1. Today is 4 June. Left Teng Lam's house at about 9 am, to continue our journey to Laos. It was a very relaxing 4 days break in Ha Noi, made alot more enjoyable by the very warm hospitality of our hosts, Teng Lam and his wife, Iris. We had our 2nd pools session at Horizon Hotel last night. Played to 1 am, over Whisky on the rock. We were reluctant to leave and yet keen to get on with our journey to Laos. We expect travel to Tay Trang to be fairly smooth, but on Laos side we are not sure. Read a blog that said that speed of travel on the Laos side could be as slow as 100 km in 10 hrs, although scenery is expected to be fantastic. May have to stay one night somewhere between Luang Prabang and the border which are about 200 km apart.
2. We had an easy day yesterday, 3 June. After a wonderful home breakfast, we spent the morning blogging and tidying things up, getting ready for the road trip to the border. Also, lunched in.
3. After lunch, Sunny and I left for the 2 pm meeting with the Vice Chairman of The Viet Nam National Administration of Tourism (VNAT), Mr Nguyen Manh Cuong. VNAT is an agency of the Ministry of Culture, Sports and Tourism (MCST) which exercises the state management function over tourist operations and activities throughout the country. Mr Dinh Ngoc Duc, Dy Director of International Cooperation Dept met us as we arrived at VNAT and interpreted for us at the meeting.
4. I first met Mr Cuong in Aug last year in Hoi An for the annual Joint Vietnam-Singapore Tourism Committee Meeting. Mr Duc was a familiar face in many ASEAN tourism meetings and we met many times over the years.
5. It was a very cordial meeting. Mr Cuong remarked that Vietnam and Singapore had strong tourism cooperation over the years and he was glad that I had included Vietnam in my car journey and to explore Vietnam. I added that having travelled 2000 km in Vietnam so far, from South to North, we could see that the tourism potential of Vietnam was huge. Told him we loved Da Lat, Central Vietnam attractions of Hoi An, Da Nang, Hue and My Son and Tam Coc in Ninh Bing. Sunny added that the beaches at Hoi An and Da Nang were beautiful, as good as any that we had seen. Mr Cuong added that the beaches on some of the islands were even better.
6. I told Mr Cuong that Eviva Tours had done a great job obtaining the various govt approvals for us to drive the car in Vietnam and in facilitating our travel, adding the tour company was recommended by the Vietnam Embassy in Singapore. We thank VNAT and the various Vietnam government agencies for approving our trip here. I added that over time perhaps ASEAN Tourism Forum could consider harmonising the documentation and procedures for self drive holidays in the ASEAN countries as this was a tourism segment that could also be promoted.
7. We briefed Mr Cuong that we would leave Ha Noi the next day, 4 June for the border, that we planned to stay the night at Son La and Dien Bien Phu before crossing the border at Tay Trang on 6 June morning.
8. The meeting ended at 2.30 with photo-taking. As we departed, Mr Duc said that we could call him if we needed help in Vietnam. I thanked him and jokingly said that I would call him if we got stuck at Tay Trang.
9. In the afternoon, we had a wonderful and relaxing 2 hr massage at Teng Lam's usual joint, followed by a delicious buffet dinner at Sen Restaurant in a beautiful colonial building.
10. Time now is 10.50 pm, 4 June. Arrived Dien Bian Phu at about 8 pm and checked into Dien Bian Phu Hotel for US$20 a night. As we were making the distance in good time, we decided to skip Son La and head straight for Dien Bian Phu. All in, we travelled about 500 km today. We now have the whole day in Dien Bian Phu tomorrow before crossing the border to Laos day after tomorrow, 6 June.