Hanoi, Ha Long Bay, Mekong River Cruise, and Saigon

Our Vietnam & Cambodia Avalon Waterways Cruise was amazing!

In December we traveled by both land and on the Mekong River  through these two fascinating countries.  Cultural and historical immersion through food, history, and lifestyle provided an in depth experience of both Vietnam and Cambodia.  We learned of the not too distant past in both countries. In Cambodia we visited the Tuol Sleng Genocide museum and the Killing Fields. In Vietnam we learned of Cu Chi Tunnels, an extensive network used by the Viet Cong as both hideout and secret village.Our journey began in Hanoi, a modern and bustling city with luxurious hotels and shopping.  

This highly interesting journey encompassed MANY different modes of transportation which provided different vantage points to really see the areas visited.  We traveled by electric cart through the 36 streets comprising the Old Quarter, where merchants trade as they have for centuries.

A small ship cruise excursion took us through Ha Long Bay, or Descending Dragon, before stopping in one of the bays to see the second largest cave in Vietnam, finishing with the sun setting over the bay.

Tuk Tuks were our mode of transport to Angkor Wat, the largest religious temple in the world.  Originally constructed as a Hindu temple it eventually transformed to a Budist temple sitting on 402 acres.

An ox cart took us to the home of a local where we learned about both day to day life and what they do to produce both food and wages for their family.

Private cyclos in Phnom Phen took us to the Royal Palace to see the Silver Pagoda and then to the National Museum.  These single rider vehicles provided an excellent street level view of this city.

Sanpans took us from the ship to small local villages, full of life with “roads” resembling sidewalks.

The river cruise itself was both an effective mode of transportation as well as a great way to experience life on the water.  The river provided the perfect vantage point to see all of the homes built along the bank and fish farming facilities built on the river.  Similar to the Mississippi, the Mekong is a hub of commerce.  Sitting on deck and just taking in the sights really gave a glimpse into the daily lives of both those who call the river home, and those to which the river is their economic life blood.

And of course walking!  Having the opportunity to visit “wet” markets filled with fresh vegetables, herbs, fresh rice noodles, and live seafood was a fascinating experience.  The “dry” markets sold everything from dinner ware to custom made suits and EVERYTHING in between!  

Saigon, or Ho Chi Min, with its population of 10 million people, was a wonderful end to our adventure.  As with the rest of the country, the motorbike or scooter is king and crossing the street or traveling by foot through intersections is its very own form of sport. It seemed like thousands of scooters were on the road at all times!  Intimidating at first, after a few blocks and following the lead of the locals, we quickly got the hang of this interesting phenomenon.  

We visited the Vietnam War Remembrance Museum and the Cu Chi tunnels, and we made a separate blog post about that, including Michael’s thoughts about how the war is viewed there.

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