Saigon/Ho Chi Minh – Vietnam – Southeast Asia – 2015 – Day 1 – 3

1104-0515

We got a decent deal on flights ($1024CAD) with United Airlines from Toronto to arrive in Ho Chi Minh / Saigon and fly home from Bangkok however for this trip to be slightly cheaper, there were multiple stopover: YYZ->IAD;IAD->EWR (really UA.. you can’t just fly us to New York instead of detouring out to Washington); EWR->HKG;HKG->SGN. Flight home will be BKK->NRT;NRT->DEN;DEN->ORD;ORD->YYZ.

The flights weren’t actually that bad and I think because it was so broken up in the beginning it didn’t feel as gruelling until we finally made it to Hong Kong and awaited to board one more flight. The airport in Ho Chi Minh is basic. We lined up at the visa counter and handed in our visa approval forms (that we already booked online -$19.99USD ($27.16CAD) – http://www.myvietnamvisa.com/) then had to complete another form with the same basic information (you can leave passport info blank as they take your passport) then fill in your address, profession, accommodation location etc. Then you line back up and hand in that completed form with a passport photo (1 only) then sit down until they call your name. When they call your name proceed to the counter and receive your passport with the visa ticket inside and give $45USD and you are all set. One final bag screening and then out the door you go.

I exchanged $20CAD right away for cab fare and Adam did $20USD. We got swindled off the bat – NOTE FOR FUTURE: STICK WITH MAI LINHS AND VINASUN taxis and negotiate fare before hopping in. There is a exit fee of 10.000 NOT 100.000 which our driver showed us who probably did a switcheroo. When we got to our destination, the meter read 83.0 which is 83.000 but he kept insisting it was 830.000 which we didn’t have enough of anyways but we did give him nearly 700.000. We got ripped off completely but it was also our fault in the beginning because we told him its our first time there… All in all, we are down about $35 already on one taxi ride. If you can arrange a airport transfer, it could be cheaper or same price but less hassle.

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We stayed at Hosen 2 Hotel4A Thi Sach with a double and a single bed. We ended up falling asleep around 230-3AM and I had set my alarm for 10AM. I easily awoke to 530AM and the sun rises around that time. We started our day around 645AM with our hotel’s buffet breakfast. It wasn’t bad at all as it included normal western food such as omelette, sausage, potatoes, egg, cereal etc but also noodles in soup, custard steam bun, rice, noodles, DIY banh mi, fish, meatballs, squid etc.

After breakfast, we went out to exchange money while trying to spot certain places such as Nhu Lan Bakery and Ben Thanh market. We walked by the water and experienced our first traffic jam with motorbikes, cars, vans, taxis and humans crossing through. I learned how to cross the street by just literally watching an old lady cross the road. You go slowly and keep eye contact with one hand sort of out; this way you and the motorcyclists know whats happening and both can adjust. We found Nhu Lan Bakery but then remembered we didn’t have any cash on us at that point so we went nearby to exchange currency. They round up here in terms of money and also don’t use coins. They barely even use their small bills (500,1000,2000,5000).

After that, we explored Ben Thanh market area which is very similar to every other night market Ive been to selling souvenirs, food and clothing. We walked around some more in the vicinity and ended up at Trung Nguyen Coffee where we sat on the second floor and people watched below and enjoyed some cold beverages. I had the green tea latte with coffee jelly (49.000VND). We then walked around more and ended up going to the Independence Palace which is their version of the white house then continued our walk back to our hotel. We relaxed for a bit and it was perfect timing as it started to pour really hard outside. We watched a little television and re-cooped then off we went to the airport to pick up Amy. This time, the fee was correct with roughly 122.000VND going in and about 155.000VND coming back due to traffic. Amy has been in Asia for 10-12 days prior with family and other friends. Since Amy came in later, we were unfortunately too late to do the Cu Chi Tunnels tour and we didn’t want to spend $52USD/pp to do a private tour since it was only half day and our Mekong Delta (full day) was $50USD/pp.

