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Cambodia and Vietnam

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Hocus Pocus's official short guide to Vietnam!

After planning on staying in Vietnam for two weeks, we ended up staying the entirity of our one month visa. It's a wonderful country with very cheap living and incredible people. They very friendly and are interested by travelers, especially in any of the smaller places.

It's very easy to do Vietnam on the ultra cheap. You can easily get a guesthouse room in any city with AC, satilette TV, warm water, and big clean beds for $10-12US, although it gets harder in Hanoi and Saigon. Food can be got very cheaply, although it will generally be your biggest expensive other than tourist stuff. A typical meal with a softdrink and an appetizer or dessert will cost between $3 and $5 except at the best backpacker cafes. Food is pretty good here, although I personally don't find much variation in flavour other than two or three distinct tastes. One of the great things about Vietnam is all the cheap and exotic fruit, which is often put into a juice or shake for 75 cents to a dollar. You can also get pho, baquettes, and fried donuts from street vendors all over the place for 25 cents or so.

Drinking is fairly cheap as well. In Hanoi there are kegs on the street corners where you get a glass for 12.5 cents. Typical bar prices are 50 cents or so for a domestic (Saigon is particularly good) to close to a dollar for a tiger. Like pretty much everything, prices in the twin big cities are a little higher. In a nicer club, beer is about two dollars, but to be honest upscale Vietnam is not something I really pursued as my few tastes of it were not very impressive to say the least. Night life isn't that great here for a few reasons: 1) You are mostly surrounded by obnoxious tourists 2) Vietnamese girls don't seem to like to get drunk 3) It's rare to find good music, though there are some rare pockets of oddities.

I wasn't really here to shop, and that seems to be a good thing. There is nothing really worth buying here, from my experience.

Vietnamese girls are pretty hot, although a lot of them seem to have bad teeth. For some reason they loved me. Maybe because of my pale skin? Despite their adoration, dating ettiquette seems pretty conservative, and with my terrible, terrible attempts at Vietnamese, the cultural/language barrier was too much to endure.

The people in general are one of the best parts of Vietnam. I've never been to a place with such friendly, good spirited folk. I've made quite a few good friends a long the way, helped by the fact that Vietnamese generally have quite good English.

City guide:

Saigon: It's definitely a love it or hate it situation here. I personally loved it, although in comparison to the rest of Vietnam, I don't know how important it is. My friend who I traveled with hated it. For someone who isn't used to Southeast Asian traffic, Saigon is very daunting. Especially during the late afternoon-early evening, it seems close to impossible to cross the street. To me, that's part of the charm. The place is teeming with life. To my friend, it was far too hectic. I can tell though, there is a good underground scene there, if you want to dig for it. We also left because it was raining so much while we were there.

Munei: We opted to get the full ticket with the most city stops on it from our travel agent ($22US). Thankfully, this took us to the beach town of Munei right after Saigon, the polar opposite place in nature. We got an amazing bungallo right on the beach for $15US. It was spectacular. We ended up staying three more days than we planned, though by the end it was getting a little dull. Life is very low key here. Going out consists of rustling up what other young travelers you can and heading to a pool table. The Mototaxi drivers are particularly friendly here, and they'll appreciate a challenge to a game of nine ball. Rung is a very good restaurant here. Go to the sand dunes, but watch out for the children trying to extort you.

Dalat: Not worth going to, really. Quite boring and cold, though the drive there is best we had in Vietnam. We stayed the night on our way to Nha Trang.

Nha Trang: Another great beach town, though much larger and livelier. The beach is public area here, so you have a 2 to 5 minute walk to it unless you stay in one of the big hotels. There is decent night life here, I guess, but it's very Asia backpacker-esque, if you know what I mean. If you don't, that means working girls mixing it up with Brits, Aussies, and Canadians while dancing to Shakira. Some good small bars though with pool tables (always in terrible shape, of course). Still, a very pleasant town. Avoid the $1 700ml bottle of rum that comes with a plastic stopper sold at public vendors. I got poisoned by it.

