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anyone been to saigon recently? i'm thinking about heading back summer 2009. any clubs I should check out? expat DJ's I should keep and ear out for?

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Poly, thanks for bumping this thread up again. I reread it and it definitely brought back some great memories of both Vietnam and Cambodia.

Ok, I haven't been back to Saigon for about a year. But the last time I was there, I had an awesome time just partying and exploring the city after hours. I didn't do a lot of pre-planning before arriving. Basically, I just read about the usual haunts i.e., Apocalypse Now, etc., but upon arrival I had no trouble finding some fun local hang-outs that went well into the night.

You probably already know all these places, but I'll run through my thoughts and experiences at several of the clubs anyway.

I don't know much about the layout of Saigon, but stayed mainly around District 1, all in very close proximity to the Opera house. First stop, after dinner, we checked out a lounge that had been recommended by some work colleagues who had spent some time in Saigon.

Next to the New World Hotel is a lounge called Catwalk, similar to most of the executive lounges, or g-clubs, that you would find in Bangkok or any other Asian city. This place is a karaoke joint, massage parlor, and cocktail lounge, all rolled into one. Prices are a bit high but the talent is top notch. I think we arrived at perfect time since the bullpen was completely stocked. And, knowing how these places worked, we just browsed and left.

Level 23 on the top floor of the Sheraton Hotel. Seemed to be a big expat or tourist hang out. Lots of westerners with their western wives. Overall, it's a pretty soulless place with expensive drinks that keep away a lot of the locals that you do want to be partying with.

Apocalypse Now is probably the most famous bar/club in Saigon and dates back to the days of the Vietnam War. Unfortunately, it wasn't as sleazy as I expected it to be. Mixed crowd with expats and locals. Plenty of working girls mingling on the dance floor or eyeing potential marks from their tables. The DJ was a little scatterbrained and dropped everything from house to hip-hop to reggae.

In terms of the best clubs and bars, I can't even remember their names or where they were. We ended up meeting a group of Vietnamese girls, who spoke decent English at some hole in the wall in District 1. They were probably freelancers, but hey, when in Rome, right? They willingly took a group of us around town on their mopeds to various local hangouts and hung out with us for the rest of the night.

At 3am, as the bars were closing, we ended up at the Palace Hotel, only a few blocks away from Apocalypse Now, and went to the late-night club on 2F that was completely packed. The DJ played all house/trance until 6-7am. I crashed around 5:30am, I think, and somehow ended back at the Rex Hotel, safe and sound.

After only two nights in Saigon, I was completely blown away from the city's energetic and enthusiastic nightlife. Saigon just has a quaintness to it that is unlike any other Asian city. While there are several skyscrapers in the city, most buildings are no more than 8-10 stories, thus giving Saigon a very small-town feel. Unlike Bangkok, it just seems a lot cleaner probably due to the lack of cars and traffic jams at every corner. Wide avenues divide the city into very easily navigable zones. And hints of the old French colonial architecture are still evident in most of the buildings.

The best way to explore the city during the day is to rent scooters or just let one of the many motorcycle touts give you a quick tour of the city. I guarantee that you'll notice a million more tiny restaurants, shops, and coffeehouses dotting the city that would have been completely missed and disregarded from the inside of a taxi cab.

Crossing the streets during the day is a little tough due to the millions of motorcycles and scooters zooming down the street during all hours of the day. But after a while, you easily get the hang of bravely walking directly into incoming traffic and forcing the motorcyclists to go around you.

Top reasons for going to Saigon: 1) Amazing nightlife, 2) Strong but extremely sweet Vietnamese coffee, 3) Vietnamese girls in Ao Dais, 4) Pho24. And probably many more...

Here are some pics taken during the day:

DSC00110.jpg

DSC00109.jpg

DSC00125.jpg

DSC00111.jpg

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:) i need to go back to SE asia.....

Don't we all.

