Oct 092006

The field of scientific research in the DPRK successfully conducted an underground nuclear test under secure conditions on October 9, 2006, at a stirring time when all the people of the country are making a great leap forward in the building of a great, prosperous, powerful socialist nation… It will contribute to defending the peace and stability on the Korean Peninsula and in the area around it.

Riiiight… That’s exactly what it will do, Kim.

Apr 282006

As this post shows up, Anna and I will be sitting on a train, headed to LAX. After we arrive and get settled, we will spend 18 hours smashed together in a plane, plus some downtime between flights (LAX->Taipei->Bangkok->Siem Reap). I can’t say I’m looking forward to that part of this vacation.

Here is our rough itinerary for the next two weeks:

Siem Reap, Cambodia from Sunday 30th at 4 PM – Thursday May 4th at 5 PM (Weather forecast) Most of the focus of this stage of the trip will be on Angkor, a massive city/temple complex near the town of Siem Reap. I’m expecting we will eventually get over-templed and explore the rest of the town & nearby countryside.

Saigon (Ho Chi Minh City), Vietnam from Thursday May 4th at 6 PM – Tuesday May 9th at 9 AM (Weather forecast) We will probably spend most of our time exploring the city, wandering around places like Cholon (Chinatown). I expect we will try to do at least a day trip to the Mekong Delta and maybe Vang Tau (beaches) if we have time.

Hanoi, Vietnam from Tuesday May 9th at noon – Sat May 13 at noon. (Weather forecast) Hanoi should be an interesting city to explore, I’m looking forward to it. We are planning to spend some time in Halong Bay, but aren’t quite sure how we want to do it – kayak vs. junk, number of days, etc.

I am getting giddy.

Mar 132006

FedEx should be picking up our package to the San Francisco Consulate General of Vietnam in a couple hours. Unlike Cambodia, there is no mechanism to get a travel visa on arrival (airport visa). Vietnam requires sending in an application form with a recent photo, your passport, $45, and a prepaid return envelope.

Our flight tickets are purchased, time off is scheduled. We are committed. Our final itinerary after travel time (of which there is a considerable amount) is roughly four days in each Siem Reap, Saigon, and Hanoi.

Siem Reap – Most people know this tourist town by way of the temple complex a few KM away, Angkor Wat & friends. I’m not sure if 4 days here will be too much. I’m not worried about seeing it all, the place is so massive I’m sure we will barely make a dent, but I’m wondering if we will get temple-burnout. In any case, I think a day trip somewhere else would be easy enough to arrange. Time will tell.

Saigon aka Ho Chi Minh – I’m familiar with my history, and don’t want to visit the war museums, or the tunnels. Needless to say, its not what I’m there for. I’m hoping to spend a good portion of time wandering around city and people watching. There are some amazing opportunities to visit other spots if we can tear ourselves away from the city – Mekong delta and the highlands are going to be long, but amazing day trips.

Ha Noi – Ditto as above, but I believe Hanoi also has some decent art & history museums as well as local temple sites. I wish we had some more time here, as I suspect we will only have a couple days in the city. We will probably spend the other two days in Halong Bay – ideally with some deck time, kayaking, and snorkeling. There would have been a number of great multi-day trips from Ha Noi (Sa Pa, south highlands, etc) but we simply won’t have the time. All the more reason for more trips, right?

Mar 012006

It looks like Anna and I will be visiting Siem Reap (Angkor, Cambodia) and Vietnam in early May. Initially we were going to do a tour to Angkor, then just travel on our own through Vietnam. However the cost of the tour + flights to Saigon, Hanoi, and back to Siem Reap were about $400 more than flights going from LAX->Siem Reap->Saigon->Hanoi->LAX. The relatively low travel cost in these countries made that extra money seem like a lot to spend. Doing it from the tour would have also meant more travel time overall. So.. Flight package it is.

It looks like our itinerary will be something like this: 4 days in Siem Reap (Angkor), 4 days in Saigon, 3 days in Hanoi, 2 in Halong Bay. Anyone who has traveled in these countries is probably screaming “not enough time!” I know, but there never is. I have two weeks to spend. I’d like to spend them here. There are many other places in the world to visit, but I feel a sense of urgency about these countries.

Much like Peru, I see Cambodia and Vietnam as very changed by tourism in the last decade, but posed for even greater infrastructure and cultural changes as they become tourist destinations. It is already too late in some respects – 4 star resorts and all that jazz. I know from my experience at Machu Picchu that my enjoyment of ruins in particular is directly related to how much free space I have to roam. Selfish? Of course. I hope we can avoid some of the rush by going in a lower season – its going to be hot, and it will be just before the summer break. Angkor is also a very large area, so I hope there will still be many opportunities to explore away from the crowds. Time will tell.