Angkor Wat, Banteay Srei, Battambang, Cambodia, Cu Chi tunnels, Danang, Europe, Grand Hotel, Hanoi, Henri Mouhot, Ho Chi Minh city, Hoi An, Khmer Rouge, Kim Do Hotel, King Sihanouk, Laos, Luang Prabang, Phnom Penh, Sihanoukville, Ta Prohm, Vientiane, Vietcong, Vietnam
Most of my foreign travel during this period was to French Indo-China, with which I had fallen in love after my first trip to Cambodia in 1991. I had friends in Phnom Penh as well as Hanoi, with whom I could stay as long as I liked, writing and reading, while going off on excursions.
I had been to Vietnam way back in 1984, but only to Hanoi where a great friend was Deputy at the Australian Embassy there. But I only got to Ho Chi Minh city in 1991, when I stayed at the Kim Do Hotel, and even crawled into the Cu Chi tunnels where the Vietcong had hidden in its extraordinary overcoming of the Americans. I thought I was stuck, and nearly developed claustrophobia but the guide saw me out.
That year I went to Laos too for the first time, and loved Vientiane, the most laid back capital in the world, with a fountain with coloured lights as its centre. From there I flew up to Luang Prabang, the return journey being in a tiny old Russian plane, which brought the jungles below incredibly close. Luang Prabang was magic, lovely old temples where young monks played in the courtyards and seemed terribly pleased to talk for hours with anyone who knew English. I went to the beautiful wooden Royal Palace, and had a river trip by myself past lovely waterfalls. It was also nice to enter into the spirit of the place, seeing an old Western film in the decrepit theatre where youngsters came to smoke cigarettes.
In 1991 I also went back to Hanoi, and walked round the little lake I had loved back in 1984. It was much more tranquil than the lake in Cambodia, where the guide who had picked me up on a motorbike and stuck with me for the rest of my stay, and also future visits, took me to see the taxi girls who thronged the boat restaurants. Continue reading