Hoi An: Beautiful town. Stayed in a 3 star An Phu hotel for $12 a night (shared, so $6 each), complete with marble bathroom, pool, free internet, balcony, etc. Very recommended, though its location is a bit out of the way. It's nice to just wander around the town, though it's very hot in the middle of the day. Everybody comes here for the cheap tailoring, but even with the cheap prices, I wouldn't recommend it, unless you are getting maybe a dress made, or some kind of costume. It's not anything like bespoke, but more like having a custom sweatshop. I got a couple jackets made and regret it. They are wearable, but I don't love them, and forsee their future consisting in a lot time unworn. And this is from the best reputed place in town, Yaly. Lots of good restaurants.

Hue: only spent two and a half days here, but it was pretty good. Took a great moto taxi tour from Cafe on Thu Wheels around Hue for like $10 all inclusive. Highlight of the trip. Great BLTs on fresh baquettes at Mandarin Cafe.

Ha Long Bay: Get a 2 night 3 day package tour for about $75-80 in Hanoi, and it be very memorable experience. It's absolutely breathtakingly amazing out in the bay, and some very fun momements included trekking out to a bat cave through a jungle, and kayaking past a gigantic sea snake. The water is very warm, and swimming is very pleasant, although you have to be careful of jelly fish.

Hanoi: Great city. Like Saigon, but more colonial and a bit slower. The streets are covered by trees and there is just a great feeling about the whole place.

The only place that we didn't check out that I would've liked to is Sapa, the town in North Eastern Vietnam known for its trekking. It was apparently too muddy right now.

Hope this helps someone, and feel free to ask questions.

Original message:

I'm going this summer to this area (as well to Singapore, Thailand, and China, but the search has brought me a lot of good info on those places).

Anyone been? I am going to these two countries in the second half of July. I know it will be damn hot and humid, and to pack light clothing. From what I've heard Vietnam is quite accomodating whilst Cambodia is roughing it quite a bit more. I have done a decent amount of research on Vietnam, but I always like the well informed opinions of Superfuturians.

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my sig says it all, and nothing.

Actually i heard everyone is really lovely and has a great attitude, have a great trip!

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I spent a mental night stopped over in Ho Chi Mihn a couple months ago.

I can't direct you anywhere but I can tell you that as long as you make sure you've got money before you hit the ground you'll have the time of your life. Really.

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I'm going this summer to this area (as well to Singapore, Thailand, and China, but the search has brought me a lot of good info on those places).

Anyone been? I am going to these two countries in the second half of July. I know it will be damn hot and humid, and to pack light clothing. From what I've heard Vietnam is quite accomodating whilst Cambodia is roughing it quite a bit more. I have done a decent amount of research on Vietnam, but I always like the well informed opinions of Superfuturians.

you got it right, although cambodia has grown really fast, they have atm's there now

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Is Vietnam very, very cheap? How much for a beer, a meal, etc.? I know the hotels are really cheap. Should I have dong, or do they accept dollars?

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Is Vietnam very, very cheap? How much for a beer, a meal, etc.? I know the hotels are really cheap. Should I have dong, or do they accept dollars?

vietnam isn't as cheap as you think. especially if you're white or asian and can't speak the language. they'll rape you for all your worth and won't think twice about it. dong is better than dollar, that way you can bargin. cambodia was cheap as shit. i only used dollars though.

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vietnam is pretty damn cheap by western standards - you could spend anywhere from $1 US (or less) eating at street stalls up to maybe $10 US at a very nice restaurant (from 20c a beer at bia hoi's up to maybe $2 US from memory). the ultra-touristy areas will be more expensive, so maybe a good idea to stay away from there. definitely preferred the north to the south, make sure you check out sapa, halong bay, hanoi etc if you have the time.

cambodia wasn't all that rough (although i only went to phnom penh and siem reap), you could get by on $20-30 US a day and do pretty much anything u want (although siem reap ie near angkor) is more expensive.

had a great time in both countries, although if you're planning on travelling on from cambodia to thailand, make sure you don't take a bus - the siem reap to bangkok trip was the absolute worst of my life.

