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Asia » Vietnam » Central Highlands
October 30th 2016
Published: June 7th 2020
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30 Oct – 14 Nov’ 2016

Leave at 11.30 am (SIN) Terminal 3 - (HAN) Terminal 2 – Depart 13:05 hrs – arrive 15:25 hrs Hanoi Paradise Boutique hotel – Deluxe room – http://www.paradiseboutiquehotel.com/ Located in the iconic Old Quarter of Hanoi is Paradise Boutique Hotel. A short walk to Hoan Kiem Lake and Hanoi Opera House,

(31 Oct 2016) HANOI ARRIVAL (D)nFlight - n Vietnam Airlines VN 662 from Singapore 13:05 hrs- to Hanoi 15:25 hrs Welcome to Hanoi, the 1,000 year old capital of Vietnam ! Arrival at Hanoi Airport: private transfer to your hotel by our tour guide. Afternoon you visit Hoan Kiem Lake, Ngoc Son Temple. Attend 1-hour water puppet show, a living portrait of Vietnamese history and culture. Welcome Indian dinner & Overnight in Hanoi.
Oct 31 2016



Landed at Hanoi at 4 in the evening and as we landed my thoughts were of landing on a private airstrip in a village. It hardly seemed the capital of a country. Village- not in terms of backwardness but in terms of non urbanised look of landscape.
Hanoi , the Capital , is actually two words - “Ha” and “Noi”. Ha means 'river' and Noi means 'inner'. Ha noi therefore means "Rivers Inner", so called because it is located between the Red River and Nhue River. As we drove to the old city , crossing the bridge over the red river, the village turned into a bustling city with its share of traffic, but for a nation so poor and underdeveloped , the roads and bridges put India to shame!
The old city is like a clean, civilised, lively chandani Chowk !
The lake at the centre is beautifully lit with youth thronging its circular road around it dressed in latest outfits and pulsating with energy!
Our hotel is right at the centre of this happening place but we had just 15 min to throw our luggage into it before we rushed across to see the water puppet show at a theatre nearby.
It was real cute and it's 5 shows a day are all house full !
Though I wanted to loaf around more after dinner but we had two tired men who wanted to catch up on sleep and tomorrow is an exciting long day so we left the markets to close down without our good night and I sleep now to dream about those gorgeous paintings and embroidery I glanced at in the markets but was not given the time to touch any!
Hanoi has a positive feel to it!



01 Nov - HANOI – HALONG – OVERNIGHT ON JUNK BOAT. Group tour by shuttle bus and drive through the Red River Delta to Ha Long Bay, taking around 3.5 hours. The beautiful countryside, takes us through local farming life and villages. Upon arrival at Ha Long, we board our deluxe junk for a delicious seafood lunch while our Junk is cruising around hundreds of wonderful limestone formations arising from emerald green water. After lunch we have the chance to explore one of the wonderful limestone caves dotted around the bay like “Sung Sot” Amazing Cave. We continue cruising to a secluded spot for swimming and sunbathing before dinner. Enjoy another seafood meal for dinner.

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Overnight on the Halong junk.



Halong Bay was a Super overnight trip from Hanoi. Scrumptious food, changing landscapes and luxurious surroundings made it a happy day. The caves of stalagmites and stalactite were one of the seven natural wonders of the world. Educative to seethe fishermen at work and good fun to row boats with the fishermen. The photos tell rest of the story!



(2 Nov 2016) HALONG BAY – HANOI – FLIGHT TO HO CHI MINH CITY (B,L) – Group tour
Wake up, enjoy fresh atmosphere on one of the Worlds Natural Heritage Sites Halong Bay. After breakfast, our chef teaches you how to decorate dishes with flowers made by vegetables and fruits or roots while cruising around the bay and back to habour. Lunch on the junk.
After lunch, get on shuttle bus and return to Ha Noi. Short-break enroute in Hai Duong city for refreshment around 20 minutes. Arrive Ha Noi at approx 17.00. Drop you off at your hotel.
At 18.00. Private transfer with our driver to Hanoi airport for your onwards flight to Ho Chi Minh (South Vietnam). After 2-hour flight, you meet our driver at Ho Chi Minh airport. Transfer to your hotel to check in. Overnight in Ho Chi Minh city.
Nov 2, 2016

