Vietnam and Cambodia

3rd World Countries

Day 1- Saturday 3/19

On day 1 we visited the Ho Chi Minh mausoleum. Ho Chi Minh was a ruler during the Vietnam war and he killed people if they did not like him/spoke out against him. We also visited the prison in Hanoi, they glued glass on the walls so you could not escape. They said that at the time it was the most secure prison in the world. 5 people escaped threw a sewer pipe that they could only fit threw because they were so hungry. Another 100 people escaped the same way but threw a different pipe. Around 380 American pilots were imprisoned there during the Vietnam war. One of the Americans imprisoned was John McCain, He saw the son of an admiral in the U.S Army and they said if you would like to be released you can but he said, "unless everyone can, no one will." One interesting thing about the prison was that there was a video that talked all about how good it was but they actually tortured people. This is an example of communism, it is also an example of a human rights violation. Once a year everyone has to go to visit Ho Chi Minn in elementary school by law, so they are always told how wonderful he was, before he died. In elementary school you used to be taught how to shoot an AK-47 and how to build a bomb shelter. In other words, you were taught how to kill and how to not be killed. One thing I have noticed about the culture here is that they love to dance and perform.

Day 2- Sunday 3/20

Today we flew from Hanoi, Vietnam to Siem Reap, Cambodia. It was a very short flight and since we are with a cruise we get to skip customs and immigration. We also while still in Vietnam went and visited the older part of Hanoi. They had lots of interesting things and I was very excited to look around. There was a guy who made wood carvings and I think that since I was blonde that he invited me to learn how to do it. It made me very happy and I thought that it was neat how nice he was. We spent about 40 minutes doing that and then we went back to the hotel to get packed up for the flight. There was a drive from the airport to the hotel, on the drive I saw tons of poverty such as houses with dirt floors and no doors. We have a tour guide who says that he survived the killing fields of the Khmer Rouge.When we got to the hotel we got welcomed with a welcoming dance. We ate dinner where there was even more dancing. The food is delicious, they have very good fried pork and it is spicy.

Day 3- Monday 3/21

This morning we visited Angkor Wat, the largest religious temple in the whole wide world. This temple was especially meaningful to our guide named Sothy pronounced So-Ty because he lived there for 3-5 months when he was three. He hid out here because the Khmer Rouge was killing people. This temple took about 40 years to build, it was built by King Suryavarman II in the early 12th century. There is a 3rd level that I got to go into and from it you could see a lot of the landscape and the layout of the temple. It was so interesting and the libraries were huge!!! In the afternoon we visited a temple called Bayon built by King Jayavarman Vll, dedicated to Buddha and at the very middle of the most populous in the world at the time, Angkor Thom. It has 216 smiling Buddha faces in it. One thing about the culture that I learned is that they liked to build temples during the Khmer empire.

Day 3

Day 4- Tuesday 3/22

This morning we had the privilege of visiting the Ta Prohm temple which is a Mahayana Buddhist monastery and university. This is the temple that has the trees growing in it and the only reason they have not cut down the trees is because the whole temple would collapse. Our guide called it the Wow-Wow-Wow temple. He called it this because for each section you say Wow. This is also where they filmed the movie Tomb Raider and my dad and I thought that it would be great for a paintball war. We also went to Banteay Srei, this was dedicated to the Hindu god Shiva and made out of the finest sandstone in the world. In the afternoon we visited a school that was sponsored by our tour company. Our local guide grew up there, and then later on came back to help with education and a water project. There is a 10% mortality rate of children under 7 from waterborne disease in Cambodia. That evening we went to the Cambodian circus where they did lots of different acrobatic tricks. One thing I learned today was that flash can affect the acrobatics and make them mess up.

Day 5- Wednesday 3/23

Today we were up at 4:30 in the morning so that we could take a tuk-tuk to Angkor Wat to see the sunrise. King Suryavarman II built this temple so perfectly so that on the equinox the sun rises right over the top of the central tower. Here I bought two beautiful hand painted paintings, a beautiful rubbing of one of the walls, and looked at the sunrise. We then went back to the hotel to swim a little bit and get packed and then we took a 4:00 long bus ride to Kampong Cham on the way of which we stopped at what I dubbed the Cracker Barrel of Cambodia. We boarded our cruise ship in Kampong Cham at 5:00. We took a sunset cruise on the Mekong river which is 3,000 miles long, ate dinner on board, and finally fell asleep on board. The Mekong river has 6 countries along it and is the most productive river in the world. One thing I noticed today was that there might be a two story gated mansion and next to it there is a wood shanty with a dirt floor.

Day 6- Thursday 3/24

This morning we went to the Twin Mountains Buddhist Temple which I don’t know much because I didn’t go. One thing I do about it though is that it was used during the Khmer Rouge to torture people in front of the monks to attempt to show there was no use in religion. The monks did not listen and every once in awhile it would be the monks getting tortured in front of the people to show the people that religion was not protecting the monks from getting hurt and injured so why believe in any religion. We then, in the afternoon went to an orphanage where I played soccer with some of the kids, they were all very good soccer players. Some of the kids were very nice and could speak pretty good English. We also went to a silk weaving village named Chong Koh Village, the village is famous for it’s amazing scarfs. We got to see how they made the scarfs and I thought that it was very interesting to observe people manually making scarfs. One thing I learned about the culture today is that everyone works hard to make there money and they do not beg.

