Scenes From Cambodia & Vietnam

Staff writer Lino DiNallo loves to share his world with you, but we can’t take him anywhere. Following Scenes From Sri Lanka, he’s back with more filth from the muddy shores of our New Year Mekong River cruise.

SCENE ONE: A COOKING SCHOOL SET AMIDST RICE FIELDS
We have bussed from Siem Reap to a small village, where we will try our hand at cooking authentic Cambodian cuisine. Despite the hardships she has endured, and the atrocities she has survived, our cooking instructor has eyes that glow warm, a demure countenance, and a lovely disposition. Meanwhile, I’ve had two beers on an empty stomach…

ME: So after I put these curry leaves into the mortar, you want me to pound them with my pestle?

INSTRUCTOR: Yes.

ME: Hold my beer.

SCENE TWO: DAWN AT ANGKOR WAT
If one had to distill an entire trip to Cambodia down to a single moment, it would be watching the sun rise over Angkor Wat – the largest religious temple on Earth. What you fail to consider when you see those gorgeous photos on people’s feeds is the ungodly hour you’ll have to rise, or the wretched throngs you’ll have to share your moment of spiritual transcendence with.

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It’s even too early for my iPhone to focus.
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Not exactly the most intimate experience.
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I was cranky. There were crowds. But damn that’s pretty.

SCENE THREE: TA PROHM, THE TEMPLE MADE FAMOUS IN LARA CROFT, TOMB RAIDER
With two days of temple-hopping, there was much history to absorb. Our guide was patient and thorough, ensuring we really appreciated not only the temple’s construction but how it was slowly being swallowed by nature again.

GUIDE: This temple was originally called Rajavihara. It was built in the Bayon style, and construction began in the late twelfth century…

ME: (INTERJECTING) So this the one where Angelina Jolie filmed the thing?

GUIDE: Yes.

ME: Hold my camera.

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Parasitic trees engulf the ancient structures.

SCENE FOUR: EMBARKING THE CRUISE
While everybody else at Out Adventures embodies the ‘adventurous’ side of our company, I’m a dollop more delicate. When it comes to hotels, the more stars the merrier. So when we arrived at the riverboat, I was amused(?) to find our luxurious vessel didn’t come with a dock…steps had been dug into the dirt.

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Where’s the dock? We boarded right from the riverside.
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In-cabin amenities include disconcertingly large cans of bug spray.
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En route to a temple, we had to clamber through corn fields.

SCENE FIVE: MISS CONCEPTION’S MESS IN A DRESS PAGEANT
For the first time in Out Adventures’ history, we brought our own entertainment on a trip: female delusionist Miss Conception. On our final night of the cruise, she pulled a few of us onstage for Mess In A Dress. This ‘pageant’ involved five minutes of prep time, ill-fitting costumes, and the sloppy dregs of her makeup bag. I’ll spare you the performance, suffice to say I’m not a lip sync assassin.

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Mangelina Jolie. Born and slayed January 11, 2018. She was a very handsome woman.

SCENE SIX: THE CU CHI TUNNELS, VIETNAM
The Cu Chi tunnels were a major Viet Cong base of operations during the war. Today, they are a chance to taste what life was like on the ground. We crawled through claustrophobic chambers. We saw savage traps. And our tour ends at a shooting range, where we can try out weapons of war. If you’ve never fired a gun, it’s worth trying to feel how terrifying they are.

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How I think I look with a gun.
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How I look with a gun.

Some of the world’s most important tourist sites don’t elicit joy. Anne Frank’s house in Amsterdam. Any German concentration camp. On this trip, along with the tunnels, we visited Cambodia’s Killing Fields and S-21 prison, and Saigon’s War Remnants Museum. Despite the horror and atrocity I saw, they were among the most important places I’ve ever visited. I have nothing funny or flippant to say about this. Even today, four generations down, people are born physically affected by Agent Orange. It was, in fact, the Agent Orange exhibit at the War Museum that caused the gravity of these wars to hit home. I found a quiet corner and wept openly.

Our Mekong River cruise was so popular we’re bringing it back in 2020. Email info@out-adventures.com and we’ll let you know when we launch the trip. We also visit Cambodia and Laos this November on our Buddhist Sites & City Nights tour.

Follow @superfancystoryteller on Instagram for more of Lino’s antics.

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