Southeast Asia

Planning the Trip
Tools for trip planning.

Thanks for joining my Southeast Asia adventure!

I’m new to blogging.  When my husband and I met in 1983 we sold all our worldly possessions, quit our jobs and traveled throughout Mexico.  I planned to photograph and write about the experience.  But I didn’t.

Over the years I’ve continued to roam the world, but never Asia. About a year ago, right around my 60th birthday, I decided to both travel to Asia and document the adventure.  Two firsts.

Thailand, Laos, Vietnam and Cambodia were on the original list. After much research and contemplation, the trip was narrowed to Vietnam and Cambodia. A custom self-guided 26-day tour was born. I do love planning a trip!

In this first Blog post, I share trip planning details. As always, thanks to my sweet hubby, our research started with books. Stop number one, the travel section of Powell Books (An aside, no true Portlander can mention Powell’s without adding, the largest independent bookstore in the US).  Internet searches and recommendations from fellow travelers rounded out information sources.

We’ll be starting in Ho Chi Minh City (Saigon) and finishing up in Hanoi. After we picked travel dates we researched plane fares.

Flight Arrangements

I grew up the daughter of a Delta Airlines Captain. For years, I flew first-class for free. Talk about being spoiled! I own it. I simply don’t belong in the coach class crush.  Unfortunately, my pocket book is too small for first or business class air travel.

My brillant husband decided on an alternative. Buy business class through Cheapo Air. What???  A debate ensued. Cheapo Air? Who ever heard of that? I conjured visions of endless hours in airport terminals, ultimately being relegated to a gar hole middle seat in the last row beside the bathrooms. The round trip cost on Cheapo Air for business class was $2,434 per ticket. Pricey, but a great buy compared to the $7,000+ price tag of  business class purchased directly through the airlines. I fantasized about being able to lie down and actually sleep during the long flight.  And, reasoned the rest of the trip would be super inexpensive. So I, not so gracefully, acquiesced.

Our outbound flight connects through Vancouver and Seoul on Air Canada.  Our flight home connects through Peking and Vancouver on a Vietnam Air and Air Canada combo. Once we locked in, I studied the air itinerary and discovered no seat assignments. My “gar hole” nightmare recurred on steriods. I mentioned this to Conde’ who appeared totally unconcerned. Time to take charge. I called Cheapo Air and learned seat assignments could be had for a mere $20 per person extra. I ponied up and got business class seats assigned on most, but not all legs, of the trip. I’m still working on that. About a month after our reservations were locked in, Cheapo Air emailed a daunting flight change notification instructing, “act now or you will loose all your money.” I immediately phoned Cheapo. After 3 hours on the phone chatting with six different agents, an acceptable air schedule was agreed upon, including seat assignments. Conde’ was no where to be seen through this process.  I’ll let you know how this all works out.                                                                                                 

Vietnam Visa Approval
Pretty Cool, Huh?

Visa

US citizens need a Visa to enter Vietnam.  Somewhere Conde’ read we could get these in advance.  He emailed our personal information and credit card data for 2 visas at a cost of $30 each to Vietnam Visa Choice  The next day, we received emails with PDF attachments, instructing us to print out the documents.  We are to present this upon arrival along with two passport photos. The letter looks official enough.  I do like the red stamp.

Rough Itinerary

After multiple discussions, armed with facts and reference sources, agreement was reached on a  broad trip agenda.

We start with 3 nights in HCMC.  Then travel south for 3 days exploring the Mekong Delta. Next, we head west to Cambodia.  The plan is to take a boat along the Mekong river to Phnom Phen where we’ll spend two days, one night. (An aside, a Visa is needed to enter Cambodia. We’re pretty sure we can get one at the river border crossing). We’re thinking bus from Phnom Phen to  Seim Reap where we’ll explore the the temples of angkor for three days. From Seim Reap we fly on Cambodian Angkor Air to Da Nang Vietnam. (An aside, I encountered an interesting factoid when making the air reservations online. Apparently, citizenship matters. After poking around, I was able to reduce the cost of tickets by 50% from original quote. Something about add-on fees.) We’ll explore the area around Da Nang, Hoi An and Hue for four days then head north to Phong Nha-Ke Bang National Park  We booked with Oxalis Adventure Tours for 3 days, 2 nights exploring amazing caves, trekking and camping in the jungle. After the park we board a train for a daylight 10 hour ride from Dong Hoi to Hanoi on Vietnam Railway  (An aside, the Vietnam Railway website and online reservation system is excellent. Super easy to understand and use). To wrap up the trip, we spend a week exploring Hanoi and the surrounding area, staying at a VRBO condo in the heart of Old Town.

Map of Vietnam & Cambodia

Departure date is right around the corner. Before we leave, I’ll post a blog about packing for the trip. Some of the journey has been reserved and paid for. Other times we plan to wing it. I’ll post when I can, sharing the ups and downs of our travels. Hope you’ll join in the adventures.

Thanks so much and please let me know your thoughts.

And, for all you Geezers on the Go, Keep on Keeping on.

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