Still recovering from jet lag, but want to let you know how trip to India went. Pam and I would say it was a complete success. Pam absolutely loved every minute and I can say it was a life experience like no other. It was incredible and exhausting. The itinerary we put together was perfect. We saw a great deal of India yet scheduled enough 'down time' to stay healthy. Our weather was ideal, the drivers and guides very good, and all our arrangements excellent. Pam loved the food, Tom found plenty to eat. The hotels were outstanding. The trip over on Queen Mary 2 was a bonus as was extra days in Dubai. Emirates Airline outstanding. Internal air travel just barely OK. Good weather, November best time to go.
Most memorable sights: Varanasi and ceremonies on the Ganges, Taj Majhal, Jain temple in Calcutta, Amber fort in Jaipur. and house boat in backwaters. The people in India are beautiful, so friendly and so eager to be of service. Never once felt uncomfortable, despite such a large population.
The negatives: quality of air everywhere especially New Delhi. Caution anyone with respiratory problems. Traffic is simply unbelievable, word cannot describe what its like.
So Anne, you and I did a good job..Thanks for all you did to make it a true life experience. Take care and we send our very best
TOM & PAM
Thanks very much for all the arrangements you completed for my recent trip to Southern India. I appreciate your personal and professional advice -- freely given as I contemplated the trip -- as well as your responsiveness, frankness and good nature.
Everything went as I was told it would. There were no surprises. Everybody showed up on time and delivered what was promised. I believe that I got good value for my money and am especially grateful for the pace of travel...something I'd never be able to foresee.
I am glad to have become a repeat customer, and glad to have referred my friends to your care.
Our trip was wonderful, and we thought your interpretation of our needs was the best.
Our northern Vietnam piece was great. Ha Long bay and that overnight boat was special (as was the trip down the Mekong). Laos was wonderful, if not too short a visit.
Obviously, we'll have to do it again - but maybe for a shorter time- and see both what we missed and what we especially enjoyed. Wonderful guides, especially Ta Napat in Bangkok and Ha in Hanoi. The service was impeccable, everywhere, and the hotels excellent.
VIETNAM, CAMBODIA with Golden Fish
Dear Ms Anne Leveque,
… I would like to thank you and congratulate you for the excellent advice given and also for your choice of local agencies and guides who really contributed decisively to the wonderful days we have spent in Vietnam. Thank you, thank you very much!
Henrique Silveira Borges/Portugal
BURMA with Golden Fish
Hello to All,
I just wanted you to know that every detail on my recent trip was perfect and that I could not have had a better trip. "Frankie", who met me at the Yangon airport from Day 1, made me feel comfortable and I knew then that the trip was going to be enjoyable. Every driver was fun to be with — and your country is on my list as a 'repeat' country to go to, when and if I get the extra money!
I have so many remarkable memories; met unforgettable new friends and can't thank you enough for making my journey to your country of such gracious, charming people, a journey of a lifetime.
Please send my deep thanks to all your guides & drivers.
Here are some of my impressions Oct 08
- What is burma like now?
- Of course I was only near the delta region, not actually in the devastated area, but Yangon is almost all cleaned up. The temples — the ones I saw in Yangon — have no scaffolds around them and the paint is new and bright & shiny. I'm so impressed with the clean up as the trees that went down (they were HUGE) — most are cleared away or cut up enough to allow traffic through.
- With the dictatorship
- No one mentioned government directly. The most people would say to me is 'how lucky & free you are' — I usually only commented to make their life seem not so bad by saying, 'all governments have problems'. I chose not to talk about the house arrest of AUNG SAN SUU KY and I got the feeling that they have just accepted their way of life as it is and she must accept hers. One comment about the monks, though: while in Amarapura at the monastery, the empty seats at the table were supposedly of the monks that 'were taken away'. It was also indicated that there were many more monks in the country than there are now. I didn't dare ask if they were killed or in prison. The person that was talking to me seemed to care deeply about their bad government situation but knew he couldn't do anything about it. He was older and I believe he wanted to talk because he figured his life was close to an end and whatever he said, he just didn't care if 'they' heard.
