Day 2 & 3 - Settling In and seeing Vietnam

Posted by: Cyndi Hansen on Wednesday, December 31, 2014 at 12:00:00 am

We are starting to settle in and embrace the daily activities that the Mekong will offer us.  During the day we eat breakfast, lunch and dinner in the dining room.  There are 24 of us on the ship and we have gotten to know each other already.  Interesting to me is the younger people that are here as well.  A family with their two daughters, 22 and 25 are here.  Another family brought along a daughter of 20, and a young honeymoon couple.  There is also 2 couples from Australia and a couple from England.    Nyah was thrilled to meet Australians and commented that she could not wait for them to say “Shrimp on the Barbie”.  I found it interesting how most 13 year old kids could care less about someone’s ethnicity, but she was excited to be meeting all these people.  I also found her to be much more social than I expected with all the adults.  We have a cocktail hour before dinner and entertainment or a movie in the evening.  I generally am in bed by 9:30-10:00 as the day is filled with so much interesting activities and interactions. 

During these two days, we participated in some very interesting excursions.  Everyone is eager to participate and never choose to go off on their own or stay on the ship.  The excursions are great as we wear what is called a whisper headset that goes around our neck and into one ear.  This allows us to hear everything the tour guide is saying.  By the way, we have a native tour guide from Vietnam and one from Cambodia.  We also have our cruise director, Ha who is the most friendly man and very helpful with anything we may need.  

Many of the excursions we actually get on a traditional Sampan to go from place to place.   We passed through the floating markets in Cai be.  From there we learned how pop rice and coconut candy are made.  We also learned how they made Vietnamese rice paper which becomes a delicious cracker that is sold.   Many of us got to try cooking coconut rice paper ourselves as the other’s laughed watching our clumsiness.  We also cruised by way of the Sampan over to Sa Dec and visited a brick factory.  It was fascinating to see how the bricks are made and many of the workers were female.  Later in the day we went to Mr. Huynh Thuy Le’s ancient house where the move L’Amant – The Lover” was filmed. 

While in the towns we always visited the local markets.   Nyah would hold on to my arm giggling as the motorbikes raced through the streets.  No stop signs or lights and everyone just weaved in and out of traffic.    To encourage interaction with the people, we participated in a lively shopping game.  They broke us up in teams of 4 people.  We were given verbal instructions to buy 5 Vietnamese ingredients.   We were allowed to write down the ingredients, but not given the spelling.  We were also given 10,000 dongs, which is about $.50, to buy all 5 ingredients.   I don’t know how I ended up being the team leader, but it was hilarious trying to negotiate buying an ingredient, not knowing what it is, and only wanting to pay 1000 dongs or $.10 for it.   Nyah was very amused the entire time observing us adults flounder from vendor to vendor. 

During these days we also went to a floating fish farm and got to see how fish farmers raise, feed, and sell the fish.  $5000 USD profit is made from each farm every 9 months.  That is about $500 a month they have left over to care for their families needs, food, education, etc.  From there we enjoyed a walking tour of the Chau Doc outdoor market and stopped at a religious site at the base of Sam Mountain.   It was interesting watching the locals at this religious site, but we were not allowed to take any pictures.  

A little about the ship – Avalon’s Angkor Wat

This charming ship has 16 cabins and can accommodate 32 passengers with about 19 staff on the ship.  The cabins were more spacious than I had thought and very comfortable.  On the ship there is an observation lounge area, the main lounge where people gather in the evening or lounge to read their favorite book during the day, and the dining room.  The food is very good and chefs from Vietnam and Cambodia cook the food everyday.  For those that don’t like to expand their palate, they may have a difficult time with the cuisine as there were not American options like steak and potato.   But Nyah and I both loved the different flavors and dishes.   The only thing I don’t like about this ship is the horrible wi-fi.  It only works about 20% of the time.  Hopefully, that gets corrected on the new ship.  This will be the last sailing of the Avalon Angkor Wat as Avalon has built a brand new panorama suite ship for 2015.  It looks beautiful and very modern, but I think Angkor Wat fits more into the cultural scene.  

The constant scenery is like taking a step back in time.  Floating houses on stilts made of aluminum is the backdrop which are homes to many Vietnamese people.   Rolling lush landscape on each side of the ship between each town.   Fishermen out in their little canoes with children sitting in the middle waving to us enthusiastically.  

Today we crossed the border from Vietnam to Cambodia and cruising to Phnom Penh.  This will be a special day as Nyah and I will spend it with the two ladies, Molavy and her mother Chan, that cared for Nyah for many months while we got delayed in securing her visa back in 2001/2002.    Molavy and Chan came to visit us in the states one time in 2007, but have not seen Nyah since.  We are very much looking forward to spending time with these two lovely women.    

So the next two days will be spent in the lively bustling town of Phnom Penh.  We will be taking a morning tour on a rickshaw to the Royal Palace and the National Museum.  From there we will meet up with Molavy and Chan.   I’m sure it will be an emotional reunion, and being one that does not like to show emotion that way, I am looking forward to the embrace. 


I've read all your blogs multiple times and continue to feel new emotions upon each reading. You never seize to amaze me with the love, compassion, and drive you have especially overcoming the initial travel challenges. Nyah will grow internally strong from this journey and have some questions answered but a new found love for her birth country.
Posted by: cyndihansen on January 2, 2015 at 8:03:00 am

Unbelievable!! Sounds amazing and can't wait to hear about your reunion!! So happy for the both of you to experience this together! I've been telling Mallory about it and she now wants to head to her birth country at 13! :)
Posted by: Christine perry on January 1, 2015 at 11:49:10 pm

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