Tuesday, December 27, 2005

Huynh Ann Hotel Saigon HCMC Vietnam

The Huynh Ann hotel is a decent mid range hotel located in the Pham Ngu Lao area of Ho Chi Minh City/Saigon.

Aircon with breakfast for the room shown for one person was US$15, including breakfast and all taxes as of March, 2005.

Laundry done daily was about $1/day.

26A/2 Do Quang Dau
District 1
+84 8 920 3566
Fax +84 8 9203588

Monday, December 26, 2005

Between London and Heathrow: Heathrow Express, Heathrow Connect, Underground

The Heathrow Connect train seems to be a decent, cheaper alternative to the Heathrow Express for transport between Heathrow and central London and may be more convenient that the Underground. Bus, taxi, and perhaps other methods are also possible. You can check the Heathrow site for these alternatives.

Here's a comparison among the Heathrow Connect, Heathrow Express, and the Underground for:

  • fare,
  • approximate elapsed time, and
  • convenience (subjectively judged).
The comparison isn't exact since, while the Heathrow Express and Connect terminate at Paddington Station, getting to Paddington from the Underground would require a transfer and, if one is going into centralmost London, a transfer to another Underground line or a taxi from Paddington would be required.

Fare (as of December, 2005, assuming adult, one way travel at peak times purchased from a ticket machine or window):
Underground to Piccadilly Circus £3.80
Underground Zones 1-6 Travelcard (allowing travel from Heathrow to town as well as unlimited Underground and bus rides for the rest of the day) £12.00
Heathrow Connect to Paddington £9.50
Heathrow Express to Paddington £14.00

(note: there are some discounts on fares that are worth looking into, especially for adults travelling with children, travel during off-peak periods after 9:30AM or weekends, and so on. The details are at the Transport for London site.)

Elapsed Time (assuming starting from Terminals 1, 2 0r 3):
Underground to Piccadilly Circus 47 minutes, every 15 minutes
Heathrow Connect to Paddington 26 minutes, every 30 minutes
Heathrow Express to Paddington 15 minutes, every 15 minutes

Underground can be crowded with lots of baggage in the aisles. It's not uncommon to have to stand all the way into London. Once in London, there can be lots of stairs to negotiate with your baggage.

Heathrow Express has places in the cars for baggage near the doors.

Heathrow Connect: I've not taken this service, so I can't comment. The Amiable Heretic's post "360203 at London Paddington," has a comment on the cars themselves with a photo. The additional maximum waiting time, 30 minutes versus 15, is a factor.

[update: I've taken this service once from LHR to Paddington. It's a good, cheaper, slower alternative to Heathrow Express.]

The bottom line is that, especially during non-peak periods, it may be cheapest overall to take the Underground, especially if you expect to travel by bus or Underground for the rest of that day or you're travelling with up to 4 children who are 5-15, inclusive. Hauling lots of baggage up the stairs in the Underground can be a major pain, however.

Sunday, December 04, 2005

Saysong Guest House Vang Vieng Laos

There are plenty of lodging styles in Vang Vieng, though only a few have decent views. One of the better economy options is the Saysong guest house, which has a great location right in the market, with a balcony overlooking the river with karst mountains on the horizon.

Decent fan cooled rooms are US$3 ( March, 2004 pricing). You may want to bring a lock to use with the hasp already on the door to supplement the somewhat lax security offered by the hotel's own door lock

Here are some pictures of the guest house. A view of a room.

The ensuite bathroom with western style toilet

The hotel lobby with the town market immediately outside

A view from the guest house balcony, across the river with the karst hills in the background

SaySong Guest House
+856 23 511130

Queen's Park Hotel Yangon (Rangoon) Myanmar (Burma)

The Queen's Park hotel, located 10 minutes walk East of the main shopping area, is a decent, mid range hotel in Rangoon/Yangon. (This information is current as of November, 2004.)

