Vietnam and Cambodia March 2009

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Living in Asia we have been trying to take advantage of travelling and exploring the region. For Spring Break we decided to go to Vietnam and Cambodia. We booked our flights, tours and hotels for Hanoi, Siem Reap and Ho CHi Minh. Unfortunately the Federal regulators booked their trip to Tokyo for the same week.  Lyndon was not able to go with us. We contemplated not going but decided we could do it without him. We’d miss him but knew he would be working 24/7 that week anyway. So off we went!!  On Saturday morning (Mar 21) Lyndon took us to the airport. It was very sad to leave him behind knowing that we would be exploring new countries without him. We saw our usual groups of ASIJ families at Narita also going off on their adventures. 
We arrived in Hanoi around 3:00 in the afternoon and were met by our tour guide, Quyen.  We started our tour with a cyclo tour through the old quarter of Hanoi.  It was initiation by fire to the traffic.  There are cars and bikes and motorcycles everywhere.  Catherine said it was the scariest thing she had done. The streets are crowded with shops and hotels, and galleries. Some streets are named for the wares they sell (shoes, silver, shirts…).  Then we went to dinner.  We took pictures of everything we ate so that we could share it with Lyndon.  It was the first of many great meals. (My favorite was the fried eggplant appetizer).  Then we checked into the hotel,The Fortuna.  We were upgraded to the busines lounge level so that was nice. 
The next morning we  went to the Ho CHi Minh Complex. It is where Ho Chi Minh is laid to rest and preserved in  a masoleum. It is also the complex of where he worked and lived.  It was very interesting to see how they revere him.  They call him Uncle Ho.  Afterwards we went to the One Pillar Pagoda.  I mailed a postcard without any postage so I had to buy another (Oops). It did get to Lyndon however.We then exploredthe Temple of Literature. A very old university.  We have pictures of Emily engrossed in the details (Yawning). After another great meal (Emily’s favorite was the pumpkin soup) we went to the Ethnology Museum.  There are 54 different ethnic groups in Vietnam. It was very interesting.  The funny thing here was that everyone thought Sarah, Emily and CAtherine were triplets. They took pictures of them..  They just smile and try to explain that they are not but the point does not translate well.  After that we went to the Water Puupet Show. It is really cool. They use puppets on long poles behind a curtain.  Some actors come to the front but the puppets are in the water and intereact with them. We had a grouchy rude man sitting in front of us.  We were on our own for dinner that night. The kids wanted to swim so they went but it was very cold.
The next morning we got up early and drove 4 hours to Halong Bay. There is a bay with thousands of rock formations coming out of the water.  I am sure it is even more impressive in the sunshine. It was a little cloudy/foggy the whole time we were there.  We got on  a boat for an overnight trip.  The food (yes again) was great again. Fresh shrimp, crab, clams, fish, etc….and always lots of fresh fruit.  We went to a cave called Amazing Cave . It really was !!!  On our boat there were  about 15 Australians and 3 French women.  We played a lot of cards and had fun. I think we entertained the “older crowd”.  That afternoon they had the chance to go swimming. It was very  cold again but of course they did (not Sarah). That night after dinner they tried their hand at fishing. No catches.  In the morning we cruised around some more and went to a floating fishing village.  It was interesting to see all the different types of fish they were “raising”.  We cruised back after lunch and then drove back to Hanoi.  That night we went out to dinner on our own. Then we tried shopping. I really wanted to find a painting. Artwork is great to find in Vietnam.  We spent a couple hours walking around and ended up liking the best one of the first ones we saw.  We tried to get some shoes but could not find any big enough for the girls. I could have bought tons but did not feel it was the right thing to do since they need shoes and I do not.
The next morning I took a taxi back out to the art shop and bought two pictures. I had to buy without Lyndon really seeing them.  I guess this was my trip to gain independence.  We then went for an early lunch. Quyen took us to a great restaraunt. It specialized in a soup and spring roll.  You had a sweet clear broth soup, a big bowl of greens (lettuce, basil, mint…), noodles, and spring rolls.  It was great.  The we headed off to the airport to go to Cambodia.
While we were at the airport a group of Japanese were waiting to go to Cambodia as well.  They practiced their Japanese on this group a little. Another group thought  they were triplets again.
