Saturday, January 20, 2018

Thoughts Enroute

Some final thoughts on our amazing journey through Vietnam and Cambodia:

-Vietnamese seem to have a French-influenced love for bread
-The bus from Phnom Penh to Siem Reap had WiFi
-Water pressure in showers was almost too much
-So lucky to have made it healthily through all the exotic food, drinks and occasional insects
-Grateful the intense pollution at the end of the trip in the north was not as bad in other areas of the tour
-The fabulous lunch in Hanoi was at Duong Restaurant and Cooking School. Dinner was at Pizza 4P.

The Long Journey Home

Moose and Roo in Hanoi offered American comfort food for our last dinner in Vietnam. We sat outside in the courtyard of the American Club and had a burger, ribs and French fries. Our Sunday morning shuttle to Hanoi airport is waiting! Bye for now. Thanks for joining us in Vietnam and Cambodia. What a trip!

Sunrise in Ha Long Bay

Saturday morning, the islands and inlets of Ha Long Bay looked even more romantic in the marine mist with muted silhouettes rising above the tranquil water. While cruising into the mid-morning, it occurred to me that the haze was more to do with pollution than weather. Sadly, the Vietnamese are way behind other countries in regulations to secure a cleaner, healthier environment. The proximity to China must compromise Vietnam's air quality, as well.

There was a morning shore excursion after Tai Chi on the sun deck, but many people opted to sleep in or simply relax on the ship. The previous night's entertainment of wine tasting and spring roll rolling kept spirits high well into the the night.

Disembarkation of Paradise Elegance took place at 10:30am. In route back to Hanoi, the tourists were treated to lunch at a gulf course.

We are happy to have opted for the pre and post trips offered in addition to the AmaWaterways Mekong River cruise: Saigon, Hanoi and the amazing Ha Long Bay.

Friday, January 19, 2018

Ha Long Bay Vietnam

Good Morning Vietnam! As this journey nears an end our group is dwindling in size. We're down to approximately 35 travelers. We checked out of the Sofitel in Hanoi and boarded buses Friday at 8:15am. After a four hour ride, we arrived in Tuan Chau Island. The ship, Paradise Elegance, was awaiting her passengers.

The majestic views of Ha Long Bay, located in the Gulf of Tonkin, were not only stunning, they electrified the group as if energized by mystical vortexes. Dramatic limestone cliffs, islands and inlets were mesmerizing. Ha Long Bay is truly among the most beautiful places on Earth.

Thursday, January 18, 2018

Full Day in Hanoi

Thursday was a full day of fun in Hanoi. It started at the infamous Hanoi Hilton where US POWs were held prisoner. On to the Temple of Literature, also known as the first university of Vietnam and was built in 1070. Afterwords, a photo stop at the Ho Chi Minh Mausoleum completed the morning tour.

Bill and I found an amazing Vietnamese restaurant for lunch. (*Update: Duong Restaurant and Cooking School.*) I had a rose martini, which was out of this world. Traditional Vietnamese pancakes and Pho were delicious. Black sticky rice with coconut cream was for dessert. Delicious.

We enjoyed another rickshaw ride through Hanoi touring the old quarter section of the city. We then walked around the city getting commentary from our tour guide. The afternoon ended with a water puppet show. Darling and magical.

Bill pick the dinner restaurant. It was close to our hotel and fabulous. A bottle wine, amazing Vietnamese style pizza (*Update: Pizza 4P*) and great people watching made for the perfect end to a busy day. We were just about the only Westerners in the restaurant. I ♥️ Hanoi!

Wednesday, January 17, 2018

Parting Shots of Cambodia

This time we really are saying goodbye to Cambodia with three parting shots at the Siem Reap Sofitel. After the thrill of visiting Angkor Wat, it was back to the business of travel: packing, checking out, transferring, immigration, Asian disorderly chaos, one and a half hour flight, customs, and smooth transfer to Sofitel in Hanoi. Another lovely hotel with all the western amenities.

