Every tour group has a “darrell”. You know, the one who complains the loudest and most often. And wears socks and sandals. The darrell is always holding up the group, lagging behind, late to arrive.
The darrell knows more than everyone else, especially the tour guide. Despite looking wanky, the darrell has the hat smothered in pins and patches, and the luggage covered in stickers and stamps from destinations all over the world. This septuagenarian has been everywhere. That must have been expensive, if paying full fare…
From deep beneath the tangled roots of a centuries old banyan tree in an Angkor temple long forgotten by time, emerges a beautiful Khmer princess…
Sofitel Hotel, Siem Reap, Cambodia
Let’s face it, it’s not too hard to keep Aussie travellers happy – a cool pool and cheap, cold beer. Throw in an ancient temple or 2, and the job’s done!
The magnifique swimming pool at the Sofitel Angkor, in Cambodia’s Siem Reap
A few hiccups at check-in but once settled in, Accor’s Sofitel Angkor, in Cambodia’s tourism city Siem Reap, is French quality as expected.
The rooms are impeccable, the breakfast buffet caters for all nationalities – just how do they source fresh milk here in upper Cambodia? A jersey cow tied up out the back? – and then there is the swimming pool…
But just as the locals take from the mighty Mekong River, so do they give back. What may at first glance look like rickety bamboo landings for boats are, in fact, toilets … giving directly back to the river
Go to the loo and feed the fish. Catch up on all the goss with the neighbours while at it.
The Mekong River is the source of so much for the Vietnamese and Cambodians: Food, employment, transport, a place to live…
There are so many fishing boats and nets criss crossing the huge river, it boggles the mind that there’s anything left. The big fish – and there are some big species – must grow up quickly … the life expectancy can’t be much more than a few days.
But just as the locals take from the mighty Mekong River, so do they give back. What may at first glance look like rickety bamboo landings for boats are, in fact, toilets … giving directly back to the river.
Boarding APT’s RV Amalotus, following a visit to Koh Chin Island, on the Mekong River, Cambodia.
A visit to Koh Chin Island, on the Mekong River, Cambodia.
This was Captain Cook in reverse: this time the natives sold us the baubles and beads!
Children in the village school were happy to sing for us.
The village copper and silver smithies gave us a demo, especially how a quick acid bath can “change” cheaper copper into looking like expensive silver. We happily haggled and bought their goods.
Beautiful people, as always…
There seems to be only one road law in Vietnam: ride on the right side of the road, not the left. Intersections are a fascinating study of physics: one direction has right of way until the other side builds to the point of critical mass and then they surge forward to take right of way… and so it goes, back and forth.
Seeing Saigon’s sights by motorbike
You pay for, and expect, top notch when staying at the Sheraton. Saigon’s Sheraton doesn’t disappoint. It’s Starwood four star quality, with friendly staff, good amenities, a handy location in District 1, one block from the Saigon Song (river), an excellent buffet breakfast, and the room has a kick ass shower. I’ve seen some pretty speccy showers on my travels, but this one is an oriental pearler. The overhead waterjet is powerful enough, but there is a second lever that launches two separate, mid-level waterjets laterally to cross in the middle of the cubicle. The shower’s got you, left right and centre. I felt like Yoda, teleported into the middle of a Darth Vader-Darth Maul brawl. There’s no shortage of water in this part of the world.
Ahhh. Now in Saigon and relaxing at the iconic Rex Hotel rooftop bar….
Folks, we’re off to cruise the Mekong River in Vietnam and Cambodia.
First, let’s see how Qantas (Emirates Airline code share) is treating travellers: The first leg is from Melbourne to Singapore, a 2-hour stopover and then to Saigon (Ho Chi Minh City). Huge queue at checkin, and now a delay and gate change. We have to wait for a little Vietnam Airlines plane to pull back and make way for the big Qantas jet. This could take a while.
Oh well, it is Xmas and a little patience is a good thing.
But if I have to listen to Bing Cosby’s “Jingle Bells” one more time…
As a travel editor, I have been a keen supporter of budget airlines Virgin and Jetstar since they started. Travellers need the “budget” option, and Qantas obviously needs the ‘budget traveller’ revenue that its subsidiary, Jetstar, brings in. We all need the competitive pricing that Virgin has forced on the Australian airfares market.