Sunset from Ferry

(More Boat Photos Here)

The boat was called The Jahan. We were on it for 8 days. We took it up the Mekong River starting at a port just west of Saigon. We crossed the border into Cambodia. At Phnom Phen, we turned up the Tonle Sap River and finally into the great Tonle Sap Lake, where the cruise ended, at Siem Reap. We were told that we were the last trip of the season that could take the route we took, because the dry season was starting and it would soon be too shallow to make it up the Tonle Sap River portion. I’m happy we made the cut-off because it was one of the more beautiful sections of the cruise. This photo was taken while on the Tonle Sap, returning from a visit to a nearby village.

There were the things we saw from The Boat and while off The Boat, and those things were really amazing. And then there was being on The Boat itself, which was also amazing, but for different reasons. I don’t like to use the word “amazing.” I purposely leave it out of my vocabulary most of the time. It’s vague. It’s overused. The Grand Canyon is said to be “amazing.” An appetizer of spring rolls is said to be “amazing.” But I can’t think of a better way to cover it, to cover the feeling of the cruise, without getting into details. And right now I’m just trying to keep it simple. So: it was amazing.

The trip wasn’t simple. It was complicated. There were some very moving things we saw. And some horrific things. This was not a trip all about seeing “beautiful stuff.” It was not a trip all about being comfortable. It could be that kind of trip, if you wanted it to be. And there were a couple of people on The Boat that might have made it that kind of trip. But if I can put my judgmental  hat on for a second, those people had it wrong. It shouldn’t have been that kind of trip. It shouldn’t have been simple like that. Because it wasn’t. It was wonderfully complicated. And so it’s complicated to talk about. Because the cruise changed my outlook. On a lot of different things. On nearly everything.

So, for this reason, it’s sort of easy to separate the The Boat from the excursions we took from it. The Boat was an experience in and of itself. And in many ways The Boat, unlike the excursions, was simple. Because it was beautiful and it was well run and if it weren’t for the ever-moving landscape to our port and starboard, you never would have known you were even on a boat. Because we had gourmet dinners and air-conditioned rooms and waterfall showers. We had cocktails at 6 pm and breakfast at 7 am. Sometimes a little mid-afternoon tea. The staff were professionals in every sense of the word. Together, they truly ran a “tight ship.” Everything worked. And when it didn’t, it was fixed immediately. They made everybody feel like a guest in a home, not like a passenger on a ship. They learned your first name on the first day and called you by it for the rest of the cruise, which created an atmosphere of familiarity which was really nice. Not in a false or saccharine way, but in a heartfelt, genuine way. And then when we learned about the projects that the cruise line did to help the villages where we stopped, it made us happy to be a part of the whole thing. It made us feel like it really was sort of like a family, and that we were apart of it, and that even though we were tourists, and we were just stopping through these villages and these people’s worlds, we were helping to give back a little.

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