Hanoi is quite a charming place preserving the old quarters and making way for modern living in the suburbs. In spite of the modern dressing, outlook and living , the traditions are kept Alive by the young . Their religion is ancestor worship - so respect for the elderly is great. Today we left Hanoi to go to Halong Bay. The journey of 4 hrs is by a mini bus and was a nice introduction to Hanoi, since last evening we only saw the core of it. It is famous for numerous rivers, lakes, and mountains in the surroundings. It has green lands full of streams, rivers, and mountain, such as Tam Dao, And some more more or pronounceable names , but the taste of cool and fresh air is dessert to the soul!
As I am writing this in the bus we just had a stopover at one of the art centres. What amazing stone work and thread work! Vietnamese women have magical fingers to create such intricate embroidery! The landscape is diverse and interspersed with small towns , people are hard working , peaceful and happy.

(3 Nov 2016) HO CHI MINH CITY TOUR – CU CHI TUNNELS (B,L)
In the morning, you start the private trip by visiting Notre Dame Cathedral, the historic Central Post Office, followed by exploring the Reunification Palace, where witnessed the end of Vietnam War on 30-Apr-1975. Enjoy buffet lunch at “Ganh” Palace restaurant.
Afternoon you visit Cu Chi tunnels, 60km from the city center. Cu Chi is now a popular spot for both Vietnamese & foreign tourists - the network of over 200km of tunnels became legendary when they played a vital role in the War. In their heyday, the tunnels were functioning underground cities including numerous trap doors, specially constructed living areas, storage facilities, weapons factories, field hospitals, command centers & kitchens.
Today, ducks and water buffalos happily co-exist in the rivers along the side of the road. However, the peaceful rural rice paddy scenery belies the area’s violent history. Visitors will find it hard to imagine the destruction, damage & defoliation over this whole area, caused by bombing and mines. There is plenty of evidence of the fierce battle that took place here during the 1960s when Cu Chi was a "Free Target Zone".
Start our tour in the morning, before entering the tunnels visitors can watch a short introductory video showing how the tunnels were constructed. You will spend the next hour exploring the tunnels. Afterwards, enjoy tea, cassava (guerrilla’s food during the war). Return to your hotel. Overnight in Ho Chi Minh city.

03 Nov HO CHI MINH CITY TOUR – CU CHI TUNNELS Morning, private trip visit Notre Dame Cathedral, the Central Post Office, explore the Reunification Palace, - the end of Vietnam War on 30 Apr’1975. Afternoon visit Cu Chi tunnels, 60 km from the city. Cu Chi - the network of over 200 km of tunnels legendary - vital role in the War. Tunnels were functioning underground cities. During the 1960s Cu Chi was a "Free Target Zone". An hour exploring the tunnels. enjoy tea, cassava (guerrilla’s food during the war). Overnight in HCM.