Day 7- Friday 3/25

Today I was sick so I did not go anywhere and consequently the only photo I have is of this boat that is actually an airplane converted into a boat!!
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Day 8- Saturday 3/26

This morning I was still recovering from my sickness but my family went to a market. In the afternoon I was feeling better and we went to the Killing Fields where there was a tree that they smashed babies heads in with to kill them. Their was a mass grave for headless people, one for people who died naked, and one for people who were stabbed. Some ways the Khmer Rouge killed you are, iron tool, hoe, axe, hook knife, neck cutting, ear cutting, cleaning rod, bayonet, bullet, wooden stick, pushing against spiked wall, bamboo stick, and chopping off hands. We also visited a prison called SC-21, or if you prefer, the Tuol Sleng Museum. There was one of the only survivors there that I could talk to. He was a mechanic and the only reason he stayed alive was after he had been tortured he gave his confession, but the typewriter didn’t work, since he was a mechanic he fixed it and after that he fixed many a thing for them and they only kept him alive because he was doing something helpful for them. His name was Chum Mey and he is very proud of his story and his life. In evening there as a dance that I joined into called the Apsara dance, It is also known as the wedding stick dance and I danced with one of the girls. One thing I realized today was that everyone is really friendly and it seems very safe.

Day 9- Sunday 3/27

Today we saw a presentation on Vietnamese history and culture while still on the ship. At around 2:30 we crossed the border from Cambodia back into Vietnam. The landscape suddenly changed from dry to extremely green and luscious. I thought that we had like suddenly gone back to America or something. Here in the Mekong there are these really low boats that apparently are so low because then they can keep live fish inside of their hulls. I thought that that was really interesting. In the afternoon we got hit by a huge storm with big waves and large winds. Our captain kept spinning the boat in circles because he did not think that what we were about to attempt was possible. In the end the storm died down and we made it across. One thing I learned today is that even though it is really hot here the rain is really cold.

Day 10- Monday 3/28

This morning we went on a sampan straight from the ship to the the town of Tan Chau. While in Tan Chau we rode in a rickshaw around the city and looked at everything in the city. Only one person could fit into From there we took the same sampan to a floating fish farm to observe locals feeding them and you can feed them yourself. There were houseboats and in the bottom of the house boats there was a hole that had a bunch of fish in it and then they could just throw food into it, whenever they needed to they could take one and slaughter it. We then continued our excursion by sampan to Vinh Hoa, or the “Evergreen Island”, where we strolled around the area to see people engaged in their daily activities, including farming. There my dad found a pepper that he decided looked good so he ate it. When we got back to the boat we left for Sa Dec. On the way my brother and I played around while my parents went to a presentation on Vietnamese wedding customs. One thing I have learned today is that people love peppers here in Vietnam.

Day 11- Tuesday 3/29

This morning we went to the “floating” market which was very boring but apparently it was very good for sailors who needed to sell things. When we were done driving through that in our boat we then went to a market where they had live fish sitting there and if you wanted one they chopped off their head and gave it to you. There was also chickens with their guts cut out and they had flies all over them. I do not know why they took us there but they did so I am writing about it. I thought that it was pretty interesting besides the fact that it was pretty gruesome. We then took our sampan back to the boat. When we got to the cruise ship we took off for the next town. I then hung out on the sun deck and relaxed. I thought that it was a really fun day besides the floating market. We ate dinner and then slept while we were still moving which was really neat because we had not done that before. One thing I have learned about the culture here is that they aren’t afraid to buy some meat that has flies on it.

Day 12- Wednesday 3/30

This morning I am sad to say that we had to leave the ship. I have made many good friends on the ship and if I could, I would not leave. So we left and took a bus to Ho Chi Minh city, also known as Saigon. ON the way I mainly played my Ipad but when I looked out the window it was all Once there we immediately left for a city tour. We visited many neat things such as a church, a post office, and we looked at the royal palace from outside the gates. The church was so big and apparently it was built by the french during the late 19th century. I found this very interesting and different from the US. We also on our own visited the Ho Chi Minh Museum which talked really bad about America and South Vietnam.After touring the city we took a bus to our hotel and then we ate and swam on the rooftop pool with a bar beside it.

Day 13- Thursday 3/31

This morning I woke up and then my mom went with our tour to see the presidential palace and a lacquer shop where they showed you they made the lacquer. I did not want to go and my brother didn’t either so my dad, Colin, and I didn't go. Instead we played in the pool and looked around. When my mom came back we had a great time because we went to the zoo and saw lots of interesting animals such as Hippos, Giraffes, Ostriches, Tigers, Lions, and last but not least we saw Asian Bears. That evening we went to the market and looked around. After the market we went to a restaurant called Pho 2000. This is where the president when he came to Saigon, I thought it was really neat that we were eating at the same spot as the president had before. After we had finished eating we went back to the hotel to go to sleep for our last night in Vietnam.