"Mysterious Indochina" was the title of our trip with an Austrian group in the period February 26 - March 15, 2013, organizer: Taipan Touristik.
In the early afternoon we flew with Qatar Airways on a half-empty half-empty plane from Zurich to Doha, where we met our group that had come group that had travelled from Vienna. Another 8-hour flight, but now in a packed Airbus. filled Airbus, brought us to Saigon (Ho Chi Min City).
The visa formalities took several hours. When we finally stepped out of the out of the airport, 32 degrees in the shade and the local tour guide were waiting for us. the local tour guide. We were warmly welcomed and taken to the hotel. hotel. Now let's not get sloppy! So we got a first impression of Saigon during a long walk. walk. Because of the 5 million mopeds, walking is dangerous. Vietnamese don't walk, they ride mopeds.
One of the very first impressions was the ubiquitous, chaotic electrical wiring. We encountered this kind of installation all over Indochina. My dream job would be telephone technician or electrical engineer in Saigon. With my love for order, there would be a lot to do. See a few examples:
During the city tour we saw the Dong Khoi shopping street, the City Hall, the Opera House, the Notre Dame Cathedral and the main post office from the French era. In the afternoon we drove to the village of Cu Chi, about 70 kilometres away.
Here, the Vietnamese have literally undermined the military power of the USA and built an extensive, 248-kilometre-long tunnel system.
Exactly 15 metres are open to visitors. I am definitely too tall for the tunnels. the tunnels. I was glad when I got out again.
The subsequent lunch on a moored raft in the lunch on an anchored raft in the Saigon River. We had fried rice with rice with chicken, or fried noodles with chicken, or noodle soup. Islands of plants floated Islands of plants floated by on the river, a fascinating spectacle.
Around noon we flew to Phnom Penh, the capital of Cambodia. Right from the airport - we only had a short lunch break - we drove to visit the King's Palace and the Silver Pagoda. . Afterwards we went by bus to the temple Wat Phnom , which was was built in 1372 by Mrs Penh to keep the four Buddha statues she had found on the banks of the Mekong. The temple stands on a hill that must first be climbed via steep stairs.
We took up our quarters in a very nice hotel. The ceiling reminded me somehow of pagodas. Just around the corner we found a restaurant with a rooftop terrace, where we enjoyed ourselves, as usual with a Tiger beer.
On the sightseeing tour of the Independence Monument
this Cambodian desperately wanted to sell us a hammock!
The practical use of hammocks was already demonstrated to us by our bush driver in Vietnam when he had to wait for us.
And already the bus was waiting for a long, long ride in the lowlands to Siem Reap. On the way we stopped in Phnom Udong. There is a Buddhist centre here. The Khmer Rouge destroyed all the temples and monasteries, but everything has been rebuilt. On a temple hill there are still a few old royal stupas. A stupa is a kind of funerary monument. Since early Buddhism, relics of Buddha and later of eminent monks have been kept in a stupa. To get to the top of the hill, we first had to climb an infinite number of steep steps at 32 degrees. From the top we could enjoy a very beautiful panoramic view of the pagodas and the landscape.
At the next stop in a village, we admired epicurean delicacies. The Kabodshans eat everything that moves. In another village, stonemasons were working. We also stopped briefly in Kompong Kdei to admire an old sandstone bridge from the 12th century. See it for yourself.
This was the day of the temples: Angkor Thom with the majestic face towers, the Royal Palace, the Elephant Terrace and the Terrace of the Leper King . Dann der Ta Prohm-Tempel , which was left in its original state and has and is now almost overgrown by jungle. This is where the film "Tomb Raider" was shot!
In the afternoon we visited the beautiful Banteay Srei temple, the temple of the women. Its filigree stone carvings, which are carved into the red and its architectural harmony make the temple a real gem. . Finally, we visited Angkor Wat, another highlight of the trip. .
We had dinner (a huge buffet) and a traditional dance performance we ended the day.
After the dance performance, the dancers stopped and to our great amazement, the Asian spectators stormed the stage to have their picture taken with the dancers. We would never do anything like that!