HCM City, formerly Saigon is a much more happening city than Hanoi. Malls, markets, multi-storey buildings but crazy traffic!
It took us an hour to reach the Cu Chi village which was the epicentre of the Vietnam war.
Cu Chi tunnels are a salute to the resilience on Man. After Auschwitz
this had the greatest impact on my mind. What human beings can do to protect their land and what human beings can do to appease their hunger for power are the two aspects of Mankind you marvel at , when you visit this place! Vietnamese people seem such happy peaceful timid people that you can't imagine their tenacity in the war against the Americans and the Americans who seem to be torch bearers of democracy in the world can't be imagined as this brutal force that would turn a harmless group of people into such ferocious fighters.
The Cu Chi tunnels are a masterpiece of planning, strategy, and dedication of the guerrilla warriors which brought a mighty giant like America to its knees!
It is heartening to see the peace come back to this region and I think Buddhism has a lot to do with the tranquillity we see on the faces of Vietnamese people
I tried to go into one of the tunnels made for tourists that is much wider and shorter than the actual tunnels they used - had to abandon the brave thought midway and grope my way back gasping for breath !
How they managed to stay there for years is a miracle! 120 km of tunnels at three levels under ground at 5ft, 12ft and 18 ft with Booby traps, snakes, scorpions in the tunnels and bombing, roaring tanks on top - to live there for over ten years- cook, make weapons, Marry, have children and still remain sane enough to rebuild a life after it is over, to forgive your tormentors - needs strength of character. I salute this race for that!
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4 Nov 2016 HO CHI MINH – MY THO – BEN TRE 1 DAY EXCURSION (MEKONG DELTA) (B,L) – Group tour
Leave Ho Chi Minh city, enjoy the scenic journey along the way bordered by green rice fields. On arrived at My Tho, visit Vinh Trang pagoda, take a leisurely boat ride along the river, view stilt houses, fruit plantations and fishing villages along the river bank. Proceed to Tortoise islet, have lunch in the orchard garden. Then a boat ride to An Khanh – a less touristy attraction in Ben Tre, enjoy cruising on a hand-rowed sampan under the shade of the water coconut trees along natural canals, then enjoy seasonal fruit & honey tea to the sound of "Southern Vietnamese folk music", performed by the locals. Visit a family business which epitomizes the idyllic rural lifestyle, taste delicious coconut candy & observe the pastoral life as you roam through fruit plantations and villages. Return to your hotel in Ho Chi Minh city.
After the Cu Chi tunnels nothing can impress you much. The Cathedral, reunification palace and the other buildings tourists are taken to, are passable. It is better to just get the feel of the city on your own - just roaming around.
The tunnels are a MUST SEE!
People said its like Paris! - nothing like it - though a nice city for a nation that has risen from the ashes!



The second day in HCM City was a nice relaxing tour to the Mekong River - boat ride to small islands to experience life in Vietnam and a pagoda visit - an essential on a vietnam visit- and we were on the way to Cambodia our next destination. We take back sweet memories of the warm hearted Vietnamese people who are content with the little they have, no rat race for possessions , laid back and no rancour for their past - for a country that was so war ridden till 1975, it shows amazing resilience !



5 Nov 2016) HO CHI MINH – FLIGHT TO SIEM REAP (B,D)
Breakfast. Morning private transfer with our driver from your hotel to Ho Chi Minh airport. Take your onwards flight to Siem Reap, the city of wonders of Cambodia kingdom.
On arrival at Siem Reap International Airport, meet our guide and you will transfer direct to check in at hotel. This evening, enjoy buffet dinner with Apsara Dance Show. Overnight at hotel.

(6 Nov 2016) ANGKOR TEMPLE TOURS (B,L)
08:30am - Start your visit to the World Heritage Site; visit the South Gate of Angkor Thom which is famous for its series of colossal human faces carved in stone, the impressive Bayon Temple, the Royal Enclosure, Phimeanakas, the Elephant Terrace and the Terrace of the Leper King & see the jungle intertwined Ta Prohm, made famous in Angelina Jolie’s Tomb Raider movie. Ta Prohm, one of the popular temple in the area Take a leisurely stroll through this wondrous site, with giant fig and kapok trees strangling the ancient stonework in a photogenic interplay of man and nature.
Continue to seeing the architectural masterpiece of Angkor Wat. We stroll around this massive monument, exploring the many galleries with columns, libraries, pavilions, courtyards and ponds full of water reflecting the towering temple. This evening, explore the Night Market at your own. Overnight in Siem Reap.
06 Nov 2016 The airport of Siem Reap is a delightful pagoda style sprawling building- an alluring welcome to the country by each one bowing and folding their hands to say Namaste. Women here have grace in every cell of their bodies!
We were eager to explore the city as soon as we settled into the charming hotel. Hired a Tuk Tuk a quaint transport pulled by a motor cycle , it is ideal to go around the city. Got a good introduction to the town before we went in for dinner and an Apsara dance show.Delightful evening !

(7 Nov 2016) TONLE SAP LAKE – KAMPONG PHLUCK – ANGKOR NATIONAL MUSEUM (B,L)
Morning - we drive to visit Kampong Phluk Floating Village, located at 16 km at north-south of Siem Reap. The villages are primarily Khmer and have about 3000 inhabitants between them. Flooded mangrove forest surrounds the area and is home to a variety of wildlife including crab-eating macaques. During the dry season when the lake is low (March – July), the buildings in the villages seem to soar atop their 6-meter stilts exposed by the lack of water. At this time of year many of the villagers move out onto the lake and build temporary houses. In the wet season when water level rises (Aug – February), the villagers move back to their permanent houses on the floodplain, the stilts now hidden under the water. Kampong Phluk's economy is, as one might expect, based in fishing, primary in shrimp harvesting.
Lunch at local restaurant.
This afternoon, visit Angkor National Museum, learn about “the Legend Revealed” and see how the Khmer Empire has been established during the golden period and end your day by visiting the Killing Fields at Wat Thmey, get to know some information about Khmer Rouge Regime or called the year of Zero (1975 – 1979) where over 2 million of Khmer people has been killed.


