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hanoi, luang prabang, siem reap trip report

hanoi, luang prabang, siem reap trip report

Old Mar 14th, 2009, 12:01 PM
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hanoi, luang prabang, siem reap trip report

we just got back from a 2 week trip, feb 21 - march 8. we flew a combination of airlines, taking united from chicago to la, then asiana from la to seoul & on to hanoi. i know it's a longer route, since you can find flights from chicago to asia without going to the west coast of the US, but this saved us more money than we ended up spending on our hotels for the 2 weeks

asiana airlines was fine on the way there - good leg room in each row. & with a partially empty flight, we had space to lay down & sleep. we got to hanoi around 11 pm, & we were picked up by a driver arranged through our hotel. we stayed at the hanoi elegance 2, & for $55 a night, it was a great hotel. for a $25 fee, they arranged our visa on arrival, which we got at the vietnam airport. the rooms were nice, with a computer & internet access in each room, little sample sizes of shampoo, etc. the breakfast was also included, & was great. you could get fresh fruit juice of a variety of fruits. eggs made to order. the baguettes were fabulous. or pho (chicken or beef) - which was also quite good. staying in the old quarter was also great.

we spent most of our time in hanoi just wandering around town. made a couple of trips to hoan kiem lake - including going at sunrise one morning. it was great to watch all the people exercising & doing tai chi.

as for food - we used the website savourasia.com to help with some ideas. i'll get into those soon.

we checked out a lot of the main hanoi sites -- ho chi minh museum, temple of literature, french quarter, st. joseph's cathedral.

we also took a day trip to halong bay. nice, but not super impressive. i don't know if it was because it was rather overcast on the day we went, but i'm glad we opted not to do an overnight trip & just used one day.

we did a lot of shopping in hanoi also - got some great silk. we bought a duvet cover & matching pillow cases for our bed, some silk pillow covers for the sofa pillows, & 4 paintings that we had packed & then took to the post office & mailed to ourselves. (we didn't want to have to figure out how to remount the canvas, so we shipped them whole).

we also did a cooking class through the old hanoi restaurant in the old quarter. we had looked into a couple of options, this one was close to our hotel & only $23 a person. we did a little tour of the market, & then made a 4 course meal, which we got to eat for lunch. we ended up being the only 2 people in our class. it was really fun, & we did make ourselves quite a good lunch!

our first day for lunch we ate at quan an ngon.
http://www.savourasia.com/index.php?...d=59&Itemid=60
it was great. we sampled so many different food options. it was fun to just walk around looking at the food & different stalls, & then sitting down to order. we saw more locals than tourists in this place during the our + we were there.

another place we tried was adidaz - a vegetarian restaurant. (found it also on savourasia) not for tourists at all. we were the only tourists there. the waitstaff didn't speak any english....i attempted to order diet coke & ended up with soda water but the food was good. & if i recall correctly, the menu was in english.

we did hit up the sofitel chocolate buffet & high tea - which ended up being our dinner for our last night in hanoi. i loved it! & we weren't able to finish all the cakes that came with the tea, so they boxed them up for us. which was perfect, since we had to leave for the airport to early for breakfast the next morning.

another place that we enjoyed was KOTO (know one teach one). they are training people to become chefs, waiters, etc. so the service is a little slow, & there's a chance that your order might get confused, but they try really hard. it was very close to the temple of literature.

it was also fun to stop at highlands coffee overloaking hoan kiem lake for a beer.

more to come later.
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Old Mar 14th, 2009, 12:32 PM
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Great start. We too look for the cheapest flight option even if it's not the most direct. The visa idea sounds great. So does the cooking class. No penalty.
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Old Mar 14th, 2009, 02:12 PM
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We have that Asiana flight from Seoul to Hanoi. Sounds like it was ok? Is the Seoul airport pretty easy to navigate? In Hanoi, did you use taxi or did you walk? How were distances - old quarter to Quan an Ngon and old quarter to tourist sites? Do you have more details on the cooking class? - I have not really found one that is convenient but yours might work - need a website or e-mail or street address. We will be there in about 3-1/2 weeks.
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Old Mar 14th, 2009, 02:47 PM
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after 5 nights in hanoi (a little on the long side, but since we were recovering from the jet lag, it worked out fine), we were off for luang prabang.

