Words by Sally Petty of Eltham
My husband and I have just returned from a fabulous trip with Scenic. We left Melbourne and flew to Ho Chi Min City via Singapore. We were met there by Scenic and taken to our hotel, the Park Hyatt. It was very centrally located so we were easily able to explore. Later, we were met by our tour guide and the rest of the group (18 in all). That night we walked to a nearby restaurant and had great Vietnamese food.
Next day went by bus to visit the Cu Chi tunnels. Amazing construction and good to hear details of survival during the war. Returning by river was fun and finished with another wonderful meal on the banks of the river. Several choices for dinner, we opted for Colonial Restaurant although those of the group who travelled around Saigon on the back of motorbikes, said it was an amazing experience. The traffic is quite amazing but everyone seems to wait their turn!
Next day a bus to visit the Reunification Palace (previously Presidential Palace) and on to the War Museum. Interesting, mainly saying how terrible the Americans were!
We then left Saigon and headed by bus to the Mekong and boarded the Scenic Spirit. The staff could not be more helpful and delightful. The cabin was spacious and well fitted out. So nice to unpack and know that was it for a while. Boat even had four washing machines and dryers, so useful when travelling. Breakfast included everything you could possibly want and the most gorgeous fruit.
After that we went by sampan to a village called Cai Be and saw some traditional crafts. In the afternoon we were taken Sa Dec, to a food market. Quite confronting to see the different fish, frogs and even skinned alive frogs!
Next day was a visit to Evergreen Island and a cyclo ride to Tan Chau were we visited a silk factory and fish farm. People so friendly, especially the children. High fives being a universally accepted way of saying “hello”. Children from the local village came on board and performed a lion dance. Excellent!
We sailed on to Phnom Penh. Living on the boat but travelling to see great sights. Tuk tuks into the central market and later on a tuk tuk tour of the city at night finishing with a drink at a rooftop bar. What fun.
Next day we visited the Royal Palace. With an expert guide, we wandered around and learn the history of the family and the buildings. Yet another form of transport, travel by ox cart! Then by bus to Oudong to visit a huge pagoda complete with temple, eating house and accommodation facilities, including a blessing from one of the monks. We met, monks, nuns (male and female) and saw some wonderful statues. We visited yet another temple and were able to speak to a 14-year old monk and understand that coming from a very poor family, this was the only was he could acquire an education.
Farewell to the boat and travel by bus to Siem Reap. Once again the hotel was centrally located within walking distance of markets, shops and sites. Alternatively, tuk tuk rides available.
From here we visited the Angkor region. This included several temples including the famous Angkor Thom, Angkor Wat (visiting this again at sunrise the next day was an exquisite experience) and Ta Prohm where the roots of the trees seem to be holding the ruins together. Breakfast on the edge of a temple was a wonderful event, fully catered, including champagne. We visited a silk farm, learning about the process and able to buy beautiful scarves. Siam Reap was an interesting spot.
The final dinner was set with the back drop of a temple and included dancing, sound and light, kick boxing and a wonderful meal. We farewelled our fellow travellers agreeing that we had been looked after magnificently, had wonderful meals, some amazing sights and made friends. Huge thanks to our friends at Scenic.
Our last three nights were spent in Singapore. The hop-on and hop-off bus enabled us to see most of the city and allowed us to catch most of the city sites.