We got back to the hotel to drop off her stuff then off we went to get lunch at Nhu Lan Bakery (50-64-68 Ham Nghi St. Dist.1,) Trip advisor had this place highly recommended for their Banh Mi and they were pretty good. If you like hot then keep the pepper in but if not, either ask them to leave it out or pull it out. It left a tingle going on inside my throat and on my lips but it was very good. 20.000VND which is $1USD. We grabbed it and continued on our way to Ben Thanh Market with Amy. After visiting Ben Thanh again, we walked around trying to figure out what we wanted to see next since Cu Chi Tunnels wasn’t going to happen. We walked towards the cathedral but it looked packed with tourists so we went across the street to the Saigon Central Post Office ( 2 Công xã Paris, Bến Nghé, tp.). From there, we ventured to Vincom Centre (70 – 72 Le Thanh Ton | District 1) where it is filled with UK brands and a store that sold some Canadian brands like Venque and Natives. We ate and drank at Mochi Sweets (72 Lê Thánh Tôn, Tầng B2 Vincom, Bến Nghé, Quận 1). I can’t turn down good japanese treats such as mochi! I got the Green tea ice cream drink – 49.000VND (started off just tasting like water until the ice cream melted. We also decided to get 2 mochis each. I got the durian (with real durian chunks) and peach cream – both were good! We also had green tea, chocolate mousse, apple and purple potato. 28.000 each.

We decided we should get pho for dinner and looked up the top 5 places; we settled for one of the top ones which was also one of the farthest. I suggested we go because it was getting dark so it was a little cooler out plus we wouldn’t be walking that far into that area otherwise and I wanted to walk unfamiliar streets to take in more. Pho Hoa Pasteur (p. 8, 260E Pasteur) where I had Tiger beer with a small Tripe pho bowl. Tastes different but nonetheless still really good! We then took our time to walk back and battled the traffic once again and made it back to our hotel for a good nights sleep as the following day we are to do a Mekong Delta tour which starts at 5AM.

Itinerary – Southeast Asia – 2015

1104-2815 Southeast Asia

I travelled with 3 friends (Amy, Adam & Andrew) with guest appearances from new friends – Yu Ling, Lixin, Emily & James who joined us in Hanoi.

We travelled 5 countries (USA, Vietnam, Lao, Cambodia & Thailand), 15 flights in total of 23 days.

 

Included in this itinerary are also some helpful tips from a Canadian travelling overseas.

Vaccinations to get:

Hepatitis A

Hepatitis B

Thyphoid

Malaria Pills prescription

 

THINGS TO KNOW:

Vietnam

-Vietnam Visa – $19.99USD ($27.16CDN) – http://www.myvietnamvisa.com/

-$45USD on arrival

-1 photo

-stick to MaiLinh & Vinasun Taxis – make sure it is metered.

-1USD = 22.000VND

– keep your bags close to your body and on the side opposite the road as tandems on motorbikes can grab them as they pass

-Hello – xin chao – (sin jao)

-Goodbye – tam biet

-Thank you – can on (gam on)

-yes- da (yahh)

-no – khong (calm)

 

Laos

-Laos Visa – $42USD

-1 photo

-1USD=8150kip

-Hello – Sabaidee

-Thank you – khawp jai

-Goodbye – la khawn

-yes – Jao/dooy

-no – baw

 

Cambodia

-Cambodia Visa – $30USD

-1 photo

-1USD=4000 Riel – But they use USD everywhere here but not USD coins. If they need to give you change smaller than USD bills, they will give you Cambodian Riel.

-Majority of people speak english

-Hello – surs dey

-Goodbye – lia suhn hao-y

-Thank you – aw kohn

 

Thailand

-Thailand Visa – No Visa required!

-1USD=35.7 Baht – or alternatively 100 baht=$3USD

-Chiang Mai – around 630AM – monks alms giving

-Hello – sawatdee-ka(female)/krup(male)

-goodbye – baai baai

-thank you – kop kun ka

 

Now onto the itinerary. We didn’t accomplish everything on this itinerary but I left it in as some are ideal things to do, places to go, places to eat etc.

 

November

5-7 – Ho Chi Minh

8-10 – Hanoi /Ha Long Bay

11- Luang Prabang

12-14– Pakse

15-17 – Siem Reap

18-21 – Ko Samui & area

22-25 – Chiang Mai

26-28 – Bangkok

 

FLY – YYZ->IAD; IAD->EWR; EWR->HKG->HKG->SGN – United

11/04-05 – Ho Chi Minh (Saigon), Vietnam

HOTEL: Hosen 2 Hotel – 4A Thi Sach, Ben Nghe Ward – District 1

 

11/06 – Ho Chi Minh

-Noon – Amy lands

-Nhu Lan Bakery – 50-64-68 Ham Nghi St. Dist.1 – Best place for Banh Mi – fresh & delicious – pork banh mi

-Visit Old Quarters

-Ci Chi Tunnels

-Ben Thanh Market

-Rooftop bars – OMG, Broma or Glow, Rex Hotel Rooftop garden (where American soldiers used to hang), Chill Skybar

 

11/07 – Ho Chi Minh

  • Mekong Delta Tourism – AG Travel – Mekong Delta – Day tour – Cai Be floating market – Tan Phong Island – ($50USD)

(http://www.classytravelvietnam.com/tours-options/vietnam-day-trips/mekong-delta-1day/)

-5AM start

 

FLY – HO CHI MINH -> HANOI – $58.35 – 945AM-1150AM – Vietnam Airlines

Hanoi, Vietnam

11/08 – Hanoi – Arrival

HOTEL: Hanoi Royal Palace Hotel 2 – 95 Hang Bong Street, Hoan Kiem District

-Yu Ling & Lixin Chan joins us – staying at same hotel

-Meet Emily & James at Hanoi Street Food Walking tour – $23 USD/pp– 6PM 74 & 76 Hang Bac Street at Kim Tour’s Building – (http://www.hanoistreetfoodtour.com/walking_street_food_tour.html)

 

11/09 – Ha Long Bay, Vietnam

-Sun Legend Cruise – 2 day (2 days, 1 night) tour –$143.45USD/pp- 8AM pickup from Hanoi

-Hanoi – Tuan Chau – Luon Cave – Ti Top Island – Sung Sot Caves – Hanoi  (https://www.halong-bay-tours.com/junks/superior-cruises/sun-legend-cruise-2-days-1-night.html)

 

11/10 – Ha Long Bay

-Sun Legend Cruise – 2 day tour – 5PM Drop-off to Hanoi

– HOTEL : Hanoi Royal Palace Hotel 2 – 95 Hang Bong Street, Hoan Kiem District

-Dinner – Quan An Ngon – 18 Phan Dinh Phung – which was a slightly higher end version of street meats but better service

 

FLY – HANOI -> LUANG PRABANG – $172USD – 1030AM-1130AM – Lao Airlines

11/11 – Luang Prabang, Laos

-HOTEL: Apple Guesthouse – Xatikhouman Rd 01 / 05 Xiengmoun Village

-Check in – 2PM; Check-out:11AM

-Apple Guesthouse is picking us up and dropping us off at airport $25USD RT

-Kuang Si waterfalls (there are also black bears!) – need to take tuktuk or motorboat to get there. Entrance is 20,000kip ($3.23CAD)

-Dinner option -Utopia – Restaurant – Beach Volleyball

-Dinner-buffet street – 15000 kip – fill your bowl as high as you can for 15000 kip – beer and bbq meat extra

-Nightmarket

-morning market – opens at 5AM

-Mount Phousi – Sunset – $2.50USD entry – might be crowded

-530AM – Alms giving – no flash photography, women – don’t stand up, keep covered

 

FLY – LUANG PRABANG -> PAKSE – $184USD – 1040AM-1220PM – Lao Airlines

11/12 – Pakse 

-HOTEL: Salachampa Hotel – Lakmeung Village, City Center – right across the street from green discovery office

-Bolaven Plateau Falls & Coffee Plantation

-coffee shops: Bolaven Café, Delta, Sinouk

-Lunch – Vida Bakery

 

11/13 – Pakse, Laos – Tree Top Explorer at Jungle Hotel Paksong – Dong Hua Sao National Park

(http://www.greendiscoverylaos.com/eco-excursions/champassak/champassak-zip-line-canopy-walk/item/354-tree-top-explorer) $240USD/pp

  • 8AM – Meet at Office (Green Discovery – Sales Office – No. 10 Rd & No. 46 Rd) – Store our luggage in the Office. Drive an hour to Tree Top Explorer at Jungle Hotel Paksong (Paksong); hike 1-2KM to site
  • stay overnight.

 

11/14 – Pakse

-Tree Top Explorer

-4-5PM – Drop off at office/hotel

-HOTEL: Salachampa Hotel – Lakmeung Village, City Center

-Dinner option – Champady – restaurant off the main st – good pad thai; passion fruit and strawberry shake are amazing.

-Dinner – Daolin

 

FLY – PAKSE -> SIEM REAP, CAMBODIA – $135USD – 1PM-2PM – Lao Airlines

11/15 – Siem Reap, Cambodia

-HOTEL: Secrets Pavilion Urban Boutique Hotel – 120, Angkor Night Market Street, Steoung Thmey

-Nightmarket

-11PM – Meet with Andrew

 

11/16 – Siem Reap

-Landmine Museum – $5USD – hours drive from nightmarket

-Phare Circus (http://pharecircus.org/) – 8PM – $18-35USD/pp

 

17 – Siem Reap

-Angkor Pass – 1 day $20USD; 3 day pass (requires photo) $40USD

-Angkor Wat – Sunrise ($20USD) Bantey Kdei, Phimeanakas, Ta Phrom, Angkor Thom, Bayon.

-Dinner option -Sojourn Boutique Villa – Destination Dining – $60USD – 3 course menu in a traditional stilt pavilion over a lotus pond including transport

-Dinner -Damnak Lounge Fine Dining – Junction of Oum Khun and 14th Street -7 Course Khmer signature dinner – $30 pp + tax

-Dinner option -Lilypop – 020 Taphul Road, Siem Reap 17259 – cheap and good – freid rice, banana shake, fresh spring rolls

-Dinner option -Marum – Between Wat (Pagoda) Polanka & Catholic Church, #8A, B Phum Slor Kram – 5 course menu – $15 – crispy grasshoppers

-Siem Reap Brewpub – 05 Oum Khun St – local craft beer

 

FLY – SIEM REAP -> KO SAMUI – $270USD – Bangkok Airways – 125PM-240PM Siem Reap-Bangkok; 335PM-440PM Bangkok-Koh Samui

11/18 – Koh Samui, Thailand

-HOTEL: Sandalwood Luxury Villas – 211/7 Moo 4, T. Maret

-Free Airport shuttle!

-Relax, unwind and roll into your pool (http://ca.hotels.com/ho442701/sandalwood-luxury-villas-ko-samui-thailand/)

-Chaweng area – Central Festival – Mall and nightmarket

 

11/19 – Koh Samui

– Take in Koh Samui

-Secret Buddha Garden – Route 4169 (ring road) at Baan Saket – 80 baht pp

-Mr Ung’s Jungle Safari – 1300baht

-Lamai beach area

 

11/20 – Koh Samui

-Day trip to Koh Tao & Koh Nang Yuan – Lomlahkkhim High Speed Ferries – 1600baht

-Snorkel & Speedboat

 

11/21 – Koh Samui

– Day trip to Ang Thong Marine Park (Bowl of gold) – closed the month of November =(

-inspiration for the movie “The Beach” w/ Leonardo DiCaprio

-scuba diving, snorkel, kayak and beach

-Beach day – Chaweng Beach

 

FLY – KO SAMUI ->CHIANG MAI – $209-ish CDN – Bangkok Airways – 1020AM-1210PM

11/22 – Chiang Mai, Thailand

-HOTEL: Green Tulip – 85 Samlan Road – 18400-183372013 (http://www.hostelworld.com/hosteldetails.php/Green-Tulip-House/Chiang-Mai/18400?dateFrom=2015-11-22&dateTo=2015-11-26#facilities)

-Tiger Temple

-Sunday street market – Nightmarket – 4-5PM-11PM – the market starts at Tha Pae Gate and goes all the way along Ratchadamnoen Road until Wat Phra Singh in the center of the old city (about 1.5 km). This is the place for souvenirs, t-shirts, artwork, hand made items and just about everything in between.

-Siam Rice Cooking class – 800 baht – evening session

-Chang Phueak (ช้างเผือก) – food stalls – where the locals eat – Thaicowgirl – khao kha moo – 30baht – stewed pork knuckle

-Mon Cham – garden/viewpoint/resort/restaurant with 360 view over surrounding valleys – no fee to enter and wander

-Kad luang – 100 year old market next to Ping River – where hill tribes sell their crafts

– Sat/Sun flea market – Starts at the intersection of Kaew Narawat and Bumruang Road on the east side of the river

-THC Rooftop ba – 19/4-5 Kotchasarn Road, On the 3rd Floor, Chiang Mai, Thailand

 

11/23 – Chiang Mai

-NOT AVAILABLE =( Elephant Conservatory (http://www.elephantnaturepark.org/enp/en/visit-volunteer) – Pamper a Pachyderm – 6000THB

-1 Ratmakka Road, Phra Sing, Chiang Mai 50200, Thailand Office Hours: 07:00-17:00 Mon-Sun (GMT+7)

Blue Elephant – Thailand Tours – One Day Chiang Mai Elephant bathing & riding bareback + Whitewater rafting + Longneck Tribe. 830AM pickup – 630PM drop-off – Mae Rim, Longneck Karen & Big ear Kayor Hill tribe village, Muang Kud Valley and raft along the Mae Tang River, Makha Elephant Village – 22000THB – 4c pp – BRING CASH TO PAY ON SPOT! (http://www.blueelephantthailandtours.com/package/tour-detail.php?id=107)

