If you have had an enjoyable time on the road one of the tougher questions on returning is what did you enjoy the most? It’s a question I’m now in the fortunate position to consider after being back in Australia now for over a week.
This trip was made up of two different tours between 9 July and 12 August 2016:
I also had four days private tour between these two tours and two free days posts the last tour.
I planned this trip around the Sri Lanka vs Australia Test Match as this is part of one of my Bucket List items (See Test Match Cricket in Six Countries). On that measure while I did see the match it was disappointing as the Australian cricket team lost before the half way mark of the match. But this trip was a lot more than that.
The highlight had to be seeing elephants, in particular hand feeding and bathing elephants at Chang Mai, watching elephants having fun at a river at Pinnawala, and watching orphan baby elephants being hand feed at Udawalawe. These are amazing gentle creatures which are a risk in several of the countries I visited with the reduction in forests and hunting.I loved the night our tour group sleep on a boat under the stars at Halong Bay. The hundreds of small islands with greenery covering them with the sound of the water washing up against the shores. The Sigiriya ‘Lion Rock’ Fortress is a stunning natural fortress well worth the hike to view the surrounding landscape. The Anuradhapura temples are probably the highlights of all the Buddhist temples and stupas I visited, with taking part in the alms giving ceremony at at Luang Prabang the best Buddhist experience of the trip.
However for history and beauty Angkor Wat was the best religious sight, technically a Hindu / Buddhist hybrid sight having started out as Hindu temples. I got to witness a Buddhist monk blessing different visitors including fellow tour member Sarah.On the other side I got to see the dark side of history in particular the visit to the Tuol Sleng Prison (aka S-21) and Choeung Ek memorial (the “killing fields”) in Cambodia and seeing the impact of the Vietnam War still on display in Vietnam, Laos and Cambodia. Experiencing the Cu Chi tunnels gave me a great insight into the sacrifices the Vietnamese people had to make in order to defeat the USA miltary forces. The peoples of Thailand, Laos, Vietnam, Cambodia and Sri Lanka are very different. Thais seem to be very interested in having fun (attend a Mauy Thai fight or a Ladyboy show and who’d understand), the people of Laos are quiet and reserved, in Vietnam I’ll recall the crazy traffic and motorbike riding locals, in Cambodia the population seemed to all be under 40 and in Sri Lanka how friendly everyone seemed to be. I feel I have a better understanding of this part of the world and in particular the impact of former colonial powers (English and French) and the USA miltary adventures in these areas then I had before. I’m very glad I experience these countries, as is usual it is the unexpected events or the events and locations I didn’t do much research that turned out to be the most enjoyable. It was 35 days well spent, the world is so much bigger than what we allow ourselves to perceive when living our day to day lives.
Now time to think about the next adventure. Africa maybe?