Ron & Joanne left Pensacola, FL more than 3 years ago on their Antares Miss Jody to circumnavigate the world – currently they are travelling in Vietnam – 01* 27’N 103* 43’E
On March 4, 2010 we departed Johor Bahru Malaysia, where Miss Jody is docked, for our first land tour of the South East Asia mainland. We flew from Johor to Hanoi, Vietnam. What an amazing place!! It was fun to watch the locals travel on streets 25 feet wide, packed with bikes, motorcycles, cars and trucks. There are very limited traffic lights and no one observes the stop signs – the traffic seems to flow in all directions and when you get to an intersection you just merge. The largest vehicle has the right a way. We toured the city in the cycle rickshaws – fun but scary in the traffic. We also visited the “Hanoi Hilton”, the prison where POWs were kept and a war museum. It was strange to see all of the US military vehicles. Our guide, Son, was very kind. He told us that the past is the past and that the Vietnamese people have moved on.
In the Northwest we visited Sapa – a mountainous community of indigenous Hmong people. We went by sleeper train to Lo Cai – a town on the border of China. Then we traveled by bus Sapa and Bac Ha. These towns are famous for the very colorful clothes worn by the Flower Hmong people. the Sunday market in Bac Ha was like an Easter basket full of colorful eggs. The ladies, with babies on their backs, are adorned from head to toe in bright hand sewn fabrics.
We spent 2 days on a HaLong Bay charter boat and 1 day in Hue, the old capital of Vietnam where we toured the Forbidden City. Then traveled through DaNang and China Beach to Hoi An. We spent 3 days here. Hoi An is a shopping Mecca. They can fabricate any clothes, shoes or jewelry you show them in a magazine. The food here was amazing. They have several specialities like stuffed squid, fried wonton’s that look like ultimate nacho’s and locally brewed beer for 10 cents a mug. The best part was the cost. A meal for 2 for under $5.00, including beer and diet coke!!!
From Hoi An we flew to Saigon. It is a city of 7 million with an additional 2 million visitors – making 9 million people and 3 million motorcycles. It was a zoo and crossing the street was almost impossible! We visited the famous Cu Chi Tunnels that were built by the locals and Viet Con during the war. It was interesting to note that the locals call the war “The American War” or “The War of American Aggression” It is unfathomable to think that people could live underground in the tiny spaces, but they did. They had kitchens, sleeping areas, sickroom’s,etc. The video and pictures shown were very painful to see.
We then boarded a boat for 2 days on the Mekong Delta and enjoyed seeing all the activity. We visited several floating markets where boats of all sizes raft up to sell or trade different items from their farms. We had a family visit us on a small boat selling bananas and cold diet coke. You know I was in Heaven!!
We then traveled to Phnom Phen, Cambodia by speed boat- a 6 hour trip where we checked out of Vietnam and into Cambodia and continued to see all kinds of sights on the river. We had dinner at the famous FCC- Foreign Correspondence Club- It was refreshing to sit overlooking the river and see the US Flag flying along side all the other nations. That was a nice surprise.
We took a 6 hour bus from Phnom Phen to Seim Reap, our favorite part of the trip.
Siem Reap is on the shores of Lake Tonle Sap, in the center of Cambodia. It is a fun little town, loaded with shops in old French houses, cheap restaurants and hotels on every corner. There are over 200 temples in the area all dating back to the time of the Khmer rule, from 800 A.D. to the end of the 16th Century. The complexity of the structures is like nothing we have seen before.
On a near by lake, which was an extension of the Mekon River, there are floating villages made up of Vietnamese fisherman who migrate up the Mekon. Each house floats on bamboo that has to be replaced every 5 years. Behind each house you usually see a boat, a small floating garden, maybe a chicken coup or pig pen. There are floating schools, hospital, post office and stores. The entire village moves several times a year depending on the water level. During the dry season the water drops and forces everyone to move to deeper water. What an amazing sight.
The average wage of the rural Cambodian is reported to be less than $1.00 per day and only 15% of the country has electricity. There were Lexus and Mercedes all over town and we were told those belong to the corrupt officials. We were also told that the people are so happy to have peace, after the Khmer Rouge murdered thousands of Cambodians in 1975, they will tolerate unbearable conditions.
We really enjoyed spending time in Vietnam and Cambodia and as you can imagine we realize how lucky we are to have the freedom and the resources that we have in America.