Get to Laos before it blows up! (Not talking about UXO; mmm....tasteless joke)

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After only two nights in Saigon, I was completely blown away from the city's energetic and enthusiastic nightlife. Saigon just has a quaintness to it that is unlike any other Asian city. While there are several skyscrapers in the city, most buildings are no more than 8-10 stories, thus giving Saigon a very small-town feel. Unlike Bangkok, it just seems a lot cleaner probably due to the lack of cars and traffic jams at every corner. Wide avenues divide the city into very easily navigable zones. And hints of the old French colonial architecture are still evident in most of the buildings.

The best way to explore the city during the day is to rent scooters or just let one of the many motorcycle touts give you a quick tour of the city. I guarantee that you'll notice a million more tiny restaurants, shops, and coffeehouses dotting the city that would have been completely missed and disregarded from the inside of a taxi cab.

I'd be sketch about renting scooters to drive yourself if you're not used to the roads. Even after being there for a few months, I only rode with my cousin on the back seat and at a snail's pace!

Crossing the streets during the day is a little tough due to the millions of motorcycles and scooters zooming down the street during all hours of the day. But after a while, you easily get the hang of bravely walking directly into incoming traffic and forcing the motorcyclists to go around you.

Top reasons for going to Saigon: 1) Amazing nightlife, 2) Strong but extremely sweet Vietnamese coffee, 3) Vietnamese girls in Ao Dais, 4) Pho24. And probably many more...

Here are some pics taken during the day:

DSC00125.jpg

I was more a fan of Pho Pasteur. Still swear that has ruined me for Pho. Used to get that almost every morning as well.

This pic brought back some memories for sure. I stayed to the left of here, literally like 100 yards away. I used to get coffee every morning at Cafe Paris, which is probably 50 yards away. Man, I really need to go back ASAP. It's been 6 years since I stepped foot in Vietnam.

The one thing I found interesting seeing the big ass diamond plaza sign here is when I used to wonder in there, there were a TON of ex-pat kids. Like teens just running around, most likely the children of Orange County ex-pats now trying to make a buck in Saigon. It should be interesting if these kids grow up in VN and stay there. Should make the nightlife a little more interesting, as westernized night life always seems to spark competition. But I'm like 90% sure I'm headed back next summer (sucks you'll be out of SEA though Analyst). A buddy of mine has an uncle who made it back in the mid 90's and started a fashion mag, and never left. As I begin school now, I remember exactly why I began this path, and it's to work abroad. Hopefully, I'll make my way there for good in a few years.

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I really want to go back to Saigon. I felt that I missed out there on what could have been some amazing experiences.

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Bump? Sort of I guess.

Anyways, I think my family's gonna head to Vietnam at the end of this year. Went through all the pages here and got some good info. However, a lot of it is more for the individual/with friends experience and not really for the whole family. I think I'd be a bit uncomfortable with my whole family and 14/15 year old brothers at a club...yea? I was hoping to get some recommendations for more family oriented things. I'm certain we're gonna spend time in Sai Gon and Hue as that's where my parents grew up. Although they haven't been back to Vietnam since they left at the end of the war so it's like they'll be new tourists as well; hence they don't know that many places to go to. Probably'll hit up Ha Long Bay and Ha Noi. I read about the Japanese Encephelitis...should I look to get vaccinated? What other diseases should I look in to?

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Bump? Sort of I guess.

Anyways, I think my family's gonna head to Vietnam at the end of this year. Went through all the pages here and got some good info. However, a lot of it is more for the individual/with friends experience and not really for the whole family. I think I'd be a bit uncomfortable with my whole family and 14/15 year old brothers at a club...yea? I was hoping to get some recommendations for more family oriented things. I'm certain we're gonna spend time in Sai Gon and Hue as that's where my parents grew up. Although they haven't been back to Vietnam since they left at the end of the war so it's like they'll be new tourists as well; hence they don't know that many places to go to. Probably'll hit up Ha Long Bay and Ha Noi. I read about the Japanese Encephelitis...should I look to get vaccinated? What other diseases should I look in to?

No vaccination for Japanese Encephelitis.

