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Old 2nd December 2011, 13:05   #61
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Default Re: Footloose in VAMBODIA (Vietnam + Cambodia)

Hi Ramkya!!

Loved reading the travelogue so far as it is very descriptive, just the way I like a T/L to be.

How would you compare the tourist infrastructure as compared to India? Infrastructure with regards to

- better local transport and cost effective?
- friendlier people and no touts?
- hotel rates?
- cleanliness
- tourist places- cleanliness, guides etc etc

Thanks for taking out time and posting this!!

Regards

Last edited by deky : 2nd December 2011 at 13:09.
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Old 2nd December 2011, 14:49   #62
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Arrow Re: Footloose in VAMBODIA (Vietnam + Cambodia)

Hai Deky,

Thanks. Nice to know my lengthy rambles are useful. I am tempted to load picture and finish it; but the right brain overpowers all logic. My answers in bold to your questions:

Quote:
Originally Posted by deky View Post
Hi Ramkya!!
Loved reading the travelogue so far as it is very descriptive, just the way I like a T/L to be.

How would you compare the tourist infrastructure as compared to India? Infrastructure with regards to

- better local transport and cost effective?

Cost is lesser than India. In some sectors cost is very economic for transport and well organized.


- friendlier people and no touts?

Very friendly people, they have realized how important the Tourist is to their survival, everything is geared to cater to them. Contrary to what I heard and read, had no problems with touts, beggars or scams. Need to take normal precautions as in any tourist location. Cambodia is more tourist friendly than Vietnam, Vietnam has a "firangi" orientation as most tourists are form Australia, Japan, NZ and some from Europe, they haven't seen many Indian / Asian Tourists, so awareness to our needs are low. Their intention to satisfy the customer is seen in body language, communication and action, way ahead of us.

- hotel rates?

Very economic compared to the features we get here, I've traveled far and wide and connected to the hospitality industry closely for the past 20 years. Value for money is outstanding. For 25-35 USD you can get a good double A/C room with fridge, mineral water, coffee / tea machine, full bufffet breakfast, on demand hot water 24 hours in the bathrooms, toilet kits, exceptionally clean towels, free and fast wifi, LCD TV and a functional swimming pool; don't think many locations in India can match this proposition.


- cleanliness

Very clean, high scores here compared to India, Cambodia tourist spots would score higher. The country side we saw are rural India.

- tourist places- cleanliness, guides etc etc

Tourist places are well organized and OK in Vietnam, Cambodia very professionally organized, entry costs higher. Very very clean throughout, no open toilets or people doing it 'on the go' that we saw. Guides are usually the drivers, nominal tip of 2 usd per day would be OK. ( I think, they would be earning commissions from everywhere as drivers speak English, we are at their mercy for communicating to service providers like eating joints, cultural shows, boats etc.) The professional ones would cost 5-15 usd per location, expensive.

Thanks for taking out time and posting this!!

Regards
@ Ashish: Thanks. It was great getting a stream of hot water on your head, nice head massage for free

Last edited by ramkya1 : 2nd December 2011 at 14:53.
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Old 2nd December 2011, 16:24   #63
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Arrow Re: Footloose in VAMBODIA/ Good Bye, Mark, dear friend.

The sea was rough, guards were patrolling asking people to get off the waterline, the brown river was getting mixed with the sea, we could clearly sea a line of brown and blue sea, choppy day.

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A few parting shots with Mark at his Dive shop, we became great friends.

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KFC was great, loved the chicken.

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Last edited by ramkya1 : 2nd December 2011 at 16:35.
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Old 3rd December 2011, 11:53   #64
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Arrow Re: Footloose in VAMBODIA/ PLANNING VIETNAM

What activities are possible and what’s there on offer to the regular Tourist with costs is in the following snaps. T.M.Brothers operating all over Vietnam is a respected operator who caters to the budget tourist and has offices all over, reportedly reliable.

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Another operator I got in touch:

Vietnam Tours and Inspirational Travel | Exotissimo

Professional, cater to the high end tourist & expensive, they cater to the whole Asia Pacific region. Though they gave many ideas to me, I decided to manage without them and use the money elsewhere.

