Frank Riviere's Return To CanTho
From February, 1967 to February, 1968, Frank Riviere was OIC of an MI unit in Can Tho. He had offices near the airfield and lived off the local economy about a mile from Eakin compound.
Frank worked closely with a VN counterpart and two VN Interpreter/Translators. After we established formal relations with Vietnam in 1995, he vowed to find out about their current location and welfare.
His return trip in Oct. 1995 was unsuccessful because he lacked photos and complete identifying documentation to successfully find his Vietnamese comrades. He then searched and located his former XO, who had both photos and complete names. He then returned in April, 1998 to conclude this search.
Frank's story regarding his finally locating these individuals can be found HERE . But Frank would also like to share the following travel information and tips with others considering returning to Vietnam, especially to the Can Tho area.
Updated 24 March, 2012
Flights from LA to Saigon:
In 10/95, I used Thai Air, a very good airline but it stopped in Seoul, Korea for an hour or so where we deplaned with all our carry-on baggage and waited. Next we flew to Bangkok where passengers spent the night before rising very early in the morning for the trip into Saigon. Bangkok was an extremely busy airport and appears to be much too small for the volume of traffic it receives. Food on plane was quite good and drinks unlimited.
1n 4/98, I used Cathay Pacific, perhaps a step down in overall quality and amenities but much more convenient. We flew directly to Hong Kong. Three hour wait and then into Saigon about 11: 00 am. Airport there was much better able to handle flights and passengers.
In 4/2000, I used Cathay Pacific again. I made all arrangements through Four Corners travel in Boulder, CO. You may access this agency at vietnamadventures.com . Round trip fare from Jacksonville to Saigon with a three day layover for sightseeing in Hong Kong was about $1,145.00, including tax. A real good deal.
In October, 2002, I came across a Malaysia Air web site which permitted a traveler to visit a number of cities in the far east
and southeast Asia for a period of 30 days. The cost was about $850 from Newark or Los Angeles. I took the flight from Newark and after
a 15 hour flight, we landed in Dubai for a 1-1/2 hour layover before flying on the Kuala Lumpur (6 more hours.) This was an exceptional deal.
I picked the cities of Kuala Lumpur (3 nights), Hong Kong (3 nights), Phnom Pehn, Cambodia (3 nights) and then traveled by road and boat to Chau Duc, Vietnam and then on to Can Tho, Vietnam by minibus. I especially enjoyed Kuala Lumpur. It was a very clean and modern city with good restaurants and very friendly people. It also boasts the world's tallest buildings, the Petronis twin towers.
Phnom Penh was a pleasant surprise, as there were many nice hotels and excellent restaurants at relatively cheap prices. I took a day trip by air (1 hour) up to Siem Riep to visit Angkor Wat and the ancient temples and other structures which were build in the 12th century. This trip by air was
$65.00 each way and left at 7:30 am and returned at 4:30 pm. Tickets for the visit to Angkor Wat were $20.00 each and it was necessary to hire a
guide in Siem Riep to really gain an appreciation for the many sites. I have the name and email address of an excellent guide if anyone is interested.
A truly great hotel in Phnom Penh is the Cambodia: $72.00 on the internet including sumptuous breakfast. There are many other smaller hotels at
half that price. The road and boat trip from Cambodia to Vietnam can be arranged at the Capitol Restaurant in Phnom Penh for $15.00. Actually, it requires a change of boats at the Vietnam border to a small speedboat and an exciting trip to Chau Duc. That part of the trip was about 4 hours and requires you to have your exit visa stamped in Cambodia and your Vietnamese visa checked at the Vietnamese crossing point. From Chau Duc to Can Tho was about 3 hours by bus.
I recommend checking any baggage that you do not carry on the plane all the way to Saigon from your city of departure (in my case, Jacksonville).
On your return trip, you will have to remove all of your baggage in Los Angeles or Newark for customs inspection.
Other special fares and airlines are also featured on the aforementioned vietnamadventures web site.
If you need here before going to anther destination, I recommend the Rex Hotel. It is older but well appointed. Price has stayed steady at $50.00 for a single from 1995 to 2002. Rooms have color TVs, safes, and fax machines. The food is good and there is a great view from the floortop restaurant. Visit the Rex Hotel at their web site for further information. Another good restaurant in Saigon is the Mogambo. It is just a short distance (4 or 5 blocks) from the Rex and has good American food and sandwiches.
