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Old 24th November 2011, 12:19   #16
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Arrow re: Footloose in VAMBODIA (Vietnam + Cambodia)

Quote:
Originally Posted by MX6 View Post
Now this is a log that I have to read at leisure. Because your style of travel is very similar to mine. 4 trips to Europe and 6 to Apac region has been a self planned (most like almost back packing trip) for me. And I saw that streak in you in your UK trip. I'm sure you'd bettered that this time in Vambodia. So this thread will be keenly followed Saar.

Here's the first rule I notice you broke in the first 5 mins of browsing.

The photograph of Akshay is clicked by your wife I guess! Anyway, I knew this was brewing up when we spoke of a potential meet in AHD where you said you are planning a vacation. And I knew from an earlier log here that there's high possibility you are off to see Angkor Wat.
This was a year in the making and we could finally execute it. Angakor was amazing, much more than anyone can guess, wait for the logs.

Akshay's was clicked by me from the front right passenger seat, he was with me, but there are a FEW photos clicked by Anu. Remember... we also took a small Cybershot to make the wife happy.

The story continues........

24-10-11 – HCMC: The day we were left to ourselves? No. A perfect host would leave you alone in his city, no way. Was a working day for Himanshu; we went to his downtown posh office, got introduced to the staff, had coffee and his car / driver was at our disposal. The plan was to visit Reunification Palace and HCMC Museum. Looked simple!! Only two places in a day, what would we do with the rest of the time? Our host said, “you finish it and see if you can do more, I’d arrange it”. I muttered under my breadth, “You don’t know my stamina,” “what are you rambling about?” asked Anu, I said, “lovely weather today?” She look at me as if I am Cuckoo!!


Mr.Hui (most of the guys there are either a Hui or Wui), our driver expertly threaded the Innova through traffic and around 10 AM brought us to the Reunification Palace, entrance free about 1 USD per person. It’s a grand building, French style like most grand buildings there, with a huge green courtyard all of 12 hectares. There’s a lot of history to the place, you’d see two battle tanks outside that ended the war.



Reunification Palace - Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

You’re security checked, small bags / water allowed, no knives or sharp objects. The complex is 5 floors, has a lift, but using the wide stairs is more airy. Most rooms are opulently done; carpets, stairs, banisters, art pieces and artifacts, there’s lots of walking around. Was a sultry day, we were drenched by the time we climbed the terrace, we were pooped; the chopper on the terrace was missing, not many people, but…. a small store was selling cool drinks. We sat for 20 minutes watching a wedding photo party clicking away, great time pass. We slowly made our way back through the stairs clicking slowly and using the tripod to get some together shots. Hui was already waiting with engine running, the cool interiors never looked more relaxing.

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Last edited by ramkya1 : 24th November 2011 at 12:22.
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Old 24th November 2011, 12:31   #17
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Arrow Re: Footloose in VAMBODIA/ Museum HCMC

Next stop, city Museum:


Ho Chi Minh City Museum - Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

Another French structure, reeking history. Lots of historical things to see, many artifacts have English commentary. The fishing history has lots of similarities with India; life and times of fishermen throughout the world I guess are similar.


Another 5-6 teams of wedding photo groups were clicking away, its fun to watch them shooting in the open, all of them requested firmly NOT TO shoot them, we did not want to offend them.

CitroŽn 15 right in front of the Museum.

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Our Driver of the day:

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Last edited by ramkya1 : 24th November 2011 at 12:35.
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Old 24th November 2011, 14:15   #18
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Default re: Footloose in VAMBODIA (Vietnam + Cambodia)

Awesome RK! Very detailed info about pre-planning and Log too. Beautiful pictures too.
These kind of ground rules are even applicable in our domestic drives too .
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Old 24th November 2011, 14:36   #19
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Default re: Footloose in VAMBODIA (Vietnam + Cambodia)

Thanks for showing us this offbeat destination. Sure sounds very interesting and different. Very few Indians go beyond thailand when going to the Far East.
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Old 24th November 2011, 15:14   #20
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Arrow re: Footloose in VAMBODIA (Vietnam + Cambodia)

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Originally Posted by tsk1979 View Post
Thanks for showing us this offbeat destination. Sure sounds very interesting and different. Very few Indians go beyond thailand when going to the Far East.
Tnx TSK & V&V. After doing Vietnam I want to do it again, there's so much to see , exotic and people tourist friendly too. Cambodia just has 2-3 places, Vietnam is full of options, one can spend 21 days there.

As the log progresses, you'd see how beautiful Vietnam really is.

