In June I took a journey that I look back on as one of the best travelling experiences of my life.
Starting our adventure in Ho Chi Mihn City (used to be Saigon), we were met by heat and thousands of motorbikes. Everyone (and their dogs it seemed) travelled on bikes wherever they went and carried everything you could possibly think of onboard. Household furniture, panes of glass, groceries, mum dad and 2 kids, anything and everything gets transported around the city on these motorbikes.
Crossing the road was an experience in itself and several times we had the local kids coming up and taking our hands to lead us across the intersections as we had been standing there for 10 minutes not wanting to step into the traffic. Slow and steady and don’t look at the traffic was the thing to do.
After spending a few nights in this amazing city seeing the sights and shopping for unbelievable bargins, we boarded our Pandaw River Cruise which travelled along the Mekong River from Vietnam in the South to Siem Reap in Cambodia in the North. This seven night cruise was incredible. The boat is a replica paddle steamer (without the paddle) and the teak decks and classy but comfortable décor made our time on the Mekong River an experience not to forget. The boat has a draft of only 1 ½ metres which meant that the boat could pull right up to the riverbank where we watched in amazement our crew get off and cut steps out of the bank for our exploits into local villages, schools and temples. Some days we had small local boats pull up beside up and whisk us off down the smaller deltas to visit the real life of the Mekong River.
One on the most memorable days for me, was our visit to Phonm Pehn in Cambodia where we took a trip to Genoside Museum S21 and the killing fields. The war in Cambodia was only 33 years ago and the atrocities the Khmer people lived (or mostly died) through was unbelievable. Half the population was killed during this war and visiting these places really brings back how good we have it in New Zealand. I think I spent the whole day crying but learned so much and wouldn’t have missed it for the world.
Our cruise finished in Siem Reap which is the home of Angkor Wat – the worlds largest religious temple. This temple site is spread over a huge area and is amazing for it’s history, architecture and sheer size. Siem Reap itself is undergoing huge development with every major hotel chain heading into the area. Sadly, within the next few years it will be unrecognizable from what we saw, which was a nice town with very friendly and accommodating locals, great last minute shopping and an excellent place to finish our holiday.