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Happy ending - how a veteran Vietnam War protestor found peace with Pandaw

We're delighted to share this fabulous online album of a Pandaw Indochina adventure, compiled by Lynn Bains, who joined our Classic Mekong cruise in March this year. Lynn wrote us a lovely email afterwards calling her experience a "worthwhile journey rather than a tourist holiday" and praising the design and special ambiance of a Pandaw ship that allows passengers space to commune with "the peace of the river" to their hearts' content.

Like so many Pandaw passengers, Lynn herself has a fascinating "back story", one that is well worth sharing. A native of New York State she exiled herself to Scotland to bring up her kids in the 1970s, partly because she was fiercely opposed to the US's conduct of the Vietnam War. Lynn spent the last four decades as an adopted Scot, teaching drama. She is still the go-to lady for actors seeking to perfect their American accents.

The Classic Mekong Pictures 1

Although a seasoned traveller and an experienced cruise-goer, her Pandaw trip was the first time she had been to Vietnam and Cambodia, countries that have (at least indirectly) loomed large in her life and in her vision of international peace and justice.

So what was it like finally to go there?

"I had hesitated for a long time because I met a few people at class reunions who had originally been there as former soldiers I didn't really feel comfortable doing the 'tourist' thing in a place where so many people died and such terrible things had happened."

"But when I actually went there, and saw the Reunification Palace [in Saigon] and saw all those pictures of the effects of Agent Orange and the ghastly things that Americans had done, what struck me more was the material about the support that the North Vietnamese had received from all over the world during this cataclysmic event. As you will see from my online book, those were the images that I took away. And the Vietnamese struck me as people who know where they are going and are moving forward, God love them, they won!"

In Cambodia, Lynn decided against visiting the Killing Fields, on the reasonable grounds that she "didn't want it to go on an 'excursion' to a place so many people had died". Instead she wanted to see for herself how Cambodians go about their daily lives, and - as you will see from the album - spent a happy morning at Phnom Penh market instead.

The Classic Mekong Pictures 2

But she did manage to have a good talk with Pandaw's guide about the realities of the Khmer Rouge era which she had followed from afar at the time the nightmare was unfolding. "I was really glad I did that; the guide had been through it himself and he talked me through what it was like for him."

"He was telling stories about his whole family and how his mother almost died, how the monks had educated him, how he became a teacher, then a guide. Despite living through that horrendous time he was still able to smile. I felt privileged to hear him and felt his pride in his country as he explained the politics in Indochina which I was trying hard to understand."

What's next?

Lynn is already planning her second Pandaw expedition from Mandalay to Yangon in March 2017, immersing herself in reading, including George Orwell's novel Burmese Days, whose anti-colonial sentiments chime very strongly with her. We can only hope that the Irrawaddy adventure lives up to her (high!) expectations, and that she shares her photos and considered thoughts with us afterwards.

PS. Lynn also had kind things to say about Paul Strachan's book The Pandaw Story, which chronicles how much hard work over the past 21 years went into making it all look so easy.

 

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CLASSIC MEKONG

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