Travel to Exotic Destinations...
The expression, Indochina, is perhaps a creation from French colonial times when Cambodia, Laos and Vietnam were administered as one entity, but the meaning becomes clear at Angkor. The original Hindu temples were inspired by India, but the later Buddhist additions came from further east, a fascinating and awe-inspiring combination.
After Angkor was abandoned due to pressure from Thailand, nature overwhelmed the temples and only now have they been partly reclaimed from the jungle. Angkor Wat is the most impressive and Ta Prohm, the ‘jungle’ temple the most photogenic, but every temple represents a variation on the theme and the accumulated effect is astounding.
Vietnam is historic and scenically beautiful, but also thought-provoking and moving. Increasing prosperity is changing the country, the villages as well as the cities. The palace and tombs of Hue make a strong impression, reminiscent of the Forbidden City and Terracotta Army in China, whilst Ha Long Bay equals the scenic beauty of Guilin. Vietnam has moved on from the ‘American War’, as they call the ‘Vietnam War’ – observe how the victors write the history! The Cu Chi tunnels and Presidential Palace with helicopter, present a snapshot of the war, whilst our central Ho Chi Minh City (Saigon) hotels facilitate a drink at the iconic rooftop bars of the Caravelle or Rex. The water puppet show and Saigon River cruise are good entertainment, colourful and varied in content.
Laos is a surprising contrast to Vietnam, less developed with everything on a smaller, more personal scale. Local colour can equate to ‘tourist shows’ in some countries, but here it is the Tagbat: 2,000 monks walking around the old royal capital of Luang Prabang at 6am every morning in a ceremony embraced by the local people, who turn out daily to give food to the monks. You will wonder at the impressive temples and palaces but the gentle people and beautiful scenery may stay longer in the memory – the French called Laos ‘the earthly paradise of South East Asia’.