Here we visited the Imperial Enclosure and the Forbidden Purple City, home of the Emperor and his many concubines. A bonus to all these trips is travelling though the countryside, and actually seeing how the people live.
Next day we berthed at Ho Chi Minh City, still known as Saigon. Although the country is communist, it has started to see the benefits of free trade, and it is here, for the first time, that we were able to see the infiltration of Western-style buildings. This is the place to buy silk, and if you see what you like, they will whip up an article of clothing in a matter of hours. Bikes are everywhere, and one of our greatest feats was crossing the road which is done by striding out, not hesitating, and allowing the bikes to go around you.
Although people living in the Vietnamese countryside are comparatively poor, it was not until we arrived in Cambodia that we saw real poverty. Unfortunately, much of the land along the border was bombed during the Vietnamese-Cambodian war, and with many of the landmines still there, the Cambodians have been unable to cultivate the area. It is sad that even now at least 100 people are killed or maimed by them every day.
Although our guides were quite difficult to understand because of the way they pronounced our language they, in both Vietnam and Cambodia, were able to give us an insight into the way their countries are run and the current political situation.
One of the saddest things we learned was of the corruption within the Cambodian government, and the fact that any aid goes straight into their pockets rather than helping the people.
We also learned that in the countryside it is only the males who get educated. During our drive to the capital, we passed markets selling clothes that had been sent to the country by different charities.
In contrast to the poverty we had witnessed, in Phnom Penh we visited the exotic Royal Palace, home of the present King.
One of the tourist attractions in the city is the school where many of the war's victims were held and tortured, now a museum and reminder of the atrocities that had occurred. Rather than visit it, I took a stroll along the hot dusty streets to explore the street markets nearby.
Our final destination, the Port of Bangkok in Thailand, has much of the trappings of a Westernised city. Here, we visited the night market in the Silom District where you can pick up copies of designer-branded products, particularly handbags and watches. This too is the district famous for its 'night life'.
In a very short time, we had visited four different countries, absorbing some of their culture, and history. Not bad for a two-week holiday!
Web site created by Mark Griffin