“Half past eight in the evening and it is closing time in the large Bia Hoi behind Ho Chi Minh’s mausoleum, which locals know by its address, 19A Ngoc Ha, rather than its name.
The shouts of “mot, hai, ba – yoh!” (One, two, three – bottoms up!) are getting fewer and further between. An hour later the last red-faced patrons stagger out and the staff sit down for a quick meal before the final clean-up.
Intrepid travellers to Bangkok, in April and May 2013, were amongst those who took part in research for ‘The Child Safe Traveller’ (World Vision, 2013). This study looked deeper into tourist perceptions of child exploitation in connection with tourism in Cambodia, Lao PDR, Thailand and Vietnam.
The research also assessed tourist reactions to child safe tourism communications. A total of 268 tourists from across the globe, representing different traveller types, ages, genders and socio-cultural backgrounds, completed surveys and interviews. Participating tourists had been in Thailand for varying lengths of time and many had travelled (or were travelling) elsewhere in South East Asia and beyond.
“How did people build a temple as big as Angkor Wat 1,000 years ago before machines?”
“Why does $1USD buy so much of the local money?”
“Why were Americans fighting in Vietnam?”
These were some of the many questions my children asked during our two weeks travelling through Vietnam and Cambodia with Intrepid. They also asked more unanswerable ones, like “Why would Pol Pot kill people just for being educated?” Or less perplexing, but equally tough to answer, “Why is everyone always beeping their horns?”
Qinnie Wang describes herself as “just an ordinary girl” who lives and works in Canberra, Australia’s capital, and loves to travel. But it was during her Great Indochina Loop trip with Intrepid late last year, that the seed was planted for a major change in her life purpose and direction. Qinnie explains more…
“During this fabulous trip we travelled through Thailand, Laos, Vietnam and Cambodia. My heart was deeply touched by the friendly and warm people I met, the poverty I witnessed and the beautiful handicrafts I bought. When we visited one of the ancient temples in Cambodia, we met up with a bunch of young local boys and girls, aged between about 7 and 12. Each of them bonded with one of our group and followed us for the next 2 hours or so, walking through the undergrowth in their bare feet.
When your visit coincides with a festival, not only do you get to join in the fun, but as Intrepid’s Paul Chea explains, it’s a special opportunity to enjoy a real taste of local life…
“I would like to invite you to my home – Cambodia – in October for one of the most important festivals in the Khmer calendar. We call this celebration Pchum Ben, and its literal translation is “gathering and offering of food”.
There’s no doubt cycling gives you a chance to meet the locals in ways that wouldn’t be possible otherwise.
Handle-bar height gives you the best view of Vietnam and as Jo Gilbert discovered, once you rise to the challenge of the roads for the first time, you’ll be freewheeling all the way!
In April/ May I travelled through Cambodia and Vietnam with Intrepid under the leadership of Grant Finster. Although initially Grant seemed quite reserved and quiet for a leader, it did not take long for his qualities to shine through – his quiet fund of knowledge, mutual affection and respect of the local people and skill at making everyone in the group feel included. Grant did his utmost to ensure that all of us got maximal enjoyment from the trip, despite personal interests and differences.
My own “special story” is set in Hoi An where I spent a couple of days quite ill with Campylobacter gastroenteritis. On venturing out at the end of the second day to have dinner with the group, I became quite nauseated and returned to the hotel. Before I left, my “roomie” and great trip mate Angie asked me, with some concern, whether I could manage to eat anything. I responded that the only thing I could imagine eating was toast and honey, just like my mother made when I was sick in the stomach (many years ago).