we booked our flights on a website called smartfares.com. it ended up being booked through asiana. so our flight was on vietnam airlines, supposed to be direct from hanoi to luang prabang. when we got to the airport, it turned out that the flight was cancelled, & we were changed to the flight on the next day. but somehow, we weren't notified (even by email). thankfully vietnam airlines were very helpful & re-routed us through vientiane & then on to luang prabang on laos airlines. so we only lost about 5 hours instead of a whole day.

got our laos visas on arrival in the airport. just a note - they only take cash, no credit card. and then we discovered that the atm's weren't working. this was friday - we were finally able to get some money by sunday afternoon. luckily we still had dollars, we just didn't want to end up using all of them. & we unfortunately didn't have tons extra with us.

in luang prabang we stayed in the lotus villa hotel. very cute, & under $100 per night. it was very close to the popular tamarind restaurant. where we had dinner our first night for the friday night fish barbeque. very good! they only took cash, so be prepared if you go for dinner.

our next day we had booked an overnight elephant trip through all laos travel. it was GREAT! we did a trek to the tad se waterfalls, then stayed at the mahout lodge. it ended up only being the 2 of us plus our guide. the trek we did was 4 - 5 hours, & we hiked through a couple of different villages. this was really nice - they weren't set up for tourists at all, so nobody was trying to sell anything, we just got to see how people live.

the mahout lodge was really cute. stilted log cabin rooms. we had a group dinner with the other people who were doing overnight trips.

the next morning we got to ride the elephants bareback - on their necks, from the place where they sleep & into the water to wash them. it was so fun! then after breakfast we got to ride on the elephants again (but in a basket on their backs). we had the option for kayaking also, but we decided not too, & just headed back to town.

the rest of our time in luang prabang, we just walked around town - went to most of the wats, the museum, & took a tuk tuk out to the kuang xi waterfalls.

we had lunch one afternoon at the indian place on the main street, it was pretty good. otherwise we just picked randomly. nothing stood out too much.

as for shopping, we bought everything from the night market. i loved the handmade slippers that they had, so we got a couple pairs of those. we also found some handpainted t shirts that we cute & cheap, so got a couple of those too.

then we were off for siem reap - through bangkok!
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Old Mar 14th, 2009, 03:04 PM
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in siem reap, we stayed at the palm village. it's not on the main strip of town -- it's about 3 km away. which was fine with us. we paid $40 a night. the hotel is individual cabins - all cute, & complete with tv. there was also a very nice pool at the hotel, which we took full advantage of.

for the temples, we had Dara & Ponheary as guides. we did 3 days of temples. but i'm not going to lie -- after the second day, i was getting templed out. they were both great guides, & we have some great pics thanks to them one of the best parts was going to the temples at "off times". the opposite of what guide books recommend, so they were much less crowded, & we were able to see things & get pics without other people in them. it was also really interesting to hear about their lives, through all the turmoil that cambodia has been through. you can't get that kind of insight or feeling from a book.

on our last day of temple time, we went to angkor wat to see sunrise. beautiful. i highly recommend doing that.

there weren't any places in siem reap where we ate that i would highly recommend. we did have lunch at our hotel a couple of times. it was pretty good, & more importantly, we wanted to spend some time at the pool during our afternoon breaks.

all the shopping we did in cambodia was also at the market. we checked out angkor artisans, but it was just more expensive than we preferred. & we did not buy anything from the kids at the temple -- if they don't make money, then they'll get sent to school instead of having to peddle at the temples.

our last night we did a tonle sap river dinner cruise. the website looked much nicer than the cruise itself. the food was a buffet, but wasn't that impressive. & then we both ended up having some GI issues on our flight home.

