Saturday, December 29, 2012

Cruising the Mekong (12/29/2012)

Saturday, December 29, 2012
Farewell Phnom Penh:
Shophouses along the riverfront:
NagaWorld Hotel and Casino:
Diamond Island under development:
The Mekong River is the 12th longest river in the world at about 4,350 km/2,703 miles in length. It begins somewhere on the Tibetan Plateau, flows southwest through China, flows between Myanmar and Laos, then Thailand and Laos (turning into Laos a couple times), flows into Cambodia, and eventually into Vietnam where it empties into the South [China] Sea.
Vietnam and Cambodia may be a little upset with China who has dammed the Mekong. China has agreed to provide some of the power generated to the other countries along the Mekong, but... Over the years the flow of the river has significantly decreased, and this river is the livelihood of millions of people. So they tend to drop the word China from the name of the sea.
Even in Cambodia, most of the river traffic belongs to Vietnamese ships:
A typical cargo junk, with eyes:
Sea creatures will look up and see a "life form" larger than themselves and be frightened off; the eyes are also thought to guide the boat through fog or spot schools of fish...
We had several onboard activities to keep us busy on this day of only cruising. At 9:30 we had a presentation on Vietnam History and Culture by our Program Directors. They started with an amusing series of pictures of things carried on motorbikes.
But after a short PowerPoint which ended with the Vietnam boat people, Thien segued into his own story. He (at age 13) and his sister were chosen by his father to be sent off on a fisherman's boat. They ended up in a refugee camp in Hong Kong, living on a median of the runway of the airport, for 8 years, boys separated from girls. Thien was then sent back to Vietnam. He had to work very hard to catch up on his education, and he vowed to earn money to make sure his four brothers all went through university, including brothers too young to have known him before. Tears were shed during this presentation.
Tom then told his story, and things were not easy for him either as barely a teenager, having to provide for his family when his father went to war, with a scarcity of basic goods and of opportunities.
Lunch was subdued today.
At 14:00 we had a tour of the RV Indochina. This boat is one of a fleet of the revived Irrawaddy Flotilla company started in 1995. In 1998, the owner, Paul Strachan, discovered an original Clyde-built steamer called the Pandaw that he had restored. New ships in the Pandaw-style were built including the RV Indochina. 
We started on the lower deck, going through the corridor past the crew's cabins, with racks for their shoes:
The engine room with two 350 hp generators and two 500 bhp engines; Engine 2:
In the center, the Lecture Room:
The laundry room:
The spa (i.e., massage or pedicure room):
The water filtering system:
The main deck had cabins and the dining room:
Forward are the two anchors:
The upper deck has more staterooms:
and reception and the gift shop:
The sun deck:
Forward on the sun deck is the wheelhouse:
And aft are the life rafts:
At 17:00 there was a demonstration on making Vietnamese spring rolls:
They passed around a banana flower bract; the flowers are actually the little yellow bits inside:
The riverbank seemed more like a jungle as we entered Vietnam:
Fishing net on the river's edge:
At 18:15, we were invited to a members only cocktail party. Having been on more than one Viking River Cruise, we are members of the Viking Explorer Society. There were a couple hors d'oeuvre.
Thien was made to wear a tie, along with the captain who always wore a tie:
A full moon tonight:
After dinner, the movie was "The Quiet American."
Tomorrow, Chau Doc.

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