathroom complete with blooming orchids and our own koi pond. An enormous hard bed. Soon we'll have aanother delicious. Breakfast delivered to the porch.
    Yes, bob we saw the private pool, looked great. But of course we had the public one to ourselves the other day too. Nice little cafe and spa area over there too. The day before yesterday wAs Alam's 7th anniversary, so they had a nice party for the staff. Lovely cake and other desserts laid out by office which we were invited to taste. One staff member A "second. " brother stopped and chatted with us for about half an hour yesterday. It will be Very hard to leave here tomorrow.

    We had a great day with Putu yesterday. He picked us up at alam at 8 and we went eAst. Visited gGunung Kawi monuments, Besakih temple, Lake Batur, Sideman Valley, texttile making and market, court of justic, etc at Klungkung. may have even forgotten a few. Stopped to sample poop coffee that had been mentioned by some here. an interesting story indeed behind that, Nice strong coffe though. Had nice leisurely chat with Putu over coffee re Indonesian and Bali govt and politics, elections. Such an intelligent guy. Couldn't resist buying some poop beans - even at the inflated price of $35 for 100 g. We got a great workout up and down many steps. The am was hot and even sunny. Besakih was jammed with people. Many ceremonies occurring so it was great to see some of those. Textiles were beautiful, but I was simply to overwhelmed to buy anything, without specific idea, use. Felt like I would have needed 2 or 3 leisurely hours without more impatient husband to shop. Putu managed to buy a couple thing though. . . Back to Alam about 5, just in time for rain.
    Some rough roads and driving, all of which Putu negotiated carefully and calmly. When I mentioned fodors he said what funny guys bob and Andy were. Always with jokes.

    relaxed on our new Shindu porch and listened to rain with glass of wine. After a while walked across the street to the Chili restaurant. Nice outdoor atmosphere, food pretty good. Sun is shining again this am. We'll go to some in town sites today, museusms etc., probably do some time at the pool, maybe a dance tonight.

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    dance on your porch even....then a snooze on the sofa...

    i can't fault AS in any way....for me it is some of the best travel money i have ever spent... the beds are hard, but somehow quite comfortable...

    anxious to read more....what's next?

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    Glover, try Laka Leke restaurant, near the walking path to the Monkey Forest for an interesting atmosphere, especially at night. Good is pretty good, as well.

    i thought the bed in Ganggha was the softest of any that we had on our trip. The hard beds in Asia were great!

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    A lovely relaxing am on the shindu porch. Even some sun. Had leisurely breakfast of fruit, coffee, the great juice,and the wonderful banana pancake. Had the shuttle take us to the neka museum. Beautiful setting, nicely done exhibits of Balinese art. Highly recommend. Really nice gift store too.
    Then took a cab to pura saraswati - the temple and waterr garden built in late nineteenth century. Hoot and ,sweaty by then we fell right into the Lotus Cafe in front of the temple for a couple bin tangs, chicken salad, gazpacho. Then we went on to the royal palace and puri lukisan museum. Not nearly as nice or interesting as neka, but they're clearly working on renovating all around. Decided to buy some tickets for a kecak and fire dance in town. Super sweaty by now, we took cab back to alam, where we jumped in the pool and then had tea. Shuttle back to town for dance. Drizzle of rain moved concert under pavilion. We both had seen kecak before, tough probably a different story.
    The calling, chanting, are fascinating. So much going on. Must have been 100 "monkeys" and another half dozen costumed characters. Kecakwas followed by a fire dance, a single dancer who was astride a " horse" who danced in and out of burning coals, until they'd all been scattered and swept. Sadly there were only about 40 people or so at the performance. Putu told us the performers make nothing really. Ticket sale money is almost entirely used to maintain costumes, instruments etc.
    Putu said he had danced in high schoo - just part of village life for most....

    After cooncert we walked down to terrazzo and had a great dinner there. I had beef, greens,and noodle mix (kee yeuw?)' h had fish of day - opaki- both were excellent. H also had a chocolate fondant dessert. There were just a handful of people there. Big difference from insanely busy weekend. We get one last short porch sit tomorrow am. We'll hate to leave. But we're being picked up by Ijen resort people tomorrow to go to Ijen in java via the ferry.

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    We were picked up yesterday at alam shanti about 9:30 by a driver from the Ijen resort I java. Enjoyed the several hours drive northwest to the ferry to java. Lots of the drive was right along the coast. Drove right onto the ferry. Driver stayed with car and we went up to top deck. Not terribly full. Interesting to watch a full size bus maneuver onto ferry and into spot. It was hot, hot, hot on the upper deck, air very still, no sun. Boat stayed in place for some time as I suppose it waited for space out there. Many ferries back and forth. Should be just a quick jaunt

    Finally we were across and in java. Begin to notice more mosques. About another hour, including the very bumpy last 3.5 km up to the resort. As we pull up in front we're rushed by staff bringing hot tea. We're checked in by very young looking woman in head scarf. All rest of staff seem to ,be youngish men. Hotel and restaurant English only spoken here. All eager to please. Place is probably about 25 Percent full. We love that it's called the Ijen resort And conference center. Can't imagine what group will brave that rocky road for a conference mid nowhere. But the grounds are absolutely beautiful. We think we must have the best room 101, with a small flat patio that looks out over 270 degree view of terraced rice paddies. Just beyond the patio is a canal lined with can a, giinger, bird of paradise etc. There's a beautiful pool and outside restaurant. Weather starts to change as we Re getting settled. Wind whips into a frenzy and a long hard rain falls. Power goes out briefly. We have a simple dinner of nasi goreng and bitangs. Lots of choice on menu, but food just ok. Only choice here as "town" would be a bit of a hike and have nothing. Crash early for 5 am wake up call for hike to mt Ijen crater. The main purpose for folks to visit this spot.

    After quick breakfast, we meet our guide Albert for the hike up to the crater. He's with our same driver from yesterday. Albert is great, smart lively and good at spotting things. We drive 1 and a half hours on the worst road ever, and then hike another hour and a half or so up to the crAter, which is ttotally socked in. At the top it's like we've arrived on the moon. Winds probably 45 mph. Sulphur smell. Fog and mist. All the way up we have met workers coming down with 80 or so kgs of sulphur chunks in baskets on bamboo poles across their shoulders. They mine the sulphur from the volcano crater. For this work they are of course paid next to nothing. Interesting and depressing to see.

    Albert helps us spot some new birds though and also spies a troop of java monkeys, related to lemurs he said. Large, grayish, with funny pixie hair cuts. Albert very much wants the weAtheer to cleAr so we can see the fabulous crater lake. . . But it.'s not happening. Latest he shows us a video of it on his phone. Indeed lovely. Sorry we missed it. Slog back down the mountain. Another rocky road ride back. Branches down everywhere from high winds. We're just glad we survived. . . .

    Meanwhile weather back at resort is pretty decent. Have a porch sit, a swim in the icy pool,and a walk around the grounds. After another dinner in the restaurant, we'll fall into bed early and hopetobe able to move tomorrow. A 2 day wedding celebration down in the village meant nonstop music all night last night. Tomorrow we have our same driver (what nerves of steel) to java banana hotel near broom.

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    Left Ijen with our same driver from a few days before at 9:30 arrived at Java Banana about 3 or. 4.  The last few kms had us a little worried as we kept going further and further on a road that had obviously just been repaired post eruption.   Very high up!  Beautiful cabbage and onion fields.   But many plants just emerging, or still covered, in ash.    The hotel 
    looked very empty.    Because it was almost.  First night it was the two of us And a French couple.  That was it.   We got lots of attention from hotel's "concierge". Purawaddy.   He's very chatty and speaks pretty good English and French.   Java Banana's an interesting place.  Like Ijen,it seems to want to market itself as a conference center of sorts, but it's hard to imagine any local biz or org choosing these places, because of their remoteness.   The first venture was a photo gallery and cafe, but hotel info said that wasn't't sustainable so they decided to add lodging.   Owned by a banker/photographer with several other photographer investors.   All very modern and upscale
    Looking with a lot of glass.  Much different than all the other housing and biz
    Establishments in bromo.   Perhaps he will turn out to be on the cutting edge of bromo becoming an artsy place or not.  Our expensive superior room was nice enough with a good bed, but barely big enough to turn around in and not much space to put anything.  Hotel, like village, is still cleaning up post eruption.

    Next morning Purawaddy took us to the viewpoint for Mt Bromo.   We went some distance on a bumpy road in a Jeep.   Then we did a short steep hike up to the lesser viewpoint.  Could not go fiurther because trees had come down and blocked the path in previous day's hard winds.  But the sky was clear enough that we saw the great panorama of the still smoking  bromo, the sea of sand stretched out before it,and the temple at the foot of the mountain.   It appeared that the longer hike ( currently forbidden) would be spectacular.  Down a path to the sea of sand, across that sea, a visit to the temple,and then up the many stairs to the crater edge.

    In the afternoon we walked Round the village.  Looked At some birds and crops. Many passing locals called out to us, as we were clearly an unusual site in the village last week.   

    When we realized we had done all that Bromo currently had available, we changed our flight to eArlier from Surabaya to Yogy.  That meant a 4:30 wakeup call for drive to airport. But that all went smoothly and we again reallY enjoyed watching the rural and then city areas wAke up,   Killed airport wait time at Starbucks!! With wifi.   Something to be said for civilization after all.

    Fine Lion Air flight to Yogy.  We're loving the lovely old Phoenix Hotel here.
    Today we saw the Sultan's palace and also the water palace.   GreAt free traditional dance and Gamelon concert at palace.  Again we were among very few Westerners and hence sought after for interviews by legions of English learners.   But as an esl teacher, I enjoy it.  for Awhile.    Had some good cheP local food at wAter cAstle cafe.  Nice chat with some staff there.   It was hot, hot, hot.  Cabbed back to hotel for swim in their lovely pool.  Later cabbed to a restaurant I'd seen mentioned on chow hound . Pelec Solo.   Large place next to Hyatt regency.  A warung.    Only a handful of other diners.   We were clueless about the menu, small and without any English description at all.   Worked hard with a couple of stAffers to get a general sense of whAt we'd be ordering.   In the end all was very tasty and interesting.  Incredibly cheap and ready in minutes.   Great old wood antique look inside.   Waiter offered us massage, reflexology,and what we thought was "Arab smoke".  A hookah?  We weren't sure, but declined.
    2 entrees, an appetizer, and 2 large Bintangs came to $20.  We have to laugh that whenever we order a small bin tang, it turns out they only have large, but when we want a large one, they only have small.
    Plan to take cab to Borobudur tomorrow.....