=======
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Old 24th November 2011, 18:04   #21
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Arrow Re: Footloose in VAMBODIA/ DIWALI

By the time we were done it was 3 PM, our host was right, there was not energy left to do anything else, we must have walked, climbed, sat, retraced our steps and burned calories, we were hungry too. Most hotels would be closed, so we chose KFC nearby. Being a Diwali day, we chose veg; the sandwich, French fries and ice creams were OK to go by.

Viju asked, “Do you celebrate Diwali?” In the last 8 years we have been out on tours and this was the only one with an Indian couple on Diwali day. In the past, wherever we were, we managed to find a temple and offer prayers. We were lucky, every year Himanshu and Viju celebrate Diwali the Guajarati way with Arati, we got a whiff of it as we entered the house, agarbatti smell and the small Puja room was decked up with flowers.

Himanshu did the rituals while the rest of us joined in. One of the best Diwalis in years as Viju tied the sacred thread on everybody. Memorable for me, the sacred thread Viju tied on my hand was akin to Rakhi, I have gained one more sister on this trip, a treasure to remember this trip by!

We decided to go to another Indian restaurant by the river side for dinner. Riverside was everything like Kerala; river flowing by, barges, boats and small vessels chugging and mosquitos diving in on vacant spots. Pests.. we're prepared for Vietnam war, beware!! We had Odomos on exposed parts and some electronic repellents were doing their work well. The course was delicious boiled vegetables, fried rice, soup, salad, pappad, salads and ice creams, a little pricey but OK. By the time we reached home, the children were already asleep at 10 PM, me and Anu were happy to hit the bed, our legs were screaming for rest.


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The two wheeler traffic gets dense in some sections, then it's like India there. Notice how the right hand side sidewalks are hijacked by the bikers, we noticed a couple of unwary walkers scrambling for safety form onrushing bikes; it's a sea of bikes there. You'd not find the high powered ones, most are gearless 100 cc ones, more than 60% driven by ladies.



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A few night shots:



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Last edited by ramkya1 : 24th November 2011 at 18:11.
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Old 24th November 2011, 19:27   #22
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Arrow Re: Footloose in VAMBODIA/ Temple + Train

25-11-11: HCMC, last day with our host: There were lots of options but we wanted a relaxed day, not more tour, we have a flavor of the place and lovely memories. Himanshu suggested shopping +temples and we agreed. On the way we dropped him in office, Mr.Hui took us to the first famous Mariyamman Temple.

Mariamman Temple, Ho Chi Minh City - Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

The biggest and most popular in HCMC, it’s a small one by our standards. Found lots of Hindus offering prayers with agarbatti and we followed suit. Most places we were identified, people asked, “from India?”, Anu’s Bindi is typical India, many whites wanted to know the story behind it. Anu has interesting tale (heard some from her for the first time!!), some of the westerners understood there’s some science behind the Bindi after all.

The HUGE chain store is Metro; we got lots of goodies for the trip, will explain some of the important ones for an Indian as we go by. The sea-food section we visited was awesome and very different from what you see in India (photo inside is prohibited), you can see live fishes on water, you walk in with a plastic apron they give to escape from the low temp, some would need a nose plug too, customer has to choose, fishes are packed in plastic bags with water!! You’d need an Auto to finish tour inside, we were begging to enjoy the walks and work out; our host warned that this is good for touring Vietnam, especially Cambodia, Angkor Watt could tire a marathon runner. We had to finish by 4 as the train for the next leg to Nha Trang was at 0800 PM. That was another anxiety, did not know how it would turn out.

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There was Subramaniam Temple in District 1, was OK, we found lots of bikes parked inside, probably more a parking place than a religious one!! Nearby was a good Indian Restaurant, run by a Mallu married to a Vietnamese lady. We got typical Indian lunch, the Thali was surprisingly accurate and heavy, found many non-Indians enjoying it too. Was told, you have to book the place on weekends as lots of office parties are held here.

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Said good bye by 6 PM to Viju and children; Akshay and Namay were difficult to console, we became so close in 4 days it was like parting after years. Well.. we had to go. The ride to the station was 45 minutes, entry is strict, even platform ticket holders have to explain entry. Thin crowd, very clean station, the diesel train was metre gauge, the A/C compartment was coupe with a sliding-lockable door, 4 soft beds inside, bed and bedding, reading lamps / plug points working; my keen eyes caught 2 small cockroaches scurrying for cover, did not tell ANU for fear of her screaming. The bathrooms were very clean, they lock up the bathrooms around stations and is opened by an attendant later, don’t know what passengers are supposed to do if the need is urgent. Himanshu left soon, two working girls came to occupy the upper berths, they mostly stuck to it and were talking for a long time in gibberish. All attempts to strike a conservation with them in English failed, they did not know ABC of English, we used sign language, they were friendly, the communication GULF was unbridgeable, we gave up. Dinner packet was fish sandwich but we did not have to worry, Vijis soft roti subji + halwas were a feast to finish the day. The ticket was checked and clipped only once, at the entry gate. There was no need for my worry and tension about the journey, went by smoothly till we got off next day morning.

