Mr. Shaun Martheze - South Africa

  • Group: of 2 persons
  • Impression: BEST OF VIETNAM & CAMBODIA
  • Date: November 2018
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Day 01:

All good. Airport meeting was great and drive to Hotel fantastic.

Le Carnot Hotel:  Room was spacious and clean. Service was good and very helpful. The business/computer area was one of the best we had. Food at breakfast was great and catered for everyone. Location was good as well.

Day 02:

Our guide, Phu, was very knowledgeable on the history of Hanoi – especially on the religious side. We would have preferred some more information on the wars in Vietnam and the effect that they had on the local people and the country – we did get a little more understanding of this in the South. Phu’s English was good – sometimes the pronunciation was difficult to understand. Overall, he was a great guide and showed a lot of care for us. Our driver was great.

We loved the tour of the Old Quarter (could have spent more time here). The puppet show was something differet and was interesting. The walk there and back was lovely.

That evening we were taken to try some traditional food (with the help of Phu) which was really wonderful. We find it difficult to read the menus and could spend money on meals that we don’t enjoy and do not eat. This allowed us to try local food and see what we liked and what we would eat again.  A GREAT idea!

Day 03:

Today was Hoa Lu and Tam Coc. The boat ride down the river was interesting - we loved it. The ladies selling food at the top of the river (the turnaround point) should be stopped or controlled. They basically “forced” us to buy food and drink for the lady rowing the boat – the selling lady just gave food and drink to the lady rowing the boat and told us to pay for it!

The drive was lovely.

We again saw more temples and, to be honest, for us the temples are all very much the same. We feel that too many temples are included in the trip.

Day 04:

Trip to Sapa. The trip with the bus was long but comfortable. Some crazy Vietnam driving up the pass to overtake the very slow trucks but we got there safely. We were met byhotel bell boy at the top of the street and assisted with getting our luggage down to the hotel. Our guide, Sang, was here to meet us and help with check in. All good.

Sapa Relax Hotel was great – room was spacious, bathroom nice and bed comfortable. Breakfast was a little limited for our cuisine and a serious uphill walk was required from the hotel to the main road, the lake and the square.

Afternoon drive for view and waterfall was ruined by rain but so be it.

Day 05:

What a great day (one of our best!). Great organization to drop us at the top of the mountain and allow us to walk down seeing the view. Meeting some local girls, passing the waterfall and walking through the Muong Hoa and Lao Chai villages amongst the locals and the rice fields. Fantastic morning!! Unfortunately we had rain in the afternoon so the walk through the village of Red Dzao people was not pleasant – a rush to the vehicle.

The organization at the train station and getting onto the train was fantastic – we were helped all the way.  The train trip back to Hanoi was comfortable and interesting – glad we did it.

Our guide, Sang, was absolutely fantastic. She was very informed, enthusiastic, helpful, spoke very good English and helped us wherever she could.

Day 06:

Early arrival in Hanoi and a taxi to the hotel for a shower and breakfast. Taxi was ok – I agreed on a price (based on an indication received from Chau/Phoebe) to the hotel address that I showed the driver on the sheet before we left. He read the street as “Hang Bo” and first took as to the wrong place - he then saw his error and took as to the correct place. But not after a lot of moaning his fare was now too little.

Hotel Emotion: Was ok for the purpose we had. Room was small right next to the elevator and everything could be heard. Bathroom was nice and breakfast was good.

Pick up to Hang Long Bay was great – nice bus with wifi!! Driver was good.

Swan Cruises: Cabin was more than expected – very good! Even a little balcony! Crew were fantastic. Food was very good. Kayaking was nice even though it was just a quick row around the one island. Swim at beach was nice. Slept well

Day 07:

Our guide did a great job in getting us up early so as to be 1st on the lovely beach with the cave. Was fantastic to take photos of this special place with NO other person in the photo! The fruit sculpture was ok. The Vietnamese cooking class was not really that – we made a spring roll! Trip back to the port was fine.Trip back to Hanoi was good. We did go back to Le Carnot Hotel! Driver collected us on time for the train station. All was good in getting our tickets and our cabin on the train. The cabin was again very nice.

Swan Cruises Guide: Our guide, Luna, was lovely. She was full of energy, managed the group well, English was excellent and took the yoga, fruit sculpture and cooking classes and kayaking.

Day 08:

Our guide, Tang,  was there to meet us at Hue station. Took us to the Hotel for breakfast.

Rosaleen Boutique Hotel: Was the best hotel on this trip! Room was spacious, bathroom was great. Breakfast was really good, pool was lovely. All the Staff were great. Location was fantastic!

The boat trip up the river was nice. We enjoyed the fact that we shared the boat with the boat owner’s family and could see how they lived. Saw more pagodas and a mausoleum – had seen enough by now.

Day 09:

Walked around Dong Ba market was very interesting for us and enjoyed by us. The Imperial City was also interesting and worth the visit. The drive to Danang, on the Mandarin road, was lovely and worth it. The walk up Marble Mountain was interesting but can be missed if pushed for time.

Le Pavillon Hoi An Luxury Resort & Spa: Lovely hotel with friendly and helpful staff. Room was spacious with a nice balcony. Breakfast was great. Only negative is that the hotel was located far from everything – it was a long walk to the Old Town and to any restaurant for a meal.

