Day #128 in lockdown Mumbai, India hotel…Memorable photos from Cambodia…Only time will tell…

Us at the Kampong Cham Temple in Cambodia on this date in 2016.

Note: To all of our readers visiting our site via a smartphone, please click the “View web version” tab under the word, “Home” at the bottom of the page to access the web version enabling you to access all of our archives on the right side of the page. We’ll be updating our site shortly, making these extra steps unnecessary. Thank you. 

Today’s photos are from the post from July 29, 2016, while in Cambodia. See the link here for more photos.
Tom, in front of the steps leading to the temple.

When we realized it was only four years ago that the above main photo was taken and posted on our site, it seemed as if it was so much longer ago. Even the time we spent touring India, beginning on February 2, 2020, also seems so long ago.

We were both sweating profusely in the heat of the day.

No doubt, being in confinement for this extended period, now well over four months, we have little comprehension or a definitive sense of time that has passed. The recent experiences of the past year, prior to the lockdown, seem to have occurred years, not months ago. 

The ornate designs of temples were fascinating.

It was only six months ago that we left Arizona after spending time with Tom’s sisters in Apache Junction, that we left the US to come to India. It was only eight months ago that we were with other family members in Minnesota and Nevada.

Scary faces to ward off evil spirits.

Today, as we review these photos in a past post from Cambodia on July 29, 2016, it feels as if it was 10 years ago or more. This state of lockdown does a trick on our brains when each day and night blends into the other. 

We entered the temple for more detailed views.

When it’s the weekend, suddenly it’s Wednesday, like today. We ask, “What happened to Monday and Tuesday?” We have certain rituals we conduct on specific days of the week, for example, laundry, and those days re-occur so quickly, we can barely take a breath.

The details often illustrate the joy of the Cambodian people.

Even the one-hour gaps between my walks in the corridors come up so quickly. I often shrug my shoulders in sheer wonder that the time has cropped up again so quickly when I’ve barely rested from the last vigorous walk. And yet, the walking itself, with my aching legs, seems to take forever.

More views of shrines.

A good night’s sleep is a blessing. This morning, my Fitbit recorded that I’d slept for 8 hours 38 minutes last night (and Tom slept long as well). It’s a welcome respite from the mundane days to nights and nights to days, providing me with the energy needed to walk the corridors hour after hour.

The detail of the craftsmanship is astounding.

Now, I’m up to 9000 steps a day, 4.5 miles, 7.6 km, maneuvering my way around cleaning carts, cleaning staff, and staff members leaving and entering their hotel rooms. It’s no wonder I sleep better and sleep longer, most likely due to the exercise. I never miss a day.

We weren’t certain if these flags were temporary or permanent to celebrate a particular holiday.

And then today, these photos from Cambodia, put a smile on our faces, recalling what we’ve left behind and hopefully, can look forward to in the future… The world. Is the world still awaiting us? Will we be able to resume our world travels, even if in a new way, in times to come?

Only time will tell. We wait. We watch. We search. We read. Only time will tell.

Young monks in training, working at the temple.
Someone on a tour which later visited the orphanage must have handed off a lollipop to this monkey. We giggled when taking these photos.
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Photo from one year ago today, July 29, 2019:

The Wild Atlantic Way in 14 Steps

Here is the map from this site indicating the counties in which the Wild Atlantic Way passes through:

In the year-ago post, we included this map of the Wild Atlantic Way in Ireland along the western coast. For more details, please click here.

Day #123 in lockdown Mumbai, India hotel…Remembering Vietnam in summer 2016…Mekong River Cruise…

It’s hard to believe that Tom managed to climb out of the tiny opening at Cu Chi Tunnel in Vietnam. I was concerned he’d be stuck after all the carbs he’d eaten on the two-week cruise.

Note: To all of our readers visiting our site via a smartphone, please click the “View web version” tab under the word, “Home” at the bottom of the page to access the web version enabling you to access all of our archives on the right side of the page. We’ll be updating our site shortly, making these extra steps unnecessary. Thank you. 
Today’s photos are from July 21 and July 24, 2016, while in Vietnam, visiting the Cu Chi Tunnels. See the links here and here for more photos.

It’s amazing a human could fit down this tiny hole especially Tom who’s considerably larger than Vietnamese people.

In recalling our Viking Mekong River cruise and land tour in July of 2016, it seems like a lifetime ago. Then again, many of our outstanding experiences seemed to have occurred so long ago, as we remain in lockdown at the Courtyard by Marriott Mumbai Airport on day #123.

Tom was sitting at the table in a meeting room bunker with several mannequins with two other passengers standing behind him.

As mentioned earlier, we had started a self-imposed lockdown during our 55-day tour of India on March 12th or thereabouts, when we received an email that our cruise out of Mumbai on April 3, 2020, was canceled. 

Two of the Russian MIGs which were used by the North Vietnam Air Force.

It was at that point that we knew we needed to hunker down and avoid any touring that resulted in getting out of the car. In total, we have been in lockdown in hotel rooms for approximately 132 days.

US Huey helicopter.

The recent tours in India seem a distant memory, let alone the tours in Vietnam and Cambodia in 2016 which we’re highlighting in today’s photos. Good grief! It was only four years ago! 

US artillery pieces and two jeeps.

Details, photos, and stories of the amazing 15-night cruise and tour may be found in our archives for July 2016, including the above-mentioned link referencing the source of today’s repeated photos of the Cu Chi Tunnels in Vietnam. 

US  rocket launchers and cluster bombs.

In any case, it was an extraordinary experience, one we’ll always treasure as our own personal tribute to all the soldiers and civilians that lost their lives in the horrific battle in Southeast Asia, including Vietnam, Cambodia, Laos, and surrounding areas.

Horrifying bamboo spikes in ground booby traps. 

Now, in this horrific battle with COVID-19 in countries throughout the world, we have plenty of time to think about the loss of life, the illness, and the sorrow experienced by millions of people as their lives are touched by this outrageously contagious virus.

Viet Cong surgery bunker.

With no end in sight, we can only wonder how much longer the world will be impacted by this pandemic and how many more lives will be lost or impacted by its path of destruction.

Notice the sweat on Tom’s shirt. He was soaked after crawling through the narrow tunnels. This larger opening was a welcome relief. Some of the tunnels and openings were enlarged for the benefit of tourists.

Yesterday afternoon, our friends Linda and Ken, living in Johannesburg, also currently in lockdown, sent us this article as to when international flights may resume in South Africa. It appears we may not be able to travel to the country until January 2021. Of course, this is subject to when India has also resumed international travel.

Tom took this photo while climbing out of a narrow tunnel by turning around after he’d already crawled through this spot.

We are grateful to be safe. Yes, the routine is mundane and repetitive, as is the food and the surroundings. But, we don’t forget for one moment the gift of safety, we’ve been blessed to experience during this difficult time.

Occasionally, certain areas were lighted as shown in this taller section.

There’s no room in our lives for “whinging” or complaining. Each day, we strive for cheerfulness and optimism as we continue to research our options when the time will be right. We’re well-informed as to what’s transpiring in the US and many countries throughout the world. We’ll know the moment we can make a move.