it was a wonderful vacation!!
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Old Mar 14th, 2009, 03:12 PM
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craig -

http://www.tripadvisor.com/ShowUserR...ass-Hanoi.html

that's the trip advisor link for old hanoi. we enjoyed the class very much. our instructor was so cute! & it was a fun way to spend half a day.

the flight wasn't bad. we didn't have much time in the seoul airport on the way to hanoi, but our return flight went siem reap to seoul - where we had a 10 hr layover. asiana has it's own lounge area, even if you're flying coach. we discovered this just b/c we were checking if there happened to be a flight we could go standby on. & they gave us each a voucher that was worth about $8 for lunch in there lounge area (did not work in other airport restaurants). the area also had showers that were free, & you could pay for a shower kit. some nice leather reclined seats that were great for napping, & multiple computers with internet access that were all free. actually one of the nicest airports i've been in.

our hotel was a very easy walk to the water puppet theater, & that side of hoan kiem lake. we mostly walked. we had a hard time finding Quan an Ngon while we were walking around -- we just kept getting turned around on our map, so b/c we were so hungry at that point, we just took a cab. we used cabs a couple of times -- once b/c it started raining while we were walking, the others just to get us to our starting point - ho chi min, etc. then we would walk from there. but we also walk more than some people prefer to. i would say we walked 4 - 5 miles a day on average.
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Old Mar 14th, 2009, 03:16 PM
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craig -

to clarify, we did the class at old hanoi on ma may street. i looked at trip advisor again - & they say that there are a couple of them.

http://www.oldhanoi.com/
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Old Mar 14th, 2009, 04:08 PM
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Ared! Hey, this is the couple that stayed with you at Lotus Villa and we had dinner together at Tamarind. Cool trip report! We got back to Arizona after a short stay in Bangkok after Laos. I'm STILL sick, just getting over that bug. I was on the wrong meds, what I had was a resistant strain. Yikes! It was nice meeting you guys. Take care. Christine and Mark
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Old Mar 14th, 2009, 06:23 PM
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I'm enjoying your trip report!

Just for future readers, what your hotel arranged for you was a pre-arranged visa. Visa on arrival means something else (that you can just show up and get a visa - not possible in VN).
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Old Mar 14th, 2009, 07:09 PM
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thanks for the report...
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Old Mar 15th, 2009, 12:26 PM
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Thanks for the report.

I have a question re:tat kuang si waterfall. According to lonely planet, the trail leads to a pristine swimming hole which is usually private except for thousands of butterflies. That sounds so wonderful. Did u see the butterflies? Dip in the hole?

I am going to hide a boat to take me back and forth, but don't want to miss the butterflies and the swimming hole for sure. Wondering how far is this swimming hole from the river?
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Old Mar 15th, 2009, 12:56 PM
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Soory for the typo. I mean I am going to hire a boat not hide a boat.
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Old Mar 15th, 2009, 12:57 PM
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i mean sorry not soory.
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Old Mar 15th, 2009, 12:57 PM
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Christine -
it was good meeting you guys too. hope that you enjoyed your last couple of days in bangkok, & that being sick didn't put too much of a damper on the end of your vacation. glad you're on the right meds now!

mohan -
there were areas around the kuang si waterfall to swim, but we decided not to. unfortunately, we didn't see tons of butterflies while we were there. i'm not sure about taking a boat there - most people we talked to did the tut tut.
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Old Mar 15th, 2009, 01:06 PM
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i thought since i looked at so many people's photos to try to plan our trip, i would post the link to ours.

http://picasaweb.google.com/akewalra...eat=directlink
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Old Mar 15th, 2009, 07:04 PM
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fantastic pictures, thanks
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Old Mar 15th, 2009, 07:20 PM
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Nice Pictures - thanks for sharing!
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Old Mar 16th, 2009, 04:36 AM
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I loved your photos -- thanks.
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Old Mar 24th, 2009, 08:12 AM
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great photos, and you look like you were really having fun!

thanks for the report.
Lcuy
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Old Mar 24th, 2009, 02:00 PM
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love your pictures, although now causing me a dilema as i want to go to LP, Hanoi and SR!!!!!
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