 

 

Day 10:

This was possibly our best day. The bicycle ride through the Old Town and along the rivers and through the vegetable fields (Tra Que village) was just fantastic. The visit to the local crab fisherman’s house was interesting as was the crab fishing boat. The young guide here was fantastic as was his family. There was no boat racing? No folk songs by local people? Lunch was good BUT we did not join in the local activities with the local farmer. We saw others doing and it looked really interesting – this was a shame!

Day 11:

Cooking class at Vy’s Market Restaurant: Very professional set-up showcasing all the different styles of cooking and allowing guests to try different exotic dishes. The guide that took as around a market close by was very good – she showed us the different herbs and vegetables and provided a lot of very interesting information. The cooking was very well presented. The Chef was great as was her assistant. Recommended.

Our guide, Tang, was great. He had lots of energy and information.

Day 12:

Fly to Saigon. Airport pickup, drop off, check-in and flight was all good. Our guide, Kung,  in Saigon was lovely and very good.  Cu Chi tunnels were very interesting and definitely worth the visit. The drive there was quite long but worth it.

Ha Hien Signature Hotel: Compact room that has everything required. Breakfast was limited. Good location though. Staff friendly and helpful.

Day 13:

A long day in Saigon seeing various Cathedrals, Post Office and Opera House – interesting but as mentioned before had seen many of these type of buildings (pagoda, cathedrals etc) in the days before.

Presidential Palace was interesting, especially the Bunkers and the reference to the wars.BinhTay market was interesting. For us the War Remnants Museum was VERY interesting and it opened our eyes as to terrible things that went on during the war. Until then we had always only heard the views of the war from the American side and this was incredibly interesting to see and read!! We spent 3 hours here.

A good idea would be to add a “ride.eat.explore” motorcycle evening tour!!

Day 14:

The Mekong River/Delta that we saw was not quite what we had expected.  The guide and driver were again great! The boat ride along the Ben Tre River was nice. The visit to the brick factory was interesting. The visit to the coconut restaurant/shop was very interesting – we enjoyed this stop! The snack plate was a lovely thought and much appreciated! The Tuktuk ride to our lunch spot was a lot of fun. Lunch was nice, especially the traditional fish! Walking on the paths amongst the houses was really nice!

It was really nice to experience another different type of rowing boat on the trip to the vehicle.

Iris Can Tho Hotel: Very nice hotel with spacious clean bedrooms, fruit on arrival and lovely bathroom. Good location. Very good breakfast.

Day 15:

Got up early to go to the Cai Rang floating market, and although it was interesting, it was less than that what we had expected – in size and splendor. The stop at the crocodile farm was interesting.

The trip to the Tra Su cajuput forest was interesting but not what I expected. We had two boat rides – the first was a quick fast long boat ride during which one could not really see wildlife and bird life as the drivers wanted to get to the other side. The second was in a rowing boat also with someone who wanted to get the ride finished and done. I was hoping to spend some time looking for and photographing birds, but this was not possible. This whole forest is very beautiful and special – I just feel it needs to be visited slower.

Chau Pho Hotel: Room was nice and spacious. Bathroom was good. Breakfast was ok and the location was fine.

Our guide, Kung, was really fantastic. She was thoughtful, aware, very good English, well informed and even bought us pineapple at the floating market.

Day 16:

We could have arrived at the speed boat 30 minutes later as we sat there for an hour waiting for other passengers. Speed boat to Phnom Penh was fine – a long trip but no problems. The passport controls on both sides were fine. A little longer on Cambodia as we had a full boat so it took time but all went well.

The afternoon was spent seeing MORE pagodas which were nice but we had seen a lot already. The Royal Palace was interesting to see as was the Wat Phnom.

Our guide was lovely and interesting.

Cardamom Hotel: Room and bathroom was small but ok. Shower not great and toilet blocked. Location was good. Breakfast was ok.

Day 17:

Full day drive to Seam Reap. Very nice driver. Car overheated and he handled it well. He bought rice and bananas for us, stopped when he thought we wanted to take a photo and used his initiative! Really good person.

Central Boutique Angkor Hotel: Lovely spacious room very well located with a nice bathroom. Breakfast was great. Business area and computer did not work!

Day 18:

The visits to Angkor Thom and Angkor Wat were for me very interesting and I loved it.  The fact that the buildings were as old as they were and had not been restored was fascinating for me. The photo opportunities were fantastic. The sunset from Bakheng Hill is over rated – it was nice to walk to the top and see the view but the sunset was very average and not, in my opinion, worth the hours of waiting in the heat.

Day 19:

The drive to BengMelea Temple was nice. The temple itself was interesting. Was very kind of our guide to stop and buy a “rice in bamboo” meal for us. This was very interesting and more of the local things that we were hoping to experience.

The trip to Kampong Phluk village was lovely. The village itself was very interesting and we loved the trip to the village in the long boat.

Our guide, “forgot his name”, was passionate about his job – he loved every moment and would not change it for anything. His English was good. His knowledge excellent.

Day 20:

Pick up at hotel was on time and good. Got to the airport at the correct terminal and had no problems. A very nice airport.

Summary:

1.       Guides:  Were very good and very helpful. English was good.

2.       Hotels: Were all good overall. Some locations not great for eating out and walking to markets.

3.       Drivers: Were all very good

4.       Vehicles: Were good

5.       Schedule: Was overall very good. In our mind covered too many temples and pagodas and not enough of local life (houses, streets and guided food tasting, experiencing Hanoi and Saigon by motorcycle)

Office staff: Were fantastic, very helpful. NOT ONE PROBLEM on the whole trip!!!!! WELL DONE!!

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