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From SÉGOU, Mali, Feb. 4, 2009. . .

Hotel Mande (Cite du Niger, BP 2639, Bamako, Mali; phone [223] 21 19 93, fax 21 19 96).

I stayed here on my own Jan. 21-23. Secure, well-kept grounds with cottages. Large, clean rooms with TV, AC and large bathrooms. The price for a single was €70 (about $90), including breakfast.

Nice pool and deck overlooking the Niger River. A good restaurant. English-speaking staff. Best to reserve by fax, as e-mail communication was not effective.

Hotel le Auberge (Centreville BP 400, Ségou, Mali; phone [223] 23 21731, fax 23 20145, hotelauberge@cefib.com).

I stayed here Jan. 24 at the start of a tour and again on Feb. 4. Hosted by two gregarious, English-speaking Lebanese brothers, this is a well-run establishment near the Niger River.

Rooms — basic, with TV, AC and large bathrooms — are clean and secure and located about 100 yards from the restaurant. Double rooms at CFA27,000 (about $55) with breakfast.

It has a great garden terrace restaurant/bar.

While I would stay here again, I’m not sure I could recommend it to others. It is in an area that might be considered unsafe, and there were lots of mosquitoes.

• I had dinner in Timbuktu at the Refuge du Sahara Restaurant (phone [223] 7602 36 47) at the Maison d’Hôte on Jan. 30. This new 5-room hotel and restaurant is a short drive from the Old Quarter. I was met by the affable, English-speaking owner, Halis Ag Elmoctar.

A delicious and generous “set menu” buffet featured a huge, green salad platter, pumpkin soup, patty bread, lamb and beef kebabs, couscous with a rich savory stew and a sweet crepe for dessert. The cost for two people was CFA4,000 (about $8), with soda, beer, etc.

Dining by candlelight in a courtyard with soft African music wafting through blooming vines was enchanting.

Phone for reservations and transportation.

— Norm Loeffler, New Braunfels, TX

On THAILAND, January ’09

In Bangkok, the Sathorn Inn (37 Silom, soi 9) is at the end of a tiny alley across from the Chong Nonsi Skytrain station and a short walk from the shops, restaurants and nightlife of Silom. The location is very convenient but quiet — a boon in noisy central Bangkok.

The rooms range from 950 baht (about $27) to, for a junior suite, 1,600 baht ($45) and are comfortable and modern. Each has a private bath, refrigerator, AC and cable television. Except with the least-expensive rooms, breakfast is included in the modest restaurant.

The staff is helpful and attentive and all speak English.

— Dr. Norbert Brockman, San Antonio, TX

On VIETNAM, January ’09…

• In Hue, the hotel Saigon Morin (30 Le Loi St.; www.morinhotel.com.vn) until recently was an undistinguished goverment-managed hotel, but it has been reborn as a splendid joint venture, with spacious, well-appointed rooms and excellent service. Fine location. Rooms $75-$120, with an excellent breakfast.

• Also in Hue, we had a marvelous lunch with some Vietnamese friends at the vegetarian Lien Hoa Restaurant, near a pagoda on Le Quy Don Street. They have several delicious dishes, including hot pot and refreshing juice drinks. The price for the six of us was an astonishing $12.

• Our private tour of Vietnam and, in Cambodia, Angkor Wat, Jan. 13-28, was arranged by Esprit Travel & Tours (Telluride, CO; 800/377-7481, wwwesprittravel.com) and cost a total of about $10,000 for three.

The price excluded airfare between the US and Bangkok but included the internal flights Bangkok-Hanoi, Hanoi-Hue, Da Nang-Saigon, Saigon-Siem Reap (Cambodia) and Siem Reap-Bangkok. Most meals except breakfast were not included.

We had excellent guides and drivers at each site and spent one day and a night on a luxurious boat on Ha Long Bay.

