|I think this is an ox. Or maybe it's just a cow.|
We started out in Vietnam with a few days in Saigon (locals don't call it Ho Chi Minh City). My first reaction to Saigon was: where are all these people going? The vast number of vehicles--mostly motorbikes--is an incredible site (and sound). People weave around and through each other in seemingly impossible ways, their bikes stacked high with goods and passengers, defying gravity. No one is moving especially fast. The flow feels organic, albeit crazy, like salmon during the height of spawning season.
This sense of so many people (and goods) on the move has stayed with me throughout our travels in Asia, in both the rural and urban areas.
We traveled up into the mountains to the charming town of Da Lat, where we attended the wedding of my former student, Au-Co, at the groom's home. Incense was burned, prayers said to the ancestors, gifts given, snacks eaten. A hotel reception followed with insanely delicious food, and a musical program featuring Au-Co's mother on the violin.
|Reception...one of the many incidents of fantastic Vietnamese food.|
Unfortunately after the wedding, I developed a sore throat, that segued into a cold and cough that lasted a couple of weeks. I engaged my "all is well" and "I am a healing machine" mantras, which helped me to relax and not push against the idea of being sick. The cold lingered, but my mind helped me to continue to enjoy our adventure.
|Dave and James sampling local coffee.|
|One of my favorite moments.|
|We also traveled in one of these small boats down byways of the Delta.|
|It's amazing to see the ways in which people live along the water.|
|Most tuk-tuks are pulled by motorbikes, but we took one short trip |
powered by these guys on bikes.
We flew to Siem Reap, an area famous for its World Heritage 10th-12th century temples, the most famous of which is Angkor Wat. It's popular to see the sunrise there, but we wanted to avoid the madhouse crowds (which are thick even during rainy season). So we went at dawn, when most people had already left for breakfast after sunrise, and had the place almost to ourselves.
If you go to Siem Reap, don't see just Angkor Wat. It's spectacular--but to us, some of the other temples were more awe-inspiring.
|Bayon at Angkor Thom|
Well...one person's paradise isn't necessarily another's. I wrote about this faulty notion of finding paradise in my memoir...but I guess we have to learn the most important lessons over and over.
|This is paradise for me: snuggling with someone's baby.|
A Cambodian woman handed her daughter over to me when I was coveting her.
I did my best to reframe it as an "adventure." I also thought about all the refugees who have suffered such conditions for days and weeks. In comparison, we were cosy and safe.
|Finally calm seas as we approach the island. These women |
(from Paris, Barcelona, and Florence) were on holiday together.
|Our cabin on Lonely Beach.|
In many ways, Lonely Beach is amazing: It's on a strip of isolated beach plopped in a rainforest. The people who run it are wonderful, and the food is delicious. However, the cabins are extremely rustic--which normally wouldn't be a problem, but this meant no AC or even a fan. At night it was so hot and stuffy I felt like I was suffocating beneath the mosquito net.
|Rainforest friend on our porch.|
I enjoyed hearing all of the creatures loudly singing, croaking, chirping and hissing at night. But because of the rain, the ground was very muddy and slippery, so walking the paths from cabins to lodge, especially at night, was dicey.
We were going to spend a week there, but we left after three days; a storm was approaching, and there was no guarantee we'd be able to get out in time to catch our plane. As evidenced by our wild boat ride there and back, the seas are unpredictable. Perhaps a foray to Koh Rong is best saved for the dry season. That's also, apparently, when the water is crystal-clear blue. In the rainy season, it's brown and gray but still warm enough to swim in.
We ended up spending our last days in Cambodia at Otres Beach in Sihanoukville. For only $19 a night, we had a huge, air-conditioned room at a hotel with a pool, walking distance to the sweet beach that is lined with feet-in-the-sand restaurants.
|Fun with Cambodian friends!|
We enjoy our middle-of-the road travel, especially our moments of people-watching, people-connecting, and exploring the marvels of nature and human creations. Vietnam and Cambodia delivered it all.