Nov 7, 2016,


Today was another enriching day . I feel blessed to be able to visit such wonders in the world and share my experiences with friends who have yet to travel these parts of the world and bring back memories to friends who already have been here.
Angkor Wat is supposed to be the world's largest religious building! Believed it - with the sores on my feet after the tour! With 3000 apsaras carved on the walls, each one unique , the Vishnu sculptures and its ties with Hinduism, it is very enticing for people from India It is supposed to be a miniature replica of the universe.
There are three levels -depicting hell, Earth and heaven, and to reach heaven your knees shed a lot of tears but the soul smiles as you traverse the corridors in the four directions to travel back to the first age of human creation- as the four sides represent the four Yugs . I attained spiritual heights today!
Though this temple cum mausoleum dates back to the 12th century it is quite well preserved.
The next temple we visited was the Bayon temple, the huge towers of which are etched with faces of Buddha in various expressions and where enchanting bas-reliefs depict ordinary Khmer life rather than Hindu gods.
The third temple is better known as the place where Tomb Raiders was shot and is amazing because of the 260-300 year old trees whose roots form the base of the temple.
Overall it is worth coming to Cambodia for this tour of Angkor temples!
The evening at the night market and the pub street was fun and the feet Massage at one of the numerous massage parlours in the night market was a necessary luxury after the torture on the Poor feet the whole day!
Loved each moment of the day spent at Angkor Wat!





Overnight in Siem Reap.
(8 Nov 2016) SIEM REAP – FLIGHT TO LUANG PRABANG (B)
Breakfast and free leisure till private airport transfer (with driver only) for your departure for Luang Prabang.
After 2-hour flight, you arrive at Luang Prabang international airport. The UNESCO city welcomes you by a sunny but a bit cool due to the mountain weather. Arrival in Luang Prabang. Welcome by our tour guide to the spiritual capital of Laos. Overnight in Luang Prabang.<br style="mso-special-character: line-break;" /> <br style="mso-special-character: line-break;" />
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Our last day in Cambodia was full of action. Early morning we set off to see the river with thousand lingams at Phnom Kulen . A slight drizzle was a blessing in the hot humid weather and the drive through the thick jungle was refreshing. Though it is famous for the sculptural forms of images of Bramha, Vishnu, Lakshmi and many animal forms on river beds and thousands of Shiv Lingams, it disappoints you a bit on that front - the carvings are not as spectacular as one imagines them to be but considering that they have endured flowing water for over a thousand years... Yes they are amazing! Water that flows over such holy figures is bound to be revered but personally I was mesmerised by the twin waterfalls and the natural landscape of the place. The reclining Buddha statue at the temple on our way back was a wondrous sight too!

The Kampong Phluk floating village was another very enchanting sight. Built on stilts , surrounded by water they have schools, grocery stores, offices, workshops, community centres all floating on water .
The pub street on the night street is a pulsating place in the evening- music, street food, pubs, shops -
Cambodia offers free mining of gem stones and is known for its silver craftsmanship so shopping added to the charm of Cambodia.





Siem Reap to Luang Prang in Laos is not much of a distance but with three hopping flights it seems we were travelling the whole day!
What could have been a day wasted in flights turned out to be quite a fruitful day with our quick wise decision of exploring Vientenne in the 3 hr layover we had. We hired a cab and saw the three big Pagodas and the war memorial instead of waiting at the 2x2 airport. Got a feel of the city and thumped my back for choosing Luang Prang , the ancient Capital over Vientenne , the presentCapital for our 3 day trip. Vientenne seemed like a small Indian town rather than the Capital of a country.

