TTM+ is held every year in varying provinces in Thailand by the Tourism Authority of Thailand. It is a conference for Travel Agents / Hoteliers / DMC's (tour operators) in an effort to both promote tourism in Thailand, and to educate Travel Agents as to what is available for their travel clients. It is a great opportunity, and I have attended for many years, always finding it a valuable asset.
I had the opportunity to go on a pre-tour around parts of Bangkok utilizing an E-Scooter. This is a fun way to travel around parts of the city, and along the river visiting old and beautiful temples. We finished the tour by having lunch at a small local restaurant with Thailand delicacies. The E-Scooters are relatively easy to use, but do take a little getting used to, and the vendor starts you in a large parking area so you can learn how to ride them.
The Post tour was a highlight of my visit to Thailand this time. We were taken up into the province of Kanchanaburi (well known for the Bridge on the River Kwai) which I thought I knew very well from so many visits over the years, but this time I was taken to parts of Kanchanaburi I had not seen. This tour emphasized the 'green tourism' spreading across not only Thailand, but many parts of the world emphasizing wellness for good health - authentic local experiences - and carbon neutrality for environmental advantage.
Day 1 - we traveled to Supa House in the Muang District of the Nakhon Pathom province. At Supa House, we learned how to make the world-famous Pad Thai and, of course, we ate it as well. Utilizing only local organic crops, cooked with natural fuel from drying twigs using a 'Pepci Stove' which is an innovative stove from Kasetsart University research that reduces fuel costs and is adapted from the old wisdom of local Thais. We were welcomed with fresh lemonade followed by fried tofu with tamarind and ground peanut sauce. The main dish was the savory Pad Thai we cooked with shrimp. Desert was a very special coconut ice cream with sticky rice and mango fruit. Finally, we were served coconut coffee to top of this fantastic cooking class and meal.
I have to mention that Kuhn Lek was the Chef teacher, tour leader for the farm visits and bicycle rides and she did a fantastic job.
After our cooking class and meal were finished, we traveled to Suan Kaset Ya Shu which is an agricultural and Farm Stay in Nakhom Pathom province.
There, with Kuhn Lek, we learned about the Thai method of eating - which is a combination of eating according to the seasons and eating according to the elements to achieve a better balance of body and mind in our lives. We prepared and cooked using various types of herbs and plants gathered on the farm and made smoothies.
We then traveled to Baan Kaew Samunprai in Ratchaburi province where we relaxed with many types of local Thai fragrant herbs. We enjoyed an awesome foot spa and then learned how to make an herbal balm which when applied relaxes the muscles in your body.
At the end of day 1, we checked into the Wonderful Baan Amphora Resort & Spa for dinner and a restful evening overnight.
Day 2 - After a nice breakfast we traveled on to the Tha Kha Floating Market in Samut Songkhram province which we explored for about 30 minutes. From there we proceeded about 9KM by bicycle to Plean Yod Tarn, a well-known producer of sugar from coconut flower that is used by Michelin Starred chefs for Thai fine dining. We had the opportunity to taste a number of the products made of coconut flower sugar.
We continued our travel to Khao Mai Pai Man which is a very famous local restaurant in Samut Songkhram province where we enjoyed a very special lunch with a Thai set menu presented by the owners, Mr. Panya Tongthon, who spoke to us about food security and sustainable use of biodiversity.
Then we went off to Kanchanburi to check in at Hin Tok River Camp Resort in Hell Fire Canyon. This is a beautiful camp with spacious deluxe canvas tents with in room bathroom and shower.
That afternoon there was a bamboo rafting trip on the serene River Kwai. In the evening we had an awesome BBQ dinner outside followed by a great night's sleep in our tents.
The next morning was early yoga followed by a hydro aerobic session. This was followed by a wonderful breakfast.
We were then treated to a 30-minute foot massage, and shown how to make an herbal inhaler.
This was the end of the tour, and we were then transported back to Bangkok with a nice lunch on the way.
A special shout out to the 137 Pillars Residences in Bangkok where I stayed my entire time in Thailand other than when I was on tour. My suite was extremely large with a living room, complete kitchen, great bedroom with king bed, a very large bath area with both a shower and bath tub. Completing the luxury was the bidet style toilet as well as a washer and dryer for clothes. The entire staff was kind and courteous, but none more so than the wonderful and awesome housekeeper who was so friendly and helpful. The evening before I left for Cambodia she presented me with a bouquet of roses!
The most famous part of visiting Cambodia is to visit Angkor Wat and the other temples. Siem Reap is the capital city which has a plethora of great hotels.
Angkor Wat is a temple complex located in northwest Cambodia and is the largest religious structure in the world by land area, measuring 162.6 hectares. It was built in the 12th century by King Suryavarman II. Estimated construction time of the temple is 30 years by King Suryavarman II, dedicated to Vishnu (Hindu), replica of Angkor Thom style of art. The vast religious complex of Angkor Wat comprises more than a thousand buildings, and it is one of the great cultural wonders of the world.
