The most treasured sights of a great journey aren’t the temples, urban skylines or mountain vistas — they’re the faces of the people you meet, as A&K Managing Editor Dan Wiencek learned on a recent trip to Southeast Asia.
For ages, I have wanted to see Angkor Wat and the ruins of the Khmer Empire, the bustling streets of Bangkok and the rapidly rising nation of Vietnam. I had the opportunity as part of a seven-night cruise down the Mekong River, which began (after a few prefatory days in Bangkok and Siem Reap) at the port town of Kampong Cham, Cambodia, and ended in Saigon at the river’s mouth. Yet as great as these places are, what drew me irresistibly day after day was the people in the riverside towns along the way. I was astonished at the openness, curiosity and friendliness we encountered, without exception, everywhere we went. Most “vacation photos” — my own especially — are shots of the same sites thousands of other people have taken (only not as good). When it came to exploring the Mekong, the “sights” that stand out for me are the faces, each one unique, each one bringing the destination to life in a way no building or natural wonder ever could.