Author Topic: Vietnam with a mix of Israel  (Read 8175 times)

Offline Yitz

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Re: Vietnam with a mix of Israel
« Reply #20 on: October 07, 2019, 08:58:03 AM »
Beautiful writing, great pics, very enjoyable.

Offline AFM

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Re: Vietnam with a mix of Israel
« Reply #21 on: October 16, 2019, 12:50:17 PM »
amazing trip report, beautiful pictures. you must have a amazing DW to let you go around the world  ;)

Offline mgoldhammer18

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Re: Vietnam with a mix of Israel
« Reply #22 on: October 30, 2019, 02:32:12 PM »
Amazing!  Cannot wait for the rest

Offline brodes18

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Re: Vietnam with a mix of Israel
« Reply #23 on: November 05, 2019, 07:54:27 PM »
Thanks for all the feedback. Glad this is hitting the mark!

Part 3 continued

I had read conflicting reports about having luggage transferred to a second airline without clearing immigration at HKG. I was hoping the HK Express transfer desk would help. I made my way to the train in this early morning at HKG. The airport had an eerie empty feeling as it had been rocked by protests the week before. I arrived at the transfer desk and was told by a completely disinterested employee that Iíd need to clear immigration, pickup my bag and go through regular check in. Suddenly my decent layover was super tight! What I have since learned is that in order for this to work, it would have required CX to originally tag my bags for Danang on HK Express (which Iím not sure they would have done) in TLV. Once it was only tagged for HKG, it would come out on the belt and I had to go get it.

I raced through immigration (empty this early in the morning) and all the way to luggage belt 16 at the end of the row where my bag was going round the belt. I grabbed it and hurried all the way to T2 (20 minute walk) where HK express departs from. I get to the check-in area at 7 AM (55 minutes before my flight) to be greeted by a mob of about 200 people on line. Iím thinking there is no way Iím gonna make this flight. I ask an employee holding a sign that says last call what to do. He advises me to wait in line for 5 more minutes and they will open final call for my flight. Approx. 45 min before my flight is set to depart, they wave signs for my flight and direct me to separate empty counters where final call passengers can check bags and get boarding passes. Iím not sure why passengers wouldnít just show up 45 minutes before and never wait on lineÖ I prepaid for checked baggage (approx. $55 for 30 kg) before arriving at the airport since itís much cheaper to do so.

With my bag checked in, I hurry back through immigration, security and arrive at the gate a mere 20 minutes before departure. My backpack is really weighing on me and I begin to wonder if I have too much stuff to be lugging around with a backpack & messenger bag. HK Express uses buses to get from the gate to the plane. I board the packed bus which takes me to the A320 that will take me to Danang. The crowded bus was hot and smelly but was well worth getting an opportunity to board the plane via stairs from the tarmac. I got a great view of our A320 aircraft and got some excellent pictures #AVgeek. I boarded and got to my pre-selected seat @ 6D. The seat had adequate legroom for what was a quick 2-hour flight to Danang on a low cost carrier. We departed right on time and before long were airborne over the skies of Hong Kong. The cabin crew came around to sell meals. They delivered my pre-ordered water bottle. According to the airline, they check handbag weight (needs to be under 7 kg) and donít allow you to bring on your own food or water. In practice, I did not see them enforce these rules at all from what I could see. It was the beginning of what I learned about rules that donít get followed in Vietnam. I sat back for the quick trip and soon was descending into Danang airport for the beginning of my stay in Vietnam. Time to get out my VisaÖ



Empty HKG at 5:30 AM



HK Express Check in line



CX 777s lined up at HKG (can you find the one that doesnít belong?)



Boarding plane (A321) from the tarmac HKG



HK Express A320 HKG



Boarding UO552 HKG-DAD



Legroom in seat 6D HK Express A320



Ready to Jet



Canít imagine what this would taste like. Asian version of Greivin I guess

Offline Dan

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Re: Vietnam with a mix of Israel
« Reply #24 on: December 13, 2020, 06:51:39 PM »
@brodes18 we need part 4 :)
Save your time, I don't answer PM. Post it in the forum and a dedicated DDF'er will get back to you as soon as possible.