The thing is, you're asking about doing pretty standard tourist stuff. There are plenty of information available for you online to do the "tourist" thing. As far as family oriented things go in Saigon, hit up the waterpark if it's really hot. I took my little cousins there and the place was empty. We had the whole park to ourselves basically.

Hue, go to the citidel. Hang out by the river.

Idk what else to add really....I'll dig through some photos and let you know in a bit

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Haha. Looking back over the previous posts, I can see that they are not very family oriented.

There's the Cu Chi tunnels a little outside the city. Pretty cool network of tunnels used by the VC. Also it has a shooting range where you can fire AK-47s, etc.

Diamond Plaza has a huge bowling alley on the fourth floor. Over 20 lanes or something like that.

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Yea, I know we're going to be doing mostly standard tourist stuff. I was hoping you guys would know some hidden gems in like the smaller cities or less popular parts of town the guides don't usually cover.

No doubt you all have provided a lot of info though. Cheers! Thanks all.

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Damn, just read through this thread and I'm seriously itching to goto SE Asia...I was planning to go to vietnam this summer, but job search, moving, finances kinda derailed the whole thing for the time being. add to that, my parents, who are from vietnam and have traveled there recently, are uber concerned about my health - i have a condition called crohn's disease, and they fear i might get a flare up (really not directly linked to any particular food, but can be exarcerbated by contaminated food, kinda like food poisoning)...

but with that said, next year, im going no matter what....is saigon developed enough to the point where I could get basic medical care in the remote event where I might need it?

Also, while I'm vietnamese, my vietnamese is terrible...I can understand, but my speech is real broken sadly...should i even try? or would i just get ridiculed? or worse, offend somebody?

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From what I've heard of people going back, you're gonna kinda get made fun of even if you were fluent as people can tell you didn't learn your Vietnamese in Viet Nam. Even here in the States, the difference in a true Viet accent is pretty different than for a person growing up in the States.

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Damn, just read through this thread and I'm seriously itching to goto SE Asia...I was planning to go to vietnam this summer, but job search, moving, finances kinda derailed the whole thing for the time being. add to that, my parents, who are from vietnam and have traveled there recently, are uber concerned about my health - i have a condition called crohn's disease, and they fear i might get a flare up (really not directly linked to any particular food, but can be exarcerbated by contaminated food, kinda like food poisoning)...

but with that said, next year, im going no matter what....is saigon developed enough to the point where I could get basic medical care in the remote event where I might need it?

Also, while I'm vietnamese, my vietnamese is terrible...I can understand, but my speech is real broken sadly...should i even try? or would i just get ridiculed? or worse, offend somebody?

crohn's disease? I wouldn't call any medical care in VN as up to par with western standards. Most major surgeries are performed outside the country, ie. Hong Kong. As far as food poisoning, it's not hard to avoid it, but it's also not hard to get it. As long as you're in Saigon, you can avoid it pretty easily.

From what I've heard of people going back, you're gonna kinda get made fun of even if you were fluent as people can tell you didn't learn your Vietnamese in Viet Nam. Even here in the States, the difference in a true Viet accent is pretty different than for a person growing up in the States.

I think that's somewhat true. If you were born and raised here, you'll have an undeniable american accent, just a fact of life I suppose. But go deep north and you'll have no idea what the fuck anyone is saying, even if you were born in Saigon. I don't know if its right about people making fun of you....I was there for a handful of months and you can easily understand people from the south, and not one word. Even if they did talk shit, you can call them out if you please. The thing that sucks is traveling with your folks to your homeland is never going to be THAT fun. Try and get back and do it by yourself/friends, you'll have a great time and not stuck in a 5 star hotel and hanging out with viet-kieu the entire time.

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From what I've heard of people going back, you're gonna kinda get made fun of even if you were fluent as people can tell you didn't learn your Vietnamese in Viet Nam. Even here in the States, the difference in a true Viet accent is pretty different than for a person growing up in the States.
I think that's somewhat true. If you were born and raised here, you'll have an undeniable american accent, just a fact of life I suppose. But go deep north and you'll have no idea what the fuck anyone is saying, even if you were born in Saigon. I don't know if its right about people making fun of you....I was there for a handful of months and you can easily understand people from the south, and not one word. Even if they did talk shit, you can call them out if you please. The thing that sucks is traveling with your folks to your homeland is never going to be THAT fun. Try and get back and do it by yourself/friends, you'll have a great time and not stuck in a 5 star hotel and hanging out with viet-kieu the entire time.