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    We stayed at the Phoenix before it was called the Phoenix. Had a very nice room, but the highlights were two exceptionally good massages in their spa. If you are staying there longer, try one.

    I hope you enjoy Borobudur as much as we did. I have to thank Marmot for her suggestion to take the book Golden Tales of the Buddha. I almost didn't buy it, but then changed my mind when I saw it in the airport bookstore. It made the whole trip there better and we learned so much more than if we'd taken a tour. I noticed that most of the tour guides rushed their groups around to just the highlighted areas. We got to spend as much time as we wanted at whichever panel we liked and learned all about the story depicted on the panel. I highly recommend it.

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    Thanks Susncrg, wished we'd had time for massages at the Phoenix. We did some earlier in the trip in Bali that were wonderful and incredibly cheap. We did lull about at the Phoenix pool late yesterday afternoon, even had dinner at the pool actually. We'd had a long hot great day at Borobudur and Prambanan. We just took a taxi out there and explored on our own. He just waited for us and then took us to P. Hardly anyone at Borobudur either when we arrived at 9:30. I read somewhere that tourism there is down by 70% (due to eruptions at Merapi presumably). We saw serious Merapi damage on the road to Borobudur. They're busy cleaning up. Lots of guys working on the temple too, and the stoupas are still off limits. But nevertheless it turned out to be wonderful time to visit (a Monday). More people at Prambanan in the afternoon - almost all school kids. We were mobbed by them of course. But mostly we enjoyed them. We made them work for their pictures with us old Western people - insisted that we get to take their pictures, that we be allowed to interview them, and then we'd ask them, with a straight face, for 5,000 rupiah. Lots of giggling. We had some pretty good Lonely Planet temple info with us that was helpful. After I saw Marmot's rec of the Golden Tales book we looked for it for the kindle the other day, but it didn't seem to be available on kindle.

    We went to a shadow puppet show last night at the Sonoboyondo(?) museum. Not an easy place to find! Had not the usual local immediately befriended us when we stepped out of our taxi (driver pointed in the direction of the entrance), we'd never have found it. Roads round the museum are closed off for market. No lights, no signs,nothing! We watched someone working on making the leather puppets, and watched quite a lot of the show from front and back.

    The day before yesterday we spent wandering around the city. And I do mean wandering. Not an easy city for finding one's way or crossing streets. But we got an interesting tour in English at the Sultan's Palace and arrived in time to see three great dances and gamelon for free at the palace pavillion. We got a "tour" of the water palace when we were picked up by a local who naturally turned out to be a batik store tout. He was a nice man though, and gave us lots of info. We also ended up wandering the area along the canal when we took a wrong turn. Though it was quite a poor area, it was also interesting to see.

    For dinner that night we took a taxi to a place I'd read about on, next to Hyatt Regency hotel - Pecel Solo. Embarrassed to say that we weren't yet fluent in Indonesian eating - beyond nasi goreng and a few others. Nothing familiar on Pecel's menu, and no explanations we could understand. So we were flying blind. Nevertheless we had some tasty food at incredibly low prices. Two entrees, an appetizer, and two large Bintangs were $20. My appetizer was a kind of rice/spinach green bean combo. And my main was chicken and veggies steamed in banana leaves. Restaurant is a large room - all wood, old pictures, old tools, antique look to it. Open air. Nice atmosphere.

    We're now in Kuala Lumpur at the Trader's Hotel for one night one our way to Kinta Kinabalu and then Borneo Rainforest Resort. Trader's is the opposite of the Phoenix Hotel. It's huge, ultra chic, but rather cold. Like a huge corporate office building. But we have a great room on the 11th floor with a great view of Petronas Towers. We went out looking for some laundry soap this afternoon and ended up in the HUGE Siria(?) shopping mall. It dwarfed our DC area megamalls. But we enjoyed just watching the incredible diversity of people. Had minor lunch at Malaysian stall in enormous food court. Am tempted by the pool on the 33rd floor. It's big and nice, but an indoor pool. Very chic bar up there too. Some nice looking and expensive restaurants within the hotel. But I may torture my husband by searching for bizarre and,no doubt, out of the way places noted on chowhound that will require a taxi and effort to locate. But,hey, where's your sense of adventure?

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    Ooh...I am really looking forward to the next bit of your report as we will be in Borneo in March-April and also staying at Borneo Rainforest Lodge as well as on the Kinabatangan and in Kuching. I will be watching your travel for tips on what to do and see. Thanks in advance!

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    glover; Was your visit to Yojya worthwhile but depressing because of all the damage Mt. Merapi had wrought on the city and surrounding area? also, At the Java Banana are there larger rooms, maybe $90-$110USD for 2, without having to spring for a suite. On the short walk you did because of the limitations at Bromo was it 100 yards or more and was it steps or rough path that was fairly straight up. I have a bum knee and though I can walk a path walking up inclines of more than 20-30 yards begins to be a issue for me?
    We are considering a Sept 2011 trip which prompts the above questions. We are going to a dive resort first in S,E, Sulawisi for 10 days then on to Java, at least that is the plan.

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    After enjoying a night of luxe at the Traders Hotel in Kuala Lumpur
    And schmoozing the Siria megamall under Petronas towers, we were off to the airport again for our flight to Kota Kinabalu.   All went smoothly on our Asia Air flight,  and just like at KL, we were through Kk airport and into a cab in a breeze.   We were headed for the Eden54 Hotel, a basic, inexpensive place with great reviews.   Indeednwe received a warm welcome, ate cheaply and well in hotel's sister restaurant down the street.   It was raining hard and we were looking for something easy.   We each had a bowl of delicious sweet corn and chicken soup and pineapple fried rice.   We left some luggage with them that we wouldn't need in the rainforest, and some laundry that they,ll do cheaply by kilo.    They arranged a 5:30 pickup for us next am for our Mas Wings flight to Lahad Datu.   
    Other pluses of hotel:  small flat screen tv, comfortable bed,a d in room wi fi.   

    Flight to Lahad Datu also went off without a hitch.  Borneo Rainforest Resort folks picked us up at the airport.  We drove to their office to pay the big bill.   Then we hopped in back  of a 4 wheel drive van for the 2 1/2 hour drive to the lodge in. The Danum Valley.   Our driver was delightful and spotted a bit of wildlife for us son the drive - some pigtail macaque monkeys, a mongoose, a ,monitor lizard, and a new squirrel.    

    We were welcomed to the lodge with a cool towel and drink (delicious
    Lemongrass and Ginger tea).   Our room is one of their deluxe river view rooms and it's wonderful, spacious,  simple wood fir inure, nice bathroom and beautiful porch with couch, outdoor bathtub,sand great river view.   We immediately see spectacular blue, green, orange long tailed bird sweeping the river.   Identify them as blue throated bee eaters.  Later see a hornbill, and a stork billed kingfisher that looks rather like the proverbial rubber ducky.  And all that was before we met our guide.  Lunch is served buffet style in nice open air space and porch.   A nice mix of veggies, local dishes, fruit.   

    Later in the afternoon we meet our guide Wang and go off for a short, walk down the road.   See a few other interesting birds and some red leaf monkeys.   There are rumors of orangutans ahead, but unfortunately they moved on before we arrived.   It is hot, hot, hot.
    Nice dinner, some sate, curried pineapple, chicken in spy sauce, salad. Though we really want nothing more than to crash, we decide perfect weather and full moon are too rare to pass up the night ride to spot animals.   So about 10 of us sit on bench ,seats in back of 4 wheel drive cab. Guide sits, on a raised seat above us.  Driver in cab.  Now there arer rumors that Borneo Pygmy elephants have been seen down the road.  This time we do manage to see them, as well as a porcupine (always wanted to see one of those ), and a large reddish flying squirrel - first high in a tree, and then gliding down.  Jungle was beautiful in the full moon and sweet scented.   Then alas sky suddenly opened and we got rained on the whole way back.   Oh no, my " going to dinner" capris and tshirt.   They should dry by next week

    Will be up early again tomorrow for another hike with guide.  This time to canopy walk and a trail.   Bought the necessary leech socks tonight and will inaugurate them tomorrow.   Saw our first leech on a railing.  Thought it was a cute inch worm at first,,,

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    Glover; Would you mind answering my earlier question above about both your mood and that of the local people about the distruction of Mt. Merapi.
    Also, the walk up to where you viewed Mt. Bromo (incline, steps) and the opportunity for larger rooms at Java Banana Hotel. This second question will really help us determine whether we go to Bromo at all.

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    Great report glover! Your iPad typing is improving with every post too! :)

    We are planning a similar trip in April - We're going to KL first, and a quick trip to the Cameron Highlands in Malaysia. Then on to Bali (Jimbaran Bay for 5 days, then Ubud for 4 days), and then on to Yogyakarta for 4 more days.

    We'll look for some of the restaurants and activities you mention...

    We're also hopeful that the people in the Yogya area and Borobudur are recovering from the Merapi disaster...

    Thanks again for the great overview!

