While visiting Battambang, we hired motorbike drivers for a day to take us through the surrounding countryside. Our day with them yielded an authentic look at Cambodian country life. Our drivers also shared glimpses of their own personal stories with us. Their stories were typical of many Cambodians and serve as a collective memory of a country that lost half its population during the rule of the Khmer Rouge in the late 1970s. While the scores of smiling children we encountered throughout the day still bring smiles to our faces, the day underscored how thankful we are for the fortunate lives we've had until now.
The Temples of Angkor – First Impressions
Like 99% of the tourists who come to Siem Reap, we came to see the temples of Angkor and became cogs in the Angkor tourist processing machine – arranging transport, buying a 3-day pass, and temple hopping.
We had heard beforehand of the spiritual nature of the temples and the beauty of their engravings. We had no idea of the scale of the complex and did not fully fathom the number of tourists we'd share it with.
The Other Side of Siem Reap
Much of what the visitor to Siem Reap sees are streets filled with restaurants, hotels, spas and other services geared towards foreign tourists. There is another side to life here, however, one that is neither shiny nor prosperous.
Floating Life Along the Mekong
Like other destinations in Vietnam, Cai Rang dials up the activity, color, and sound a notch to the point of overstimulation. Duelling long-tail boats float by and sell everything from turnips to steaming hot soup. At the Mekong Delta's bazaar on water, transactions take place at every turn and boats jostle for the next deal.
Preparing for Tet, Vietnamese New Year
We were fortunate to be in Southern Vietnam just prior to Tet, the Vietnamese lunar New Year (February 18, 2007). The Year of the Pig was being ushered in with an unassailable enthusiasm, as markets burst with flowers, sewing machines in tailor shops buzzed with the new year's wardrobe and shops overflowed with green rolls of Bahn Tet (sticky rice, pork fat and soybean paste rolled in a banana leaf).
A Story at My Son, Vietnam
We hired a car to take us at 5:30 AM from Hoi An to the Hindu temple complex of My Son, about an hour’s drive away. We arrived in such good time that the ticket office had yet to open and used our available time to share a coffee with our driver as we waited for the ticket office to open.
Custom-Made Clothing and Tailors in Hoi An, Vietnam
Despite what my husband says, I am not a clothes junkie. I avoid shopping if I can get by another season with the same clothes as last. Why is it that I turned into a custom-made clothes fiend searching for tailors while in Hoi An, Vietnam?
The Hoi An Clothing Craze Begins
As soon as we entered the first tailor shop (there are over 200 in Hoi An), a recommendation from the Swedish travelers we had met in Sapa, I wanted all the silk tops and dresses I saw hanging on the wall. The saleswomen quickly tuned into my excitement and went to work taking advantage of it. She brought down samples for me to try on, only fueling my thoughts how I could liven up my wardrobe with a silk orange strapless top and black spaghetti strap silk dress with embroidery up the side, for under $30.
Vientiane First Impressions
“This place is a shxxhole.” These were Dan’s first words when we arrived in Vientiane. We had just spent several hours on a dustbowl trail, which eventually transformed into Grapes of Wrath meets full blown industrialized pollution. Oh, and the scowling faces. Someone forgot to tell these people that the rest of their countrymen actually smile. Vientiane's roads seem to cake pained looks onto the faces of its motorbike drivers who struggled to breathe as they drove without face masks.
Visiting Nong Khiaw, Laos: Villages, Books and Caves
We took the boat to Nong Khiaw to visit a less developed area than Luang Prabang. Most people stop off in Nong Khiaw on the way to more popular Muang Ngoi Neua. We decided to stay a couple of days to explore and take advantage of the trekking we’d heard was available in the area.
Big Brother Mouse
Big Brother Mouse (BBM), a book publishing and literacy program in Luang Prabang, produces children's books in the Lao language to help promote the love of reading and learning in children. The organization was started by a retired American publisher who saw the need for children's books and decided to try to fill the gap himself. The project is taking off and growing.