Have either of you read Catfish and Mandala by Andrew X. Pham? It's a memoir/travelogue, and a good portion of it concerns him riding his bike from Saigon to Hanoi. He discusses being Viet-kieu pretty extensively.

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Have either of you read Catfish and Mandala by Andrew X. Pham? It's a memoir/travelogue, and a good portion of it concerns him riding his bike from Saigon to Hanoi. He discusses being Viet-kieu pretty extensively.

I got this book a few weeks ago, it looked really really promising. I really wanted to like it as I know a family friend who had done a solo bike ride from south to north and has yet to come back, he did the trip around the same time. But the author is 99% full of shit in most cases. His stories of banditry and Vietnam being this "exotic" land is simply not true or exaggarated beyond belief. I was planning on writing a big review when I finished it, some 30 odd pages to go, but that will come later. Again, I really wanted to like this book as it has had some great critical praise, but it's almost sad that this work of fiction has received so much acclaim. It's also sad the author identifies more with shitty backpackers than his own countrymen. go figure.

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there are many things within andrew pham's book that you will not understand if you're not a Vietnamese American growing up in America. you have to understand for the Vietnamese in Diaspora, the majority of them are in "exile" and trying to reclaim and recreate their lost nation based off of South Viet Nam. The topic of Viet Kieu reflects the change that the country of Viet Nam underwent after its fall/rise(however you interpret it) to Communism. The culture, the people, the politics, the vibe, everything has changed ever since.

I'm 2nd generation Vietnamese and I remember my parents had told me the same thing after visiting Viet Nam. Although they were born and raised in Viet Nam, their country is no longer their country. You can see it as they cannot return, but they can only "visit" -- they too are "viet kieu" (oversees foreign Vietnamese) because they have that status and privilege of being a US citizen which is yearned by many Vietnamese in Viet Nam--many of them want to go to the states but cannot. Perhaps that is why many Vietnamese in Viet Nam ask foreigners to take them along.

a lot of the resentment from oversees Vietnamese (viet kieu) who came out of the migration after the Viet Nam War comes from being on the "loser side" in the Viet Nam war as well as a loss of home for themselves and their next generations to come.

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there are many things within andrew pham's book that you will not understand if you're not a Vietnamese American growing up in America. you have to understand for the Vietnamese in Diaspora, the majority of them are in "exile" and trying to reclaim and recreate their lost nation based off of South Viet Nam. The topic of Viet Kieu reflects the change that the country of Viet Nam underwent after its fall/rise(however you interpret it) to Communism. The culture, the people, the politics, the vibe, everything has changed ever since.

I'm 2nd generation Vietnamese and I remember my parents had told me the same thing after visiting Viet Nam. Although they were born and raised in Viet Nam, their country is no longer their country. You can see it as they cannot return, but they can only "visit" -- they too are "viet kieu" (oversees foreign Vietnamese) because they have that status and privilege of being a US citizen which is yearned by many Vietnamese in Viet Nam--many of them want to go to the states but cannot. Perhaps that is why many Vietnamese in Viet Nam ask foreigners to take them along.

a lot of the resentment from oversees Vietnamese (viet kieu) who came out of the migration after the Viet Nam War comes from being on the "loser side" in the Viet Nam war as well as a loss of home for themselves and their next generations to come.

