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.

Late post today…

Halfway through the drive, we stopped at a roadside shop and restaurant for a break. I actually made a purchase. More on that later with photos.

We’re arriving at the ship in Kampong Cham, after the fascinating drive through the Cambodian countryside, taking many photos along the way. We’ll share many of those later today when we return from a tour we’re attending this morning, departing in a few minutes.

Please check back approximately four hours later than usual for the new full post.

Thanks for your patience. 

Living within our means…More new Port Douglas photos…

A small pier for boaters at the marina in the Port Douglas harbor.

As we near the end of sharing our photos of Port Douglas, we begin to think about where we’ll visit next.  Quickly, time is marching on as we approach our final month in Trinity Beach when our departure date is September 7th (son Greg’s birthday) and arriving in Sydney. We’ll stay overnight in Sydney, departing the next day on September 8th, (daughter Tammy’s birthday) for Fiji.

We spotted this kilometer distance meter at a scenic overlook which illustrates distances to various cities throughout the world.

If we didn’t see another tourist attraction we can leave here happily knowing we experienced quite a bit and knowing we’ll be touring the entire perimeter of the continent of Australia via six upcoming cruises over the next less than two years. 

Buoys in the water off the beach in Port Douglas.

With seemingly endless ports of call on those six cruises, we’d like to leave a few of the highlights for the cruises, especially when we usually meet people with whom we’ll most likely enjoy touring the various points of interest.

Another Banyan Tree along the beach.

Another factor we must consider at this time is the fact that we’ve had to lay out enormous sums for upcoming vacation homes, cruises, and medical care resulting in the necessity of “tightening our belts.” We’re like the rest of the middle-class world, we must monitor our spending to ensure we don’t get in a tight spot.

A view of the Four Mile Beach from a steep road we drove above the town.

Since we live entirely off of our monthly income, laying out thousands of dollars in any given month makes us very mindful the next month or so. We use credit cards for all of our payments and expenses, attempting to pay them off entirely each month. 

At first glance, we assumed the red color in this tree was flowers when in fact it was the leaves changing colors.

In the past few days, we paid off all of the credit card balances except one. Next month we’ll pay off that balance. We feel more secure when we have no balances on credit cards which occurs a few days after the first of each month with a few exceptions. Then we start charging again for all of our living expenses and future travels, racking up big balances again.

View from an overlook.

Most people don’t pay a portion of their rent or mortgage payment as much as two years in advance as we do. Often vacation rental deposits are as much as 50% of the full 90 day rental with the balance paid in full before arrival. 

Most recently, we’ve had to pay in full in advance for the river cruise on the Viking Mekong at a rate of US $6598, AUD $9440 which doesn’t sail until July 8, 2016, and huge sums for future bookings. Last month, we also paid out over US $2800, AUD $3694 for a variety of upcoming airline tickets.

Low tide changing the entire scene at the beach.

We chose to pay in full for this particular cruise since it offered a 2 for 1 sale if paid in advance which was irresistible. Neither of us could imagine laying out twice that amount for a cruise when soon we’ll start saving for the pricey future adventures we’re planning to book down the road after we leave the South Pacific.

Most piers are packed with tourists and locals enjoying the views.  We were surprised that no one was walking along with us.

When we start investigating some of the tourist attractions in this area, including train rides, gondola rides, and boat tours, we see how easily we could eat up another $1000 on only a few attractions.

The pier in Port Douglas has a stairway for boaters or an area for fishing.  We were the only visitors on the pier.

It’s the nature of the beast. We recently saw a lovely story on TV about a younger Australian couple that had been traveling for a few years, occasionally stopping to work to make money in order to continue on. Also, at times, they stayed in campsites sleeping in tents, stayed in hostels, sharing a bath, or staying for free in other people’s homes. They’re young and this works for them.

Low tide created an eerie view.

We don’t want to take odd jobs along the way, sleep in tents, or share a bath in a hostel although, we commend those who do. It’s just not for us. Instead, we prefer living comfortably, living life on our terms. Choosing to do so has a price tag attached to it which we’ve chosen to bear. 

This private catamaran was anchored in the sand at low tide.

That price tag includes us making some sacrifices and often this comes in the way of the “entertainment” category in our spreadsheet which we always include in the budget, which often is used for unexpected expenses.

In Australia, we’ve used that designated entertainment budget for all of our medical exams, dental appointments, and the prescriptions we purchased to last for an additional six months. It quickly added up.

A boat anchored in the bay.

Thus, for the remainder of our 35 days in Trinity Beach, we’re reliant upon continuing to find sites to see that don’t include fees and expenses. This isn’t too hard to do in this beautiful area as we continue our search.

We realized when we began this journey that our priority to see as much of the world as we can, for as long as our health holds out, had sacrifices associated with it, not only in what we left behind but in the quality of life we live each day. Doing so requires that we live within our means. For us, doing so is a small sacrifice in the realm of things.

So, we won’t go on a train ride or take a sunset cruise on a charter boat.  We don’t mind at all.  Each day of our lives is a treasure whether it’s last night’s moonlight, today’s Kookaburra sitting on the fence, or the simple beauty of a flower blooming. Or, for Tom, it’s beating me at Gin two games in a row!

Who’s complaining? Not us!

                                             Photo from one year ago today, August 3, 2014:

A smaller Statue of Liberty stands proud in Paris. We couldn’t believe that we were seeing the familiar sites we’d only seen in print. For more details and Paris photos, please click here.