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Vietnam, Luang Prabang, Chiang Mai, Siem Reap, Kuala Lumpur, Bangkok

Vietnam, Luang Prabang, Chiang Mai, Siem Reap, Kuala Lumpur, Bangkok

Aug 4th, 2014, 11:30 AM
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Vietnam, Luang Prabang, Chiang Mai, Siem Reap, Kuala Lumpur, Bangkok

Our Annual Summer Adventure

June 25 - 26, 2014
Our journey started in Miami. We flew from MIA to JFK, JFK to Hong Kong, Hong Kong to Ho Chi Minh. The flight from MIA to JFK on American Airlines was great. The flight manager was excellent--I wish this flight would have taken us to Hong Kong. The service and food was excellent. The flight had to be going overseas because it had flat bed seats. We used the British Airways Lounge at JFK. We had about four hours in the lounge. They have spa treatments available, but are not available until 4pm. Our Cathay Pacific flight left at 3pm. The flight from JFK to Hong Kong was relaxing. The food was pretty good and we watched several movies. Once we arrived in Hong Kong (zipped right through immigration), we went to the Cathay Pacific Arrivals Lounge to take a shower. It is a very, very small lounge. Even though the lounge was very tiny, the showers were quite nice with amenities such as combs, razors, etc... After the shower, we sat down and ordered from a menu--noodle soup, used the Internet and were on our way. We had pre booked the Regal Airport Hotel. The hotel is connected to the airport (very convenient), but don't stay more than a few hours.

June 27, 2014
We woke up early (since the Arrivals Lounge was nice) to enjoy Cathay Pacific lounges in Hong Kong. Needless to say we were quite disappointed. We thought the Cathay Pacific lounges would be more along the lines of the Virgin Atlantic Lounges or The Lufthansa First Class Lounge in Frankfurt. We were wrong--oh well!! Our destination today--Ho Chi Minh City. We flew from Hong Kong to Ho Chi Minh City. The flight had no inflight entertainment and the food was inedible, but had flat bed seat for a two hour flight. We had already obtained our Visas for Vietnam in NYC. A couple of flights must have arrived at the same time because immigration was packed. Finally through immigration, we picked up our bags to discover one of our bags had a missing lock and a bent lock--oh well at least nothing was stolen!!
Fortunately, our Tonkin guide and driver were at the airport with a printed sign to pick us up. Finally after ten months of planning, we made it to our first city-Ho Chi Minh. We went to the hotel and checked in. We booked the hotel through the Fine Hotels program and did receive an upgrade. We took a quick shower and were on our way. We went to five different Pagodas around the city. I don't remember the names, but we did take pictures of all. This afternoon, we had one of two good meals in Ho Chi Minh at a restaurant where Hillary Clinton had eaten. We were served a soup, morning glories, steamed fish, fried rice, tea and crème carmel-delicious!!
Live2Travel1000 is offline  
Aug 4th, 2014, 12:32 PM
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Nice start. Waiting for more.
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Aug 4th, 2014, 12:43 PM
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Great start!
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Aug 4th, 2014, 12:46 PM
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June 28, 2014
This was a tough day. We went to the Cu Chi tunnels. I really am at a loss of words for this sight. We went to lunch after the tunnels to a nearby restaurant on the river. I can't remember what we had for lunch except it was not good.
Returning to Ho Chi Minh City, we visited the War Remnants Museum-very intense!! We also saw the outside of the Reunification Palace, Notre Dame Cathedral, and walked around The Central Post Office. We stopped at a market--I bought a pair of All-Star sneakers and a watch (I forgot my travel watch at home).
For dinner, our driver took us to Temple Club. It was not good at all. This restaurant served me chicken knuckles that was suppose to be chicken breast with lemon grass. I returned it. We went next door for ice cream--that was good.
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Aug 4th, 2014, 12:54 PM
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June 29, 2014
Mekong Delta
Today we drove to the Mekong Delta. Along the way, we stopped at Vinh Trang Pagoda. It is well worth the detour due to its beauty. It was built by a wealthy land owner for the people in the village. It has a really gorgeous façade. When we entered the pagoda, a lot of women and children were praying. According to our guide, this particular pagoda feeds the poor. Buses were bringing women to the pagoda. We got to the pagoda around lunch time. The monks had quite a few tables set up with soup, vegetables, fruit, and drinks for the worshippers. Vinh Trang Pagoda is very unique because outside there are three giant Buddhas--Happy Buddah, Lying Buddha, Standing Buddha. We took some great pictures.
After our detour, we drove to the Mekong Delta and boarded a sampan for our day cruise. There was some mix up because our sampan was not there and we had to take a different boat until our designated boat arrived??? Along the way, we stopped at the local home factories.We saw how they make rice popcorn, coco candies, and alcohol. We went to lunch at Le Longanier. The menu was vegetable soup, Le Longanier fried spring rolls, fried Mekong elephant fish, fried mixed vegetables with pork, caramelized pork in clay pot, seasonal fruit. We did not care for the meal. It was COLD and not fresh. It is probably one of the only decent restaurants in the area so they have a monopoly.
We continued on the cruise through the Mekong Delta. We were suppose to travel through the An Binh Islands, but our guide and driver did not take us there and I forgot the itinerary in the hotel. The day was uneventful. I would probably cut this out of the itinerary except for the pagoda.
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Aug 4th, 2014, 01:11 PM
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Supplement to Mekong Delta: I looked back at the pictures and I wouldn't take the Mekong Delta out of the itinerary, but would make sure that all sights were visited.

