Travelers Notes
South-East Asia
Jan - Feb, 99

I: Travel Info.

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Own Experience

Reported

I Feb 22, 1999, rec.travel.asia Peter, <lacher@hzd.hessen.de>

Vietnam (Hanoi) to Laos (Vientiane), Cau Treo crossing
Got my Cau Treo exit stamp in 09/98 in Germany (just ask for it), no problem.
Train ticket from Hanoi to Vinh is 128 000 Dong but if you are in a hurry take the mini bus to Hue (starting around 7 pm) tell the driver to drop you at the market area in Vinh (2 am) and take the bus...
In Vinh you start not at the bus stop you will find in the LP map but at the stop near the Vinh market. They charge 50 000 Dong for the bus ticket (Cau Treo is written on the ticket). The bus (the first goes around 6:30),drops you around 25 km before the border and heads to another destination. There is no direct bus. A jeep waits for you and in the middle of nowhere the jeep stops and one of the guys starts to bargain. We paid 3$ for the ride. For another buck at the border they skip the Vietnam customs. Walk three minutes to Laos immigration. Laos is easy, choose between Paksan and Tha Khaek. Pay the driver of the song thaew to Paksan to take you to Vientiane or take a Vientiane bound bus in Paksan. It's possible to make the H - V trip in 24-28 hours (some people do that!). Around 30$ alltogether.

Bolaven plateau: As many people visit the (mountain bikes at least one/day) try to explore the Khammuan Province. It's worth a visit.
Wat Phu: You can visit Wat Phu on a day trip from Pakse if you don't intend to go to the south. There is a boat from Champasak to Pakse around 1 pm (+ - 1 hour). They provide an excellent leaflet at the ticket counter at Wat Phu (1000Kip), ask for it.

Laos/Cambodia:
Border crossing at Kampong Sralau is not possible. [There is talk about reestablishing Highway 13 (connecting Route 13 in Laos with RN13 in C), so stay tuned.] Problem is the Cambodian side. Laos immigration let you pass (no exit stamp), but it's not possible (at least up to 50$) to get an entry stamp on the Cambodian side (assuming you have
a visa already). As usual, if you don't get an exit stamp your chance isn't high that the other side will let you pass.
Preah Vihear:
Open since 1.08.98. Take a bus to Kantharaluk from Si Sa Ket or Ubon (Warin 25 Baht Bus Nr.511). From here you can choose between taking a motorbike (driver, waiting time incl.) for around 200 Baht or take a song thaew into the direction of the border (which we did).
If you take the song thaew they drop you at a junction 11 km before the border (it is 33 km from Kantharaluk altogether). Then you have to hitchhike (easy). BUT 3 km before the border you have to leave a picture ID at a check point and the uniformed guys write the number of the car (most probably a pickup) down and connect the number with your ID. Which means you have to leave with the same car. So it's better to pay for the bike and it's up to you for how long you stay. Lots of food stalls near the parking lots.
You walk down the hill and after crossing into Cambodia you pay 100 Baht to get into the temple site. You are free to move, watch for the landmines signs. The area is heavily mined. The day we visited former KR cleared the area around the ticket booth !!(the whole program:from cutting down the veg, to marking the points). Walk up the cliff (in the middle on your right watch for the crashed helicopter). The view from the cliff is breathtaking. Preah Vihear will be a major attraction in the future, no doubt about that. Right now it's open on a try out" basis.
Khorat (Thail) to Siem Reap (Camb):
In a day, no problem. Taxi driver do the last part on the way from Sisaphon to SR after sunset this days. Cross the border before 1:30 pm and you can make it. I arrived at 8 pm at Smileys.

Angkor,SR:
Bar: the Steakhouse during 12/98 into 1/99.
Apsara dancing: ask at the dancing school down Sivoutha Str. direction of Phnom Krom (nice place for sunset BTW) or at Phreah Khan. When Preak Khan is illuminated by little oil lamps from the west to the east gate and inside of course on a clear full moon night and you walk through the temple area at 4 am, music in the background,and at sunrise the dancing starts in the Ta Nei: don't miss it. Between Thommanon and Ta Keo (near Ta Keo). It is safe, no mines anymore. Entry from the west, no restauration work. If you like Preah Palilay...then go to Phnom Kulen: Take a good driver (I can recommend Thra at Smiley, he really knows his way around),
try to go around the Banteay Srei checkpoint, then it is around 25 km to a few huts. KR are 1000 Riel per checkpoint. Expect around 5 of them (points). Going rate toget on the Phnom
is 15$. You can do it only on weekends. 10 of the 15 $ goes to the KR before you start your way. One or two guides, which are guards, accompany you all the way. Don't do it on your own.
You climb the hill, in the middle is a small temple around a spring, then it is around 4-5 km through the jungle, you cross a little nice and cool river, 5 of your 15$ you have already paid goes from one of your guards to another unit and than you can visit the Buddhist temples.
This area is KR aerea, you can see the results of the government bombings. From here it's a few hundred meters to an impressive waterfall (25 m?). On the way back you cross the river again. On both crossings you can see figures carved into the stone of the river bed. The area (temples and waterfall) is very popular, Cambodians are allowed to visit the place. Because of the landmines it's not open for tourists. Mines are the reason you get the guides, they make sure you don't leave the path (well, who would do it anyway?). On your way back ask your driver to take you directly to Banteay Samre (you circle Phnom Bok in a
way).
Boeng Mealea: Sorry, still off limits.

