The Radio 4 game show supremo found he was far from tongue-tied when he took to the waters of the Mekong river cruises.
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As anyone who listened in to Radio 4’s Just a Minute game show two weeks ago will know, I was until very recently a cruise virgin. More than that, I was positively anti-cruise, turning down several offers to give lectures on board. Being holed up in a vast ship with a bunch of retired strangers and tossed about on the high seas is not my idea of a fun holiday. Besides, my wife is a poor sailor. Show her a photograph of the Isle of Wight ferry and she goes green at the gills. So: no cruising for the Brandreths.
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And then we decided to visit Vietnam and Cambodia. Each of our three grown-up children had been on backpacking expeditions and implored us to go. “I’ve got books to write and films to make for The One Show,” I protested.
“Dad,” said my son, “joining a protest march in 1967 doesn’t mean you know all about the Vietnam War.” One of my daughters chimed in: “You can’t die without seeing the temples of Angkor. They are one of the wonders of the world.”
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Chastened by the young and wise, I did my homework and found that the best way to cover all bases in the minimum amount of time was to take a 17-day trip by land and river, starting in Ho Chi Minh City (Saigon) in the south and finishing in Hanoi, cruises on Mekong river to visit Cambodia in between. Word of mouth led me to Titan Travel. I was immediately encouraged by the brochure cover, which promised a “VIP home departure service from every UK address” (I am all for adventure, but like most sixtysomethings I like my creature comforts), but the moment I signed up for a Uniworld cruise, doubt crept in.
Mekong river cruise: Gyles Brandreth's river cruise holiday adventure