Roger & Lari’s Trip to Vietnam   Leave a comment

ROG AND LARI’S 2010 WINTER VACATION

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“Vietnam, Cambodia, Laos, Bangkok”

With Hal & Betty Omori, Bev Marques, BJ Ah Mau

Jan. 25 to Feb. 19, 2010

I had wanted to go to Vietnam for a couple of years, and finally planned this trip when I found cheap fares on JAL. We invited Hal (Roger’s HS classmate) & Betty to go with us, because Roger wanted a golf buddy. Two other classmates Bev and BJ joined us, so the 6 of us adventured to S.E. Asia (Indo China).

We enjoyed the food in all the countries… we had all breakfasts provided by our hotels, and most lunches provided by the tours. We enjoyed trying different restaurants around our hotels. Most dinners cost $2 or $3 per person.

I enjoyed massages almost every other day… either a foot massage or body massage, sometimes both! Most massages were $5 to $10 per hour.

The weather there is very hot and humid, especially in Saigon and Cambodia. Roger loves cold weather, so he suffered the most.

We started our tour in Hanoi. Our hotel was in the old quarter of Hanoi, and the street scenes fascinated us… people wearing the coolie hat, women selling goods by carrying them on a bamboo pole on their shoulder, many noisy motor bikes, horns tooting, crazy traffic, street food on the sidewalks and so much more to fill all your senses. In Hanoi we visited Ho Chi Minh’s mausoleum, where he lies in state fully preserved. We visited his home, and the Presidential Palace, the Temple of Literature, the Museum of Ethnology, enjoyed a Water Puppet Show and took a cyclo (modern day rickshaw) tour of Old Hanoi.

From Hanoi we took an overnight train to Sapa, where we saw the terraced rice paddies and met the Hmong people. After trekking through the Black Hmong and Flower Hmong villages, and attending market day, we returned to Hanoi on the overnight train. We were driven to Halong City to board a “junk” for an overnight cruise on beautiful Halong Bay. The scenery and expeditions to some islands were outstanding, and the seafood on the junk was fabulous. We all got a foot massage in Halong City after the cruise.

After Halong Bay we flew to Hue where we visited Danang, China Beach, My Son and Hoi An. We had a wonderful guide nicknamed “Flower”, who told great stories about her country. We all got custom-made clothing at one of the many tailor shops in Hoi An, a lovely town small enough to walk around.

We flew to Saigon, now named Ho Chi Minh City, a huge metropolis crowded with millions of motorbikes and cars. It takes guts to cross the street through the crazy traffic. From our hotel, we could walk to the night market, to massage shops, to beauty salons that offer more than beauty treatments by the sexy girls sitting out front. We had a day trip to the Mekong Delta and a trip to Cu Chi tunnels, where they educated us on the warfare methods used by the Vietcong. We also visited the War Remnant Museum, which shows the atrocities of the American War.

In Siem Reap, Cambodia, we had a beautiful hotel with a swimming pool, and our favorite guide, Mr. Long, who lost an eye and a finger during the Khmer Rouge blood bath of Pol Pot. He told wonderful stories about his culture and history, that helped us appreciate Angkor Wat and Angkor Thom. Here we toured in the early morning and late afternoon, because of the intense heat. It was nice to have lunch, enjoy a cool swim and relax in our aircon rooms before touring again in the afternoon.

Luang Prabang, Laos was a very serene place compared to the madness of the metropolis of Saigon. We woke up early to see many monks in saffron robes walking barefooted through the streets accepting offerings of food from the people. We took a boat ride on the Mekong up to Pak Ou caves filled with thousands of gold Buddhas.

We ended our tour in Bangkok where we enjoyed shopping, getting massages, and eating the delicious food. Our favorite restaurant is Cabbages & Condoms, that donates their profits to help the needy. Roger and Hal were supposed to golf but cancelled because Hal was ill, so instead, Roger and I toured the magnificent Grand Palace.

We all flew to Narita, where the 4 of them continued on home, and Roger and I stayed in Tokyo for a few days. Yumi & Koji Ibaramoto and their son Kenzo and daughter Ami along with Yumi’s sister, Asako entertained us royally! Read Roger’s Top Ten for more details about Tokyo.

Roger’s Top Ten: (The worst thing was, all the trekking in the humidity, that I had to do, to see all the good stuff. And I’ve had it with Buddha statues.)