Battambang:
Take the Battambang boat in SR, leaving the Tonle Sap behind you follow the Sanger river upstream. Battambang has 3 bridges. The first you will reach is the one where you will find the SR-B-boats.
Hotel: Golden Parrot across the central market with a nice balcony from which you can watch whats going on (5$ with TV, 4$ without) and the spotlessly clean, modernTE.O (10$).
Restaurant TE.O, Heng Lim (3.Street), War Leap, Sbay Nas
Battambang has a Cham community, you can see two mosques from the boat.
Popular with the locals is Otaky where you can swim or rent a boat, 500 Riel to get in.
Visit Wat Ek Phnom. Wat Ek Phnom was used as a prison during the DK years.
The new Buddhist Temple near Wat Ek Phnom is under restauration.
Phnom Sampou: To visit the temples and caves on Phnom Sampou follow the road to Pailin for 14 km, climb up the steps. Wat Brahn is from 1964, Vimean Andet [WatKonping] from1968.
Ask one of the monks from Asram Tositaram (somebody should check the spelling) to open the temples if they are closed. The next pagoda you will see was used as a prison during the DK period.
Most of the people where killed by cutting the throats, a little hole in the wall directed the bloodstream out of the building. Around 10.500 people died here.
One of the two caves you will visit has the bones and skulls of a few dozens of the victims.
Look up when you stay before them and you will see that the cave has another opening.
Some of the victims were thrown down here (15-20 m) after their throats were cut. 300 m from this cave is another cave where you can see skulls, bones and clothes of other KR victims.
The other peak you see near Phnom Sampou is named Phnom Kdong. In the west is Phnom Banon, where a temple from the 12th century can be visited. My motorbike driver
called it a castle. Skip it.
Another 4 km into the Pailin direction you can see Phnom Krapeu which means crocodile mountain.
You have to look hard to see the crocodile covering most of the hill. Wat Andeuck (turtle temple) is a new modern temple at Phnom Krapeu mostly payed from rich Cambodians living in USA and Canada.
Between Battambang and Phnom Sampou is a temple from the 11th century on your left site. I did not try to visit it, the tank beside the temple changed my mind (although most of the soldiers slept in theirs hammocks).
Back in Battambang follow RN 5 from the bridge around 1 km to the airport, take a turn to the left and after another 5 km you will come to the Baset temple (11th century). Ask your driver to bring you to Tapon (Sanke district).

Pailin:
Frontseat is 200 Baht oneway B/P. If you want to stay tell the driver to drop you at the Sang Phi Run Hotel. It's on the way to the market where the taxi stops, so you don't have to go back (uphill). The hotel is nearly opposite the Caesar International Casino which is a bit smaller then the one in Vegas. It is also only a few hundred meters from the
temple site.
Border crossing is not possible, this time the Thai side is the problem.
Locals commute from and into Thailand but for foreigners it's still closed and most probably will be closed for another few years. How the suspension bridge on the way to the border survived all the years is a mystery. If somebody tries for real to get Khieu Samphan and Nuon Chea out of
Pailin avoid the area. Right now everything is peaceful and it is worth to visit for a day or two. If there would be trouble again they will get you out of the car or from a bike in Battambang or at the checkpoints. Once you have crossed the Pang Roloem ckeckpoint you are inside Pailin.

Battambang -> Sisophon:
Good road. Afterall, in my opinion to reach Sisophon from SR it's much better to take the Battambang boat and proceed by car to Sisophon then to go the way directly.

Vientiane:/Nongkai border crossing
Visa on arrival at the friendship bridge is 30$ weekdays 31$ weekends.




