Despite everything that the Vietnamese and Cambodian people have been through in the last 60 years, their resilience shines through in their welcoming smiles as they share with you their home and lifestyle that they’ve built for themselves.
We visited the small Cambodian village of Konpong Louang on a beautifully sunny day. That morning, I’d returned to my Panorama Suite after breakfast to watch 20 farmers pull up one-by-one alongside the ship with their ox and cart – an unconventional vehicle, but one with 360 degrees of the lay of the land as we made our way along the dusty road through the village. It’s a fascinating journey and these local village visits give a very real insight into the Cambodian way of life. Most of the small houses are built on stilts above the river and only have one open-plan room which is their combined bedroom, kitchen and living area. Some families are lucky enough to have a TV.
Along the way, a young Cambodian girl walks beside my ox cart and we start to chat about our families, favourite colours, her favourite subject in school, and what she wants to be when she grows up (a teacher). She even breaks into song and gives me her best rendition of “You are my sunshine” and “If you’re happy and you know it”, plus a flower ring woven from a flax-like plant.
We pull up outside the house of the matriarch of the village. You can tell that her family is wealthy in the small details – the metal stair railing outside her house, the two cows (a sure sign of wealth by Cambodian standards) in her backyard, and her expansive outdoor kitchen. Our knowledgeable Local Guide, Sukhon, acts as translator and introduces us to the lady of the house. They strike up a lively conversation as he talks us through her family’s lifestyle. She is only 67 and runs the household, while her husband (aged 69) looks after the livestock. She has two children and five grandchildren, one of which she is carrying while the other grandchildren watch on nearby. Her house is just one-level but raised on stilts with a series of hammocks set up underneath to relax in when the temperatures rise. She kindly invites us in for a tour. There’s a separate room where her daughter and son-in-law sleep, but both this and the main room are minimally furnished. We all receive a warm hug from her as we depart and wave goodbye.
When we first met Sukhon, he emphasizes to us how much Avalon want to treat their guests as travellers, not tourists – and this rings loud and clear throughout this journey down the Mekong River. It’s incredibly humbling to learn about and, more importantly, see how the locals live and their lifestyles. It’s such a different world to the one we live in and is a huge eye-opener. Both Vietnam and Cambodia have amazing sights to see, and delicious food to try, but the best parts are the locals you meet and the stories you hear. This trip is filled with so many heartwarming memories – from helping Cambodian children with their English at school, to receiving a special water blessing from two young monks at a hilltop temple.
Terms & Conditions:
*Terms and conditions: All care is taken to promote correct pricing at time of printing (20/02/19), is dependent upon availability and will be confirmed at time of reservation. Book a 2019 Exotics river cruise departure (Mekong, Ganges Rivers & South America) and receive an Air Credit to use towards an airfare of your choice. Air Credit not valid for Ecuador & its Galapagos Islands departures 20/02/19, 06/03/19, 01/05/19, 26/06/19 (WBG) or Discover the Galapagos & Peru departures 03/02/19, 03/03/19, 28/04/19, 23/06/19 (WGG). Air Credit value is dependent on the cruise and departure booked and will range from $700 – $2,150 per person (any deck/cabin category). Select dates are not eligible for promotion. Availability will be confirmed at time of enquiry. Air Credit offer is valid for new 2019 Exotics bookings made from 20/02/19 – 02/04/19 (or until sold out). To secure reservation a non-refundable, non-transferable deposit of $500per person/per cruise is required within 7 days of booking (or by 20/02/19; whichever comes first). The Air Credit will be processed as a discount off the booking invoice at time of reservation. Should you cancel or change your cruise, this Air Credit becomes null and void and the full cost of any airfare purchased or any associated change fees will be your responsibility. All airline payment and cancellation terms are completely independent of Avalon Waterways. Avalon Waterways is not responsible for any booking element of the airfare which you have utilised the credit for, even if SafetyNet Protection has been purchased. Avalon Waterways cancellation penalties apply as per standard terms and conditions. SafetyNet Protection may be purchased, standard conditions apply. SafetyNet Protection cover relates only to the Avalon Waterways portion of the booking and does not cover any associated airfares booked in conjunction with this offer. The Air Credit is 100% non-refundable and non-transferable under all circumstances and is handled as a discount off the cruise portion. Air Credit value will be calculated on standard brochure itinerary duration. Offer not combinable with any other promotion. Air Credit valid for Singles (single supplement applies). Air Credit valid for Groups – special conditions apply. Offers can be withdrawn or amended at any time. Additional restrictions may apply. Full Avalon 2019 terms & conditions apply, please ensure you read these prior to booking – see the 2019 Avalon Waterways brochure or visit avalonwaterways.co.nz.