Chapter 7 – Cambodia, Vietnam and Singapore

Walkabout Map6




“Chhum reap suor”

It is terrible and unconscionable what has happened to this peaceful country in the recent past.  Millions of Khmer (the proper name for the people of Cambodia) were murdered, starved, tortured, and abused under the Khmer Rouge and yet they were innocent.   Add to this the bombing that occurred during the Vietnam War (more bombs were dropped on Cambodia than Vietnam) and this poor country lost millions of its citizens – most of whom were the educated middle class.  Despite all these atrocities the people are still full of energy and hope for the future.


We had some very cool experiences – from donating a new fresh water well system for a rural community of families, to playing an impromptu volleyball game with a group of young boys in a rural village outside Siem Reap – (WOW were the kids awesome and a great time was had by all), to helping a rural family prepare food for 30 Monks at 5:00 a.m. We feel very fortunate to have had this cultural experience which has touched our hearts.


Over a packed 6 days in Cambodia we spent 4 days in Siem Reap and 2 in Phnom Penh. We toured 4 temples in Siem Reap – Angkor Wat (largest religious structure in the world), Angkor Thom (a thousand years ago it was the largest city in the world with over 1 million people), the Banyon Temple (mystical feel as its been taken over by trees that have grown through the rock structure), and Banteay Sri (called the “Citadel of Women”) —- each of which is unique and inspiring.  We did one day of temple touring by bicycle (over 25km) some of which was thru jungle paths – what a blast!


In Phnom Penh we had a guided tour of the Palace and S21, which was one of several prisons used to contain, torture and then send Cambodians to the killing fields to be murdered by the Khmer Rouge – it was both impactful and emotional.  Even though the entire population of Phnom Penh (2 million people) was driven out of the city in 1975 the city is now vibrant and growing.




  • Downtown Siem Reap is a HOOT!  PUB STREET (actual name) was our favorite hangout – are you surprised?!!
  • Cambodia is the country; Khmer is the name of the people (from the ancient Khmer empire)
  • Khmer Rouge was the name taken by the communist party controlled by the psycho Pol Pot who murdered over 3 million Khmer during his 3-year rein
  • During the Vietnam/American war, Cambodia was the recipient of more bombs than Vietnam – over 8 million land mines have been found and removed!
  • Being a Monk in Cambodia – You can be a monk for 2 months, 5 years, 20 years — whatever period of time you want.  Being a monk is a personal commitment to learn a way of life and gain education. Many Khmer become monks, especially in rural areas, where it is difficult to go to school.  One young fellow told us “being a monk for a few years is highly respected – a good way to get a girlfriend and wife!
  • Khmer (Cambodians) are a very warm, respectful, gracious, and giving people – we could learn a lot from them (maybe Trump should pay a visit?)
  • They are incredibly poor but resourceful – tourism is increasing which is helping





“Xing chio”

Similar to India, Vietnam is hard to describe in words, it is a country to be experienced. We spent a bursting 17 days (including Christmas and New Year’s) travelling across the south, central and north regions of Vietnam.  Each region boasts different sights, scenery, climates, foods, and culture.  We toured Ho Chi Minh City (formerly Saigon – which is still called Saigon by everyone living there except the printed maps!), spent Christmas in the Mekong Delta (great celebration dinner with … you guessed it … celebrity type Karaoke singers — awesome! – brought in the New Year in Hoi An, cycled through Hue, had a blast in Hanoi, and marveled at Halong Bay.


Saigon is said to have 12 million people and 7 million scooters – not unusual to see mom, dad, 2 kids and multiple packages on a single scooter – similar to India, there is a great dance between vehicles!! We cycled, rode on bicycle rickshaws, kayaked, had boat rides, multiple cooking lessons, consistently ate 6 course meals (not sure we lost weight), toured a local market with a French chef and witnessed what the locals like to cook (live frogs, snakes, bugs, eels, anything the earth provides!), private dinner with a full-out kung fu demonstration, attended a Vietnamese style Cirque do Soleil, watched a water puppet show (not as exciting as it might sound), had a private lesson from one of the communist government’s chief publisher/editors on the history of Vietnam (which was very interesting and surprisingly not overly biased), toured the Cu Chi Tunnels (used by the Viet Cong in the “American war” that we call the “Vietnam “war” – scary but fascinating), visited a fruit farm to taste local fruits (very different than ours in Canada), visited multiple palaces, temples, and museums, but the highlight was Halong Bay now one of the 7 wonders of the world.  Ha long Bay is mystical, beautiful, surreal and someplace everyone should try to see!




  • There are over 90 million people in Vietnam and more than half are younger than 25 and an estimated 70% were born after the War in 1975 – a fascinating blend of communism and full out capitalism exists
  • Vietnamese people are self-assured and determined people who after being occupied for most of the past thousand years still have a very strong cultural identity largely maintaining their own language
  • They love their coffee, beer and rice wine (hooch by any other name) sitting on “kiddy like chairs”, and have a great sense of humor
  • They called Steve, throughout Vietnam, after meals “Happy Buddha” hee hee
  • Politically they know they are walking that fine balance of being on friendly terms with China, Russia, and America





Welcome to the city of the future – a blend of “Pleasantville and the Minority Report”! Although we were in Singapore for only 4 days we managed to pack it full of lots of fun stuff.  We had a guided tour of the downtown, visited the Marina Bay Shore (this is the hotel with the ship on top), cruised down the river, crappy bike rickshaw ride, 2 minute experience in China Town, Night Safari night at the zoo (which was really cool), had drinks at Clarke Quay and went on the G-Max Reverse Bungy (throws you a height of 60M, at a speed of 120kmph, with a g-force of 5G —- what a rush!!!).   We have never seen such a clean and well organized city.  As our guide proudly explained to us “you can feel safe walking the streets at any hour because everyone knows if you cause trouble you will be jailed and caned (i.e. smacked with a bamboo stick)!!”.