I was amazed by the incredibly fast, very good clean up since Nargis. Again, I never asked questions. But, sometimes in just trying to make small talk, things come out that unfortunately relate to their situations. anyway, the person told me that the Burma government soldiers did not do the clean up — they didn't have the skill or capacity to do it — then he said bad things about the soldiers. He told me that the Chinese soldiers were there in 3 days and cleaned it so fast. He said that their government people were so 'stupid' and he used the word stupid, that they didn't know what to do with all the bodies and everyone was worried about disease. But, he said when the Chinese came in; cleared it out; the progress of getting back to normal started immediately.
I did get one strange comment about aung San Suu Ky. I merely said that I heard her house arrest was on Inle Lake in Yangon - a lovely area for nicer homes; cafes; walking for lovers around this lake; also to do a little fishing. (You can't get near her house, of course) The guy said to me this: She's been locked up for 10 years, now, so she really doesn't know what advancements our country has had. She is still living in the past and she believes that everyone thinks of her as the day she was first arrested. She doesn't realize, since apparently she gets no magazines or newspapers, radios; tv, that we are trying to move ahead and get along with our government officials to try and help our community. Like he said, if people like him just waste all their time worrying about her, nothing new will get started to help Myanmar grow. The people must do what they can to respect the government that is in; try to get improvement laws passed and just try to get small things done for the people. He said they can't live with hate forever. And, maybe some of that is working. I never saw a demonstration — never saw people yelling in the streets.
I got the impression that there are two types of people: the newer generation that want change but want to work with the present government and maybe use the old saying that 'catching flies with sugar is easier than with vinegar'. Then, there are the older, mentally abused people that have suffered much and they would probably just like to do something radical, but they really have no one to talk to about this because no one can be trusted. I hear the young soldiers make $20 a month! They can't be happy. I have no idea what a field hand makes — I did want to ask. I also wanted to ask if the government gives everyone a stipend each month. Otherwise, how do they get any money at all?
I hear that many, many Chinese are now living in the Mandalay area. Apparently, they like living in Burma better than China! Go figure!
I'm finally going to read my books on Aung San Suu Ky; Burmese Days and another book I just got from Amazon. Now that I've been there, reading these books will put many more things into better perspective.
Also, I never saw people not busy doing something. No lazy people just laying around — reminded me of the poor Indian people. They have nothing but they still get up early in the morning; wash themselves up; make tea and some little food for breakfast and then walk the day trying to sell just one thing. Go back to their plastic bag tent home; start up a hot fire for making some kind of warm meal for the family. It amazed me — rare to see one lazy person and still holding on to hoping the next day will be better.
And, with all these burdens they carry, they still smile!
We had a wonderful three week trip to Japan in May, 2004, that was coordinated by you. It was one of the finest trips we have had over the years! We stayed to the spiritual sites of Japanese culture, Buddhist and Shinto, during our trip staying at small Ryokans.
A family member wants to spend several days on Miyajima--an absolutely lovely island off Hiroshima infused with Buddhism, Shintoism, and Japanese beauty. We stayed at a wonderful small Ryokan--maybe three--on Miyajima. The owner was especially gracious and helpful during our visit. Our family member would also love to stay at the same location, however I've lost that name and email/telephone number. Is there any possibility that you would know the small Ryokan on Miyajima where you schedule visitors? Would you have the contact information?
Thank you for your wonderful help in the past! Thank you in advance for whatever help you could provide for the above.
John L. Ramsey
Charleston, South Carolina
We just returned from our trip of SE Asia. You did an fantastic job. I can honestly say, there was not one glitch. The guides were all there waiting for us when we arrived, they were friendly and knowledgeable and spoke English pretty well. They were with us all the time and made our lives much easier. The drivers were safe ad courteous.
Thanks for the help making this a great trip.
Thanks so much for all your help and we do know that you are the best! Every bit of your trips turn out to be perfect.
If I think of anything else, after these continued snowballs are kicking us in the behind, I'll be the first to be back with you.
Thank you so much, Anne.
Dianne and I have returned from a wonderful trip to Japan, thanks to you.
