When strangers become friends: Discovering Vietnam and Cambodia in a group
> „I quit!“
> „Fuck …“
My still boss and I were sitting in the city center of Frankfurt having lunch when I handed him the news. Over the past three years, we had mastered many ups and downs in our job together, but now it was time for me to go my own way.
As the news spread slowly in the company, I dedicated my entire attention to my perpetual wanderlust and considered, in which country I wanted to spend my remaining vacation of nearly three weeks. These moments in which I realize that I am starting in a new adventure quite soon, I love so much. And so I floated around on cloud nine despite stressful last days in the office.
Until I wanted to fly, I still had ten (!) remaining days and the decision regarding the destination and the kind of trip had to be made quickly. Of course, no one of my surroundings had the opportunity to join me in such a short time and so I found myself shortly afterwards in one of the travel agencies of STA Travel again. Specialized in long-distance trips, I had often found inspiration in their catalogs.
But a group trip organized from A to Z? Until this moment I always had made a big bow around this kind of traveling. I thought this is something only package tourists and people who have no idea of traveling in distant countries do. Both do not apply to me and so I was quite skeptical. However, one day later I booked a 17-days trip to Vietnam and Cambodia. These countries I had already longer in my mind and I really liked the planned stops of the tour.
Normally I am always very well informed about my upcoming travel destination. However, this time the preparation was extremely relaxed. Since I did not necessarily have to inform myself, it was much more fun than usually to read some blog posts about Vietnam and Cambodia and to browse the Lonely Planet.
Packing my backpack for a long-distance trip has become routine over the years and is much easier for me than packing for a weekend trip. And so I found myself sitting full of anticipation at the airport in Frankfurt, waiting for my flight to Hanoi. Never could I have imagined that the next three weeks could be one of the most intense, happiest and most breathtaking times of my life.
Together with 11 other travelers from all over the world and our fantastic guide Bamboo from Cambodia we experienced countless of great things:
We visited the Halong Bay and enjoyed the absolute silence of the bay at night while we were staying on a ship. The sunrise we experienced while having a Thai Chi lesson on the deck of the ship was stunning.
The countless rocks around us always gave a surreal landscape and we could hardly see enough of them. Definitely one of my previous landscape highlights on my journeys.
We strolled over markets and watched the people in their daily work. And yes – they really eat fried scorpions, spiders and insects. It still scares me… And – surprise – I have not dared to try.
We explored the different cities on our tour by night and celebrated life and the newly gained friendships with many cocktails and great music.
The bustling Hanoi City Centre, Hoi An with its thousands of lanterns, the modern Ho Chi Minh City or the party miles of Pnom Penh and Siem Reap – each city has its own individual nightlife and none of them wanted to be unconcerned. That meant: many “Big Nights Out” and little sleep. Nevertheless we were prepared (almost)on time for the next adventure every morning. Good performance, I guess.
We explored the Mekong Delta and visited numerous mystical temples.
The probably most famous temple complex of our trip was Angkor Wat. Not only was the sunrise impressive. We strolled through various temples for hours, learned a lot about the history and admired the imposing buildings. You can probably walk around these temples for days and still have not explored all the places. Angkor Wat is definitely a place I eventually will return to.
We had the opportunity to meet people outside of the typical tourist trails and to attend their everyday life. Even though we often encountered poverty, we experienced especially the people of Cambodia as open-minded, optimistic and heart-warming personalities. Probably we will never forget visiting the village of our guide Bamboo. We loved the time with the kids, taught them in English, played soccer with them and enjoyed the light-hearted moments.
This visit has also created a wonderful crowdfunding project. If you want to give these kids the chance to life a self-determined life full of dreams, you are invited to participate in this project. Check out the New Life Cambodia School Project!
The last night of the trip we spent in Bangkok. This time is absolutely worth it writing an own article about later. Only so much right now: we experienced so many crazy things that we can definitely take up with the Hangover movies. 🙂
At the end of my trip, I was richer with countless memories. The experiences I gained during my travels always impress me so much. I can hardly believe my luck that I am privileged to do all this. Vietnam and Cambodia are absolutely worth a trip. The particular history, the people, the food and the places are unique and guarantee an intense, unforgettable time.
In the end, all my initial fears about traveling in a group vanished. This type of traveling is available as a option on my “how-to-travel”-list from now on. I´m so glad I met all these great people. They have made this time for something very special and we will remain connected forever through the shared memories. What a nice idea. 🙂