As I write this, we are in a van headed to Bangkok and our group’s last night together. Nancy and I have enjoyed the heck out of the trip, including in no particular order the CEO (chief experience officer) Phong Nguyễn, our 21 other travelers (8 left in Saigon to be replaced with 8 newbies), the way G Adventures organized everything, the people of Vietnam and Cambodia, learning about them and their histories and cultures and OMB, (I am sure you remember that that stands for “oh my Buddha”) the FOOD!
We were a day behind a group from G on the same tour and two days ahead so we would sometimes see them at the various hotels. Without being catty, I would say our peeps were much more fun and animated. We lucked into some very interesting companions. Thanks to all of you! Nancy and I enjoyed meeting, eating, drinking, talking, riding, eating, touring, tuk-tuking, cyclocabbing, eating, sweating, cooking, trying to cross the streets, and learning with you all!
A special thank you to Phather Phong for your guidership. We ALL will reach the next level of Enlightenment on our way to Nirvana due to you. Càm ón ban! We hope to travel with you again. We also cannot wait for you to open a Vietnamese Coffee shop in Edmonds.
We were happily taken with how well G organizes their trips. One example is Phong gave us a suggested amount to kick in to the kitty for tips to local guides, drivers etc. that way we did not have to think about it again. Just that part was impressive enough but after the Vietnam leg of the trip, he posted on the group WhatsApp an accounting of the $$$.
Speaking (so to speak) of WhatsApp, Phong organized a group chat for each part of the trip to keep us updated on times and schedules as well as sending out photos from each of the activities. The passengers too were able to put up pics. After the early leavers went home, we have kept them updated and heard of their travels home (and how much they missed us!)
The activities ranged from tuk tuk rides to cyclocabs to circus performances to historical sites and lessons to cooking classes to boat rides to stair climbing to EATING. Plus more that I can’t think of now.
Needless to say (but I will), we had a great time and will definitely travel with G again. We know all the guides won’t be as Amazing as Phong but maybe he can become the director of training to teach what he knows.
Okay, time to fill you in on our time in Siem Reap. When I wrote last time, we were on the bus from PP. (Seems like a good time to write. Sometimes I get editing and metaphor and simile help, too).
We arrived at the hotel (a word on the hotels in general for this trip – comfy, working a/c, decent -usually (& excellent once)- breakfasts but not posh.) Definitely this hotel was very nice due to the swimming pool. The train did not have a pool but the boat sorta had one. We all immediately plunged in for a refreshing dip.
Nancy and I headed to one of the plethora of spas for four handed massages. OMB what a bit of decadence that was. But, for $14 per hour, how could we not?
SR is very touristy with tons of bars, restaurants and of course t-shirt snd trinket shops. Dinner as a group then an early sleep as we wanted to be to Angkor Wat for the dawn. We made it in time with boxed breakfast in tow. AW is awesome. It made schlepping my tripod 14 time zones worth it. (As usual, all the pics here are iPhone ones). I’m sure you have all seen similar photos but actually being there is a serious Highlight of this trip.
We then toured around this immense edifice with Mr Dat, our local guide, who took us to three more temples after AW – Angkor Tom, Bayon and the Tomb Raider temple, Ta Prohm. We climbed all over them and were happy with the cloud cover. It made for more interesting pics and marginally cooler.
We were all very impressed with the architecture, history (going back to the 12th century!), size and accuracy of the NSEW positioning of the buildings for the solstices and equinoxes. Way back then. Très cool.
Some pool time after lunch then dinner was at a restaurant/school/culinary academy (The New Hope) sponsored in part by G (something else to like them for) & Planeterra. Again like in Hoi An, this is for under privileged kids to get an education and if they want, vocational training. The school also has an adult learning program in the evenings.
Our meal included yet another opportunity to munch on crickets and other insects. Yummy in my tummy. (You can wash down anything with a cold beer.)
Thursday. Ahh, thursday. A day of rest – at least until 3pm. I did one of my favorite activities – an EARLY morning walk with my camera around town. After breakfast w the bride, we set out again on a wander through this pub ridden but oh so character filled town. A second brekkie at a French pastry shop, some t-shirt buying, market visiting & lunch followed by, yup another 4 hand massage (why not?) for me and a tamarind body scrub for N.
I mentioned 3 pm before and you were probably wondering just what occurred then. Well, I’ll tell you. We hit the local countryside with quad bikes. What a blast that was. Again, G made sure we were taken care of. The rental company had outriders stopping traffic the few times we were on actual roads and spaced a guide after every 3rd quad in case there were any problems. Happily there were none. A great time was had by all.
That evening, several of us went to a performance by the local ‘circus’. More of an acrobatic show (no clowns, elephants or bears on bikes). The show was tied in to the time of the Khmer Rouge and quite good, impressive and moving and with original music.
This morning (Friday) had us in the bus to the Thai border. We left early as this crossing is reputed to one of the most chaotic and time consuming. About 35 minutes to get out of Cambodia and miraculously only 10 minutes into Thailand! Phong said it had never been less than an hour into Thailand and usually 2! He was quite impressed- he does this trip about 7 times a year.
Tonight we spend our last time together in Bangkok as a group then go our separate ways in the morning. Some are headed on other tours, some are doing independent travel (like us) but way too many are headed home. We will be sorry to say so long, farewell, aufwedersen, goodbye ( or, tót bye, sosa bye and ดีลาก่อน) to our new buddies.
Nancy and I are headed to the town of Hua Hin south of Bangkok for three days on the beach. When planning the trip, I gave Nancy the choice of travel modes there from Bangkok – train, bus, or private car. She chose the bus as it would be fun to take a public bus through the countryside. Well, am I glad I did not book it! Turns out after all the busing we have already done through the countrysides we will have a car and driver take us.ดีลาก่อน I think I will finish here and you can expect a final chapter in a few days.
Toodle doo for now.
Lots of love,
Nancy and her scribe, Chris