June 30, 2014
Today we visited Old Saigon including Jade Emperor Pagoda, Chinese Pagoda, and ChoLon. We also went to several other pagodas and visited The Museum of Ho Chi Minh City--small museum. It has a few really beautiful clothing items. It also has a balcony with a view and a great breeze!!! We walked along Dong Khoi Street of District 1 for window shopping. There was really nothing of note to buy.
We went back to the hotel early and took advantage of the facilities--pool, jacuzzi, and sauna. I also got my hair washed and dried because I left my hairbrush at home!!!
We had a seafood dinner in the hotel--excellent!! The prawns were the size of mini lobsters!!
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Aug 4th, 2014, 03:00 PM
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Great report-looking forward to more!
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Aug 4th, 2014, 06:14 PM
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Thanks your post
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Aug 5th, 2014, 02:30 AM
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I have jet lag and am up early so thought I would post a couple more days.


July 1, 2014
Today we got up really early and flew to Hue. I chose Hue over Hoi An because Hoi An seemed like a beach resort. Since we live on the beach, I wanted something different. We flew on Vietnam Airlines--our flight took off and landed on schedule. Immediately after landing and getting our bags, we went to Thien Mu Pagoda. After seeing the pagoda, we rode on a sampan down the Perfume River. According to our guide the Perfume River is named after the flowers that smell like perfume that are located at the mouth of the river. I wanted to see and smell the flowers, but our guide said it was too far.
We stopped for lunch--not good but eatable. After lunch, we drove to Dong Hoi. It took us about four hours. The drive was uneventful, but witnessed daily life in Central Vietnam. The roads are under construction, but we had a good driver. He was patient and careful. We checked in our hotel and walked around the property. The resort had two pools and was on the South China Sea. The resort was very crowded with families. All were swimming in the pools and sea having a good time. We made reservations for dinner, but we fell asleep so I can't comment on the food. The resort was very reasonably priced. I booked a garden, ocean view. In retrospect, I could have booked one or two categories higher.

