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My Trip to Thailand and Vietnam 2019

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Jack is retired. Before retiring, he worked at IBM for over 28 years. His articles have over 120,000 views.

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Introduction

Our one trip oversea in 2019 is to Bangkok, Thailand and to Hanoi, Vietnam. This vacation was extra enjoyable since all my 3 adult children were able to join us for part of this trip. This is my first visit to both of these countries. It was an educational experience as well as being an enjoyable experience seeing the landscape and cityscape.

- Nov. 2019

A Detour...

Before we even started our vacation, we experienced a major setback. The day we were suppose to leave for our flight on China Southern to Bangkok, I made a huge mistake. I miss read or departure time. Instead of 3 am, we arrived around 3 pm for our flight out of JFK. This was on Saturday and the counter was closed. All the local phone number for China Southern were down. They are only manned from 9-5pm M- F. In order to rebook our flight, we had to call the customer service desk in mainland China. After much attempts, we finally reached the support desk and they try and rebook us on the next flight but we would need to pay a $200 fee plus the differential in ticket price. It amounted to $500 per person. Moreover, they would not accept any credit card payment from a US based bank. They insisted it must be from a bank in China. This forced us to cancel our flights all together. There was a cancellation fee of $300. Luckily, we were able to find another flight on Cathy Pacific that was reasonable in price. We were on our way the next morning.

The moral of the story, never book any flights from mainland China. You will not be able to make any changes to your flight plan.

Bangkok

Our trip took us to Bangkok, Thailand for the first 5 days. This trip was arranged as part of a Chinese Women Business Conference. We have joined them in the past for a tour of Taiwan and this year it is held in Bangkok. We stayed at an excellent hotel in downtown which is large enough to accommodate a group of 700. Besides the tour, there were a few days of conference talks with excellent speakers. This year's keynote speech was about the 5G technology that is coming down the road and how it would be a game changer.

Because of the snafu with the airline, we were delayed a day and a half in getting to the hotel. Never the less, we were able to participate in the main event and the rest of the tours.


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Rest of Tour...Thailand

The tour was well organized.

My Observations...

Thailand is a modern city by any measure. It suffers from many of the problems such as traffic congestion, and pollution and over population.

The driver drives on the right as they do in the UK. They have a lot of motor scooters on the road. They also have extreme power lines.

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Hanoi

The weather here is much cooler than Bangkok. About 10 degrees F and it made all the difference. You can walk around without getting all sweaty. We stayed at a hotel downtown and were able to walk to most of the sights. One particular interesting spot was a memorial where John McCain was shot down during the Vietnam war.

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Halong Bay Cruise

We booked an over night trip to Halong Bay on a cruise ship. It was a wonderful experience. There was a full dining room and excellent hotel like sleeping quarters with all the amenities and spacious space and a full glass view of the bay. The ship is modern with a bar, a pool and a mini golf area and a sun deck for lounging.

The cruise included a kayaking side trip to see some caves. We were told there are over 180 islands that were created million of years ago from rising volcanos. The staff was very attentive and efficient. There is even a tai chi exercise class at sunrise.

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Shopping...

One of the surprise is discovering the shopping near downtown Hanoi. There are numerous shops with clothing and bags and silk items at very reasonable prices. The items are of high quality and yet much below cost. Here is one example of a Goyard bag that cost $60. It retailed for $2950 on the web.

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Hotel

we were very lucky to have booked a hotel right down town. It urned out to be an excellent choice. It was close to shopping and restaurants. The staff was very friendly and helpful. The hotel included a full breakfast. It also had a sister building a block away with a full restaurant and a roof bar. The night scene was beautiful from there.

The price was also very reasonable. A typical room was $70 per night.

Here is my review on Tripadvisor. I gave them 5 stars rating.

General Impressions...

Hanoi is a large city of 10 million population. It has traffic congestion that matches Beijing China. They have a large number of motorcycles in addition to cars buses and bicycles. Despite the congestion, and the lack of rules, they seems to work. Everyone takes it in stride. Very little accidents or hot tempered arguments. Some motorcycles even carry 4 people, a whole family. They extended the seat so that a father and mother and 2 children can all fit.The food is amazing. It is mostly made with simple fresh ingredients and very tasty and full of fragrances.

The variety of tropical fruits is also very appealing. Coffee Is very big here in Hanoi. Almost every block will contain several cafes and they are open late into the night. There is also a popular night market on weekends.

The people in general are young and hardworking and friendly. They love Americans.

To my surprise, they did not hold the war against us. Perhaps it was a generation ago.

A Day Tour...

We took a day tour to Bai Dinh Pagoda and Trang An. This was about a two hour ride south of Hanoi City. The tour guide gave us a history of the region. The Pagoda is the tallest in Southeast Asia. I was disappointed that we were not allowed to go up. Apparently it is only for show. What was impressive is the rows of live size Buddha statues that lined the walk way on the way to the Main Temple. We were told there are a total of 500 statues each one unique and named and numbers. There are over 10,000 smaller Buddhas in little cubicles that were donated by various people. The grounds is massive. We had to take a tram from the parking lot to the gate.

Trang An is a world cultural and natural Heritage complex. It has many mountains and limestone towers and rivers. Part of the tour includes a two hour boat ride where a women rower rows up to four people on this simple boat. Make sure you being a foam padding because 2 hours sitting on a hard surface is not pleasant. The scenery is fantastic filled with rock formations, caves, and fauna and an occasional temple.

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Only Dish On the Menu - About $7 UD

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Very Tasty and Fresh

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Video Montage By Eric Lee

Summary

We had a wonderful experience on this trip. We visited two different countries and enjoyed learning about the various cultures and customs and sample the foods. I am especially glad to visit Hanoi and seeing how they are thriving despite the long war with the US back in the 1960s. They are doing well economically under a communist government. They still have many issues with pollution and traffic but they are doing well and the people are friendly and kind and welcoming.

This content is accurate and true to the best of the author’s knowledge and is not meant to substitute for formal and individualized advice from a qualified professional.

© 2019 Jack Lee

Comments

Eric Dierker from Spring Valley, CA. U.S.A. on November 24, 2019:

I was a simple man but hired to negotiate a contract with the government to open up their internet I took two weeks so I was employed to teach marketing there. How wonderful of a city it is. My driver was awesome and showed me the sights.

Doing business in the "palace" was a trip. Thanks for reminding of the memory.

Liz Westwood from UK on November 23, 2019:

This is an interesting and well-illustrated article. I was horrified at your flight issue. I had a friend who once missed a long haul flight by getting the wrong date. It cost more to rebook the single leg than the return trip had cost originally.

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