After 24 extraordinary days, 8 hotels, 7 cities in Thailand, Cambodia and Vietnam, and trying to calculate 6 currencies in our heads, my wife and I are safely back in Abu Dhabi, UAE. It was so cheap -- costing about what 10 days in Europe would have cost us -- and mind-boggling, veering between paradise and hell on earth, sometimes in a single day!
Hell: Desperate, muddy poverty at the Thai/Cambodian border, in the towns of Aranyaprathet, Poipet and Siem Reap; the Choeung Ek Killing Fields Memorial of Cambodia and the Tuol Sleng Genocide Museum in Phnom Penh; the War Remnants Museum in Ho Chi Minh City, evoking horrific memories of the American war; the Cu Chi Tunnels used during that war to outwit the Americans; the Khe Sanh battlefield and American airstrip, now abandoned. Even though these were not exactly pleasurable experiences, they are historically important, fascinating, challenging and unforgettable to experience.
Heaven, or Nirvana: Magnificient Buddhist temples (Wat Pho; Wat Arun, Wat Phra Kaew in Bangkok); the re-discovered empire of Ankhor Wat in Cambodia; a Mekong Delta tour in Southern Vietnam; the beautiful resort town of Hoi An in central Vietnam and the magnificent Halong Bay in Northern Vietnam's Gulf of Tonkin, where we went on a three-day cruise; and lots of cheap, delicious, Asian food.
We had to navigate among six currencies, calculating and recalculating the value of Thai baht, Cambodian riel, Vietnamese dong, Bahraini dinar, UAE dirham, and American dollars. That kept our heads swimming. At first it just seemed like so much Monopoly money, but in time we mastered the cost if not the value of most things.
I've started a small slideshow on Facebook of photos and observations from Vietnam:
and Lucia has posted highlight photos of our trips to the three countries:
The photos are classified as public but you may not be able to access them unless we are Facebook friends.