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    Just a few notes about day 1 and 2 at Borneo Rainforest lodge.  We are actually here 3 whole days and a half day on either side! As we opted for a four night birding package, which I believe is now gone from the website.   So the good news bad news is that our hikes have been really focused on birds.  Hence the lodge's decision to assign us to guide Weng.  He their best at finding  and identifying birds.
    But otherwise he 's not really interested in engaging us in any other way, which is a loss for us all.   And we 're easy!  He'll answer any questions we ask, but we gotta ask.   And it seems he'd rather we didn't ask.   But it's difficult to know, as he's in his own world ( or perhaps just really super focused listening).   We have seen lots of great birds though both days so far.   We hike the road into the lodge, a few trails, across the river, and over the wonderful l canopy walk.  We also went off trail today to chase down an orangutan, which we got a pretty good view of.  He was a young male alone.  We waited and waited while he was high in the trees,and just when we were going to leave, he started moving and was nicely in view for some time.  very fun!  We've had great luck with the weather.  Two sunny clear days yesterday and today.   We return after each am walk soaked in sweat, strip, and throw our clothes in the lovely outdoor tub on our porch.   Porch has great drying racks on two sides.
    Food continues to be great, lots of terrific fruit and vegetables.  Familiar and unfamiliar veggies done in nice salads or cooked in stir fries.  

    We'll go on  another walk late in afternoon with Weng. Probably a second night spotting this eve.  Last eve we just stayed around and relaxed on our porch.  Saw a mother and baby deer at edge of river at dusk last eve.  

    We should both qualify for the lodge's certificate of blood donation, since on our return from the walk today we both had leech experiences.   I'd just cleaned my hiking boots and thought I felt something on my head.   Touched something slimy just behind my ear.  Pulled it off and it was an engorged leech.   Hmmmm. How long had it been there?   Husband took off his shirt and noticed fair amount of blood.  One had gotten him under the arm!   Ewwww!  That was a somewhat more unnerving experience than flicking a few tiny ones off a  sleeve before they attached.   No lasting harm done though of course.

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    Stankase, sorry I really don't know the answer to your question about Java Banana rooms. I believe what we had some kind of superior room and it cost $100. I don't know if there are larger ones. Maybe the website says. If you read reviews on trip advisor you will see that, like us, most people liked the property but thought it overpriced for the area, quality. But there 's not a lot of choice there.

    We weren't depressed by the damage. We thought it interesting to see. Most people we talked to are just busy cleaning it up. They seemed friendly and up beat. I think you take it in stride when you live under the volcano.

    We thought it was a beautiful and interesting area. You could get a good easy view of the volcano and sea of sand from behind the Lava View Hotel. ( which someone we met recommended by the way). And also from the departure point for the currently closed hike. The hike to the viewpoint that we did, while not terribly difficult, sounds like it may be more than you want to do.

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    Glover; Thanks very much. Just one clatification please. Assuming the weather is good to get to the departure point does not take any hiking because you make reference to a short steep climb? If I could not make up the incline would it really be worth going all the way to Bromo? Also, were in Yojyka for 3 days last March and went to Dieng Plateau and the main attractions within about 25 miles of the city i.e. Bobobudur so this time we were thinking of a day in a radius of 30 miles around Solo for a day. Would we find that much different in the little villages, scenery, etc. than Yojyka? Lastly, you chose to go to Surabya vs. Melang. What made you select one over the other since the little I read makes Melang sound quite unusual, but that may just be PR? Thanks again.

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    Glover, Thanks for sharing your journey with us.
    StanKase, Have you tried the Trip advisor? There are destination experts at that forum who are Indonesians living in Indonesia and they know the area well. They are very good in answering all questions promptly. Hope this helps.

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    Yogya and Solo are very similar, both in the towns and the surrounding areas. Yogya as more tourist infrastructure, but the cultures are very similar. The Solo Kraton (palace) is less well known and thus, less visited.

    Surabaya and Malang are very different: Surabaya is a big city and Malang a small town. Surabaya is the major commercial destination in East Java, with an active airport and seaport. Malang is not so easy to get to.

    I think what draws a lot of people to Malang is the laid back atmosphere and the Tugu Hotel.

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    Enjoyed another hike yesterday afternoon, though we didn't see too many birds or other wildlife.  After another nice dinner on the porch restaurant, went on a second night spotting ride.  Bonanza this time. We saw 3 species of flying squirrels, a masked civet, a brown wood owl, two samba deer, a pangolin ( scaley anteater) and best of all a leopard cat.  Great views of this beautiful, small cat.  In fact we followed him down the road.   

    At dusk before we went to dinner we sat on our wonderful porch and watched the river.   3 or 4 rhinoceros hornbills flew by to nest in a tall tree by the river.   Notice then that same tree was full of monkeys.  Kind of like a monkey highway.   We'veseen several types of monkeys here - long tailed macaques, pigtailed macaques, and red leaf monkeys.   We've heard but not yet seen gibbons.  They sound like car alarms.   

    Rained very hard about 5:30 to 6am this morning just as we aware getting up (fortunately they have great strong coffee here at the lodge ).  Then we went out with our guide to what they call the jacuzzi pool, an area with a small waterfall for taking a dip and/or fish therapy for the feet. Little fish nibble your feet for a natural exfoliant.  

    About noon now as we we watch gentle rain begin to fall on the river.  

    The lodge is very well managed, and all the staff so nice.   Upon returning from any hike we 're met by a nice woman bearing lemongrass scented cool cloths.  Shoes are forbidden in the cabins and lounge, restaurant.  There's an area for rinsing hiking boots and then storing them (along with the ever important leech socks).  

    Guests are coming and going as we've been here.  Some groups, a few families, couples, and a few singles.  As was our experience in Indonesia, mostly Australians, Dutch, and other Europeans.  Just a few other Americans.  Last night a small group from the Malaysian tourist board arrived to experience the property.   

    Looks like we may be socked in with rain for awhile now, but that's ok from our lovely porch.  If it rains all day we won't care, as we feel lucky to have had 2 great clear hot sunny days and nice nights for spotting.  Rain in the rainforest is fun too!

    We leave tomorrow after lunch.   Return to kk for a night and then the following day fly kk to KL and then to phnom penh.   

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    Rivet, yes we liked snake fruit, and just had jackfruit which was good too. We are loving all the interesting local greens and veggies!
    Stankase, perhaps Not worth going all way to Bromo if you'r not up for much walking. Sorry, we only went to Yogy, so know nothing of any surrounding village areas or Solo. Only reason we went to Surabaya as to get to Yogy from Bromo. Didn't spend any time there. Did not consider maleng.

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    Hi Glover. Not sure when you are arriving at Soupaphone in Vientene but I am here now. The rooms are really lovely but two things you may want to reconfirm. I have a very heavy suitcase as i am travelling alone and my room was on the fourth floor so a lot of lugging up many stairs.
    they had rooms on lower floors but they dont have windows.
    So, two things you many want to request, a window if that is important, and a lower floor if you have lots or heavy luggage.
    Enjoying your report.

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    glover, if you like jackfruit, there is a curry coconut dish from Central Java called Lodeh, you might be able to find it in Malaysia. The sweet version is called Gudeg.
    Don't miss out on the mangosteen, it's supposed to be a super antioxident food. I think the taste is heavenly.

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    Liv42 day, thanks for the tips re Souphaphone. We'll be be there in a week or two. . We're traveling really light and I've got the Sherpa husband along , so steps should 't be a problem. Glad to here you 're happy there. I' really enjoying your report on Laos.

    Meanwhile, on with my report. I' m afraid to jinx our plans by saying this, but we 've had many flights etc so far and everything has gone off without a hitch. Air Asia was great and incredibly cheap. But our next biz will be Lao Ai and Vietnam Air, so we shall see.

    We said reluctant goodbye to Borneo Rainforest Lodge. We spent our last morning on our own. Slept a little later, did a little more porch sitting, walked around the property, and took some pictures.

    Don't think I mentioned how much I enjoyed the canopy walk there. We did it again on our last afternoon hike. Saw another amazingly beautiful bird up there, a red bearded bee eater. But regardless of what you might see or not up there, it 's just a gorgeous spot.

    Left BRL at about. 1. BOunced down to Lahad Datu. 2 1/2 hours later. Cooled heels at that tiny airport for a couple hours till our 5:30 Mas wings flight to Kota Kinabalu. We were warmly welcomed back at Eden 54 Hotel, where our stored luggage and completed laundry $3 for all! Were waiting in our new room. Popped back into their nice little restaurant 3 doors down and had another easy, good, cheap meal. This time shopped at the super yuppie market on other side of Eden. My what a wine department. What a place. What a surprise. Also a nice little deli kind of spot right next door. Procured sliced fresh pineapple, mango juice, a donut, and yoghurt for next day 's breakfast. Sleep like the dead. Next am have in room breakfast (Eden has fridge in hall for guest 's use, also computers in addition to free in room wi fi. Super staff. A small basic place that has thought of everything. Super convenient.

    Flew Air Asia Kk to KL and then KL to PhnomPenh. We delight to find Starbucks and wi fi in these airports.

    So here we are in Phnom Penh, which we Are really enjoying so far. We had zero expectations. We're staying at the Pavilion Hotel near the Royal Palace. We think of it as a smaller crumbling version of our fac Phoenix back in Yogy. And the crumbling elegance fits for PHnom Penh. It's Also an old manse circa mid 1800s. Rooms arrayed around nice pool. A little oasis in a crazy town.
    But PP is quieter than Yogy. Just as gritty. After arrival we just had time to go to dinner. We walked a couple blocks to the Tamarind. Had good unbelievably cheap meal on rooftop there. Today we slept in a little, had nice included breakfast by .the pool (eggs, fruit plate, passion fruit juice,
    decent coffee, walnut bread and croissants ). Left some laundry to be done.

    Walked down to the riverfront area. It was a bright sunny day. Now is supposedly PP's cool dry season. There was a nice breeze but I wouldn 't call it cool. Enjoyed walking a long the quay, looking at boats, people out. Stopped in at the very nice tourist center and got some glitzy free books in a snazzy bag. Stopped in a little spa place And had a manicure and pedicure for $4! HusbNd went for the hour long full body massage for$12.

    Had late lunch at Riverside Cafe, busy corner spot. Had some decent pad Thai, h had a baguette sandwich. We had a nice chat with some fellow DCers. She grew up in PP (lost 17 of 19)family members during Pol Pot years. He grew up in Shanghai. So they were visiting families in Asia.

    After lunch we visited the Royal Palace, which is just stunning. They are continuing work cleaning it up. It looks wonderful.