Angkor Wat, in its beauty and state of preservation, is unrivaled. Its mightiness and magnificence bespeak a pomp and a luxury surpassing that of a Pharaoh or a Shah Jahan, an impressiveness greater than that of the Pyramids, an artistic distinctiveness as fine as that of the Taj Mahal. Angkor Wat is located about six kilometers (four miles) north of Siem Reap, south of Angkor Thom. Entry and exit to Angkor Wat can only be accessed from its west gate.
Visiting Angor Wat was exhilirating, but very hard for me. The temperature was 97F with humidity in the 75% range and approximately a 3km walk thru Angor Wat with no shade. Thankfully my guide was a great help. You can only enter and exit one way so even when my body wanted to quit, I had to continue. I definitely wanted to visit Angor Wat which is why I included it in my itinerary through the best tour operator "IndoChina Treks" www.indochinatreks.com out of Hanoi, Vietnam who put together my entire trip, guides, cruises and hotels.
Siem Reap is the second-largest city of Cambodia and the capital and largest city of Siem Reap Province in northwestern Cambodia. It has French colonial and Chinese-style architecture in the Old French Quarter and around the Old Market. Siem Reap is a cheerful city that embraces travelers like old friends. This region was the site of successive capitals of the Khmer Empire from the ninth to the 15th centuries. The ruins, collectively known as the Angkor Archaeological Park, are located about four miles north of the city center.
I stayed at the Sokha Angor Resort in Siem Reap. A wonderful 4-star hotel with a spacious room, king bed, excellent shower plus a fantastic buffet breakfast.
That evening I went to the Phare Circus which is a show with acrobats doing amazing stunts. This is a "Must See" attraction if you visit Siem Reap.
Phare Circus is a modern cultural performance in Siem Reap that uses theater, music, dance and modern circus arts to tell uniquely Cambodian stories; historical, folk and modern. The young circus artists will astonish you with their energy, emotion, enthusiasm and talent. It is Siem Reap’s most unique, authentic top-rated evening entertainment.
In the evenings I went with my guide to 'Pub City' in Siem Reap which is an area loaded with restaurants, bars, and people. Also on my "Must Visit" list as well.
Pub Street is the culinary and nightlife hub of Siem Reap, Cambodia. It is officially titled Street 8 and is lined with restaurants and bars selling cheap beer and reasonable food. Later on, the music starts thumping and there’s often almost a party atmosphere. People watching is free!
At the airport waiting to board my fight to Ha Noi, Vietnam I met a wonderful free spirit young Israeli woman named Micaella who was embarking on a trip to anywhere her heart takes her. We had a marvelous conversation, and I wished her a great journey and hoped that journey would take her to San Francisco area here in the USA so we could meet and catch up on life again.
I arrived in Ha Noi (Hanoi), Vietnam flying in from Siem Reap, Cambodia and was very excited as this was my first visit to Vietnam. I was looking forward to visiting as much of Vietnam as possible in my time in-country, and learning about the culture and the people.
Day 1 - I was taken on a half day city tour of Hanoi, by private car, starting with a visit to President Ho Chi Min's mausoleum and the nearby One Pillar Pagoda. After we left the President's complex, we visited Hua Lo Prison which was built in 1899. This is the infamous "Hanoi Hilton" where American pilots were held including John McCain. We visited a local NGO where amazing lacquer art work was made, and I could not resist 3 pieces which I purchased and had shipped home.
I was then transported to the home of my good friends at IndoChina Treks to meet with the entire staff. I had met the owners while on a trip in Myanmar a few years before, and had stayed in touch with them since that time. When I decided to put this three-country trip together they were at the top of the list to make this happen. Every step of the way we discussed my wants and needs, and they made it happen by also giving suggestions, but more importantly making sure every tour guide, hotel, restaurant and internal transportation was the very best. At their house I was treated to a 'Taste of Vietnam' with a luncheon prepared and served by them. A very special time with very special people.
I convinced my tour guide that it would be nice to tour via motorbike rather than car, and she was happy to do that. That night we took a tour around the lake, and got caught in a thunderstorm getting soaked to the skin - and enjoyed it all!
That evening I went to the wonderful "Water Puppet Show" downtown, and was in awe of how they maneuvered the puppets in the water from behind curtains. Add this to your "Must See" list when you visit Hanoi.
The Thang Long Water Puppet Theatre is the most famous place in Hanoi where you can attend a water puppet show. It is located next to Hoan Kiem Lake in the center of Hanoi. The theatre is modern and shows are around 15 short performances within a one-hour show
Day 2 - In the morning I was transported to the waiting lounge at the Indochina Junk Office in preparation for my Halong Bay Cruise. Once on board and meeting the other travelers we had a welcome drink and cruise briefing.
We had a nice lunch while our boat cruised to the magnificent Bai Tu Long Bay. We visited Vung Vieng fishing village by rustic row boats then met with the local people while passing through the floating school and fish farms. After returning to our ship, we had an elegant dinner on board, and a relaxing evening. I found some new friends with 2 couples- one from Australia and one from New Zealand, and they were fun to be with and glad to have met them.
Day 3 - We started the day with Tai Chi on the sundeck with the morning view of the Bay's landscape. We then cruised to Cong Dam while learning about the geological values of Bai Tu Long Bay.
