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Mekong Trip

Our group of 8 traveled on the Magnificent Mekong River Boat tour with Viking this past March. It was an amazing experience. Our first Tuk-tuk ride in Bangkok whipping in and out of the traffic coming in all directions was not for the faint of heart!

We enjoyed several versions of this mode of transportation.

  • Tuk-tuk – 2 of us pulled by bicycle through the streets of Bangkok
  • 4 person electric cart rode through the Old Quarter  in Angkor Wat. 36 streets of shops.
  • Private cycle in Phnom Penh 1 person
  • Sampan River transportation 26 people

Bob had the youngest & strongest driver!

Visiting the small businesses and how they sustain themselves was fascinating.

  • Silk island in Cambodia – a small village that raises their own worms where exquisite fabrics are created by hand. This village employ’s women who lost their husbands in landmines, they all work together and share the earnings to survive.
  • Lacquer factory where Ho Chi Minh artists craft beautiful products.
  • Fish farms with cages under a river boat. A big investment for the owners and constant daily feeding and monitoring the fish. A risky investment with high returns.
  • A Rice paper , candy &  pop rice factory in Cai Be Vietnam.
  • A Rice paper , candy &  pop rice factory in Cai Be Vietnam.

Artists at work at the Lacquer factory.

Brian trying his hand at rice paper.

Young girl working at the silk factory.

We visited busy open air markets in Siem Reap and Sa Dec Vietnam. The lower the chair they sit on – the cheaper the price!

This floating farm holds about 1,050 fish. They are fed organic feed 2xday. Each group is a $50,000 investment with a 20% profit.

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Grounds at the hotel are beautiful & serene.

Grounds at the hotel are beautiful & serene.

On the way to the market to sell her flowers.

Each temple was so different it never got repetitious. A few of my favorites include the Wat Pho (temple of reclining Buddha) , Grand Palace Bangkok (Emerald Buddha), Angkor Wat the highlight – one of the wonders of the modern world!  We all climbed to the top – the stairway to heaven! The Bayon Temple with 4 faces of the king on each temple (beloved King J), the Jungle temple Ta Prohm where the Tomb Raider movie was filmed with the iconic tree.

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Whole gang at the Jungle Temple tree used in the Tomb Raider movie.

At Phnom Pros temple the resting buddha’s magnificent.

At Angkor Wat descending the Stairway to Heaven.

My friends & traveling companions at the Bayon Temple.

Our group had a blessing at the Udon Monastery, complete with Jasmine petals sprinkled on us. This is one of Cambodia’s major Buddhist monasteries.

Entering the Bayon temple built as the state temple of King Jayavarman VII in Angkor Thom. King J is still beloved for all the good things he did for the people during his reign.

Reliving the horrors of the Vietnam war was tough. The  home visit to a local farmer who fought alongside the Americans was very emotional. Mr. Nam still cries as he tells his story of being shot by the enemy  & saved by US military doctors. He clasped my hands with tears in his eyes thanking the Americans for saving his life.

Mr Nam’s wife is proud of her sewing machine.  Every home has a sewing machine – vital to their livelihood. You can tell a family’s wealth by the number of cows a family owns. A cow is “Money in the Bank”. Mr Nam has 5 cows.

We visited  Hanoi Hilton where John McCain was held, seeing the conditions the prisoners lived under. The dungeons and cells were horrific.

Prisoners were shackled at the Hanoi Hilton. American pilots slept on the floor and were tortured by the North Vietnamese.

Visiting Cu Chi tunnels and seeing how the Vietcong fought and hid out in the tunnels. I am horrified thinking of the Americans trying to fight under these conditions.

Our school visit with my friend, Panha reading me a story.

Gale is the only one brave enough to crawl through one of the tunnels.

We were told not to hand out any money to children, they do not want them to be beggars. They teach children that learning English is a path to a better life.We visited 2 schools and the children were so eager to walk with us and practice their English.

Hearing our guide’s personal story of the Fall of Saigon, the horrible day in April 1975. At 3pm he recalls everyone in South Vietnam was told to stay home, they are under a   new government. Panic –  burning soldier uniforms, anything associated with the military. His father, a captain in the army, was sent to prison.

The CIA building where the last helicopter landed on the roof. They ran out of time for any more evacuations. Our guide’s mother tried to escape via boat with her children. They were caught and had paid them the last of their gold bars which they lost.

The South Vietnamese , living under North Vietnamese Communist rule left them with no way to earn a living and being rationed one bowl of rice daily. The prejudice they faced from the North Vietnamese was horrific. The poverty and horrible living arrangements until trade between Vietnam and the US was established. Finally the Communists allowed small business and the people could work for a living. Even today, many families live in 450 square feet.  They share a kitchen & bathroom and have to alternate sleeping times since they can’t all fit laying down in the room at the same time. The smaller your alleyway is outside your home, the lower the price.

The hardship these people have lived through is unimaginable. Yet their resilience, pride and focus on education as a means to rise above it is humbling. We are so fortunate in our lives. Our guides lived through hell and even today reliving it brings tears to their eyes.  They are proud of what they have overcome and the jobs they hold today. Their children will be highly educated and have bright futures!

This tour was a mixture of joy, tears, resilience,  amazement and really opened our eyes to the horror of war and the aftermath of suffering the people are left to endure.

The Viking Saigon river boat & crew  were top notch as always!

Food on board was outstanding as usual on Viking.

Talented dancer performing cultural dance.

Friendly staff to provide a cool and refreshing drink.

Sunset is just as spectacular as sunrise!

Stunning sunrise views from the ship.

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