45 min later as we descended to Luang Prabang , a picturesque town in the valley at the confluence of the Mekong and Nam Khan rivers , I Was overwhelmed by the landscape. The night market is a two minute walk from our hotel so strolled around in the market for an hour before calling it a day!





Impressions of Cambodia
The highlight of the visit is of course the Angkor wat but the country on the whole ,though under developed, poor, and without any glitz and glamour, comes across as a neat clean place with traditions well preserved. The roads have no pot holes, people make an honest living, it's safe and tourist friendly. Unfortunately education level is not high and people do not understand English very much but it's worth a visit for its rich culture and inter mingling of Hinduism with Buddhism that we can all relate to. Free Mining of gem stones and intricate silver work makes it attractive for shopping .
Weather is killing even inNov which is the best tourist season.
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Our last day in Cambodia was full of action. Early morning we set off to see the river with thousand lingams at Phnom Kulen . A slight drizzle was a blessing in the hot humid weather and the drive through the thick jungle was refreshing. Though it is famous for the sculptural forms of images of Bramha, Vishnu, Lakshmi and many animal forms on river beds and thousands of Shiv Lingams, it disappoin...
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Siem Reap to Luang Prang in Laos is not much of a distance but with three hopping flights it seems we were travelling the whole day!
What could have been a day wasted in flights turned out to be quite a fruitful day with our quick wise decision of exploring Vientenne in the 3 hr layover we had. We hired a cab and saw the three big Pagodas and the war memorial instead of waiting at the 2x2 airport. Got a feel of the city and thumped my back for choosing Luang Prang , the ancient Capital over Vientenne , the presentCapital for our 3 day trip. Vientenne seemed like a small Indian town rather than the Capital of a country.

45 min later as we descended to Luang Prabang , a picturesque town in the valley at the confluence of the Mekong and Nam Khan rivers , I Was overwhelmed by the landscape. The night market is a two minute walk from our hotel so strolled around in the market for an hour before calling it a day!

(9 Nov 2016) LUANG PRABANG CITY TOUR
Today, take a guided tour of Luang Prabang, a UNESCO World Heritage site. Your guide will pick you up from your hotel after breakfast.
Start at the former Royal Palace, now the National Museum, where you will explore the history of Laos. Continue on foot to Wat Mai, a temple renowned for its golden bas-relief, and Wat Sensoukarahm, which features a beautiful dazzling golden façade. Finish this morning’s tour at Wat Xieng Thong, the most revered temple in Luang Prabang. Located at the end of the peninsula, close to the Mekong, this temple was built in 1560 by King Setthathirat and is decorated with ornate carvings and mosaics.
Lunch at Tamarind. Run by an Australian woman and her Lao husband, they have created a fresh menu of Lao dishes and are dedicated to promoting a greater understanding of the local cuisine.
Following lunch, continue your tour of enchanting Luang Prabang. Visit Wat Visoun, the holiest temple of the city, which was entirely rebuilt in 1887 after being destroyed by the invading Black Flags from Southern China. In the courtyard of Wat Visoun stands the Watermelon Stupa shaped like the fruit from which it takes its name. Continue past Wat Aham, which was first built in the 1500s, and on to Wat That where the ashes of King Sisavang Vong are kept inside the large central stupa.
LuangPrang is a picturesque little town in the valley. The surrounding hills give it a very serene look. Monks and pagodas add to the serenity French villas , now turned into guest houses lend some class to the poor local population. It is a nice place to relax but to spend the airfare to come here and relax is not value for money. Comparable to Mahabaleshwar in India I wouldn't recommend it to come just for this. Though if you do Cambodia and Vietnam its worth a day or two.





(10 Nov 2016) LUANG PRABANG - PAK OU CAVES
After breakfast you will be transferred to a small pier on the banks of the Mekong River. You will then board a shared traditional wooden boat for a relaxing cruise on the mighty Mekong River. Enjoy stunning mountain scenery and witness the simple rural lifestyles which rely on the river as you make your way upstream for 1.5 – 2 hours.
You will reach Pak Ou caves at the confluence of the Mekong and Nam Ou Rivers In these 2 caves are displayed hundreds of sacred centuries-old Buddha images which are the object of pilgrimages during the Lao New Year festivities around mid April. The boat then keeps cruising in the vicinity of the caves and will moor during lunch time (your own account) at the foot of beautiful limestone cliffs. Cruise back to Luang Prabang and return in the early afternoon.
Luang prang redeemed itself today after our boat trip on the Nam Khan river . It has been raining since yesterday so we were not able to discover the beauty of Luang Prang. ( by the way the tongue twister means 'Royal Buddha' ) wondered why the lonely planet called it ' the last refuge of lovers and dreamers'
Today saw it in different light. It was misty, drizzling a bit and we reluctantly starte...



