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Old 02-23-2010, 01:52 PM
 
1,269 posts, read 3,415,317 times
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Some Vietnamese and Cambodians still are conversant in French. They've baguette sandwiches with fillings more Asian in taste (beef or pork or chicken with fish sauce).

Most tours to Hanoi do not include Halong Bay. You can find scenic photos at google image. Or if you have time to watch, borrow "Indochine" from the French section of the library. It shows Halong Bay, both awesome and scary, with the couple running for their lives.

Lacquer handicrafts are inexpensive; lacquer stone paper weights, lacquer boxes of all sizes, lacquer wall hangings - most popular are:
4 panels depicting the 4 seasons
url address: moriental.com/thumbnail.asp?file=assets/images/PIC061.jpg&maxx=300&maxy=0
url address: ecx.images-amazon.com/images/I/51IA7i3OxZL._SL500_AA280_.jpg
some inlaid with mother of pearls
url address: yellowsunrise.co.uk/shopimages/products/thumbnails/Four_seasons.jpg

4 or 8 panels depicting the 8 beauties
url address: ecx.images-amazon.com/images/I/51J%2B49mo-kL.jpg

Err .. about field trips, I'm referring to guided .. UNESCO or whatever, not bushes. For sure that you're going to turn heads, so better be safe.
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Old 02-23-2010, 02:43 PM
 
32,532 posts, read 30,636,834 times
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I have a friend who is travelling over there now. He bicycled in the countryside near Hanoi and loved it. He also visited the "Hanoi Hilton" where the American POWs were held. I think he's really enjoying all the people. Very friendly. What's interesting to me is that he's African-American. And tall so people ask him if he's a basketball player. I think he's posing for a lot of pictures with them.

My mother, a blonde, was mobbed when she travelled in Asia. People would run up to her and touch her hair.

I think the main trick is to be very accepting of the people you meet. I've always found the vast manority of Asians to be very friendly and happy that you show an interest in their country.

Have a great time!
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Old 02-23-2010, 09:03 PM
 
Location: SWUS
5,421 posts, read 7,886,283 times
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Quote:
Originally Posted by dougie86 View Post
Some Vietnamese and Cambodians still are conversant in French. They've baguette sandwiches with fillings more Asian in taste (beef or pork or chicken with fish sauce).

Most tours to Hanoi do not include Halong Bay. You can find scenic photos at google image. Or if you have time to watch, borrow "Indochine" from the French section of the library. It shows Halong Bay, both awesome and scary, with the couple running for their lives.

Lacquer handicrafts are inexpensive; lacquer stone paper weights, lacquer boxes of all sizes, lacquer wall hangings - most popular are:
4 panels depicting the 4 seasons
url address: moriental.com/thumbnail.asp?file=assets/images/PIC061.jpg&maxx=300&maxy=0
url address: ecx.images-amazon.com/images/I/51IA7i3OxZL._SL500_AA280_.jpg
some inlaid with mother of pearls
url address: yellowsunrise.co.uk/shopimages/products/thumbnails/Four_seasons.jpg

4 or 8 panels depicting the 8 beauties
url address: ecx.images-amazon.com/images/I/51J%2B49mo-kL.jpg

Err .. about field trips, I'm referring to guided .. UNESCO or whatever, not bushes. For sure that you're going to turn heads, so better be safe.
I've seen Indochine, it's a great movie. I knew that was Halong Bay, and I was really excited when I found out that we're going to be going there

I know a little French from back in high school, MAYBE just enough to get around. Would I be better off asking in French if they speak English?
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Old 02-24-2010, 12:18 AM
 
Location: NM south central mountains
390 posts, read 839,852 times
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Jordan, we will have a tour of Halong Bay on a junk, then on to the old Imperial Capital of Hue. Next will be Saigon and the Mekong Delta. On to Cambodia then to Bangkok. We will have a great time and sure that you and your dad will find the night life. Maybe a few days on the beach. Haven't been there since Uncle Sugar paid my air fare in the 60's, but remember a very dynamic international city. We will also have a lay-over in Taiwan or Japan. Gram
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Old 02-24-2010, 12:44 AM
 
1,269 posts, read 3,415,317 times
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That's a tough question; it may touch on some topics and I do not want to go there. To be safe, I'll reply in French only if they speak French to me first. I haven't been in the Mekong region for a long time and I'm excited for you.