The hotel has a better than average restaurant with Burmese, Chinese, and Western food. Laundry is relatively cheap and quick, too. No Internet service.

The rooms were clean and secure and the Western style bathroom was better than average for Asia. There's an elevator, unusual for a hotel of this class in Asia.

The front desk staff was helpful and spoke reasonable English.

The cost was US$15/night in cash for a single room with bathroom though we negotiated a 7% discount. No tax or service. The restaurant, minibar (for example, bottled water), and laundry were charged in Kyat.

There was an inexpensive coffee shop across the street that opened in the morning before the restaurant. It had outdoor seating, but the mosquitos really precluded sitting outside.

The 50th Street Bar and Grill, affiliated with the Foreign Correspondents' Clubs of Phnom Penh and Siem Reap, was 10 minutes walk South East through a fairly interesting mixed commercial-residential district.

Maybe it's just me, but i like having some idea of what the rooms look like, so I'll include a few pictures.

Queen's Park Hotel
No 132, Anawrahta Road
(Corner of Bo Myat Tun Street)
Botataung Township
Yangon, Myanmar

+951 296 447
fax: +951 293 596

Angkor -- Siem Reap Tour Guide

Heard from an acquaintance that the Angkor -- Siem Reap tour guide we recommended did a good job for her companion and her on a recent trip.

The guide is:
(Mr) Darith Touch
phone +855 12 793 908

English speaking for sure. I see from his business card that he speaks Japanese, too, but I can't vouch for that.

What I can vouch for is good English skills, a good ability to arrange for transport and accommodation. He's honest and hard working. I've known him for some years now and I find him thoroughly reliable.

Wednesday, November 30, 2005

Hotel Strategy London December, 2005

Ok, since three people, two adults and one 11 year old, are going, Priceline is out, since I wanted to get just one room and Priceline, realistically, is good for 2 people at most, especially in Europe where you can get stuck with a postage stamp sized room . Also, frankly, I didn't want to hear the complaining if they got stuck with a smoking room or it was awful in some other way.

Too bad since I scored an $80/night room ($68 bid), no breakfast, at the well located Thistle Bloomsbury in October. Lots of people hate the Thistle Bloomsbury, but it was fine for me. Clean, quiet, with a good location one block from the British Museum and 5 minutes walk from Holborn tube station.

Hotwire was more ambiguous than I could handle for this particular trip, with a price of $190/night including everything for a reputed 4*.

Getting a room in London for 3 people is a pain. It seems the big chains have rooms for 3 and that's about it. (Well, I know the smaller places, such as those on Gower have triples, but the en suite bathrooms are so small you literally can't turn around in them.)

Anyway, after making a "safety" booking at the Holiday Inn by Oxford Circus for about $241/night, including VAT, I found a rate of $212/night inclusive of taxes and fees at Expedia for the Radisson SAS Portman, which is in a decent area. So, unless something better comes to mind, that's that.

London Theatre Strategy -- December 2005

Ok, theatre strategy. I like to start by looking at what tickets have been available recently for discount at the TKTS booth. For instance, today's offerings at the TKTS booth include several of Time Out's recommendations.

Although it's kinda cheesy, one of the gang wants to see Fame, which I've found generally available at TKTS.

Musicals seem to have enough energy that you don't doze off in the middle from jet lag. So, Les Miz and Phantom sound pretty good.

Epitaph for George Dillon is billed as a comedy, but, when I saw it in October, it certainly wasn't a laugh a minute. Pretty adult, but the redeeming factor here is Joseph Fiennes in a lead role.

Last, Lion King, which I've been warned off of, but I don't think we'll be going to New York anytime soon to see it, so perhaps this is the right time and place.

End of Year Holidays in London

We're planning for things-to-do in London for the end of year holidays, from late December through New Year's day. The things that are in focus so far as:
  • theatre
  • museums
  • London walks
  • the usual attractions.
I've found the Time Out London site a good point of departure for the usual tourist stuff.