Meeting Survivor Somnang
After we crossed into Cambodia, we met Somnang, our new guide. We toured beautiful places, such as the Royal Palace, and interesting places, such as the Oudong Monastery. We also had fun on our oxcart and Tuk Tuk rides! However, the most memorable excursion took us to the Killing Fields and the Tuol Sleng Detention Center. Somnang and his family suffered through the Pol Pot regime which made his stories emotional and bone-chilling. They were often difficult to hear, but they needed to be told. On a lighter note, wherever we went, Somnang went out of his way to interact with the local people, which helped give us a unique perspective on life in Cambodia.
Angkor Wat at Sunrise
After disembarking the AmaDara, it was off to Siem Reap and the Angkorian temples. Of course, the highlight was visiting Angkor Wat at sunrise. The overcast skies could not put a damper on the experience of watching the day dawn over the amazing temple. The grounds and the service at the Siem Reap Sofitel were exceptional.
Hanoi and Beautiful Ha Long Bay
Next it was off to Hanoi where, again, we had an extraordinary guide. Tea had family stories and photos to share. We could really identify with the things he was explaining to us. Tea also has a great sense of humor. If he ever gives up guiding, he can become a stand-up comedian! We proved to be blessed when a cyclone, which had threatened our trip to Ha Long Bay, went through quickly, leaving us with beautiful, clear weather for our stay on the “junk”. The boat was modern and charming and the scenery in the bay was exceptional. And we were rewarded with a great sunset. We had one last night to enjoy Hanoi before heading home. It was a Saturday night and the roads around the central lake were closed to vehicles, which made for a great atmosphere as much of the city seemed to be out enjoying the evening. It made for a fitting ending to an amazing trip.
All three guides taught us about resilience and forgiveness and moving forward. We don’t think we will ever forget being blessed at the Buddhist temple, being at Angkor Wat at sunrise, talking with a 13-year-old monk, or hearing from a survivor of Pol Pot’s prison.