Leaving Vietnam with memories of 2013 and 1968

Last in a series from the ruins and rivers of Southeast Asia My first trip to Vietnam ended in mid-March 2013. I flew out of Saigon/Ho Chi Minh City a few weeks shy of 45 years since I was drafted into the US Army during the Vietnam War. As a soldier, I never made it out of the United States, spending nearly two years based in and around Washington, DC. But I will never forget 1968. That …

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Cruising to Saigon, where people still are careful

Sixth in a series from the ruins and rivers of Southeast Asia For our last day on the Mekong River, the Avalon Angkor was docked in downtown Ho Chi Minh City (Saigon), which was abuzz with people at work, at play and, in between, riding their motorbikes. Lots of locals still call it Saigon, this city of 10 million people and nearly as many motorbikes, which, said a guide, are primarily from China, because the bikes are …

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Good Morning, Vietnam, cruising on the mighty Mekong River

Fifth in a series from the ruins and rivers of Southeast Asia   On the edge of the Mekong, Cambodian and Vietnam flags flapped in an early morning wind at the border station. Crew aboard the Avalon Angkor approached soldiers from the station with some trepidation, as border officials here are known to insist on strict compliance with all formalities. For instance, entrance visas for each passenger — I bought mine for $167 through VisaCentral in Washington, DC, …

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Cruising Cambodia from rural villages to the gruesome Killing Fields

Fourth in a series from the ruins and rivers of Southeast Asia Floating on the Tonle Sap toward Phnom Penh, stopping at ancient sites and visiting riverside villages, passengers on Avalon Angkor begin to get a real picture of life in rural Cambodia. “We only got real peace in 1998,” said Wanty, our primary Cambodian guide. “We started from scratch, so it will take us a long time to build a country.” Our riverboat tied up to …

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Cruising on Avalon Angkor, a modern riverboat built for the Mekong

Third in a series from the ruins and rivers of Southeast Asia. After three days of exploring Cambodia’s temples and ruins, and passing by such roadside delicacies as sparrows and rats, grilled crickets, spiders and roaches, all of which were in plentiful supply, we were ready for the cool comforts and stocked kitchen of a fancy riverboat, Avalon Angkor. We met our home for a week at Prek Dam, Cambodia, where the vessel was tied to a …

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Cambodia’s Angkor Wat, spiritual ruins and temples that amaze

Second in a series from the ruins and rivers of Southeast Asia A trip to Cambodia’s Angkor ruins surely is a bucket list event. Angkor was home more than 1,000 years ago to a great Hindu empire that left behind some 19 square miles of stone temples and tombs, now in various states of ruin and restoration. The temples at Angkor, built between the 9th and 13th centuries by the Khmer people as interpretations of Indian religious …

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Journey to Cambodia and Vietnam, Woman, would you weep for me?

View Vietnam and Cambodia in a larger map As luck would have it, I didn’t get to Da Nang, Vietnam, in 1968. I arrived 45 years later. In neither case did I have a say about the matter. In 1968, Vietnam was the last place I wanted to land. After four years of college at Miami University, I went to work in the summer of 1967 at The Plain Dealer in Cleveland as a newspaper reporter.  Nine …

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