- Halong Bay,
- Ho Chi Minh City,
- Siem Reap,
Patt and I plan to meet up with Kate in Saigon, to Phom Phen, Siem Reap, Hanoi and back down. 2 week trip. Plan on catching a birding trip in Cambodia.
Viroth's Hotel, Cambodia
Tel: 855 63 761 720
FCC Angkor, Cambodia
Siem Reap, Cambodia
Tel: 855 63 760 280
The FCCwhich stands for Foreign Correspondents Clubis probably the best deal in town. Set in the grounds of a former French ambassador's vacation home along the west bank of the Siem Reap River, it's a very pleasant mix of colonial and contemporary styles. The main building is a breezy two-story structure that houses the very popular restaurant and several boutique shops. The 31 modern rooms are simple but elegant, with polished concrete floors, modernist furniture, and open airy bathrooms.
Cha Ca La Vong, Vietnam
Tel: 4 825 3929
This bare-bones eatery in the Old City market district has been around for more than a century. The service is monosyllabic and there are no napkins, only plastic-wrapped wipes. There is no menu, either, because the place serves only one dish. But that one dishfried fishis absolutely delicious. Each set of two to four diners gets a miniature charcoal brazier with a skillet filled with sizzling pieces of fish, tinted with turmeric. While the fish cooks, diners toss basil, dill, cilantro, and scallions into the pan then anoint the fish with various piquant condiments. The fish comes with sides of rice noodles and crushed peanuts. Beer and soft drinks are available.
See + Do
The Perfume Pagoda, Vietnam
The Perfume Pagoda, said to be named after the spring blossoms that scent the air around it, is one of the most important Buddhist sites in Vietnam. Every spring after the Vietnamese New Year, thousands of pilgrims come here to pray for health and prosperity. Part of a complex of temples built on limestone cliffs, the Pagoda is a two-hour drive from Hanoi, followed by a one-and-a-half-hour boat ride and a one- to two-hour walk up the mountain. Various operators offer day tours, covering transportation and entry fees (ask at the tourist office or your hotel).
See + Do
The limestone pillars of Thailand's Phang Nga Bay may have gotten the screen time in The Man With the Golden Gun, but for sheer spectacle, nothing compares to the sublime pinnacles of Halong Bay, 100 miles east of Hanoi. Many of the bay's 1,600 limestone islands and isletsthe world's most extensive karst seascapeare part of a protected 580-square-mile UNESCO World Heritage Site. Cruises are the best way to appreciate the bay and the fantastically shaped formations that erupt from the South China Sea. Dozens of companies offer daylong tours from Halong City; splurge for a longer trip and spend two or three days exploring. There are numerous sea caves and grottoes as well as the primeval Cat Ba Island, where a national park protects habitat for one of the world's rarest primates, the golden-headed langur. The most comfortable way to cruise the seas is on the 38-cabin floating palace operated by Emeraude Classic Cruises (59A Ly Thai To St., Hanoi; 84-4-934-0888; www.emeraude-cruises.com). Although the design replicates that of a French paddle steamer that sailed these very waters a century earlier, you'll get the full round of modern conveniences, from sunrise tai chi classes to sea kayaks to evening movie screenings on the open-air "star deck.'' With working sails to augment its engines, the junk-style Halong Ginger offers more rustic luxury (84-4-984-2807; www.cruisehalong.com).
Cool, misty weather swathes Halong from February to April; depending on your taste, this can make the bay a bust, or even more magical. Check your boat company's cancellation policy; in the summer and fall, storms and typhoons can prompt authorities to temporarily close the bay.
Ho Chi Minh City, Vietnam
Tel: 84 8 822 0496
Tucked away on a side street just a block from the Opera House and Lam Son Square, this 80-seat restaurant serves a mix of locals, expats, and tipped-off travelers. The cozy dining roomtile floors, wood wainscotingis attractive, and success hasn't spoiled the experience: The southern Vietnamese fare remains fresh and affordable. Don't miss the grilled-beef salad with mango, or chicken sautéed with chile and lemongrass. The waitstaff is sometimes stymied by the narrow, three-story layoutsecond-floor seating will ensure the best service. Reservations are recommended for dinner, which is more of a local affair than lunch.
Open daily 11 am to 2 pm and 5 to 10 pm.