|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.|