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  ~ Meandering  the Mekong River - Angkor Wat to Ho Chi Minh ~                               

Angkor Thom Cambodia

 

     Asia is a fascinating place!

  It is so different than the western world in a multitude of ways. 
When you visit places such as Cambodia, Vietnam and Thailand you come away changed, a more thoughtful and appreciative person.

     My journey began in Siem Reap where I spent three days exploring the ruins of the Temples of Angkor. 
I wish I had more time as it was fascinating, I probably will return as I couldn't visit them all, and new temples are still being discovered. 
Of all of the complexes I visited, Angkor Thom impressed me the most. 
It is a maze of gigantic heads, each with a different smirking expression on it's face as if he knew a secret. 
Walking through these ancient temples was a phenomenal experience, just trying to figure out how they were able to construct them was mind boggling!

     The evening after my final visit to the Angkor complex our guide arranged for a private Apsara dance show for us. 
These young women must start training their fingers before the age of five to get them to curl back the way they do. 
The dance is mesmerizing to watch, in fact, believers feel that the Apsara’s could hypnotize the rivals of the King of the Gods by this dance. 
There are Apsara dancers immortalized in stone dating back to the 7th century at the Sambor Prei Kuk temples in Kampong Thom.

     I took this trip in conjunction with Avalon Waterways, selecting them purposely because their Asia ships have only 18 cabins.
There were just 20 of us in total which worked perfectly, it felt more like a private yachting expedition than a river cruise.
Each day while on the river we would have two included excursions, one in the morning and a second after lunch. 
Some of the excursions were sobering, like when we visited the killing fields in Cambodia and learned about the horrors of the Khmer Rouge. 
Others were uplifting, for example when we visited a local school and helped the children with their English lessons, or when we were given a water blessing by a monk.

     Everywhere we traveled the art on the buildings was so detailed and brilliantly adorned it almost felt like it was for a movie set. 
This is the day to day paradox, beautiful gold leafed temples next to shanty houses on stilts. 
One consistency was how welcoming and kind the people were, everyone seemed truly happy to see us no matter where I visited.

     The sunsets on the river were just breathtaking, with no streetlights and only an occasional fishing sampan passing by the views were amazing! 
Our day to day lives were immersed with the culture, but we were sheltered in luxury at the same time. 
Each cabin on the ship is a suite with a full wall of windows that the bed faces. 
The wall opens up to turn the entire room into an open air balcony.  
The slider has a screen and there is a ceiling fan so if you want to lie in bed and listen to the river you could without concern about bugs getting in.

     Meals were an exciting event! Always available was a “western option” like filet mignon or salmon, but there are choices of regional favorites as well. 
I never would have considered trying some of the offerings elsewhere but found I really enjoyed them on the ship and was glad I had the opportunity to widen my horizons. 
On our last day of the trip we were brought to a Vietnam restaurant and given a cooking class which was great fun, they sent us home with the recipes we cooked which was a nice touch.

     After the cruise I flew up to northern Thailand to do a private tour for a week. 
I visited the “Golden Triangle” where Myanmar, Laos and Thailand converge, the former drug capital of Asia due to the poppy fields. 
It was quite interesting to see how the queen stepped up and saved the people from the misery of addiction. 
In place of the poppy plants there are now tea plantations.

     I visited the beautiful Wat Rong Khun, or “White Temple” in Chiang Rai and was even fortunate enough to meet the artist who created it. 
My journey continued with a visit to a Padaung tribe which are Kayan people who immigrated from Myanmar. 
The woman are known for wearing brass rings around their necks giving the illusion that their necks are long. 
I had a lengthy conversation with one of the women and she explained to me that it is not a burden to wear the coils, that in their culture it is considered a status symbol and sign of beauty. 

     I visited the famous Wat Doi Suthep temple in Chiang Mai and finished out my Asian adventure by taking care of my own elephant for the day.

     Southeast Asia is a fantastic experience, you will see amazing detail in the art, encounter warm hospitable people and come away with a true sense of how fortunate your own life circumstances are.

Sailing the Mekong Delta with Avalon Waterways - video

From Cambodia to Thailand- video   

         

Avalon Mekong River Cruise "Saigon" ship tour

White Temple  Chiang Rai

(196 Reviews)
99% Recommended

Ann Castagna Morin

Southampton, MA
Luxury River Cruise & European travel specialist

I have had a sense of wanderlust since I was a child, always yearning to go off and explore the world.

I will take my own personal passion for travel and use it to craft an extraordinary luxury experience for you.

Europe is my specia...
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