A strange thing I noticed in Vietnam, Cambodia and Bangkok, Off is On there. While we press the switch down to turn it on, there they switch it up to turn things ON, strange is the world there indeed!!


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The LCD and fridge were almost new, they said its change every 3 years.

Attachment 851214

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'A Mart' is a chain store where you can stock up with everything from Milk, biscuits, Chikkis (yes chikkis) and most Alcoholic drinks, they were well organized and fast.

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The cute toothpaste tubes given along with the brushes everyday; the paste tasted warm and tingly.

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Last edited by ramkya1 : 3rd December 2011 at 12:09.
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Old 3rd December 2011, 14:51   #65
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Arrow Re: Footloose in VAMBODIA- Airport and Security Tips

Exit Nha Trang: Flight form Nha Trang to Hanoi was at 1120 AM, were told it’s 13 USD by taxi to Cam Ranh Airport, CXR for those who want to hunt for air fares, 35 km, one hour drive and very enjoyable, great photo options on the way. We knew this, planned and informed the hotel we would stop on the way for photos so inform the driver, they were OK with that.

There’s a cheaper option: Take a taxi to the OLD airport, 2 USD, take a bus to Cam Ranh Airport 2.5 USD but plan for buffer time as the bus waits for people to fill up, reverse for Airport to City, find the Cam Ranh bus desk next to the taxi desk. With time to kill, to save money and for a different experience try this. Next time I would.

Check out from Ha Van Hotel was smooth, they were very happy to have us, the manager was waiting to wave us off, they open the taxi doors for you, do not allow you to even carry hand baggage and wave us off; this is the kind of hospitality that makes the customer come back.

The drive to the Airport was refreshing on the AC Taxi, was a sultry day, you step out of the taxi and get drenched in sweat but who can resist such spots. The 4 track road snakes through the coastal road, one side the sea, huge drops, cliffs, bays and bleached beaches; Diamond bay among the most famous ones. One side you can see paddy fields, hues of green and rural Nha Trang zipping by. Take a look at this map here to get an idea of the jaw dropping scenes, something like the Polem (Goa) to Karwar section in Konkan Coast.

vambodia trip - Google Maps

and zoom VERY CLOSE to get an idea of the road, breath-taking scenes on a clouded humid day. Zoom close and look at the sea side, flush with golf courses and resorts on the make; we saw large infra and resort construction acitivity, the Cam Ranh Airport is built to handle large volume charter tourists who are going to descent in years to come.

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30 X Zoom magic

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We stopped 2-3 times on the way to take photos, many beaches on the way, all the way. Next time, we would ride to these beaches and check out options, should be more deals on the plate and less crowded for sure. The airport itself is well organized but Vietnam Airlines sucks big time. The counter girls don’t speak English, they took a long time to locate our reservations online (same problem and scare that we had at Bangkok Airport) until I pointed out the e ticket number, they went inside, did a check on another system and gave the boarding pass. The wait was uncomfortable, the security check in thorough, the waiting lounge hot, was a full flight.

Imporatnt - You cannot carry a camera Tripod in cabin baggage in all Vietnam Flights, we had no problem flying in from Bangkok to Vietnam on Vietnam air, I said so to the security guys. They showed me a printed circular with picture of a Tripod with an 'X' on it and that was that, took out the tripod, fortunately had a canvas cover, ran to the check in counter, after a lot of explanations and them talking to the security guys, the deed was done. Was tense while it lasted. Did a quick mail check on the free internet while waiting, informed our hotel at Hanoi about 45 minutes delay and for the pick up to be ready there with our names on arrival lounge.

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======

Last edited by ramkya1 : 3rd December 2011 at 15:20.
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Old 4th December 2011, 23:16   #66
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Default Re: Footloose in VAMBODIA (Vietnam + Cambodia)

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I have another 6 days of Vietnam to fill before moving to Cambodia. I promise you, it would be worth the wait.