Offline brodes18

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Re: Vietnam with a mix of Israel
« Reply #25 on: December 13, 2020, 06:56:58 PM »
@brodes18 we need part 4 :)
Thanks for the reminder. I have it written up, working on pics and captions.

Offline Danlover111

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Re: Vietnam with a mix of Israel
« Reply #26 on: December 16, 2020, 09:07:43 AM »
Thanks for the reminder. I have it written up, working on pics and captions.
nuuuu😁

Offline brodes18

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Re: Vietnam with a mix of Israel
« Reply #27 on: December 17, 2020, 10:23:00 PM »
Part 4: Hoi An, Vietnam

All visitors from the US (and most other countries) need to obtain a visa to visit Vietnam prior to arrival. There are two ways to obtain the visa: Apply online, or apply through a third party who will obtain the visa for you. The second option used to be the only one, but the government opened up an online website for applications. A few notes about applying online:

-It takes up to 3 days for your app to be approved so apply early
-You can use a selfie for the picture they ask for
-The visa is good for up to 30 days
-You need to record your app number and check back on your own to see if itís approved
-You need to print out the visa and have it ready for immigration
-The website is very buggy and may not work at times

I applied online about a week before and was approved within two days. I got off the plane and was impressed with the Danang airport. It was new and clean. I made it down to immigration where I was unsure what to expect. Vietnam is a communist country and the history with the USÖ not great. My preconceived ideas all turned out to be nothing as the immigration officer took my papers, stamped my passport and welcomed me into the country. Right past immigration were 5 counters next to each other selling SIM cards. I had been prepped with my options. I wanted to get a Viettel card with 2 GB of data per day for a week. Viettel offers the best coverage in the country (especially up north in the remote areas). The sellers were extremely pushy about buying from them. I settled on the card I wanted for a cost of $10. I could have probably gotten it for $8 but wasnít in the mood for bargaining. As soon as I showed interest, she grabbed my phone, took out my existing SIM, put in the new one, showed me it worked and demanded the $10. Like I said, aggressive sales tactics. I headed to the baggage claim and my bag was already there.

I called my hotel and asked them to send a car to pick me up. He arrived within 15 minutes and I headed to his car, a nice SUV with leather seating. I paid 400K VND (approx. $20) for the ride of 45 minutes into Hoi An. This was an expensive option, but was the simplest one when I just arrived. Iíd find a better one on the way back.



Entering the immigration hall at DAD Airport


A little about hotels and accommodations in Vietnam. There are very few big American chain hotels in Vietnam. When you do find one, they usually focus on serving business travelers or resorts off the beaten path. There are a number in the beach resort areas and in the big cities. The range of hotels are from $3 - $10 beds in homestays & hostels to hotels that range between $35 - $100 for the most part. The hotels are usually very westernized and lack a local experience. They are also very overpriced for additional services such as transportation, etc. compared to everything else. I decided to rely on Chase reserve points and the portal for most of my trip due to itís flexibility. I also decided to select a mix of nice hotels and local cheaper options to get to see more of the culture. There is something to be said that for about 10 days in Vietnam, I only used about 40K points.

For my first hotel, I wanted to have a place where I could relax and have a comfortable bed after traveling for 3 days. In fact, I hoped Hoi An would provide a relaxing two days where I could recharge a bit. I also wanted to be very close to Chabad where the restaurant is so that I could walk to it without hassle. I settled on the Belle Maison Hadana Resort which was 2 blocks from Chabad. Total cost for two nights was 8.7K UR points in this 4 star hotel.
The ride from DAD to Hoi An takes about 45 minutes on a straight 2 lane highway. The weather was hot and humid, with a decent breeze to keep things comfortable. On one side of the road are many resorts along the beaches. There is a ton of development going on in this area of projects to make this a big beach destination. On the other side of the road are random warehouses and factories in addition to many idol stores (donít know what else to call them).

