Our start to a very interesting holiday was an introduction to Bangkok’s rush hour which made our transfer from the airport to the hotel 2 hours. Well it did say it was a pioneering holiday!
This holiday is not for the less fit as we visited 3 countries, stayed in 8 hotels, had 2 internal flights, 2 days on a boat on the Mekong River and also coach transfers – all in very warm, humid weather! But every activity was packed full of unbelievable sights and plenty of stops at places of interest. All the excellent local guides were very eager to share with us their knowledge and experiences of their country.
It is very difficult, if almost impossible, to pick out one highlight from the entire holiday so I will try to give what I thought were the most memorable events from each country. This is my experience and I am sure my travelling companions will be able to add to it.
Bangkok. The Grand Palace complex and the Royal Temple of the reclining Buddha [huge]; all very impressive.
The afternoon river boat trip gave our feet a little rest and enabled us to see the houses-on-stilts of the local people, and how near they are to being swept away. Just as we thought we had seen most of Bangkok’s important sights and were ready to put our feet up for the day, Pipith, our local guide, said he had another sight to show us. This was the very impressive Ananta Samakhom Palace museum which is a stunning building, housing an amazing art gallery. We were all pleased we had not missed it.
After our early morning flight to Chang Rai we continued our jouney by coach visiting the Golden Triangle, where the borders of Thailand, Burma and Laos meet, and the Opium Museum. Then it was on to our hotel by the Mekong River in Chiang Kong to be met by a ‘Ramblers Worldwide Holidays Welcome’ banner and drinks.
A perfect setting!
The immigration formalities were a little chaotic to say the least for our new Laos guide and our Ramblers Worldwide Holidays leader, but as they had it under control we all relaxed in a café while they sorted out the formalities. We eventually got under way and spent 2 very relaxing days on a boat on the Mekong River, stopping at local villages to see weaving and making rice wine.
Arriving by boat at our overnight hotel was true pioneering; balancing along a narrow gang-plank onto a sandy beach and walking across the sand and up a flight of steps to the balcony of our log-hotel overlooking the Mekong River for ‘welcoming drinks’ as the sun was setting – magic!
Swimming at the Kuang Si waterfalls was a welcome relief from the heat but some energetic members of our group first had to climb up to find the source of the waterfall before they swam.
The Wat Sisaket Temple in Vientiane with its thousands of miniature Buddha statues was mind blowing.
In the capital, Phnom Penh, we visited the Royal Palace. The Genocide Museum and the Killing Fields were sombre reminders of the atrocities carried out by the Pol Pot regime which, I am ashamed to say, I had not thought too much about until this visit. The local people have made an Enlightening Memorial to the people who lost their lives so they will not be forgotten.
At Siem Reap we visited the vast Ankor complex. The size of the complex is unbelievable and so are the gigantic roots which wrap themselves around Ta Phrom.
For our last evening some of the girls, in true pioneering style, had pedicures and manicures in the local night-market as well as bargaining for holiday souvenirs.
On our return to Bangkok for our flight back to London we ended our journey with a magnificent farewell buffet.
This holiday was first class and we ended it in first class style with a wonderful meal and the humorous farewell speeches. Thank you to all my travelling companions for your friendship and the fun we shared.