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Rebel54

Avalon Vietnam, Cambodia, and Thailand - Live Trip Report

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Good morning all.  

Going to start this off now so I can try to update as we travel.  Starting with the basics: 

 

Fascinating Vietnam, Cambodia & the Mekong River with Hanoi, Ha Long Bay and Bangkok - Northbound

Leaving from Honolulu on April 3rd via JAL to Hanoi via  Narita.  Looking forward to trying out JAL's business class product.   I added an extra day at the start so we can get through some jetlag before we meet up with the group and start on our adventure.  I booked with a company to do a limo transfer to the first hotel on our arrival.  I emailed them to verify they will be there but I haven't heard from them so that's something I need to check on.  

I did the VOA letter so we will have to go through that process on arrival.

 

Packing:  I am only taking a medium sized suitcase so I'm really thinking about my packing and only bringing what I absolutely need.  I have it all packed but plan to do a sanity check on clothing before we leave to make sure I don't take too much but I think I'm good.  We are each limited to one suitcase NOT 44 lbs.  I am at 35lbs right now.  

My travel camera is a Fujifilm T-120.  It's mirrorless and takes some amazing photos.  It's smaller and lighter than my DSLR and I'm looking forward to shooting with it.  This is my first trip with this camera.  I got it specifically for this trip because I don't want to drag my Canon 5D with me.  The camera will also allow me to use WIFI to put photos on my phone to post on Instagram or Facebook.  

Got my trusty leather travel journal and my mini printer so I can document as we go.  

My husband arrives from Texas tomorrow as does my daughter and her finance who are house sitting for us while we are gone.  Nice thing about living in Hawaii...it's not hard to find a house sitter.  When we return from this trip we are moving to Texas so this is their last chance for a free place to stay with a car.  Makes a 2 week vacation to paradise very affordable for them and gives me peace of mind that our home is not empty and my dogs are not in a kennel.

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18 hours ago, Rebel54 said:

Fascinating Vietnam, Cambodia & the Mekong River with Hanoi, Ha Long Bay and Bangkok - Northbound
Leaving from Honolulu on April 3rd via JAL to Hanoi via  Narita. 

 

Great organizing and details!!  Safe travels.  Enjoy your upcoming "adventure".  As you are aware, we super loved a little over a year ago in doing our Mekong River sailing with Avalon, plus the time in Hanoi, Cambodia, etc., etc.  Let us know any late questions and/or info needs as you travel.  The wi-fi will be a little iffy as you travel on Mekong when you are at some distance from major cities. 

 

Plus, be sure to have . . . F U N !!

 

Looking forward to reading your reports and bringing back all of the great memories from Southeast Asia.

 

THANKS!  Enjoy!  Terry in Ohio

 

SE Asia/Mekong River, Etc.!  Live/blog from early 2018, first adventure through SE Asia, stops in Hong Kong and Bangkok, before exploring all over Vietnam and Cambodia, seven days sailing on the Mekong River. Now at 45,373 views.

www.boards.cruisecritic.com/showthread.php?t=2591474

 

As a warm-up and preview for you and what you will be seeing in the upcoming weeks, I am sharing just three visuals samples from what we saw and did with Avalon.  Super enjoyed sailing along the Mekong River in Vietnam and Cambodia. Many, many more photos and details on the full live/blog.:

(Open your screen/viewer wider to see these pictures larger/better!)

CMY_0654%202_zpsu3xzdbr1.jpg

 

CMY_1642%202_zpsylne46ki.jpg

 

CMY_1874_zpskuw4drgj.jpg

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Posting to wish you Bon Voyage! You've got it easier than most, starting from Hawaii as opposed to the East Coast. Still, not a short flight. 

 

Looking forward to hearing and seeing more about the trip, when you have time and bandwidth for posting! 

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Good morning from Vietnam.  We arrived last night in Hanoi and got checked into our hotel the InterContinental Westlake.  We left on the 3rd from Honolulu via JAL.  We flew Honolulu to Naritia to Hanoi.  I have to say the service on JAL in business class was over the top amazing.  Everyone was wonderful and very pleasant.  Very attentive and very helpful.  Our flight from Narita was a bit behind because of head winds.  When we landed there was a JAL rep there waiting to expedite us through the process to get through security to our next flight.  I was quite surprised when we walked off the plane and there was someone there wit a sign waiting to escort us.  We got to the next gate just as they started boarding.  

