Saturday, December 29, 2012
Farewell Phnom Penh:
4,350 km/2,703 miles in length. It begins somewhere on the Tibetan Plateau, flows southwest through China, flows between Myanmar and Laos, then Thailand and Laos (turning into Laos a couple times), flows into Cambodia, and eventually into Vietnam where it empties into the South [China] Sea.
Vietnam and Cambodia may be a little upset with China who has dammed the Mekong. China has agreed to provide some of the power generated to the other countries along the Mekong, but... Over the years the flow of the river has significantly decreased, and this river is the livelihood of millions of people. So they tend to drop the word China from the name of the sea.
Even in Cambodia, most of the river traffic belongs to Vietnamese ships:
Sea creatures will look up and see a "life form" larger than themselves and be frightened off; the eyes are also thought to guide the boat through fog or spot schools of fish...
pictures of things carried on motorbikes.
But after a short PowerPoint which ended with the Vietnam boat people, Thien segued into his own story. He (at age 13) and his sister were chosen by his father to be sent off on a fisherman's boat. They ended up in a refugee camp in Hong Kong, living on a median of the runway of the airport, for 8 years, boys separated from girls. Thien was then sent back to Vietnam. He had to work very hard to catch up on his education, and he vowed to earn money to make sure his four brothers all went through university, including brothers too young to have known him before. Tears were shed during this presentation.
Tom then told his story, and things were not easy for him either as barely a teenager, having to provide for his family when his father went to war, with a scarcity of basic goods and of opportunities.
Lunch was subdued today.
At 14:00 we had a tour of the RV Indochina. This boat is one of a fleet of the revived Irrawaddy Flotilla company started in 1995. In 1998, the owner, Paul Strachan, discovered an original Clyde-built steamer called the Pandaw that he had restored. New ships in the Pandaw-style were built including the RV Indochina.
We started on the lower deck, going through the corridor past the crew's cabins, with racks for their shoes:
Thien was made to wear a tie, along with the captain who always wore a tie:
Tomorrow, Chau Doc.