The tickets, 18 USD per pax was OK for the value received. Can't understand much of what is printed, can anyone make out?

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I think it's a private company which runs the trains, not sure, anybody?

Last edited by ramkya1 : 24th November 2011 at 19:34.
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Old 24th November 2011, 22:17   #23
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Default re: Footloose in VAMBODIA (Vietnam + Cambodia)

How very interesting. We were also in Cambodia a month back! Looking forward for the rest of your experiences.
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Old 25th November 2011, 09:21   #24
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How very interesting. We were also in Cambodia a month back! Looking forward for the rest of your experiences.
We saw a couple, Anu said one talked in Hindi, @ the Royal Palace Phnom Penh on 5th Nov, pre lunch, they moved before we could talk to them. Another was at Siem Reap. Seam Reap gets Indian Tourists due to the temples but not Vietnam.

------
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Old 25th November 2011, 11:58   #25
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Default re: Footloose in VAMBODIA (Vietnam + Cambodia)

Awesome travelog to a off beat location, so i guess thats another destination to the list . By the way hows the cost of staying in hotel in HCMC?
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Old 25th November 2011, 13:55   #26
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Awesome travelog to a off beat location, so i guess thats another destination to the list . By the way hows the cost of staying in hotel in HCMC?
Thanks. I stayed at a friends house at HCMC.

Dscussions with other travelers suggest that the range for a decent hotel would be from 30-50 USD with breakfast for a double A/C room. Many people at Hanoi said HCMC is much more economic than Hanoi; we also felt the same.

--Ramky
======
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Old 25th November 2011, 14:22   #27
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Default re: Footloose in VAMBODIA (Vietnam + Cambodia)

Dear Ramky,

Loved your photography showing the culture, architecture, Diwali celebrations, Mandir, vintages with the most beautiful fountain beside, war museum, the inlaid wall panel, the symmetry in the sitting room with elephant tusks, dugout canoe, hunting trophies, traps, tunnels, bunkers and I can go on and on.

Not much needs to be written as you and the photographs have done it all.
Regards,
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Old 25th November 2011, 14:22   #28
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Default re: Footloose in VAMBODIA (Vietnam + Cambodia)

Ramky,
excellent start to the first leg of your tour. Good to know you started from HCMC. Its truely a gateway to wonderful place like Vietnam.
I had visited HCMC a couple of weeks before you managed to explore it. I really loved the place.
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Old 25th November 2011, 18:01   #29
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@ Nefkar,
Thanks.

@ Fasal
: Tnx. Nice to know you enjoyed and noticed every small thing. Makes me want to write more...The journey continues...

26-11-2011: Nha Trang:
Pronounced ‘NA CHANG’. Quaint little costal town, 3 Lakh people, wide open streets, wide open spaces, tons of surf, wind and an established marine park, THE diving capital. We chose this place for the diving possibilities, chances of less crowds now (picks up after 15th Nov) and possibilities of many island tours. Did a lot of reading, mailing, talking to people on diving and was convinced this a great spot. Mailed to Rainbow Divers, Coco Divers, Nitrox and 5 other outfits and chose Dive Vietnam and Mark Scott based on mails from one of his students in France and reviews about him. Town resembles Goa a lot, but the tourist friendliness, facilities are far ahead, I felt people are exceptionally tourist focused. There are lots of go-go bars for singles, lots of adventures in any direction you want for the daring. Beyond what’s written on the link below are lonely islands all to yourself, strips of long beaches, organized / unorganized resorts all the way for 20 kms till Cam Rann International airport. Read here about the town:

Nha Trang - Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

The hotel we chose for 30 USD a night, balcony room with a beach sight, Ha Van is a family run place with excellent ratings. Michael, the manager, a French guy of about 30 responded to every single mail, query immediately and honestly which was reassuring. Their rooftop restaurant, bar/ lounge was lovely and the staff exceptionally service minded, everything about the place was great for the price, except the thin walls. You can hear people talking loudly, doors being slammed and telly on loud; did not bother us much, we were tired most of the days and enjoying it.

Train reached Na Trang at 0600 AM, was bright already, taxi drivers were on the platform soliciting business like in India. Michael sent us a map to the hotel in Vietnamese, we were to take a print out and show to the taxy guy at the station. The most reliable taxi in Vietnam is Mai Linh, green colour, syndicated radio taxy. We said “Mai Linh” and a non Mai Linh driver walked with us and showed us the stand.. “Blistering Barnacles” is what comes to my mind!! Can you imagine this happening anywhere else? I was puzzled by this till we learned that the city council educates the taxi drivers to deliver what the tourists wants which will ensure more tourists coming in!! We can take banana leaves from here by way of learning.

