Uniworld River Cruise Diary from Vietnam and Cambodia
As recorded via social media and retold by Uniworld’s Maria Grimardi, Vice-President of Marketing
The hook: Guy Young, Uniworld’s President & CEO arrival grin.
How could I resist digging deeper to find the story behind the above Facebook update? I too have had that big-sloppy grin on my face upon arrival to my destination.
What an incredible trip! Even though I cruised virtually, the social media diary of the Timeless Wonders of Vietnam, Cambodia & the Mekong River captured the essence of the area and has made it to my Bucket List pinboard on Pinterest. While keeping up with the stream, I hardly noticed that the purpose of the trip was to enhance the product knowledge of the sales team in the increasingly popular Asian itineraries offered by Uniworld Boutique River Cruises.
Two very different countries, joined by one amazing river
CruiseBuzz Exclusive: Diary by Uniworld’s Maria Grimardi, Vice-President of Marketing
We went from lively cities: Vietnam’s Ho Chi Minh City and Hanoi, and Cambodia’s Phnom Penh and Siem Reap and then stepped back in time when we boarded River Saigon discovering the peaceful rhythms of rural life that still endure along the Mekong — gateway to floating villages and quaint riverside towns where people still toil the life-sustaining river as they have for centuries.
We visited traditional Vietnamese floating markets and homes by way of luxury sampan. We took a morning cyclo ride through Phnom Penh with its wide boulevards and French-infused architecture to the grand Royal Palace and Royal Museum.
Then a tuk-tuk ride through lovely Siem Reap, gateway to the Angkor Wat temple complex. We received a water blessing from local Monks while at a beautifully situated eighth-century temple complex, Wat Hanchey, where Guy Young, President, gave alms to the monks after the blessing.
We put on our Indiana Jones gear to explore Cambodia’s UNESCO-designated Angkor Wat temple complex, a very mystical and spiritual place, indescribable by words. We embraced a romantic spirit at the former home of Mr. Huyn Thuy Le made famous by its connection to best-selling French novelist, Marguerite Duras in Sa Dec, Vietnam, and we journeyed on a luxury junk, (high-masted sailing ship), where we set sail on an overnight breathtaking cruise of Ha Long Bay, a unique wonder of the natural world—a precious open-air geological museum and UNESCO World Heritage Site.
One morning, we woke at 5:00 am to watch a spectacular sunrise on the grounds of Banteay Srei, which is considered by experts to be the pinnacle of artistic achievement in the Angkor period, then rode elephants while watching monkeys frolicking in the foliage around us, and capped everything off with a wonderful sunrise picnic by a lovely lake.
Throughout the trip, we were treated to all of the wonderful culinary delights and cultural performances, such as a traditional Apsara dance performance during dinner in Siem Reap. And we shopped at the wonderful day and night markets throughout the trip, and then we would all come together to show one another what we purchased that day, and who got the better deal. Perhaps the greatest highlight was meeting the people who eagerly embraced us and welcomed us into their lives and their culture, which certainly brought everything together to make the entire trip more beautiful, enlightening, and fulfilling.
One other highlight of the trip was the bond and camaraderie we created as we traveled together, which is key to being successful team and company.
CruiseBuzz interview with Uniworld’s Maria Grimardi, Vice-President of Marketing
Cruise Buzz: How can I portray your cruise story without making it seem like a sales trip?
Uniworld: This trip was everything anyone could ever wish for and more!! We let our inner adventurer (and child) go wild when we became Indiana Jones and Laura Craft as we made our way through the ancient “jungle temple” of Ta Prohm at the Angkor Wat temple complex, and marveled at the tentacle-like tree roots that have enveloped the entire structure. Or when we visited a stalagmite cave with a kaleidoscope of colors in Ha Long Bay. And we were even adventurous, although some of not so brave, when we ate chili garlic crickets on our ride to the River Saigon.
It was exotic from the balmy nights on the ship, especially at sunset. One night was even more magical as we sailed the Tonlé Sap River, a tributary of the Mekong, where we experienced the most enchanting sunset. Of course, when we woke to watch the sunrise over the ethereal Ankgor Wat temple complex listening to the sounds of life coming alive with another new day and new adventure, we all were spellbound.
And the food, it was phenomenal throughout, even for those with the most discerning of palates. Throughout we were treated to so many special dining experiences indigenous to each place we visited, which was a combination of delectable fare, warm atmosphere, and traditional entertainment, such as the Aspara dinner show, and a special Welcome Dinner at a wonderful local restaurant in Hanoi featuring live music and an authentic northern Vietnamese dining experience.
And as noted above, the people we met throughout our journey touched all of their lives in so many ways. For some, it was holding hands with the young children in the village of Wat Hanchey as they eagerly practiced their English with us. For others, it was chatting with our guides about their lives and growing up during very challenging times, yet somehow through it all, they remained resilient, happy, and optimistic in spite of everything. And for others, it was all of those things, as we embraced their energy and their indomitable spirits, which for me, was my own personal highlight in a trip where every day was a highlight.
Cruise Buzz: Why Asia?
Asia is perfect for those who crave a more expeditionary type of journey, Uniworld’s Vietnam and Cambodia itinerary offers guests the opportunity to experience two countries whose traditional charm and exceptional beauty are just beginning to open up to the outside world.
You will see how old-world markets and ancient monuments are harmoniously intertwined with the incredible boom of modern architecture in Vietnam’s Ho Chi Minh City and Hanoi, and Cambodia’s Phnom Penh. You’ll take in the timeless landscapes, and let your inner adventurer go wild. The earthly and ethereal wonders you’ll discover on this unforgettable journey are sure to leave your life forever changed.
For more information about Uniworld Boutique River Cruises check out the detailed profile by Avid Cruiser’s River Cruise Advisor.
Connect with Uniworld
To check out all the photos from the Uniworld Global Sales Team Meeting 2012, visit the following links: