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Thursday, December 21, 2017

Vietnam, Laos, and Cambodia (Days 39 & 40) The Finish Line!

Vietnam, Laos, Cambodia - Reaching the Finish Line! 


We arrived at our day of departure and guess what we did? Yeah, not much other than chillax and celebrate the conclusion of our epic adventure with final bowls of pho, final toasts (final lychee martinis) to a great trip success, and final dips in the pool.


I did change it up a bit. I had a Passion Paradise. Don't worry, I still had a Lychee Martini. Or, 2. Maybe, it was 3.




We had a late flight departure, so I had pre-arranged a day rate with the hotel. They had indicated that if they were not full, we could stay in our room without extra charge. I didn't want to chance it, so I went ahead and reserved the guaranteed booking.


We had to scale down to just the one room.



It eventually came time to leave so we headed out to the lobby to look for our transfer from Hanoi Transfer Service, which I had pre-booked and paid. There was a little confusion as the hotel staff insisted that we take their arranged transportation. Once we realized it wasn't HTS, we got our luggage back and then noticed a guy that had been shooed away several times by the hotel staff. I guess they thought him "sketchy", but he turned out to be our driver. Boy, was he annoyed. He appeared to vent it all out on a phone call though while we made our way to the airport. No worries though as he wasn't mad at us - whew!

We arrived and checked into the near empty airport.  It was all rather chill and we killed time wandering. Both flights were pretty easy peasy, especially since they were the exact same ones in reverse (connecting in Narita).
Sleep pods are genius!

There goes the neighborhood!

So, to wrap things up - I witnessed something truly amazing on the way home that I want to share. I saw the sun rise on Aug 3rd TWICE!!! No joke!!! I took a pic of the first one on our first flight as we came into Japan the morning of Aug 3rd. I caught my second sunrise of Aug 3rd on the 2nd flight after crossing the international date line somewhere over the Pacific Northwest. My heart soared as my mind processed what I was seeing. I've also included travel pics of Rob's new obsession - Japanese toilets. He can't stop talking about the toilet at the airport that he must find and get installed at home (as I'm telling him about my double sunrise wonder *sigh*). Anyways, it's good to be back home sweet home.

August 3rd Sunrise #1.

Rob's new obsession.

Music đŸŽ¶ too. So many options.

August 3rd Sunrise #2.

WE ARE HOME! We did it. We really did it!!! 6 weeks, 3 countries, 9 flights, 18+ accommodations, so many adventures. I cannot believe how smoothly this epic trip went considering how easily things could have gone wrong. We were so fortunate in so many ways with regards to health (injury/illness-free with bandaids to spare), weather (2 major tropical storms that we managed to dodge) and just overall quality of experiences (tours booked blindly fingers-crossed off the Internet).  Did I leave enough info for you all to plan your Vietnam, Laos, and Cambodia trip? Hahahahaha. 

Up Next: (Of course, there's an Up Next) :) Road Trippin Mexico

Vietnam (Days 37 & 38) Winding Down

Welcome to the shortest post of our 40 day trip :)

We couldn't even be bothered to leave the hotel our last couple of days. We did see the boat shuttle take guests to city center, so if you are staying here it is very convenient.



Rob rented a pedal bike and explored the local neighborhood. I felt a little guilty that we didn't join him, but quickly got over it with another lychee martini. He came back saying it was a nice neighborhood, but not much in the street scene. I was amazed he didn't come back hands full of shopping bags and another piece of luggage.


I didn't want to over exert myself before the long journey home. You know, the one where I would need all my energy to do nothing but watch movies, sleep, and basically chill for a gazillion hours.

We may or may not have entertained thoughts of "missing" our flight home. Do you think we journeyed home smoothly and without mishaps? Do you think we extended our stay? Are we still in Vietnam?


Wednesday, December 20, 2017

Vietnam (Day 36) Tunnel Rats


Tunnel Rats! Our last tour of the trip, we took advantage of our riverfront location to cruise by speedboat to see the famous Cu Chi Tunnels historical site, a vast network of underground passageways built and used by the Viet Cong to evade detection as they moved troops and supplies throughout Saigon's northern district. We toured with Les Rives which advertises luxury speedboat experiences on the river.