The driving in Vietnam takes some getting used to (
) which made for an entertaining drive down to Hoi An. I arrived at my hotel and was offered to sit down in the lobby while I was checked in. The hotel staff were very pleasant as they communicated in a heavily accented English with a few gaps. English is not that common in Vietnam, so I was impressed at how fluent they were. My room was located on the second floor with a balcony overlooking the pool. The bed was excellent and the room spacious. The bathroom fixtures all felt cheap (tub made of plastic, etc.) but something I was fine with. A minute after I checked in, a basket of fresh whole fruit was delivered to my room. I put down my stuff, put my cold cuts into the refrigerator and headed to Chabad for Brunch.

[img]https://live.staticflickr.com/65535/50534440968_2a746fc09e_c.jpg[/img]



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Driving from Danang to Hoi An

Belle Maison Hotel & Spa - my home for the next 3 days:



Room at Bell Maison Hotel & Spa



Room at Belle Maison Hotel & Spa



Pool view from my second floor hotel balcony


Kudos to Chabad for providing access to fresh Kosher food for people in such a remote area. Itís huge for business travelers & tourists. Most important is that it offers a good Kosher option to those that otherwise might not keep Kosher on their trip. I got an omelet for lunch and made introductions to the local Sheliach and other families touring the area. After all of the traveling, this fresh meal hit the spot in a way that I cannot describe.









Brunch at Chabad in Hoi An - made fresh every day. An excellent omelette & home fries for about $8



Street cleaning in Hoi AN



Pool at the Belle Maison Hotel

After lunch, I went back to the hotel and checked out the pool for a bit. The Jetlag hit me hard at this point (2:30 PM) and I just wanted to go to sleep. I forced myself to stay up and instead borrowed a bike from the hotel (provided free to guests without a resort fee!!). I used Google maps with a single Bluetooth airbud to navigate my way around. At that moment, the vibe of Hoi An hit me. The carefree laid-back attitude of Vietnam was so apparent. From the people going about their day, to the bikes, motorbikes, and cars Ė it all had a very carefree feeling. I biked to the central market and got some firsthand experience of where people go to get their goods. Outside of the big cities in Vietnam, these markets are critical to the local economy and in many cases is the only means to get supplies and fresh food. I checked out the local goods stores all selling knockoff clothing & bags. I also got my early lessons in haggling for goods. Based on my experience, here is how it goes:

Seller: Hi, this good for you. You are first customer, very special. Good luck for me

Me: I like this shirt, how much?

Seller: 300000 dong ($13)

Me: Laughs, 100000 dong

Seller: incredulous look as if how could I insult her. Offers back 250000 dong

Me: Ok, 150000 dong nothing more.

Seller: No, 250K!

Me: Starts walking away, ready to move on

Seller: Ok, ok 150K (thinking that she still made a killing on this stupid foreigner)

I was super tired and not up to buying anything. I went back to Chabad and had dinner early. DDF user BarryLincoln saw that I was in Hoi An (from the where are you posting form now thread) and reached out to offer advice on where to go get a suit. I tool his advice and went to visit Yaly couture which is one of the most famous tailors in Hoi An. It could be that I was too tired to see straight at that point, but I had a poor experience. I felt pressured by the salesperson into very expensive materials ($375) for what didnít impress me. I felt that I needed to get something in that day for it to be ready by the time I was leaving. In reality I had more than enough time to put in the order the following day. I walked around the night market a bit. It had a relaxed fun vibe to it, I headed back to my hotel and hit my bed by 8:30 for the first decent night in a real bed since Sunday night.

I got up bright and early the next morning after a very restful night of sleep. I davened and headed out to get some Breakfast at Chabad. I planned my day there with the help of some of the other visitors there. Iíd start by selecting a tailor and getting them started, explore Hoi An a bit, go to the beach, & get some sunset pics. Staying at Belle Maison and having a 2 minute walk to Chabad was a great move. It made meals so easy! This area was 10 minutes outside of the Hoi An hot spots, but well worth being close to food.