Ask any Viet Kieu where would they rather live? Vietnam or America. Trying to "reclaim" their homeland isn't true at all for viet kieu. Maybe for those in Saigon now.... The one sad aspect I think Pham said that was true was that a lot of Viet Kieu do come back and basically "show off" their goods to the people living there now. I think(know) the attitude towards the younger generation is VASTLY different than our parents. We are/were never expected to bribe airport officials, fuck, Pham's stories of bribes all along the delta region, I've been down there 4 times, and have never once been pulled over to pay a bribe. Is there resentment, sure, there is resentment everywhere. Are you expected to bankroll your relatives, sure, you make more in a week than they do in a year. But the tone of Pham is one of an ugly american. worse is he isn't an american. it's basically the norm out here in california. it's also one of the reasons I hate the ignorance of so many vietnamese out here. they have no idea what is going on behind these closed doors except hearsay, which makes me curious have you been to Vietnam?

as far as " Perhaps that is why many Vietnamese in Viet Nam ask foreigners to take them along.", no. that's not entirely the case. go anywhere in southeast asia and you'll see the same thing. a lot of people think america is one giant money pit.

Although they were born and raised in Viet Nam, their country is no longer their country.
I can sort of agree with this sentiment, but the vast amount of viet kieu in vietnam right now living and working in Vietnam kind of just shows the ignorance of those overseas.

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Haven't read Pham's book, nor have I even heard of it until now. After Poly's first reply, I got turned off from reading it...but after hearing this mini discussion, now I'm inclined to read it. Haha. Guess it'll be my reading material in between summer and fall quarter, heh.

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interestingly enough, the book might soon be included in the some high school reading lists for English classes.

i respect your opinion on the book itself. However, i still stand strong on my views on the topic of Southeast Asians in Diaspora, particularly in this case, Vietnamese in Diaspora. Yes, the US is considered a "money pit" to many Southeast Asians in Southeast Asia. One of the themes that come up in the book is how this dynamic of power embedded within world trade and economics impacts Southeast Asians in Southeast Asia and the Diasporas, which Vietnamese are a part of. Why is it that many of these people feel this way about their homeland and themselves??--a lot of them want to just move to the US and not stay in theirs. And why is it that many Southeast Asians in Diasporas come back to their home country and exploit their own people?

I did not mean all viet kieu feel resentment towards about their homeland. The nation of Vietnamese in the United States IS modeled off of South Viet Nam's. Take for example, the South Vietnam flag is used in flag ceremonies at Vietnamese American events. I can understand why Pham has this distinct tone in his book. Viet Kieus take many definitions, not just one. I would feel the same way about my people: how Vietnamese in Diaspora and Vietnamese people living in Vietnam both take advantage of each other on materialistic means. What does that say about Viet Nam's current economic and social situation? How does first world and third world countries play a role in this dynamic of power? As much as Viet Nam and other Southeast Asian countries are romanticized and exoticized, there is much "ugly" in it as well. Is it an after effect of colonialism and capitalism? maybe so.

You say Andrew Pham is not an "American"? What is he then? How can one be truly American? I consider myself an American. I'm Vietnamese and I was born here. My parents consider themselves American. They were born in Viet Nam and they've living in the United States since 1980. They were refugees and came here by boat. They're considered "citizens". I am pretty sure Andrew Pham is an American citizen as well. I think it is up to the individual to decide what identity they choose to take. The "American" identity for many ethnic groups is open to their own interpretation in how they want to identify themselves.

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i don't think anyone would argue the views and tone of native born Viet Kieus for their homeland. Again, my major issues is the falsification and gross exaggaration of stories while in Vietnam and that no one has even bother calling him out on it except a few people on Amazon. The author even states he was telling tall tales of adventures he had while traveling to the train workers, when the whole "memior" seems like a tall tale to me. Interestingly enough, I did the exact same thing he did on the train and pulled a worker's bed and no one confronted or attacked me. Any Vietnamese-American knows our history, whether you view Vietnam as a great place to go or a shitty place to go is your opinion, but the main issue I have about the book, again, is the non-truths he spills. He talks about his local truck being a death car on wheels. In my back and forth, north and south, on LOCAL trucks/buses, I've never encountered one in a condition he described. I have an issue with how he plays the reader to be idiots. Yes, I have great issue with that. It's written for white americans to "ooh, aah" about how this immigrant came back to this "exotic" land and made it back to tell about it. He paints a picture of present day Vietnam that simply does not exist, anywhere in the country. Again, I pose the question, have you been back, because I think despite agreeing or disagreeing about Diaspora in America, I'd like to hear your opinion about Pham's descriptions concerning the actual villages and towns he visited. Vung Tau, Phan Tiet, Mui Ne.

