Entries “March 2007
Tuesday, 27 March 2007
Most Excellent Indochina Adventures with Jen, Emily, Marjorie and Lynette and Dan (Feb 24 – Mar 15)
We’ve had a lot of visitors lately, so we wanted to post some photos we took when they were here. Please see photos below this text entry by Andrew:
Jen, Emily and Marjorie flew into Phnom Penh from the US late morning Saturday Feb 24. They were excited to start their Indochina adventure in SE Asia so after hugs and catch up with Jen, meeting our new travel companions, and introductions with our warm landlord family we headed downtown for food, a swim and to mosey along the busy waterfront. The next day they toured the markets, Royal Palace and genocide museum.
On Monday am we said “So long!” to our friends as they set off on the fast boat for Siem Reap. They were treated to wonderful views of the fishing villages and people along the Tonle Sap River and Lake. Our friends found the trip an excellent precursor to Angkor and other temples which lie next to the Siem Reap River and the great lake. They (as well as Lynette and Dan a week and a half later) learned about the historical role of the lake as the life source for the many communities near it and (presently) apx. 70% of the country’s protein. At the temples, in addition to amazing architecture, our two groups of visitors found carved into the walls of the temples many illustrations of various fish, water birds and other wildlife which have made up the diet of the local people. Jen, Emily and Marjorie hiked to the top of sacred Mount Kulen where they found ancient religious symbols and images of deities carved into the stream bed. Here, it is said the passing water forever carries the life-giving spiritual energy as well as deities’ blessings and protection down to the Tonle Sap ensuring its vitality as the “heart” of Cambodia.
After 4 days, Jen, Marjorie and Emily returned to Phnom Penh for an overnight to say good bye to us until our rendezvous the following weekend in Ho Chi Minh City/Saigon to include incoming Dan and Lynette. Getting off the bus in HCM City, Jen, Marjorie and Emily immediately set about soaking up the immense variety of sights, sounds, and (mostly good) smells of the city. The following weekend Dan and Lynette would meet all of us for a similar experience.
Everybody prefers to minimize their reliance on the guide book in developing their own sense of place for destinations but we could not resist quoting from the Lonely Planet Intro to Vietnam in this blog for description: “There is no volume control on the soundtrack to Vietnam – it is the story of a people on the move, the bustle of the cities as they rush towards the future. The buzz of bikes, the cries of sellers, the hum of voices and the clink of beer glasses collide head-on with the twinkle of the past in the pagodas, the swish of the scythe or the haunting music that accompanies sadness or success. Vietnam’s cuisine is a cracker, a wonderful world of pungent herbs and secret spices, a treasure chest of 500 different dishes. Over-stimulating perhaps is the smell of nuoc mam, a fish sauce that is as compulsory for the Vietnamese as ketchup. And don’t forget the xeo (rice wine), which is as varied as Scotch.”
With both of our groups we viewed and walked amongst the old but well-preserved and maintained stylish Vietnamese and French Colonial architecture and the big shady trees of Saigon. Despite the hum and buzz of current day traffic and activity we shared a feeling of the history of this great City and could partly imagine things as they had been in past decades and the last century. We generally felt well attended to and appreciated by the locals in the many shops and restaurants. Just as the previous generations were determined in their campaigns for national independence, the current generation seems intensely focused on achieving in the modern world of business, constant learning and change.
With Dan and Lynette we also visited the Mekong Delta by boat and bicycle and the Cu Chi tunnel complex north west of HCM City/Saigon. Amazing to think that the Vietcong lived underground here for years as they harassed the largest US air base just kilometers away. We scampered around underground and saw elaborate communication, support, and defence systems with a variety of nasty spike traps. (The tunnels have been enlarged for tourists). It is said that the Vietcong ruled the area at night before returning underground each morning. Ingenious and tough people.
Our five friends would travel north in their two groups apx. one week apart to visit the following: the historical Hue city with its ancient Forbidden City and temples, markets and unique regional cuisine; Hanoi and its old architecture, cultural performances and art galleries; Hoi An with beautiful sand beaches, fresh food, and excellent fabric and tailor shops for men and women; and (Dan and Lynette only) a boat tour through amazing Halong Bay, dotted with giant limestone islands and columns, and rimmed by dramatic cliffs all in hues of grey and green. According to them, a beautiful place with enough breaks in tourist boat traffic to sense its wonder and serenity.
Throughout their trips our two groups of friends moved quickly and efficiently around the region while getting to the most significant (for travelers) places. We (Julie and Andrew) were excited to live vicariously through them re. these places we have not seen and in watching them visit the great lake and temples for the first time.
We will also tell you that all of our friends learned some Vietnamese and Khmer language so if you are planning a trip to Indochina or just curious don’t forget to quiz them, especially Dan. Fast Dan can whip a pocket-size Vietnamese or Khmer language book out of his pocket faster than you can say delicious fresh spring rolls with chili peanut sauce’. He even has the body language, movements and facial expressions which are a close imitation! That is as long as Dan has not embarked on a spiritual journey to the temples with an extra strong (extra happy) happy shake. You will have to ask brother monk Dan what that means. Just joking, we love you Dan! Paired with Lynette and with both of their limitless senses of curiosity and Lynnette’s super logistical skills (like Jen, Emily and Marjorie too!) and her conical Vietnamese hat they made a dynamic traveling duo.
