A lucky group has recently returned from exploring two fascinating Southeast Asian countries by land, sea and river.
The tour was bookended by stays in Vietnam’s two main cities: Hanoi and Ho Chi Minh City (or Saigon). Both are an eclectic mix of thriving business, colonial architecture, typical Asian street life and obvious signs of a communist government. Vietnam’s new housing and roading infrastructure made us very envious.
Our first cruise was for three days among spectacular limestone islands off the coast of northern Vietnam, and our second was on a classic Pandaw ship for seven days down the Mekong River in both Cambodia and Vietnam.
On both ships our tour group made up about half of the passengers, and the young and friendly crews made life on board a special treat — with excellent cocktails and meals, sunrise tai chi sessions, cooking classes, informative lectures and cultural performances.
On land we also stayed in Hoi An in Vietnam, once a thriving trading port but now a time capsule of delightful houses and shops spread along a riverside, and Siem Reap in Cambodia, base for visiting Angkor Wat and other striking relics from centuries ago.
Whether staying in a city or visiting villages when cruising by sea or river, we had a huge variety of things to do: plant veges on an organic farm, visit a cave, help fishermen with their work, kayak, swim, plant trees or donate books to a school library. We saw two outstanding physical theatre shows, explored the timeless ruins of Angkor and were confronted with Cambodia’s turbulent recent past at a killing fields memorial.
Everywhere people welcomed us into their homes, workplaces and houses of worship. They were eager to show us everyday life and give us a memorable experience of their country.
Whether we were new to Southeast Asia or this was a repeat visit, we all took away an abiding memory of the friendly, positive and energetic people we met. Both countries were ravaged by invasion and civil war only a few decades ago but there seemed to be no sense of grievance — only enthusiasm, hard work and optimism for the future.
We plan to run this tour again next year, so email us at firstname.lastname@example.org to be notified when the itinerary is published.