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are you in phnom penh, or siem reap?

use dollars in cambodia, and riel instead of small change.

in siem reap, there's a nice place called the blue pumpkin along the main food street, all the drivers know it. nice ice cream and pastries...

great inexpensive indian food at this place across the street called little india run by a nurse at one of the children's hospitals in siem reap

i don't remember much of the stores or markets but i loved the place. the people are great, the food excellent. i did a week's work at one of the children's hospitals in siem reap, it was a great experience. drinks are dirt cheap so you can also work off that good karma by getting smashed at night. just remember to drink only bottled water and check that clean ice is used.

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vietnam is pretty damn cheap by western standards - you could spend anywhere from $1 US (or less) eating at street stalls up to maybe $10 US at a very nice restaurant (from 20c a beer at bia hoi's up to maybe $2 US from memory). the ultra-touristy areas will be more expensive, so maybe a good idea to stay away from there. definitely preferred the north to the south, make sure you check out sapa, halong bay, hanoi etc if you have the time.

cambodia wasn't all that rough (although i only went to phnom penh and siem reap), you could get by on $20-30 US a day and do pretty much anything u want (although siem reap ie near angkor) is more expensive.

had a great time in both countries, although if you're planning on travelling on from cambodia to thailand, make sure you don't take a bus - the siem reap to bangkok trip was the absolute worst of my life.

I guess it kind of depends what you want to do in Vietnam. Anywhere in asia, food will be very cheap compared to western standards. If you wanna do touristy stuff, that's when your tier pricing adds up.

I think we are completely different page, I hate the north and love the south. And also thought the bus ride from bangkok to siam reap was one of the most memorable experiences simply because it was so cheap (100bht) and was so ridiculous...Just think about it, 10 years ago, you really couldn't even go to Cambodia, and 10 years from now when they finally pave some roads it will be so full of tourists you won't want to go.

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yeah u could say the bus ride was an experience - it didn't help that i got sick the day before, combining that with searing heat, ridiculously overcramped mini bus and a 15 hour trip it wasn't the most enjoyable day for me. the road / dirt track is definitely pretty crazy (i counted three semi-trailers that'd rolled on the side of the road).

saigon was fun for a little while, but as far as scenery goes nothing topped the northern areas for me, and i found the meekong trip a bit disappointing.

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speaking of getting sick, i didn't mention that i had the time of my life going out to help on a mobile clinic overnight trip to one of the floating villages about 4 hours away from siem reap by boat, eating a delicious meal of fried river fish and going down with severe food poisoning a day after i got back to singapore, complete with hospital bed, saline drip (severe dehydration) and medication.

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I got bad sick in Thailand and ended up in hospital. Other than that I was alright. S'mazing really - I really got down on the fish and river seaweed in Laos, then after I got back I read about the amount of medical waste the Chinese dump in the Mekong ..... :(

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if you're going to VN, keep some dorrahs in USD.

'cause all the fancy places only accept that currency.

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vietnam is pretty damn cheap by western standards - you could spend anywhere from $1 US (or less) eating at street stalls up to maybe $10 US at a very nice restaurant (from 20c a beer at bia hoi's up to maybe $2 US from memory). the ultra-touristy areas will be more expensive, so maybe a good idea to stay away from there. definitely preferred the north to the south, make sure you check out sapa, halong bay, hanoi etc if you have the time.

I just spent about 12 days in northern vietnam and you're spot on with the prices. Bia hoi (fresh beer delivered daily from the breweries) was about 15cents a mug. You could get a damn good bowl of pho ga or pho bo for less than a dollar at the hanoi street stalls. The variety of food up north was incredible... absolutely loved the bun cha and cha ca. I even did a 1/2 day cooking class which was a lot of fun.

The north is way different than the south though... I loved the natural beauty of the north and the fact that it still has some cultural history compared to hcmc. I climbed mt fansipan in sapa, did the kayak and junk boats in halong bay and then tons of eating and shopping in hanoi. Lots of good original art for decent prices. The food isn't as spicy as in the south, but hcmc is like any other big asian metropolis. Hanoi and the north still has a lot of charm in it's architecture, culture and people... just exercise your usual caution when it comes to booking with travel agencies. There are still rip off artists everywhere. Basically, you get what you pay for!

