Cambodia is justly famous for its magnificent Khmer temples, but most travelers have yet to discover the country’s much wider appeal. Alongside these ancient treasures are a host of other wonders, from pristine beaches, abundant wildlife, and irresistible villages to bustling cities and towns with lively markets, mouthwatering cuisine, and vibrant arts, crafts, and festivals. After the tragedies of the Khmer Rouge era, the people have bounced back with a warmth, openness, and infectious zest for life that will linger in your heart forever.
A tropical archipelago made up of over 17,500 islands – of which 6,000 are inhabited – Indonesia is extremely diverse, both naturally and culturally. Predominantly Muslim, the country also has a strong Hindu and Buddhist heritage, vividly reflected in its culture, architecture, and artistic traditions. Imagine yourself in Ubud with its vital traditions, on the island of Bali, home to ancient Hindu temples and unique art forms such as gamelan, or in central Java, site of Indonesia’s former capital, Yogyakarta, and the great eighth-century Buddhist complex of Borobudur. Animated markets, sweeping vistas, delectable cuisine, and endearing people all add to the mix.
The sun dances on the mighty Mekong, while deep in the rainforest some of the largest waterfalls in Asia tumble precipitously over huge boulders. Peerless craftspeople weave stunning textiles, carrying on rich artistic traditions, while on the enigmatic Plain of Jars giant stone remnants of a lost civilization tantalize with their mystery. This is Laos, where 50 percent of the countryside is still primary forest, hidden Khmer ruins are tucked into thick jungles, and the local people invite you into their homes and lives.
Isolated from the rest of the world for decades, Myanmar is Asia’s fourth largest country, rich in natural resources and ethnic diversity. From fairy-tale pagodas to spirited local markets, romantic riverside cities to remote hill tribe villages, Myanmar is an extraordinary blend of timelessness and change, as well as one of great geographic variety, rising from sea level to 19,295-foot Hkakabo Razi, southeast Asia’s highest mountain. A country that grabs hold of the imagination and doesn’t let go, Myanmar is a a place where welcoming people eagerly reach out to travelers and a society on the brink of change. The time to discover it is now.
Thailand is a feast for the senses, a magical array of landscapes, culture, history, and people. The northwest boasts multiple ethnic minorities, magnificent crafts, and carefully preserved national parks. Rarely visited, Issan in the northeast is the rice belt of the country and home to elephant polo, Khmer ruins, and Bronze-Age. Heading south, you can luxuriate on white sands, hike through Khao Suk National Park, rock climb on Railay Beach, or sea canoe through caves into tidal lagoons. And above all there are the Thai people – gracious, warm, friendly, and joyous.
Lush green rice paddies, isolated hill tribe communities, huge local markets, 1,300 miles of beaches, graceful pagodas, ancient temples, colorful folk art, mouthwatering cuisine, and, of course, the mighty Mekong River – these are just some of the enchanting images that come to mind when one thinks of Vietnam. From the elegant capital city, Hanoi, to the limestone karst islands dotting Halong Bay, this dynamic and pragmatic country is one of the most vibrant in Southeast Asia.