Travel to Can Tho in Mekong Delta:
There were no direct air flights from Saigon to Can Tho but there are plans for this service in the future. The easiest way to travel is to find a car and driver at the airport, which is easy to do. The cost is about $60.00 each way. and the trip is about 4 hours with one ferry ride. Roads are pretty bad in some places. The former Greenlines hydrafoil, which ran from Saigon to My Tho and Can Tho is no longer in service (in 4/2002). The road distance from Saigon is about 80 miles. The population of Can Tho is about 225,000.
Hotels in Can Tho:
Ninh Kieu Hotel is at the pier area on Bassac River. It is an older hotel for about $40.00 a night.
Tay Do Hotel:
I stayed there in 1998. $33.00 per night, neat and clean and in the heart of the city.
Very nice. About $85 per night. Some distance from the city but with all the amenities. Has outdoor swimming pool. Can be accessed at: Victoria Hotel
Saigon Can Tho Hotel
I stayed there in 2000 and 2002. $43.00 per night. In the heart of the city. Great buffet breakfast included. You can make reservations on the Internet.
Newest and nicest in the city. Overlooks Bassac River at Ninh Kieu pier. $60.00 per night. Spent one night there in 2002. Great buffet breakfast included. Email: firstname.lastname@example.org
Can Tho Restaurants
For American-style food, the 54 Restaurant, also known as "Rainbow Restaurant," is my favorite. Many good dishes and reasonable prices: $5.00 or so. Short walk from Tay Do Hotel or Saigon Can Tho Hotel. It on Nam Khan Street.
Mekong Restaurant in Ninh Kieu pier area also caters to foreigners. Anything from a cheeseburger to a pizza are very reasonable prices. Sit outside across from a statue of Ho Chi Minh with a great view of the Bassac River. Golf Hotel is one block away.
Travel in Can Tho:
Best way is to rent a cyclo (motorized bicycle with a carriage on back which will hold two people.) Settle on a price before boarding. Many yourg men on motorbikes will offer to give you a ride, but traffic is so congested that you will feel safer on a cyclo, which has 3 wheels.
Travel From Saigon To Hanoi:
In 2000, a one way ticket cost $124.00. Nice 2 hour jet ride. A Vietnam Airlines office is located directly across the street from the Rex Hotel.
Hanoi is a much smaller city than Saigon and is much easier to get around in. In 2000, I stayed at the Bao Son Hotel. www.baosonhotel.com. It features nice clean rooms, good food and a pleasant staff...at $45.00 per night. Make reservations on the Internet. It is within walking distance of the US Embassy and about 3/4 mile from the heart of the city. The hotel had a BMW car with driver that can be rented for about $20.00 for a 4-hour tour of the city. Visit the Hanoi Hilton (VN jail where Sen. John McCain was held for 5-1/2 years.) and Ho's burial site and a war museum. Found a large beer gent near the Bao Son where you can get food and draft beer. About 28-cents for a large glass of beer.
You may want to get malaria pills from your Doctor and inquire about hepatitis vaccine.
I took the pills and had the vaccine but they are not required by law. Drink only bottled water, which is available everywhere, even in small villages. Do not eat at street food stalls. Take out travel/cancellation insurance. Forms are available at travel offices. Less than $100.00 for my 18 day trip in 10/2002
Passport /Visa information:
After you get your passport, call or fax the Vietnamese Embassy in Washington and they will fax back to you the necessary forms to fill out and return for a visa. Send a money order for $65.00, two passport photos, the visa application and your passport and you should receive your passport back with the visa inside in about 10 days. Same procedure for Cambodia except visa is cheaper and you need only one photo.
In 10/2002, the US dollar bought about 15,000 Vietnamese Dong. All hotels sell Dong and will also change Dong back into US Dollars. If necessary, you can also go to a bank. They are plentiful in every city of any size. Most hotels accept major credit cards but many restaurants and shops do not. Take some US Dollars and travelers checks. Travelers checks are not accepted on all occasions or at all locations and many places charge a fee if you use them.
I hope this information will be of benefit to those of you contemplating a trip to Vietnam. I enjoyed my 4 trips tremendously. By the way, get a Vietnamese/English phrase book. You will be glad you did.
Have a great trip and feel free to communicate with me HERE
Copyright 1999, 2000, 2002 by Frank Riviere
All Rights Reserved.