In the morning we took a boat trip on Tonle Sap Lake to a floating village.
The lake is huge, but it was the dry season and there were several metres missing. The approach to the actual lake was more like a drive through a narrow mud channel.
In the afternoon, we continued on to Laos. With a Swiss passport, you don't need a visa. visa, but the poor Austrians do. We enjoyed dinner on the terrace of our terrace of our hotel. We felt like we were in the middle of the jungle.
Today we had to get up early to watch the procession of Buddhist monks in their saffron-coloured robes along the main road. The people who donate food and drink are actually the supplicants, because they hope their offerings will increase their prayers.
Afterwards we had a hearty breakfast on our hotel terrace.
Thus empowered, we visited the National Museum (former royal palace). We then took a boat upstream on the Mekong, stopping along the way at Ban Xang Hai to see a distillery. The next stop was at Pak Ou, a small village that can only be reached by boat. We climbed steep steps to the Pak Ou caves, which are said to have magical powers and are covered with small Buddha images left by countless pilgrims over the centuries.
Lunch was served on the opposite bank of the Mekong. Fried noodles with chicken or fried rice with chicken or noodle soup. In the afternoon, we continued our tour of the ancient Lao capital (UNESCO World Heritage Site), and saw Wat Xieng-Thong (the Golden City Temple), undoubtedly the finest example of Luang Prabang's typical temple architecture. It was built as a royal temple in 1560 and remained under royal patronage until 1975. When Chinese gangs (Black Ho) raided the city in 1878 and destroyed many temples, this one was spared. Finally, we climbed the hill Phousi, on whose summit stands the pagoda of the same name.
After many steep steps, we enjoyed the view of the city, the Mekong River and the mountains. It was impressive.
The bus ride to Vang Vieng - about 140 km - took us eight hours. The traffic in Laos is slow and the route was extremely winding. But the scenic impressions made up for it: dense monsoon forests, bizarre mountain formations, rivers, untouched villages. At noon we stopped in a Hmong people, picturesquely situated on the top of a mountain formation. mountain formation. Stops were also made at Ban Kiow, Ka Cham, Meuang, Phou Khoune and Kasy. For lunch we had fried rice with chicken or fried noodles or fried noodles with chicken or noodle soup,
Changing money in the "bank" in the village shop caused a cry of disgust among the photographers "So cool" and the cameras clicked. See for yourself.
And another close look into the safe.
At a market we discovered this amazing schnapps.
Finally we arrived in Vang Vieng and moved into our quarters at the Elephant Crossing Hotel.
The view from the hotel, situated directly on the banks of the Nam Xong River, was gigantic.
In Vang Vieng, a boat trip on the Nam Xong River was on the agenda.
Ausicht vom Hotelbalkon auf den Nam Xong Fluss
Das war einer der Höhenpunkte der Reise.
With many such small boats we whizzed across the water.
Vreni managed to take this photo:
We ended up climbing the Tham Chang cave. Again, countless steep steps had to be mastered.
We continued by bus towards Vientiane. The remains of the Mon Temple in Vang Xang are located directly on this road. The complex was built in the 11th century, when the Buddhist Mons (together with the Hindu Khmers) were one of the strongest nations in Southeast Asia. There are 5 Buddha statues to visit, which are said to stand on an area that was formerly used to be the dying place of elephants.
In the late afternoon we reached Vientiane and visited the Laotian landmark, a golden King's Stupa, the That Luang Stupa and the temple complex with the huge reclining Buddha.
In the evening, several groups of our tour group walked independently along the Mekong riverbank and we almost all ended up in the same restaurant.
In the morning we visited the capital and first the temple Wat Ongtue with its artistic wood carvings, later the Haw Phra Kaew temple. It is one of the oldest temples in the city. Afterwards we drove to the temple Wat Sisaketh, built by King Anouvong. Today, the old walled temple is a museum where thousands of Buddha figures from different times are exhibited. Afterwards we drove to the Arc de Triomphe of Vientiane, the Patuxay Monument. From the top you have a beautiful view over the city.
