Nov 24 2009

Preparations for December Trip to SE Asia

Category: TravelRandall Kelley @ 16:23

All our arrangements are made for a December 18th departure for our jaunt to SE Asia. Thought I’d post a brief overview of the upcoming trip to give a heads up of what’s to come. If you follow along on the improvised map below, you can see the spots I refer to on our way.

We fly out of Seattle on Friday morning, and arrive in San Francisco for transfer to an Asianna Airlines flight to Seoul South Korea, where we catch or flight to Siem Reap, Cambodia (1 – Dec 19th to Dec 21st). Siem Reap is the stay for visits to the Khmer ruins at Angkor Wat and other sites around the area.

After a few days there we travel to Phnom Penh, Cambodia (2 – Dec 22nd) either by boat or bus. We will decide that once there, as we have plenty of time to make arrangement while staying in Siem Reap. We are only spending an afternoon in Phnom Penh, as something had to be passed up in order to allow more time in the area in Vietnam that was the real reason behind the planning of this trip.

Next morning we take a boat from Phnom Penh to the Vietnamese border near Chau Doc, Vietnam. There we catch a bus to Can Tho, Vietnam (3 – Dec 23rd). This is not the biggest of tourist sites, but it is a real working city on the Mekong Delta, and home to our favorite cook, Hoa (pronounced hwah) from our favorite Seattle Restaurant, the Blue Star (pronounced blue star ;^] ). We do hope to make a brief visit to some of the famous floating markets there that the tourist trips always do include on their Vietnam trips. And hopefully will get to make a brief visit with Hoa’s brother there as well.

By the next evening we will travel on into Ho Chi Minh City (Saigon) to catch the Reunification Express (sleeper train) up the coast to Da Nang. We will spend several days in this general area. First at Hoi An (4 -Dec 25th to 27th) and then a bit further North at Hue (5 – Dec 28th to 30th). Our reason for the “longer than your usual tourist stop” stay in this area is that Rita’s brother Steve served in this area during the Vietnam war. We do hope to see some areas where Steve served, and this will serve as some needed down time, as I’m sure the more frequent moves of the previous days will have taken some toll on us by this time.

After this we re-board the Reunification Express, again for an overnight, on up to spend the next day in Hanoi (6- Jan 1st). From there we will take a boat out to the famous Ha Long bay for a night (7 – Jan 2nd). We return to Hanoi on the 3rd, where Steve will depart for return to the US. Rita and I will spend the night there and fly out the next morning for Luang Prabang, Laos (8 – Jan 4th to 6th).

We have heard a lot from others on how much they loved Laos, which is said to be far less touristed than other areas in SE Asia. We are hoping to find it the same ourselves, though we are hoping for enough amenities to make it not TOO much of an adventure, as we will be totally on our own at this point. From Luang Prabang we will travel overland by Mini Bus or Bus to Vientiane, Laos (9 – Jan 21st and 22nd).

On Jan 9th we fly out of Vientiane for our return to Hanoi, where we will go directly from the airport to the train station for an overnight train ride to the Lo Cai station in the far North of Vietnam, literally just 5 kilometers from the China border. We will be picked up there and taken to Sa Pa, an old French resort town come trekkers launching point. This is a spot where people head out for visits to small villages of ethnic minorities. Many Hmong, Red Khmer, and other tribes have there villages right around here. We stay in Sapa (10 – Jan 10th and 11th) for some sightseeing, then return to Hanoi by the day train. This has been warned against as it is SLOW and only has “hard seat” accommodations as it is a “working” local train that loads and unloads goods for villages along the way. However, this is the only feasible way to see the part of the country between Sapa and Hanoi. I’m sure it will be OK for us, and I try to keep in mind I was warned in Moscow that returning from Kazakhstan to Moscow by train was “insane” and yet that turned out to be one of the best parts of that trip.

Once we arrive back in Hanoi after our long day on the train we will spend one more night there and have all of the next day for seeing more of Hanoi before flying out that evening for an over night flight to Seoul. We arrive in Seoul, South Korea (not on the map, by the way) early in the morning on Jan 14th and don’t leave for Seattle until the afternoon of the 16th. We will probably only see the city while there. This was really just added on due to the fact that all our possible travel back had us there for most of a day anyway. As a huge tech fan I see reports of all the cool new toys they get a couple of years before they show up on US shores (so much for being the world leaders). I thought even just seeing the lifestyle and the shops there would be a worthwhile stop. The down side is it will be winter winter there, meaning they have REAL winter temps there. We will not be lugging our winter clothes along for the whole trip, and if we did Seattle winter clothes are not suited for winter winter. We will make due and probably go shopping for something half way warm once we arrive there.

Well, that’s it in a nutshell. Hope some of you will plan to follow along. My posts during the trip will be brief, but I hope to get something up, as well as some pictures posted. Most posting of pictures will be done on a Smug Mug site I am setting up. I am moving to use them due to the much improved quality of how pictures can be scaled on there site. Those with big monitors will benefit the most. But I am sure I will stick a few shots up here and some on Facebook as well.

So long for now, R&R


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