I am heading out now to walk around and take pics while the hubby gets a work out in.  

More later.

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Will be traveling with you, glad you’ve made it to Hanoi.  We did this trip, Hanoi to Siem Reap in January 2016 with Avalon, excellent.  While we travel a lot this has been one of the best travels ever, we were a group of 28, everyone got along well and it was just so interesting from start to finish.  As a matter of fact, we enjoyed Vietnam so much that we’re returning this November-December on an independent trip.  

 

Enjoy, safe travels.  

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Also following along as we have this trip planned for next January.  We look forward to enjoying every minute with you. 

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We are looking to go next January! Still investigating the ship and whether we should do four or seven days on the boat, due to the low water levels.

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On 4/4/2019 at 10:45 PM, Rebel54 said:

Good morning from Vietnam.  We arrived last night in Hanoi and got checked into our hotel the InterContinental Westlake.

 

Great to hear you have arrived safely in Vietnam.  We loved our time in Hanoi.  Very interesting and historic city!!  More charming than we had expected.  What all will you be seeing and doing there??  Look forward to hearing your impression of Hanoi.  Going to Halong Bay? 

 

Yes, that InterContinental Westlake is very familiar as we stayed there, also. Not the newest and most flashy hotel, but it worked well for our needs in staying there for two nights.  Hope you do not mind, but I am sharing just two visuals from Hanoi.  Enjoying your great sharing and to be following along.  Will you be able to post any pictures as you travel?   Keep it coming!!

 

For Jacqueline, we had no water level challenges on the Mekong.  I would go for the seven nights on that famed river.  There is so much to experience along that "heart and soul" of Southeast Asia.  

   

THANKS!  Enjoy!  Terry in Ohio

 

Sydney to NZ/Auckland Adventure, live/blog 2014 sampling for "down under” wonders. Exciting visuals with key highlights.  On page 23, post #571, see a complete index for all of the pictures, postings.  Now at 219,607 views.

http://boards.cruisecritic.com/showthread.php?t=1974139

 

From your InterContinental Westlake hotel, here was our view out the window to the water and nearby buildings at night.  Plus, second is just one sample from their French-built Opera House in Hanoi with the Vietnam flag flying strongly.:

(Open your screen/viewer wider to see these pictures larger/better!)

2071917276_CMY_37551.jpg.f159fd72e3b31600c8d9119e6a7a6a4c.jpg

 

416985598_CMY_35282.jpg.ed12947aba081c383a86994703cb693c.jpg 

Edited by TLCOhio

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Thank you for taking the time for the live review.  Visiting Hawaii on our next cruise. 

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On 3/31/2019 at 7:08 PM, Rebel54 said:

Fascinating Vietnam, Cambodia & the Mekong River with Hanoi, Ha Long Bay and Bangkok - Northbound    Leaving from Honolulu on April 3rd via JAL to Hanoi via  Narita. 

 

Have not heard anything late!!??  Hopeful you are just busy, busy having a good time.  BUT, look forward to seeing a recent update as to your progress, top highlights, etc.  Keep us posted.  

 

THANKS!  Enjoy!  Terry in Ohio

 

AFRICA?!!?: Fun, interesting visuals, plus travel details from this early 2016 live/blog. At 44,873 views. Featuring Cape Town, South Africa’s coast, Mozambique, Victoria Falls/Zambia and Botswana's famed Okavango Delta.

www.boards.cruisecritic.com/showthread.php?t=2310337

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Sorry all....been very busy and have been so tired when returning to the room that I have not felt the energy to update.  I'm working on a post for you now.  We are now on board the Siem Reap and heading towards the Mekong from Saigon.  More soon.

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Good morning all.  Sorry you haven’t heard from me.  We have been so busy I haven’t had time to really sit down and write.  So we are in HCMC right now at the Reverie Saigon waiting to be transferred over to the boat.  Let me get caught up.