    Tomorrow we've hired a taxi driver to take us to the killing fields and we'll visit the genocide museum too. So it will be a somber day.

    Closed today with an easy dinner At our hotel by the pool. We split a green papaya salad and both had grilled chicken with mango sauce. 2 drinks each. Total bill: $33.

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    We had arranged with our airport taxi driver to pick us up at the hotel and drive us to the Killing Fields and to the Genocide Museum.
    Very moving, very sad, tragic.   How could Pol Pot have been so deluded?   Our guide lost a sister during those Khmer Rouge years when his family tried to escape to Thailand.   She starved to death on the way.  He survived because he was still being nursed by his mother.

    After that visit, we chilled at a forgettable riverside place for lunch and people watching.   Then took tuk tuk to Central Market.  Amazing, interesting building.   Buy cheap reading glasses.  Schmooze until sensory overload kicks in.   Then go to Wat Phnom and National Museum.   Whipped, we return to our Pavilion Oasis.   By this time I've developed major league cold, so we are lazy and have another relaxing dinner by the pool.   Even order the same delicious items.
    We highly recommend the Pavilion if great water pressure isn't on your list of must haves.   Lovely old manse, walled off from street chaos.  We paid $50 total per night for our standard double room.  But bed was comfortable, had a little seating area outside, huge flat screen tv that we never turned on, free in room wi fi.   We had room 1 just behind lobby, but nonetheless quiet.  Small bath with shower.  No issues with hot water, just not much pressure.

    Had our final included breakfast at the hotel ( passion fruit juice, eggs any way, fruit plate, very good bread (walnut bread and a baquette).

    At 9 a driver arrives to take us to Siem Reap.  We had Ponheary Ly arrange the river for us, as we were aiming for the Ly family 's Seven Candles guesthouse.   Though the drive took almost 5 hours, it wasn't exhausting.   Good road all the way and totally flat.  We enjoyed  the passing rural and urban life.

    When we got to Seven Candles, Ponheary was off guiding, so we went off to explore town a little.  Several doors down from the guest house is a great Apsara market that carries everything, including, at long last, reasonably priced wine.   

    We walk over to the govt residence and gardens area.  Happen upon a nice artisan fair put on by Buy Cambodia, women's silk cooperative, etc.   Admire several pieces, but fail to buy.  Meanwhile sent h across the street to park/ gardens, so he wouldn't dog me on my shopping trail.   He finds huge fruit bats hanging in the park trees.  Interesting to see.  

    Enjoy reading Offwego's (Lori) notes at the guest house . . .  Cambodia potty training 101'  and many restaurant recs.  We decide to go to Lori's current fav "touich" for dinner.   Take a tuk tuk down the "boom boom" road to get there.  Alas, we discover that they 're totally full for the evening.   Owner?is very apologetic.  We say we'll try to come back.   End up at another Lori rec. "Selantra".    Have some delish cream of pumpkin soup and a steak sandwich.  Ridiculously cheap and good.

    Cough my way through entire night.   Rally anyway in am for Angkor visit with Ponheary.   It was a nice time with Ponheary, who is full of  temple info, stories, and info on Cambodia today.   I tried again to wrap my cold clogged brain round the complex Ramayana story, which I had fAiled to do at the Shadow Puppet show in Yogy.   Waaaaayyyy 
    Too many characters and plot lines.

    We had originally talked to P about going to prek teal bird sanctuary one of our days.   But we changed our minds after realizing it would cost us about $300 to make the trip.  Plus P had some stories from her most recent trip that made it sound pretty grueling.  To compensate, P made sure she walked us through the angkor forest and looked forbirds around there.  She enjoys them too.  Tomorrow we may visit a few other temples where we might also see some birds.   Today we're holed up in the room trying to regain my health. Had P come with me to a pharmacy yesterday to procure some drugs.
    Like it or not I was reassured that the cough suppressant I ended up with came from France rather than china.  Surely some Codine would knock me out.  But, alas, only moderately effective, so far.

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    Rally a bit for our last day in Siem Reap.   We go to Banteay Srey in the am with Ponheary and also stop by to visit one of the schools her foundation supports.  It was especially interesting to hear about her work while we were on site.  The principal's former "desk",  a couple tree stumps and a board contrasted to the new admin building, for example. . . 

    LAter that afternoon we visited Taprom, the temple overgrown with vines and trees.  Mystical and wonderful.   Spoke to a tourist there who'd been bitten by a snake earlier in the day at another temple!
    Even Ponheary was amazed by his story ( though snakes aren 't totally uncommon).   Ironically, he was a herpetologist.   He didn 't see the snake, and just as his friend was about to warn him, he stepped on it's tail, snake reared back and bit him on the calf.  He grabbed it and tossed it and then couldn't of course find it to determine what kind.  A couple feet long and light green he thought. He had it tended to and bandaged in town and was cheerfully nonchalant about it all.

    Had a simple dinner that night at the Thai restaurant a few doors down the street and across from 7 Candles.  Blanking on the name, but it's on Lori's list at the  guesthouse.   had the recommended fish cooked in banana leaf, which was fabulous.   Dinners and a couple beers came to something ridiculous like $12 again.

    Introduced selves as fodorites to Lori that night as she returned from a trip to Laos.  

    Felt sad to leave the next day.  They put us in a car and took us to the airport.  We were ridiculously early, but we made use of free wifi.  It's a nice little airport in Siem Reap.  Husband even managed to identify yet another bird.   Our hour and a half Lao Air flight from SM to Vientiane was on time and uneventful.   Even got a little box lunch.  Talked to someone one the plane who recommended we not miss the Lao Textile museum while in Vientiane.

    Completely efficient, fast, and hassle free visa on arrival, immigration, and customs.   Taxi to Souphaphone Guesthouse, where we have a double on the third floor.   As others have said, the room is big with high ceilings.  Very clean and plain.  Dark wood bare floors, a couple wood chairs, an armoire, night stands, small fridge and small TV with all imaginable channels.   Spacious shower has hand held sprayer and water heater.  We paid $25 per night to have included breakfast, but abandoned free breakfast after day one as there're cheap and more appealing options around.   The very plain room downstairs where they serve kinda depressed me, only instant coffee, one juice, a fried egg and 2 of those hit dog like sausages.   Next time I'd opt out of breakfast and pay just $20!   Had a great breakfast this am at the Scandinavian Bakery, fluffy omelette, freh bread, fruit and great coffee.

    We were shocked when we arrived a couple days ago to see how little 
    Mekong there is down by the riverside!   Obviously they're doing a lot of work on the quay and road, and park along there that when completed will no doubt be quite nice.   Not sure whether river level normal for this dry season or not.   But on the Lao side the river banks are dry all the way down to the bed and some 50 yards or so across the bed from there.   Looks like you could wade over to Thailand.   Some we talked to said level is abnormal, others said not for this time of year.   Speaking of which, the weather is fantastic, foolish with slight breeze in am and pm, sunny and not too hot in afternoon.

    Yesterday we walked up to Patuxay monument, vientiane's version of the arch de triomphe.  Climbed to the top for nice view of the city and the newly redone park stretching out below.  Stopped for great lunch at Scandinavian Bakery, delicious fruit shake, iced coffees, and chicken sandwich.   Stuffed we waddled over to the morning market to walk some of it off.  Enjoy padding around in there.  Spend some time looking at silks but feel overwhelmed by the stacks and vendors available.   Take a look at the black stupa.  Pay a visit to the tourist center and get a better map.   Ask about the textile museum.  No information.   Some nice materials in there, but administration very grumpy.

    Near the black stupa we fall into a really nice Lao silk store.  As we are admiring everything, husband notices a pamphlet about the Lao textile museum and gets directions.  We tell proprietor that he should give some pamphlets to the tourist info center which has no info.  He snickers and says, "maybe because they don't want to know.". It's a little private museum.

    We take bumpy 15minute or so tuk tuk ride out to museum.  Behind a gate with barking dogs is a lovely oasis.  Don't know exactly how much of it is the japan Lao cultural center.   Amounts to 3 or 4 small buildings in nice quiet green setting.  The museum is actually first floor of looms and second floor exhibit space for older pieces woven in the styles of various regions.  A little dark up there, but wonderful pieces to see.  The owner, a very gracious woman who speaks a little English gave us a demonstration on one of the looms, walked us around 
    The exhibit area, offered us tea, and assisted us patiently as we shopped and shopped and shopped.  Beautiful things to choose from, not inexpensive, but high quality.   We end up with 3 pillowcases and 5 scarves.  All beautiful.   Owner wraps each gift item in handmade paper and slips it into a small cloth bag.  But alas there seems to be a problem with the credit card machine (- frequent occurrence here so it seems).  Never mind, she says, you go ahead and take these with you and have the tuk tuk driver take you to my sister's shop (the place we'd just been)' and she will probably have more luck with the machine.   So we take our $$$$$ worth of unpaid for purchases and thank her.   Back at the town shop, the card fares better, but the process takes forever.   But meanwhile we male some new friends in the store, further promoting the museum and exchanging travel stories.   That finally accomplished, we return to home for a brief rest before a great dinner at Aria Culinary Arts.  Split a good spinach salad and shAre some pasta and pizza.   Great menu, expensive by V standards, but both pizza and pasta of high quality.   Extensive Italian wine list from cheap to expensive.  Fabulous homemade pistachio and also chocolate ice cream.   Wine, beers, Salad, entrees, ice cream and tip come to just ogre $60.   Perhaps our most expensive dinner so far, but a nice change.   Owner comes by to chat with each table.   He's an Italian who started working in hotels in Southeast Asia, married, and decided there was a niche for Italy restaurant in Vientiane.  Only been here a year and appears to be quite successful

    Might do a little more shopping today, get haircuts, maybe massage.  Later we'll have our second dinner at Mephat.  It's a wonderful and quite popular "training" restaurant just down the streets.  Started by Friends International, it trains poor local people in food/hospitality biz.  The food here is very inventive, Lao / fusion? And beautifully presented.  Inexpensive.   I had small pieces of beef tenderloin wrapped in betel leaves with a chili dipping sauce.  Good idea to make a reservation  here!