July 2, 2014
We woke to an incredible sunrise and I mean incredible!!! (We live on the Atlantic Ocean so we see a beautiful sunrise everyday, but this was really unique.) After breakfast- very crowded, we drove to Paradise Cave. Paradise Cave is quite beautiful. The drive was about 30-45 minutes. Along the way, our driver got pulled over by the police and had to pay a fine. For what, I really don't know because out if all of our drivers, he was extremely careful and did not speed. We arrived at the cave and took a quick shuttle ride to the cave and then walked up approximately 500 steps to the mouth of the cave. Do not let your guide try to talk you out of the shuttle ride, it is quite a long walk and then one has to climb the 500 stairs. Paradise Cave was discovered by British Caving Research Association in 2005. It is the longest cave in Asia. Though one can only explore 1 km of the actual 31 km. It also was crowded, but worth the drive.
We then drove to Phong Nha Cave. We took a boat ride through the beautiful cave. You can get off the boat and explore the cave. This cave was a route that supported the war. Present day it is the first section of the Ho Chi Minh Trails.
After the caves, we drove back to Hue. In hindsight, we probably could have gone straight to the airport for the 9:00pm flight to Hanoi.
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Aug 5th, 2014, 04:56 AM
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Ttt
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Aug 5th, 2014, 02:22 PM
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July 3, 2014
These sights were definitely worth not taking the flight to Hanoi the night before.
Today in Hue--we visited the Imperial Citadel which included Flag Tower, Ngo Mon Gate, Nine Dynastic Urns, Nine Holy Cannons, Thai Hoa Palace, Forbidden Purple City, and Hue Museum of Royal Fine Arts. We took a vehicle around the Imperial Citadel because it was very hot!!!!
In the afternoon, we visited three tombs
1. King Tu Duc Tomb
2. Khai Dinh Tomb
3. Minh Mang's Mausoleum
After the first two tombs our guide wanted to take us back to the hotel, but it was very early so we had him take us to the Minh Mang's Mausoleum. He had to call to get permission. Again, my fault--always bring the itinerary. It was part of the tour for that day. He shouldn't have had to call and we should have been taken without question.
Minh Mang's and Tu Duc are well preserved and grandiose. My favorite was the stone mandarins guarding Khai Dinh's tomb before climbing a few of set of stairs to enter the tomb.
We returned to the hotel and had high tea. The manager came over and chatted with us for quite some time.
We flew on Vietnam Airlines from Hue to Hanoi. We were transported by a Tonkin driver to the hotel efficiently.
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Aug 5th, 2014, 03:40 PM
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loving the report
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Aug 5th, 2014, 04:37 PM
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Sad that you had poor to mediocre food in VN so far. I hope you will enjoy the food in the north more. Enjoying your report.
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Aug 5th, 2014, 05:07 PM
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Am very surprised you were getting bad food in Vietnam!!

Did you book everything through Tonkin? I have done Vietnam totally on my own twice, but did use them for Sapa last time and had no problems.
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Aug 6th, 2014, 02:12 AM
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Thanks to everyone who is reading!!!

Kathie--Yes, I was surprised about the food because I read that the food was good. We had two good meals in Saigon and a couple in Hanoi. We probably went to the wrong restaurants.

thursdaysd--Yes, we booked everything through Tonkin. There were a few mishaps along the way.

At one point, I asked the guide to call our contact at Tonkin and he didn't know who she was. It turned out that she had left the company the end of June to start her own business. She was still our contact for the trip, but wasn't with the company. I was surprised that she didn't tell us nor did anyone at the company until I called to ask a question.

July 4, 2014
We woke up and had breakfast. The breakfast was good!!! We had quite a full day today. We went to the Tran Quoc Pagoda (the cities oldest), Temple of Literature (it was very crowded, but the Tortoise Stele were amazing), Memorial House Museum, a cyclo ride around the old quarter of Hanoi-great fun, Hoan Kiem Lake and the attractions around including the Temple of Jade and the gilded tortoise, Hanoi Hilton, and ended the day at the water puppet show.

The Memorial House Museum is in the old quarter. It is a traditional house from the late 19th century. At one time, this small house was shared by more than five families.

