SE Asia: The Return

So we’re finally doing it – we’re going back to SE Asia so Leah and Luke can see their birth countries for themselves. We’re actually a year late; I originally promised Leah that we’d go when she was ten. But then we redid the kitchen in our last house and the timing was bad for a winter trip and so we put it off. Anyway, I’m thinking this is a better age for her because she’s seeing things in a deeper and more mature way than she did even six months ago, and this way Luke is 9 rather than 8. Not sure that matters a lot, but let’s go with it.

In a perfect world, we’d do this trip through the Ties program. I’ve heard so many good things about them, and I love that they have counselors who travel with the group to help with the emotional complexities of a homeland visit. But, it’s costlier to go that way. And we need to cover two countries, in three weeks. (Their programs generally only cover one country at a time). And, we have two teenage older siblings who would probably chafe at traveling with a group of adoptees, making me stressed worrying about their reactions to everything. (Based on how they acted the two times we went to Cambodian heritage camp.)

Don’t get me wrong. Quinn and Drew are good kids, and totally cool with having adopted siblings. But they are both pretty introverted and both have many of the classic gifted “intensities” and I’ve found that things just go better when our family does things on our own, with our own timetables and plans and the flexibility to make adjustments when necessary.

But doing things on our own is a pretty big challenge when you’re talking about planning a three week trip to SE Asia. The whole idea of it was so overwhelming that I kind of procrastinated making plans for almost the whole summer. I mean, just finding a travel agent is daunting. I’m using the agent we used for one (or both?) of our adoption trips – they have a good reputation in the adoption world and they advertise homeland travel on their website so I knew they wouldn’t be weirded out by our complicated needs. Still, it took some back and forth communication to fashion an itinerary that made sense. And I’m still not sure about the hotel accomidations. Surprise surprise, there aren’t many two bedroom suites that sleep six in Vietnam and Cambodia. And the few there are tend to be super pricey. So they’re booking us two rooms, connected or next door. The next door part is making me worry. And honestly, we could squish into one room. We’ve done it plenty of times. But I’m guessing travel agents aren’t able to fudge the numbers like I do when I book online. I shall choose not to lose sleep over it for now.

So here’s the basic itinerary:

Week One: Ho Chi Minh City, Vietnam. Day 1: Get over jet-lag. Day 2: Drive to Mekong Delta, river boat to Can Tho check out floating markets, stay overnight in Can Tho. Day 3: More floating markets, back to HCMC. Day 4: Visit Luke’s orphanage and his foster family. Day 5: Drive to Long Hai Beach. Then like 4 days of kicking back at the beach. {This part is to make this feel like a fun family winter vacation. I’m not saying it’s just for the teens, but I figured, it gives the trip more of a relaxed feel and less of a “this is just for the adopted kids” vibe.}

Then we take a bus from HCMC to Phnom Penh. Because I hate flying. Okay, that’s not the only reason. Also, it sounds like a more relaxing way to go and gives us a chance to see more of Vietnam and Cambodia, especially the outlying areas that we wouldn’t go to otherwise. It will take like 6-7 hours, so a lot longer than flying, but if you figure we skip the hassel of the airports, I’m not sure it’s really that much more of a time drain. I’ll let you know.

Week Two: Phnom Penh Cambodia. Actually, this is like 4 days, and includes Christmas. On the itinerary it just says “Your own arrangement” because I told the agent we can handle Phnom Penh. We have friends there, and also we’re pretty comfortable with the city because we stayed there for 8 weeks when we adopted Leah in 2002. While we’re there we’ll try to drive out to Leah’s orphanage and I’d really really love to track down her nanny. But I’m not sure if I can make that happen. Also I’m trying to make arrangements with World Vision to visit our sponsor kids. But their form is super firm about needing 3 months notice and I’m totally pushing that so I don’t know if it will work out.

And then we’re taking another bus from PP to Siem Reap. It’s also like 6-7 hours. I know the roads are scary in Asia, but I figure we’re pretty darn safe in a big ol’ bus. And I hate flying. (Don’t mention the 18-20 flight to get us to Asia. If I could, I swear I’d take a boat. Sadly, there isn’t time. Also, I’m pretty sure there aren’t any cruise ships going from the US to Asia. Very unfortunate, that.)