(11 Nov 2016) LUANG PRABANG - DEPARTURE (B)
Flight: Vietnam Airlines VN 930 Luang Prabang 19:10 – Hanoi 20:10 HAN
After your breakfast, your private transfer (with driver only) meet you at your hotel and transfer you to the airport for your departure.

The last day in Luang Prang started early to witness the ' Giving ceremony' before sunrise the local people and Buddhists line up the streets with their offerings of rice and food and when the gong sounds hundreds of monks go around the streets begging for food. This whole ceremony is a serene and a spiritual experience , one of the ' must see' in Laos !
After that we climbed 330 steps to mount Phousi to get a panoramic view of Luang Prang . It was a picture perfect scenery with the river meandering under small delicate bridges , neatly lined red roof houses nestled in the greenery , light cottonwool kind of clouds floating by, Champa trees lining pathways and the town of Luang Prabang cradled in the valley! A perfect morning! A bit of snooze, a short walk around the river and a Vietnamese lunch later , we left the town behind as it was slowly growing on our hearts , to board the flight to Hanoi for a night's rest before we ended this trip to this Beautiful region.
One more part of the world explored- very different to the Western countries, closer to India in its history and demography, nations not prosperous in terms of wealth but wealthy in terms of culture and heritage!
Loved the whole experience , the handicrafts , the colourful fabrics, the innocence and softness on the faces of young girls, the clean green environment , the rich heritage , peace, spirituality - these are the few things I take back with me to think of this visit with fondness!





11 nov
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Landed at Hanoi at 4 in the evening and as we landed my thoughts were of landing on a private airstrip in a village. It hardly seemed the capital of a country. Village- not in terms of backwardness but in terms of non urbanised look of landscape.
Hanoi , the Capital , is actually two words - “Ha” and “Noi”. Ha means 'river' and Noi means 'inner'. Ha noi therefore means "Rivers Inner", so called because it is located between the Red River and Nhue River. As we drove to the old city , crossing the bridge over the red river, the village turned into a bustling city with its share of traffic, but for a nation so poor and underdeveloped , the roads and bridges put India to shame!
The old city is like a clean, civilised, lively chandani Chowk !
The lake at the centre is beautifully lit with youth thronging its circular road around it dressed in latest outfits and pulsating with energy!
Our hotel is right at the centre of this happening place but we had just 15 min to throw our luggage into it before we rushed across to see the water puppet show at a theatre nearby.
It was real cute and it's 5 shows a day are all house full !
Though I wanted to loaf around more after dinner but we had two tired men who wanted to catch up on sleep and tomorrow is an exciting long day so we left the markets to close down without our good night and I sleep now to dream about those gorgeous paintings and embroidery I glanced at in the markets but was not given the time to touch any!
Hanoi has a positive feel to it!



Hanoi is quite a charming place preserving the old quarters and making way for modern living in the suburbs. In spite of the modern dressing, outlook and living , the traditions are kept Alive by the young . Their religion is ancestor worship - so respect for the elderly is great. Today we left Hanoi to go to Halong Bay. The journey of 4 hrs is by a mini bus and was a nice introduction to Hanoi, since last evening we only saw the core of it. It is famous for numerous rivers, lakes, and mountains in the surroundings. It has green lands full of streams, rivers, and mountain, such as Tam Dao, And some more more or pronounceable names , but the taste of cool and fresh air is dessert to the soul!
As I am writing this in the bus we just had a stopover at one of the art centres. What amazing stone work and thread work! Vietnamese women have magical fingers to create such intricate embroidery! The landscape is diverse and interspersed with small towns , people are hard working , peaceful and happy.



12 Nov - (HAN) - 07:45 hrs - Singapore(SIN) 3-11:55 hrs

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