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Sammy Rabin

Fairfield, New Jersey Travel Agent

Off the Beaten Path in Asia

One of my most memorable trips was an extended trip to Vietnam and Cambodia. The trip combined time in Hanoi and Halong Bay in Vietnam and Siem Reap, Cambodia with a week-long Mekong River cruise. As a travel industry professional, and as a member of Tzell Travel Group, in particular, I've had the privilege of visiting some of the world’s most beautiful and interesting places, and this trip was a highlight of my life. The people are very special, the food some of the best anywhere, the scenery awe-inspiring, the history fascinating and the Buddhist philosophy in both countries can have a profound and beneficial effect. It was a once-in-a-lifetime experience. 

Many things made this Asian trip unique. I am a specialist in wellness travel, and one of my passions in life is running. I have run more than a few marathons, and running is a part of my daily life. When I get to a new destination, the first thing I do is go for a run to get a lay of the land. It is a great way to get to know a new destination and to get yourself centered when you travel, especially after a long trip that includes time zone changes.  

When I arrived in Hanoi, the first stop on my tour, I went out at sunrise for a run. It was fascinating. On the one hand, I was running, which is the most peaceful thing in my life, but I was bombarded with this multisensory experience coming at me all at once – residents doing tai chi around the lake, playing badminton, taking exercise classes, dancing, all before their workday started. The sights, sounds, and smells helped to create one of the most memorable runs I have ever had and were a great introduction to the region. After Hanoi, we took a one-week cruise on Halong Bay and the Mekong River. Halong Bay is a UNESCO World Heritage Site, and it is incredibly tranquil and scenic. One of the most magical memories there was doing Tai Chi at sunrise on top of a junk boat. It felt very spiritual. 

Vietnam is mostly Buddhist, and the spirituality in this country combined with the gentle way people think and interact with each other is on a different level than we know. There is a compassionate and kind atmosphere among the people everywhere you go. You feel this even more in Cambodia, which is the home of Siem Riep, one of the spiritual capitals of the world, and Angkor Wat, among the world’s largest temple complexes. People come from all over the world to make a pilgrimage there. We also watched the sunrise from Angkor Wat, which was a magical moment. 

In both Vietnam and Cambodia, you can eat incredibly healthy and delicious foods. Most of the cuisine in Vietnam and Cambodia is either vegetarian or fish, and it is made with natural ingredients harvested by local farmers and fishermen. There is very little junk food. Anywhere you dine is usually very reasonably priced as well; dinner for two with wine costs only about USD 50 for an experience that rivals anything you can get in Manhattan.  

As a wellness aficionado, I loved the experience of doing Tai Chi on top of a boat at sunrise, meditating at sunrise in front of Angkor Wat temple and jogging through the city and the countryside of Hanoi, Saigon, and Siem Reap. These experience helped make this trip rejuvenating for the body, spirit, and mind.  

With more time, we would have added some cooking classes to bring the food experience home with us, but our itinerary was packed. I did take the time to jot down dozens of travel ideas and inside information, including places to stay, off-the-beaten-path attractions, names of particular dishes and great places to dine, as I was enjoying to the fullest every moment of our Asian tour. These will help me in planning future trips to Vietnam and Cambodia for myself and my clients!

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