Southeast Asia bleg

Jeannie and I head to Ho Chih Minh City (Saigon) in a week to visit relatives. Then to Mae Sot, Thailand where I will (sadly) busy myself on my computer while she attends to a Burmese refugee study. But we plan to sightsee a little.

Reader recommendations for food, day trips, or short overnight trips around either spot?

P.S. If you are looking for a last-minute giving destination for 2010, dear friends run a fantastic Burmese refugee project in northern Thailand, reaching people served poorly by the bigger NGOs.

12 thoughts on “Southeast Asia bleg

  1. The Cu Chi tunnels are impressive. You can take a bus from downtown Saigon. The trip takes about half a day.

  2. A great outdoor food place opens in the evening at the main market area in Saigon. I forget the name, but your hotel will definitely know it.

  3. In Mae Sot, Aiya for outstanding food and interesting people watching. Forget the name, but ask about the expensive place on 105 just outside of town on the way to Mae Pha. Popular with Burmese Junta types / business cronies, you never know who you may see having lunch.

    For diversions/day trips Sukhothai is reasonable in one day if you have your own wheels. A toss up which is more enjoyable, the drive or Sukhothai. Mae Sot can be entertaining in it’s own bizarre way. The full range of professional and less than professional “aid workers” can be seen going about their business. Never fails to entertain.

    Safe journeys.

  4. The market on the border with Burma is supposed to be an amazing sight… I of course was too lazy to go. Sukothai if you *must* see ruins but it wasn’t that impressive for me, and I like ruins. Have a great trip!

  5. I’d recommend Borderline Tea Shop in Mae Sot – delicious Burmese tea leaf salad and flaky, perfect roti. Also take a trip out to Taiksin Maharat National Park – there’s a lovely 9-tiered waterfall called Nam Tok Mae Ya Pa. If you have the time, I’d take a trip out to Lampang as well. Very few tourists and a pleasure to explore. ( Enjoy! I’ll be in Chiang Mai as of Jan 4, so if you make it there & want to meet for coffee, do let me know.

  6. Saigon, or Districts 1 and 3 of Ho Chi Minh City, are sadly being replaced by a sterile Singaporised city centre with all the spirit sucked out of it. Food? Pho Quynh at the corner of Pham Ngu Lao and Ton That Tung will give you a taste of original family-produced noodle soup. So will Pho Hoa Pasteur at 260 C Pasteur Street if you want to battle the crowds. Many of the restaurants serving traditional Vietnamese food have been chased by increasing rents out of the city centre to other quarters of town that your family members can direct you to.

    If you want to experience a Saigonese day trip then a car ride of a couple of hours will take you to eat crab with the beach crowds at Vung Tau or sip wine in relatively splendid isolation at the Anoasis Resort at Long Hai. Touring the guerilla tunnels of Cu Chi or boat trips on a branch of the Mekong Delta at My Tho take a half a day to a full day.

    Mae Sot is set on a plain surrounded by hills that effectively act as prison walls for the Burmans and Karens seeking asylum there. Day trips? Only to the camps. Jeannie’s staff will know the few places for you to eat.

  7. Restaurants:

    Banh Xeo 46A

    Cuc Gach Quan

    For French, Le Toit Gourmand

    For a view, head to Shri for a cocktail.

  8. If you can get to Hoi An, do it – just for the Cao Lau. Any stall in the city will do – it is a culinary delight into itself and Vietnamese cooking at its best.

  9. Rent a motorbike and drive to Chiang Mai. It’s a good way to see a little of the northwest and Chiang Mai is a cool town, if you haven’t been before. In Chiang Mai, there is the night market, terrific khao soi ( stands, and small mountains. I recommend checking out Doi Suthep (largest mountain around) and the temple on top. If you are interested in hiking, trail running, mountain biking, or dirt biking through northwest Thai jungle, there are some terrific trails snaking up and down Doi Suthep (I can provide specific directions if you’re interested). I spent several years in the area and am actually flying from Singapore to Chiang Mai today, let me know you if you want some more ideas of things to do.