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Wednesday, January 24, 2018

Amazing Trip

Here I am posting barely a month removed after my last post.  Will wonders never cease?  I'm pinching myself to see if i'm really doing this.
Bangkok Temple of Dawn

We just returned last week from our Viking River Cruise in Southeast Asia.  It was the trip of a lifetime for us!  We started with an amazing 3-day pre-cruise add-on to Bangkok, Thailand, where we took a long boat ride on the Chao Phraya river and canals, visited the Siamese Royal Palace ("the King and I"), and celebrated New Year's Eve watching dazzling fireworks over the river from our window in the Shangri-La Hotel.  Oh yes, and we enjoyed some delicious Thai food there too.  Yum!

We then flew to Saigon (Ho Chi Minh City), Vietnam, where we stayed at the opulent Reverie Hotel for 3 nights.  While there, we visited the famous Cu Chi tunnels, one of the places from which the Viet Cong launched the Tet Offensive in 1968.

American tank at Cu Chi
 That was a difficult experience for me, because that area was in the Iron Triangle, where my brother, Michael, endured some of the heaviest fighting of the war as a tank gunner during that time.  My heart sank when I saw the burned out shell of an American tank on display there.  You can imagine that I had very mixed feelings about all of this.  Nevertheless, it was heartening to see the welcoming friendliness of the Vietnamese people and the Westernized culture that has pervaded Vietnam since that time.  And American dollars were gladly accepted.

We then boarded our river boat, the Viking Mekong, for our 7-day voyage up the beautiful Mekong River.  It was not a typical Viking long boat, as it only carried 56 passengers.  While the staterooms were small, it had a beautiful sun deck where we could leisurely view the passing boats, villages, and rice paddies while sipping a refreshing adult beverage (or two).  The meals onboard were fantastic, always featuring some of the local cuisine.  It was also a treat to spend time with Bahar and Kathryn, our surprise shipmates on this tour.
Royal Palace in Phnom Penh

On the third day, we docked in Phnom Penh, the capital of Cambodia, which is a surprisingly modern city.  We toured the city by pedicab and visited the beautiful Royal Palace and Buddhist temples.  A sobering part of the trip was a visit to one of the infamous Killing Fields of Pol Pot's murderous regime.
Sunset at Kampong Cham

We then resumed our voyage up the Mekong river to Kampong Cham, Cambodia, where we visited more beautiful temples and received a blessing from Buddhist monks.

From there, we took buses to Siem Reap, Cambodia, for a 3-night stay at the elegant Sofitel Angkor resort.  The next day was a highlight of the trip, as we visited the famous Angkor Wat ruins.

Angkor Wat
While Angkor Wat was breathtakingly beautiful, we also visited several other amazing temples in the Siem Reap area, including Angkor Tom and Ta Prohm.  Our elephant ride at Angkor Tom was a fun experience.  Ta Prohm, with its ancient walls encased in tree roots, became famous as the setting for the 2001 movie,  "Lara Croft: Tomb Raider".
Our adopted "son", Song

While relaxing at the resort in Siem Reap, we met a waiter at the pool bar, Song.  He became quite attached to us.  He had a rough childhood without loving parents, and he asked us if we would be his "mom" and "dad".  We said yes, so we now have a new son!  We've been keeping in touch with him since we left.  Who knows?  Maybe we'll go back to Cambodia to visit him sometime.
Hanoi Temple of Literature

From Siem Reap, we flew to Hanoi, Vietnam for the last two days of our journey.  There we toured the Old Quarter, visited the Hanoi Hilton prison, and saw the Ho Chi Minh mausoleum before heading back home.  What a great adventure!

We made a lot of good friends on this trip and are left with some wonderful memories.  We also took quite a few pictures along the way.  I have posted a bunch of them on Shutterfly.  If you are interested, you can access them at:

After this trip, we are definitely fans of Viking Cruises.  We're already looking ahead to our next Viking adventure.  Will it be Egypt? Japan? China?  All three?  We'd also like to work in an African safari someday soon.  We can't just sit around and wait to get older and sicker and feebler.  There's a whole world out there for us to keep exploring while we still can.

After our return home on January 15, Gretchen became ill.  After a trip to the hospital, we found that she has pneumonia and bronchitis!  After taking antibiotics, she has been slowly recovering, but she still doesn't feel back to normal.  Thank goodness we came home when we did!

I also had my monthly visit to Dana Farber last week.  My numbers are still pretty good, although not as good as last month.  Nurse Mary wants me to have an echocardiogram and EKG as a precautionary measure.  Maybe all this traveling has taken a little out of both of us.  I'm still feeling great though!

I hope to update this blog again in a somewhat timely manner, although I'm not making any promises.