|AmaDara on the Mekong River|
The trip to Cambodia and Vietnam is not an easy one. It seems to take forever to get there and even longer to return, definitely a factor of Korean Airlines' choice of planes. From Atlanta to Seoul, Korea's Incheon Airport, the wide-bodied plane was remarkably comfortable in coach; the 34-inch pitch gives even tall people decent legroom. On the return leg from Saigon to Dallas-Fort Worth a smaller, less comfortable plane was used with miserable results.
Tip: Find out the type of craft and its configuration before booking. Seat Guru, www.seatguru.com is an excellent resource.
Thanks to AW's "Gentle Walkers" option, we had our own guide who not only explained the history and meaning of the temples but led us to short cuts and areas where we could enjoy the significant elements without risking limbs. He also offered a steadying hand whenever needed.
|Me and hiking stick on steps up to Angkor Wat. Photo by Alana McGrattan.|
Sofitel Angkor Phokeethra Golf and Spa Resort, is quite attractive with gentle steps (rarely more than three) and elevators to the three levels of rooms.
Motor coaches used to transport guests from hotel to river ship are comfortable.
AmaDara is the newest AW craft on the Mekong and, by little over a meter longer and three or so feet wider, larger than AmaLotus, her sister ship. On AmaDara there are only three decks of cabins but no elevator.
Tip: Sixteen steps, with a landing midway, connect each deck.
Public spaces are fore, cabins aft. The Saigon Lounge is on 2, dining room on 1 The pool and sundeck are on the third deck, so I recommend rooms on the second deck for Levelers.
Tip: Rooms 222 and 221 are closest to Reception and the lounge where most activities occur.
River vessels are easier for Levelers because there is no high coping to step over between you and the cabin or bathroom. Another advantage, smaller waves mean less chance of seasickness.
Tip: When you hit Vietnam, buy one of those conical cane hats the women wear. They are light weight and keep you much cooler than what you probably packed. Best $1 you will spend.
Warning: The most challenging excursion step-wise is in Oudang, Cambodia, where passengers visit the country's largest Buddhist Center. The main temple requires visitors to navigate 41 steps up to the forecourt. They begin quite shallow but deepen toward the top. Take your time and you can make it but if it is too onerous, there are nice gardens on either side in which to stroll. Just know you are going to miss receiving the monks' blessing and permission to photograph them at their prayers and chants.
|Royal Palace, Phnom Penh, Cambodia|
Saigon can be a challenge thanks to very uneven pavement and millions of motorbikes whizzing around. Westerners are often afraid to cross a street. Don't be. Stay in the crosswalk and go with the light in a slow but steady pace. That way the motorbikes can avoid you. Other than that, your paths will be on the level. Uneven in surface, but level.
The city tour AW provides will take you to the Presidential Palace, the War Remnants Museum and the Ben Thanh Market.
Tip: There are a few steps up to the Palace and many more going from floor to floor. Look to the left after you enter; an elevator is at the end of the hall. The museum has three floors, 29 steps between each. There is an elevator here, too, at the back left at ground level. No steps at the market but narrow aisles and lots of people.
You will love the lunch and breakfasts in Mezz that come with your hotel, the Sofitel Saigon Plaza, An amazing display of food stations with favorites from Western and Asian cuisines. Still, you ought to try the local fare at a local restaurant. Again, be warned.
Warning: Restaurants in the big cities of both countries are very tempting, offering excellent fare for extremely reasonable prices. Count on steps, though. The higher the floor, the better the decor, the view and desirability. Often only the upper floors are air conditioned. I found two well worth the effort, the Chandry Tree in Siem Reap; Quan Bui in Saigon.
Cambodia and Vietnam, both with significant war-torn histories, welcome tourism which is improving their economies. A river cruise on AmaDara introduces passengers to a world rarely seen, where villages and stores float, where fish farms proliferate like basements below these floating worlds and where smiles mask the hunger that is a reality for many.