    On to Luang Prabang tomorrow.

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    Finally catching up with your great report. Glad to hear the weather is good in Laos - I'm headed there in a few days (how long will you be in LP?). Will definitely follow up on the textile museum in Vientiane, and am glad to hear the Scandinavian Bakery is still going strong. The Mekong water level certainly sounds abnormal to me, there have been concerns about dams in China but I thought that was in the future.

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    Thanks, Thursday. We leave for LP tomorrow and will be there four nights.

    Note that the restaurant is Makphet. I'm getting better, but am still prone to too many typos on the iPad. Mea culpa. The weather is coolish in the am, not really foolish!

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    ..also, Glover, would you mind very much elaborating on your comment at the end of your very first post about Sanur not being what you expected.... (I've not been there since the 80s and expect it would be almost unrecognizable to me now...thinking of returning to the island maybe next year..)

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    ekscrunchy, we returned to Sanur in November 2010. Our last visit to Bali was in '85. I remembered many unpaved roads, open spaces, a slower pace, gamelin music floating through the lobby of our hotel. Sanur is more modern now and many more amenities are available.

    We were delighted to see that some things had not changed. Love the black and white checkered sarongs on the statues... offerings and incense all over. A traditional gong was struck when we checked in to our accomodation, though not with any particular enthusiasm. It was a tinkle not a bellow. Still welcoming and special for us.

    We missed seeing the bemos - in '85 we rode around with locals and chickens in the backs of tiny trucks. Now a smallish version of minivans has taken over. This year we rode around in airconditioned taxis.

    Some things were actually better - we did not miss the blue haze from the clove cigarettes and there were plenty of interesting restaurants to try.

    I was so glad to return to Bali.

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    Thursdays, thanks for reading along.  I've been trying to keep up with your adventures too, which are very compelling indeed!  We leave Luang Prabang tomorrow for Hanoi and will be in And out of Hannoi several times over the next few weeks.  When are you there?

    Eks   I'd never been to. Bali ,so didn't really know what to expect.  husband was there 23 years ago when even Kuta was quiet.   Fodorites say Sanur is the quieter beach.  But street side was busy, busy, busy.  Puri Santrian where we stayed was a lovely property resort and we lived it up, but we're not that big on resorts, really.   The beach outside Puri wasn't great.  Guess I envisioned gorgeous wider more walkable beach.  Beach there was very narrow, not very appealing for walking.  We go to the beach a lot on US east cost.  And we love beach, so don't do it that often on big travel.  We loved Ubud much more than Bali beach.

    Back to the report!  just a few more thoughts on Vientiane.   We did get haircuts!  $7 Total for both of us.   I have very thick short white hair, the likes of which the stylist had probably not seen before.  H is nearly completely bald with nice little beard.   She cut my hair dry and did a great job and H said it was best beard trim ever.   Can hardly wait to show pics and my head to my ridiculously overpriced Georgetown, DC stylist.   

    After haircuts we went and sat by the waterfront and people watched a bit,   Nice friendly vibe down there.  Families and couples out walking, playing.  Singles out working out power walking, jogging.
    Everyone enjoying nice early eve weather.   It's a nice town, we thought.  A second dinner at Makphet restaurant made us realize the usefulness of polished staff (this is a training restaurant).  We think we lucked out the first time and chose a good combo of apps and entrees.  But this time we had too much food, too much meat,and not enough variety.  Even though the nice menu has some pics Nd descriptions, it's easy to go wrong when you can't really get any info from staff (no English).  Sometime you just wannask a question..   Still it's a great place with interesting food that's doing good work, so definitely worth trying and supporting.

    Next day we had another quick and on time flight to Luang Prabang.
    Quick taxi to our hotel, Lotus Villa.   It's just a block or two off the river street, on the quieter end of the city,  a perfect location.  It,s
    A nice little hotel, one historic building and one new one built on the old style.   There are maybe 20 or so rooms, centered around a nice little courtyard, where the very nice included breakfast is served each am.  Hotel is owned by resident Australians.   We met Andrew who makes an effort to get to know all guests.  We walked all over town our first day, including climbing stairs to Mt. Phousi for beautiful view over city at sunset.  We love this town.  Touristy? Yes, but in the best way, with lots of inviting little restaurants and shops, beautiful temples, nice people.  We try to think of a US town with same feeling.  Annapolis, MD?  Mendocino, CA?   Do all the recommended things and enjoy them all immensely, a sunset cruise on the Mekong, day trip via tuktuks to the nearby waterfall, a beautiful spot, elephant trek outside town(well ok so the best part was floating in boat down the Nam Kan river).   Riding an elephant is good for the first 15 min or so,. . . . Loved the museum/palace, as well as the small ethnological museum.   Made some spontaneous new friends from west coast one eve and ended up having a jolly dinner with them at the Arisai restaurant.   Also good meals at. Blue Lagoon and Tamlak restaurant.   Perfect weather every day.  Blue sky and sun, slightly cooler in am and eve.   We definitely get why this town is so
    Popular.  Glad we,ll have a little more looking around time tomorrow before our pm flight to Hanoi.   Plan to get up to see the alms giving/monk procession tomorrow early.  They come right down street in front of Lotus Villa.   All 200 or so of them.

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    what US town closes off it main street every night for a market place all set up on the ground?? none i should think..

    the vibe is more like key west, without cars or santa fe also without cars... maybe hoi an is similar

    it is a unique place and a good place for some down time during a SEA trip

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    Ah yes, Key West, perhaps a more apt comparison . . . Subtract rowdiness. . .

    Enjoyed watching the monks receive alms this am from people kneeling on side of street. Has been interesting too talking to some of the staff here at the hotel who have spent time in the temple.

    And now, for something completely different, on to Hanoi. Hate giving up this perfect sunny weather. . .

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    Ha! On all too many weekend occasions, main streets in my town are closed for markets of a sort--we call them "street fairs!"

    Glover: Many thanks for the clarification on Sanur (I was there only once and did not really fall for it; I did love Ubud but wonder how much that has changed in the interim) and for the ongoing report....I am hoping to take another trip to the area next year so this is very helpful..

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    Hi glover, I get to Hanoi on Feb 18th, and take the night train to Sapa on the 19th. I get back to Hanoi on the 23rd, flying to Bangkok early on the 26th. Any chance we'll be there the same time?

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    Just caught up with your report. Glad you liked LP. I think that of the places I went in Laos Luang Prabang was definately my favorite.
    I am glad you had good weather. It must have warmed up a bit in the last few weeks.

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    After a lovely relaxing time in Luang Prabang, we flew Viet Nam Air to Hanoi.  Easy, on time flight (can our luck last?).   We had had Tonkin Travel do the letter thing to present to immigration for the visa on arrival (so to speak).   Just as others have said that process still took some time, checking computers, stamping, paying, all  done by different people.   No trouble finding our driver arranged by Tonkin.   Get the all important dong from ATM.   Long drive to city, if only because it was late afternoon and there was a broken down car. It was a good initiation for us to Hanoi, as we got to see motorcycles pass us on the shoulder on the right and on the left as well.   

    At last we arrive at Tonkin's office and meet the lovely Ms. Huong and fork over our money.   She goes over the itinerary with us and gives us our placemat gift.   (no better gift for me who loves place mats, you'd think we entertain nonstop from the numbers stockpiled)
    after perhaps another 20 minute drive we arrive at our hotel the Imperial Hanoi, sort of on the edge of the OldQuarter.   It's a 3 star
    Seems a tad dark and dreary to us initially, but it grew on us after awhile.  Room is large with good bed and perhaps best shower water pressure yet.  We're on 6th floor, highest the elevator goes.  A short flight of steps up is the breakfast area, with a view of sorts.   So so buffet breakfast is included, eggs any way, pretty good coffee, tasteless fruit, and more traditional Vietnamese items, fried rice, noodle soup, etc.

    Walk to a simple, cheap cafe for dinner.   Husband nearly clipped by motorcyle at one corner.   He blames self for momentary alertness lapse.  We manage to do well walking for the next days thereafter.  Chat with some young German backpackers at next table.  

    Spend almost three whole days in Hanoi.   Walk almost everywhere.  The weather is unseasonably warm, so we're in shirt sleeves the whole time.  Great. Spend some nice time by the lake just people watching.
    Enjoy the whole "scene" at Uncle Ho's mausoleum - the hordes of international people, the soldiers, the space devoted to one body. . . 
    Laugh over Lonely Planet's? Info that says mausoleum is closed in November when Ho goes to Russia "for unspecified body work".  Take in everything in the area, the palace, Ho's house on stilts.

    Sorry we weren't able to connect with Hanoi Kids, as we'd intended, while we were there, but they were all on Tet vacation.  Maybe we'll connect with them in HoiAn.   Also visited the history museum, the fine arts museum, the prison.   H was in the Navy and stationed near Qua Viet in the war.   (we'll visit there in a few days).   He was skeptical of some of the info at the prison, specifically 22 B52s shot down in 11 days?   Ah, but where exactly would we look for the "true" facts?   

    Took a look at the Thang Long gallery that others here had  mentioned. Really nice gallery.  What did we buy?  3 fiberglass lacquered bracelets and necklaces on display that they said were made by art students.  Great easy gifts, every one different.  $3 for the bracelets, $2 for the necklaces.  Saw the same kind in stores in Sapa today where they wanted $11 for the bracelets.  I felt so smug.

    After visiting temple of literature, we walked across the street and had nice lunch at Koto.  It's nice to see so many of these training restaurants and we're happy to support them.

    While we've been trying and enjoying lots of different Vietnamese food, have to admit that one of our favorite places in Hanoi so far has been Mediterraneo, where we ate twice.  It was great change to have an arrugula salad, great thin crust pizza and a good glass of wine.   We had a dinner at Green Tangerine too.  It was good, but it seemed a tad overwrought to me.  Everything seemed to be in pastry.
    Pretty place though.  Will try to get to Ly club before final night in Hanoi.

