I’m afraid I haven’t been very good at posting to this blog. Barnaby and I still love to travel and have been traveling a lot these last few years. Often we’re in areas that don’t have good internet service and it can be very frustrating trying to post.
We’ve just gotten back from our second visit to Vietnam and Cambodia. We were there in February 2017 with my sister Ren, and wouldn’t have gone back so soon, but a group we enjoy traveling with planned a trip in a small boat traveling up the Mekong River from Ho Chi Minh City (Saigon), Vietnam to Siem Reap, Cambodia.
The trip was wonderful. Saigon is always exciting to visit and growing so fast with new high-rise buildings dotting the skyline. We visited the war museum (a must for every American), did a little shopping, had several fabulous meals and went to a jazz club where Barnaby and several members of our group played.
This first photo is from the National Museum in Phomn Phen, Cambodia. This was our first visit to the Cambodian capital city. We were delighted to visit this gorgeous museum early in the morning before the tourists. This building was built during the French period in about 1920.
The next two photos are from a small town on the Mekong River in Vietnam. This house belonged to a French woman that had fallen in love with a Vietnamese man back in the 20s. The affair ended badly but she is remembered fondly.
I don’t think I’ve ever seen a lotus flower go to seed. They are the most extraordinary flowers and beloved in this part of the world.
I thought I would include a few photos of some of the nearly 1,000 temples that are in Cambodia. They all date back to the Khmer Period — 900 to about 1,200 AD. At that time approximately 1,000,000 people were thought to have lived in the Angkor area of Cambodia. When you see these gorgeous temples you can see how it would take thousands to build them. When the Khmer empire fell and Buddhism took over as the most common religion, the temples were no longer necessary and allowed to decay. Many have gone back to the earth, so to speak, the trees and plants taking root and breaking them apart.
As you can see from the next photo, Buddhist shrines are often found in the deepest recesses of these temples. These temples are mostly visited by tourists and monks, and watched over by police.
We were so lucky to be able to spend a day traveling around Cambodia in a helicopter so that we could visit temples that were too far to travel to by car. The next several photos are from a temple that is on the Cambodian border with Thailand. It was incredibly beautiful and in good condition. It is built on a mountain and was a little cooler there. We were the only people there except for a few monks and the police that look over it.
Every time the helicopter landed we drew a little crowd — mostly children. There were just four of us — Barnaby and I, and our friends Howard and Kathy, the monks and the woman next to Howard were just there for the photo!
I was reminded of Machu Picchu when walking around these temples. The Khmer used huge blocks of sandstone and other harder materials, much like those in Peru, but they have elaborate carvings which you don’t see on the Incan structures.
It’s always very interesting to spend time in a place that has had so much struggle and civil war. Sadly Pol Pot and his Khmer Rouge Regime massacred nearly 3,000,000 of their own people from 1975 to 1979, shortly after the United States bombing during the Vietnam War had killed 600,000 to 700,000 Cambodians between 1970 and 1975 (basically paving the way for Pol Pot and his hideous regime to take over).
The Cambodian people are so beautiful, polite, and hard working — smiling in the face of adversity. They have come very far but there is still much hunger and poverty. I’m afraid the government is still full of corruption too. It makes me very sad when I come home and catch up on my periodical reading and see that our own country is quickly falling into the same trap that has plagued Asia: blaming education, intellectual pursuits and cultural advancements for unemployment and poverty. Mao and Pol Pot both started by getting rid of the educated and enlightened. It’s so sad to see our own country heading down the same path.
I think that’s why we travel — we learn so much about ourselves.