If you are a Baby Boomer like me, you came into the world as a result of the end of World War II and the return of our soldiers. For the Boomer generation, our experiences with war came primarily during the Vietnam War. Canadian by birth but raised in the States, I still remember the U. S. draft, the draft dodgers crossing into Canada, the birth of flower children, “Make Love Not War” and the thousands of lives lost on both sides of the ocean. Shortly after that war ended came the horrific stories of the Cambodian genocide. As a result of surviving these turbulent times, Vietnam and Cambodia were never items on my bucket list. These two countries seemed to me to be places and people so devastated by the injustice of war that their beauty would be lost to the world forever. Nothing could be further from the truth! Vietnam & Cambodia are two countries that prove how wrong perceptions can be and the amazing resilience of the human spirit.
In 2013, I travelled with Wells Gray Tours to Vietnam and Cambodia and from my own experience, I would suggest that these are two destinations you want to make sure you add to your bucket list. Today as I sat down to write this blog, my first thoughts were of the people I met, the scenic beauty, and the delicious food, I enjoyed throughout the trip. I had to stop and think about my reasons for not wanting to visit these two countries earlier.
The itinerary for your 2017 tour will be an exciting 7 day Mekong River Cruise. My tour did not include this river journey and I am envious. The RV Mekong Prestige II, built in 2014 was designed especially for travel on the shallow Mekong River. Life along the river is busy with markets and small villages that provide you with an authentic experience. Shore excursions along the way are also included, sometimes by coach and sometimes by ox-drawn carriage.
Highlights of my journey that I know you will enjoy as well were:
The Temples of Angkor: Built from 879 to 1191 AD by the Khmer civilization they represent astonishing architectural achievement. Walking and standing among the ruins is an experience all of its own. if you are brave enough to climb to the top, not only are the views amazing, but you will feel a real sense of accomplishment. Keep in mind going up is easier than coming down.
Hanoi: A bustling city of busy streets with an endless flow of mopeds that move like an unorganized school of fish and the rules of the road seem non-existent. There are tree lined streets and narrow alley-ways of commercial and residential buildings that you can barely navigate. Be sure to look up at the nests of electrical wires that serve the city and keep you wondering how it all works.
Halong Bay Cruise: For me this was truly a highlight. Travelling on a traditional wooden junk, you will spend a full day and night cruising among the splendid limestone inlets. The food on board is delicious and we enjoyed cooking classes and yoga on deck.
Ho Chi Minh City: Formerly known as Saigon, this the largest city in Vietnam. Our full day tour will provide a glimpse into the city’s turbulent past as well as time to learn about the local agriculture including a cooking class. Here is where the infamous Cu Chi Tunnels are located. An underground labyrinth of passageways used by the Viet Cong during the Vietnam War. For those who are brave enough to venture down, there is an opportunity to crawl through a portion of the tunnels. If you are like me and don’t like confined spaces, I would stay top side. You can get a good idea of what life was like from above ground.
There are many other stops along the tour that are sure to delight as you move through these two countries. One thing that stands out in mind to this day is the courage of a devastated people to move forward and rebuild in spite of the tight reins of a communist government.
Written by: Joan Niemeier