4 April:  We arrive at around 11:30 pm in Hanoi. The process was very easy, but a smidge slow.  I arranged for the VOA so as soon as we got off the plane we made our way to the proper counter and turned in our letter and the immigration form.  Make sure you download and fill this form in ahead of arrival so you don’t have to worry about it when you arrive.  We sat and waited for our name to be called.  They also displayed my husband’s photo on a screen so there was no doubt it was our turn.  When we went up to the second counter we turned over $50.00 each and a passport photo.  I did notice that someone had a photo taken at the location so it seems if you forget them they will take care of it for you.  After that we picked up our luggage and made our way out.

 

I arranged for a “limo” for the two of us to the hotel through Expedia.  There was a driver waiting for us outside with a sign that had my name on it.  Once we convinced him that there were just two of us (he seemed confused by this) we were on our way.  After the brief confirmation he didn’t make any further conversation with us.  I would probably not use them again.  The first thing that upset me was the driver wadding up the paper with my name on it and then throwing it on the ground.  I had to pick it up.

 

Arrived at the hotel after about a 25 minute drive.  The staff at the IC Westlake were quick to greet us and get us checked in.  They called our tour guide, Tri to let him know we were there an then after we had a brief convo, we made our way to our room. 

The room was very nice and very spacious.  The view out over the water was very relaxing.  My only issue with the room was that it was quite musty and mildewy and I had to keep up on my allergy medications to keep from having asthma attacks.  I am also allergic to feathers so I had to call to order pillows on the pillow menu.  They were delivered promptly.

 

The buffet breakfast at the hotel was so far the best we have experienced out of the three hotels we have been in.  One thing that continues to repeat is the great service.  The buffet had plenty of food to choose from and they made the pancakes, waffles and eggs fresh for you as you waited.  Lots of local choices and fresh fruits to choose from.

Edited by Rebel54

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5 April - We had our first day free but we were really tired so we relaxed and took some walks around the hotel area.  Found a store to pick up some things we didn’t pack.  Walked around the temple across from the hotel and some of the side streets.  I found a place to eat nearby owned by a Aussie expat.  During the day they serve a lot of heathy options and western food.  At night they serve a full Vietnamese menu.  I can’t remember what I had right this moment but will come back to that later when I remember.  We had planned to go back later for dinner but ended up doing room service because the Jet lag was real.

We finally met the first members of our group.  For the Hanoi portion there were two other couples from FL that were traveling together.  They were very close to our age and we all clicked really well together so it made for a great time.  We became the “six pack” and had such a great time together.

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6 April – We took an electric cart ride around the old town of Hanoi.  That was fun.  For our first experience with the traffic it was a bit unnerving but I was just glad I wasn’t driving.  Our first stop was at the Temple of Literature.  Enjoyed this stop.  There were lots of children there today for some ceremonies which we stopped to watch.  All of the kids had fun saying hello to us.  My husband was quite the tourist attraction for them.  He is 6’2, African American and a heavy weight body builder….so he was quite the draw for all….locals and tourists.  Many times people were trying to sneak a picture with him in the background so he would just offer to be in the photo.  Good thing he’s good natured.  His arms were touched more than a few times.  Mostly just a LOT of staring and “wow’s..

 

After this we went to the mausoleum of Uncle Ho.  We were supposed to go there first but the lines were very long so Tri decided to come back.  Note:  you will not be allowed to bring anything with you if you go into the mausoleum so be prepared to check a bag if you carry one.  No cameras, food or drink.  If you get caught taking photos while in line you will be told off.  The guards there are NOT playing.  Some guy in front of us was taking video while we were in the line outside and he was immediately yelled at.  While inside the building both before and after viewing Uncle Ho, please keep your voice low, hands out of your pockets and remove any head gear.  Once you are out of the building you can get your belongings, put your hat on and then you are allowed to take photos out front with the building in the background.  We were one of the last groups let in and when they close, they close.  We just made it out the gate to go through the garden and see his home, cars and other odds and ends.  There was a group behind us and two people tried to get through after the guards said it was closed and there was quite a ruckus as a result.  No means NO.

 

We also went to the Hanoi Hilton to see the building and the displays.  Very sobering.

 

We had lunch at Koto which was very good.  Food was good and service was great. This is the place that teaches street children life skills and a job skill they can use to make their lives better.