The next day, he’s a little stiff and sore, having used muscles he hadn’t used in years but suffered no ill effects. The passengers in our group were cheering him as he entered and exited when few others dared to attempt the challenge.

Please don’t take risks. I listen to podcast news on my phone when I walk the corridors and over and over again I hear stories where COVID-19 patients took only one risk after which they acquired the virus; only one time at a  bar, restaurant, or gathering while not wearing a mask.


May you and your family stay safe and healthy.

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Photo from one year ago today, July 24, 2019:

One year ago today, we posted five-year ago photos when we hadn’t been out for a few days while in Connemara, Ireland. There are a few sandy beaches on the island of Madeira.  Most are rocky such as this. For more, please click here.

Final post on Cambodia and Vietnam Viking Mekong River cruise and tour…Photos of us and more…Why did we choose this particular cruise?

Camera in my hand while Tom carried our little insulated bag with chilled bottled water as we exited the boat for a tour.

Today is our final post on our recent tour of Cambodia and Vietnam by land and river over a period of 15 days to which we added an extra three days. Certainly, 18 total days in two countries is hardly enough time to gain the perspective we acquire when spending two to three months living in a country.

The first night aboard the river boat for a lecture by our cruise director Enrico, about the upcoming adventure.

With the number of tours we attended, the three cities in which we stayed; Hanoi, Vietnam, Siem Reap, Cambodia and Ho Chi Minh City, Vietnam, we had an opportunity to experience a little understanding of life in these cities and two countries, both in today’s world and in the past.

Why did we choose this particular tour/cruise? During our past 13 ocean-going cruises we had opportunities to ask other cruisers as to their favorites. 

Visit to Ho Chi Minh Memorial in Hanoi, Vietnam.

Many mentioned this cruise as one of their favorites each offering their personal reasons which may have included; (for older citizens) vets having fought in Vietnam during the war; having lost a friend or loved one during the war; or having diligently followed the news of the war during its progression and later, or simply having an interest in war history.

For Tom, having lost his brother-in-law Ernie (brother of his ex-wife) whom was KIA in Vietnam in 1970, always felt visiting Vietnam was some sort of betrayal. 

Not quite clear (not our photo) at dinner aboard the river boat with some of the many new friends we made on the cruise/’tour.

But, after hearing from many US and Aussie vets we met on past cruises, who expressed that visiting Vietnam was cathartic and ultimately healing, he reconsidered with a little prodding from me.

My reasons were less profound. One, I wanted to see Tom find peace in the process and two, an immense curiosity after reading and hearing over a period of many years, of how both Cambodia and Vietnam as they’ve recovered from the war and decades of horror and strife, now welcome citizens of the US and others from around the world with open arms.

This day’s ride through Phnom Penh in a rickshaw proved to be very uncomfortable for me and I was thrilled when it was over. Otherwise, it would have been a fabulous outing in the busy city.

Neither of us were disappointed. From the moment we landed in Hanoi, Vietnam to the flight to Siem Reap, Cambodia, to the full day bus ride through the Cambodian countryside and then back to Saigon, each element of our travels left us with a new awareness and knowledge we’d never experienced had we not visited this part of the world.

Tom’s most meaningful experience of the entire period we spent in Cambodia and Vietnam was the visit to the Cu Chi Tunnel, which left him reeling over acquiring a better understanding of the perils of war and the challenges of life for the soldiers during these many years. Please click here for the first of our several links for Tom’s personal experiences in the Cu Chi Tunnel. Please see our archives for the remaining posts in this series, a few days later.

At the Kampong Cham Temple in Cambodia.

My most powerful experience was the eight hour bus ride (with stops along the way) through Cambodia. Staring out the window of the bus for hours, taking only a few photos along the way, I sat alone in the two seats toward the back of the bus, while Tom sat alone across the aisle. 

Not a big fan of “selfies” I took this one of us as we began the ride through the old French quarter in Hanoi, riding in what was referred to as an “electric car,” comparable to a six person golf cart.

This quiet time to myself was spent in its entirety in imagining life for the people of Cambodia, the Killing Fields, the loss of life of millions, and how since that horrifying period in their history, somehow they’ve managed to rebuild, to regrow and to heal. It had a profound effect on me, a memory I’ll always carry with me.

A beautiful young girl and adorable boy at the orphanage in Kampong Cham.

Traveling the world isn’t always about personal gratification and pleasure. Yes, at times, it is. But, for us, we try to embrace the significance of the power and meaning for others living in lands foreign to us. 

It’s not always about the popular tourist attraction and taking good photos to share. It’s about filling our hearts and minds with humility, awe and wonder of the world around us, its people, their culture and their way of life.

The reflection of Tom’s head in the plastic headliner in a taxi in Hanoi after purchasing his tennis shoes.  Its silly things like this that makes us laugh out loud.

We are eternally grateful for the time we spent in Cambodia and Vietnam and the wonderful people we met along the way; the gracious locals, our never faltering tour directors, Kong and Lee and of course, the many other passengers we met who, like us, had their own special reasons for embarking on this memorable journey.

May your life’s journey bring you joy and purpose.


Photo from one year ago today, August 3, 2015:

We spotted this kilometer distance meter at a scenic overlook in Port Douglas, Australia which illustrates distances to various cities throughout the world.  For more photos, please click here.

The Mekong River crossing from Cambodia back into Vietnam…Wheelhouse tour…More Phnom Penh photos…

Tom, me, Captain Han and new friend Bob in the wheelhouse.

The remainder of the cruise will take place in Vietnam. Yesterday, as I began to write this post, we were crossing into Vietnam with immigration officers were boarding our ship to stamp our passports.  First the Cambodian immigration officer boarded to stamp our passports and exit visas.

The sign above the wheelhouse entrance. We’d signed up for the wheelhouse tour.

Shortly thereafter the Vietnamese immigration officer boarded to stamp our passports for the second of the multiple entry visas, we obtained in Singapore at the embassy two weeks ago. 

Our ship captain, Bui Huu Han.

There’s nothing we had to do other than relax and enjoy the view while the ship was anchored in the Mekong River. Yesterday, was a full day “at sea” so to speak, without any excursions.

Today we decided to avoid going on the day’s excursions based on my condition and the strenuous nature of the tours. I was hoping to attend, but after seeing the boats, called sampan, we both agreed boarding would be difficult as well as riding on the tilted backs of the low to the floor seats.  No good for me at this point.

Ship’s control panel on the bridge.

There’s no doubt the less I do, the better I feel. As much as this concept of “taking it easy” drives me nuts, I’ve seen over and over these past six weeks that rest is my friend.

We’re still having a great time, loving the interaction with the other passengers and staff. Getting to know 54 passengers and their names is a daunting task as we’ve thoroughly enjoyed every moment of the process. 

Buddhist shrine in the wheelhouse.

Obviously, we knew there would be favorites and we’ve had no trouble narrowing it down to a handful of guests. As for the remainder, there was not one person on board, that we haven’t enjoyed one way or another.

Border monument between Cambodia and Vietnam as we crossed back into Vietnam yesterday afternoon.