    Left some laundry with the hotel.   Tonkin driver collected us for night train to Sapa.   Though we are normally Do it our selfers, we did appreciate having the whole train thing done for us, as it appeared rather chaotic.   We had a compartment for two one way, and occupied a four berth one for two of us on way back.   We were excited by the novelty of a sleeper train, as we'd never been on one before.   Felt like we were in a murder mystery.   Drink our free warm beers, read a bit, look out window, crawl under single coverlet. We agree that we were comfortable enough all night, but nevertheless slept little.  Just not sound enough sleepers to sleep while rockin and Rollin.  Just like on planes, probably just manage to start sleeping upon arrival...

    Pull into Lao Cai at 4:30am.   We're met by our Tonkin arranged local guide and driver (Sapa partners of Tonkin).   Have included breakfast at restaurant near train station.  Good enough.  Seems like we then drove straight to the Can Cau market, which occurs only on Saturday.  Crazy drive.  Weather was cool and very foggy.   Mountain roads were narrow and windy of course.   Driver did a great job negotiating them in our non 4 wheel drive sedan.  Wonderful experience at the market.  Watched a woman make soy milk, saw some livestock sales, bird song contests.   Beautiful handicrafts.  Bought a scarf, a small backpack, and another zipped bag, each about $5.  We were probably first customers to arrive.  The crowds came later.   Stopped at and walked through another village and then took a short boat trip down the river.   Liked our guide a lot, though he was sometimes difficult to understand.  An extremely outgoing guy, he knew everyone and had something to say to everyone in all the villages we visited.  We had tea and tasted some corn liquor in houses of several families.  They were all gracious and welcoming.  

    Of course we were trailed through each village by a crowd of women selling crafts.   As I had already bought what I wAnted at can cau, I resisted buying anything else, and decided just to enjoy the conversation.   And once I did that, I felt less like I was being pestered.   It's amazing how far just talking about family can take you.  In fact, I was sorry not to have brought some grandchild pics, as some village grandmas enjoyed introducing theirs. . . think they'd have enjoyed that exchange.

    Sorry to say that the weather was wretched for our 3 Sapa days.  Cold and mist and fog (wore thermals, heavy tshirt, fleece and scarf when trekking, topped that with rain jacket today).   Note that all these things plus hats, gloves, and hiking shoes are sold in sapa.  And I noticed rubber boots "for rent" today.  We mostly loved our Boutique Sapa Hotel, where they have the most beautiful and charming female staff.  They all fussed over us.  Food in their Bella Vista restaurant was so good that we ate there both nights.  They specialize in hot pots, and whT could be better for our Sapa weather.  Delicious.   Our nice room would have had a spectacular valley view, had we not been totally socked in.   Nevertheless, we did get some good views driving and walking from time to time as fog moved around.  We knew we might be in for some bad weather this time of year, so we were prepared physically and mentally. . .  Weather looks promising this week though for Halong, so we really can't complain.

    Had a great foot scrub and manicure yesterday when we returned from trek.  H had another massage.  Nice little place next door down hill from our hotel.  Prices were higher in Sapa, but still very cheap for us.

    Wandered around Sapa town this am on our own, through the market there.  Loved seeing pigs heads, hooves laid out.  (enjoyed seeing the many, many potbellied pigs and piglets in the villages too).   Looked at the pagoda across the street from the hotel, also a small Catholic church in town.  Had a light lunch at Baguette and Chocolate (Sapa's training restaurant).   Then we were again collected by our guide and driver.  Stopped by another village for a wet, muddy slog.   Much wetter today than days before.   Then on to Lao Cai for dinner at local restaurant and train back to Hanoi.....   Bid goodbye to guide and driver. . . 
    Good included dinner at the restaurant, pho, spring rolls, ginger chicken, and a beef stir fry.  Restaurant fills up with others  taking the eve train.  Hole waiting for dinner, actually hire one of those guys on the street to clean my hiking shoes.  Why not, shoes need it, and I'll never do it.  I take them off, he gives me a pair of flip flops to put on and says he'll bring my shoes back.  Wait I say where are you going.   Naturally my Urban personality suddenly fear shoe theft.  So I follow him just a few yards where he finds space on the curb to get out his water bottle, nylon brush, and plastic bowl.   He scrubs off the mud and towels them dry.  Good as new for $1.   He wants desperately to do h's shoes too, but unfortunately they're broken- sole coming off one... Fortunatelyprobably won't be needed again this trip.

    We rock and roll back to Hanoi.   Have to find own cab back to hotel this time.
    Noting one of the recommended companies parked near track, we accept their offer, but then puzzle over $7 charge for short trip to old quarter.  When questioned about nonuse of meter, driver seems to say that charge has to do with cab only back entrance and one way drive.... Yada, yada.   

    Check back into Hanoi Imperial at 5 and sleep comfortably for several more hours. Will probably have an easy day today.   Off to Halong Bay tomorrow.

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    After our return from Sapa we manage to get some real sleep till about 10.   No problem sleeping through hotel's included breakfast, as it's just ok.   Instead we have in room fruit, and our lifesaver, Starbuck's via instant brought from home.

    Decide to visit Army Museum.   Set out on foot.  Stop at nearby Malraux restaurant and have some fried rice.  Though one of our travel books says army museum is a don't miss, it's hard to follow.  
    Kind of a mishmash of photos and military equipment.   Find the "sculpture" of the crashed us plane and other broken pieces compelling though.  By the time we emerge from the museum weather has become damp and raw.   Relax back at hotel awhile and pack a few things for Halong Bay trip next day.  Cap off the day with a great dinner at the Ly club.   We did make a reservation earlier in the day, probably a good idea.   It's a charming old mansion.   Service was great and we both really enjoyed our food, though I've already forgotten what we ate.   A really good dinner choice for Hanoi.   Think with two drinks each, entrees and starters and tip, bill came to 80 something.  Expensive by Hanoi standArds, but not our dc ones, or at least that's how we justify these things. We're pleased to see that next day's weather forecast looks promising for Halong.

    Picked up next day at 8:30 by van for drive to HB.  We are joined by a nice US couple currently posted in Bangkok, who are vacationing with their kids aged 6 to 14.   We're struck by how much they are all still enjoying each others' company.   Good chat on the way to the harbor.

    Cool our heels at the harbor awaiting arrival of the rest of our junk's
    (Dragon Pearl iI) 20 passengers.  At last all arrive and we get on board.   Sun is just peaking thru clouds.   We're an international group of Americans, Germans, Italians, Norwegians, and Brits.  Have a short orientation by our very good guide (had a great sense of humor)
    No safety info provided though, not that I noticed the lack at the time.  Did note two life vests in our very nice bedroom (relatively large and quite spiffy shower for a boat)

    Have a great lunch of soup and several seafood courses, most I believe from the Bay.   By the time we disembark we will have tasted 
    Prawns, bay mussels, small scallops, oysters, and another fish.  All nicely prepared.  A well travelled German couple, contemporaries of ours, became our meal companions.   We enjoy exchanging travel stories.   After lunch we set off for the afternoon activities.  Climb up to the top of one of the karsts and explore a cave (a large lighted one, pretty easy walking).   Then we stop at an island with small manmade beach and are offered the opportunity to swim (brr. .. ) or kayak.  Swimming has no takers (sun long ago gave it up and has been replaced by clouds again).  And at first neither does kayaking.   But at last the young Norwegian breaks the ice and expresses interest, and then half the rest of us follow suit.   Though it's grey and air is coolish, and, not being the best tandem kayakers, we do get a little wet, it was nice to have yet another perspective on the bay and a little workout.   The green, green water and rock formations are just spectacular.   Spend more time on upper boat deck watching.  Speculate how really fabulous it would all look with sun on it.  Envision spending all eve on upper deck to watch stars etc.   But we didn't have that weather . . .   Sleep well in our cabin till we have to post to 7am breakfast, noodle soup, eggs, bread, and fruit.   Then we are off to visit "a floating village.". Was interesting to see the fishing activities and an in session school classroom.   We are rowed by twos in small boats to the floating village, each boat paddled by a single standing woman.   Our guide provides a lot of info on the bay's resident fishermen.   We wonder about those who were "relocated" from their cave homes "to keep them safe from typhhoons".  But overall, it seems that there's a symbiotic relationship between tourist boats and residents, and, at least in the area where Indochina Junks company anchored its boats, they seemed to do a decent job of minimizing the impact of so many tourists.  I had expected the bay to feel more crowded.  But once we sailed off, that did not seem to be so much the case.  Our guide told us that this company went to a more remote area for that reason.  But I suspect that might be a common story.   Despite less than ideal weather, we really enjoyed Seeing Halong.  Not to be missed.  It wasn't until we returned to Hanoi that we learned of the tragedy that befell another boat same am.   ImmediAtely sent emails to all family to let them know we were safe.   

    After a little relaxing in our new and even better room at Hanoi Imperial (corner 403)- big - two beds, two windows!  We set off on foot to Tandoor Restaurant, which had great reviews on tripadvisor.
    Had great Indian food, ordered twice as much as necessary of course. Place was hopping.   Could feel that we were back in the urban stress zone, one table of 6 very intense Asians discussing business.  At another table an Indian man was venting about a work issue to his female Vietnamese colleague.  Hanoi has great urban energy!  Returned to hotel so h could have meeting re taxi rip off.  C

    Sleep latish next day and enjoy in room Starbucks.  Pack for trip to Hue.  Have decent breakfast at cafe across from hotel.  More good coffee and people watching.  Especially enjoy the groups of men crouched on sidewalk or perched on low plastic stools drin,king 
    (beer? Tea? Other liquor? Some of each?) and talking.   Politics?
    Sports? Money?  Wish we could eavesdrop . . .

    We wonder why our 12:30 transport arranged by Tonkin is late, all the rest of their arrangements have been so flawless.   At 12:45 we have hotel reception call Tonkin.  Turns out our 2:30 flight has been delayed till 4:30 (is this sounding familiar to anyone?). Tonkin says they left message earlier with hotel, so don't know whT happened there.   Hotel offers us our room back for a few hours, but h decides just to do internet in lobby.  I hit Hang gai street for a little shopping.  A couple of very nice shops there.   We were little nervous about this delayed flight having read about bob and others' experience with the flight to Hue. But happily it did go.

