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David & Maureen Houston Vietnam & Cambodia

Today’s speakers were David & Maureen who are experienced travellers & lived in the far-east at one time. The fascinating photographs they showed & their in-depth commentary gave an unforgettable insight into the country & peoples of Vietnam & Cambodia.

David’s interest in Vietnam is of long standing, sparked off by the coloured illustrations in the National Geographic Magazine in the fifties. Travel to the area was impossible for many years when the country was at war, or recovering from war.  In 2010 Maureen & David realised their dream with an extended tour of the coastline of Vietnam, the Mekong Delta & the temple sites at Angkor Wat.

The climate is tropical with alternate hot & humid monsoon & dry periods. The geography is very diverse. In the limestone region flat land is very scarce with mountains plunging directly into the sea.The populace live on boats & intensively farm the paddy fields, which are all cut by hand. In spite of the all pervading mud the women are always spotlessly turned out in Chinese-style dress, except for western-style wedding dresses.  All water has to be transported from the mainland to the many islands off shore.  Travel is by the ubiquitous, double masted, junk-rigged wooden boat.  . In complete contrast are the towns, with crowded street markets complete with stalls selling exotic vegetables, fruit & fish.  Exquisitely embroidered pictures are for sale, many of them made by those injured & maimed in the war.

The temple complexes of Angkor Wat in Cambodia are different again. These Hindu temples are built on a colossal scale stretching for many kilometres in each direction among rectangular lakes & all covered in intricate carving.  They were constructed & decorated by an army of craftsmen between 800 & 1400 AD & were only rediscovered in about 1850. Since then much of the enveloping jungle has been stripped away to reveal their splendour.  The area is now a UNESCO World Heritage site with thousands of visitors each year. Children are everywhere, but unlike many other eastern countries they are not begging but are merely curious & glad to meet visitors.

Maureen & David revealed a colourful kaleidoscope of temples, towns & countryside & a land full of unexpected & contrasting vistas with an industrious population valiantly struggling to recover from the ravages of savage cruel wars.

A vote of thanks was proposed by Nigel Lister