Oh yeah... I used dollars and credit cards for the big purchases and dong for the mom and pop shops.

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i'm pretty sure i did... better to be safe than sorry i reckon anyway.

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yeah I'm going to Vietnam in under a month, and think I might have left it to late for Japenese Encephalitis vaccine? Anyone go without it? I'll be in China and Vietnam for about 4 weeks?

How much dong/USD would you reccomend getting before turning up?

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yeah I'm going to Vietnam in under a month, and think I might have left it to late for Japenese Encephalitis vaccine? Anyone go without it? I'll be in China and Vietnam for about 4 weeks?

How much dong/USD would you reccomend getting before turning up?

i never got the vaccine. but can't speak for china. dong before showing up? none, you could probably make it to your hotel on small US bills. just don't change cash in the street, go to a bank.

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i never got the vaccine. but can't speak for china. dong before showing up? none, you could probably make it to your hotel on small US bills. just don't change cash in the street, go to a bank.

cheers poly

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I was there 6 months ago - took a combo of $1 notes (few hundie) $5 and $10s, and some travellers checks... There are ATMs in most larger towns, but the fees are pretty nuts and the max you can get out in Vietnam was like $60 or something, so it was a bit suck.

Both Cambodia and Vietnam were pretty easy going - no hassles at all...

Average spend was $30US a day, and that included travelling, lots of beers, three meals out day, hostels, and buying shit

So, yeah, mad cheap

get the bus from saigon to hanoi - or the other way, with 6 or 7 stops for $21 ... bargain of the century

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Oh, and i never got the vaccine either ... you only need it if you are going to farms - google it dude. while it sounds nasty as, chances of catching it are low

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Poly I am curious as to what you loved about the south. I am leaving in four days, flying to HCMC and likely travelling up the coast to Hanoi with stops like Nha Trang, etc. on the way. Although I'd be interested in hearing about the more obscure places and could easily change my plans if there was merit to.

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Cambodia is a Great Time. Get a ride to Siahnoukville from Phnom Penh, beautiful beaches. The Golden Market and Or'say Market is a fun to go to. If you go to Siem Riep, eat at Hainan Chicken Rice, Really good food and dirt cheap. Everything is dirt cheap. Angkor beer is cheap and tasty.

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I'm going to be in Phnom Penh at the end of the month and have almost no clue what the hell I should do for the four-odd days I'll be there. I kind of want to go to Angkor Wat, but I hear those kids running around the place are motherfuckers. Plus I can't imagine the street markets are too much different than in Bangkok (although probably cheaper), so maybe I'll just get incredibly drunk the whole time.

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I heard that you could shoot automatic weapons, grenade launches, etc. and blow up farm animals in Cambodia? Anyone confirm?

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I heard that you could shoot automatic weapons, grenade launches, etc. and blow up farm animals in Cambodia? Anyone confirm?

This is true. My friend just came back and told me that he made some goat explode or some shit like that. You can definitely do some Rambo type shit out there. You can also get a lot of weed out there too.

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It's called 'Thunder Farm', although I heard that the days of putting a grenade in a cow's ass (no joke) have been done with. Probably a temporary thing, since I'd heard that even if some guy gets gunned down in a club, it reopens within a month or so.

Ditto on the weed, although I don't plan on taking advantage of it. Weed pizza is apparently a popular, and easy to find, menu item in Cambodia ("Herby's Pizza delivers to my hotel, you say?"). I myself will probably buy some cheap made-to-order shoes and hope I don't grope any hostesses while I'm drunk.

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Capital Tours over by Or'say Marketplace will get you to the place where you're shooting automatic weapons and shit.

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It's $200 to fire a rocket launcher

Automatic weapons are a buck a shot ... they have EVERYthing under the sun

heard ya can shoot animals - but fuck that dude

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