I Feb 3, 1999, Tomaj
Vietnam - Recommendations
Transport from Ho Chi Minh to Hoi An, There was a rail line to Hoi an from da nang but it was destroyed sometime during the american war. My understanding is that is has not been repaired, so you can't get there by rail. Best way is plane/train from HCMC to Da nang, then bus south.
Da nang is boring, not worth a stay, but Hoi An most certainly is. it was one of my favorite cities.
You could also break up the trip by going to Hue first (hue is worth a day or two), then bus down to hoi an.
Sights in Hoi An In Hoi An, there is no charge to get into the old city per se, but there are charges to visit the many historical buildings there. One can buy a ticket to visit four sites, of your choosing (from a list). If you want to visit many of these, the cost can add up, but you'll probably get saturated before you spent too much money.
Activities in Hoi An The town is small and relaxed. not much nightlife (only one good bar, run by a french man),not much traffic, but lots of atmosphere. lots of shopping. beach nearby (rent a bike), awesome cham ruins nearby (take a tour, not a bike),and some of the best food in vietnam.
Accommodation I'd highly recommend the binh minh hotel on le loi street, about five blocks from the river. it's slightly away from the center, hence cheaper and less crowded, but not so far that you can't walk.

I Russdy (russell.garbutt@dce.ac.nz), originally posted on the Lonely Planet site.
Info on Vietnam
Bangkok - Vietnam Hanoi flight
If you buy in Bangkok it should be around $250 RT, maybe less depending on travel agent. Buying in Vietnam is more expensive -- $170 each way.
Halong Bay is nice; I was there for the first time last month. Can see where Cat Ba island is getting "discovered," though. It could be downright touristy in 3-5 years.
Train..is a good way from Hanoi. One of the attractions is that by travelling overnight you save a night's accommodation. The train left at 8pm from Hanoi and got into Hue at about 9am next morning if I remember correctly. We decided to travel in luxury and so got A/C first class sleepers. I think the cost of that was $75 per head - bearing in mind there is a 400% premium for foreigners.

?
28/1/99: Lori Penny <loripenny@hotmail.com>

Beaches in Indonesia
I am very interested in Indonesia and plan on traveling there soon.If anybody has any info on the best beaches and places to go I would appreciate it. Thanks! LORI



Hello
I research for Itisnet & have been to Sumatra, where I can really recommend travelling up to Banda Aceh. Try staying at Aceh Bungalows, just outside Banda Aceh, right on a beach. Probably best to get a taxi there & work out how to use the local transport from the bungalows, which can be difficult to find for the uninitiated. Quite luxurious,
well-built, very "easy" place to stay. From there, Pulau Weh is a nice island, good snorkelling/diving, not so much beachy. Then travel down the untouristed West Coast, stop at Hassan's Bungalows, Kualadoh, nr Calang. More of a local flavour than Banda Aceh, Hassan is a fantastic host, again right on a beach. In both cases, currents & waves quite
strong, so take care. From here, if you're well=prepared & ready for the full-on Robinson Crusoe experience, travel down to Tapaktuan & catch a boat which goes every Thursday to the main Pulau Banyak (many islands).
Next morning, after stocking up, a small boat takes you to a smaller island with the bungalows. Take a small pack with as much fruit,nuts "variety food" as possible, good book etc. Four bungalows, with basic restaurant which does rice & noodles, noodles & rice..., so you'll be welcome of bananas etc that you take over. Hammock a big bonus, take
your own snorkel & flippers.

Other than Sumatra, I think Indo & beaches go hand in hand, I'm off to Sualwesi for diving/beaching/hammocking, which I hear is fabalicious!!
Good luck David


? 14/1/99: Paul - <p.slinger@wxs.nl>
Indonesian Pen Pal wanted
I study Indonesian Language And I seek a Indonesian partner to write letters in Indonesian-English to learn and information about Indonesia .
I was 5 times in Indonesia last year 2 times.
I wait for your letter see you greetings from Paul Slinger

? 99.01.13 Darren & Sharon e-1-mail: sharon.darren@xtra.co.nz
Info on Hong Kong - China - Vietnam wanted:
We are planing a backpacking holiday from Hong Kong thru China to Long Son Vietnam down to Saigon. We plan to go in April 99.
Is there someone out there who has been to any of these areas,
recently who can share some knowledge or words of advise. How good are the trains in China.etc
Is six week to short a period for this distance?

I 99.1.21: David Inward

Myanmar info,

LANGUAGE
Good for SE Asia, thanks to British colonial past. As a result of this particularly some of the older generation are conversant, also better educated (monks!!). However, all efforts to pick up basic Burmese are very practical (basic greetings & numbers) & are rewarded by a fantastic response from the suitably amazed locals!!

CLIMATE
(Addition) Mountains, eg Pyin-u-Lwin (spell check!!) a hill station
resort, are much cooler particularly at night. Ideal respite from heat, take warm clothing unless visiting in full summer heat.