What a fabulous country. We enjoyed the entire two weeks to the fullest. Between the historical sights, gracious people, and tasty food, I don't know where to begin. All the hotels and/or ryokans where easy to find right from the train station or bus stop and quite convenient with our travel plans. Well done! To start with, we arrived in Narita in the afternoon and quickly found the office to activate our JR passes. While there, we also reserved all our train travel for the entire trip. Thanks for the train information for all our cities. This saved us countless amounts of time. Our guide in Tokyo (Yoko), left a fax at the front desk when we arrived at the hotel and called early evening to arrange our tour for the following day. Went to Fsukiji Fish Market on our own at 5:00am and had an unexplainable great experience followed by a memorable sushi breakfast. Met up with our guide for 9:00am and began our tour of the city (Meiji Shrine, Imperial Palace view, Asakusa Kannon Temple, River cruise, 52 nd floor observation tower at the Mori Building in Roppongi and lastly a Japan tea ceremony). So much to see. Almost needed an extra day, but no room in the schedule. Would have loved to visit the National museum, but chose the above sights as most important. Nikko was interesting and very busy because on the holiday weekend. Experienced much traffic with the bus, but saw the falls and lake and arrived back at the hotel later then expected. Well worth the extra time on the highway. Hakone was beautiful but rainy. Went to the open-air museum while raining and made our way up the funicular to catch the cable car to Togendai. Unfortunately, fog closed down the cable car and boats, so we ended up take a bus to Moto-Hakone to see the lake. Again, too much fog, so we enjoyed an Onsen in Hakone-Yumoto instead and had relaxing afternoon.
Takayama was our favorite city. The festival was unbelievable. We enjoyed walking around endlessly. The meals at the hotel was outstanding! Kyoto was larger and busier than expected. Had a wonderful guide (Toyoko) in the city. Saw Kinkakuji, Ninna-ji, Gion Nijo Castle, Kiyomizu-Dera. Visited Fushimi Inari and Toji on our own. Nara was interesting and a great experience as well. Mount Koya was peaceful and relaxing. Loved the Rengejo-in Inn. Visiting the graveyard and handful of other temples. Food at the Inn was very good and enjoyed our Hostess. Left earlier for Hiroshima to have more time touring. This added an extra hour to our day which was needed to see everything. Miyajima was our second favorite sight. Spent the entire day hiking and seeing the sights. Our flight to Okinawa was uneventful and went off as we planned. Stayed at Toyoko Inn Naha Miebashi-eki. Again, very convenient to the monorail. Rented a car and saw the war museum and a few World Heritage Sites. Good way to end our vacation.
We flew back to Osaka and overnight ed at the Ramada Inn near KIX. Had a leisurely morning a took the shuttle to the airport. Luckily, the skies were clear and we had the perfect view of Mt. Fuji, since we couldn't view her from Hakone. Very successful trip and once again, Dianne and I can't thank you enough for all your planning. Anyone looking for an agent for Japan travels, we will definitely recommend you and your agency.
We are back from Japan! Our trip was sensational and we had no mishaps, no problems or complications. Our guides were educated, pleasant and informed. The itinerary was precise, comfortable and kept us interested and the ryokans were sensational. All the hotels were good except one: the Riga in Osaka. The service was very impersonal and the rooms were old and unattractive. The bed in particular was uncomfortable. This hotel caters to large groups so it was always very busy and consequently, breakfast was not peaceful at all. Our favorite ryokan was the Taiseikan, fabulous service, attention, food, location... everything. Our favorite hotels were the Granvia in Kyoto and the Keio Plaza in Tokyo. Both provided many amenities and the location was great for us to grab the train for sightseeing. We took advantage of the luggage forwarding service and that made it easier for us to get around in comfort. And, before I forget, the Geisha walking tour was wonderful and the cooking class in Tokyo with Kioko Konishi was absolutely a memorable evening.
Thank you again for all your help. We will definitely contact you in the future so you can help us plan another great holiday. Here are some photos for you.
Just a note to let you know we are back in Colorado safe and sound and to thank you for everything regarding our trip to Singapore, Vietnam, China and Thailand. Other than the minor glitch in Beijing, which was promptly and satisfactorily taken care of, everything went smoothly and according to plan.