    Settle into our new digs, the Huang Giang hotel.  Wanted Villa Hue, but they turned out to be booked for our4 nights here, so Huong at Tonkin got us this one.  It's a larger hotel than we usually go for, but   we have a great room on the river.    Of course the weather is still. . . Gray

    Later have an odd dinner at O'Kia restaurant.  Pretty good food
    Cooked and delivered by only two young women that we ever see.
    A look of terror comes across the face of our wAitress, each time we speak.  

    Hue seems so quiet and sane after Hanoi.  Of course we've moved from a city of 6.5 million to one of 600,000.   (a guide told us an interesting Hanoi statistic 6.5 million people, 3.5 million registered motorcycles.  Not hard to believe!

    Today we enjoyed hotel's expansive buffet breakfast, then walked and spent all day at citadel/palace.  Gorgeous!   Took zillions of photos.  Even did a little impromptu birdwatching along the moat,  trees full of night herons, a new kingfisher, a new black/white bird.   Finally emerge from citadel at around 3:30.  Sun briefly thought About emerging, but decided again not to bother.   Improved weather forecasts we've seen are clearly communist propaganda.  Because by now it is misting.  We learned a word in Panama for this that we now use "bahareque". Panama has similar weather in places in January.
    In Mexico they call it "chipi chipi"

    Tomorrow we get picked up by Tonkin's guide to go to dmz area.

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    Starbuck's VIA brought from home. What a great travel tip. I am really enjoying reading your report. I leave for Vietnam next week and your report has started my trip early. Vicariously, of course. Thanks for posting.

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    Next day  was devoted to finding husband's Camp site  during Viet Nam war.  We had a driver and guide so drove first to Quang Tri, which was basically obliterated during the war.  Nothing grew for years because of napalm,etc.   A new town is growing there now, but it is mostly a town of cemeteries.  Very sad.  H's camp was right at the mouth of the Qua Viet river on South China sea.   Not much there then or now, but it was an interesting experience.   Out driver had been in the army of the south, and he was quite interested in seeing the couple pictures h had of the camp from 40 years ago.   Talking to some local people, driver did a great job of getting us right to the spot on the beach where the camp had been.  Then we ended up running into a woman who grew up 
    There, was 13 at the time, and remembered it all.  She too was interested in seeing the old pics and had a bit of conversation with h with our driver translating.   Our local English speaking guide (about 35) said "we younger people here hear a  lot about the wAr, but we really don't know what to think about it.".  He asked h why the US entered the War.   After we left Qua Viet we drove another couple hours to Khe Sanh, site of very bloody battle for both sides.  There's a little museum there and a couple US helicopters.  We stopped on the way back at a very basic local restaurant.   Only other customers were some locals who'd arrived in a van.  Guide explained that the van was used to transport remains of Vietnamese soldiers still being sought in the Area.   Two of the women led a spirited clapping song at the table.   When I asked the guide about the song, he said it was "a popular war song.".  Turned out that the woman's brother's remains had finally been locAted, even more important to those who believe in reincarnAtion.   MIA for 40 years!  Was interesting to read visitors comments in the book at Khe Sanh museum.   Most said the same thing, what a waste, never again, never forget,  etc.     And yet. . .  

    Next day we visited 3 beautiful, ornate royal mausoleums from vn's last emperors, 1800s And early 1900s.   Just hired a driver through our hotel tour desk.   Viet Nam is slowly working on these treasures and beginning to take conservation and restoration seriously fortunately - with support from others- Korea, Germany, Canada all got credit on signs. . .   

    Try, but fail, to find a Mediterraneo restaurant in Hue.  Believe Kristina on fodors had mentioned eating in one here in her blog.   Alas it seems to be defunct.  No locals have heard of it and it's not at the listed address.  Telephone numbers don't work.  Naturally I had set my heart on their salad and pizza.   Instead we had a substitute pizza at Missy Roo.  Not too bad.   We also ate twice at Confetti restaurant, quite near our hotel.   Good vn food, nice atmosphere.   And two late afternoons after returning from day trips we had great pho at our hotel, really hit the spot on those cool,misty days.

    Picked up next am at 8 or so by Tonkin arranged new driver and guide.   We had asked to stop at Bach Ma National park on our way to Hai Van pass and on to Hoi An.  There was always some question about how much of the area we could see, as the road to the top of the mountain is always under construction and never being completed. Sadly it turned out that we could not even walk up the road, Wuxi we had thought might be possible, but that was forbidden as well
    So we looked around in the fairly nice visitor center at pictures of birds and other wildlife we might have seen.   On to Hoi Van pass.
    Was nice driving a long the coast a bit and taking the high winding mountain road.  But our views were pretty limited by foggy weather.
    Told h that I may be cured of any fear of driving windy mountain roads in fog after surviving Many on this trip.   

    We were amazed at the development on China beach around da Nang. So many huge condo projects,  gold courses.  Most everything empty. Who will buy these?  

    We're delivered to a nice little restaurant on the river in Hoi An for an included set menu lunch.  Have already forgotten its details but it was all quite tasty.  Then on to check in at our hotel, Thien Thanh, about a 10 minute walk to the old quarter. Hotel is small and charmng.  We're delighted to have a 3rd floor room in back with balcony overlooking a water spinach field.  And. . .  Wonder or wonders . . .  The sun comes out!!  Yay!  We haven't seen it for about 10 days.   We're so comfortable on our balcony basking in sun checking out birds - two more new kingfishers - that we while away rest of afternoon right there.  Later stroll down into the old part. Try to have dinner at Morning Glory, but they're booked.  Eventually fall into Casa Verde on riverfront.   Lovely small spot with nice view of river and people.  Have a great salad and red snapper.  Nice chat with Canadian couple at next table.  Chef comes round for chat.  

    Great weather continues into next day, my birthday.  We have already booked cooking class at Red Bridge cooking school.  Meet at Hai Cafe in town at 8:30.  In groups of 4 or so we 20 or so assembled go off to Hoi an market.  Our guide is su, and we enjoy her.  We stop to look at and hear about various fruits, veggies, and fish, some are familiar to us, others not.  Then we get on a boat for the half hour ride on the river to the school.  All are talking about the earthquake in NZ, as one couple in our group lives in the epicenter.   They've established that all friends and family are safe, but no one is even allowed to check on their house.   They manage to stay upbeat nonetheless.   The school facility is great and the teacher chef was a hoot.  We really enjoyed the whole experience.   Mostly demo and a little bit of hands on practice.  (we definitely failed at decorated vegetables).  Made rice papers.  Great eggplant on clay pot.  Left with some good recipes and tips.   Enjoyed the other students in our group, too.  In afternoon h goes off for massage and I hit the town for shopping.   Wander in and out of numerous shops and a few of the old Chinese meeting halls.  Enjoy checking out the Yaly tailoring place.  Only thing I could imagine having made would be the ever elusive "perfect pair of black pants.".  But since I didn't much like the feel of any of the wool products available, they would have just added to my ever growing collection of "good enough" black pants.

    Return to hotel and collect husband.  Back to town for dinner at ""secret garden.".  Indeed a beautiful setting.   And it's a good thing cause we were there a looonnnggggg time.  When we arrived at 7 we were almost alone.   But shortly after that lots of folks arrived.  Restaurant was also finishing up it's cooking class.  Restaurant was about 80 percent full, but more than available staff, perhaps kitchen, could handle.   So service, for most, was pretty terrible last night, though food, when it finally arrived was great.   We weren't in any hurry anyway, so we weren't unhappy.   Had 3 drinks each and enjoyed the music.  Classical guitar and a female singer who sang some Vietnamese songs.   

    Another sunny day!!!  Nice breakfast on hotel's lovely deck overlooking water spinach fields.  We're again collected by our same guide fro two days ago and new driver.   Guide seems distracted, minimally interested today.  Oh well.   We go to ruins at My Son.   Nice hour drive out there, past some wetlands (more kingfishers).  Beautiful tree lined road into site.   Fair number of other visitors there by 9:30.   As usual going earlier would be better.   Try to imagine whAt site must have looked like before we bombed it.  Fortunately all that info is at Cham museum. I guess, so we can enjoy exploring the ruins without reading about the war for a time.   Will have to do some Internet research, as we didn't go to the museum.   When we arrived at the site a performance of ancient dance and music was in progress.  
    Twice daily performances it seems.   Stayed an hour and a half or so and were back at hotel by 1.   Had slow lunch on our hotel deck again enjoying sun and view of fields.   Morning Glory for dinner tonight.   

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    Shelley, we visited Tu Duc, Minh Mang, and Khai Dinh tombs. Of the three, I liked Khai Dinh best, smaller with greater immediate impact and amazingly ornate. The other two are lovely too, but more spread out and park like settings with moats etc. Most people seem to like Minh Mang best of all three.

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    OK, finishing up our two month trip report, as we returned home to DC yesterday. .

    Continuing report from Hoi An. It was a good dinner at Morning Glory. We'd made a reservation when we arrived the night before without one and were sol. So reservation is recommended. The place is busy! Food was great and ditto service.

    Based on a chat we had with some other folks staying at our hotel, we decided we'd rent a couple bicycles and ride out to the nearby local beach. So for $2 at the place right next to our hotel we rented two rickety 1 speeds with handle breaks and cable/key lock. Easy ride out of town and then onto lovely two lane road, rice fields on both sides. Not much traffic on the road fortunately. Ride probably wasn't more than 3 km. Never did see a name for this beach, but believe it to be the closest one to town, smaller and quieter than a bigger one a little further on ("the one where many foreigners go" per our hotel clerk). It was just a wonderful spot we thought. There are maybe a half dozen small beach front restaurants there, each of which controls its own parking lot and perhaps a dozen nice wooden lounge chairs under thatched umbrellas. We paid about another $2 to park our two bikes and then found chairs at the farthest location to the right (just chose that one based on our new friends advice, who showed up shortly thereafter). Weather was perfect for the beach, though I wimped out of diving into the water. Water temp didn't actually seem that bad. Wiled away most of the day there, with a great cheap seafood lunch at the restaurant, people watching, and chatting with new friends. A couple young women selling jewelry on the beach, but not much high pressure. . We loved this experience, and highly recommend for a nice day just outside Hoi An. .
    That eve we went to dinner with same new friends at their fav Hoi An restaurant, Cafe 43. This little family operated outdoor restaurant was near our hotel (in the opposite direction from the town center). Very friendly place with great local food at ridiculously low prices. They serve "fresh" beer for 15 cents (yes, that's not a typo) a draft. We had 4 beers and about 6 dishes between us for something like $20. Great fun. A nice ending to our Hoi An visit.

