Wednesday, 28 November 2012

INDO-CHINA EPILOGUE


INDO-CHINA EPILOGUE
Posted one week after our return  

Our first temple Angkor Thom

Nights in Seam Reap

War Trophies in Saigon

Ha long Bay fishermen
 Sunday 18 November 2012:  It ends where it started, late of an evening in a BA lounge. We are munching our way through the first (perhaps second) glass of wine in two weeks. We are leaving Bangkok and heading home.
The most important thing is to reflect on the whole trip so it is not coloured by the last two days in BBK. Bangkok is the crossing point. It is the place you fly into to fly out of. As a city it has little to extol.
However, two weeks ago, we flew out of Bangkok into Cambodia.  Cambodia, where we visited temples and palaces on a scale and standard of craftsmanship and art to rival the Incas in Central America and Egypt’s Pharaonic Kingdoms. From the 1100’s through until 1600’s the Khmer Empire spanned this whole region. A realm founded on Hinduism and developed to embrace Buddhism.
Today Cambodia gently manages its tourist hoards with no signs of strain and seeks to modernise gently.
And onto Vietnam, here democratic socialism is embracing us travellers from the west. Its recent history is both a scar and a source of income.
Ho Chi Min City home to some grand hotel which became ‘bunkers’ of the 1950’s – 1970’s: The Rex, The Continental, The Caravelle. It was here that writers and military men hunched together and talked about War. Whilst at the same some 50 km down the road people were living underground to wage or shore up the conflict; fighting both the French and US interventions.
The big word on Saigon (Ho Chi Min City) is spend more time there. There is much to see. It is the only city I have been to where the main General Post Office is a revered tourist attraction.
North up through this country that on the map resembles a muscle sinew to Hanoi; billed by guidebooks as one of the most beautiful capital cities in Asia. This is a place on a river, The Red River, founded by royalty in the 1100’s, developed by craftsmen, redeveloped by the French in the late 1800’s. Hanoi is labyrinth of intimate streets and occupied by young people on motorcycles.
Hanoi is the gateway for most of us to Ha Long Bay. Translated Ha Long means "descending dragon bay" and now a UNESCO World Heritage Site. Ha Long Bay a vast expanse of waterway, with its tour boats, floating villages and fishing boats that head out to the very edge of the China Sea. A stretch of water dotted by rocky outcrops, covered in trees, most of which are between two and four hundred meters high and appear to drift, iceberg-like, as the boats are almost stationary.
Vietnam is a country purposeful and in a hurry. Hopefully it will not, with their neighbours Cambodia go the way of Thailand and loose their singular soul and attraction.
The big word on Vietnam is a question, When can we go back?  
Our fourteen days of wonderment this November is here helplessly abridged in four hundred words.