===
I am kind of waiting for the Cambodia part to come up. Then will decide if I want to start our travelogue. Perhaps not. As it will never be as detailed as you can achieve. Amazing.
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Old 4th December 2011, 23:30   #67
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Arrow Re: Footloose in VAMBODIA (Vietnam + Cambodia)

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Originally Posted by dot View Post
I am kind of waiting for the Cambodia part to come up. Then will decide if I want to start our travelogue. Perhaps not. As it will never be as detailed as you can achieve. Amazing.
Hai,

Thanks. Just a few days more, I'd start from Phnom Penh. I focus on how I planned, why I choose to do what I do, what I see, what my impressions and tips for prospective travelers. That way it would have value for people who wold want to get the facts from the ground, photographs are only to show what's possible. Sometimes, I write too much I guess

--Ramky
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Old 5th December 2011, 00:44   #68
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Arrow Re: Footloose in VAMBODIA (Vietnam + Cambodia)

Good Bye Nha Trang, clicks from the Air of Nha Trang down below.

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Ride to Hanoi, old quarter:

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Landing and checkout was easy, then it got messy. There was nobody with name plate at Hanoi, we waited for 10 minutes and called the hotel. They gave number of the taxi guy, we called him, guy could not understand a word of English, all he said was Woi, Woi or something to that effect!! Great thing about Hanoi is the tourist orientation, everyone would help a Tourist, there was a help counter, we gave the number of taxi driver to them, they talked to him and told him to come to them. In 5 minutes the driver meets us and we were on our way to Hotel Golden Sunrise. This was the ONLY problem we had at Hanoi.

Golden Sun rise Hotel - Hanoi hotels, hotels in hanoi, hanoi hotel

Selected after research, the hotel proved to be better than reviews, service orientation was reeking in everything they did, Ms.Jenny replied to every single mail like lightning, even late night mails were attended to fast, our hospitality industry has volumes to learn from the Tourist trade there. I’ve seen exceptional service in India at high price, we expect that from star hotels and pay for it, but a 36 USD a day hotel delivering this with skeletal staff is a dream come true and warms the heart; one can fall in love with them.

No Bai, Hanoi Airport to city, NAN airport code, is a 1 hour drive. Population density is one of the highest in Vietnam, more like a Chinese city, so close to China, this was China at one time, you can see that in the people and places. Beware of scams by taxi drivers, take only taxis arranged by your hotels for pick ups as you go in, it’s worth the extra money you pay. I’ve heard of many stories of travelers being hit by the taxi scamsters.

We were given a room for the night, were to check out for the Halong Bay Cruise next day and come back to the same place, our plan was :

30th: Check in, local sights around Lake.
31st: Check out, pick up for Halong Bay Tour. Check into Cruise Boat, night at Boat.
1st: At boat, Check out and come back to Hotel and check in.
2nd: At Hotel, Local Sights.
3rd: Check out and fly out to Phnom Penh, Cambodia.

The cost break up:

36 USD/room/night (inclusive of VAT, buffet breakfast, free water, snack and laptop with free wifi)
34 USD for Airport pick up and drop, 2days/1night Halong Bay trip with Phoenix Cruiser
Price: 105USD/pax, City tour with English guide and lunch USD 29 per pax.
Total of USD 410/- was the deal, looked great value for money from reports that I read. It was.

The room they gave was smaller and ventilation was not the best, I requested for a change, there were full up, on our return back form the cruise, they would change the room. We had an evening to kill, so by 6 PM we were ready to explore. Reception lady said, today is the night market, advise you NOT TO GO on the first night, get used to Hanoi, the streets are narrow, huge crowds and petty thieves would make merry. Told us to leave all valuables at hotel safe, carry money in two pockets, leave behind expensive watches, not to sling camera outside and no shiny jewellery. We followed instructions to the letter and wore a zippable jacket to keep all valuable on the inside pockets close to chest.

The old quarter in Hanoi is another world, narrow streets, thick traffic and dense population, it has a life, pulse and character of its own, different form all other places in Vietnam, more expensive too. Read about it here:

http://www.vietnamonline.com/attract...d-streets.html

Hanoi - Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

The Hoan Kiem lake nearby was alive with people walking, jogging, exercising, young couples co-chi-cooing, families out to have fun, street music playing, trees decorated like Christmas trees and what have you. If you sit at the lake side you can get to see a Hanoi pantomime, ‘one day in the life’ kind of story unfolding in front of you. It was alive, charging, you cannot escape the jolts in the air if you spend 30 minutes on the lake side. Truly one of the memorable days of our tour.