The Santiburi Resort on Koh Samui was outstanding. Reminded me a lot of Maui. The nicest lodging, other than Santiburi, was the Miracle Grand Convention Center in Bangkok. Nha Trang, Vietnam was our (at least my) favorite location.
The hotel there was excellent as well. The boat trip to the islands was a highlight. Our trip to the orphanage in Tuy Hoa was the experience we were hoping for. The director said they had adopted out 99 children in 1996 and 1997 and that, so far, we have been the only family to come back.
They were honored that we had come to visit and very curious about the 10-year-old Vietnamese boy who spoke English. One of the women who had been in a number of of our pictures 9+ years ago was still there and we talked with her through a translator (Mr. Jimmy) and took new pictures. Mr. Jimmy, Phoung, and Ming (Shanghai) were all outstanding tour guides and translators.
Everyone especially liked Jimmy. Very personable young man. Terra cotta warriors in Xi'an were fascinating. We spent hours talking about Chinese economics and politics with Ming. We learned far more than we would have learned in a semester of Chinese studies in college
We spent more time together as a family in twenty-four days than we ever have the chance to do here in the U.S. with our hectic schedules. Jack and Shelby really liked Muay Thai boxing in Phuket. The food generally was first rate and we ate a number of new and different types of food that I never would have expected my younger two kids to eat. Jeannie, Phyllis and Shelby liked all of the shopping.
All in all, it was truly the trip of a lifetime that we had hoped for. All of your hard work and organization became apparent to us as the trip unfolded, and, again, our heartfelt thanks.
Sincerely, John, Jeannie, Jack, Shelby, Tom & Phyllis
Larry and I returned from our trip to Japan about a week ago. Now that we are unpacked, over our jet-lag, and back to reality, I just wanted to drop you a line and tell you how pleased we were.
Frankly, we both had our doubts about using a travel agent and agency unknown to us. However, now we know we absolutely did the right thing in using your company and having you, in particular, help us create a marvelous journey!
Japan is absolutely beautiful, clean, and American friendly. Because we had no prior knowledge about what to see or where to stay, you suggested places. The cities we visited were just the right combination for a two week stay. Tokyo, Kyoto, Nara, Hakone, and Takayama were diverse enough for us to appreciate each of them in their own particular way. They differed in population, industry and geography. Yet each of them gave to us a new cultural insight and appreciation. Your suggestion to stay in the Japanese inns in Hakone and in Takayama was perfect. They were first-rate. The staff was so friendly and the accommodations and food were superior. To go to all western hotels would not have been as rich an experience.
The personal guides that you provided for us in Tokyo and Kyoto were wonderful. They were extremely knowledgeable about their respective cities. They were sensitive to our needs as senior citizens. We would not have seen as much as we did nor would we have gotten the intimate cultural perspective on the places we visited if we had toured the cities unescorted.
The transportation you arranged (Japan Rail passes, certain train and bus tickets, transportation to and from each hotel) was detailed clearly in the information booklet you sent to us. With that information, we felt secure to travel on our own in a country in which the language was foreign. We never missed a connection and had just enough freedom to go where we wanted, without the suffocating structure that some organized tours provide.
The information book also assisted us by giving us key phrases for getting around and ordering food. We felt prepared because some important Japanese customs were explained to us.
All in all, you did a fantastic job for us. In the future, we hope to see other places in Asia, as well as Australia, New Zealand and Hawaii. Now we know who to contact for our future travel arrangements and we will certainly recommend you and your company to our family and friends.
Thanks so much,
Ellen Castle and Larry Trespel/Sweden
We have traveled to several countries in Asia but were somewhat apprehensive about going to Vietnam and Cambodia. However, we were delighted to find that our experience exceeded our expectations. We were met everywhere by highly professional guides and drivers who were always prompt, courteous, knowledgeable and very sensitive to our needs. Everything was extremely well organized and ran smoothly, and we felt that we were in the hands of an excellent company. We owe the success of this trip to Anne's wonderful work. We had never heard of Golden Fish Travels before we discovered her site on the internet. Anne was so dedicated and responsive throughout the whole process, made a lot of helpful suggestions and allayed our concerns. We felt that we received very customized service, which made it a lot more enjoyable than having to go through a big company. Golden Fish Travels is allied with a very powerful agency in Vietnam. We visited their offices in Saigon and once again were very impressed by their professionalism and courtesy.We would definitely recommend Anne's services to anyone who plans to go to Asia.
