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Vietnam & Cambodia

August 29, 2017

We’ve spent the last month land traveling Vietnam and Cambodia while waiting for our elusive outboard motor part to arrive. We flew to Bangkok and spent one night before continuing on to Hanoi which became our base of operations while exploring northern Vietnam. Our boutique hotel was in the middle of the Old Quarter and within walking distance of many sites, the weekend market, the water puppet show, and bars and restaurants.  Many Europeans travel in August so the tourist crowds were bigger than expected. The weather, however, was great with only three days of rain for the entire trip. But the rains were torrential!

One activity that we enjoyed that was not in the tourist books was sitting in the park next to the lake where we were always approached by young people wishing to practice their English. We had delightful conversations with two engineering students planning a startup company, four women law students, and an eighth-grade girl planning on a career in fashion design. Everyone was friendly with no hint of animosity from the War, except in the museums which were understandably harsh.

We took an overnight sleeper bus (designed for Asian bodies) to Sapa in the northern highlands. Brian did the 5-km trek to the waterfall in a downpour that threatened to wash people and vehicles into the gorge. The weather cleared the next day and revealed a spectacular view from our hotel room with green mountains and tiered rice paddies. We enjoyed exploring the town but were disappointed with the aggressiveness of the street vendors.

We somewhat reluctantly did an overnight trip on Ha Long Bay thinking that all we needed was another boat trip. But this turned out to be a highlight of the trip with wonderful accommodations and outstanding food. Plus, we were waited on hand-and-foot; something we don’t get aboard Persephone. The towering limestone islands were as spectacular as the brochure’s promise.

The night train took us from Hanoi to Dong Hoi and the Phong Nha caves. The Paradise Cave is the largest in the world at 31.4 km and its enormous caverns were breathtaking. We then bused down to Dong Ha and the Vinh Moc Tunnels where a village of 400 lived along the coast during the War.

Our next stop was the beautiful city of Hue with the Imperial City and ancient tombs along the banks of the Perfume River. We relaxed in the evenings with delicious food and massage. We skipped Danang and went directly to touristy Hoi An, a charming town with an Old Quarter and river walks. Along the way we visited the breathtaking temple atop Marble Mountain.

Next, we flew to Ho Chi Minh City, or Saigon as the locals still call it. It’s just a big city but we enjoyed our self-guided tour of the city and relaxing with drinks and dinner in a section closed to motorized traffic. Our Mekong Delta tour was less spectacular than we’d hoped but the floating market was interesting.

We then flew to Phnom Penh and toured the S-21 prison and the Choeung Ek killing fields. We listened dumbstruck about the historical events that permitted Pol Pot to take control of Cambodia and exterminate a quarter of its population.

On a happier note, we bused to Siem Reap and enjoyed exploring the ruins of Angkor Wat, Angkor Thom, and a half-dozen other temples, finishing in a rain storm of biblical proportion. Of course, the first movie we watched after returning to the boat was Tomb Raider and were excited to see Lara Croft running through familiar ruins engulfed in huge tree roots.

After nearly a month on the road we decided to skip Laos and return to the boat where it has rained every day since our return. We are hopeful to get the outboard part in the next couple of days then we can head out to the islands and do what we do best; cruise!

Hanoi

 

Sapa

 

Ha Long Bay

 

Dong Hoi and the Phong Nha caves

 

Hue and Marble Mountain

 

Hoi An

 

Saigon & the Mekong Delta

 

Cambodia

 

From → Travel

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