Our cruise included a breakfast, but of course, we had to have a breakfast before our breakfast :)


We met our guide in the lobby of the hotel and then walked down to the hotel's pier to board this gorgeous boat. Les Rives was pricey, but the cost is reflected in the VIP quality of experience. 

The river cruise was just so darn relaxing. We really enjoyed each and every one of our adventures on the waterways of Vietnam, Laos, and Cambodia this trip. 


Of course, we found room in our full bellies for the breakfast of banh mi, fresh fruit, and coffee. After cruising in style, we arrived at the pier and exited the boat for a short walk to the tourist site. I loved that there were no wheels involved with this excursion!

Les Rives provides their own guides for the Cu Chi Tunnels site and they aim for a more intimate small group tour that avoids the other tour groups and crowds. We followed our guides and learned fascinating tales of history and Vietnamese ingenuity.


The resourceful guerrilla fighters dug these tunnels that were used to provide comms, supplies, hospitals, food and weapon caches and living quarters.





It was crazy wild exploring the tunnel site and seeing booby trap exhibits, navigating the tunnels, visiting different underground bunkers (kitchens, meeting rooms, ammunitions, etc.), B-52 bomb crater, a firing range and much more. 








The term "tunnel rat" refers to American soldiers who worked in the Cu Chi tunnels during the Vietnam War. They used the term "black echo" to describe the experience of being in the tunnels. I was the only one to make it through the entire length of the 100m tunnel as Rob and the girls exited early overwhelmed crawling the first section of the very dark, VERY small opening. 


This tunnel has been widened and lit (and cleared daily of insects) to accommodate tourists. I can't imagine going through, let alone living in the original tunnel. 


By the end, it was just me and another couple. We felt like superstars when we successfully emerged at the end. 







It is hard to appreciate the full scale of the tens of thousands of miles of tunnels, including this network (which covers 250km and is now a memorial park and a popular tourist destination).

At the shooting range (Vietnam War era weapons), we wanted to fire the AK-47 or M-60, but were told that they were out of bullets. One more time for the people in the back, the SHOOTING range ran out of BULLETS. What? I know. We ordered up and paid for our bullets for the handgun and headed down to the range. 






We got to fire some old ordinary handgun that was MOUNTED down. Hahahahah, okay, I get it. Tourists. Of all backgrounds. Safety first. It was still funny to me. But, I also shot my first gun when I was 5 years old. 





Caitlin was sooo disappointed when she was told she couldn't shoot at all and had to wait with Molly off-range with the guide, probably a good thing as the bullets were very expensive. 


Really cool - the flip flop was shaped to look like the wearer was walking in the opposite direction (reverse-facing).


B52 crater all overgrown now.


Smoke from the above kitchen vented out away to an entirely different area as seen below.


Sampling of the foods eaten. Not bad, maybe I was just getting hungry. Kids didn't care for it.


At the end of the tour, we had to sit through a very anti-American 30-minute propaganda film. Our guide told us to get up and leave if we felt like it. Rob was so fascinated by the film. Our guide actually gathered us and had us exit early. It seemed like they are obligated bring everyone here for a viewing. 


We then headed to lunch at the restaurant onsite. OHMYGAWD, it was one of our best lunches of the trip. I don't know if it is standard for all the tourists or if Les Rives arranged something special, but I drool remembering the many delicious dishes. Seriously, so many dishes. After stuffing ourselves silly, we returned back to the boat and settled in completely satisfied to be cruising back oh so very comfortably oh so in style.

We were thrilled to simply be dropped off at the hotel pier walking mere steps to the poolside bar. Awesome!  

This tour was incredibly well run and I highly recommend it, especially if you are staying riverfront. It was the perfect wrap-up excursion. I booked it in advance using their website and there is a discounted price for kids.


We decided to keep it simple after spending our afternoon hours at the pool and enjoyed a lovely river side dinner at the hotel.


In the middle of dinner, we looked up and saw the pinkest sunset of our lives. We abandoned (temporarily) our meal to take pics! 





Up Next: Last Days in Saigon