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Vietnam, Laos & Cambodia trip

  • Submitted by: Gerhard Karl
  • Website: None Available
  • Submission Date: 04th Feb 2005

Vietnam, Laos, Cambodia trip
(September 1993)

Upon request I post a travelogue about my recent holidays (3 weeks) in Vietnam, Laos and Cambodia. As I have very limited time now (finishing my dissertation), I will only post a very short one. If you have additional questions, feel free to email me!


I got my visas for these countries via M.K.Ways in Bangkok. I ordered them in advance by fax and everything worked out wonderful. I sent them via fax the specifications, made an international money transfer, and when I arrived in Bangkok, they had everthing ready for me except the Laosvisa, because therefore they needed may passport. Costs were: Vietnam-visa: 60 USD
Cambodia-visa: 68 USD
Laos-visa: 120 USD
I know this is pretty much and you can get it much cheaper in Kao San Rd. or in Vietnam (there a Cambodia-visa is 20 USD), but if you have limited time, this is the only way and the people at M.K.Ways were extremly helpful. The Laos-visa is very expensive, because there is transport from the Mekong-ferry to Vientiane and one night at a hotel in Vientiane included. If you want to see other parts of the country, this is extremely expensive. You have to book a tour, and this costs you for 2 days at least 250 USD (no kidding). But with this visa you can stay in the Vientiane-province as long as the visa is valid. There are a lot of cheap hotels in Vientiane. The adress is:
57/11 Witthayu (Wireless) Rd., Patumwan, Bangkok 10330 Tel: 254-4765, 255-2892, 252-8214
fax: 254-5583
Add the country-code for Thailand and the code for Bangkok (for example from Austria the whole Fax-number would be 00662/254-5583). I arrived at their office at 9.30 a.m. and got my Laos-visa at 3 p.m. In the meantime I bought a train ticket from Bangkok to Nong Khai for 335 Baht (second class sleeper, great). The train left at 7 p.m., I arrived in Nong Khai at 6.15 a.m. and bought a train-ticket for the next day back to Bangkok. A tuk-tuk brought me to the Mekong border. The office there opened at 7 a.m., the first ferry to Laos departed at 8 a.m. At the Lao-side a guy waited for me and brought me to the hotel in Vientiane. Vientiane is a great town, very relaxing after Bangkok. Rent a bike to explore the town!You can change money at every hotel (the current rate was 28 Kip for 1 Thai Baht). An extensive breakfast is about 800 Kip, a bottle of Pepsi 250 Kip.
The next day I took a Taxi back to the border (100 Baht) and went back to Bangkok.
Then I met a friend in Bangkok and we flew to Saigon. We stayed at the Vien Dong Hotel (from outside its a really smart place, we had our doubts, if this place wouldnt be to expensive for us) for 12 USD for a double with fan (it was much cooler than Bangkok). You can change money at the hotel (current rate was 11.000 Dong for 1 USD). A taxi from the airport to the Vien Dong was 10 USD (we bargained hard, but nobody wanted to go cheaper). In Saigon we rented a car (actually it was a minibus with ac) for 6 days with a driver who was also guide for 200 USD. We went to Dalat (7 hours), stayed for 12 USD in the Mimosa-Hotel (bloody rip-off). Further on we went to Na Thrang and stayed at the Vien Dong Hotel. This was the best hotel I ever stayed in: pool, tennis court, Live music in the evening, hot water, etc. The price is a real bargain: 12 USD (seems to be a sort of standard price). They have also a laundryservice there (1 pair of jeans and 4 shirts 12.000 Dong). You have to pay the hotel bill in dollars, but you get also the change in dollars. Bring only cash dollars, as it is very hard to change TCs. Do a boat trip in Na Thrang (5 USD for the whole day including a great lunch and snorkelling). After six days we were back in Saigon.
We rented a taxi to the Cambodian border for 25 USD and from the border to Phnom Penh for 20 USD. It took us 7 hours from Saigon to Phnom Penh (nearly one hour we spent a the border). There is also a bus for 10 USD from Saigon to Phnom Penh, but this leaves Saigon at 5 a.m. and arrives in Phnom Penh at around 5 p.m. (including a 4 hour wait at the border).
In Phnom Penh we stayed at the Hotel Capitol (to be recommended) for 8 USD (double with fan). There we changed money (2.600 Riel for 1 USD). We rented also motorbikes for 5 USD a day and went out to S21 and the Killing fields (incredible). If you have Dong left, you can change them at the Old Market (look out for notes at cigarette stands). We bought a flight from Siem Reap to Phnom Penh for 43 USD and rented a car for 50 USD to Siem Reap (hard bargaining necessary). The trip took us nearly 12 hours, but was done in one day (some time ago somebody posted here that it will take you 2 days). The road is very bad and if it is not raining, you get really dirty. Our driver had to bribe the armymembers out on the road (cigarettes, 200 riel, etc), otherwise they wouldnt let us pass. In Siem Reap there are a lot of Guest-Houses on the street, marked with a blue sign "Guest House Nr. ...". We stayed at Nr. 57 for 10 USD (double with fan and bath). Entranve to Angkor is expensive: You have to pay for the days you want to visit the monuments: 1 day is 21 USD, 2 days 41 USD , ... You have to have a motorbike, otherwise its impossible to see all the sights in Angkor. You can rent bikes for 5 USD a day or for 8 USD with driver. We took motorbikes with drivers (they pay the fuel, look after the bikes while you are inside the monuments, and, most important, they also work as guides) for two days (you need at least two days to see all the temples). Angkor is the most impressive thing I saw in my life. And it was not that dangerous as many people in Phnom Penh told us. Of course the Khmer Rouge are very active in this part of the country, but they also know that it would be fatal for them to kill tourists. We took the flight back to Phnom Penh.

Comment: If you want to go to Vietnam, go now. In 5-10 years it could be like Thailand nowadays. Cambodia is also to be visited now, because nobody knows what will happen to the country when to UN-soldiers will leave. Laos would be the best choice in the region, but nobody can afford to travel there. Although the Lonely Planet-Guides "Vietnam, Laos and Cambodia" and "Cambodia" are out of date I would recommend to buy one. I heard that there is a new edition of the "Vietnam"-section.

Mag. Gerhard KARL
University of Economics and Business Administration
Department of Advertising and Marketing Research
Augasse 2-6, A-1090 Vienna
Vienna - Austria - Europe
Voice: 0043/1/31336-4410
Fax: 0043/1/346699
e-mail: j1300dad@awiuni11.bitnet