  • Great architecture – both modern and new
  • One of the most expensive cities we have ever visited — a glass of beer or wine is $20 — needless to say we were very well behaved!
  • It’s incredible what they have accomplished in only a few years — their success to date and vision for the future is based on providing services to the world in areas where they are the most knowledgeable such as water management and technology
  • Strategically – they have had a consistent vision for 20 years they have held to – hard to find that in the western world!


As we like to continue to do, below is our ratings chart!


New Ratings Blog7




Gallery: Cambodia

Gallery: Vietnam

Gallery: Singapore



Onwards to Australia and New Zealand!

Making it So,

Fran and Steve



Share Post

    Oh wow guys, what a wonderful Wednesday morning I’ve had travelling with you to such wonderful places. What a contrast between Cambodia/Vietnam and Singapore eh, couldn’t be more different in every way…Thank you so much for sharing, your photo’s are such a hoot, you really make me laugh ! Thanks for that…

    Life here isn’t as exciting as it is there for you, but it is moving forward, that’s for sure. I’ve been working less than I usually do (my 2017 goal) and seem to have some time on my hands to do things I love versus working all the time, which is so great (however, being the type of person I am, I get really bored really quickly, so need to find some more hobbies…)

    Been “looking after” the needs of our mutual friend, who seems to be managing quite well. Grumpy at times, but generally starting to cheer up as the days pass. He’s going to therapy today for the first time, that should help with mobility. I’ll pop in there this afternoon and kick his butt just for fun !

    You travel well to NZ and Aus. Have a XXXX beer for me and enjoy with warmth. So looking forward to your next blog, keep it coming, I think we’re all living vicariously through you two !

    Hugs and safe thoughts !


    January 25, 2017 at 6:01 pm
  • Connie Fair

    Sounds like I need to visit Cambodia and Viet Nam. Great stories and photos

    January 25, 2017 at 7:00 pm
  • silvia vajushi

    Hi you two
    Its not the places you are visiting (although quite fantastic) Its the sheer joy on your faces that is so good to see. Keep on enjoying!!!

    January 25, 2017 at 7:30 pm
  • Terry Stockus

    Beautiful happy smiling faces…what a treat to read on this grim and gray January day! What an incredible adventure, truly fantastic! Safe and happy travels to the Land Down Under and Fran, be careful in Oz…the last time I was there I came home pregnant! Yes, there is something in the water so my advice is to stick to booze! I know you can handle it! xoxo

    January 25, 2017 at 7:54 pm
  • Sandy K

    Wow. Now that was an AMAZING blog. “Experience of a lifetime” doesn’t even come close to doing the description justice. Stay happy!

    January 25, 2017 at 8:49 pm
  • Dianne Balon

    I am truly inspired by your experiences. Thank you so much for sharing and for the amazing details you provide. Love the smiles on your faces in every photo!!

    January 25, 2017 at 11:33 pm
  • Great job of your posts. Such an amazing journey. Lots of interesting facts too! It was amazing to hear 900 million in Vietnam. WOW. Such a life altering experience!

    January 26, 2017 at 2:42 pm
  • Donna Shields

    WOW, what amazing pictures! My favorite is the one of the woman carrying the baskets in Cambodia, but they are all great. I am sending them to Robyn to bring back memories for her – she loved Vietnam and Cambodia too. As usual, your writings and pix make me want to go! (What is with the elephant in the Singapore gallery? Not performing, I hope.) So good to hear from you again – we were getting worried, but all for naught – you are truly having the adventure of your lives. It’s great that you make such positive contributions as well – the water well for instance. Continued safe travels to you; enjoy your time “down under”. I am feeling a bit overwhelmed at the time in planning my trip to India. We will have a week on our own after our tour ends. So hard to decide where to go!
    Thinking of you often,
    Cheers and love, Donna.

    January 26, 2017 at 5:46 pm
  • Donna Shields

    PS Forgot to say – you look great in the straw hat Fran! And Steve, that chef’s hat really suits you!!
    Love, D.

    January 26, 2017 at 5:50 pm
  • Roz Calder

    Hi guys – looks like you’ve had a great time in SE Asia. Not long before you’re in NZ and we do hope we can catch up to share a drink or two as we did in India! Do drop us an email with your arrival dates and we’ll see how diaries can be co-ordinated. And of course we can give you plenty of advice on where to go in NZ.
    Roz and Michael

    January 26, 2017 at 9:34 pm
  • amazing 😀 happy to see you people

    January 27, 2017 at 5:12 am
  • Gwen

    You have just confirmed with your pictures and commentary that we need to visit South Asia. Love the pics and stories. Happy travels my friends!

    January 29, 2017 at 5:23 pm
  • Jill Schlender

    Fran and Steve. So wonderful to see the two of you taking a break from life and embracing “a trip of a lifetime” experience. Your stories and photos are amazing. Some bring back memories from my travels and others make me realize how many more places I want to visit! Really looking forward to your Australia and New Zealand blog post as Greg, Ada and I are leaving for New Zealand March 4 for a two week visit and then off to travel up Australia’s eastern coast on March 20 for six weeks, until the end of April. Happy Travels!

    February 17, 2017 at 5:56 pm

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