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We wanted some vegetable noodles desperately, some fruits and provisions for the next 3-4 days in Hanoi. The departmental store Intimex was 10 minutes walk, all and more than we needed, picked up grapes (biggest and sweetest I have seen), apples, bananas, milk and some more drinks. Next day would be long and tiring, we hit the sack around 10 after having a fruit dinner, milk; the TV for the first time in Vietnam threw up a Hindi channel, some serial, felt so much like home

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The streets are as narrow as this lane, will upload some videos.

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==========

Last edited by ramkya1 : 5th December 2011 at 01:03.
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Old 5th December 2011, 11:41   #69
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Default Re: Footloose in VAMBODIA (Vietnam + Cambodia)

Hi Ramky,

I would not be surprised if HVK's next destination is Indo China drive from Mumbai, as he seems to have exhausted all of Indian roads, so Indo China seems to be his next destination.

HVK, if that's on my mind, you have one joining from Bangalore!!!
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Old 5th December 2011, 11:54   #70
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Hi Ramky,

Rajesh,

I would not be surprised if HVK's next destination is Indo China drive from Mumbai, as he seems to have exhausted all of Indian roads, so Indo China seems to be his next destination.

HVK, if that's on my mind, you have one joining from Bangalore!!!
With things easing up in Mayanmar, this would be a great possibility if the roads safety issues are covered. I saw at least 3 couples flying to Mayanmar from Bangkok, tourism is booming there, driving through towards Bangkok would be one of the greatest adventures if one can swing it.

HVK, how about planning it out?

--Ramky
======
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Old 5th December 2011, 13:16   #71
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Default Re: Footloose in VAMBODIA (Vietnam + Cambodia)

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With things easing up in Mayanmar, this would be a great possibility if the roads safety issues are covered. I saw at least 3 couples flying to Mayanmar from Bangkok, tourism is booming there, driving through towards Bangkok would be one of the greatest adventures if one can swing it.

HVK, how about planning it out?

--Ramky
======
In 2005, the ASEAN Rally saw Indian cars driving from India to Cambodia, Vietnam & Singapore, but that was a special event blessed by national governments. The problem is only in Burma where roads are not complete or motorable. Besides, there are major insurgency and governmental issue sin Burma which deter anyone from driving into Burma in normal times. Tourism in Burma has been booming, but that is all air-borne tourism.
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Old 5th December 2011, 23:03   #72
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Arrow Re: Footloose in VAMBODIA: Halong Bay Cruise

Street music of Hanoi:




@ HVK: Hope the clouds would clear in Mayanmar.

--------------------------------------------------------------------------------------
On with the story..........

30-10-2011: Hanoi to Halong Bay: A high point of our tour , we were looking forward to, reason for us to fly all the way north to Hanoi, were told this is a “must see” sight in Vietnanm.

Breakfast at 0730 AM, biggest fruit spread of our whole tour, the waitress asks many questions even to give you a boiled egg / omelette , jots it down and delivers it the way you want. They are aware of all the variations of coffee that you might want, so much attention to details to satisfy the customer make you feel like King. I could see lots of business travelers using this hotel, no wonder.

Footloose in VAMBODIA (Vietnam + Cambodia)-dsc01658.jpg

There's construction all around, Vietnam is one of the fastest growing economies in Asia, you would see infra and construction build up everywhere you go. Good for the country and people.

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Check out at 0800, luggage tagged, tags given, politely told to hang on to the tags for us to get the bags back. The pick up van comes at 0830 for the 3 hour drive, we pack light, it’s only one night. The van is an AC 25 seater, Swaraj Mazda type, the front 3-4 rows already filled, we get in for the long ride. Our English speaking guide Mr.Dung (he told us not to call him COWDUNG, the meaning of DUNG in Vietnamese is ‘brave’) was with us from start to finish in all activities and was a jovial person. Slow ride out of the narrow, zig zag alleys to pick up a 2 more couples, we’re chugging across red river:

Red River (Asia) - Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

an important river flowing down from China. River had influence in shaping history of China and Vietnam and still has influence in shaping the agricultural ECG of North Vietnam.

