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Trip Report Return to SE Asia: A Solo Traveler in Bangkok, Luang Prabang and Vietnam, 1/08

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Before the details desert me, I will write a brief report of my January trip. Some background: I have quite a bit of travel experience in SE Asia prior to 1990, but this would be my first return to Bangkok in about 20 years and my first visit to Laos and to parts of Vietnam other than Saigon, where I spent two weeks in 2000.

I traveled solo; trans-Pacific flights were on KoreanAir from JFK to Bangkok and from Saigon to JFK. Both required a manageable layover in Seoul. Hotels were upmarket and the itinerary was:

5 nights Bangkok..Peninsula Hotel
5 days Luang Prabang..Residence Phou Vau
5 days Hanoi..Hilton Hanoi Opera
1 night Halong Bay cruise..Emeraude
1 night Hanoi..Hilton Hanoi Opera
3 nights Hoi An..Life Resort
2 nights Hue..La Residence
3 nights Saigon..1 night Saigon Sheraton; 2 nights Park Hyatt Saigon (checked out of Sheraton early)

The hotels and flights within Asia were booked by Gregg at Innovasian Travel, using Exotissimo as the ground operator.

I hired (a) private guide(s) for 1 ½ days in Bangkok and for 2 days in Luang Prabang. In Vietnam, I had guides for a few days as well. The guides in Vietnam were contracted through Exotissimo. In Bangkok, I used Tong for one day and her associate Charlie for the second when Tong became ill. Ta was my guide in Luang Prabang.

I like to spend hours wandering around aimlessly. Food is also a top priority. I am not bent on seeing every point of tourist interest and have the hope that I will be able to make future trips to the places that exert fascination or interest.

This report will be written in my usual m.o. which is to say, in fits and starts. Please feel free to ask any and all questions. Before I begin I want to thank posters here who were unstinting with their time and expertise. You know who you are!!!


Arrived in the Bangkok airport about 11:30pm on a Saturday night (5 January) only to have quite a bit of trouble locating my transportation to the hotel. When I located the guide, she could not locate our car. Suffice to say that I was tired and mildly annoyed and, eventually, insisted that we take a taxi to the Peninsula. It was not until about 2:20am that I reached the hotel. Normally this would be a non-issue except that tomorrow was Sunday and I had to awaken early in order to reach the Chatuchak market by 9am at the latest!! I had a Deluxe room with a sweeping view of the River:

Next morning after about 4 hours of sleep and after gorging on the splendiferous Peninsula buffet breakfast, I set out on the Penn boat and the Skytrain for the “JJ” market, arriving shortly after 9am.

The market was a joy, and far less hot, crowded and difficult to navigate than I had feared. I had a Nancy Chandler map but did not use it as I found it delightful just to wander guessed it.. aimlessly. I spent about three hours in the market.

My two “major” purchases were a silk ikat jacket for 480 Baht and a pair of wonderful leather sandals that cost about 20USD. I wish I had purchased another pair or two of the sandals as the workmanship is excellent and they have an artisanal look that reminds me of the sandals my Mom used to bring back from Capri in the 50s!! An excellent buy!

By 1am I was back at the hotel (again, via Skytrain) and spent the rest of the afternoon relaxing and swimming laps in one of the hotel pools.

Dinner that evening was at Pen which proved to be a tantalizing introduction to Thai food. Fried Morning Glory with Minced Pork; Barbecued (grilled) River Prawns and Fresh Mango with Coconut Ice Cream. Superb. My only regret, here and throughout the trip, was that as a single diner I could not sample more dishes!
I was the only non-Asian in the restaurant and despite the fact that the hotel had reserved a table for me, the staff seemed quite surprised to find a single female foreigner in their midst. (This would remain true throughout the trip) The female manager could not have been more solicitous. Highly recommended. Five stars!

Pen…2068/4 Chan Road Chongnonsee, Yannawa, Bangkok
Open 11am-2pm and 5pm to 11pm.

After dinner, a taxi back to the hotel and to bed early in preparation for my tour with Tong the next day…more soon..

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