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Briefly, I will say that Andrew X. Pham's book really captures what it's like to grow up Vietnamese in America. (Half the book deals with that.) It's one of the few works of Asian American literature worth reading. (His second book, The Eaves of Heaven, is unfortunately very disappointing.)

My father was a military officer in the South Vietnamese army and he swore that he would never go back as long as the Communists were in charge. Most of my family does not share this sentiment, but I have not gone back out of respect my father. My maternal grandfather in Vietnam died unexpectedly about fifteen years ago, and my uncle was the only one in America who was able to go back on such short notice. He was detained by customs for a couple of days but was finally able to bribe his way out. He barely made the funeral. My relatives often tell stories of having to bribe officials, so I don't think that Andrew X. Pham's stories are necessarily fictionalized; he could simply have had experiences different from others'.

A lot of my father's classmates who were unable to leave in 1975 were thrown into reeducation camps; according to them, all the South Vietnamese officers have their names on a blacklist and they will be imprisoned on their return. Whether this is still true in the twenty-first century, I have no idea. I doubt it. But old wounds die hard, and Andrew X. Pham is certainly the child of a South Vietnamese family. And resentment on those remaining in Vietnam could certainly bleed over to those who made it to America; what does it profit you to win the war if all you have to show for it is poverty and a country in ruins?

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The blacklist part isn't true. Or at least it shouldn't as my grandfather was a lieutenant in the South during the war. He got sent to a reeducation camp afterwards. But he visits Viet Nam yearly now and I'm fairly certain he doesn't get imprisoned on his trips, heh.

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The blacklist part isn't true. Or at least it shouldn't as my grandfather was a lieutenant in the South during the war. He got sent to a reeducation camp afterwards. But he visits Viet Nam yearly now and I'm fairly certain he doesn't get imprisoned on his trips, heh.

I wonder if your grandfather knows my father. My father and his friends always attend those class reunions.

Re the blacklist: things may be different now from how they were in the 80s; Communism was much more a serious deal in the 80s (as the Cold War was still going on), and Vietnam has really opened up since then. (That was when my father mentioned the trouble with going back; his friends were released in the mid-80s.)

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Bumping this thread...

Contemplating a Vietnam trip sometime this year, and my two possible timeframes would be mid/late August or early December. From what I've heard and read, December is probably the better bet due to the weather, but I was wondering if mid/late August is THAT much worse? August might be a more convenient time for me and other friends who may go.

Also, any idea on how much it generally costs to fly from HCMC to Shanghai?

Probably have a million other questions about VN, SE Asia in general, etc, but will inquire once the trip is set

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Last time I looked, HCMC to Shanghai was about 800 USD at the cheapest. Lots of rain around the August timeframe, so there maybe some flooding. Don't know about Vietnam, but I went to Cambodia around that time and flooding was an issue.

Obviously December is a great time to go since the weather gets so much cooler. August isn't a horrible time to go. At least Saigon stays a bit cooler than Bangkok due less people density, lower buildings, wider avenues, and more trees.

I will be going to Vietnam/Cambodia in March/April for business. Will report back on "things to do" and "places to go".

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I will be going to Vietnam/Cambodia in March/April for business. Will report back on "things to do" and "places to go".

for fucking business?!

damn, you're lucky buddy

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I think it's cheaper to fly to Shanghai via Bangkok. At least, that's how I did it, and it was definitely a lot cheaper than 800USD.

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so I found a ticket for way cheap and am headed back this summer. anyone care to input?

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Poly, let me know when you get your dates finalized. Maybe I'll come meet you in Vietnam and/or Cambodia. Are you coming through Bangkok at all?

I never made over for work. We've been under travel restrictions lately. But I've been going to Macau a lot for some R&R. Three times in the last month. I would highly recommend that you check this place out.

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