Sincerely Steve and Jocelyne Schwartz
This is very late getting to you, but I wanted to let you know that we had a wonderful time on our China trip. We had great guides in every city, no problems anywhere. We especially enjoyed our conversations with our guides--we gained some real insight into the Chinese culture. Every city was a new experience--the river trip at Guilin was so beautiful. Being there during the National Holiday week was especially great. Floral display and fireworks abounded! Our last few days in Hong Kong were very special. We enjoyed being on our own. On the National Holiday we had hoped to see the fireworks over the water, but were put off by the crowds, so we decided to treat ourselves at a great Italian restaurant. During dinner we were invited to go to the rooftop to watch the fireworks which we did, then returned to finish a wonderful evening!
Our personal favorite was seeing the site of the terra cotta warriors. They were discovered while I was in art school and this was for me the highlight of the trip. They are truely magnificent! I brought a half size replica of the archer for my garden. It just arrived a few weeks ago.
Thank you for ALL your work in setting up this memorable trip!
Karen and Bob Field/Tahoe
We have returned fron a spectacular trip to Egypt. Thank you so much for arranging a thoroughly enjoyable excursion. The folks at Wings guided us the whole way through the trip providing friendly, engaging and knowledgeable guides, 5 star accommodations, an upgraded Nile cruise, and an easy passage through the Egyptian bureaucrocy. The trip was a grand send off for my son to college and we will all remember for years to come. Again, thank you so much.
We have returned today fron our 14 day trip to Japan. The reason we didn't contact either you or your Tokyo office was that we had no problems whatsoever. More to the point, your arrangements and your information packet were so excellent and so comprehensive that we carried the packet with us like a talisman wherever we went, including Tokyo, where you had made no arrangement for us, but provided extensive touring information and transportation hints. Your restaurant suggestions were invariably excellent, your hints about customs were terrific--My husband now refuses to pour his own beer--indicating that Golden Fish said you should never pour your own beer-but let your friends pour for you.
Our trip to Hakone was on the Romance Train--a pure white ultra luxury train that has just gone into service a few weeks previously--our daughter and son-in-law, who went with us to Hakone couldn't get seats on it and were forced to travel on an "ordinary" train--they were extremely jealous.
Your instructions for Hakone were perfect and we were able to navigate trains, buses, cable cars and boats without extra charge.
The Hotel Fujiya in Hakone was a classic Grande Dame of an earlier day and I enjoyed the onsen there tremendously, in particular because so many of the guests used it as a part of their daily routine a Japanese family of grandmother, daughter, and 3 year old granddaughter attempted to teach me to count in Japanese in the bath and we all taught the little girl to count in English--her English was much better than my Japanese.
Kyoto was lovely--a little cold, still no Cherry Blossoms, but your one day tour was interesting and on our free day we went to the Zen Garden (in your info pack) and to several museums and craft shops.
We went to Miajima and Hiroshima on our own and while we speak no Japanese, your instructions were comprehensive and extremely helpful. We took your suggestion and stopped at Himeji Castle on our return to Tokyo and that was fascinating. I only think the next time we would go south first and return with a stop in Kyoto--we had one long day of traveling. The Shinkansen were awesome and invariably prompt We returned to Tokyo on Monday. Tuesday the Cherry Blossoms erupted into bloom and all of Tokyo went to Ueno Park to see them--as did we.
I want to thank both of you for your assistance, your good advice and your excellent arrangements. The next time we go to Japan we will definitely call on you again and I will recommend your service to anyone going to Japan.
Again, thank you for all your help.
Loiuise Klaber, Ralph Walde
Anne, a quick note to let you know how much we enjoyed our time in Japan. The organisation was great, everything went very smoothly. The accomodation was all very good, travel was first class. The tours were excellent. The bus journey fron Kanazawa to Takayama was very interesting, allowing us to see a lot of the countryside on the way.
The hotels in Kyoto and Takyama were very good and a good insight into Japanese culture. The Japanes meals I thoroughly enjoyed although they had not been advised of my wife's seafood alergy and were not prepared for that in Takayama. however they did make adjustments on the second day.
