Our third trip with OAT, we visited Myanmar, Thailand, Laos, Cambodia, and Vietnam. Much of the trip focused on the people, culture, food, and history.
Our time in Myanmar, relative to the other four countries we visited, was less touristy and more culturally diverse, because the country has only recently re-opened to foreigners. Although we were and remain aware of the plight of the Rohingya peoples, we did not travel to their locale, nor north near the Chinese border. To be safe, we concentrated on Rangoon, Bagan, and Mandalay. We toured Buddhist temples, boated on the Irrawaddy River, and met with many of the people of this country. The people commonly use a white water-based face paint, bark ground into a powder called Thanaka. It is used as a combination for sun protection, beauty, and custom.
Rangoon is a modern city with gold layered temples, and as with the rest of SE Asia, there are many interesting street foods such as fried chicken feet, marinated duck tongue, scorpions, spiders, snakes, really old eggs, and water beetles. I found all this exotic food edible, except for the water beetle, not good.
Bagan is an abandoned area with hundreds of temples and stupa’s. The photos here depict their prevalence well. The dryness of the area created dust as most roads are dirt, heavily travelled and the weather windy. We felt the dust in our lungs.
Next, we flew to Mandalay for a tour of the city and more temples. One neighborhood we toured is famous for its carving of white marble, a truly remarkable site. We also had an opportunity to spend a day on the Irrawaddy river in an old, long riverboat, also very memorable.
The second county we visited was Thailand. Most of our time in Thailand was spent in and around Bangkok with one excursion to the north to witness the ancient city of Ayutthaya where the architecture is similar to Bagan. Bangkok is modern, however we were warned to never disparage the king, or we’d be thrown in jail.
Laos, our third county to visit, is similar to Myanmar in that it is a county still coming out of poverty. We spent time in Vientiane and Louang Phabang with some excursions into the countryside. Like Cambodia and Vietnam, Laos was devastated during the “Vietnam” or as the local phraseology is referred to as the “American” war. There remain many land mines the US government installed but will not take the time nor dollars to find and eliminate.
While in Cambodia, our fourth county on this tour, we visited Phenom Penh and learned about the atrocity of the Pol Pot Regime and current military rule. Again, an area of the world where your words need to be tempered incase there are “ears” or “eyes” paying attention to what you say and do. The main purpose of our Cambodia trip was to visit the area near Siem Reap.
For most of my life I had referred to this area Angor Wat, but I now know this is only one of many temples of a long-ago culture where the temples are now slowly undergoing restoration.
We did not have much time in Vietnam, the 5th and final leg of our journey to SE Asia. We spent time in Ho Chi Minh City, a modern city that is growing up, literally. Our guide’s father fought on the American side during the war and the county works to make sure all who visit this country, the Viet Cong won the war. We travelled onto the Mekong delta to experience the food, culture, and the life of its people.