Best for R&R
It’s about time for some serious R&R, and Hoi An is just the place for it. Along Vietnam’s gorgeous coastline, this little town has quite the reputation as a retreat – it’s where the American troops came to recuperate, and it’s where you should plan to unwind and slow things down a notch, too.
Hoi An City
Hoi An sits right by the South China Sea, and was once an important port of call on Southeast Asian trade routes. Goods made their way from the Far East to the west, and the Japanese and Chinese traders, in particular, and left their mark here. Cloths and silks were Hoi An’s mainstay, and as you’re walking down the streets of the Old Town, you’ll quickly learn that even today, it offers great Continue reading “Hoi An, Vietnam!” »
Best for bright city lights
It’s time to jump borders again, something that is remarkably easy to do in this neck of the woods. Board a train in Phnom Penh, and half a day later, you’ll be stepping off in Ho Chi Minh City.
Ho Chi Minh City
The capital of former South Vietnam, HCMC (or Saigon) has its own share of heavy history, but there have already been large doses of that, and it’s time to keep things light for a few days. Ho Chi Minh City is a good place to do that, to – as the base of the American operations in the country. It has quite a bit of a city-slicker vibe left over, though not in a way that takes away from its innate charm. It’s a city that’s got neon lighting up the skyline and immaculately-dressed residents walking along its broad pavements, sitting check-by-jowl with tiny lanes crammed with traditional ‘pharmacies’ and quiet temples offering respite from the chaos outside.
Brad Pitt and Angelina Jolie in Ho Chi Minh City
And it is chaos outside. Everyone in Ho Chi Minh City gets around on two wheels, and the roads are always covered by a veritable swarm of motorbikes. It’s rather unnerving at first, navigating your way across Continue reading “Ho Chi Minh City, Vietnam!” »
Best for ancient kingdoms
The former seat of the Khmer Empire, Angkor is probably one of the world’s largest ancient cities, and why peoples flock to Cambodia. Indian travelers in particular will feel quite at home here – Indian influences are rife at this citadel’s architectural marvels, from garudas and nagas sitting guard atop structures to lingams sitting in the occasional nook in temples. Though once a Hindu state, the temples in Angkor were converted into Buddhist shrines when beliefs changed, leading to a somewhat curious juxtaposition of Hindu symbolism and idols with Buddhist ones.
Any visit to Angkor must start at the Angkor Wat – if only to beat the crowds that throng this site daily. Built as a tribute to Vishnu, it’s reminiscent of the temples you find all across South India, although a whole lot larger. You could spend a day wondering about its corridors and not see all Continue reading “Angkor & Siem Reap, Cambodia!” »
Best for a history lesson
Cambodia is a country of many contrasts. The population is largely young and carefree, but they carry the burden of painful memories. Poverty is a huge problem, but that hasn’t stopped the capital city, Phnom Penh, from blossoming into a well-organized, cosmopolitan (if small) city. They’ve taken the remnants of all the invading cultures and cobbled together a city that’s completely Cambodian in essence. Walk around Phnom Penh and you’ll see ritzy hotels, sprawling bungalows and wide avenues, but also seedier corners and more run-down eateries and cafes. There are also constant reminders of just how recent Cambodia’s rehabilitation has been – it’s not unusual to have someone maimed in the war approach you for alms, not something that you’ll find in Siem Reap.
To understand the country that Cambodia has become, it’s important to understand the country that it was, and Phnom Penh is perhaps the best place to do it. It isn’t the easiest choice to make – and you can definitely spend a Continue reading “Phnom Penh, Cambodia” »
Best for Outdoors
Make a three-hour trip out of Bangkok, and you’ll feel like you’ve landed up a world away. Kanchanaburi is a popular break with Bangkok Thais, who bring the party to the otherwise languid town, but it’s generally a slow, easy getaway that’s quite the antidote to Bangkok’s madness.
Phraya Nakhon Cave
Remember The Bridge on the River Kwai? Immortalized in that movie, the actual bridge constructed by WWII prisoners of war as part of the Burma Railways, spans the river Kwai at Kanchanaburi. A cemetery for those who lost their lives here, as well as a museum, stand close to the bridge and are worth wandering through. You can also take a train as it crosses over the bridge – the ride from the River Kwai bridge Station to Nam Tok is a slow journey, allowing you to take in the lovely sight of the mountains looming to one side as the river gushes past on the other; quite a contrast to its history.
Erawan National Park
Once here, also spend some quality time within the Erawan National Park. About 65km outside Kanchanaburi City, this park is a stunner. Its most famous resident, apart from Continue reading “Kanchanaburi, Thailand !” »
Bangkok, Thailand – Best for Feeding Frenzies
Bangkok is a shape-shifter. It’s every city for everyone. It does the glitz and glamour just as well as it does the sleaze. For all the culture and history it’s steeped in, it takes its parties (and its shopping) just as seriously. But what we love most about Bangkok – and it’s something we cotton on to pretty early – is its food.
To truly eat well in Bangkok, you should forego the restaurants and take to the streets. This is where, if you go with a mind ready to take on the unknown and a palate ready for whatever flavors it will encounter, you will find your nirvana.
The Chang Pier is a great place at which to get a taster of all things Thai. Whether you choose to kick this off slow and easy with a plate of slithery, peanuty Pad Thai noodles or experiment with food you don’t quite recognize and can’t say the name of, you’ll find it here. Steaming bowls of noodles in broth, hot satay skewers right off the grill, sticky-sweet desserts – let your nose be your guide as you sate your cravings.
Another great way to gain your bearings on the street is to sign up for a food tour – you’ll have the comfort of Continue reading “Southeast Asian Sojourns!” »