Mostly, the ship’s manifest consists of Americans and British passengers with everyone speaking English. Then there’s the very special staff, from Kong and Lee, to our two guides, Enrico, the cruise director and manager, to the wait staff in the dining room to the support staff in boarding and disembarking. They all clearly, exhibit joy in working for this company.

Part of the Silver Temple.

When asked how they feel about working for Viking Cruises, their eyes light up. They exhibit pride and appreciation to be working for this company which we don’t always see on some of the larger cruise ships.

The city had numerous shrines and temples mixed among modern buildings.

Sure, the cabins are small but over these past five nights, we’ve become used to the tiny space easily able to maneuver around the cabin to accomplish everything we’ve needed to do during the short periods we stay in the cabin.

Traffic was busy in Phnom Penh, the capital of Cambodia, but no as busy as in Vietnam.

Yesterday afternoon, we attended a tour of the ship’s wheelhouse which on such a small ship is compact and efficient. After the tour we settled into the cool cabin for a short rest and to prepare for yet another fine dinner and evening with all of our new friends and hopefully soon, to be many new readers. 

Bridge over a park area.  Note the cobra statues on either end of the bridge.

We’re so grateful for the warm reception we’ve received from other passengers when inquiring about our lives. We freely share our story with them as we relish every moment in hearing about their adventures as well.

Stairway to a temple in Wat, Phnom Penh.

Have a beautiful day!

Photo from one year ago today, July 18, 2015:
 

 Location or Ship  Days  Address or Ship  Dates
 Sydney Hotel   1   9/7/2015 – 9/8/2015
 Fiji Rental  88    9/8/2015 – 12/6/2015 
 Fiji Rental #2  29    12/6/2015 – 1/4/2016 
 Sydney Hotel  1    1/4/2016 – 1/5/2016 
 Sydney to Auckland – Cruise  14  Celebrity Solstice   1/5/2016 – 1/19/2016 
 New Zealand Farm  87    1/19/2016 – 4/15/2016 
 Sydney Hotel  1    4/15/2016 – 4/16/2016 
 Sydney to Singapore – Cruise  14  RC Voyager of Seas   4/16/2016 – 4/30/2016 
 Bali House  59    4/30/2016 – 6/28/2016 
 Hanoi Hotel – to be booked  10    6/28/2016 – 7/8/2016 
 Hanoi to Ho Chi Min City – Cruise  15  Viking Mekong    7/8/2016 – 7/22/2016 
 Phuket House  41    7/22/2016 – 9/1/2016 
 Bali House  59    9/1/2016 – 10/30/2016 
 Sydney Hotel  1    10/30/2016 – 10/31/2016 
 Sydney to Perth – Cruise  16  RC Radiance of the Seas   10/31/2016 – 11/16/2016 
 Perth to Sydney – Cruise  17  RC Radiance of the Seas   11/16/2016 – 12/3/2016 
 GAP 12/3/2016 – 3/1/2017  88    12/3/2016 – 3/1/2017 
 Sydney to Sydney – Cruise  12  Celebrity Solstice   3/1/2017 – 3/13/2017 
 GAP 3/13/2017 – 4/22/1017  40    3/13/2017 – 4/22/2017 
 Sydney to Seattle – Cruise  24  RC Explorer of the Seas   4/22/2017 – 5/15/2017 
Total number of days 617

One year ago today, we posted our itinerary which has since changed with more bookings. For photos from this past date, please click here.

WiFi issues in Phnom Penh…Using the cruise director’s computer to upload a short post…A painful story to tell…

Tom, situated in his rickshaw as we meandered down the busy street in Phnom Penh.
We expected wifi issues with this Viking Mekong River cruise. However, Cruise Director Enrico Schiappapietra has gone overboard (no pun intended) to assist us in getting a post, however small, uploaded today while we are docked in the capital city of Phnom Penh, Cambodia.
Still nursing my wounded spine, we continue to curtail our activities to a level that I can manage without further injury. This morning at 8:30 am we’d committed to trying the tuk-tuk for a tour of the city.  
There was lots of traffic on the street we wove our way through motorbikes, cars and trucks.

As it turned out two one-person rickshaws were awaiting us as opposed to a motorized tuk-tuk.  Simply put a rickshaw is a  bicycle with a riding seat in the front of the driver.

When we spotted our mode of transportation, I hesitated, especially when noticing the back portion of the passenger seat was reclined as shown in today’s photo. The incline placed me in a position disastrous for my current condition.

Realizing our ride through the busy city of Phnom Penh was only scheduled for only an hour, I figured I could tough it out. After all, in these past six weeks, I’ve endured some difficult sitting and walking that surely exacerbated my condition.

The entrance to the Royal Palace in Phnom Penh.

With all the other passengers, including Tom, situated in their one-person rickshaws, I didn’t want to make a  fuss and decided to forge ahead. It was odd for Tom and I not to be side by side. He’s my spotter with an innate skill of spotting great photo ops. On my own, I can hardly match his fine skills.

As a result, today’s photos may not be as good as others, these past days when he wasn’t with me and, I was wriggling around in the seat in a dire attempt to get comfortable. After the first 10 minutes, I yelled out to Tom’s rickshaw, “We have to go back to the ship. This is torture.”

Our regular readers know I’m not a  wimp and will tough it out in most situations. I could have withstood the discomfort if I wasn’t concerned I was doing damage to an already precarious situation.

Views along the streets of Phnom Penh.
Then, the “fun” began when neither of our rickshaw drivers understood, we wanted to “return to the Mekong River.” There were no hand signals or manner of speech that could communicate to these two kindly gentlemen who so much wanted to please us that we needed to return to the boat on the Mekong. 


They did understand that we wanted to go to an ATM, something surely many tourists request. On a side, not much to our surprise ATMs in Cambodia only dispense US currency. Everywhere in Cambodia purchases can be made using US dollars.


We needed cash for tips we’d proffer at the end of the cruise and today was our last option to get US currency for quite some time. We carried only small amounts of US currency with us over these past 45 months, using the currency available in each country.

We stopped at a little market in the center of town when I spotted an ATM inside, also hoping to purchase toothpaste which we’re almost out of at this point.  We don’t pack the runny homemade toothpaste when we’re traveling since it could easily spill in the luggage.

It felt great to get out of the rickshaw, again trying to find an English speaking person to explain to the two rickshaw drivers that we wanted to return to the ship as soon as possible. Our efforts were to no avail. Not a single person understood our message.

Finally, the hour began to wind down and we were hopeful they’d head back to the pier. Finally, they wanted to give us a “bang for the buck” and they took off in yet another direction.

At that point, I resigned myself that we could possibly be riding around Phnom Penh for several more hours while I squirmed in an effort to find a comfortable position.

An hour and 40 minutes later, the two rickshaw drivers peddled toward the pier to our awaiting ship. I couldn’t have been more thrilled to see the boat nor could I maneuver out of the cumbersome vehicle more quickly.

As we made our way down the steep steps to the gangplank we sighed with relief that the day’s outing was over. Had we taken a tuk-tuk we’d have had no problem.

