Hello, hello! It’s been so long since I last wrote I expect you thought I’d given up the blog; I haven’t it’s just that I’ve been living life in the fast lane for the past month and haven’t had time to pause and think. Joining my Intrepid ‘Indo-China’ tour changed everything; in one day my pace of life upped from that of a Ford Fiesta to a speedy Ferrari and ever since then life has sped by in blur of glorious colour. But before I go on I want to wish you a belated Happy Christmas and New Year. Mine was celebrated in Siam Reap in Cambodia, against the spectacular backdrop of Angkor Wat.
Where to start?! It’s difficult to condense everything into one blog without sounding like a badly written guidebook. I’ve toured Laos, Vietnam, Cambodia, Thailand and Sri Lanka, where I am now. Each country has been unique. Laos was green, vibrant and lush, with elegant French architecture and influences as reminders of its colonial past. Sadly it’s beauty is diminishing as the country’s natural resources are trampled through by China; like a beautiful tapestry that’s gradually being picked apart.
Vietnam was more urban and gritty, its population is 92.7 million compared to neighbouring Laos’ 6.8 million. We marvelled and trembled at the sea of motorbikes on the roads in the main cities, and the way they flowed around the stationary traffic like river water. In Saigon we saw and read about the horrors of the French and American wars, a stomach churning experience. We visited the Cu Chi tunnels outside Saigon, a vast network of narrow tunnels the Vietnamese guerrillas built in the jungle to fight the Americans. We also saw their gruesome booby traps; no number of weapons could save the poor American soldiers prowling through the dense jungle from the horrible deaths inflicted by the spokes and spikes of these cleverly disguised traps. It was like something out of Indiana Jones.
Cambodia was enthralling; a mix of beauty and poverty. The Khmers, the people of Cambodia, have, as the Lonely Planet puts it, been to hell and back. The atrocities of the Pol Pot years are still raw in the minds of many. We travelled to the Killing Fields and heard the appalling stories of how men, women and children were horrifically tortured and executed, mostly for the simple sin of being ‘educated’. It was a stark reminder that man is capable of so much horror and brutality.
I skim over much of what we did as I don’t want to prattle on, but I think the parts I’ve written about above made the greatest impression. On a lighter note, I have seen so many glorious temples and Buddhas in the past month that they begin to blend together. During our stay in the pretty town of Luang Prabang in Laos we had the privilege of visiting Mount Phou Si, a religious site on a hill standing in the heart of the town. Unfortunately for our tour guide it’s pronounced ‘pussy’, which meant that every time he said it we all fell about laughing. Intrepid travellers we may be, mature travellers….perhaps not!
As I write this I’m sipping a beer and sitting in the shade at a peaceful bar in Arugam Bay on the East Coast of Sri Lanka. I had a wonderful reunion with my Edinburgh gang at Colombo airport on the 30th December and spent a fun-filled New Year with them by the beach at a very cool, hip bar where we were not quite the oldest party-goers, but not far off it. We didn’t let that get in the way though!
I can’t believe my adventure will be drawing to a close so soon now; this time in a month I will be home and back to wearing polo necks. I will endeavour to write a few more blogs before then though!