Archive for the ‘River Cruising’ Category

On The Mekong: Caviar And Champagne Replaced By Ox Carts And Chortles

Saturday, April 10th, 2010

Just when we thought our Mekong cruise could not get any better, it did. Today’s afternoon tour ended with a 20-minute ox-cart ride back to La Marguerite. Traveling through countryside and a small village on a dusty road, past rice fields and amused locals, we ended the last full day of the cruise on an extremely upbeat note. No freely poured champagne and caviar on this soft-adventure cruise; instead, people who value experiencing more than pampering. When I asked fellow passengers about their best day on the cruise, this was it. As for me, one of my best cruise experiences ever is nearing its end. Tomorrow, Angkor Wat and back to Ho Chi Minh City.

On The Mekong: A Day In Photos In Phnom Penh, Cambodia

Friday, April 9th, 2010

Friday afternoon in Phnom Penh, Cambodia, passengers from La Marguerite enjoyed ceremonial song and dance at the National Museum. The performance is part of a blessing ritual in the days before the New Year on April 13 (sometimes celebrated on April 14).

Our morning was a bit more grim, as we visited the Killing Fields and the Tuol Sleng Genocide Museum. Photos and captions below.

The Killing Fields Phnom Penh

A grim but necessary morning in Phnom Penh. We visited one of the Khmer Rouge’s many ‘Killing Fields,’ where the renegade regime committed genocidal atrocities during its rule from 1975 to 1979. Our guide (pictured) told us how his father was captured and imprisoned by the Khmer Rouge and how out of thousands at S-31, was only one of six to survive. How? He noticed that the Khmer Rouge used hundreds of padlocks to incarcerate prisoners but had no system to organize the keys, so they were forced to cut the locks with bolt-cutters each time they took a prisoner away (for interrogation and torture likely). Upon arriving at S-31, our guide’s father told the guards he could pick the locks, saving the padlocks for future use. Although he had never picked a lock before, he had observed someone doing so years before. Each morning at a cafe in Phnom Penh, the father had watched a shopkeeper pick a padlock to enter his store. In a test before the prison commander, the father succeeded in unlocking 7 of 10 padlocks. As a worker in the prison, he was no longer treated in the same way as prisoners. However, he was shackled each day. Never mind that he could pick the lock any time he wanted to. After the Khmer Rouge was toppled, his father returned to the village where he had been given up for dead.

At The Killing Fields In Phnom Penh. It is estimated that the Khmer Rouge exterminated as much as one third of Cambodian’s population between 1975 and 1979.

Little girl at the site of the Killing Fields in Phnom Penh.

Children at the site of the Killing Fields in Phnom Penh.

Blessing day at Phnom Penh’s Killing Fields

Monks performing blessings at Phnom Penh’s Killing Fields

Victims of the Khmer Rouge atrocities in Phnom Penh

Phnom Penh’s Tuol Sleng Genocide Museum is situated at the site of the notorious Security Prison 21 (or S-21). A former high school, S-21 was used a prison and torture chambers during the Khmer Rouge’s rule of Cambodia.

Small prison cells at Phnom Penh’s Tuol Sleng Genocide Museum, situated on the site of the notorious Security Prison 21 (or S-21). A former high school, S-21 was used a prison and torture chambers during the Khmer Rouge’s rule of Cambodia.

Tuktuks, motorcycle taxis pulling trailers that seat from two to ten are a cheap and easy way to get around Phnom Penh.

Situated near the Royal Palace, the National Museum exhibits more than 5,000 pieces of Asian art, sculptures and statues.

Monks who came to perform blessings at Cambodia’s National Museum.

At Cambodia’s Royal Palace

At Cambodia’s Royal Palace

Our Guide Thoai At Cambodia’s Royal Palace

At Cambodia’s Royal Palace

At Cambodia’s Royal Palace

On The Mekong: Touring Tan Chau With Camera In Tow

Thursday, April 8th, 2010

Sunset in Tan Chau, 20 kilometers from the Cambodian border

Another fascinating day on the Mekong. La Marguerite overnighted in Tan Chau, 20 kilometers from Vietnam’s border with Cambodia. The ship provided boat shuttle service into town last night, and about a third of the ship’s passengers visited the town.

On rickshaws the next morning for a town tour.

The next morning, we shuttled ashore and boarded rickshaws to tour the town of Tan Chau. To Westerners, having another human pull you along on a bicycle-driven rickshaw may seem inhumane, but remember, this is how they make their living. The rickshaw is a common method to public transport.

A visit to the back alleys of Tan Chau

The rickshaw took us to a temple, a traditional silk-weaving factory, a mat-making factory, followed by a walk through the back alleys back to the boat shuttle.

Next we toured by boat along the river.

Afterward, we traveled by boat along the narrow canals to Evergreen Island (the rough translation). Our guide says the only tourists he has ever encountered here are passengers from La Marguerite.

Boat life on the river near Tan Chau

On Evergreen Island, seldom, if ever, visited by tourists other than those on La Marguerite

A villager on Evergreen Island

Leaving Evergreen Island