CAMBODIA  and  VIETNAM

October 2011

Two of our Bhutan group went home, and two others joined us in Siem Reap, for a quick three-day tour of Angkor Wat, and the many other Buddhist temples and Khymer palace ruins around the area that date from the 12th century.  It was an intense few days, and a remarkable opportunity for architectural photographs.  I intend to return, and spend a more focused time here.   The Cambodian people we encountered were gracious and kind.

An evening flight to Hanoi, and it was very late by the time we got through customs and settled in.  Next morning early off to Haiphong harbor to hook up with our huge old wooden boat that will be our home for the next three days and nights as we cruise among the limestone karst structures of Halong Bay, a UNESCO World Heritage Site of "geomorphological significance".  There was a pervasive fog the entire three days, which just added to the mystery of this beautiful geology.  One of our first ‘Oh My God’ reactions had to do with the quality of the cuisine.  My goodness, the Vietnamese do know how to cook.

We took a night train from Hanoi to Sa Pa, the beautiful region in extreme northern Vietnam where several Hmong tribes call home.  The night train is an interesting experience where you pretend to sleep in this space with four bunks, and the old train rattling and clicking along, with frequent stops along the way.  It does save travel time.  We spent many hours at the famous Saturday market of Bac Ha.   Rented small motorbikes one day, zoomed about, I crashed of course.  The terrain in this area is mountainous and there are hundreds of terraced hillsides for growing wheat and potatoes.  These terraces have been in a state of becoming for many generations. 

Another night train back to Hanoi for a couple days in this very old cultured city.  We visited Ho Chi Minh’s house on stilts, the Womens’ Museum, old town, and enjoyed our time in Hanoi very much.  Now onto another night train down to Dong Ha, just north of Da Nang, where we visited the Vinh Moc cave complex.  Hoi An and Hue took several days, and then home. 

All of us came away from our time in Vietnam and Cambodia with a very positive impression of the people we encountered.   They were gracious and welcoming, and seemed to be delighted that we had chosen to visit their country.   I will be looking for opportunities to return.