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Old 06-16-2013, 10:15 PM   #1
Cousin Orville
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Vietnam, Laos, and Cambodia trip report 2013

I'm currently in Hanoi about to fly over to Laos. The trip so far has been everything I was hoping it would be. ABD seems right at home in balancing the exotic character and sometimes chaos of Vietnam with the comforts of great hotels, a fun group of group of adventures and great guides. We're a little over half way through the trip, not yet to Angkor Wat, and I can already highly recommend this trip. I'll do my best posting some pictures, but I will probably need to wait until I get back before doing the bulk of my uploading.

I'm traveling with my Dad and my 8 yr old son. My DW could not make it this trip. Once we get back it's a quick turnaround and my DW and I are off to the Med with on a DCL cruise with the kids. Too much time off for my wife.

We arrived in Saigon on Sat morning. Walked around a bit. Learned how to crossed the streets through all the motorcycles. There are very few lights which stop traffic. The traffic just weaves together at intersections. And crossing takes a leap of faith, but its very doable. The motorcycles just weave around you. Most of the first day was just getting over jet lag. The Sheraton is centrally located and is very nice. We lucked out and had a great view overlooking the Saigon River.

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Old 06-16-2013, 10:44 PM   #2
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Yay! Looking forward to more of your Report! Glad you're enjoying the trip! Is Jennae one of your Guides? I've been following her reports on Facebook.

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Old 06-16-2013, 10:53 PM   #3
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Pre-ABD Saigon

The first full day we hired a private guide to take us around Saigon. He wanted to show us the the Old, the Current, and the Future Saigon. So we started the day at Benh Tay Markey - a very local wonderful market. We didn't see any other westernerns there. (There's a more touristy, but fun market that we hit tomorrow). Also toured the Jade Emperor Pagoda and Chau Ba Thien Hau temple both which our guide goes to with his family. He had us burn an incense ring to wish good luck to our family.

Later we went back to the city to tour most of the major attractions in HCMC. One of which was the old CIA building where the last helicopters (famously photographed) took off from. Definitely off the beaten path as you have to have a guide to enter the now govt office building. Even then our guide had to encourage the guard to look the other way. But up to the roof we went for better or worse.

Afterwards we headed across the river to see the new Saigon -new housing developments etc. Finally we had some Pho for lunch excellent tour. Pics to follow.
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Old 06-17-2013, 12:56 AM   #4
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Day 1 Saigon

Nothing is really planned the first day. We met our guides in the afternoon, but otherwise the day is completely free.

We had really seen most of the city on our private tour yesterday (aside from what was planned for ABD). My ds still wanted to see Notre Dame up close, go inside the Reunification Palace and buy a tee shirt. So we hit the first two and then went over to Ben Thanh market which is the big tourist market. Notre Dame took less than 5 min to go inside for a peak. Reunification Palace, where the North Vietnamese tanks rolled through the gate and affectively ended the war, was interesting for and worth a look. The upstairs has the game rooms and lounges right out of the 70's. That and the downstairs shooting range and surveillance rooms are right out of Bond movie.

For dinner we went to an area that used to be an opium factory now converted into a local hotspot. We actually ate there twice. Last night for for Vietnamese and tonight for French fusion. Very picturesque. Great food.

Again I'll post some pics when I get to decent WiFi.
Which for anyone going, the wifi has been good so far at the hotels. In Saigon it's only free in the lobby, but in the other hotels, there's free access in the rooms.

Tomorrow is our first ABD day of touring.
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Old 06-17-2013, 04:43 AM   #5
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Thank you for putting up this trip report. We are in the process of booking our flights for next April. Would you recommend having a few days pre the adventure? Would you have missed anything really special that is not in the tour if you arrived on the day it started? ( no jet lag to deal with as it is a fairly short flight for us)
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Old 06-17-2013, 08:46 AM   #6
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Thanks for posting this review. Looking forward to hearing about the rest of the tour.
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Old 06-17-2013, 08:35 PM   #7
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Our first full Pre ABD day - Saigon














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Old 06-17-2013, 08:47 PM   #8
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Quote:
Originally Posted by austraveler View Post
Thank you for putting up this trip report. We are in the process of booking our flights for next April. Would you recommend having a few days pre the adventure? Would you have missed anything really special that is not in the tour if you arrived on the day it started? ( no jet lag to deal with as it is a fairly short flight for us)
You don't see a lot of Saigon city on the Adventure. We stopped at the War Remnants Museum and that's it. Later you go out to the Mekong and the Cu Chi Tunnels, but that's outside the city. The first day of the ABD is free to tour around. We flew in in the morning and were pretty jet lagged the first day and did vey little. The next full day was our private tour. Then the first day of the ABD we did a bit more on our own. We also mixed in some down time and swim time. That worked wel for usl. So, I think 1 extra day assuming no jet lag would be ideal.
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Old 06-17-2013, 09:11 PM   #9
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ABD Day 1 - Saigon on your own

As mentioned before, we toured around on our own today hitting HCMC highlights we missed yesterday. After sightseeing in the morning, we met out guides - Jennae and Henry. Both terrific ABD guides. They outlined the game plan for the next day or so and then we went to hit the pool. BTW, they have a great lounge for guests of the hotel always stocked with free sodas, finger food, wifi, etc. So, we rested around the pool. For dinner was the old opium factory converted into 4-5 restaurants around a central courtyard. We ate At Hoa Tuc which you can find on trip advisor.















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Old 06-18-2013, 02:47 PM   #10
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This is great! I had no idea Saigon was so pretty.
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Old 06-18-2013, 06:45 PM   #11
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Really enjoying your posts. We are taking the same trip in January and can't wait! How did you find your private guide in HoChiMinh?
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Old 06-18-2013, 09:47 PM   #12
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Originally Posted by momlarson22 View Post
Really enjoying your posts. We are taking the same trip in January and can't wait! How did you find your private guide in HoChiMinh?
I found him on the trip advisor forums almost by accident. There's not the plethora of info out there on private guides in Saigon as there is in Europe, so it was a little roll of the dice. Anyway, he's excellent and has been one of my best private (non Disney) guides anywhere. His name is Bao Loc and his email address is privatevietnamtourguide@yahoo.com.vn
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Old 06-18-2013, 10:05 PM   #13
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Day 2 - Down the Mekong

This morning we met together as an ABD family for the first time. Jennae and Henry discussed the trip a bit and off we went. Took the coach down to the Mekong and boarded a sampan. As you can see form the pics, it's really a different world - and entire community living on the river. Just like everything we'll see on this trip it's beautiful. We stopped off at a local workshop to watch them make popped rice (think local rice crispy treats), rice paper, and try snake wine for those that were interested -when in Rome...

Afterwards we continued down the river and stopped off at a wonderful place for lunch overlooking the Mekong. Very Adventurelandesque except this is the real deal. Food was great. I have to say the food on this ABD has really been wonderful. Much of the food on my France ABD was disappointing, and I wrote a lengthy comment on the post ABD questionnaire. The food on this ABD has been wonderful throughout. In fact there's a couple of places where they let you choose which hotel restaurant you want to go to and let you order off the regular menu. I've been very impressed.

So back on the boat we went and back to Saigon. At dinner we ate at the Bitexco building - 51st floor. Beautiful overlooking Saigon at night. I had actually thought about taking my son there earlier pre ABD but didn't have time. A pleasant surprise.






















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Old 06-19-2013, 07:30 AM   #14
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Just curious - do people tend to still use Saigon as the city name? Or is Ho Chi Minh City the more popular?
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Old 06-19-2013, 08:04 AM   #15
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Saigon seems more common. HCMC is more official.
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