10. Shopping for a belt is a problem for me, cuz all the belts in the shops are too short. In a market, this guy says he can make me a belt cuz the ones on display seemed child sized. I told him I wanted my belt to wrap around at least 8 inches past the buckle so Hallelujah! I got 2 belts that fit without sucking in my belly.

9. Bangkok, Thailand: See, another problem I have is shopping for shorts, cuz the hem goes 6 inches below my knees and they aren’t shorts anymore. So in Bangkok, I got 3 custom shorts made from the same tailor who made 2 pairs of shorts 6 years ago. I got red, blue and green shorts and never have to buy shorts for the rest of my life, unless I lose weight.

8. Hoi An, Vietnam: My third shopping problem is my widEEE, short feet with extra high arches, I cannot buy slip-on shoes unless they are size 10 (2 inches too long). So in Hoi An, I ordered 2 pairs of custom made shoes. I like them very much, because they fit so well, and the soft leather feels good.

7. Luang Prabang, Laos: As we landed in Laos, our tour guide, Noy, had a sign “Laraine & Roger Yasui”. So I went up to her and introduced myself as Roger but asked her to call me “darling” and she did for two days!

6. All of Indo-China was HOT (90+) and very HUMID. My shirt was soaked every day on all the walks which took at least 10 years off my life. Then after a 5-hour flight to Tokyo, we exit the Tokyo subway station and lo and behold, it’s snowing! After suffering in the heat and humidity, I was happy to enjoy cold weather in Tokyo!

Our friends, Yumi & Koji & Asako really went out of their way to show and treat us to authentic Tokyo. We went to a Sumo Dojo to watch them practicing. We went to Tsukiji Market to watch the fish auction. We went to a tiny little sushi bar, where one maguro nigiri costs $4. They took us to a soba shop, udon shop, monja restaurant, and more. I enjoyed Tokyo because it’s so clean and the toilets were not only heated but had some fancy gadgets that were so refreshing to my behind. They took us to a Sento (public bath) where my first concern was do I put my washcloth over my wiener or over my face. Well it was none of the above… just walked with my legs crossed and head down. Ha!  Porgot something.. Souske and Toshiko (parents of Yumi/Asako) treated us to a fabulous lunch to celebrate my Koki birthday @ 70 is like yakudoshi @ 42, and kanreki @ 60.  Hope for good things in the future, but this old fart has to believe in this Japanese tradition cuz I’ve had nothing but good things happening to me. Japan was like Heaven compared to Indo China except that I could not smoke on the streets in Tokyo.

5. The Grand Palace in Bangkok was only a couple of hundred years old so it was modern, colorful, clean and beautiful. A must-see in Bangkok.

4. Cu Chi tunnels of Saigon, Vietnam: We saw how they lived in the maze of tunnels and the many different traps that the Vietcong designed using bamboo because they didn’t have modern weaponry. We crawled through a tunnel expanded for tourists. To fight the Vietcong in the jungles with their underground network wasn’t a good idea. With all of our air power, we still did not win. Bad idea.

3. Sapa, Vietnam: terraced rice paddies built by the Hmong mountain people. The best part was getting there from Hanoi on an overnight sleeper train, which rode like a plane in turbulence and Elvis rocking and rolling. Rough, but we slept like a baby in a rocker.

2. Halong Bay in Vietnam with thousands of islands sticking up out of the bay, as we cruised on a “Junk”, which served the best food we had in Vietnam. In the fog and mist, it reminded me of the Guilin mountains in China.

1. Angkor Wat & Angkor Thom in Cambodia. Built over 800 years ago, they are just magnificent architectural works of art and definitely one of the 7 Wonders of the World, more impressive than the Egyptian pyramids.

Lari’s Top Ten:

10. Ba Ham Lake in Halong Bay

9. Cu Chi tunnels were much more than I expected

8. Hoi An village, very picturesque

7. Grand Palace in Bangkok

6. Overnight train ride to Sapa was a big adventure… good fun!

5. Foot massages & body massages

4. The delicious food in every country that was very cheap

3. Old Quarter of Hanoi city

2. Angkor Wat and Angko Thom in Siem Reap, Cambodia

1. Halong Bay overnight cruise on the Junk

Posted February 10, 2010 by lariyasui in Asia

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