It is cocktail hour on the ‘sun deck’ of the RV Bassac Pandaw. It it pitch black outside and we are on a narrow portion of the river. The warm and humid breeze is strong and luscious. We can see the occasional electric light or fire on shore and hear passing boats and chanting from invisible Buddhist monasteries.
Life on the boat is very comfortable, without any of the noisy amenities or distractions of big cruise ships. No music, no loud talking. Only 30 on the boat, a mix of English, Australians, Americans, Canadians and German-speaking Swiss couple. Although our group sits together at meals and gathers for discussions, we mingle with the others. A number have been curious about who we are and what we do when we go off together.
We are on the ‘first maiden voyage’ of the RV Bassac. The mix info Vietnamese and Cambodian crew go way beyond the call of duty to anticipate our needs. There are the amusing little things that do not work, but the goodwill more than compensates.
Here is a quote from the front cover of our collection of short stories, Vietnam: A Traveler’s Literary Companion.
“What could be more instructive for the traveler–and more fun!–than to see a country through the eyes of its own most imaginative writers?”
Frankly, I can no longer imagine travelling any other way. Tomorrow we start our discussion of the book we were told not to bring, Vincent Lam’s novel, The Headmaster’s Wager, sans book. I feel sure our experience is greatly enriched through our engagement with literature and one another.