Our taxi guy picked up luggage, kept it on the boot, lost the way but said, no problem, grabs his radio, talks Greek (I guess he got the number of the hotel, he could have asked me) uses his mobile to talk to the hotel, reverse and forward 150 meters and we’re in front of Ha Van Hotel. The reception guy is on the road waving the taxi in, driver prints out a receipt for 3 USD, says thank you and is off. Check in is smooth (allowed early check in, usually it is 12 noon), we find the room OK in size, fridge, coffee maker, electric shower and electronic safe
We’re ready by 8, rooftop restaurant was airy, another side is the bar / lounge. We order boiled eggs, toast and fruits, the fruit spread is actually enough to fill you up. We get the map from the reception, take direction to our dive guide Mark of Aloha Vietnam which is 5 minutes’ walk away and find his place inside an alley.

Mark is a story by himself. A Texan of 45, he spent time in Hawaii diving, teaching diving and is in Nha Trang for the past 2 years with his dive shop Aloha Vietnam which certifies people in diving, he also arranges island tours and anything else you would want there. A huge man, 6’5”, 130 KGS, he’s a giant, bone honest and a heart with brimming enthusiasm. You would like him instantly.

Vietnam Scuba Divers - Scuba Diving in Vietnam Nha Trang

Idea was to take an intro open water scuba diving course from him and see if it’s possible to get certified in the short time we had. 2 types of certification possible, PADI and SSI, we chose SSI due to many reasons.

PADI vs. SSI - SSI or PADI? Does PADI really suck that much? WHY is SSI better

Operators quote fancy rates for the certification, starts from 200 - 300 USD per person, you can settle anywhere in between. With a certificate you can do recreational diving up to 10 mars / 30 feets anywhere in the world.

By the time we reached Mark’s place, it was 930 AM, we had called in and he was waiting with a Chinese girl, Elle. She got robbed that day morning, had no idea how it happened, her cross bag was slit, somebody used a blade, police said pro job, lost all her money long with the passport & was stranded. Fortunately, someone directed her to Mark, he has a Chinese connection with his Chines GF who was managing diving earlier. Mark helped her with money, tickets to HCMC and stay at his place. Elle will have to go the Chinese Embassy at HCMC, appeal for permit to travel onward to Australia, looked difficult. She was OK for money, her sister wired it across.

Though Vietnam is very tourist friendly; wearing expensive / flashy jewelry, carrying a sling bag, expensive camera in the open, flashing money in the open, leaving bags unattended etc., are asking for it. Elle is a seasoned traveller, Na Trang is NOT a crowded place, still she got taken at the bus depot…. So YOU have to be vigilant with valuable. We were.

It was too late to catch that day’s diving, so the choice was to take a bike tour. There was a Finnish Couple, Elle and us on the bike tour, another Frenchman joined on the way. Ours was a new 100 CC gearless scooter, 5 USD rent, we didn’t have to do a thing as all was arranged by Mark. We were soon on our way with Mark through the Tran Phu Boulevard, costal road; this stretch is one of the most beautiful 29 in the world. First stop at the artificial bird cave, they try to attract birds to nest here. The bird nest soup is expensive and famous: Bird's nest soup - Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

A French men who saw 6 of us trooping in joined in and tagged along for most of the day. We ride on through the beach to an abandoned 5 star resort, regulatory problems, a huge complex. Mark opens part of the fencing, a very big overgrown complex. I can bet no tourist would ever come here, it’s Mark’s personal find and only for his clients We spend a long time there on a walking inspection. Next we continue up and down the hill through the coast for 30 KMs, stopping for photos stops till we reach the fishing dock. You can smell it way off, those who were put off by the fish stench begged off, we went in to see the day’s catch, Mark also explained many shells and coral found there. We continued on, took a U turn back to town, took a detour to the standing Buddha which has just now been opened.

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Brain Coral, explains Mark

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Last edited by ramkya1 : 25th November 2011 at 18:27.
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Old 25th November 2011, 18:08   #30
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Default re: Footloose in VAMBODIA (Vietnam + Cambodia)

Quote:
Originally Posted by ramkya1 View Post
We saw a couple, Anu said one talked in Hindi, @ the Royal Palace Phnom Penh on 5th Nov, pre lunch, they moved before we could talk to them. Another was at Siem Reap. Seam Reap gets Indian Tourists due to the temples but not Vietnam.

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We were in Phnom Penh and Siam Reap from 22nd to 28th Oct. We wanted to go to Vietnam, but there wasnt enough time. We saw just one more group of Indian tourists and I think they were NRIs.
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