Lonely Planet 2007
SAIGON - Nov 16, 2007
at the airport by car (Sinh Cafe - 246-248 DeTham St
- contact was
website is www.sinhcafevn.com). Car took
us to their office - it had grown quite a bit from my 1st time back in 94. We
paid for and arranged all our internal VietNam
Air flights with them and booked private cars for a tour of the city, other
airport and hotel pick ups throught the country as needed.
Then on to the Majestic Hotel (where I had first stayed in
1959). We had a beautiful room with a private balcony overlooking the
river. We walked the old Catinat (Tu
Do) now full of beautiful expensive stores. Walked to the Market and it was
busy and much more cleaned up. The scooters and traffic was crazy - just walk,
don't stop and they go around you. The next day we went with a guide to the old
Presidential Palace - it had been fully restored and very interesting - only
the facade looks wrong. Our guide was great - knew alot.
Later he drove us to Cholon, to several temples,
helped us try and find the old school (no real luck even with my maps - the
area is totally changed). Walked about the Cercle Sportif and really played tourist (but no war things). The
next day we walked to the Botanical Gardens, did not go into the zoo area,
checked out furniture street, went by the old embassy
and then collapsed in the cool waters of the Majestic swimming pool. Dinners
were at French restaurants. Ate Vietnamese for breakfast and
lunch. And we drank alot of beer and some wine
and some cocktails. And loved Saigon.
to MEKONG DELTA
SinhBalo tour group picked us up and one Canadian couple for our
2 day drive through the delta. We visited the Cao
just outside of Saigon. It was so fascinating
- their religion covers it all. We took a boat trip down canals of the Mekong
and onto the river, past floating markets, watched villagers make rice paper
and noodles, visited an old man in his home who gave us homemade rice wine
(Lynn, Steve and spouses enjoyed it with us in New Orleans), and rode on the
back of scooters. We stayed overnight in 2 different cities - Can Tho and Rach
ferry ride to Phu Quoc was
cancelled because of bad weather so after trying to find alternative ways to
get to the island (even chartering a plane) we gave up and drove back to Saigon. Every great hotel in Saigon
was booked so we stayed in a inexpensive Chinese hotel
- great view, very gaudy, no shower but a huge bathtub. Then we ate a very
expensive meal for Saigon at Augustin (French).
SAIGON to PHU QUOC
Early flight into Phu Quoc. Island is very interesting. Wanted to rent a motor
scooter and explore but not enough time. Stayed at Mango Bay
an eco friendly hotel in a lovely private bungalow on the beach. Water
buffalo walked by, but we still had drink service from our beach lounge chairs
and ate and drank alot.
QUOC to MUI NE
from Phu Quoc to Saigon
where Sinh Cafe driver picked us up and drove us the
3+ hours to Mui Ne. Arrived at the Sailing Club
where we had another bungalow and watched the in coming storm waves (which
ended up missing us). David tried the boogie board - water was rough.
Hotel was beautiful and I enjoyed half a spa day.
NE to NHA TRANG
Sinh Cafe's car picked us up and we drove the 5 hours to Nha Trang. The ride was familiar
but the roads were much better now. The sea, the dunes, the painted fishing
boats and the rice paddies were beautiful sights. In Nha
Trang we stayed at the Sunrise Beach
Resort - rather upscale. It was perfect for the food, the beach views, and the
spa day. In Nha Trang we
visited art galleries - made a painting purchase, saw the giant buddha, enjoyed the embroidery village and took a cyclo ride (first time in Vietnam this time - not used for
getting around in Saigon anymore - most streets are closed to cyclos in Saigon now).
TRANG to HOI AN
out of Nha Trang to Danang where the hotel driver picked us up at the airport.
Drove to Hoi An past the Marble
Mountains and China Beach.
We stayed at the Hoian Riverside
Resort - beautiful location along the river. They had a shuttle that took us to
town and we rented a tantem bike for 2 to go to the
beach. The town was much changed from my earlier visit - so many tailors, so
many stores, so much hawking. We did find several lovely galleries off the
beaten track and made a few art purchases. David had a few shirts made
and I had a shirt and skirt made.We enjoyed the
wait staff at one local restaurant that employed and
AN to HANOI
from Danang to Hanoi
and met by a driver from our hotel - Rising Dragon -
www.risingdragonhotel.com in the old quarter of Hanoi.
Did the walking tour of the quarter that is in Lonely Planet - very worthwhile. Art galleries and art streets are also listed in
the guide book. Some extraordinary art is being showcased and practiced here so
go behind the closed doors. The French restaurant by the hotel is very good -
Green Tangerine, another good choice is the Cyclo Bar
and Restaurant. The Temple
of Literature is worth
the walk and the water puppet show was great.
hotel had a good travel planner and she booked our trips to SAPA and HA LONG
BAY. Her name is Miss Moon. Hotel is owned by a Vietnamese family who's son is married to an American from Texas. They have a baby and knew of SaigonKids.
HANOI to SAPA to BAC HA to HANOI
Sleeper car on train. Sapa is
very close to China
in the mountains. The women dress in beautiful, handmade embridered costumes. There is alot
of embroidery craft work for sale and beautiful mountain scenery for hiking,
trekking or just walking. We went to different market days in the 2 cities and
walked alot and made several craft purchases.
HANOI to HA LONG BAY
bus picked us up at the hotel and we headed to Ha Long Bay
about 3 hours away. We spent the night on a lovely junque
boat called the Santa Maria.
It was a small nice group of people from all over. The scenery was
very inspiring. We walked through limestone caves, kayakked
about the bay, had delicious food and alot of
wine and even sang kareoke at night. It was fun and
beautiful and a perfect ending to our incredible journey.