We then were taken to a wild beach where we went kayaking, and had a BBQ lunch. Later we returned to our Dragon Legend boat to continue our cruise to the Cong Do area, and had dinner on board.
Day 4 - After breakfast we arrived at Hon Co Island to explore the well-hidden Thien Canh Son cave. Returning back to the boat, and while enjoying a buffet lunch we returned back to port where my guide would be waiting to transport me to the airport for my flight to Da Nang.
Day 5 - Arriving in Da Nang I was taken to Ba Na Hills to visit the new 'Golden Hand Bridge' which is situated at the very top of the mountain. First you queue in line to go to the escalator and then follow the thousands of people to the next escalator until finally you reach the first cable car which brings you to Debay, a former French wine cellar, and then to the second cable car to reach the summit to the Du Dome Square, French Catholic Church, Fantasy Park and the Golden bridge.
The Golden Bridge (Vietnamese: Cầu Vàng) is a 150-metre-long pedestrian bridge in the Bà Nà Hills resort, near Da Nang, Vietnam. It is designed to connect the cable car station with the gardens (avoiding a steep incline) and to provide a scenic overlook and tourist attraction. The bridge is supported by two gigantic hands just like the hands of God.
day 6 - I stayed overnight in Hoian, and instead of utilizing the driver and car that was originally set up for me I talked the tour guide into taking me on the tour on the back of his motorbike. This is the best way to see everything because it can go where vehicles cannot so I had the experience of visiting small villages and areas, getting a glimpse of a more subdued and peaceful time.
My itinerary was to include a Vespa ride to see the countryside, but since I had already convinced my tour guide to utilize his motorbike we were already set.
After traveling around the countryside seeing everything, we visited a cooking school where we were shown how to prepare some Vietnamese food dishes - which we then had the pleasure of eating along with a nice cold bottle of beer.
Day 7 - On this morning I flew from Da Nang to Ho Chi Min City (Saigan) where I relaxed until the following morning at my hotel.
Day 8 - I started the Mekong River cruise for a short overnight cruise. This was a nice lazy cruise with the only other passengers being a nice Australian couple. There was the option to visit a local village in the afternoon.
Day 9 - A nice excursion on a rowing Sampan to explore small canals, enjoy folk music, and visit home-made handicrafts. Then back to port as the cruise was over.
Day 10 - A half day city tour of Ho Chi min (Saigan), and then free afternoon.
Day 11 - Transported to the airport for my flight home - the end of 30 fantastic days.
VIETNAM AIRLINES - BUSINESS CLASS
I flew from San Francisco to Ho Chi Min (Saigan) business class Non-Stop - then a short layover then to Bangkok. My return flight was from Ho Chi Min (Saigan) non-stop to San Francisco. Other flights were Bangkok to Siem Reap, Cambodia / Siem Reap to Hanoi, Vietnam then 3 internal flights thru Vietnam.
Vietnam Airlines business class seats were very comfortable which made sleeping possible. The food was excellent, and the cabin crew fantastic on all flights
In Bangkok, Thailand I stayed at the remarkable 137 Pillars Residences Hotel. My room consisted of a large living area, kitchen, Bathroom with Shower, separate tub, bidet toilet, and clothes washer & dryer. A separate bedroom with a comfortable king bed topped this luxury off. The entire staff were always ready to help you with whatever you needed. Breakfast buffet was excellent as well. I also had the sweetest young woman housekeeper who took the time to speak with me every day, and on the evening before my final departure brought me a bouquet of roses! I would rate this hotel as 5 Star ++++
In Siem Reap, Cambodia I stayed at a very nice hotel, Sokha Angor Hotel. I had a very nice room with a king bed along with a large bathroom with shower but sadly no bidet toilet just a normal one. Breakfast Buffet was very good. I would rate this hotel as at least 4+ star, and can recommend it.
In Hanoi I stayed at the Apricot Hotel right across from the lake, and reasonably close to everything. The hotel lobby was beautiful, and the room luxurious with King bed and bathroom with shower. Highly rated 5-star hotel
Our boat, the Dragon Legend, was much nicer than I expected. Everything was clean and well maintained. My room was as good as any 4-star hotel with a large king bed, A/C, and nice bathroom with shower. Food was also excellent. Certainly, I would rate this highly.
Four Point by Sheraton is a typical well run, clean and top hotel in Da Nang. Once again, a very nice room with a large bed and bathroom. Excellent buffet breakfast. I would rate this as a 5-star hotel.
Vinh Hung Riverside Resort in Hoian setting is right on the river with a large swimming pool, and very nice rooms. I had a luxury villa room which was extremely large, and a nice bathroom and shower area. The breakfast buffet was very good. I would rate this resort as 4+Stars and highly recommended
Renaissance Riverside Hotel (by Marriott) is set right across the street from the river, and close to virtually everything. The rooms, bed and bath were excellent as you would expect from Marriott, and the buffet breakfast was over the top. Obviously a 5-star hotel
Mekong Eyes cruise was an overnight cruise on the Mekong Delta in a smaller boat. Once again, an excellent room and bath. The food was fantastic.
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