The country side of Vietnam is similar to India in many ways, similar to rice growing areas, reminded us of home town Palakkad, Kerala. Paddy green, parrot green, name the shade of green, you have it. There’s one striking difference; you’d find lots of bikes in the middle of paddy fields which are used by farmers, workers to get to the work spot, you’d find farmers with typical Vietnamese Paddy Hats, conical ones made of bamboo and secured with a chin strap. This is an iconic symbol of East Asia.
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Caught the driver of the bus with the phone while driving:

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12 noon, We stop mid way at a big depot with facilities for food, shopping and toilets. This is a huge complex where 1000’s of handicrafted items are sold, wide variety is on offer, moderately priced. There are at least 30-40 buses parked, leaving at intervals of 30 minutes, the next stretch of 70 KMs saw at least 200 mini buses, vans and taxis all heading to Halong Bay.

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Route to oHalong Bay:

Golden Sunrise Hotel to Unknown road - Google Maps

We reach the warf, teaming with tourists, buses, cruise company reps in different uniforms; a mela in the making. We wait for our transfer boat to the cruise boat for 1 night 2 days.

Official Website Halong Phoenix Cruiser, Halong Cruise, Halong Tours

0300 PM: The slow boat moves out to the bay, in about 10 minutes we could sea our curiser, a big junk with with 3 sails on booms, looked majestic on the faint sunlight with a cloudy sea background. Dung told us to leave all luggage in the lower deck, climb up to the dining rooms and wait. We all did, scanned the faces around, an assortment of mostly Whites, us and another Indian looking stag. Dung explained the house rules, the plan for 2 days, food timings, inclusions / exclusions and do’s and don’ts., the boat had started moving into the bay in the meantime. We were told to come for dinner at 0700 PM.

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We move to our clean wooden room and my wife screams, there’s a BIG black spider on the snow white bed sheet, our neighbor runs in already knowing the problem, he said, it’s not real, said he had his share of the scare too, one on his room make him jump.

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This is a welcome gift along with a bunch of rice stalk, some way to welcome guests On closer inspection, we find the life like spider very useful to make people jump (already 8 have almost jumped in Ahmedabad from our balcony, our serveant maid tried to kill it with a broom). The cabin, 10 x 10 with windows to the sea, functional safe and bathrooms with hot water.

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============

Last edited by ramkya1 : 5th December 2011 at 23:29.
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Old 6th December 2011, 20:00   #73
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Default Re: Footloose in VAMBODIA (Vietnam + Cambodia)

Hello Ramky,

I have been away from the forum for a while, what with my 'Twin Kids' arriving on the scene
You finally made the trip possible after i guess an year long planning!
The places you covered more or less compliments my Travels in VietNam. Did u miss the War museum in HCMC? I found it worth the visit to understand the severity of trauma the country went through in the last few decades.

I would easily rate Old Hanoi to be my high point too. The street life, the culture, the simplicity in the things you see.... Just splendid.

Waiting for the rest of your log!

Regards
Pramod
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Old 7th December 2011, 09:05   #74
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Hello Ramky,

I have been away from the forum for a while, what with my 'Twin Kids' arriving on the scene
You finally made the trip possible after i guess an year long planning!
The places you covered more or less compliments my Travels in VietNam. Did u miss the War museum in HCMC? I found it worth the visit to understand the severity of trauma the country went through in the last few decades.

I would easily rate Old Hanoi to be my high point too. The street life, the culture, the simplicity in the things you see.... Just splendid.

Waiting for the rest of your log!

Regards
Pramod
Hai Pramod,

Congratulations on the Twins, I know they would be a handful but would make life full.

I owe a lot to you for sparking off my travel thoughts towards Vietnam with your T-Logs, your contact Vietnam Tours and Ms.Phoung (I think) were my jump off points, I developed on that and contacted my friend in HCMC, things happened.

We missed the war museum and also many other places, but we got a taste of the history and war of Vietnam at Hanoi Museum, will cover in a few days. Hanoi is a unique experience even for people form South Vietnam.

Busy with lots of projects, will have to find time in between to finish this T Log, don't want to keep flogging this on and on.

--Ramky
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Old 7th December 2011, 09:12   #75
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Default Re: Footloose in VAMBODIA (Vietnam + Cambodia)

Excellent coverage Ramkya! Lovely to read your narration.

Some of your shots worth going for large prints. Please consider that.
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