 

I will say one really nice touch was that Tri made sure that he knew all of our food issues and made sure that where ever we ate they provided substitutes for us that met our needs. 

 

Now for the evening.  We went to the water puppet show.  This was honestly OK.  All of us wanted to skip it and go to an evening market or something but ended up going with the flow.  Really not our thing but the did get us great seats, second row and it was an experience.  We had some very rude people behind us that were talking through the entire thing.  One guy was watching a soccer match or something on his phone during the show.  They also had a kid that kept leaning up against me from behind to see the show and coughed on my neck a couple times.  No effort from the parents to move him away from me.

 

After the show we walked a bit through the park and then went to dinner.  Dinner was at the Wild Lotus and the food was pretty good.  Every set up meal included two drinks of your choice, either beer, wine, water or soft drinks.

 

That was it for the night.

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7 hours ago, Rebel54 said:

6 April – We took an electric cart ride around the old town of Hanoi.  That was fun.  For our first experience with the traffic it was a bit unnerving but I was just glad I wasn’t driving.  Our first stop was at the Temple of Literature.  Enjoyed this stop.

 

Wonderful to read your updates and details.  Glad that you are progressing well.  YES, that electric cart ride around in the old town of Hanoi was a very special highlight for us.  Loved doing that exploring around there.  Nice to hear you were staying at the Reverie Saigon in Ho Chi Minh City.   Keep up the great sharing!!!

 

THANKS!  Enjoy!  Terry in Ohio

 

SE Asia/Mekong River, Etc.!  Live/blog from early 2018, first adventure through SE Asia, stops in Hong Kong and Bangkok, before exploring all over Vietnam and Cambodia, seven days sailing on the Mekong River. Now at 45,689 views.

www.boards.cruisecritic.com/showthread.php?t=2591474

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I am absolutely loving your reports!

Please do enjoy every moment of this wonderful trip, and any updates that you can give us will be greatly appreciated.

Bob

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April 7th:  We departed early for Ha Long Bay.  It’s a three hour drive (with a rest stop at a very high priced tourist trap along the way) and well worth the drive to see it.  We went straight to the boat and headed out to tour the bay.  Beautiful and amazing.  I am so happy that we included this in our trip.  The trip included a “light lunch” as we sailed.  I quoted light because it was plate after plate of food.  It was pretty good and they did make an effort to accommodate our food issues.  One word of caution.  One of our group is hyper sensitive to shell fish and despite the fact they didn’t serve her any, she broke out is a rash after our cruise.  Perhaps one of the dishes included a seafood based ingredient or broth.  After cruising around a bit we headed for the cave.  We got there at a perfect time as all the boats were pulling out and the cave only had a couple groups in it.  We walked around and our tour guide gave us a great amount of info about the location. 

After the visit to the Bay we made our way to the Novotel.  Kind of a let down after the IC Westlake.  The room was “ok” and the breakfast buffet was soso.  Honestly I would have preferred to take a day trip and return to the hotel in Hanoi.  There wasn’t much to do around the hotel and it wasn’t the best place we’ve stayed so far.  The group of us all were in agreeance that it would have been better as a day trip.  Absolutely worth the trip, just not an overnight. 

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April 8th:  Started the day off with breakfast.  The buffet was ok but nothing to write home about.  After that we headed to the bus to return to Hanoi for our flight to Saigon.  They are very efficient with collecting your luggage in the morning from your room. 

Drive back was full of nice views of the country but made for a long day, even longer so with the following flight and all the fun that went with that.  There was the pitstop on the way at a different rest area with more expensive souvenirs and snacks.  My only purchase of the day was Weasel Coffee.  Haven’t made any yet but looking forward to trying it.  If you haven’t heard of this it’s coffee made from the coffee fruit that is eaten by the weasel.  It can’t digest all the fruit and then they collect the feces, clean it and make it into coffee.  The digestive process is supposed to make the coffee smoother.

We arrived at the airport and Tri escorted us to the counter and got us checked in.  Here’s a warning…read your paperwork where it says you are limited to 1 suitcase at 45 lbs to check.  If you are over you will probably have to pay.  Your carry on is also limited as well and if it’s too heavy they will make you check it.  If there are two in your group they may work with you and share your weight limit between the two parties if one bag is over and the other under.