-Coffee shops:

-Akha Ama – Ahka Hilltribe Coffee – Hussadhisewee Road Soi 3 in Santhitham or Rachadammoen Road near Wat Phra Singh

– Graph Café – one of city’s best coffee – nitro cold brew coffee on tap -9AM-1PM – Rathvithi Soi 1

-Mao Coffee – mao gafaae – drunk coffee -8AM-5PM – Kankhlong Chonprathan Road heading south towards Hang Dong

-Ponganes Espresso & Coffee Roasters – high quality coffee – 9AM-430PM – closed Wednesdays – 133/5 Rachapakinai Road

 

-Clay Studio Coffee in the Garden is also often known as the terracotta garden – iced matcha green tea -8AM-6PM – Prapokklao Road Soi 2

-Natwat Home Café – brunch place with lots of light -Tue-Sun – 7AM-430PM – 330/2 Charoenrat Road

-Kanjana – all time fav for expats – pad thai – 7/2 Ratchadamnoen Rd, Soi 5 | -Ratchadamnoen Rd Soi 5, Chiang Mai, Thailand

-Dada Kafe – healthy food – vegetarian kaow soi – best in city – 20/1 Ratmakka Rd | Phra Singh, Chiang Mai, Thailand, +66 53 449 718

-Khao Soi Khun Yai – Sri Poom Rd, Soi 8, Mueang – 10am-2pm – grandma’s chiang mai noodle – best khao soi in the CM

-Cyclo Resto – Unit 28 No 6 Cach Mang Thang Tam Street | Ben Thanh Ward, District 1 – 11AM-10PM – set menu 5 dishes – hidden in an alley near the roundabout

-Ru Pho Bar – 27E Tran Nhat Duat, Ward Tan Dinh, District 1 – 10AM-10PM – (need to go upstairs) stir fried pho & noodles –

 

11/24 – Chiang Mai

-Doi Suthep – Wat Phra Tha – Wat Palat – hidden temple and trail lined with monks’ robes tied to trees

-Yi Peng – Paper Lantern Festival

-Wat Chedi Luang – Three King Monument & Thapae Gate – Thapae Gate has biggest but most touristy

 

11/25 – Chiang Mai

-Sing Prasert Gym – Muay Thai – Bamrunburi – 400 baht for 2 hour session

-Loy Krathong – Water lantern floating festival – http://theakyra.com/chiang-mais-loy-krathong-festival-of-lights-2015/

– Chiang Mai has a beauty contest as well that is preceded by the Loy Krathong parade that begins at Tha Pae Gate the first evening of the festival. The temples also feature their own private celebrations where the devotees release khom loy and float their krathong and they welcome visitors to share in this deeply intimate event.

-Tha Phae Rd / Praisanee Rd / Chaoroen Prathet Rd and Thanon Charon Mueang – epicenter for paper lantern festival

 

FLY – CHIANG MAI -> BANGKOK – $73CDNpp – Air Asia – 125PM-245PM 

11/26 – Bangkok, Thailand

-HOSTEL: D Hostel Bangkok – 103 Boonsiri RD., San-Chao-Por-Suea Phranakhon – 92912-184551778

-Goto Gate 8 for taxi cabs – metered and cheaper than other cabstand outside of arrivals gate.

-Thimpsamai Phad Thai – best phad thai in Bangkok – phad thai w/shrimp wrapped in a thing layer of egg – 313 Th Maha Chai | Banglamphu, Bangkok +66 (0) 2221 6280 – 90baht

-Rama III Memorial – pretty

-Khaosan Road

-Nahm – San Pellegrino’s world’s 50 best – try jungle curry w/ pia chorn, pandanus moodles w/black sticky rice, tapioca & coconut cream- Nahm, Metropolitan by COMO, 27 South Sathorn Road, Tungmahamek, Sathorn, Bangkok, Thailand, +66 (0) 2625 3388

 

11/27 – Bangkok

-Grand Palace – 500baht

-Wat Pho – 100baht

-Chinatown – Yaowarat – how the city looked years before – essence of what Bangkok was. Visually beautiful to walk through.

-Siam Paragon – Asia’s largest mall

-Talat Rot Fai – Train market – more of a locals – hipster market – Friday and Saturday nights

 

FLY – 710AM-BKK->305PM-NRT; 610PM-NRT->1240PM-DEN; 205PM-DEN->533PM-ORD; 710PM->950PM-YYZ

11/28 – HOME TIME

 

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