Week Three: Siem Reap, Cambodia. Day One, Cambodian Cultural Village and a bird sanctuary near the Tonle Sap. Because Hubby wanted to do these things. The bird thing is making me nervous. Two reasons. One: I don’t so much like birds. I mean, I do, but from a distance. So I guess as long as they keep their distance, I’ll be good. Two: There’s some kind of small boat involved. I don’t mind big boats, but small ones freak me out a little. What if we tip over? What if there’s alligators? Did I mention that I am not an adventurous traveler? Probably kind of obvious by now.
Day two: Visit Angkor Wat. The next two days say “your own arrangement” I think because I felt like they were overbooking us. So we’ll play it by ear. I have a feeling we won’t see everything we want to in just one day at Angkor Wat so we’ll probably go back there. But then again, maybe we’ll be exhausted and a day by the pool will be just the thing. Who knows?

And after that, we fly home. It’s almost exactly three weeks, but with the traveling time, it’s more like 2 1/2 weeks in-country. There’s SO much we’re not doing. And I’m afraid some days are too crammed, and other days are too empty. Do we really need four days at the beach? I have no idea. This is a very daunting task, I tell you.

The good part is, we’re getting very close to actually booking the whole thing. ACK. Good and scary. It’s seriously the trip of a lifetime because no way can we ever afford to do it again. But I think it’s going to be really good too. Good for Leah and Luke to see where they came from, and good for our family to have this hugely epic experience together. So long as no one gets sick. Or annoyingly pouty or sullen. (Certain 15 year olds have mastered the art of Sullen. Just sayin’.)

So that’s the background on our big trip. Stay tuned for fun (and funny) details that won’t fit in this overly long post!

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5 thoughts on “SE Asia: The Return

  1. Hi – I’ve just started reading your blog and want to thank you for the information already. We adopted our son from Cambodia in 2009 (during a brief window that France was allowing adoptions there) and love having the few resources we can find. I ordered the DNA kit from 23andme and am waiting for a moment when my wild and crazy 4 year old will cooperate for the spit-a-thon. And, of course, a journey back has always been in the back of my mind. Anyway – thanks and I look forward to future posts.

  2. Couple of thoughts, prompted by our return journey (we promised the 10 year old that when she aged out of her pony, turning 12, we would fund a trip to Cambodia with that; had to spend it on cancer surgery for me instead; sister and BIL just gave us expiring miles on their airline account so we’re going to be home from a 2 week trip Nov. 30th! and have done no planning at all!!):

    My mom and I went, 6 years ago, and spent 3 days at Angkor. There is so darn much to do there, on the upbeat aspect of Cambodia’s past, that as long as all your kids can bike the fun is endless. interesting, educational and a lot to be proud of.

    More detailed level, the orphanage was super depressing and we aren’t going there. If we knew anyone local to hire as a guide, hint hint, we would certainly visit the foster family in the village I found out about 6 years ago. My kid, who is almost 13 now, suspects that someone there might be able to share something about how she got there and when. We’re not as sure but the quest is good for her. If only we knew someone who could translate, and drive–preferably a lady, as my experience has been that men tend to shut down the conversation about ’embarrassing’ topics, whereas women seem more sympathetic.

    Anyway, I’ll email you with our PP and SR ideas. Might be helpful to share info.

    1. Hey Sara,
      Welcome to the blog! And I’m so glad the cancer surgery went well – or I assume so, given that you are now traveling to SE Asia. I can’t wait to hear all about your trip,and how your daughter does with everything. I’m pretty sure my friend Rhonda (who lives in PP) is too busy to serve as a tourguide, but maybe she knows someone? It’s worth asking!
      Definitely keep in touch!

  3. We’re hoping to go Christmas 2013 so I’m very interested to see how your trip goes. My daughter will only be 7 but if we wait, the boys will be a lot harder to take due to schedules. Or that’s the excuse I’m using 😉 I really just want to go back & take the whole family. We have friends that are missionaries in the province T~ is from so we’ll be able to do all sorts of things we otherwise wouldn’t have access to, & my oldest is already planning the mission project he wants our family to do while we are there. I certainly don’t want to miss that!
    Personally, I don’t think you can have enough beach time. I bet you’ll be ready for some downtime & it’s a good segue from the Vietnam part of the trip to the Cambodia part.

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