We were very impressed with the efficiency of all the modes of transport we took and the helpfulness of the people, when needed. Also the cleanliness of the country was a pleasant surprise, compared with some of the other Asian countries we have been to.
All in all we both thoroughly enjoyed the experience and are keen to return and see more. There was just too much to try and fit in during the time we had. We were lucky to see a Japanese wedding party having photos taken at the Meiji Shrine on our trip in Tokyo; although we didn't get the best view of Mt Fuji relected in the lake we did get an incredible view, in our opinion, with the sun setting behind it late one evening. We also saw a procession of groups dancing in Kanazawa as part of the Golden Wekk festivities. And the Buddah in Nara was an incredible sight.
Once again thanks for all your help and I am sure we will be in touch alter for some more assitance and ideas for future trips.
Hope your holiday was as enjoyable as ours.
John and Kay/England
Just a quick note to thank you for your assistance and let you know we really enjoyed our recent trip to Vietnam!
We returned on the 6th as scheduled and "survived" without any untoward medical troubles (except a cold which unfortunately we picked up in Hong Kong just before departing for Hanoi). Even without the cold, I think we would have found the traffic in Hanoi (and all of Vietnam for that matter) totally mind-boggling! Accommodations were lovely - the hotel food was great - especially in the North and Central areas: I can still taste the fantastic baguettes! The featured dining experiences were exceptional. (Thank goodness for modern cold medicines which kept us fron missing it all!) The sights and sounds fron North to South were fantastic - the people (not just the tour guides) genuinely friendly - a group of school children at a pagoda on our first day made us feel like celebrities. Our tour guides were very professional, although I wished we spoke Vietnamese or that their English would have been a tad better - toward the end I invested in a Vietnamese-English dictionary to facilitate communication - probably a good idea in general to insure that communication is optimal.
To make a long story short, I am ready to retire and become an expat - I just worry that I'd never be able to master the language! We'll probably head back on our next trip to see Anita's mom to catch Sapa and Da Lat as well as a bit more of Siagon.
Bruce Malcolm USA
Subj: Re: China
Date: 2/23/2003 3:20:30 PM Pacific Standard Time
In short, you did a truly fabulous job. Everything went off as planned. The CITS tours and the guides were uniformly prompt, interesting and gracious. The hotels were all just fine. The only negative I can recall (and it is minor) was that the Shangri-La hotel in Beijing is well away fron the action, nearly a half hour cab ride to Tienammen. The hotel itself was perfectly fine. I must confess that it takes a little time to adjust to the concept of a hotel being rated 4 or 5 stars that does not have potable water - but that's China.
Feel free to list me as a reference for future clients that are as demanding and picky as me! I honestly thought that a travel agent would not be able to put together a trip to my satisfaction. You proved me wrong.
Thank you again.
Where should I start?!
Everything went very, very well. I'll go through things I remember. First: like I told you, Japan Airlines was absolutely wonderful. I want to take that airline fron now on when travelling to Asia. Do they go to Indonesia, too? Pretty, polite, great airplane meals; personal tv's; clean, clean, clean!
Bangkok: everything went as scheduled. I was able to show the girls a lot of Bangkok and we got rested up, too. We ended up sending home three boxes of 'treasures' fron the post office. I'm still waiting for three paintings to come, but I chose 'by sea' for that package so I know I won't get it for a few more months. That's okay.....it will be a surprise when it does come.
Cambodia: Glad we took the earlier flight. We got in more of the sightseeing. Our guides were exceptional.......Hotel was wonderful. Our triple room was grand! The girls loved Cambodia and wanted more days --- I'm sure Jenny will return.
Vietnam: Met very much on time fron our guide, Ha. Quiet guy, but we made him talk and laugh for the next ten days! And, the driver was terrific, which we didn't realize was soooooo necessary in Vietnam. Saigon: loved it, couldn't do enough shopping. Also, the Continental was perfect --- Colonial feel and huge room. Right in the heart of the city so it was so easy to go out at night. We had so many memorable first experiences here. I bought so many shoes and purses that I took a chance and had them mailed home fron Saigon -- Ha found DHL for me and we packed everything up, and, Yes, I did get them before I got home! We were shopping fools on this trip!!