In the late afternoon we flew to Hanoi. With the expensive visa in our passports, we had no problems entering the country. When we arrived at the hotel it was already after 21:00 and there is nothing to eat in Vietnam.
After breakfast, the city tour of Hanoi began with a visit to the mausoleum of Ho Chi Min..
He is revered like a saint throughout Vietnam.
Just around the corner from the mausoleum is the one-column pagoda of Chua Mot Cot. surrounded by hundreds of Asian tourists
(so that no human being is to be seen on the photo, a large post-processing session on the computer was necessary! post-processing session on the computer was necessary).
After an exciting walk through an old part of town, we reached the Lake of the Returned Sword. Across a red bridge, the Bridge of the Rising Sun, we came to the Ngoc Son temple.
The bus took us on a journey of several hours, past many rice fields and villages with towel houses, to Ha Long.
See: what can be transported with mopeds (6 goats).
Another highlight was the boat trip between the bizarre rock formations of Ha Long Bay (UNESCO World Heritage Site). Approximately 3000 limestone islands, bare or forested, belong to this magical region. This includes a visit to a kitschily illuminated giant stalactite cave.
Back on the mainland, on the way to the airport, we visited a farming village with a large Catholic church.
A short flight brought us to Hue, the ancient imperial city on the River of Fragrances.
Discovering the imperial city was on the agenda. We visited the Citadel and the Imperial Palace, or what remained of the American bombardment during the Vietnam War. Afterwards, a pagoda was once again on the agenda. By bus we went to the Thien Mu Pagoda (Pagoda of the Heavenly Woman).
It is situated on a hill on the northern bank of the It is the landmark of the city of Hue. A staircase with high, steep steps had to be climbed. With its seven-storey tower, the pagoda is the tallest in Vietnam. To save time, we bought bananas instead of lunch - the bunch for 1 dollar. During the subsequent dragon boat trip on the River of Delights we were able to enjoy them. eat them with relish. The dragon boat was actually a floating shop. Some of our ladies did a good job.
Back on the bus we went to two places of worship of kings, the Lang Minh Mang Mausuleum.
and the Khai Dinh-Mausoleum
The idyllically situated Lang Minh Mang has also served as a summer residence.
For dinner, our Vietnamese guide recommended a restaurant where we almost all met.
Endless curves brought us over the famous Cloud Pass (Hai Van). The much-vaunted view from the pass was a bit stuck in the clouds. Via Da Nang we continued to Hoi An. Here, in this historic harbour town with its numerous shops and restaurants, there is much to see: Chinese temples, covered bridge pagodas, old houses and, of course, markets;.
In the afternoon we arrived at the hotel and were positively surprised by the facilities. Here is a picture of the pool in the evening:
The last day was spent relaxing in the area of our hotel "Boutique Hoi An Resort".
We enjoyed the beautiful pool under palm trees and the lovely sandy beach.
Our group met on the terrace of an excellent restaurant for our farewell dinner.
The temperature was around 32 degrees in the shade. Around noon we were taken to the airport in Da Nang. First we flew to Saigon. After checking in, we had another snack (the last fried rice or fried noodles) until we finally took our seats on the packed Air Qatar plane for the long flight to Doha. But But one door of the plane would not close and so we had to wait 1½ hours for departure. As the time for changing planes to Zurich was 1½ hours, we were a bit nervous. At 0:35, the nose wheel touched down on the runway in Doha. At 0:30 the boarding to to Zurich had begun. It was getting very tight!
After an interminably long bus ride at 30 km/h, we reached the transfer terminal, had to go through a security check and ran madly to the gate. There was someone else, they were waiting for us! Relieved, we sat in the huge bus that took us at 01:19 as the last passengers to the plane to Zürich. Departure was on time at 01:20.
18. Day: Doha - Home
The flight was miserably long. The film Live of Pi (with the tiger) shortened the time somewhat. Zürich welcomed us with -8 degrees. The man in front of me in sandals and T-shirt will also have wondered.
We brought home 3000 pictures and many memories of great experiences in another world.