“Traveling — it leaves you speechless, then turns you into a storyteller.” Ibn Battuta

“Good Morning Vietnam”, “Miss Saigon” and “The Quiet American” … very good movies that are a good watch and will enlighten you on some of what Mike and I experienced on this amazing trip of a lifetime.

It is still hard to realize what we did and experienced in 18 days. There is a travel group called AHI (Alumni Holiday Inc.), affiliated with universities across the United States. We are on Tulane’s list as we have traveled with them several times with close friends Carol & Bob Cudd. These trips are so well planned! Our multilingual travel director, LEE TRIEN, brilliant, fun and wanting only the very best for you, the guides and lecturers, whose regional expertise shines in their insider perspective and commentary. The very best accommodations, safety, unique access to local sights and the people.

Let the games begin! We booked our airfare before we booked the trip. I did not want to go on this 12- to 14-hour flight to Siem Reap, Cambodia, unless we could fly business class. Mike’s pretty, smart nurse, NAYANA SHRESTHA, is from Nepal and knows her way around in the world of air travel and computers. She managed to get us two round-trip tickets with Delta Sky miles, which is really hard to do as it seems the airlines make it almost impossible to use those miles. To get business we had to fly to Shanghai with a 26-hour layover. I called my good friend and flight attendant for Delta Airlines, DEBBIE NEALEY CLICK, in Ruston and asked her to try and arrange to work the trip from Atlanta to Shanghai, China.

She and the Delta crew took care of us like babies. Arriving in Shanghai — Delta really takes good care of their flight crew — they included us in arranged transportation to the fabulous Shangrala Hotel.

A good shower, rest, an international breakfast at the famous Yi Café, in Pudong and off we went to the big market. They had anything you can imagine. Shop shop shop. Shanghai is truly a beautiful city, and very clean.

Late that evening, Mike and I take off to meet our AHI group in Siem Reap. Long story, our luggage did not make it to Siem Reap … it was in Shanghai. It did arrive, by the hard work of our director Lee Trien, five days later at midnight on the Mekon River. Incredible!!!

We checked it to the Sofitel Angkor Phofeethra Resort and then took a quick “tuk tuk” ride to the market where we bought local cloths for both of us. We spent the next two days to revel in Angkor, the fascinating World Heritage site — Angkor Tom, Angkor Wat. We learned to make traditional rice noodles with a local family. We then went to Ta Prohm and Thommanonto to visit the legendary ruins and witness a recently restored Temple with exquisite, intricate Apsara carvings. We left Siem Reap on a big bus for a five-hour drive to the port of Kampong Cham where we embarked the river ship the Mekon Navigator, the prettiest ship on the river! Wes stayed on the boat for the next six days. Our travels took us to visit a seventh century temple that sits atop a hill overlooking the river. We received a water blessing from the monastery’s resident monks and took in the spectacular panoramic view of the river valley below.

We toured villages along the river and learned how the geography of the Mekong River and Delta have influenced the local lifestyle. After several days we anchored near Phnom Penh. We took rides in cyclo through the city — Royal Palaces, Silver Pogoda, National Museums, artifacts, shopping markets (I got the prize for the best shopper), Apsara dancing performances, that we missed as our cyclo driver got lost — in Phnom Penh, for an hour & half — but that’s another story for another time.. Very disturbing!

The next day we went to the Killing Fields and Genocide Museum. It was very disturbing! We also had discussions of life in Cambodia today … politics and the country’s Buddhist culture and so much more. Our ship arrived at the Vietnam border where we spent time shopping. We took Sampan boat rides to Cu Lao Gieng …villages where rice is made into paper, rice wine, snake wine. So much history! We disembarked our beautiful ship and went on to Saigon (Ho Chi Minh City), the site of the most dramatic scenes of the Vietnam War. We visited Sthien Hau Temple where we had discussions of the current situations shaping modern Vietnam with a local expert. We stayed at only the very best hotels, including Park Hyatt Saigon. We saw and learned so much about a city at war, and the end of the Vietnam War in 1975. We visited The Ben Thanh Market and had a dinner cruise on the Saigon River.

The next morning we flew from Saigon to Hanoi. We were to check into the Sofitel Metropole Hanoi Hotel. But, guess what?The Summit: President Trump and Kim Jong were meeting in Honoi so we were booted out of our hotel for one night, for security reasons or whatever. The next day we were to board the Paradise Ship for an overnight cruise of Ha Long Bay, a World Heritage Suite. The North Korean delegation commandeered our ship for meetings! We were eight hours late boarding. It was all every exciting — the red carpets and fabulous flowers. Everything was so nice and we were well compensated for our inconveniences,

Ha Long Bay, words cannot do it justice. We did it all and have such a feeling of understanding that part of this old world —China is the nine headed dragon of the world. Litter/plastic is mind boggling.

Heading home, we had a nine-hour layover in Seoul, Korea, followed by a perfect flight to Atlanta.

If you are going to be traveling out of the country, be sure and get Global Entry. There were 16 in our group and Mike and I were the oldest. We did it all but it was hard and the boat is still rocking. This was a trip of a lifetime! We are so happy we did not wait any longer as this will be our last. Oh, yes, I made it through customs with an extra suitcase of everything wonderful … all our girls were thrilled! by Thang Soi … beautiful and you will enjoy!

Look forward to the next time!

Dianne

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