I had read that the water puppet show was boring after the first few minutes. I almost took this out of the program because of the bad reviews. We enjoyed the show. It was unique and well presented. I found it wasn't really long enough to be boring.
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Aug 6th, 2014, 02:27 AM
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July 5, 2014
Today we drove to HaLong Bay for our 2 day, 1 night cruise. Again, I almost didn't book the cruise because of the reviews about the pollution. In my opinion HaLong Bay was pretty clean for the amount of traffic. We only saw a couple of floating plastic bottles. Unfortunately, it rained most of our trip. We did get to go to the cove although the monkeys were not around because it was drizzling. We saw Surprise Cave where my fiancé fell. His leg was cut pretty bad, but no broken bones!! We also took the excursion to Ti Top Island--we didn't climb up because of the accident the day before, but we walked around the beach and took pictures. The food and service were excellent on the cruise!! I would definitely recommend this trip. Even with the rain, we did witness a beautiful sunset. I found HaLong Bay to be spectacular.
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Aug 6th, 2014, 08:03 AM
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July 6, 2014
We drove back to Hanoi and did a little bit of shopping. Our guide and driver wanted us to stop at a tourist shopping place. I can't remember the name, but a share of the proceeds from the shop go to the handicap. We bought silk pajamas--I took a larger size than normal so was glad they suggested to try them on. We also bought a cute ceramic sampan with the rowers. Unfortunately, one of the rowers broke off in our travels. The drive back was uneventful and again was able to witness daily life in a Vietnam. We did some shopping in the Old Quarter. We took our guide to dinner. He chose the restaurant and it was very good and fresh. It was also inexpensive. We checked back into the hotel. We were able to get a package that included a daily massage for two.

July 7, 2014
Another full day of sightseeing.
We went to Binh Dong Cave, Tam Coc, and Dinh and Le Kings' Temples.
Binh Dong Cave was beautiful. We has to climb up a few sets of stairs and it was a little slippery. It also had bees--I'm allergic!! At the foot of the steps were women selling souvenirs. We bought a wooden motorcycle.
Tam Coc was pretty, but very hot. Yes, the boat driver tried to hold us hostage by making us buy soda and a t-shirt. Then he told us the amount of tip he wanted!!! We tipped him well, but not what he wanted.
Dinh and Le Kings' Temple was not worth the detour maybe because it was way too hot!!!!!
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Aug 6th, 2014, 08:36 AM
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Live2travel - we are practically neighbors - we are up in boca. Glad to see you are enjoying your trip, but surprised about the food. We loved the pho and other foods, especially in Hanoi. Some of our best meals were hole in the wall joints. Enjoying your report and am continuing to follow along.
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Aug 6th, 2014, 08:59 AM
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dgunbug--We did have a great time!! We traveled for 35 days. It was an extremely memorable trip.

We live in Aventura. I am up in Boca every three weeks at the hair salon. One of my favorite sushi restaurants is in Boca--Sushi Ray.
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Aug 6th, 2014, 06:26 PM
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July 8, 2014
We had another full day of sightseeing. Today we went to the Ho Chi Minh Mausoleum complex. In my opinion, Ho Chi Minh looks much better than Lenin, but HCM hasn't been entombed as long as Lenin. We saw Ho Chi Minh's house, museum and One Pillar Pagoda. This area is was a mad house. It was very crowded.
We also saw The Museum of Ethnography-- this museum showcases the various ethnic groups living in Vietnam. We went to The Vietnam Women's Museum and The History Museum. We do not read every placard in the museums, that is why we were able to see so many museums in one day. We called it a day, went back to the hotel, ate dinner consisting of chicken pho and a veggie ciabatta. We then collapsed.

July 9, 2014
We woke up and had a good breakfast and were transferred to the airport. We flew Vietnam Airlines from Hanoi to Luang Prabang. We had to pay $150.00 in excess baggage. The flight was delayed by an hour and a half so we paid $20.00 per person to sit in the air conditioned lounge. They do not accept Priority Pass in Hanoi. I believe the flight was delayed due to the weather in LPQ.
By the time we exited LPQ it was 3:30pm. Our guide was Tint, a former monk. We drove to a small village and took a rickety boat driven by a 10 year old to Tad Sae Waterfall which was dried up. We were suppose to take an hour elephant ride through the area and waterfall, but because we were so late the mahouts's cut our ride short. The mahouts needed to take the elephants into the jungle for the night. Also, I need to mention that they refused to put on the seats and we rode bare back--not a big deal, but we had to sit on chains. I would not recommend this elephant ride as I saw wounds from the sharp stick they were using--very cruel. If they hadn't stopped early, we were going to tell them to let us off the elephants. I can't remember the name of the company, but they operate out of the waterfall. Tint then took us for an early dinner. I can't remember the name of the restaurant, but it also offered cooking lessons. From what I remember, the food was fresh and very tasty.
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