I have always had sand in my shoes. I got it from my father who became a merchant seamen as a young man and always loved to travel. For our 50th anniversary my husband and I are taking a trip back to Southeast Asia, where he served during the Vietnam War. We want to revisit familiar places and visit for the first time places that were off limits to us in 1965. And we want to be able to share this journey with our family and friends.

Asia » Cambodia » North » Siem Reap November 23rd 2009

Motorbikes and Camrys Rule I’ve been wanting to comment on modes of transportation on our journey through Thailand, Laos, and Cambodia, but never quite got to it. As we will be leaving for home in a few hours, I’ll throw it in here. Each place we’ve travelled has its own preferred common carriers. Every country has had a vehicle called a tuk-tuk, but the configuration has varied. In Bangkok it is a motorized tricycle that could, in a pinch, carry 4 people. In Laos, it was a 3- or 4-wheel, usually Daihatsu truck with bench seats on both sides of the bed (with a canopy over). When used as a school bus, an additional narrow bench would sit unsecured between the two seats and as many as could pile in would. I couldn’t act fast enough ... read more
Moto with Pigs for Market
Silk-worm cocoons

Asia » Cambodia » North » Siem Reap November 23rd 2009

The Big Ones Today was the trifecta of Angkor temples: Ta Prohm, Angkor Thom, and the iconic Angkor Wat. It goes without saying that because these three are on every visitor's A-list, crowds are inevitable. The tour buses disgorge pods of Japanese, Chinese, French, British, and every other nationality tourists, each one clutching their i-phone, digital point-and-shoot, or massive Nikon with enormous lens and tripod. At lesser-known temples one can wait a few minutes for the masses to pass to get a good photo, but at these big-three, one could have a birthday waiting for a break in the traffic. Our guide, Heng, did a great job of helping us avoid being part of the pack by taking us cross country from one site to another through the jungle, but those iconic photos that everyone wants ... read more
Ta Prohm
Angkor Wat

Asia » Cambodia » North » Siem Reap November 21st 2009

I was getting frustrated that we had been in Siem Reap for a full 3 days and had seen only 2 temples and had yet to lay eyes on Angkor Wat; today we have finally turned the corner. And in a BIG WAY! Comes the Dawn This morning our wake-up call was for 4:45 AM; we threw on some clothes, grabbed our cameras, and jumped into a waiting car to watch the sun rise over Angkor Wat. Not exactly an intimate experience we arrived there with about a thousand of our closest friends in pitch-black darkness and definitely cool weather. Having not been there prior to scope out the best location we split up and, I must brag, I found the far superior spot (I've seen enough Angkor sunrise photos over the past year that I ... read more
People Watching Sunrise
Banteay Kdei
Banteay Kdei

Asia » Cambodia » North » Siem Reap November 20th 2009

Banteay Srei The most popular sites at Angkor are over-run with tourists every day, so we took the opportunity to go to two of the temples that lie some distance from town. The first is called Banteay Srei or “Citadel of the Women”. It was built in the 10th century as a Hindu temple, much like the temple we saw at Vat Phou. What makes it unique is that it was built of pink sandstone. It is a small but exquisite temple. Almost every inch of its walls and doorways are covered with delicate carvings of scenes of the Ramayana. The temple was discovered by the French only in 1914, but was the first in the Angkor group to be restored by anastylosis, which is a method of recording, dismantling, and reconstructing ruins first developed at ... read more
Water Lily
Beng Mealea
Bruce's Helper

Asia » Cambodia » North » Siem Reap November 19th 2009

Our first view of Cambodia from the window of our Lao Airways plane was totally different from what I expected. I had imagined a dry, dusty, haphazard landscape; what I saw from high in the air was a lush, green , and very orderly scene with LOTS of water. I had imagined further that when we stepped off the plane we would be hit with a blast of hot air like a blast furnace; instead it was mild and comfortable with a lovely breeze blowing. At the airport we were greeted by Ly Heng, our guide and Kuny, our driver. Pavillon d’Orient We checked into our hotel, the Pavillon d’Orient. What a delightful place! The staff couldn’t be more solicitous or accommodating! Our room is on the second floor overlooking the garden. No need to draw ... read more
Pavillon D'Orient
Kampong Phluk Village
On the Tonle Sap