Sapphires and rubies, not very good quality, are mined in Thailand. Jade Buddhas are jadeite, not real jade from Burma; beware of scam artists. If you are shopping at Bangkok's goldsmiths, gold price is market price but the workmanship portion of the jewelry is negotiable (20% to 50% less for outdated designs).

Sorry to be so disorganized in my replies.
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Old 02-24-2010, 06:29 PM
 
Location: Bike to Surf!
3,080 posts, read 9,937,572 times
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You're getting lots of good advice. Ha Long Bay is amazing. Bring along something to swim in if there's time. Jumping off the top of a 3-story tourist boat is fun.

I wouldn't worry too much about the sex trade in Thailand, it's simply a way of life for some people. Nobody's going to hold you down and force you to watch a pingpong show if you don't want to (though you might think they will, based on how persistent some barkers are).

Eat street food, that's the best advice I can give you. You'll find lots of interesting tastes available fast and cheap. Pay attention that the vendor's fire is hot and that your squid or whatever is cooked well. Some people fear it, but remember, you have no idea what's going on in the kitchen of that resturant you're eating at, but you can watch what happens to your food as a street vendor prepares it.

Don't ride a Tuk Tuk in Bangkok. They have no shame when it comes to the exorbitant rip-off prices they charge. Take a metered cab instead, it'll be cheaper. Or ride the metro. Or walk, you'll see interesting stuff along the way.

Cambodia is the place to ride motorcycle-drawn carriages or Rickshaws/Tuk-Tuks (in Phnom Penh).

Watch out for rigged cabs in Hanoi, if you think the meter is turning over fast, you're right.

Night Markets anywhere are tons of fun. Ask about them and go if you find one.

Quote:
Originally Posted by JordanJP View Post
ALSO, please include something YOU would bring back as a souvenir. I was thinking maybe a small Buddha statue to keep on my computer desk in my dorm? Input there?
It always puzzles me as to why people who are not Buddhists like to display statues of the Buddhas. I've never seen a non-Christian person wear or display crucifixes in their home or work.

Just so you know, Buddha's statue should be placed in a position of honor, and prayed to regularly. Some say that a neglected Buddha or other shrine is a focal point for wandering spirits. I don't recommend keeping or displaying one if you are not a Buddhist.
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Old 02-24-2010, 08:34 PM
 
Location: NM south central mountains
390 posts, read 839,852 times
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Sponger, appreciate your advice. I would not eat "street food" unless you want Bangkok Belly and yes most ivory and jade are not true stones. The rubies, have some, can be beautiful and high quality but Burma rubies have an embargo. The Buddha statures are common signs of peace and grace and are embraced by all religions. I have had one in our home for years. I was fortunate enough to have been friends with the Deputy Prime Ministers son and the Thai are beautiful people. Would like more of your advice on Hanoi, Saigon and Cambodia.
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Old 02-24-2010, 11:35 PM
 
Location: Bike to Surf!
3,080 posts, read 9,937,572 times
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Hm, I just spent 8 months in SE Asia, China, and Taiwan. I ate from street vendors pretty much every day, at least snacks. The only place I had any trouble was in India, but I think that was more from the spices than anything. Also, I couldn't find street vendors in India, so I ended up eating from resturants or what I cooked myself.

I had no trouble with the pad thai and various noodles you can get on the street in Bangkok. A nice ear of roasted corn can really hit the spot. I would avoid anything uncooked or with ice, though.