I headed down to the front desk after breakfast to see if I could get some tailor suggestions. They recommended a place called Tuong (probably sponsored recommendation). So I went to pay a visit on one of the hotel bikes. Tuong was a very large tailor with a ton of options to choose from. I was greeted by someone as soon as I entered. She asked me what I was looking for and proceeded to help me narrow down options until I settled on a black and gray herringbone material for two suits. What impressed me was her attentiveness in getting an amazing sense of my style within a few minutes of showing me different options. I also ended up picking out two shirts once I felt how soft the material was. The prices were pretty solid. One suit was 180, the second, 160, the shirts 30 each (I picked expensive shirt material). I was happy with $400 for all that. I do have a feeling that while it is good in US standards, for Vietnam it could be a lot cheaper if bargaining is key. They measured me and discussed style options for everything from fit, to buttons, etc. I paid a deposit and they told me to come back later that day for my first fitting. With my tailoring needs out of the way, I had the rest of my day open for some exploring. I took some time to bike the market area. There are vibrant colors on many of the buildings paired with large trees lining the street. I went to tour the famous covered bridge from the time when this was a Japanese trading town. It pays to spend some time exploring this area slowly as I felt a lot of the Hoi An vibe during my morning in the town.














Strolling around the streets of Hoi An

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Exploring the streets of hanoi on bike, very laid back vibe


After spending a relaxing morning in Hoi An, I headed to Chabad for lunch before heading out to one of the famous beaches in this area. I found a local street restaurant that had some bikes and motorbikes for rent and paid to rent one for the day (I think I paid about $15 including gas). The bike was new and automatic. At first I was a bit lost on how to use it, but I quickly figured it out. I headed east on the road that leads to An Bang beach which is 20 min from Hoi An. I learned how to drive in Vietnam. Motorbikes stick to the right on the shoulder and merge left to pass cars, people, animals moving slower than them. Use of the horn is strongly encouraged 😊. When I got to the beach, I found attendant parking for about $1. An Bang beach is a busy beach lined with restaurants and lounge chairs for rent. It is central Vietnam on the shore of the South China Sea. The beach goes south down to Cua Dua which is quieter and considered pristine. I bought a pair of Sunglasses from (fake Ray Ban) from an old woman selling her wares on the beach. I gave her 500K VND to break for 50K sunglasses and she took it and went to get change from one of the restaurants. She left me her board of glasses as collateral while she went to get change. After spending a couple of hours reading a book and getting some pics, I headed back to Hoi An for my first fitting.













Strolling around the streets of Hoi An





A late lunch back at Chabad (Shakshuka)



An Bang Beach



Knockoff glasses for sale on the beach



Old school weightlifting with stone weights



Beautiful day on the Thu Bon River


I noticed about 20 minor issues with the clothing that needed to be addressed. They marked it up and went to make the changes. Even in itís imperfect state, they looked great. I scheduled the next fitting for tomorrow morning. I still had an hour left in the day and had heard about the great sunrise and sunset in Hoi An. My quick research led me to a bridge overlooking the river right outside of Cua Dua. I had my bike until 7 PM that evening. I hopped on and headed over with my camera. Where I snapped some great shots and took in the Vietnamese fisherman working their magic on the water. After sunset, I drove two minutes down the road to the other Cua Dua beach that I had read about earlier. It was getting dark by the time I got there, but it seemed like a good spot to get some sunrise pics. So I planned to come back the following morning. I headed back, returned my bike and went to Chabad for dinner.









Sunset right outside of Cua Dua



Family dinner on the streets of Hoi An


At this point, I had to solidify my plans for getting to Hanoi the following day for the next segment of my trip. Iím a bit of a train nut since I was a little kid. I used to be fascinated by the NYC subway and how it all operated. My uncle also had a small train set that I could play with for hours at a time. I recall reading about overnight trains and how cool it sounded. After the Vietnam war, the country was divided, and the government aimed to unite the country through a number of initiatives. One of those was re-connecting the north and south railways. This effort became known as the Reunification Express and was completed soon after the fall of Saigon in 1975. The full trip from Hanoi to Saigon takes about 3 days to complete and being on the coastline offers incredible views. I planned on taking the train from Danang to Hanoi which takes about 17 hours. They have a variety of sleeper options for those looking to make the trip. In the end I decided to fly up to Hanoi due to two reasons: 1. I had a lot more luggage than I needed to be schlepping around in my backpack. I didnít want to take it up north with me. Hanoi airport has staffed luggage storage which would be perfect for me to leave a suitcase for the week and get it on my way home. 2. I wanted to maximize my short time in Hanoi so getting in Thursday night instead of Friday morning seemed like a better move. If I had to do this again, Iíd take the train. Itís an experience I feel I missed out on. Now it was time to lock down the flight Iíd take.