Off to Dalat --- WOW, a crazy, long trip up that mountain. I enjoyed seeing the scene views, but I'm not quite sure how the girls were about. It's a long journey for one night's stay up there, but, in reality, there's no reason to stay another day. So, for me, it's to see the lay of the land. Besides, we got great shots at the market with perfect lighting. Ha seemed to know all the best times for pics. (So did our guides in Cambodia!) The air was so fresh and clean.....able to sleep with the windows open that night! Another good choice on hotels for a triple.
The drive fron Dalat -- another wild drive with lots of picture ops. Most of the time Ha knew when the driver should stop -- he foresaw the photos we wanted in the right light!
Nha Trang! What to Say?????? Just awesome --- beauty - people. We needed an extra day there. Hotel was awesome for a triple with great view. We met so many cycle drivers that knew GI's --- so many stories we heard, and cried. Swam in the bay --- gorgeous morning; great seafood lunch at the very picturesque fishing village. Pagoda was a surprise and delight. Had beach drinks and walks. Needed another day here for sure! Also, visited a famous photographer that Jenny had heard about --- can't think of his name offhand --- black & white photography, and while there met American Vietnamese with MORE stories to tell.
Drive to Quy Nhon where we were SOOOOOOOOOOO SURPRISED. Life Resort?!?@!?#@!??! Unbelievable. Unbelievable. Unbelievable. What a place to vacate? We didn't want to leave the next morning.
On our way to Hoi An --- all cried at the MyLai Massacre site. We were so emotional between the awesome Life Resort and the tragedy at MyLai that we really didn't expect much at Hoi An. Well, we were again surprised. Such a wonderful, traditional city. We had so many great picture ops; wonderful restaurant (Brothers Restaurant); had some silk outfits made; walked and walked. The hotel was again another wonderful triple choice -- huge room!
China Beach turned out to be a little disappointing especially after Nha Trang. But, Ha said it would --- it was winter season and the water was very rough. Also, to my surprise, not much building there, yet. Very quiet -- we just did a walk on the beach and then headed to Hue. But, we needed to stop there ----- needed pictures for all my friends back home.
Hue! A real jewel! We probably needed three days there. We really walked a lot. The Perfume River ride and Pagoda were lovely and the mausoleums and citadel so much more than we expected. The guide books really don't elaborate on their enormity. Interesting to see the Chinese influence in this city --- the grandeur so similar to Beijing. And, the Morin Hotel was another wonderful hotel --- so classic and provided for us as a triple. We did much more shopping damage there, too.
Off to Hanoi where we sadly left our driver and Ha. But, our new guide was a charmer and swept us off to Halong Bay. Wonderful room with a view. The guide informed us that the bay might not be 'that great' because of foggy conditions. But, he said that compared to the last week, it was perfect viewing! It cleared just enough for us to have a very enjoyable cruise and then the mist rolled in. But, it gave us a little relaxation and a good idea of how it could be. Even the cave was interesting!
Got to Hanoi late afternoon ----- The Gourman is a great hotel, but it really didn't accommodate us for a triple. We were pretty much squashed together -- me with a floor bed -- so I just made it easy and got another room. We didn't even tell the guide.....he seemed sensitive, so I just paid for another room myself. The rooms are not roomy even for a double AND with all of our luggage and new purchases, there just wasn't any room. We would have had to step over beds, etc. We had to give up the Perfume Pagoda because of the pilgrimage as our guide said it was too dangerous to do any climbing. Masses of people. Actually, at this point, we didn't care because we were a little tired --- he did, though, take us to some handicraft villages and other museums. We were fine with that. We wanted more time to see the Old Quarter anyway. The puppet show was just darling. A real highlight of the trip. Had a farewell dinner at the Indochine Restaurant which completed our fabulous trip to Vietnam.
We also liked the way you chose the itinerary in Vietnam. Saigon to Hanoi. Everything fell into place --- hard to describe -- but we all commented on that.