Flight was via Vietnam Air.  Here’s my advice on that.  You will be sitting in Coach with your group.  If you are on the larger side you may want to talk to the guide before hand to try to arrange an upgrade.  Also, if you want a relaxing flight, bring headphones.  If you bring your own head phones make sure you have an adaptor if you want to watch the movies that they provide in the plane.  Single plug head phones will not work in their system.  Sound cancelling head phones would be best.  Between the plane noise and the screaming kids it was soooo loud on that flight.  I had my ear buds in that cut a lot of sound and I had no idea how loud it was.

When we arrived in Saigon and were met by an Avalon rep that promptly whisked us way to the hotel.  Let me say, the hotel Reverie Saigon was wonderful.  The room was beyond amazing.  If you aren’t used to it, the toilet seat might be a bit of a shock.  It’s a Toto and it’s warmed and provides all sort of services 😊.  I have a couple complaints with this hotel. 

-          The breakfast buffet was very good, great selection and options for both western and Asian meals.  You could order some things off the menu including pancakes, waffles and various egg dishes.  The pancakes and waffles were cold, very very cold.   There was no melting butter on these breakfast items.  The other undercooked food was the egg dishes.  Scrambled eggs and the omlettes.  Way undercooked.  Make sure that you tell them how you like your eggs.

-          Issue two…there is a very strong scent that is in the air near the elevators.  If you are asthmatic or sensitive to strong odors….probably not a good thing.  I had to wait in the hall while my husband got the elevator or it would cause an instant asthma attack.

Other than that this hotel was beautiful and in great location.  Central to many things, pretty much anything  you could want or need.  There is a market right next door and on the top floor there is a grocery store.

We were tired so we ended up eating dinner in our room.  Room service was good and very quick.  30 min until our order arrived. 

On arrival we met up with our Cruise Director Khanh and got a quick welcome and a little bit to rest after we got checked into our rooms.  We just relaxed the rest of the evening.

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April 9th:  After breakfast we met the rest of the group that would be joining us for the Saigon portion of the cruise.  Got a briefing and then headed out for a guided walking trip of some of the famous sites and a quick peek into a market.  After this we hopped on the bus to go to the War Remnants Museum.  I have my own thoughts on this place that I will keep to myself but I really hope people don’t take all of the propaganda on board as reality.  There are lot of inaccuracies in their info.  For instance they refer to the elite Army Ranger SEALS.  There are NO seals in the Army.  They also refer to McCain as a Major…there are no Major’s in the Navy.  If they can’t get the simple things right….

After that we went to participate in a cooking class.  Yours truly won second place in the salad roll making contest and came away with a crown, an apron and a certificate.  I think I got robbed.  We learned to make salad rolls, cut and chop and also made a chicken dish in clay pots.  We had a graduation and award ceremony and off we went.  Had the rest of the afternoon to do what we wanted.  I went out on a walk about with one of the ladies while my hubby got in a nap. 

Later that evening we all went to dinner at the Ly Club.  It was a wonderful meal.  Again the staff ensured that those of us that didn’t eat certain things were served alternatives.  http://www.lyclub.vn/switchpage/index.html  Beautiful meal.  We returned to the hotel after that for the evening.

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April 10th:  Up for an early breakfast and then we left for the Ch Chi Tunnels.  This is a 2 hour bus ride with no planned rest stop (or Happy Room Stop as they call them) so be sure NOT to drink too much at your morning meal.  Do, however eat enough to get you through lunch or bring a snack to tide you over until you get back. 

The tunnel excursion was quite interesting and well worth the drive.  I am very claustrophobic so I passed on going in the tunnels but my husband did venture in the larger of the couple we were shown.  Very educational.  Don’t forget your bug spray when you go because you might get bitten since you are walking through the jungle.  http://www.vietnam-guide.com/ho-chi-minh-city/cu-chi-tunnels.htm

The rest of the day was on our own so Arvin and I walked around and found a bistro for lunch.  Arvin needed a break from local food.  He’s decided he is not a fan.  I had the local special sandwich Bahn Mi with roasted beef and garlic butter (or something like that)  https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Bánh_mì .  He had the fish and chips which were also good.  The bistro was located in the entrance of the Saigon Centre https://www.tripadvisor.com/Attraction_Review-g293925-d4552853-Reviews-Saigon_Centre-Ho_Chi_Minh_City.html.