BUDGET
I bought a film (200 Fuji 36 exp in P-u-L) for 800 kyat

CURRENCY
Exchange rate 340 kyat : 1US$ (Yangon) Slightly less elsewhere (330Bagan / Mandalay). Slightly better exchange the higher the amount

MANDATORY EXCHANGE
1) Show ATM card, this can't be processed at airport
2)Claim staying short time eg for 7 days
3) If travelling alone pair up with other singles on flight
4)Make sure you hide dollars / visa card in main pack which is retrieved
AFTER you pass through FEC system
5) UI have heard it is possible to get "Organised Tour" stamp at some Bangkok Travel Agents. This is automatic exemption.I will try to get some examples.

(We used the ATM ploy & paid NOTHING Just be adamant!!! You will then be asked for a "present!!!!" Flight was Myanmar Airlines.Another traveller used the same ploy and changed 50US$ which is easily spent - airline not known) Another single traveller used the short stay ploy & negotiated down to 150US. I very much would like to expand this section to a separate page which peolpe can print off + distribute also including info of tourist site fee avoidance we have gathered)

MAIL/PHONE
Private office in Yangon: UK 5 mins 1000 kyat, Japan 3 mins 700 kyat Gov't office (Mandalay) 210 kyat for all int'l calls, may have to wait up to 1 hour for your turn. Can give no. get time estimate, go & return.Connection not great & may be lost (once happened in maybe 6 calls) but worth the risk at these prices!!

back to Current SE Asia Networrk page

I 98.1.21: Gabi Miller (gmiller@motor-presse-stuttgart.de)
Concerning Burma/Myanmar:
It is wrong that there is no offical overland entry point. The German travel-magazine "Reise & Preise" reported this week that there is an offical entry point between Thailand and Burma
near Kawthaung.
The name of the entry point has to be written
on the visa. This information has been verified by Burmese officals.
(See also www.lonelyplanet.de/Myanmar/
travellers reports)
Best regards from snowy Germany!

Hello Gabi
Thanks for taking the trouble to contact Itisnet with your info regarding the Burmese overland situation. Yes, maybe my info was a little unclear. It is possible & I believe indeed very simple to cross from Thailand into Myanmar (Burma), however this is more a visa run or a couple of days in the border area. There is no access to what I regard "mainland Myanmar/Burma," that is to say if you are intending to visit Myanmar on a 1 month visa, overland crossings are officially not possible, presumably due to the FEC issue. I know of 1 traveller who eventually made it overland out of Myanmar into Laos at the 2nd attempt, which required a few days, but to publicise this sort of info would be irresponsible as it would create a false impression as the majority would get turned back & my name will be dirt!! The type of traveller to attempt this sort of border crossing will give it a go whatever.
Hope Stuttgart is gradually getting warmer for you, please keep contributing
David

? 1.2.99:bucher (pe.bu.@bluewin.ch)
The timetable Train from Bangkok to butterworth Malaysia.
I like to know how much cost the ticket 1.class.Thank for help
Bangkok to Butterworth - seat 640B,
2nd class a/c sleeper upper 940B leaves 15;15 arrives Butterworth 12:40 the next day.
Sorry I'm afraid the information we have for 1st class is a little confusing - I have a leaflet which says 1st class charge from Bangkok to Padang Besar is 767B, 'supplementary charge for A/C 1st Class is 520B/person plus additional supplement for Padang Besar to Butterworth 250B/person.
This information was correct when it was last checked around May 1998.

There is a travel agency with a website on the internet
RICHLY TRAVEL CENTRE - Travel Tours Tickets Trekking in Thailand
Next to the Train Station - Bangkok
http://login.samart.co.th/~richly/

? 1.1.99:iko(iko-ilgi@turk.net)
the vietnamese visa in Phnom Penh, Cambodia
How long does it normally take.How long does it take in Bangkok? Is there any express visa aplication for vietnam in Bangkok?How long does it take and how much does it cost?


Regarding your query about Visas to Vietnam, well the following details are from our site:
Embassy in Phnom Penh:
36 M.V.Preah Monivong M-F8-11:00,14-16/Sa8-11:00
30-day visa, $50, takes 5 days, 2 photos.
Good for 30 days from the day you specify
1-day express service $80 Visa application mornings only.
Embassy in Bangkok:
83/1 Witthayu Rd.@T251-5835
8:30-11:30, 13:30-16:00
800B 2 photos, letter of invitation required.(Most people arrange through travel agency) 4days, 2 photos@
Agents: 2199B

Hope this helps, good luck with your preparation, we have a lot of information on our site so please check through it.

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