Even the words Southeast Asia evoke many senses. For quite some time, Vietnam topped my list of places to visit. To satiate my desire, Duncan and I spent six weeks in Vietnam, Thailand and Cambodia.
Telling people we planned to spend ten days in Hoi An usually met with a response of “Ten days in Hoi An! What will you do?” Prior to the “ten day decision”, several friends mentioned wanting more time in Hoi An.
We wandered the streets, hung out at the hotel pool, took a cooking class, went to the beach, rode around on a boat and sampled the delicious foods. We loved Hoi An.
A beach day at An Bang delivered everything a tourist beach needs – sun, sand, shade, food and beach vendors.
I enrolled us in a day long cooking school in Hoi An. Duncan’s stressed level rose with each day closer to the class. Cooking is not something he does often.
School provided transportation picked us at our hotel and dropped us off at the Hoi An market where we met Van. Prior to the day, each student picked a dish to prepare. At the market, we procured meats, vegetables, rice and rice papers, herbs and fruits.
Back at Van’s house, she and her assistant magically organized us and the ingredients. We prepared, cooked and consumed eleven dishes over the course of the next four hours. Van taught techniques including the pancake toss, fire in the pan and the pan food flip – those are my names, not hers.
Duncan looked both full and relieved as we doe back to the hotel. He did a great job cooking. In the end, I think he wished he chose a more complicated dish. Really.
After all that relaxation, we kicked into overdrive by joining an Abercrombie and Kent (A&K) 14 day tour with stops in Hanoi, Halong Bay, Danang, Hoi An, Ho Chi Minh City, Siem Reap and Bangkok. We are not tour people; however, we decided to try a tour for this trip with the desire to learn as much as possible.
Three full on meals a day, multiple tours per day, van rides, boat rides, six flights, one bus flat tire kept us moving at a pace foreign to us. Our tour leader, Anya, showed amazing skill and patience guiding our group of eight.
Angkor Wat is stunning. The people of Cambodia are kind, funny and generous. In hindsight, I wish we spent more time in Cambodia. The country truly wants and appreciates tourism.
With the upcoming movie “First They Killed My Father”, inevitably more people will visit Cambodia and Angkor Wat. Both Duncan and I left Angkor Wat concerned for its preservation. We walked on the temples along with many other tourists. Nothing was off limits. Erosion from tourism showed. Fingers are crossed that the government works to find a way keep Angkor Wat is good shape.
By the time we arrived in Bangkok, observations on the tour and the group started to take shape. Tours move too fast. Experienced tour leaders make a huge difference – thanks, Anya! Many people are poor listeners. Cold towels in hot climates are amazing – we received one every time we got on a van or boat. Three countries in 14 days is a great sample, but too fast. A&K chooses great hotels and restaurants. Thai and Vietnam Airlines are efficient, on time every time, clean, well run and put US airlines to shame.
Phew, can we do a little relaxing now? From Bangkok, we flew to Krabi and hopped on the boat to Layana resort. Over two weeks of beach, pools, sand and massages. Perfect.
One friend described our adventure as a trip of a lifetime. She was right! Ready for the trip statistics?
|Favorite Temple||Bayon in Siem Reap|
|Favorite Beach||Koh Rok|
|Favorite Hotel||Intercontinental Danang Sun Peninsula|
|Favorite Tour||Sunrise Tuk Tuk to Angkor Wat tied with boat on Halong Bay|
|Favorite Pool||Private villa pool at Tubkaak|