Intra-Vietnam flights are plentiful and cheap. For my needs, Jetstar Pacific & Vietnam Airlines offered a flight every hour to Hanoi. Jetstar is partially owned by Qantas and tickets are 6K in points and include a checked bag even though it is a low cost carrier. Alas, by the time I was ready to book (24 hours before the flight), Qantas would not let me book it. I opted for the Vietnam Airlines option booked via the Chase portal. Being Gold on Delta gave me Sky Priority access which was solid! I booked it and went about enjoying my final night in Hoi An.

The following morning, I got up at 5 AM to catch the Sunrise in Cua Dai beach for my last day at Hoi An. My flight was at 5 PM so Iíd have a full day. Being that I didnít have my own transportation, I expected to use Grab (the local Uber equivalent) to get a ride to the beach which is on the same street as my hotel (about a 10 minute ride). Alas, as I stepped out onto Cua Dai street, it was deserted and the Grab app could not locate any rides. I started walking in the direction of the beach concerned that Iíd miss sunrise entirely. As I was walking a traditional cab rolled down the street and I hailed a ride to the beach. I got to the beach at 5:36 just in the nick of time as the sunrise had already begun. As I appreciate the absolute beauty of a sunrise, Iíve been up early in Miami Beach, Jersey Shore, among others to watch the sunrise. Usually the beach is empty with the rare jogger or fellow photographer. At Cua Dai beach, I was greeted with a bevy of people and action. There was a large exercise dance class happening right outside the beach. The beach itself had young and old, families and friends enjoying the warm water and beautiful views before getting their day started. What a warming sight! Then the stunning scenery started showing itself off with dark deep red glows on the horizon.







Waiting for the sunrise at 5:30 AM











A sunrise worth the effort!



The beach itself has been subject to strong erosion over the past 15 years. There is a large effort underway to restore the coastline. There is large equipment and sand mounds on the beach itself taking away some of the beauty of the beach. Yet, the water overlooks the South China Sea with the Chŗm Islands in the background making for some spectacular views. I took pics of the views and the hubbub from the local Vietnamese. On the way back, I stopped at a local cafť in Cua Dai to take in the morning rush and the locals going about their day. Iíd miss the laid-back attitude of the people in this area. I grabbed a Grab and headed back to my hotel for Davening, breakfast and another fitting at the Tailor.

For my second fitting at the tailor, most of the issues had been fixed. The suits fit like a glove. There were still some final minor issues that were marked to be fixed by 12 so that Iíd be able to take it with me. I asked for it to be delivered to my hotel and paid the balance using a credit card. A final thought on my experience using tailor services in Hoi An now that I have used them for 6 months. The quality of the work has disappointed me. The work is rushed and has many minor imperfections. Furthermore, the quality of the actual material has shown itself to be less than perfect. In hindsight, I would skip getting custom clothing in Hoi An unless you have something very specific that canít be purchased in a store. Online reports of many tailors in Hoi An show similar results and reports.