To distract myself, I took plenty of photos, some of which we’re sharing here today as soon as we get a better signal. With the poor WiFi signal, I’m currently using Enrico’s laptop which is wired to the only working Internet signal on the ship. We didn’t ask for this, he offered, insisting we take advantage of his offer. How’d we become privy to such outrageous customer service we’ve experienced on this cruise.

Last night, when we went to our cabin after the evening ended, we noticed a bottle of champagne in a bucket of ice with two flutes and a thoughtful note from Enrico thanking us for sharing our worldwide travel story with him and posting all the genuine and positive comments we’ve made about Viking Cruises over these past many days.

Even with my limitations and a continuing degree of discomfort during the last week of this cruise/tour, we couldn’t be more pleased with Viking’s Magnificent Mekong river cruise and the attention and care provided by this extraordinary company. Now, we see first hand why Viking is rated with five stars over and over again.

If you don’t see us here by 3 pm tomorrow, it is due to the poor signal aboard the ship, as we’ve discovered is no fault of the cruise line and is due to the lack of a good signal at various points along the river. Keep an eye out. We’ll be back as soon as we can get back online.

Happy day to all!

Photo from one year ago, July 16, 2015:

Tom in front of a restored tank outside the Australian Armour and Artillery in Cairnes, Australia. For more photos, please click here.

An emotional visit to an orphanage in Cambodia as we cruise along the Mekong River…Arrived in Phnom Penh!

This young girl’s smile took our breathe away.
This Mekong River cruise is unlike any cruise that we’ve experienced in the past. The authenticity of the small ship and its rustic teak/mahogany design, the small spaces and cabins, the added requirements for organization and planning make it special in many ways.
The entrance to the orphanage.

The daily tours offer a wide array of options appealing to the interests of most cruise passengers with each containing a few activities in which to participate. 

This adorable girl greeted us at the main entrance.


Today, we’re sharing the story of yesterday’s visit to the Orphanage Center of the Kampong Cham Province when our boat was docked along the river and we boarded the buses for a short drive through the village and on to the orphanage.

Handsome young man.

Having anticipated that visiting an orphanage would be disheartening it proved to be a positive experience when we saw the smiling faces of the children and the loving care they are provided in the environment steeped in education, learning a craft or trade and eventually becoming independent and self sufficient.

It was hard not to instantly feel attached to these children, their plight in life while hoping and praying for their future.

Through help from the government, private donations, cruise lines including Viking,  as well as visits by many
tourist groups, funds are available to ensure the children are provided for. Although not a perfect environment, it appeared evident they are well cared for and treated well.

Most of the stories of the reasons why these children are living in an orphanage revolve around poverty, parental drug abuse and crime, neglect and abuse in one form or another leaving each precious soul with memories and images they may never forget. 

The boys obviously had other things on their minds that catering to a group of tourists. We didn’t blame them.

Good care, loving attentiveness and education are the emphasis on the facility, as the best means of steering the children in the right direction for a fulfilling future. 

The children had probably been through these presentations more times than they could count.  We certainly understood.

The director of the school, 16 years in residence, described through our guide’s interpretation how the ultimate goal is to educate the children to eventually be able to attend college. 

They all waved to us at the end of their sweet performance.

The director quoted many instances of young residents going on to fulfilling lives having learned a craft through both the orphanage, public school, trade schools and college. He emphasized that the children aren’t sent off on their own until they’ve acquired a job with a wage commensurate with the ability to live a suitable life.

This wheelchair bound young man deserved some attention too.
We realize that a part of these explanations could easily be propaganda to elicit donations from the visitors, but somehow we felt a strong commitment based on who the Cambodia people are; spiritual, honest, loving and kind.
Another building on the property.

All the children learn a handicraft and make a variety of items which are sold in the on-site shops. The children “man” their stations when the tourists walk through to inspect their work. The children receive 50% of the revenue from the sale of the items with the balance for the facility to cover costs of materials.

The small bathroom in the sleeping quarters.

This way the children are taught the value of entrepreneurship with the joy of success and a keen sense of responsibility providing them the tools for a fulfilling and successful life.  

The director of the orphanage, 16 years in residence.

If smiles on little faces is any indication of the children feeling safe in this environment, we were left with a good feeling.

(Preferring not to “toot our own horn regarding donations, we remain mum on this topic. To us, the greatest donation is one that doesn’t seek any personal recognition or accolades from others).

Groups A and B during the presentation by the director and songs sung by the children.
Today, we didn’t attend the morning tour when part of it included a ride on an ox cart (video to follow in future post as we stood by watching the procession) which would have been unsuitable with my current condition. 
Another table of handicrafts made by the children for sale in the tiny shops on the grounds of the orphanage.

After the ox cart ride, the passengers headed to the Udon Monastery which required walking uphill, up many steps and over long distances, again not suitable for me at this time. 

Bedroom for the children.  It was sad to see the not-so-well-equipped space.

This morning, for the first time in six weeks, I’ve felt relatively pain free for a few hours, only escalating later in the day. The ship’s director, Enrico, arranged for us to be able to prepare our posts while sitting in the empty dining room as the staff prepares for the next meal. 

Bracelets, ribbons and various crafts the children made to learn the value of the entrepreneurial spirit.

The chairs offer good support and with my laptop on the table I can sit in an ergonomic manner to avoid becoming too uncomfortable. We were among about six other passengers who remained on the ship until the two groups returned to the ship at 11:45 am. 

Crafts for sale, all handmade by the children.

Do we feel badly about this?  I would have loved the ride in the ox cart but Kong warned it was very bumpy. Tom and I agreed it’s not worth the risk nor was the tough walk at the monastery.

The living quarters for girls and boys are separate.

At 3 pm today we arrived in Cambodia’s capital city of Phnom Penh where we’ll stay docked for a few days where we plan to get off the ship to tour the interesting city by tuk-tuk. 

Sewing machines, although quite old, are available for the kids to learn to make handicrafts.

Many older folks like us will recall the significance of Phnom Penh in the Vietnam war. Here’s a little information about Phnom Penh from this site, but much more will follow over the next few days:

Classroom on the property.

“During the Vietnam War, Cambodia was used as a base by the North Vietnamese Army and the Viet Cong, and
thousands of refugees from across the country flooded the city to escape the fighting between their own government troops, the NVA/NLF, the
South Vietnamese and its allies, and the Khmer Rouge. By 1975, the population was 2-3 million, the bulk of whom were refugees from the fighting.”

These bikes are available for the kids to use.

In any case, we’re still having an excellent time aboard the Viking Mekong River cruise getting to know the many passengers and crew, especially as I continue to improve without too much overextending.

After the tour, we returned to our ship.

We’ll be back again tomorrow with more stories and photos! Have a great day!

Photo from one year ago today, July 15, 2015:
This shell we found in the sand in the Trinity Beach area of Australia had a rough exterior. For more shell photos, please click here.

From a reign of terror emerged the Khmer people of Cambodia…The Mekong River cruise and a bit of whining/whinging…

Four times in a single day, this bowl will fill with the sap from the rubber tree to later be collected by “rubber farmers.”