Tuesday, January 16, 2018

Angkor Wat

The wake up call was effective. We were dead asleep at 4:15am. On the bus, with tea in hand we ventured a short distance to the main attraction in Siem Reap: the temple of Angkor Wat for a sunrise memory. In complete darkness, the group of mostly senior citizens made their way to the perfect viewing spot with flashlights in hand. The ADA would be appalled at the route. Waiting for sunrise over the temple was similar to the viewing of the eclipse totality: quiet and respectful. We toured the site for several hours. It was an amazing place. We were back to our hotel for breakfast by 9:30am and packing for transfer to Hanoi.

An Afternoon Off at the Pool

Between the beautiful scenery at our hotel and the incredible scenery at the temples, we are loving this leg of the vacation. After the morning temple tour, we took a tuk tuk to Pub Road and had lunch at Khmer Kitchen with friends. Everything is so inexpensive. We had an incredible Cambodian lunch with way more food than we could eat for $10 a person. That included two jugs of beer, too.

We opted to stay at the hotel for spa therapy and pool time rather than the two hour bus tour Tuesday afternoon. The hotel is too nice for just sleeping. And the flowers!

Monday, January 15, 2018

Intro to Siem Reap

We arrived Siem Reap mid afternoon and jumped right in. The Ta Prohm Temple is fascinating but the Sofitel in Siem Reap is the most luxurious hotel ever. ♥️

Last Day of River Cruise, Still in Cambodia

The crew on the river vessel AmaDara warmly bid farewell as we boarded buses for a five-hour trip to Siem Reap. 

A roadside pitstop was teeming with beautiful produce, dried fruits and sautéed bugs. Young boys were walking around with live tarantulas to entertain the tourists. It was a bustling market scene. 

With Kleenex in hand, I reached the "happy room," which is an endearing reference for the toilet in Cambodia. An enterprising woman was selling toilet paper at the door. Brilliant! I could have used her services earlier in the week when I discovered, rather unpleasantly, that public toilets do not have toilet paper, hand dryers or paper towels. You get just the necessities, a trough-like bowl on the floor with a manual flush. 

There were nearly 100 people on the AmaDara and I'd venture to say that a least half had been fighting a cold, flu or intestinal bug during the week on the river. I've been lucky, but not without occasional queasiness. Ginger tea has become my new miracle drug, offering instant medicinal relief when I feel punky. Incessant hand-washing and sanitizers have become routine throughout the day. 

Cambodia is the approximate size of Oklahoma. Motorbikes are plentiful, often doubling as the family's utility vehicle. It is not unusual to see a family of four, with a young one sleeping in mom's arms, on a scooter. There are no beggars; no pesky people, just smiling curiosity-seekers like us. In fact, I often feel like a celebrity with people waving, smiling and children shouting, "Hello!" Perhaps, as we explore the popular tourist sites around Siem Reap we will notice a change in cultural behaviors. 

Sunday, January 14, 2018

Last Day in Cambodia

Sunday funday started out on an ox cart ride through Kampong Tralach. We transferred to a bus and headed to the picturesque hillside village of Oudong. This is a place of pilgrimage for the Cambodians. We went into monastery, had a Buddhist blessing and enjoyed the peaceful gardens. Later in the day we strolled around the tiny town of Koh Chen and watched villagers create jewelry and other items out of silver and copper.

Saturday, January 13, 2018

Power Breakki

Loving all things Asian for breakfast.

Rice Fields, Floating Village, Cooked Bugs

Close to the geographic middle of Cambodia, we arrived in Kampong Chhnang province on the Tonle Sap River just before breakfast. Lush and fertile rice farms dot the river banks with fishing boats and traps everywhere.

Another market, another test of the stomach...the smell of sautéed, crispy cock roaches and crickets, duck embryos steaming, flies on meat, sun dried fish for sale. Nom nom.
A very large floating river community reminded me of a quaint New England village. But what about the waste, I wondered?

Back on the AmaDara, we heard amplified religious chanting and music all along the river. It was another lazy afternoon cruising, sightseeing and learning stuff.

Friday, January 12, 2018

Phnom Penh to Oknha Tey

A Friday morning tuk tuk ride through Phnom Penh city center offered stops at Independent Monument and a pharmacy. Bill is fighting a cold and bought an arsenal of meds.

With a northwest heading, the cruising AmaDara provided much need recouping time for Bill. The sun deck was the perfect spot to take in the scenery all afternoon.

Will and Solo are managing without us in FL despite a work-related foot injury for Will and another coughing episode for poor old Solo.