After a hearty Breakfast, I went to the market for some cheap knockoffs for the folk back home. I found a suitcase that Iíd use to store my stuff at Hanoi Airport. At this point I had the opportunity to hone my bargaining skills a bit with the locals. Itís a fun experience to do the first customer good luck thing and have the merchants chase you trying to make a sale. Eventually I settled on some stuff to bring back and went to pack up at the hotel. As my last activity, I went for a run along the river in Hoi An. It was very hot and humid mid-day but I got a good 2 miles in. I went to Chabad for lunch and took a burger to go for dinner to be set for the day. At the tailor, one of the salespeople recommended her friend for a ride back to the airport at a rate of 250K VND which was half the price of my ride on the way there. The ride was uneventful as I got to Danang with about 1 hour prior to my domestic flight to Hanoi.
I headed to the Vietnam Airlines Sky Priority check in counter in the small domestic terminal. I had two bags to check (the one I brought from the US for the Chabad Sheliach in Hanoi, and the new suitcase Iíd leave in the Hanoi Airport). Here is where having Delta Gold status and flying Vietnam Airlines came in quite handy. I checked both bags free of charge. I then headed to security. Here again, Sky Priority was huge. They had a dedicated priority security line that was empty. I was through security in about 2 minutes. With a few minutes to spare before boarding, I purchased a Heineken and awaited my flight. About 20 minutes before departure, boarding began in a very organized calm process. I lined up in the Sky Priority lane for early boarding. As the Gate Agent scanned my boarding pass, it beeped an error sound and lit up red. Uh Oh. The GA informed me that my checked luggage registered for having a lithium battery in it during a scan and could not be loaded. She informed me that Iíd need to exit out of the gate area and remove the battery from my luggage. With only 20 minutes before departure, I started getting that sinking feeling that Iíd miss this flight. As the reality of missing my flight started to settle in, I began gathering my carry on items to leave the gate area and fix my checked luggage issue. The GA seeing me begin to walk away says hold on! Leave your stuff here at the gate, Iíll watch it. Go to baggage kiosk 12 where an agent is waiting with your bag and will help you remove the battery. Wow, I was blown away. When I mentioned this story to the Chabad Rabbi in Hanoi, he explained to me that this is the essence of Vietnam culture. They have a genuine care about others and look to help out fellow strangers. I experienced many instances through the rest of my trip where I saw random acts of kindness. This turned out to be one of the biggest lessons I took away from my trip to Vietnam. I ran out, met the agent, opened my bag and removed an Anker battery and they sent it back through to the plane. I whisked back through security to the gate where the GA was waiting for me with my bags. I got onto the plane within 10 minutes of departure. Goodbye Danang, I could spend two weeks alone in this region. So much to see! Until next time. Next stop Hanoi.









Danang to Hanoi on Vietnam Airlines


Offline lcm

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Re: Vietnam with a mix of Israel
« Reply #28 on: December 17, 2020, 11:53:14 PM »
Wow, fantastic so far! Looks like you had a really enjoyable time, making me jealous.
The driving, yikes.
The colorfulness is awesome.
Thank you for sharing lessons from the culture!

Offline moisheyb

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Re: Vietnam with a mix of Israel
« Reply #29 on: December 19, 2020, 09:20:54 PM »
Wow excellent segment of your tr!!
Love the traffic video !

Offline brodes18

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Re: Vietnam with a mix of Israel
« Reply #30 on: December 19, 2020, 09:36:56 PM »
Thanks. If you think that driving is crazy, just wait until Hanoi. That was wild.

Offline ad120

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Re: Vietnam with a mix of Israel
« Reply #31 on: December 20, 2020, 01:13:08 AM »
How did you attain DL Gold?

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Re: Vietnam with a mix of Israel
« Reply #32 on: December 20, 2020, 01:57:55 PM »
Thanks. If you think that driving is crazy, just wait until Hanoi. That was wild.
I was in Thailand and I thought that was crazy but I guess in Asia this is regular:)

Offline brodes18

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Re: Vietnam with a mix of Israel
« Reply #33 on: December 20, 2020, 07:24:58 PM »
How did you attain DL Gold?
I got it through a corporate status offer at work

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Re: Vietnam with a mix of Israel
« Reply #34 on: December 25, 2020, 11:53:17 AM »
Amazing!

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Re: Vietnam with a mix of Israel
« Reply #35 on: December 25, 2020, 01:07:49 PM »
Wow! Just read the entire TR, amazing stuff.

Looking forward to the rest.
120 characters? Hmm, I wonder what I could write with 64 characters. Boy, it's gonna be hard to use up 15 characters. W-