When we arrived in Cambodia we had to  get our visas.  When we got into the airport this man from immigration took us aside and siad he’d get our visas for us. We thought it was very suspicious but he moved so fast we really did not have time to say no. He took our applications, money and passports and told us to wait by baggage claim. Sarah was freaking out. We went right through the passport area.  He was gone about 5-10 minutes, our luggage came out and then he  came back. He placed one passport on each counter, they stamped them and he brought them out to us. Never did the passport control people even see us. Very odd.  But all went smoothly.  We met our next tour guide, Viveth .  The airport was really cute and new.  It was very hot!!! He took us to our hotel, The Prince D’Angkor. We checked in , cleaned up and then went out to dinner.  It was very good (our favorite was probably the grilled pineapple and watermelon for dessert). 
The next morning Michael and I woke up early so decided to go workout beore the pool opened. I was going to let him swim a little at 7:00 when it opened.  It was about 6:50, I had been biking, it was hot (no A/C in the gym), and Michael was doing some things too. He was doing a pushup rolling machine and it slipped! He fell to the ground and split his chin open! I knew right away that he’d need stitches.  I grabbed my towel and held it to his chin and we ran to the front desk. I told them we were going to need stitches . There was an International Hospital close by. I ran up to the room and grabbed my stuff and remembered to get the passports. I called the girls who were still sleeping and told them what happened. Emily got dressed to come with me.  The hotel shuttle drove us to the hospital. Luckily it was very clean, spoke English, not busy… We were in and out  and back to the hotel by 8:30. He got a tetanus shot and 6 stitches. The worst part was the novacaine shots into the cut. After that was working it was a piece of cake. At the hotel I had to clean up (I had been working out and was sweaty!!) and we had to eat something so we got a little bit of a late start but we were ready by 9:15.  We started our Angkor Wat exploring with Angkor Thom, Elephant Terrace, and Leper King.  It was beautiful but hot. It is all so very old.We stopped at the Cambodia Land Mine Museum. They house an orphanage for kids who have been affected by land mines. It is very educational. We went to a buffet for lunch (It was OK)and then back to the  hotel to cool down before going back out later in the day. The worst part about the stitches was that Michael could not swim for 5 days. It was 105 degrees and a boy who loves to swim could not!! He passed the time being the photographer for the girls’ America’s Next Top Model game.  In the afternoon we went to Angkor Wat. It was incredibly large and ancient.  We were staying for sunset but a few clouds came in and it was not as good as expected but nevertheless beautiful. For dinner it was another buffet but with  a dance show.  After dinner we went shopping. Michael was a good sport and the girls got some dresses and earrings.
The next morning we went to more ruins.  The one had trees growing out of the ruins.  It is where Angelina Jolie filmed The Laura Croft Tomb Raider movie.  We also went to the citadel of women.  There were lots of little kids here. Emily loved taking pictures of them.  We checked out and headed to the airport by way of the hospital for  a stitches check.
When we arrived in Ho Chi Minh/Saigon we were met by our guide Miss Mai.  It was late so we just ate at the hotel, the Norfolk.  In the morning we got up early and drove to the Cu Chi Tunnels. This is where the Vietnamese Guerillas fought off the Americans. They built a whole series of underground tunnels and rooms to protect themselves. They fought a very grassroots type of war against the Americans.  It was full of anti American propaganda but still interesting. Our guide called the bathroom the Happy Place and asked if we needed to stop in the Happy Place. He took us back to the hotel and we had to check out at 2:30.  We then had until 9:00 to kill time.  We strolled around Ho Chi Minh City. We stopped in to see the Notre Dame Cathedral, parks and shopping center.  We did lots of bargaining here .The girls bought dresses for Confirmation/Easter. In the market you had to bargain. The kids are so much better at this than I am.  They did well.  After this they were so hot. Michael looked like he had taken a shower he was so sweaty.  We found a great smoothy cafe. They were either the best we’ve had in a long time or else we were so hot anything would have been good.  We went back in for more shopping and then found a cute cafe , Deco Cafe. It was very good but they messed up our order.  They gave us a discount and it only ended up costing $11 for all 5 of us!!! It was Earth Hour night again so the hotel turned off their lights at 8:30. We met our tour guide and she took us to the airport.We had to wait at the airport for 2 hours and the flight did not leave until 12:00 midnight. We were very tired. We once again saw ASIJ people at the airport (MS Darrigan, Mrs Lo Bianco,etc…)We slept for  most of the flight (at least Sarah did) and arrived early into Narita. When they said it was 3 degrees celsius we were shocked. We had been in 40 degrees celsius.  We met Lyndon and picked up MJ and settled back into reality.  It was great fun . I now know I can do things on my own but that we miss Lyndon a lot when we travel without him.

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