On to to Hong Kong. Okay........I must say, having been to HK a couple times before, that when I saw the Ramada, I held my breath. We all did! BUT, to be very honest, the hotel management was OUT OF THIS WORLD NICE! When they saw our bags, I could see that they knew the room wasn't going to fit! Anne, the room was the size of a crackerjack box! This is not an exaggeration. So, what to do? The guys didn't even take up all of our luggage. Let us look first. They said they had NO triple rooms. Never did. So, I opted, again, to sleep alone. Which I did. After we got settled into the rooms, regrouped, analyzed the situation, we all decided you were right: don't over spend on rooms in HK -- just spend money there for dinners and things! The manager gave me a very good deal on the room -- I think it was around $59 a night. I called Exotissimo and they weren't real helpful but I told them it didn't matter because I had worked it out. Everything was fine. Again, the management there was extremely helpful. They can't help they don't have a beautiful hotel. Not their fault. But, breakfast was made for us!!!! The guy was so sweet. They had closed their buffet for breakfast --- but he asked us how we wanted our eggs every morning. Sadly, Hong Kong has nothing to offer in the middle-of-the-road choices for hotels -- it's amazing a city of that size and popularity has only Deluxe hotels. They really cater to groups or rich businessmen. The lonely traveller is ignored. Anyway, all turned out well ---- we probably did have one too many days there. I'm never gone long enough, but the girls seemed to have pooped out by HK. Probably less time there and a few more in Vietnam would have been their choice. But, who's to say when you haven't been to a country before????
So, all in all, the trip was perfect. Everyday was a surprise and we all commented at the end of each day that it was so much more than we expected. The Vietnamese people are so sweet. It was nice to feel in person that they don't hate Americans like so many countries do, and they have the right to! The country is so fresh --------- and, like Cambodia, they have moved on and don't dwell on their horrid past.
Again, thanks for all your help and planning. I hope you will be able to help me out on any future trips to the East. You were terrific! And, I was so glad to be able to get your silk blouse for you. It was one of the goals on our trip: Let's not forget Anne's blouse!!!!
Granite City IL
Only a couple of weeks left! Very excited and everything has fallen into place as it should. Thank you very much for all your expertise and help on this trip. We are so excited about it - almost more excited than the wedding itself! I will contact you when we return to tell you about it. Thank you again for everything.
Per-Niklas, Kai and I returned from our stunning vacation in Japan almost two weeks ago and we wanted to thank you very much for everything and share our travel experience in picture form with you. Your plan for our custom trip was sensational, very helpful in every step and essential. We were very happy and are likely to take advantage of your services again for a trip to Vietnam, Thailand, and Bhutan.
We had a great time, luck with the weather and as it turns out, luck with seismic actions as well.
We were warmly greeted at the Tokyo airport, received train tickets, and cab fare. Upon arrival at the Asakusa View Hotel we dove right into the hussle and buzzle of the annual Asakusa Festival on the third weekend in May, a must see for anyone! We loved staying in Asakusa with the Seso-Ji temple at our doorsteps.
It is difficult to pick a highlight of the trip because every stop, from Tokyo, Hakone, Kyoto, Hiroshima and Miyajima, Nagasaki and Osaka, was very special. But, Kyoto's numerous temples and shrines were most fascinating. We consider going back to Kyoto for a 1-year teaching assignment!
We all benefited from watching Japanese movies for two weeks prior to our trip to learn more about the country and people, customs and culture. If you have potential travelers with small children, please tell them it is possible. Per-Niklas (4) loved the whole trip and is asking when we go back. We involved him in the whole planning and talked about many things beforehand. We read to him "The way we do it in Japan" by Geneva Iljima and "Clueless in Tokyo" by Betty Reynolds, and he watched "My neighbor Totoro" a great non-Disney Japanese children movie, available on Netflix to have something to connect to. It totally worked. He was mentally prepared and really enjoyed the public baths, the school children, and the shinkansen. As a blonde child, he was quite the attraction in Japan, especially with school children. We took an umbrella stroller and it was a life saver for all 3 of us. The one sad loss we have to claim is his Totoro. We got one in Tokyo but must have left it in Nagasaki in the Hotel mixed together with the sheets.
Washington, D.C. 20002 U.S.A.
Katrin Scholt- Barth