Vietnam Voices: A Balanced Opposition

Hanoi to Saigon and Mekong River Cruise to Angkor Wat, Cambodia


Vietnam and Cambodia


October 29 – November 12, 2012 (14 nights)


Vietnam: A Traveler’s Literary Companion, several stories from contemporary Vietnamese writers living in Vietnam and abroad
The Headmaster’s Wager by Vincent Lam
Understanding Vietnam by Neil I. Jamieson – this book is highly recommended. It will not be discussed.


A necessary first step to understanding Vietnam is to recognize that “Vietnam is a nation, not a war.” It is a complex mix of contrasting landscapes, languages, cultures, religions, values and voices. It is a society that rests on a system of yin and yang, a balanced opposition.

It is not possible to understand the soul of a nation and the heart of a people from afar. It requires the wonder-filled inconvenience of travel and the immediacy of contact. This Travel Pursuits adventure will place our feet on the ground in a fascinating land and require us to exercise all of our senses as well as our minds.

We will try to understand Vietnam’s “balanced opposition” by talking about its stories and traditions, by navigating its land and rivers and mountains, by tasting its cuisine, by experiencing its old and new, and especially by listening to the voices of its people.

The mighty Mekong River is the heart and soul of mainland Southeast Asia. Its annual flood and drought cycles still influence the daily life of its population as surely as they defined its history.   We’ll navigate this endlessly colourful and engrossing river upstream from ancient Saigon to the splendour of Angkor, discussing literature as we experience the river.

The Mekong Pandaw accommodates us in comfort, style and colonial character. Finished in brass and teak by traditional craftsmen, the vessel itself is an object of beauty.  Its very shallow draft allows it to travel to remote areas which would be unreachable by other vessels, greatly enhancing our explorations.

Our journey culminates with the grandeur of Angkor, one of the greatest wonders of Indochina. The ancient capital is a complex of temples, tombs, palaces, moats, reservoirs and causeways, built over a period of 400 years by various Hindu and Buddhist rulers.  We’ll spend three nights in Siem Reap, exploring some of the impressive and extensive ruins. Join us as we enjoy the stunning scenery, fascinating history and delightfully hospitable people along the Mekong River.

Click here to view itinerary


Gary Schoepfel is a seasoned discussion leader with the Great Books Foundation, Harrison Middleton University, Classical Pursuits and beyond.


US$5195 (main deck) – US$5695 (upper deck) based on double occupancy.

Fee includes books, accommodation, two meals a day (all meals on board the river cruise), discussions, tours, excursions and admissions.


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