James Kelly is a Flight Support Specialist at Explore and he recently travelled on Bangkok to Saigon Overland to get a flavour of South East Asia. He shares his thoughts and experiences with us as part of our series of staff travel blogs.
All in all there is something quite exhilarating and very adventurous about speeding down the Mekong river passing old fishing boats and watching the people who live on its banks casting their nets and washing their clothes or kids swimming and playing in the waters We really felt like we were seeing the beating heart and soul of the region. The Mekong River is an amazing source of life and provides many amazing images which I will remember forever.
Anyone who has ever stood in a market in any major Asian city will tell you the amazing sights and smells to be found there – from live unidentifiable fish to fishmongers gutting and scaling a recently caught fish in front of your eyes. It is quite a spectacle.
The food on the trip was amazing and we got a real treat – Thailand and its amazing chilli dishes like pad thai and red or green curries, Cambodia’s milder dishes with a French twist and then Vietnamese noodle dishes with a little more kick. I loved all the food and tried everything I could (except the fried beetles)!
The moving and quite disturbing images of the Khmer Rouge regime in Cambodia and the Vietnam War are really stirring. Unspeakable horrors occurred and the visits remind us and make sure we never forget what happened. You cannot visit these places unless you see these things and realise the recent history that took place, however sad and upsetting.
Bangkok to Saigon Overland gives a real flavour of Indochina and is a tour full of contrasts – one day you’re in a bustling noisy city like Bangkok and the next you’re walking around a national park listening to gibbons howling. One day you’re in a Temple in Cambodia and the next you’re on a bus with locals going about their business. There are a lot of contrasts between urban and rural life to discover and the tour was a fantastic opportunity to get a real taste of Cambodia, the Mekong Delta and surrounding countries.
An amazing and memorable trip, highlights for me were the sunrise at the Angkor temples and the exhilarating boat trips along the Mekong River with stays in some of the renowned Asian cities. It’s an all go action packed 2 weeks but it will fill you with a real experience of the ancient and magnificent cultures of South East Asia and a vivid reminder of the more turbulent recent history of the region. There is no better way to get a flavour for this region then by going overland - you really get to soak up the sights, see the smiling faces and watch these resilient people go about their daily life.
The lasting memory I will keep is when we stopped on the way back from Tonle Sap lake to watch how they smoke the fish and instead of watching that we were entertained by the local kids who put on an impromptu Muay Thai Kickboxing Royal Rumble and pretended to kick the living daylights out of each other for 10 minutes. They were just playing around and when we took photos of them and showed them after they howled with laughter. They didn’t have much in the world but they smiled as though they were as happy as anything, they didn’t want anything from us except a giggle and they waved goodbye as we pulled away and we left them to fight in their bare feet outside their wood shacks. I hope Sky Sports does a highlights programme so I can find out who won.