Asia Features

Visiting South East Asia

Vietnam, Cambodia and Laos offer unrivalled attractions in the form of ruins, colonial remnants, stunning scenery, ethnic diversity and exotic food. Their shared history as part of Indochine is still evident in the fading French architecture, the cuisine and the ubiquitous reminders of bloody wars, but it is their distinct differences that render the area such a fantastic travel experience. Overall the best time to visit the region is between November and April.

In modern-day Vietnam one thing in particular stands out: it is, quite simply, the remarkable speed at which the country is developing and the extraordinary ambitions its leaders are planning to achieve. Vietnam now hovers in an enigmatic and paradoxical time zone, somewhere between the late Industrial Revolution and the post-industrial age. It is, in part, these changes that make Vietnam the absorbing and gripping place that it is.

Inpenetrable jungles; abandoned temples choked with foliage; white-sand beaches fringed with palms – in almost every respect Cambodia satisifies the hackneyed expectations of Southeast Asia. And, if you venture off the beaten track, Cambodia also offers that increasingly elusive feeling of discovery; the feeling that you are entering into arcane and unknown worlds where few Westerners have been before. without doubt, ancient Cambodia produced one of the world’s greatest civilizations at Angkor. This temple complex near Siem Reap is truly breathtaking. But don’t just stop there; Angkor Wat is merely one temple at the heart of a thousand others.

On the beaches to the south you can find relaxed resort towns, such as Kep. In the northeastern provinces, tracts of red earth cut through hills carpeted in jungle. While at Ban Lung you won’t be disappointed by the waterfalls, boat rides and the stunning, bottle-green waters of Yaek Lom Lake.

Laos is fast becoming the darling of Southeast Asia, satisfying all the romantic images of perfumed frangipani trees, saffron-robed monks, rusty old bicycles and golden temples, all set among a rich tapestry of tropical river islands, ethnic minority villages, cascading waterfalls and vivid green rice paddies, and bound together by the mighty Mekong River, the country’s lifeline. 

As compelling as these sights and sounds are, the lasting impression for most visitors is of the people and their overwhelming friendliness. Life is simple in Laos but the people share with their former French colonists an infectious joie de vivre that ensures that good food and great company are the pinnacle of enjoyment. If you’re seeking a relaxed lifestyle and a warm welcome, you’ve come to the right place.

This is edited copy from Footprint Handbooks. For comprehensive details (incl address, tel no, directions, opening times and prices) please refer to book or individual chapter PDF
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