Down stream on La Marguerite: La Marguerite Cruise Review by mrknowitall
Overall Member Rating
Down stream on La Marguerite
After experiencing and seeing that the main tourist tracks in China used by big tour operators are almost totally westernized we decided to make our 'last ever' cruise down the Mekong in hopes that some of the old Asian culture still remains. We weren't disappointed.
Since I'm a tall gangly guy we always buy three coach seats together for a little extra comfort. The Asian carriers are sometimes stumped by this and want to see the passport of Mr. Extra Seat. I was very surprised to see the big cost difference for different carriers for three round trip seats as opposed to going Eastbound. Check it out.
We arrived in Hanoi a day early to recover from the flight over. The flight from Inchon was smooth and on time; about 10:30 PM Local. The VOA was no problem at all. Hand over your dollars at More one window, get a receipt and go to another window to get passport stamped. All done in about 5 minutes. There's a honcho at the taxi stand who asks where we wanted to go and assigned us a van to the Sofitel. $18US for the four of us. The extra day at the Sofitel ($300+) was pre-paid via the internet … very nice hotel with a generous breakfast. I'll skip the days in Hanoi; they're covered elsewhere in this site and in the itinerary. The bus ride to Ha Long Bay seemed rather long, slow and kinda boring to me. I think they're in the first stage of construction to make it into a real highway which should be ready by who-knows-when. Along the way the guide kept his eye out for locals harvesting and thrashing rice and spied some right next to the 'highway'. We pulled over, piled out and gathered around the workers with cameras and iPhones snapping away. They went about their business stone-faced as if we were invisible. We were probably the 10th tourist group to gawk at them that day. Halong Bay and the junk was OK but I wasn't blown away like most. The 4 hour bus ride to Hanoi Airport the following day also seemed long and boring with a stop halfway for a bowl of soup at an unbelievably beautiful golf course. The incongruity of the beauty of that course amidst the backdrop of all that poverty was bizarre. I tried my sign language art 'talking' to the caddies while everyone else ate and then off again to the airport. The hotel at Siem Reap is a gem in every way…period. Every encounter I had with Cambodians was welcoming and friendly wether he/she was selling something or not. Angkor Wat has an average daily attendance of 30,000 souls at an average of $40US each. Do the math. That's well over $1,000,000 a/day and climbing. Where does it go? Certainly not into Angkor Wat. The intricate carving are in pitiful shape and mostly black with mildew and some of the walkways are just helter-skelter flat boulders. But … I fully expected to see scooter accidents aplenty in Hanoi and saw none. I expected to see tourists trip and fall at Angkor Wat and saw none. They say they can't remove the mildew because it would harm the sandstone. Baloney! I've seen 2000 yr. old sandstone Hindu temples in humid, back-country India that the gov't keeps almost pristine. One restroom for 30,000 people …. what the heck? Angkor Wat, The Great Pyramid and The Colosseum are in the shape they're in because 1) there's no incentive to improve the site as long as the tourist count keeps going up. Why change anything? and 2) I guess tourists want to see things as they've seen them for years in pictures.
About 10 days before we left home we received a notice from AMA that the Marguerite would be boarded at Kampong Cham because of high water. I was livid. A 5 hour bus ride! Turns out I liked it. The bus was called a "VIP bus" and they weren't kidding. Silky smooth ride over a bumpy road and 3 across very comfy seats. I enjoyed seeing some of rural Cambodia that I wouldn't have seen otherwise. One stop on the way. The boat isn't a glamour queen but totally adequate in every way. We were on deck 2 with a useless, tiny "balcony" and we felt a little cramped, but no big deal. The meals were OK but I'll eat anything. I'm not a foodie. I always had the feeling that the kids working on the boat were doing the very best they could do whatever they were doing. Speaking of kids, if you take this trip try see how many locals you see that may be over 65. There ain't none.
South Florida has been my home base for over 40 years so naturally I thought there was no level of heat or humidity that I couldn't deal with. Wrong. My age (73) probably has some bearing but the heat and humidity at every location had me soaked in 15 mins. and combined with the blazing sun had me dragging up the rear everywhere. I don't recall even a zephyr of a breeze the entire trip. It's obviously my problem because everyone else just soldiered on without a complaint even tho they too were totally soaked. My wife refuses to sweat.
The hotel in Saigon is beyond first-rate and the food is great. One final note: My gut has always had a mind of it's own so I'm always a little anxious about long bus rides. One lomotil pill and half a Pepto tablet every morning and I'm in control. Makes traveling much, much easier. Less