— Barbara C. Kohin, Worcester, MA

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From SÉGOU, Mali, Feb. 4, 2009. . .

Hotel Mande (Cite du Niger, BP 2639, Bamako, Mali; phone [223] 21 19 93, fax 21 19 96).

I stayed here on my own Jan. 21-23. Secure, well-kept grounds with cottages. Large, clean rooms with TV, AC and large bathrooms. The price for a single was €70 (about $90), including breakfast.

Nice pool and deck overlooking the Niger River. A good restaurant. English-speaking staff. Best to reserve by fax, as e-mail communication was not effective.

Hotel le Auberge (Centreville BP 400, Ségou, Mali; phone [223] 23 21731, fax 23 20145, hotelauberge@cefib.com).

I stayed here Jan. 24 at the start of a tour and again on Feb. 4. Hosted by two gregarious, English-speaking Lebanese brothers, this is a well-run establishment near the Niger River.

Rooms — basic, with TV, AC and large bathrooms — are clean and secure and located about 100 yards from the restaurant. Double rooms at CFA27,000 (about $55) with breakfast.

It has a great garden terrace restaurant/bar.

While I would stay here again, I’m not sure I could recommend it to others. It is in an area that might be considered unsafe, and there were lots of mosquitoes.

• I had dinner in Timbuktu at the Refuge du Sahara Restaurant (phone [223] 7602 36 47) at the Maison d’Hôte on Jan. 30. This new 5-room hotel and restaurant is a short drive from the Old Quarter. I was met by the affable, English-speaking owner, Halis Ag Elmoctar.

A delicious and generous “set menu” buffet featured a huge, green salad platter, pumpkin soup, patty bread, lamb and beef kebabs, couscous with a rich savory stew and a sweet crepe for dessert. The cost for two people was CFA4,000 (about $8), with soda, beer, etc.

Dining by candlelight in a courtyard with soft African music wafting through blooming vines was enchanting.

Phone for reservations and transportation.

— Norm Loeffler, New Braunfels, TX

On THAILAND, January ’09

In Bangkok, the Sathorn Inn (37 Silom, soi 9) is at the end of a tiny alley across from the Chong Nonsi Skytrain station and a short walk from the shops, restaurants and nightlife of Silom. The location is very convenient but quiet — a boon in noisy central Bangkok.

The rooms range from 950 baht (about $27) to, for a junior suite, 1,600 baht ($45) and are comfortable and modern. Each has a private bath, refrigerator, AC and cable television. Except with the least-expensive rooms, breakfast is included in the modest restaurant.

The staff is helpful and attentive and all speak English.

— Dr. Norbert Brockman, San Antonio, TX

On VIETNAM, January ’09…

• In Hue, the hotel Saigon Morin (30 Le Loi St.; www.morinhotel.com.vn) until recently was an undistinguished goverment-managed hotel, but it has been reborn as a splendid joint venture, with spacious, well-appointed rooms and excellent service. Fine location. Rooms $75-$120, with an excellent breakfast.

• Also in Hue, we had a marvelous lunch with some Vietnamese friends at the vegetarian Lien Hoa Restaurant, near a pagoda on Le Quy Don Street. They have several delicious dishes, including hot pot and refreshing juice drinks. The price for the six of us was an astonishing $12.

• Our private tour of Vietnam and, in Cambodia, Angkor Wat, Jan. 13-28, was arranged by Esprit Travel & Tours (Telluride, CO; 800/377-7481, wwwesprittravel.com) and cost a total of about $10,000 for three.

The price excluded airfare between the US and Bangkok but included the internal flights Bangkok-Hanoi, Hanoi-Hue, Da Nang-Saigon, Saigon-Siem Reap (Cambodia) and Siem Reap-Bangkok. Most meals except breakfast were not included.

We had excellent guides and drivers at each site and spent one day and a night on a luxurious boat on Ha Long Bay.

— Barbara C. Kohin, Worcester, MA