Newspaper article Coffs Coast Advocate (Coffs Harbour, Australia)

Fired Up and Romantic on a Mekong River Cruise

Newspaper article Coffs Coast Advocate (Coffs Harbour, Australia)

Fired Up and Romantic on a Mekong River Cruise

Article excerpt

Byline: DAVID ELLIS

Cruising on the Mekong River a AmaLotus has it all, and then some.

Home of romance, now a museum in Sa Dec.

BRICK kilns don't usually feature high on the list of things to do on a luxury river cruise.

But on one such eight-day journey along the mighty Mekong between Vietnam's Ho Chi Minh City and Cambodia's Siem Reap, a village kiln has proven a fascinating diversion amid daily shore excursions that extend from the ubiquitous local markets, to a leisurely farmland ox-cart ride a and the chilling reality of Pol Pot's notorious Killing Fields.

And for good measure a touch of romance, too, with a visit to the once-home of a young Chinese man whose love affair with a French teenager became the basis of an award-winning 1980s novel, and an equally successful 1990s movie . . .

This captivating cruise is aboard the stylish 62-stateroom AmaLotus that's owned by Australia's APT Touring, and which began her Mekong career only in September this year.

It's just outside the industrial and trading port of Sa Dec in southern Vietnam that guests on AmaLotus are taken ashore by the ship's tour guides and shown the workings of the beehive-shaped kilns, which to many Australians seem somehow reminiscent of the natural orange and black, and almost-similarly shaped formations, found in our Kimberley region.

And the kilns of Sa Dec operate as they have for centuries, being fired by discarded rice husks from local farms to bake bricks and tiles from other farmlands' clay a and with nothing wasted, the husks being retrieved as ash to be ploughed back into the farm soil as fertilizer.

From these kilns AmaLotus's guests are taken by small boat into Sa Dec itself for a visit to the one-time home of a wealthy and influential Chinese family, whose son began an affair in 1928 with teenager Marguerite Duras, who had been born to French parents living near Saigon in 1914.

When the affair ended in 1931, Marguerite left to study mathematics in France, joined the French Resistance during World War II, and along the way began a prolific career as a writer of plays, film scripts, essays, short fiction and novels. …

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