As we drove through the Cambodian countryside for almost five hours with our guide speaking to us via use of the QuietVox while explaining the horrors this country faced for many decades, we’re not only appalled by what we were hearing but also, amazed over how the citizens of Cambodia have managed to survive.

Each 10 km or so, we passed through another small village.

Still recognized as a third world country with a large portion of the country without common utilities such as electricity and running water, Cambodia has a lot of growing yet to do as it strives to work its way into the modern age. Farming is still done by hand without the use of mechanical equipment.

We encountered many Buddhist shrines and temples on the highway.

The majority of farming in Cambodia includes the following as described here:

“The principal commercial crop is rubber. In the 1980s, it was an important primary commodity, second only to rice, and one of the country’s few sources of foreign exchange. Rubber plantations were damaged extensively during the war (as much as 20,000 hectares was destroyed), and recovery was very slow. In 1986 rubber production totaled about 24,500 tons (from an area of 36,000 hectares, mostly in Kampong Cham Province), far below the 1969 prewar output of 50,000 tons (produced from an area of 50,000 hectares).

When we stopped at a local restaurant and gift shop for a “happy room” break, as described by Kong, many of us girls made a few clothing purchases, including me, a real rarity.

The government began exporting rubber and rubber products in 1985. A major customer was the Soviet Union, which imported slightly more than 10,000 tons of Cambodian natural rubber annually in 1985 and in 1986. In the late 1980s, Vietnam helped Cambodia restore rubber-processing plants. The First Plan made rubber the second economic priority, with production targeted at 50,000 tons—from an expanded cultivated area of 50,000 hectares—by 1990.

Tables lined the restaurant and bar at the stop, but none of us dined here. The hotel had prepared boxed lunches for all of us which we ate on the bus, most of which contained deli sandwiches, an apple, a baby banana, chocolate dessert and bottled water. I’d told Kong I didn’t need a lunch but he presented me with a beautiful lunch box with sliced fresh veggies, salad and sliced chicken.

Other commercial crops included sugarcane, cotton, and tobacco. Among these secondary crops, the First Plan emphasized the production of jute, which was to reach the target of 15,000 tons in 1990.”

Water buffalo in the lake by the stopping point.

Cambodia has suffered great devastation and loss of millions of lives as a result of wars and leadership by ruthless, tyrannical leaders such as:

Quote from this website:
Pol Pot  19 May 1925 – 15 April 1998, born Saloth Sar was a Cambodian revolutionary who led the Khmer Rouge from 1963 until 1997. From 1963 to 1981, he served as the General Secretary of the Communist Party of Kampuchea. As such, he became the leader of Cambodia on 17 April 1975, when his forces captured Phnom Penh. From 1976 to 1979, he also served as the prime minister of Democratic Kampuchea.

Water tower in small village.

He presided over a totalitarian dictatorship, in which his government made urban dwellers move to the countryside to work in collective farms and on forced labour projects. The combined effects of executions, strenuous working conditions, malnutrition and poor medical care caused the deaths of approximately 25 percent of the Cambodian population.  In all, an estimated 1 to 3 million people (out of a population of slightly over 8 million) died due to the policies of his four-year premiership.

Cambodia is a country of many bodies of water which are a result of heavy rains during the rainy season.

In 1979, after the Cambodian–Vietnamese War, Pol Pot relocated to the jungles of southwest Cambodia, and the Khmer Rouge government collapsed.  From 1979 to 1997, he and a remnant of the old Khmer Rouge operated near the border of Cambodia and Thailand, where they clung to power, with nominal United Nations recognition as the rightful government of Cambodia. Pol Pot died in 1998, while under house arrest by the Ta Mok faction of the Khmer Rouge. Since his death, rumors that he committed suicide or was poisoned have persisted.

To continue with this historical information, please click here.

Buddhist shrine with five various cups of tea as an offering.

There’s more information regarding this regime, more than we can ever share in our post, but over these past few days we’ve become keenly aware of what has transpired over these decades under the rule of this destructive leadership resulting in the loss of 25% of the Cambodian population.

Guarded entrance to a Buddhist temple.

Many survivors today have horrific stories to tell of the loss of loved ones and generations of families. Emerging from this indescribable genocide the strength of it’s mainly Buddhist followers, is a gentle, kind and loving people that literally take our breath away.  We’ll follow up on their Buddhist faith in another post this week on the Mekong River.

This small town is known for the manufacturing of statues of Buddha.

If I wasn’t still struggling with back and neck pain, I do believe we’d fully embrace every aspect of this Viking Mekong River Cruise to a much greater degree. This ship with only 52 passengers (after all) and a staff of 25 is very small and intimate creating a wonderful sense of connectivity. 

Many come from all over the country to purchase these statues.

The cabins are considerably smaller than those on big cruise ships by approximately 30%. The bed takes up almost the entire cabin with no more than two feet , .61 meters, between the bed’s edge and the side walls.  From the foot of the bed, we may have six feet, 1.8 meters to the sliding doors.

There are many poor areas in Cambodia with houses on stilts such as shown here.

There are no interior hallways and only four decks and only two communal rooms beside the dining hall, a saloon with uncomfortable seating, and a movie/lecture room in the lowest level with only portholes.

A modest neighborhood which may be comprised entirely of family members.

Under normal circumstances, this would absolutely be an adventure for both of us. With my current situation, I’m at a loss as to where to sit to prepare our posts each day which usually take four or five hours including photo prep.

With the outrageous cost of cars in Cambodia, as was the case in Singapore and Vietnam, most locals drive motorbikes.

Sitting on the bed in our cabin, propped up with pillows seems to be the only option at this time which in itself isn’t comfortable. Tonight, I’ll speak to Kong to see if he can make a suggestion as to an alternate location aboard the ship that won’t be so painful.  There’s no way I can’t sit on the uncomfortable un-padded wicker chairs in the saloon while “looking down” at my laptop.

Selling crickets for consumption is big business in Cambodia. These lighted (at night) plastic bags attract the crickets overnight which are later collected and often sold to other countries throughout the world.

The WiFi is sketchy at best but that’s the least of my current concerns. We have six more nights on the ship until we check in to another Sofitel Hotel in Saigon for two more nights as the cruise wraps up. 

Selling crickets for consumption is big business in Cambodia. These lighted (at night) plastic bags attract the crickets overnight which are later collected and often sold to other countries throughout the world.

I‘ve no doubt that once we’re in the hotel, I’ll manage very well as I did at these last two hotel stays in both Vietnam finding many comfortable seating areas outside the hotel room.

Cambodian people use lots of umbrellas and overhangs to avoid darkening their skin from the sun. Women especially long for light skin as our guide explained the long sleeved hoodies most women wear when outside or riding on motorbikes.

Today, we went on the morning tour which didn’t require a huge amount of walking during which overall I did fine. After we returned, the ship set sail on the Mekong River in the pouring rain. 

Rubber is big business in Cambodia. We stopped along the way to get out and see the rubber trees from which latex is extracted, later to be processed into rubber.

The meals have been great and more than anything, we’ve thoroughly enjoyed interacting with the other passengers. Each has a unique story to share as we’re now eating three meals a day as of today. 

Close up of rubber tree.

