Holidays and Other Excursions

Tag: Voyages Jules Verne

Homeward Bound

Day 21 Monday 5 January 2015 arriving Tuesday 6 January 2015

Collection is not until 5pm so we have most of a day to kill before transferring to HCM airport; local flight to Hanoi and then onto London Gatwick.  The only excitement is that since we arrived in Hanoi three weeks earlier they have opened the new International terminal and so we are bussed between the domestic and international terminals.  I assume in the longer term this will be a little better organised as they were not really able to explain what was happening (and clearly no-one has planned a proper shuttle between the two).

From hotel door to our front door is getting close to 24 hours, especially as the incompetence of FGW to run a proper service locally means we have to go to Wokingham and use the new lifts and come back again.  This line needs electrification and a proper “Southern” regular interval service – two slow trains and a fast each hour and it might be approaching the standards of Sir Herbert Walker.

Time for some summaries:

VJV – they normally operate this tour in the reverse direction but the date we wanted was not available, so my experiences are slightly non-standard. However the tour content was first class; the arrangements all worked and we have thanked them for their efforts.
Asian Trails provided the guides and drivers except when we were on the Mekong Prestige II and all went well with them – helpful and willing and able to make variations as we wished – adding the tour in Hanoi and changing the itinerary at Cai Be was not a problem at all.
Rivages du Monde are responsible for the Mekong Prestige II.  Their Cambodian guide for the English group was not great and definitely fell a notch below the skills seen elsewhere.  OTOH everything on the cruiser and on the shore visits went well.  Matthias was their on board representative and I owe him an apology for a being a little short on arrival – his efforts during the rest of the week were outstanding and I hope he enjoyed the trip.

A wonderful selection – Movenpick in Hanoi, Palais Juliana in Luang Prabang, Grand in HCM being outstanding.  Tara Angkor in Siem Reap and the eco-friendly hotel in Cai Be fell short of the levels achieved in the other three.  At Cai Be the main problem, inevitable due to local recruitment, was poor English and in my view inadequate staff training.  A lovely location. The Tara Angkor seemed a little odd – I have detailed our problems in our time at Siem Reap.  I am hopeful that it was one of those where once it went wrong, it just kept going wrong for us and other visitors may have a perfect visit.  Revision of the breakfast offering (no bacon two days, no meats) for western tastes would help a lot (as would solid whites as well as solid yolks on hard boiled eggs).

Everything we saw felt worthwhile and made for a wonderful holiday.  There are no doubt many other sites worth seeing and places worth visiting in this part of the world – but to get a real feel of the countries we felt that we had a great time and those following the photos the wife was posting have agreed.

Physically there was only one “hard” bit – ascending Phousi Hill in Luang Praabang – and frankly that is down to this traveller being out of condition.  We did not visit the upper cave for similar reasons.  Otherwise the walking was easy and the temperatures were decent (a lot warmer in the south).

Grand Summary
In case you have not already guessed we had a great time and would recommend this trip to anyone.  We might not have got answers to all the questions on events over the last 30 years – but the internet can provide those answers!

Finally this blog will be back with further travels.  A grand trip across large parts of Canada is booked along with a visit to Sicily.  If you have read it, then thank you very much.  I will be tarting up and improving the blog as time allows (and if anyone spots any errors I will be putting them right as well).

Be back soon.

Vietnam, Laos and Cambodia

Day 1 Tuesday 16 December 2014

She is Jackie and I am Richard. The names may well be changed to protect the innocent. This is the first of our holidays planned post retirement, if you exclude the trip to North Wales back in the summer when a long weekend became a week and a bit visiting the railways there.

This trip commenced not with with usual car journey to an airport but instead, courtesy of some very well priced tickets from FGW (not anyone’s favourite operator) to Gatwick airport. We progressed from rail to the shuttle and North Terminal and booked in. Now for the best part of three weeks we are in the hands of Voyages Jules Verne (hereinafter VJV) visiting Vietnam (north), Laos, Cambodia and Vietnam (south).

The day then passes in the usual blur of security, the interminable trek over the bridge to the satellite terminal, joining the Vietnam Air Boeing 777-200 ER plane and heading off across Europe, whilst trying to get some sleep.  This time as it is long haul (10 hours 45 minutes) we have taken premium economy and unusually Jackie manages more sleep than I do – which given she says she cannot sleep on a plane is almost amazing.

To me the area we are visiting is defined in two ways with recent history in the area having largely passed me by.  There are the horrific news images from the Vietnam war in the late sixties and early seventies and the later filmic recreations – “The Deer Hunter”, “Apocalypse Now” and of course “Good Morning Vietnam” and alongside this the genocide recorded in “The Killing Fields”.  Shortly before our departure Sue Perkins was in full travelogue mode covering the Mekong river over a four episode period which gave a much modern view of the area (and is no doubt available even now on DVD from your favourite supplier).  What will we find as we tour?