As for displaying any of the Buddhas, the choice is yours, but do not be surprised if a Buddhist you invite over bei-bei's before yours. They are certainly more than just ornaments to us, even if someone intends them as a decoration rather than a shrine.

Visit the Hanoi old town, but it's probably not worth more than a day. The crowded multi-story market in the northern quarter is a good place to pick up essentials or trinkets and you can get reasonable prices if you bargain hard. There's a million travel agencies there who can book you on a cheap trip to Ha Long Bay. The lake south of Old Town is worth a walk-around. If you go at dawn or sunset you might get some nice photographs of Turtle Island. Otherwise it's just a medium-sized city park. Eat some Pho, but try to find a place with indoor seating so you don't have to crouch near the gutter like most of the places. Visit the Ho Chi Minh memorial. It's quite a large complex and ****-and-span. You won't be able to visit the masoleum (it's the big stone building in the corner of the lawns). There's no signs (in English) but the soldiers will chase you away if you wander too close, not to worry. Touts in Hanoi are the nastiest I've encountered. Most are just trying to make a buck, but some of the young ones can get aggressive and mean. Keep your wits about you and don't give your business to anyone who's acting like a jerk.

The easiest and most comfortable way to cross Vietnam is on the tourist bus system. It's beginning to be used by locals (I only saw one or two tourists) since tourism is down in the current slump. You can book tickets at any of the scads of travel agencies, all for about the same price (USD 37 will get you on a luxurious sleeper bus that runs from Hanoi to HCMC (Saigon) with as many stops in between as you want. If you're clever about it, and you only want to make 2-3 stops along the way, you can save USD 10 by buying individual leg tickets and riding on cheaper non-sleeper busses during the day legs. Hoi Ann is a nice tourist trap nowadays. Nha Trang is a good place to scuba or snorkel for cheap. The southern coast near HCMC is good for windsurfing, kitesurfing, and other beachy activities.

HCMC is a hive of activity and much more exciting than Hanoi. Cheap hotels are a little harder to find. As always, bargain hard.

Cambodia is a lovely country with friendly, hardworking people. There are very few old people, the Khmer Rouge saw to that. The dollar is really the only functional currency, which is a switch from the other SE Asian countries, although you can pay in USD in Vietnam for touristy stuff. Cambodians are young, vibrant, and friendly people. Many of them speak English, especially the touts. Cambodian touts are the friendliest and most helpful of any country, and the only ones I recommend going with.

There's not a lot to see in Phnom Penh besides the S-prisons and the killing fields. The killing fields are an sobering place to visit. A dusty 30-min autorickshaw (tuk tuk) ride will get you there for under USD 5 round trip + wait time. There's fair food on the riverfront and the town is worth a walkabout.

Siem Rep is a nice town flush with cash from tourists heading to Angkor Wat. The temples are worth 2 days of exploring. Even if you just hit the big ones, that ought to be enough to temple you out, especially if it's hot or rainy. Be prepared to do a LOT of vertical climbing and clambering. Almost nothing is roped off, and some places are pretty abandoned, so you can role-play "Tomb Raider" to your little heart's content. Touts in Siem Rep are helpful and will overcharge you a lot less than the official ticket price for Angkor Wat. A motorcycle carriage and driver to show you around is a worthwhile investment. The food around the temples is overpriced and just horrible. Figure out a way to pack your own eats in if you can. Exception: Coconuts! They're big, cheap and plentiful. Buy one and eat/drink up! Don't have too many or you'll encounter bowel problems.

The big exception to Cambodian hospitality is at the border. Crossing the Cambodian border is an ordeal. It's not a matter of will you encounter extortion, but rather how much the border guards (and everyone else) will try to shake you down for. If you go on a charter bus, your tour will include the cost of greasing the guards' palms. You can save a lot of money by DIYing the border crossing, but you need to know what you're doing. Firmly negotiate down the price the Guard tells you to pay down to a few dollars (2-4 USD per person) more than the fee clearly posted on the sign above his head. (Haha.) Be nice, but don't let them push you around or you'll just make it harder for the next westerner crossing after you.