On Sat March 3rd we sadly said goodbye to Jen, Emily and Marjorie in HCM City as they left for the airport to catch their plane home. The end of vacation is always sad. But they told us it felt as if they had been away for a month – and that it is how a holiday is supposedly to be! And who knows maybe they will be back to visit before we leave SE Asia!? We think yes!
The next day we (Julie and Andrew) took the bus back to Phnom Penh and on Mar 11th Lynette and Dan would fly to join us in Siem Reap. Besides visiting the temples (see above) D and L took a boat tour with Julie to the floating village of Chong K’neas, and then saw (with both of us) an evening shadow puppet theatre performance. The theatre is put on by the Krousa Th’may organization which takes in children who are homeless or from poor families and trains them in music, dancing and shadow puppets. We were moved by the genuine joy and pride these kids show when they perform and are appreciated. An excellent cause and fun too!
On the morning of the 15th Lynette and Dan said goodbye. Another sad and tearful goodbye darn it! But it was happy too as theirs’ had been an excellent trip like we had all expected. Our friends arrived in Bangkok to tour the Grand Palace and other sites before starting the long flight home the next day. We hope the jet lag has worn off now and that your memories stay fresh for a long time. Don’t forget to say “Hello!/Hola!” to everybody in Santa Fe for us!
Thank you all for getting everything together to come so far to visit us and for the new memories from our wonderful shared life experiences. It means a lot to us and makes our time away from home easier. We miss you all and talk about you much!
Julie and Andrew
Julie and Emily at FCC, Phnom Penh. February 2007
Jennifer and VSO pal Sarah at FCC, Phnom Penh. February 2007
Andrew and Jennifer, Phnom Penh. Feb 2007
Jennifer, Marjorie and Emily, Phnom Penh. Feb 2007
Last lunch with returning Irish VSO VP Aran (far right). Andrew, Jan Simon, Julie, Carolina and Aran. February 2007
Tonle Sap Initiative Meeting, Phnom Penh. VSO VPs and Staff at VSO booth. March 2007
Fisheries Administration booth, Tonle Sap Initiative Meeting. VSO VP Rachel at the booth.
Andrew and his Ministry of Environment co-workers at Tonle Sap Initiative Meeting. March 2007
Julie and Rachel with Reth (VSO staff) at Tonle Sap Initiative Meeting. March 2007
VSO booth, Tonle Sap Initiative Meeting. March 2007
Julie and co-workers, Tonle Sap Initiative Meeting. March 2007
Lunch with Marjorie, Emily and Jennifer. Ho Chi Minh City, March 2007
Ho Chi Minh City, Vietnam. March 2007
Ho Chi Minh City, Vietnam. March 2007
French architecture, Ho Chi Minh City, Vietnam. March 2007
Night scene, Ho Chi Minh City, Vietnam. March 2007
Chinese New Year, Ho Chi Minh City, Vietnam. Lynette, Dan and Julie. March 2007
Notre Dame Cathedral, Ho Chi Minh City, March 2007
Mekong River Delta, Vietnam. March 2007
Lynette and Dan, Mekong River Delta. March 2007
Julie and Andrew, Mekong River Delta. March 2007
Dan, Lynette, Julie and Andrew. Mekong River Delta. March 2007
Mekong River Delta, Vietnam. March 2007
Chu Chi Tunnels, Vietnam. March 2007
Julie at Chu Chi Tunnels. March 2007
Andrew, Lynette, Dan and Julie at dinner in Siem Reap Cambodia. March 2007
Julie and Lynette in a tuk tuk, Siem Reap Cambodia. March 2007
. 3:11 AM 2 comments Send entry Posted by: jules in: My travelblog Modified on March 29, 2007
at 2:25 AM Wednesday, 07 March 2007
Community Fisheries Meeting With VSOs
Community Fisheries Meeting with VSOs
Buses in Cambodia, Fun Wow!!
VSO Pals–Burt, Biru and Jan Simon
Mekong River, near Kratie, Cambodia
Irrawady Dolphins, Mekong River near Kratie
Mekong River Sunset, near Kratie
Cambodian Friends with Jan Simon and Andrew, near Kampong Cham
Dry Season, Mekong River, Kampong Cham
Mekong River, Kampong Cham
Veranda Cottages, Kep
Andrew and Charlotte, Kep
Mango Island, near Kep
Kids, Mango Island near Kep
Mango Island near Kep
Rabbit Island, near Kep
Community Fisheries Village, Snake Island near Kep
Charlotte and Andrew, Kep
Our Khmer Family and Charlotte
Our Khmer Family with Charlotte and Andy Pants
Fellow VSO Pals Olivia, Jan Simon and Louise on Mekong River Cruise
Jules and Andy, Mekong River Cruise
VSO Pals Tristan and Jan Simon, Mekong River Cruise
Thats all for Now Folks!!!
posted Monday May 2007