Southeast Asia is a cluster of tropical countries famous for their stunning white sandy beaches, exotic cultures and colorful markets. Yet in spite of the chilled-out atmosphere, Southeast Asia is rich in ancient and modern history. A worthy example of this is found in the region which, together with Northern Thailand, is also known as Indochina.
Ha Long Bay in Vietnam
Explore Vietnam, where the colors are more vivid, the history is more compelling, and the tastes are more divine. Board a traditional junk boat to cruise the emerald waters of Ha Long Bay and see where nature has gone wild. Ha Long translates as ‘where the dragon descends into the sea’, and legend claims the islands were created by a great dragon from the mountains.
- Located in the Gulf of Tonkin within Quang Ninh Province, 165km from the capital of Ha Noi;
- Covering an area of 43,400 hectare;
- Including over 1,600 islands and islets, most of which are uninhabited, forming a spectacular seascape of limestone pillars and is an ideal model of a mature Karst landscape developed during a warm and wet tropical climate;
- The site’s exceptional scenic beauty is complemented by its great biological interest;
- Established as an UNESCO historical and cultural heritage site in 1962;
- Vietnam was divided politically into two rival states, North and South Vietnam. Conflict between the two sides intensified, with heavy intervention from the United States, in what is known as the Vietnam War. The war ended with a North Vietnamese victory in 1975.
Angkor Temples in Cambodia
After decades of civil war and the genocide wrought by the Khmer Rouge, Cambodia’s history is both inspiring and depressing. Ascend to the realm of the gods at the jungle-choked ruins of Angkor Wat, the world’s largest single religious monument. Only a handful of the 1,000-plus temples have been cleared of forest, while the rest remain so atmospherically cloaked in vines they are often used as backdrops for Hollywood movies.
- Located in the Northern Province of Siem Reap;
- Covering an area of 400 sq kms;
- Consists of scores of temples, hydraulic structures as well as communications routes;
- The center of the Khmer Kingdom for several centuries, Angkor is one of the most important archaeological sites in Southeast Asia;
- Established as an UNESCO historical and cultural heritage site in 1992. In 1992 it was also included on the UNESCO List of World Heritage in Danger;
- The Vietnam War extended into Cambodia, during which the Khmer Rouge took Phnom Penh in 1975 and later carried out the Cambodian Genocide from 1975-1979. The Killing Fields are a number of sites in Cambodia where large numbers of people were killed and buried by the communist Khmer Rouge regime, during its rule of the country from 1975 to 1979.
Plain of Jars in Laos
After years of war and isolation, Laos is fast earning cult status among travelers with its most pristine environment and intact cultures. Discover the mysterious Plain of Jars, giant stone jars of unknown ancient origin scattered over hundreds of square kilometers.
- Located in the Province of Xieng Khouang near Phonsavan, which name means ‘hills of paradise’;
- More than 90 sites, each site ranges from 1 up to 400 stone jars;
- The jars vary in height and diameter between 1 and 3 meters and are all without exception hewn out of rock;
- Between 1964 and 1973, Laos was subject to the most intense bombing raids ever by US bombers. The US dropped, particularly on the Plain of Jars, 262 million cluster bombs, of which 80 million UXOs (unexploded ordnance) failed to explode and remain a deadly threat to the population;
- Laos is the only landlocked country in Southeast Asia. The Mekong River forms a large part of the western boundary with Thailand while the eastern border with Vietnam.
Bagan Ancient City in Myanmar
A century later Myanmar remains a world apart, with natural and man-made wonders in an under-explored part of Southeast Asia. In Bagan witness the beauty of a misty dawn breaking over 4,000 Buddhist temples. Despite centuries of neglect, looting, erosion and regular earthquakes, this temple-studded plain remains a remarkably impressive vision.
- Located in the Mandalay Region, in upper Myanmar on the bend of the Ayeyarwady River;
- The Bagan Archaeological Zone, defined as the 13 x 8 km area centered around Old Bagan, consisting of Nyaung U in the north and New Bagan in the south;
- During the Kingdom of Pagan between the 11th and 13th century, over 4,000 Buddhist temples, pagodas and monasteries were constructed in the Bagan plains alone, of which the remains of over 2,200 temples and pagodas still survive to the present day;
- The city was the capital of the Kingdom of Pagan, the first kingdom to unify the regions that would later constitute modern Myanmar;
- For most of its independent years, the country has been engrossed in rampant ethnic strife and a myriad of Burma’s ethnic groups have been involved in one of the world’s longest-running unresolved civil wars. In 2011, the military junta was officially dissolved following a 2010 general election, and a nominally civilian government was installed;
- In 1989, the military government officially changed the English translations of many names dating back to Burma’s colonial period or earlier, including that of the country itself: “Burma” became “Myanmar” while “Irrawaddy River” became “Ayeyarwady River”.