The Cambodian border is the point where a checkpoint straddles the road and at least 2 uniformed guards prevent you from going any further. Don't get diverted by anyone with a fake uniform, lanyard with "official" credentials, or any sort of outfit other than that of a border guard. Both sides of the border crossings (at least the popular ones) are lined with scam artists and touts. Ignore them and walk straight to the border. Once across, know where you're going (usually there's a free tourist bus to the border town's bus/taxi station) go there, and ignore or politely decline anyone who follows you, no matter what they say. The bus is not "gone." Today is not a holiday. Transit workers are not on strike. Any other fib they try to divert you with will be equally untrue. They will follow you until you are on the bus to your destination and they will happily overcharge you for anything you can pay for. They'll even buy your bus tickets for you, (which might involve passing 50% of the money you give them to the bus driver 1 foot away). Pay only the drivers, and bargain with them if you have time, because no price is ever fixed. At least not for wealthy foreigners.

Overall, as anywhere, be wary of anyone who approaches you without being asked in SE Asia. The locals are usually friendly and welcoming, but not in the "Hi I'm a law student and I just want to practice my English here on this streetcorner with you, total stranger who happens to look like a wealthy tourist." way.

It's not like you'll ever encounter any dangerous situation, or lose large amounts of money, but you might spend your visit thinking such-and-such temple is closed, or going somewhere that is supposed to be "free today" if you buy into some of the fibs you may encounter.
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Old 02-25-2010, 10:16 AM
 
Location: NM south central mountains
390 posts, read 839,852 times
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Sponger, thank you so very much. You have given a lot of valuable information. We lived on Okinawa for two years and were able to travel to India, Thailand, Hong Kong etc but has been a number of years.

Thanks again, and any other information will be appreciated.
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Old 02-25-2010, 02:05 PM
 
Location: NoVa
2,125 posts, read 2,908,868 times
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Quote:
Originally Posted by dougie86 View Post
Wear cool light cotton, long sleeves and pants on field trips (eg. Angkor Wat) to protect from mosquito bites.
Inexpensive sneakers preferable than heavy thick expensive types, because the latter make your feet sweat.

Fruits: look up wikipedia for the photos and descriptions of
- purple mangosteen (packed with antioxidants)
- durian (yr hotel pastry shop may have durian mousse cake with less pungent taste & smell of this fruit)
- rambutan
- lychee
- star fruit (url address: thaifood.about.com/od/introtothaicooking/ss/starfruithowto.htm)
- langsat
- dragon fruit (red meat and white meat varieties)
- jackfruit (it's huge and contains lots of edible flesh and seeds; fruit vendors sell deseeded flesh on a stick; jackfruit fritters; chips)
- young coconut juice to quench thirst

Don't go out of your way to look for it, but if you see "Royce" chocolates you may want to try some. It's not too sweet, not too creamy as preferred by the locals. The sales clerk will pack them in dry ice or they'll melt.
url address: www.e-royce.sg/outlets_thai.html

Thai, both the Muslims and Buddhists, are very friendly.
When hand things over to someone (cash, paper etc), use only your right hand.

Places of interests: If we know what your tour covers, it'll be easier.
I agree about the fresh fruits suggestion. Thailand is one of the most advanced countries in Asia for agricultural science. Every tropical fruit in Asian market costs more if it's from Thailand, because they're sweeter, juicier, and bigger.

My absolute favorites are:
* Young coconut juice and its flesh: it's cool and sweet, once your'e done eating the juice, have the seller chop the coconut in half so you can scrape the white flesh inside that tastes fresh & yummy! It's a natural poison antidote too
* Purple Mangosteen. They're tricky to peel and can stain your clothes, but the meat is juicy and sweet
* Rambutan: they look like hairy balls, in fact, the name itself means 'hairy'. Tastes just like lychee, another tropical fruit that's yummy, juicy, and sweet.
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