Its not that we’re hungry for three meals a day but the seating in the dining room is comfortable and the conversation is well worth eating too much too often. I’m sure once we settle in Phuket in eight days, we’ll both lose anything we may have gained.

Trash is a serious issue in Cambodia. There are no trash collectors nor means for locals to deliver their trash to a landfill. As a result, there’s trash everywhere including in yards of homes and businesses.

Tom is currently at a lecture about life on the Mekong River and will fill me in on the details which we’ll soon share here as well..

Narrow modest homes with no grass and little vegetation.

We’ll be back tomorrow with many more photos and stories of Cambodia, a country and a people we’ve easily come to love and respect in so many ways. 

Even the newer homes, are narrow and on small lots.

Regardless of the discomfort, we appreciate the opportunity to experience these two developing countries each with a history of war, tyrannical rule, strife and sorrow for their citizens and soldiers from all over the world.

Pelting rain slowed down the final kilometers to the boat in Kampong Cham. We weren’t able to take photos once we arrived at the dock when ship employees came outside in the rain and mud to escort us aboard the ship.
Dark clouds started rolling in.  One of the two buses in our passenger manifest broke down and we all had to wait while it was repaired.

Photo from one year ago today, July 14, 2015:

Nothing was as lovely as a sunny day in Trinity Beach, Australia. For more photos, please click here.

Off we go to the ship…Long drive through the Cambodian countryside…Mode of transportation

Local danger and musicians greeted us with a ceremonial dance as we entered the hotel.
In Cambodia, US dollars are tendered for most purchases, receiving Cambodian money, the reil for change which can be confusing especially when one US dollar is KHR 40,973.50. The cost for the drive back to our hotel was US $3. The driver was so grateful when we gave him a US $5 bill. Tipping isn’t expected in Cambodia but greatly appreciated based on low wages.
Fountain in the lake at the hotel, taken last night in the dark.

As much as long drives in cars, vans and buses are not our favorite mode of transportation, I’m looking forward to the almost five hour drive through the Cambodian countryside as we make our way to the awaiting boat on the Mekong River.

As we approached the entrance to the Sofitel Angkor Phokeethra in Siem Reap, Cambodia, another five star hotel.

These past tour portions of this cruise/tour have been rich in history and highly entertaining including the extra three days we spent on our own in advance of the cruise in Hanoi when we arrived from Singapore over a week ago. I did my best to keep up, only missing a few days of touring, having participated in the remainder.

The first night in the hotel in Cambodia we were entertained by local dancers performing in the dining room.

Last night, the final night at the Hotel Sofitel Angkor Phokeethra Golf and Spa Resort in Siem Reap, Cambodia it dawned on me that we’d yet share any photos of this five star hotel and its surroundings. It’s been a glorious hotel stay once again, with the past two Sofitel Hotels providing the utmost in both ambiance, amenities and service.

Upon entering our beautifully decorated hotel room with a full veranda overlooking the river, the table was set with fresh flowers, complimentary linen napkins as a gift to keep, baby bananas and cookies (all of which Tom consumed).

I’d never paid much attention to Sofitel Hotels other than occasionally dining (in my old life) at the hotel’s restaurant in Bloomington, Minnesota for business type lunches. 

It was a long walk from the lobby to our hotel room down several long bridges such as this over the lake on the hotel property.
Each walkway to the various buildings provided a lovely view of the hotel’s massive grounds.

Now that we’re signed up as members, we’ll certainly pay the Accor hotel chains a little more attention when we’re wondering where to stay for a night or two on occasion.

A portion of the hotel’s lake.

We had the opportunity to chat with one of the hotel’s managers, Sam Sorn who, along with the remaining staff have provided exemplary service and attention to detail. 

This sign is posted along one of the walkways in the hotel.

From the complimentary handmade linen napkins left in our room as a gift from the hotel, to the baby bananas, fresh flowers and chef’s perfection in seeing my menu, the hotel nor the other two restaurants where we dined in Siem Reap, left a stone unturned. 

Its unfortunate the mosquitos are so bad and the heat and humidity uncomfortable or many guests would have spent more time outdoors.  Instead, everyone stayed inside the air conditioned comfort. 

From the gentle-hands-clasped-bow elicited by each Cambodian we encounter, whether it was the pool man or the tuk tuk driver, each individual made us feel supremely invited as guests into their country. I could easily return here for an extended stay, although, practically speaking, it may not be possible with so much world left to see.

A bicycle rickshaw on display.

Last night’s dinner for 54 guests at Malis Restaurant, ranked #4 of 622 in TripAdvisor, excelled beyond most restaurants when they prepared entirely different meals for me than those offered on the menu. They went as far as making a totally sugar free mousse/flan dessert than surprisingly was quite delicious without any form of sweetener.

These gorgeous flowers are commonly seen on display in hotels and restaurants in Cambodia.

Of course, the conversation was indescribably delightful as we’ve continued to get to know one couple after another, never disappointed, always enlightened by the stories of others as they freely ask question after question about our peculiar lifestyle. I suppose if it was the other way around, we’d be curious as well.

One of several seating areas in the hotel’s lobby.

We try to temper our enthusiasm and ask about their lives. Most of the participants on this type of cruise are well traveled with equally fascinating stories to tell. Most of the passengers are within our age range with a few much younger and equal number, a bit older. 

A shrine in the hotel lobby.  Most Cambodians are Buddhists.

Age seems to be no barrier in keeping these adventurous folks from continuing to travel well into their 70’s and 80’s. Some have obvious disabilities and yet forge ahead with the excitement of 20 year old, seeking to fill their lives with new experiences. 

This talented young man played peaceful music in the lobby.

A few stayed behind like us on the more difficult excursions over the past few days while others returned exhausted and hobbling with aching joints, hips and knees commensurate with older age. 

Fresh flowers are frequently replenished.  This humid climate in Cambodia is a perfect environment for growing flowers.

As for my continuing recovery, its still a work in progress. In reviewing the calendar we tried to recall the exact date of the injury and we believe it was around June 1st. Most likely it’s been almost six weeks. If I blew out a disc (or two)  or whatever, it could be several more weeks until I’m pain free once again. 

A humidor with a variety of cigars for sale including Cuban.

My only fear is that the pain won’t go away and this will be my lot in life, not unlike my life before I started this way of eating. I will no longer be pain free as I’d been two months ago. Could I continue on at this level of discomfort? I think so. 

Elaborate desserts such as these are offered in the buffet as well as at “high tea” in the bar where we worked on the posts. Tom was only interested in the doughnuts on the bottom right.

As we mentioned in the post on July 11th, “In the past two weeks we moved into four different hotels in four different countries, flown on three international flights, taken over 1000 photos and posted each and every day.

We sat at the left corner of this banquette in the bar each day while posting.

As you’ve seen, we’ve been able to continue on. If we were living a “fixed” lifestyle and this injury occurred, I’d still have the discomfort and life would go on. It’s not a whole lot different now other than the hours of moving from one location to another which generally isn’t quite as often as its been lately.

Sam Sorn, the hotel’s second in command, worked his “way up” after 16 years of employment at the hotel, originally working in maintenance. His kindly demeanor and interest in each guest is delightful.