After a rest, we had dinner at a German place just a few steps from our hotel called the Gartenstadt.  The food was good, not amazing but good.  This place is very busy and if you can’t handle the smell of cigarette smoke it’s probably not a good place for you.  We had 2 drinks, 2 apps, and two main courses and it came to about 40 USD.  Having lived in Germany it was passable. 

That is it for the night.

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April 11th:

Up for a leisurely breakfast.  Luggage had to be tagged and out by the room door by 10:30 and on the bus at 12 to transfer to the ship.  When we arrived we had a 50 minute port lecture and then lunch at 1:00.  There was a mixture of food choices and everything was pretty good.

At 3:30 we had a lecture about Vietnam which was very educational.  After this we were supposed to have a welcome reception but we had a medical emergency with one of our fellow passengers.  She was seated next to me and when she stood up her hip popped out of socket so myself and some other passengers cared for her until she was able to get an ambulance to take her back to Saigon.

Here’s where I would like to strongly encourage a few things.  First, this is probably not the sort of cruise you want to take if you’ve got health issues.  From the time she first experienced the injury to when she was taken off the boat was almost 3 hours.  We had to find a port to pull into, they had to arrange the ambulance which would not leave until they had a payment option.  With traffic it took nearly 1.5 hours or more to get from Saigon.  Then she had to be transported back to Saigon for care.  Had this been a heart attack or something of the like, the situation could have been dire.  Thankfully I’ve had EMT training and there was a nurse on board so we were able to care for her until the ambulance arrived.  The ladies in my little group stayed with her also.  Everyone did their best to keep her distracted until she was able to get some pain meds from the EMT’s.  My husband and I went to check on her husband who was really beside himself and we ended up packing up their stuff so it could be sent with them.  It was a great team effort and we are still waiting to hear how she’s doing.  I ate my dinner in bits and pieces in between checking on them and helping out.  It was 1030 pm before we finally got into the room for the night.

Second:  Make sure you have your travel insurance and your plan in case you have a medical emergency.  I can’t stress this enough.  This medical emergency is probably a $30,000 or more bill that they will have to sort out with their insurance.  Thankfully they did have insurance.

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April 12th:

We woke up at about 6am for breakfast at 6:30 and then took off for our tour to Vinh Long via sampan.  Here we watched them make rice paper, rice wine and candy.  This was probably one of our favorite excursions so far.  They educated us also on Snake Rice wine and gave everyone a chance to sample it.  I was hesitant at first but then decided to give it a go.  Didn’t taste bad but you felt it ALL the way down into your gut.  I’m very proud of myself. 

Right now we are relaxing before lunch and then we will be heading out to Cu Lao Gieng via sampan to go to a local workshop where they make sampans and then to a local home to see where they make conical hats and to see a very old Catholic church.
 

Off to lunch soon…….more later.

 

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On 4/12/2019 at 12:17 AM, Rebel54 said:

April 12th:   We woke up at about 6am for breakfast at 6:30 and then took off for our tour to Vinh Long via sampan.  Right now we are relaxing before lunch and then we will be heading out to Cu Lao Gieng via sampan to go to a local workshop where they make sampans and then to a local home to see where they make conical hats and to see a very old Catholic church.    Off to lunch soon…….more later.

 

Have not heard or seen any posts in the past ten days, plus.  Assume things got busy, busy!!   Right?  When handy, look forward to reading more and maybe seeing some visuals from your adventure.  Plus, what you liked most, etc.  

 

THANKS!  Enjoy!  Terry in Ohio

 

Sydney to NZ/Auckland Adventure, live/blog 2014 sampling for "down under” wonders. Exciting visuals with key highlights.  On page 23, post #571, see a complete index for all of the pictures, postings.  Now at 219,855 views.

http://boards.cruisecritic.com/showthread.php?t=1974139

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Rebel54, wondering how the rest of your travels were?  If you have a chance and feel like it, please come back.

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