Asia » Laos » South » Pakxe November 17th 2009

Because of a scheduling glitch regarding the Vat Phou Cruise we ended up with an extra day between it and our flight to Siem Reap, so we took advantage of the time to check out the Bolaven Plateau just east of Pakse, Laos. Pakse is the third largest municipality in Laos after Vientiane and Savannakhet, although I don't think any of them has as many as 100,000 inhabitants; the entire country has only about half as many as New York City. At the bottom I have added the photos from our stop at Wat Phou while on the Mekong Cruise. Bolaven Plateau In the early part of the 20th century while France was trying to build up the economy of French Indo-China it recognized that the cool climate of the Bolaven Plateau at 4000 feet average ... read more
Tad Yuang Falls
Cattle Crossing at Waterfall
Tad Pasuam Falls

Asia » Laos » South » Si Phan Don November 16th 2009

We've been out of range of the internet for the past 3 days - sorry if you've been looking for updates! We arrived back in Laos after a long van ride through northeast Thailand. By the way, if you want to see a photo larger, just double click on it. Another note: I forgot to upload my photos of Vat Phou, the temple, so I'll include them in the next blog. Experiencing a Land Crossing The overland border crossing was pretty interesting and the only one we have done. We said goodbye to Andy and our driver and went through a relatively modern and efficient Thai border checkpoint where we submitted our departure papers and were sent on our way. Once through the back door and alone, we found no signs telling us where to go ... read more
Rapids of the Mekong
Vat Phou Boat
French Colonial Building

Asia » Thailand » North-East Thailand » Nakhon Phanom November 14th 2009

In the rainy season the Mekong rises probably 50 feet or more above its current height. To compensate for that vast difference, there are long cement stairways that go from the riverbank to wherever the mighty river finds itself. We arrived in Thakhek Laos and our trusty guide and driver helped us lug our suitcases down the long stairway before saying our good-byes and we boarded the local ferryboat for the trip across the river and back into Thailand. We were the only falangs, but everyone smiled and said Sawasdee (if they were Thai) or Sabaidee (if they were Lao). Our new guide, Andy met us on the other side and with our new driver, Sunny, helped us lug or bags up corresponding cement stairs to Nakhon Phanom. Meeting Andy and Sumontha Andy turned out to ... read more
Clock Tower - Nakhon Phanom
Wat Kland - Nakhon Phanom
Buying Food for Merit-Making

Asia » Laos » West » Vientiane November 12th 2009

We hated to leave Luang Prabang, but there are more adventures ahead for us. The choices for transportation between LP and Vientiane, the capital, are a 45-minute plane ride or a 12-hour (more or less) trip by public bus. Let's guess which one we opted for.... Were we back-packers we would have opted for the latter, because about 2/3 of the way we would come to their favorite place in the whole world: Vang Vieng. VV is an absolutely gorgeous location on the Nam Song River, a natural paradise amid soaring karsts (limestone sentinels), however it has become a hamlet of never-ending guest-houses and bars (mostly bars) where endless loops of Friends play on the TV's, Happy Pizzas are de riguer, and the favorite sport is tubing along the river. Tubing, as I understand the ritual, ... read more
Wat That Luang
New Buddhism Center
Patuxai Monument

Asia » Laos » West » Luang Prabang November 10th 2009

Yesterday I finally turned the corner. I woke up feeling human again. So we tried to make up for a couple of lost days. In the morning we took on the “must-do” event of climbing Mount Phousi. This, the only elevation on the peninsula of Luang Prabang’ is the sacred mountain. A daunting 360 stairs take you from street level across from the Royal Palace to the summit. It is cool in the morning now so the trek that wound back and forth across the face of the hill was a pleasant climb. We were rewarded at the top by a sterling view of the entire town, including the surrounding rivers. Unfortunately it is also quite hazy in the mornings, the result of cooking fires and the burning of the waste from harvested rice, so we ... read more
Kwangsi Falls
Upper Falls - Kwangsi
Luang Prabang at Night

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