Tuesday March 19, 2019

The fascinating, noisy, colourful kaleidoscope called ‘everyday life’ that I’ve already mentioned has continued to enthral us – on both banks of the mighty Mekong as we’ve cruised on upriver … and ashore, as we’ve stepped off the lovely Avalon Siem Reap each day and gone exploring.

Confession: I’ve fallen a bit behind in my blog-reports – firstly, because we’ve been having too much fun, and I’ve struggled to find time to sit at my laptop … and, secondly, because the wifi on the ship has been a very on-and-off, especially in the more remote regions of the Mekong, and uploading photos has been impossible. Anyway, I’ll keep my comments brief tonight and do my best to catch up.

Okay? Okay!

On Saturday, following our scrummy breakfast, we hopped into another sampan and putt-puttered down the backwaters of the Mekong past endless shambolic-looking stilt-houses. People in this part of the world are poor (compared to the city-dwellers we’ve met throughout Vietnam, and will shortly meet in Phnom Penh). They live simply, feeding their families by fishing and farming and trading with neighbours. We trekked through the local market of Chau Loc – absorbing the sights and the atmosphere as busy locals went about buying and selling their seafood, meat, dried goods, fruit/veg and other delicacies (like rice-paddy rats). We then fought our way through crowds at a colourful religious site near Sam Mountain, honouring a local, obviously popular goddess.

Then, after lunching back on deck, we rejoined our sampan and chugged off to Long Khanh A for a home-grown demo of the village’s well-preserved tradition: cotton-weaving. On the way, we stopped at the home of a Viet Cong veteran – Sau Vien – where we added to what we’ve already learned about the Vietnam (American) War. Sau Vien, now in his 80s, was a medic in the Viet Cong’s revolutionary forces, and was badly wounded by shrapnel. (He even pulled up his shirt and showed us the ugly scars.)

Imagine his surprise when he was introduced to an American (one of several cruising with us on the Avalon Siem Reap) who is also a Vietnam vet. Jim had been a medic with U.S. forces, had spent two years in Vietnam and got wounded twice, winning two Purple Hearts. It was truly moving to see these two men, once on opposite sides of that awful conflict, with their arms around each other – friends! 

Finally, returning to the ship, we cast off for the Cambodian border – where the usual customs formalities were dealt with. All we had to do was line-up in the ship’s lounge, passports in hand, and smile nicely to local policemen.

Some of us even practiced saying “Suo s’day!” (hello) … with palms together and head bowed. Impressed? The police were – and you should be, too!  

COMING UP: We reach Phnom Penh, Cambodia’s charming capital … hitch a cyclo-ride along the busy corniche (waterfront) … and visit the glittering, golden Royal Palace plus the famous Silver Pagoda. Don’t miss this exciting next episode, whatever you do …

PEOPLE-NEWS: Two more of our famous Quacky Yellow Ducks have left the nest and taken flight …

  • SUSAN easily won our ‘Weight-Watchers One-at-a-Time-Please Award’ – for standing on the electric scales in her hotel bathroom a few days ago. There was a loud bang, the lights went off (in the scales or in the hotel? we’re not sure), and nothing worked thereafter.
  • KATHLEEN sneaked away with our ‘Shop-Lifting Award’ – after trying to walk out of a Saigon bookshop with an un-paid-for magazine glued to her forearm. She reckons it was the sticky cover, but we have our doubts. Investigations are continuing.

Yours bloggedly – JOHN P.S. If you want to receive future Mad Midlife Travel Blogs in your INBOX, just sign-up (top-right) for your free Email Subscription! And if you’d like to leave a message for someone in our group, just click on the little speech bubble at the top of this entry, and add your comments! (Make sure you say who it’s for and who it’s from – and keep it brief.) t

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About John Cooney

John Cooney and his wife Robyn have enjoyed more than their fair share of travel. They hesitate to call themselves ‘experts’ – but they’ve grabbed every chance that’s come their way to explore new countries, cultures and customs. They’ve had the privilege (both on their own and as the leaders of numerous successful group-tours) to sample many stunning destinations: Europe, the UK, Singapore, Vanuatu, the USA, Israel, Egypt, Africa, Dubai, China, Laos, Cambodia and Vietnam. And their recent (and most pleasant) memories are of the places ancient-and-modern that border the Mediterranean. John and Robyn are at-home in airports, hotels, cruise ships, and the like … and they know how to make the most of a unique travel opportunity. Travel, they reckon, is an all-five-senses experience – a chance to see, feel, smell, hear and taste the world. And they’ve done it often enough to know for sure: sightseeing with a group of laid-back Kiwis is DOUBLE the fun – lots of laughs, great company, and memories that last forever!

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