Tuesday, April 19, 2016

Asia: A Dozen in Vietnam, Cambodia, and Thailand

We have these really great friends - with no kids - who wanted to go to Thailand with us (family of 7 children)! So we started planning a trip - for "next year" - then we received notice that our expat days would be ending.  The trip had to happen sooner!  We also have a friend who recently moved to Vietnam, so we thought we'd visit her, also. And Cambodia is in between the two countries. And the trip became a real adventure! We left Dubai on November 29, headed for Ho Chi Minh City, Vietnam - to have one last hurrah with some expat friends who are like family. There were 12 of us - we had a ball!

Walked and walked until we found a restaurant opened at midnight that could hold 13 people! Good thing Jennifer was with us - no English, just pictures. We had great hot pot noodles and fruit smoothies, rather cheaply.

View from our hotel window

Our wheels in HCMC - with a driver and tour guide
The next day we toured around HCMC and started west along the Mekong River headed towards Can Tho.

The Mekong River - we booked a 2 day cruise with sight seeing along the way.

Vietnamese woman selling items from her boat - maybe the wonderful sweet iced coffee for 50 cents?!

Tea - with honey

Another river cruise

And another one - we stopped to see the area between boat rides.
Thank goodness there are life preservers!
Lunch - fried elephant fish, wrapped up in rice paper with veggies, and soup, and rice, and fruit - Yum!

Ride back to the boat - a donkey pulled cart!
Coconut drinks!
Homes on the Mekong River

Rice paper factory - they showed us how they start with rice and end up with a edible wrapper.

More homes 

A sturdy foundation of sticks - they have to be replaced often.
Dinner at a beautiful resort in Can Tho. The table and hut are built over the river, so there is water below the table!
Local ladies and an American!
We visited a local Garden - this is Dragon fruit. We were amazed at the look of the plant it grows on.

Jack fruit
Lots of beautiful water lilies

Time for some fruit
Vietnam's flag 
Local market

Lunch - same as the day before! Then a long bus ride back to HCMC
Fried elephant fish!

We arrived back in Ho Chi Minh City, and friends had a dinner for us. They understood more English than they spoke. We just used our hearts to converse! Wonderfully kind, hospitable people - makes the world smaller!
Children need no language to be friends!
Yvette's birthday - thanks to the French influence, HCMC has wonderful bakeries!
French-built cathedral - for the French Catholics to worship in while they occupied Vietnam.
Post office - designed by the same man that designed the Eiffel Tower. 

Pedicures while you wait!
Traffic can only be understood by locals!
Government building during the American War (our Vietnam War) - now a museum.

Underground cell
Kitchen mixer

Target practice!
 Next stop, Siem Reap, Cambodia! We flew over on a small plane, got our visas stamped, and the driver took us to our "boutique" hotel - very local! On our first night we decided to take a tuk tuk to the night market. It was a lot of fun, even though it was hot, and we had some great street food.

Lobby of our boutique hotel

Tuk Tuk ride to the Night Market
Angkor Night market - very family friendly
BBQ meat kebab
We had arranged a tour guide and driver to show us around Siem Reap. We toured Angkor Wat, and many more wats (temples) on the first day. We ended with a sunset at the top of a wat and a Cambodian dinner show.

An ancient temple on the way to Angkor Wat

Termites everywhere!
Angkor Wat - Siem Reap's most famous attraction. The capital of the Khmer Empire from the 9th to the 15th century.

All of us!
Saige enjoyed her ride! A must with all the stairs.


Silly girls! Katelin and Macey

Area closed in respect of a holy day.

Jolee mimicking the "Lotus flower girls"

Yvette, Julia and Macey

Mr Dewald 
Julia is not impressed with the tour guide's information!

Ancient bath
Monks telling fortunes

The hot and sweaty Uzzell family 

Yummy Cambodian lunch with coconut milk drinks

Matthew = climber

Tree growing into the temple
Some wats (temples) did not last as well as others

Mr and Mrs Hughes

Echo chamber
Ron and a really big tree!

Hot and dirty kids= happy kids!
Lotus flower girls
Timothy and the GoPro
Us and some ancient tree roots!

Macey and a friend


Waiting for the sunset - only so many are allowed up, so we had to go early and wait, and wait, and wait!

Stunning view from the top.

Julia and Mao, our guide
Young monks
Some performers making a movie.
Dinner show - music and dancers

The second day in Cambodia we started with an early morning zipline experience. It was the first for some of us and great adrenaline fun for all of us! Chris, Saige, and Julia wandered around the trails, smelling flowers, playing with tarantulas, enjoying nature!

Katelin ready to go!
Brave Ronwyn!
Macey geared up.
Timothy and the GoPro
Jen looking great in the helmet!
Dewald with his ever-present smile.
Jolee and Matthew are with us also.
Yvette ready to check another one off the bucket list.

Saige exploring the family shrines

Julia had fun playing with the tarantula! The staff cooked and ate it afterwards! 

Flight of the Gibbon zip lining - and we found the Gibbon!

The local restaurant we ate lunch at after ziplining - always a delicious adventure!
Afternoon tour to the Floating Village - amazing village that literally floats on the river leading out to Tonle Sap Lake

Our 2 story boat

Dewald on top deck

Homes and fishing boats and traps. Nothing is marked or locked up - everyone leaves other's property alone, according to our guide.

Dewald and Ronwyn taking in the astounding views

Local kids taking a swim in some very dirty water.

Fish trap
Mouth of the river
Tonle Sap Lake - much cleaner! The mosquitoes come out at dusk so we had to hurry back.

Dinner at the Soup Pot - local hot pot soup - add your own ingredients.
Dewald spicing our soup up!

One last chance to buy at the night market. We loved our $3 Cambodian pants!
We flew to Phuket, Thailand the next day, via Bangkok. We were met by our driver and taken to a beautiful beach-view villa! We were spoiled for the next few days!

Our dining room where delicious meals were served to us 3 times a day! We chose the menu every morning, and the chef went to the market to buy the fresh ingredients, even homemade ice cream! And lots of mangoes and sticky rice!
Our pool and lounge area overlooking Surin beach

The neighboring villas are beautiful also.
Thank goodness for wifi, huh Timothy??!!
The pool table was a big hit!
An awesome rain storm blew in and out and brought a gorgeous sunset.

Julia in her Cambodian elephant pants going down to her lower level bedroom.
Hugs to last a lifetime - Macey and Yvette.

The best day of our trip, in my opinion, was the day on the catamaran! We sunbathed on the trampolines over the Andaman Sea, scuba dived twice, snorkeled, played on the beach, ate a delicious lunch and some fresh caught fish raw, and almost beat the storm back to port! Of course, those bothered by the rough seas probably don't agree with me!

After all the brown water in Vietnam and Cambodia, this turquoise water is amazing!
Matthew enjoying a soda!
Fish so close to the surface!
The rough waters made scuba diving a bit more challenging!
Chris and Timothy ready to go!
Katelin and Dewald - Katelin cut her hand on a barnacle while scuba diving and got to see her green blood!
The last day of our trip we went to a local waterfall, played on the beach, and wished we could stay forever!

Bangpae Waterfall
Local Gibbon rescue

Hiking at the waterfall
Yvette and Julia braving the cold water.

Chris and Saige trying to stay cool.
Lunch on Patong Beach
Surin Beach
Saige loves the sand and waves.

Sunset on a wonderful adventure - onto the next one!
Thai BBQ for our last dinner - so many tasty foods!

We left the next morning, back to Dubai for a night, then on to our new home in Texas. It was a great adventure with awesome friends!