However, we both remain hopeful that soon I’ll be back to my “old” self once again, able to walk longer distances and manage more steps and rough terrain. I remind myself how grateful we are that it wasn’t totally debilitating where I couldn’t (or wouldn’t) get out at all. Sheer will and determination have kept me moving. 

With rain each day, we never took advantage of the hotel’s enormous pool.  We have plenty of pool time upcoming over the net several months.

As soon as we upload this post, we’ll head back to our hotel room to leave the already-packed and ready-to-go three checked bags outside our hotel room door to be picked up by staff and delivered to the two buses for both Group A and B (we’re A) and off we’ll go at 11:30 am for the long journey to the ship awaiting us in Kampong Cham, Cambodia. 

Last night on our way to dinner on the bus, we tried to take a few photos through the glass.

Once we’re all onboard and checked in, we’ll be offered complimentary welcome aboard cocktails (along with cocktails included  at no charge at both lunch and dinner) and be introduced to the ship’s captain, other officers and support staff. Then, we’ll set sail.

Siem Reap is filled with a multitude of shopping options from expensive galleria type malls to strips centers such as this.
Many building copy the design of the Angkor Wat temple.

We’re as excited as always to be back on the water, this time on our first river cruise which so far the land portion, has proven to excel our expectations. Back at you tomorrow with photos and updates! Stay tuned!

The entrance to last night’s restaurant, Malis. It was absolutely exquisite for me although Tom found some of the unfamiliar spices less appealing to his taste buds.

Have a glorious day!

Bob and Tom having a great time, sitting across from Tina and I We arrived at the restaurant at 5:45 while it was still light.  At 8 pm, some of the group were headed to a local circus with bleacher-type seating.  , there was no way I could sit on bleachers for any length of time. Instead, we had a fabulous time returning to the hotel in a local tuk-tuk.

Photo from one year ago today, July 13, 2015:

Holloways Beach, near Cairns Australia. For more details and photos, please click here.

Comments regarding Angkor Wat and….Ho Chi Minh Memorial in Hanoi…Photos and more…

Can you even imagine safely navigating these steps at Angkor Wat?  (Not our photo)

It was impossible for me not to feel badly about missing Angkor Wat, one of the most revered temple sites in the world.It would have been foolhardy to risk any further injury, we stayed behind.  We watched a special presentation on the describing the unbelievable site and its enchanting history.

It was very hot and uncomfortable on the long walk to and around this site, The Ho Chi Minh Mausoleum.

If you’re interested in information about Angkor Wat, please click here. The historic site is rich in history and content attracting visitors from many parts of the world, anxious to see it in person and tackle its massive stairway.

Kong, our knowledgeable Viking Cruise guide, explained that visitors climb the step and cry when they can’t figure out how to climb down.The above photo clearly shows how tough that would be. Also, a several mile walk is necessary to get close enough for good photos, which I was unable to do based on my current condition.

The Presidential Palace on the ground of the Ho Chi Minh Memorial Park.

The many tours in Vietnam with hours of walking with many steps threw me into a tailspin back to where I’d been in the recovery process a few weeks ago. In Singapore, most days I lay flat on my back in our hotel room taking hot baths three times a day hoping for a little relief.

Gorgeous grounds and fountains in the surrounding park lands.

As my situation improves once again, its no longer necessary to be lying down and we’re able to stay out of the hotel room as we are at the moment, sitting in a luxurious bar in the Hotel Sofitel Angkor Phokeethra Golf and Spa Resort in Siem Reap, Cambodia. 

Fortunately, a portion of the long hike was on smooth roads such as this. The heat was at 98F, 37C, with 80% humidity.

The only way I’ve been able to make some headway in this recovery has been keeping the walking and steps as indicated on my FitBit under about 4000 steps a day. That would have been impossible on any of the tours of the past two days.

Jack fruit grow prolifically in the park.
Although Ho Chi Minh is revered as a modest man with little desire for opulence, he owned these cars, one of which was bulletproof.

Instead, we joined our group again last night for the second dinner in Cambodia and will do so again tonight for our third and final dinner together until checking out of the hotel tomorrow for a five hour bus ride through the countryside to the river boat docked in Kampong Cham, via the provincial capital of Kampong Thom. 

A glass partition prevented a clear photo of the interior of Ho Chi Minh’s first home on the property.
Ho Chi Minh never had children or married.  As a result, he was referred to as Uncle Ho.  From History Channel: “Ho Chi Minh first emerged as an outspoken voice for Vietnamese independence while living as a young man in France during World War I. Inspired by the Bolshevik Revolution, he joined the Communist Party and traveled to the Soviet Union. He helped found the Indochinese Communist Party in 1930 and the League for the Independence of Vietnam, or Viet Minh, in 1941. At World War II’s end, Viet Minh forces seized the northern Vietnamese city of Hanoi and declared a Democratic State of Vietnam (or North Vietnam) with Ho as president. Known as “Uncle Ho,” he would serve in that position for the next 25 years, becoming a symbol of Vietnam’s struggle for unification during a long and costly conflict with the strongly anti-Communist regime in South Vietnam and its powerful ally, the United States.”

Barring any unforeseen delays, it’s expected we’ll arrive at the boat on the Mekong River at 4:30 pm to begin the actual cruise portion of the cruise/tour. With such a small group, boarding should be as fast and easy as other processes have been on this cruise thus far. 

Peaceful lake scene in the center of the park.

Once boarded and settled in our cabin, we’ll continue to travel through Cambodia for a few more days. It’s during this time we’ll have an opportunity to share the beauty of the small villages and points of interest as we travel along the Mekong River and eventually the Mekong Delta.

Although it was a Saturday, it wasn’t overly crowded at the park.

Although we’ll have missed out on a few temple tours, we’re no longer disappointed. How else would we have weathered this unanticipated injury to my spine? We had no where to stay for two months while I healed nor were we ever able to find a heating pad. We made the best of it. 

This newer house was built for Ho Chi Minh by his beloved people, referred to as “Khmer” and completed on May 17, 1958.
The house stands today as it was built including the furnishing, a contemporary Asian influenced architectural style. It isn’t a huge house but is well built and functional.

And, for Tom and I, the patience and compassion we have for one another has kept the situation from ever feeling like a burden or inconvenience. Wherever we find ourselves our love and fortitude drives us to continue this exquisite journey that we pray can continue for many years to come.

We all walked on this footbridge over a Koi pond.
Roots grow like weeds in many areas of Vietnam.

At the end of this month, we’ll reach our 45th month since the day Tom retired and we left Minnesota on October 31, 2012. At this juncture that seems like it was a “world away.”