    Next day we spent a leisurely am lingering on the deck over breakfast and coffee (did I say great coffee here?), packing, checking out some more birds. H went for yet another last minute massage).

    Our Tonkin driver came for us right on time to deliver us to the airport for our afternoon flight to Hanoi. Yet another flight that went off without a hitch (the travel gods definitely smiled on us this trip or perhaps it was all those temple offerings . . . )

    Checked by in at our Hanoi home (the Hanoi Imperial). This time we have a smaller corner room on the 4th floor. We've grown to really like the place. Clean as a whistle, super nice bed, big rooms. .. . helpful staff.

    Chill in the room until dinner time when we go for our final Hanoi dinner at Mediterraneo. We've been eating lots of VN food, which we enjoy lots, but feel no compunction to eat it for every meal while in country. And we love this little Italian restaurant. Have nice chat with the owner, a charming fellow, re not being able to find the sister restaurant in Hue. He says it closed in June, frequent power outages being the final straw for him. Said Hue was "going down" whatever that means ... .

    Next day have communist breakfast at hotel and then are picked up right on time by a Tonkin driver who delivers us back to airport for our flight to Hong Kong. Hanoi airport is a mob scene. It's Sunday. We make a new Chinese friend who says he's never seen it this bad. We're flying the only flight to HK that day . .. could have something to do with it. We arrived two hours early and were finally checked in with about 20 minutes to spare before departure time . .

    Otherwise flight was uneventful. HK airport on the other hand was fabulous. Everything incredibly well signed, efficient, easy to get around. We took the nice airport express train into town (23? minutes) about $20 for both of us. Drops us in Central. Tourist info rep takes a look at our light luggage (a shoulder bag and a small softside carryon each) and says we could probably walk it to our Bishop Lei Hotel, since most of the walk will be on the Midlevels escalators. We decide to give it a try and manage to do it thanks to a little direction from a nice young woman who stopped to help us when we looked at our map. Have to admit though that those little suitcases got a bit heavy. .

    Enjoyed the escalator scene and staying up there in the Midlevels (Robinson Road). It was my first visit to HK. H had been there once decades ago. We chose Bishop Lei based on fodors recs. I'm just psychologically opposed to spending more than $200 a night on lodging. So at Bishop Lei we had a grande harbour view room for $950 HK. Had hoped for higher floor though. They gave us 7th. So our harbor view was just a piece of the harbor between two high rises. It was a great urban view though. I asked if higher floor was possible and was told "this is the highest nonsmoking room available." Decided not to press the issue. Room was small, but obviously recently redone, and efficiently laid out. Free wifi in room. Small new bath with shower only (great pressure and hot water). Free English newspaper. Breakfast not included, so we never actually ate at Hotel restaurant. As other reviews have said the desk staff doesn't smile and provides good enough help when asked. Would definitely stay here again. We thought it great fun to be up there just above Soho. Looked like a hip happenin place for young professionals. Robinson Road itself is lined with high rise apt buildings and real estate offices.

    As it,s late afternoon by now, we walk over to the nearby zoo and botanical gardens. Lovely spot. Have a nice dinner that eve at Bistro Bamboo, one of the many restaurants located just off the Midlevel escalator in Soho.
    It's a Sichuan restaurant. Food was great, price pretty reasonable for HK and service was great.

    Next am we hit Starbucks nearby for coffee and minor breakfast. Spend a lot of the morning in Hong Kong park, at, where else, the aviary. Really nice. We have plans to do our own walking tour of central, but it's such a beautiful day, we decide to scrap those and do the Star Ferry and Peak tram while the seeing is good. Walk down to ferry and hop on. Stroll promenade in Kowloon. Stop at tourist info booth and pick up HK walking brochures recommended by Cicerone here. Ask them for lunch rec for good Chinese. They send us to the Serenade restaurant on the promenade. Food was good here, service lousy, price $$$$. It's a huge place. Fancier than we needed for the time. . sorry we didn't get dim sum which looked like maybe the best way to go there.

    Ferry back to island where we discover that the Peak Tram service is "suspended until further notice." So we took escalators back up to the hotel, picked up jackets and binoculars and got taxi to the peak. Spent 5 pm to 8:30 up there. Just wonderful! Enjoyed both day time and night time views. Perhaps just a tad hazy, but basically pretty clear, we felt lucky. We see that they are doing some work on the tram tracks. Walk around the peak trail a bit. Check out birds. Decide to stay up there for dinner so we can catch night time view too. Choose the Peak Bar and Grill (think that was its name). Had a great little steak and salad.
    Paid the $3 or whatever to go up the mall escalators to the roof view, even better! Taxi back down. Have a drink at McSorley's pub in Soho.

    Next day we do the Hollywood Road area, checking out shoppes and markets etc there and then walk to Wan Chai and schmooshed around there. Had in mind to eat at one of two Chinese places there that were on Cicerone's great list - Fook Lam Moon or American Peking. Fook Lam Moon rejects us as they're fully booked with big party. So we do American Peking instead, brightly lit old place. Couldn't figure out how the 2 of us could do Peking duck, since it seemed only to be available by the whole (large) duck. So I got a similar duck dish and h got a quite tasty beef dish. Also had hot and sour soup. Food was very good, service was super efficient and serious. Place is obviously quite popular because it filled up quickly after we got there, very few Westerners, so it was a fun cultural experience too.

    Thought we might cab it back to hotel, but the weather was fine and we decided we needed to walk off dinner, so we walked (and escalated) all the way back to hotel. H did amazingly well getting us around. (he's in charge of money and navigation on our travels, I'm in charge of preplanning research, restaurants and lodging). Though I must admit that, after trailing behind him for two months, I hope I've not forgotten how to make my own way in the world.

    Next day we wandered down to the Flying Pan (another Cicerone rec) for breakfast. Also just off the escalator. Great breakfast spot. All the standard western breakfast characters, giant portions, bottomless coffee, and reasonable prices. Couldn't have been better for our purposes. Then walked down to Central to catch #6 bus to Stanley. Fun bus ride on top level to back of island. Enjoyed the view (though not as great as our first day) on the way over, fancy real estate, etc. Schmoozed the Stanley market. H bought a pair of sunglasses, I bought 10 wine bottle bags. Are we the last of the big shoppers or what? Nothing unique there. Had nice lunch at Boat House in Stanley (thanks, Cicerone). Bus back and back up the escalators to hotel. H goes for yet ANOTHER massage. I think about hitting Hollywood road etc for some last minute shopping, but then get lazy and hang at hotel. When h returns we eventually decide to just wander back down to Elgin Street and pick a spot to eat. We settle on Cantina Cecconi there and have a great meal. I have wonderful risotto and he has great lasagna, nice salads. Not outrageously expensive by HK standards. Fun people watching. Hip young professional couples - all of whom seem to speak both Chinese and English well. (though, true, I can't vouch for the quality of their Chinese). We assume that these are the people who will be in charge of the world.

    Up early the next am. Skip breakfast, take hotel free shuttle down to Airport Express in Central for train to airport. Have decent airport breakfast. Focus on enjoying every aspect of business class service back home (our first and probably our last, as we were using the last of ff miles)
    What a contrast to those terrible United econ seats on the way over. Not that we sleep, of course. But still. Soooo much more comfortable. Interesting to see how much more booze is consumed when it's free . .

    Some summary notes:

    We both agreed it was a fabulous trip. We feel like we really saw and experienced a great deal - ruins, temples, rainforest/nature, local beach, a nice variety. We couldn't believe how well it all played out. So many flights, so many hotels, yet they all went off without a hitch. We made all the arrangements ourselves, except those in Viet Nam, which we had Tonkin Travel do. Tonkin was great! Couldn't have done it as well without help from Fodors community! Thanks, esp to Bob, cicerone, Kathie, and many others I've forgotten I'm sure for so much good advice. ..

    We agreed that it was "broadening." Many places in SE Asia were more sophisticated than we had ever imagined. Yet it was just fun to see how life is lived in someplace like Hanoi, for example, where we spent a fair amount of time. Roosters in the street next to our Old Quarter hotel, people exercising by the lake, 3.5 million motorbikes vying for space. Hip young professional couples in Hong Kong. Humbling too. Next to no one we talked to locally recognized "Washington, DC." I don't know why but I expected the US capital to register with more folks. Most locals expected us to be from Australia or Europe (closer). Once we said US, they usually said "California?" Though a few Indonesians did say "oh, Obama."

    It strikes us as funny that many of our friends and acquaintances think of us as "adventurous." Yet when we travel we always meet people who are on much longer and much more adventurous trips than ours. Many young backpackers of course, but also other retirees like us. .

    While we were gone all that time, we also did a great non-simultaneous houseswap that worked out really well. So we had some great housesitters and will be taking advantage of their NYC co-op later this year . .

    We traveled with both an Ipad and a Kindle this time. It was great to have both, esp the Ipad. Everywhere we stayed offered Wifi, mostly in the room. And the only place I remember being charged for it was the Intercontinental in Singapore. Of course, it's speed/strength varied . And whether or not one should spend any time on line on vacation is another whole discussion. It's always so easy to burn up time there. . . Ultimately some sort of still tinier smart phone device would be best. Ideal for, say, carrying around while following directions for one of cicerone's walks in HK. . . (which, sadly, we didn't have enough time to do, they sounded so great).

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