In October 2006 we took a magical trip to Vietnam, Cambodia and Thailand.
The trip included seven nights cruising on the Mekong River from the delta, across the border into Cambodia and across the Tonle Sap inland sea; concluding at Siam Reap where we spent several days exploring the temples of Angkor Wat.
Some of these pictures have been captured from video,
and some were taken by Jon Cheese, who joined us on the trip with his wife, Jan.
This is the Pandaw river cruiser we travelled on; it’s a recreation of the classic Irrawaddy teak river boats.
The river boats were the old flotilla referred to in Rudyard Kipling’s ‘The Road to Mandalay’.
The scuttling of the ‘old flotilla’ of some 600 boats when the Japanese invaded Burma in 1942 was a major ‘Act of Denial’ which is thought to have considerably shortened the war in Asia.
In Vinh Long – near the Mekong Delta we visited several terracotta factories that manufacture items for western markets.
We cruised up the Mekong and crossed the border into Cambodia.
We crossed the border mid-afternoon, and sailed until about ten that evening.
It was as though someone had turned the world off, the jungle along the river shore was totally dark and silent.
No sights or sounds of habitation or civilisation, only occasional whiffs of wood smoke belied that there was anybody out there in the dark.
The following day we arrived at Pnomh Penh, the capital of Cambodia and ‘Pearl of the Orient’.
In the afternoon we visited S21 – the school in Pnomh Penh which was used by the Khmer Rouge as a prison during the dark times.
Of some 17,000-20,000 people who went into S21, only 7 people survived.
Many of those who were killed at S21 were buried at the killing field at Choeung Ek.
The paths around the various mass grave pits are reinforced with the clothes of the dead.
A really chilling sight.
Some 5,000 skulls are preserved in the commemorative stupa at Choeung Ek.
After the harrowing sights in Pnomh Penh we continued our journey upstream into Cambodia.
We visited towns and villages which are for the most part off the tourist trail.
Some villages had no road access, but most were accessed by locals on their small motorcycles.
Local petrol stations sell fuel by the litre, and this is sold in measured bottles, usually Coke or 7Up bottles, but one or two up market stations meaured their fuel in old whisky bottles.
We visited the temple and library at Wat Nokor – this statue is on the library roof.
On the seventh morning of our Mekong cruise we stopped at the town of Kampong Chang, the gateway to the Tonle Sap. The architecture shows signs of the French colonial influence.
We spent about an hour mooching around the town which receives very few western tourists ; the fast boat from Pnomh Penh to Siam Reap whizzes straight past.
In the market I spotted this terraccotta stall, and decided that the small cooking pot and burner on the bottom left of the picture would be nice for barbecue sauces.
I asked the woman who was running the stall and she said the price as 1,000 Riels, which I promptly handed over and she wrapped the pot in a plastic bag.
As we strolled back to the boat, it seemed the market was abuzz, stall holders were pointing to us,
“he was the tourist who paid the asking price without haggling!”
so I offer my apologies to future tourists for setting local expectations.
As we got back to the quayside, we worked out just how much Id been ripped off – at that time 1,000 Riels, equated to about 25 American cents, or 13 pence Sterling!
I hereby apologise if Ive spoiled it for future tourists.
From Kampong Chang we set out across the Tonle Sap inland sea.
At the end of the rainy season the sea was at its largest, some 16,000 square kilometres.
Once across the Tonle Sap we bade a sad farewell to the crew of the Pandaw, who had looked after us so well during our voyage.
Our time in Siam Reap included two days exploring the temple complexes of Angkor Wat.
The main temple building stands some 65 metres tall and the compound covers an area of over 800,000 square metres, other temples are situated over an area the size of Greater London.
The main access, is by the Naga Bridge that crosses the 190 metre wide moat.
The Bayonne at Angkor Thom is another vast complex, the last city of the Khmer empire.
It covers an area of 9 square kilometres.
We also visited the temple of Ta Prom, famous from the ‘Tomb Raider’ movie.
This is one of Jon’s pictures, which captures the ruined grandeur of the place.
From Siam Reap we ventured back down to Hua Hin for a few days chilling and revisiting some favourite restaurants.
We spotted this bar… which we didnt try… needless to say it was NOT my 29th Hard Rock!
A truly memorable trip.