Thanks a lot for a great experience on our trip to Cambodia and Vietnam 6 to 20 Feb 2012
Cambodia and Vietnam are amazing countries with proud, polite, welcoming and open people.
Our trip started in Phnom Penh where we were met at the airport by the local guide Dara from Diethelm Travel. He met us at the airport and gave us an orientation about our stay in Cambodia on our way in to the city and the hotel. The guide told us about life in Cambodia and linked it to how the population lived in general – very useful and interesting.
The tour of the National Museum was interesting, especially the tour of the Tuol Sleng Museum and the Pol Pot prison. It was a strong experience seeing how horrible these people were. Torture is the same all over the world, be it Nazi Germany or Pol Pot.
We stayed at the Almond Hotel which held at good standard and were relatively centrally located. The staff was very friendly and welcoming.
Our stay in Cambodia included many exciting experiences, warm evenings, and tasty, reasonably priced, food. The boat trip with a local family, which lived from boat trips and fishing, was very special indeed. We had lunch at the Titanic Restaurant and dinner at a local restaurant where the walls were decorated with local “art” made by the guests. We couldn’t resist leaving our own “art” greeting for future guests to come.
Our last evening ended with massage for some and drinks for others, and the local moped taxis took us back to the hotel.
Our time in Phnom Penh went way too quickly. We could have wished for more time in the city and the wonderful country of Cambodia.
On the 8th of February we travelled by speedboat over the border to Vietnam and onwards to Chau Doc were we spent the night in Chau Pho Hotel. We were met by a new guide (Minh) that was to guide us throughout our stay in Mekong and the Saigon area. A very pleasant guide that told us a lot about his own life situation and linked this to life in Vietnam in general. We felt that we connected very well with him, and I think he felt the same way about us. He was surely a great representative for his country. We had dinner at a local restaurant (Cafe Houng) in Chau Doc were only the locals ate. The food was excellent.
On the 9th of February we travelled onwards by speedboat and bus. We had great experiences during out boat trip in the Mekong delta which included a visit to a local fish farmer, a visit to a local fishing village, and experiencing life in a village where they made silk, and lived in houses up on stilts. We also experienced people that lived in small boats and Minh gave us a tour of a local mosque. We also visited a local crocodile farm where we had lunch. We spent the night in Golf Can Tho Hotel in Can Tho.
On the 10th of February we visited a floating market and a marked on land where we were offered fresh rats, snakes and pigs ears all for a very cheap price. Our guide bought live fish, which he then released back to the sea as an offer so that we might have long and safe lives. We then travelled on to Saigon. I here choose to use Saigon. This is how are guide chose to present his city. Ho Chi Minh City seemed somewhat alien to him, I guess it has something to do with his background from times of war.
Most of us thought the city was too big, with too much traffic and loud noise. The traffic was quite mad, with mopeds everywhere, so just crossing the street felt like a high risk sport. Too risky for a poor northerner anyway.
The 11th of February we started our day with a tour of the Cu Chi Tunnels; Vietcong’s hiding place during the war. This was quite a strong experience and very interesting. Not very long ago this was quite real. Later during the same day we got to see the Presidential palace and the Museum of Crimes of War.
Even later on we visited a local art studio were they made pictures. We got to witness the whole process of making these pictures and see a lot of finished products. Most of us bought pictures and plates. We spent the night at The Family Inn which kept a good standard very centrally located.
In Saigon too, our guide offered birds, so that we might have good health and long lives. A very pleasant gesture which we surely appreciated.
The 12th of February with travelled onwards to Hanoi were we were met by the local guide (Bach). None of us really connected with him. He seemed somehow to “light”. The first thing that made us wonder was that he didn’t wear clothes with Diethelm Travel. He probably knew Hanoi’s history about Ho Chi Minh and the different temples and all that, but seemed arrogant and uninterested in what he was doing. It came to a climax when he asked if he should book a table for us at a restaurant in Hanoi, and preceded by demanding $20 from each of us beforehand. On top of that we also had to pay one half of our bill at the restaurant. I do think this dinner came in quite a lot more expensive than it should have been. For the rest of the evening we were left on our own, something that really was ok, since the chemistry between us and our guide were at the freezing point. We were ok by ourselves at the local market that was right next to our hotel.
The day after we travelled to Halong Bay. We went by bus for approx. 4 hours. We went by several interesting places, rice fields etc, but our guide did not give us any information about this.
Upon arrival at Halong Bay we went aboard the “Prince Cruse” where we were greeted by the captain and his crew. A great sailing through magnificent landscapes. It was a shame about the thick fog and the air and water temperature only reaching 13-14 degrees Celsius. A few of us had a swim. (Vikings!)
As far as we understood the guides were to hand out a comment sheet where we were to give feedback about out stay in the different places. (This was done both in Phnom Phen and Saigon). Our guide here did not give these out, although we could see that he had them in front of him at the bus. We were asked in a hurry to write down what we thought of him just before we left at the airport; something we refused to do. Despite our bad experience we still gave him his tip, $20, something we regretted afterwards.
We would strongly advice that your man in Hanoi is not given more assignments. He was a truly bad experience compared to the other two, very pleasant, guides in the south.
Our stay in Nha Trang in Evason Ana Mandara was really successful, despite the weather not completely cooperating all the time. A really quite special hotel, with great staff and lovely food. The beach was great and the water kept 27/28 degrees. Warm enough for frozen Norwegians would recommend it to anyone.
Our drivers and transport were superb, our flights just as much so. There was a nice balance between experience and relaxation; the expenditures were less than expected. Overall our trip was a success and can be recommended. In the above I have however tried to point out some of the weak points so that they can be avoided for future guests.
Our sincere thanks for a great trip.
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