This is referred to as “One Pillar Pagoda” as described from this site: The One Pillar Pagoda (Vietnamese:Chùa Một Cột, formally Diên Hựu tự , which means “long lasting happiness and good luck”) is a historic Buddhist temple in Hanoi, the capital of Vietnam. As you visit Hanoi, you may come to various other monuments, parks and historical places. Yet, the One-Pillar Pagoda reflects the architectural splendour that the country has grown.
Where is it located? The unique pagoda is located in the western part of the city, near Ho Chi Minh’s Mausoleum, Ong Ich Khiem St., Ngoc Ha, Ba Dinh District, Hanoi. The Legendary story: According to legend, ageing Emperor Ly Thai To of the Ly dynasty, who had no children, used to go to pagodas to pray to Buddha for a son. One night, he dreamt that he was granted a private audience to the Bodhisattva Avalokiteshvara, who was seated on a great lotus flower in a square-shaped lotus pond on the western side of Thang Long Citadel, gave the King a baby boy. Months later, when the Queen gave birth to a male child, the Emperor ordered the construction of a pagoda supported by only one pillar to resemble the lotus seat of his dream in the honour of the Bodhisattva Avalokiteshvara. According to a theory, the pagoda was built in a style of a lotus emerging out of the water.”

 

Be well and be happy.

Photo from one year ago today, July 12, 2015:

We fell in love with pelicans for their beauty, grace and movement in Trinity Beach, Australia. For more details, please click here.

We made it to Cambodia…Angkor Wat, a hard reality we’ve had to accept…More Hanoi photos…”The Hanoi Hilton”

Hỏa Lò Prison, aka Mason Centrale (meaning central house in French) was nicknamed the “Hanoi Hilton” during the war in Vietnam. Hỏa Lò Prison was a prison used by the French colonists in Vietnam for political prisoners, and later by North Vietnam for U.S. Prisoners of War during the Vietnam War. During this later period it was sarcastically known to American POWs as the Hanoi Hilton. The prison was demolished in part during the 1990s, though the gatehouse remains as a museum.”

Yesterday morning, we toured the Old Quarter in Vietnam riding in a small golf cart-like six passenger vehicle, through the narrow streets too tight for cars or buses. We took many photos we’ll soon share.

General information at the prison.

By 12:30 pm, we were on the bus on the way to the Hanoi Noi Bai airport where Kong, our leader, host and guide from Viking Cruises had every aspect of the flight and eventual arrival at the hotel in Cambodia covered. He’s so good at what he does, he even negotiated with Vietnam Airlines to waive our excess baggage fees. 

Broken glass atop this wall as added security. This type of glass was cemented into the top of the walls of our villa in Kenya. (See our link for details and photo).

From the baggage handling, to immigration and customs processing everything was prearranged and handled seamlessly. Our little group of 54 passengers shuffled along  with our carry-on as we made our way to the newer comfortable airplane.

A painting currently on display at the historical site.

In less than two hours from boarding, we landed in Siem Reap, Cambodia. It’s funny how we’re still so excited entering a new country, especially as beautiful as Cambodia, a lush green plethora of flowers, trees and dense rainforest.  

A painting of the prison.

Vietnam had its own unique charm and appeal, but Cambodia is an entirely different environment, covered in water and rice paddies in many areas in what appears to be vast lowlands. It’s the rainy season here now and the Nazis are on a frenzy for fresh meat, making our group ideal targets.

A drawing of the map of the prison.

After a short 20 minute bus ride we arrived at yet another luxurious five star hotel, Sofitel Angkor Phokeethra Golf and Spa Resort. Unlike the Sofitel in Hanoi this hotel complex is nestled among the trees in the rainforest. It, too, is exquisitely appointed with some of the finest service we’ve seen anywhere in the world.

Massive gates to the main prison area.

Our spacious room (we didn’t upgrade this time) was perfect, again with every amenity we can possibly need or want.  Photos will follow, of course. The grounds are breathtaking. 

An architectural representation of the prison prior to parts of it being demolished in the 1990’s.

Last night’s included dinner buffet and this morning’s breakfast buffet were over the top. The chef met with me before dinner pointing out which foods fit my strict dietary criteria. 

Rendition of prisoner’s shackles.

I was practically squealing with delight when so many dishes were suitable including the most delicious side dish I’ve had in five years, a cauliflower cheese gratin made without sugar, starch or grain.

Statues of how prisoner lived.  Horrifying.

Rarely do I ever return for a second plate at a buffet but last night Tom went back to the buffet to bring me a second plate of the cauliflower gratin. It was comparable to eating a fine dessert minus the sweetness. Guess I’ll be adding this dish to our repertoire of side dishes as soon as we get to Phuket, providing we can find cauliflower, whole cream and cheese.

This word translates to “dungeon” since this was the solitary confinement area.

Anyway, one of many reasons I was particularly attracted to the Viking Mekong River cruise and tour was my interest in visiting Angkor Wat (see below from this website):

“Angkor Wat is a temple complex, indeed the largest religious structure in the world, and part of the capital city of the Khmer Empire, which controlled all the area in what is today the modern country of Cambodia, as well as parts of Laos and Thailand, between the 9th and 13th centuries AD.

The Temple Complex includes a central pyramid of some 60 meters (200 ft) in height, contained within an area of about two square kilometers (~3/4 of a square mile), surrounded by a defensive wall and moat.”

The tiny solitary confinement cell.

Supposedly, visiting Angkor Wat is comparable to visiting Petra in Jordan (see our link here) for its profound effect on each visitor its in own special way. Of course, this appealed to both of us.

Few prisoners escaped from the prison through the sewer system. 

But, reality of daily life prevails and as hard as I tried to make this morning’s arranged four plus hour walking tour suitable for my current painful condition, it just wasn’t worth the risk. 

Example of how prisoners chipped away at the stone in the sewer system in order to escape.

There’s no way it made sense to walk the long distances, required at the historic site, climb the many flights of steps without handrails and not exacerbated my slowly recovering condition.

Artistic rendition of a part of the prison.

We considered just going and doing what I could but I know myself…I would have pushed beyond reason forcing myself to “tough it out” without complaint. Essentially, I could have reversed the progress I worked so hard to attain over this past almost six weeks since the injury. 

The guillotine in the Hanoi Hilton.

Then, we wouldn’t be able to do anything on the cruise itself which begins in 54 hours. We just didn’t want to risk it. Its the nature of our lives. If we lived like most of the world, if we had such an injury we’d have stayed home, canceling the trip and taken the time necessary to heal.

Side view of the guillotine.

For us, we continue on in our travels as long as we get on a plane, into a hotel or next vacation home, all of which I’ve somehow managed to do over these past busy weeks. 

This area ensconced in artwork may have been the prisoner’s exercise yard.
In the past two weeks we moved into four different hotels in four different countries, flown on three international flights, taken over 1000 photos and posted each and every day. 

I can’t beat myself up over not choosing to visit Angkor Wat or, as a matter of fact, a few more temples in the next few days, all of which require hours of walking and climbing steps. 

Artwork in yard.

It is what it is. Personal strength not only comes from “doing” but also from “accepting” when one can’t “do” when a situation requires holding back. I’m there today, in acceptance mode. With smiles on our faces and joy in our hearts we’ll participate in everything I can do instead of focusing on what I cannot. 

Today, we’re sharing more photos from Vietnam and soon will start uploading many photos we’ve already taken of Cambodia including those we’ll be adding over the next few days until our departure.

Happy day!

Photo from one year ago today, July 11, 2015:

Spoonbill, rightfully so named. For more photos, please click here.