Top Things to Experience for Cambodia and Myanmar Tour
Posted on 8/01/2018 6:04:16
Two of the six countries that made up the original area of Indochina, Cambodia and Myanmar are now on the list of top destinations in Asia for foreign tourists. Set in what was once known as the Indochinese Peninsula, now called Mainland Southeast Asia, these two unique destinations are well known for their temples and tourist attractions, as well as the spectacular scenery and landscapes that can take your breath away.
Officially known as the Kingdom of Cambodia, this small Asian country once hosted one of the greatest empires in Asia. The mighty Khmer Empire, which left behind the ancient temples at Angkor, once ruled much of what is now Vietnam, Laos, and Thailand and lasted for hundreds of years. A country torn by civil war and genocide, Cambodia has come back from those dark times to become a shining light of tourism in Asia, with thousands of people visiting the country every month, come rain or shine.
Often mistakenly visited for the temples alone, Cambodia is much more than just Angkor, and there are hundreds of other places to visit that are as good, if not better. Admittedly, the temples are impressive, to say the least. And they are definitely a must-see location while you are in the country. However, the urban areas of the country are just as spectacular. With its diverse and ever-changing night life, the nearby City of Siem Reap is as much as popular destination as Angkor. And the capital city, Phnom Penh, is charismatic and revitalized, with sumptuous riverside restaurants, first-class wining and dining, and cultural architecture that is second to none.
Top Attractions in Cambodia
The beguiling charms of Cambodia affect almost everyone who visits, and people flock from all over the world to visit what is rated to be the most beautiful and comprehensive complex of Buddhist and Hindu temples in the world. And the most famous of all the temples is Angkor Wat, a Hindu temple that was dedicated to the god, Vishnu, and which was converted to a Buddhist temple in the 14th century. Covered with carvings of nymphs, known as Asparas, Angkor Wat is the most impressive and well-preserved of all the temples in Cambodia, and is a spectacular sight as the sunrise comes and shines on the temples.
Located in the temple complex of Koh Ker, a short drive from Siem Reap via a new road built just for tourism, lies the ancient temple pyramid of Prasat Thom. Koh Ker was once inaccessible due to the encroaching jungle, which was cleared when the temples were discovered by archaeologists. The site consists of more than 40 temples and wats, of which Prasat Thom is the main highlight. This pyramid-like structure is made up of seven tiers and stands 98 feet tall. Perched atop the pyramid, as if guarding the holy site, is a mythical half-man half-bird creature, all of which make the temple more reminiscent of the Mayan ruins of Central America than the usual Khmer architecture.
One of the few towns that escaped destruction in the days of the Khmer Rouge, Kratie is a spectacular place of well-worn French colonial buildings that stretch along the edge of the Mekong River, which flows through the town. Known as one of the best spots to view the stunning sunsets over the river, Kratie provides a unique insight into the culture of Cambodia during the French Indochinese occupation. And as if all that was not enough, the town plays host to one of the world’s most endangered and exotic species, and is the best place to see the freshwater Irrawaddy Dolphins. Found only in this one river, these snub-nosed cousins of the ocean dolphins can regularly be seen playing in the river, and love to follow the wakes of boats that cruise the Irrawaddy near Kratie.
Out in a wild and sparsely populated area of Cambodia, in a region replete with undulating hills, dense jungles, tropical river valleys, and stunning waterfalls, lies the area known as Mondulkiri. This part of the country is a nationally protected region, and is home to some of the most endangered species in Asia. From the wild elephants and water buffalo to the dangerous and seductive leopards, the region is a fantastic place to visit for those who love wildlife and culture. Occupied by the Bunong minority group, their villages are scattered all over the area, and are excellent places to interact with the beautiful Asian elephants in their natural habitat. And with the hills and valleys that cover the region, it is a great place to go trekking.
Who could visit Cambodia without seeing the amazing city of Phnom Penh, the nation’s hardy capital. It may not be the most beautiful city in the world, but with its unique colonial buildings and the picturesque promenade along the river, the beauty of Phnom Penh shows in a different, and more spectacular way. Torn by war for decades, the city has emerged on the other side stronger and more determined, and once again holds the name, “the pearl of Asia”. With the stunning Royal Palace, the crowded night and day markets, and the sophistication of the modern bars and restaurants, Phnom Penh is a complex city that takes time to properly explore.
This former British colony, once called Burma, is now known officially as the Republic of the Union of Myanmar. With around one third of its perimeter consisting of coastline in the bay of Bengal, this beautiful country offers all kinds of holidays, from the beach vacations of legend to the tranquil lakeside retreats that can leave you feeling at peace with the world. And it can also offer the nightlife that so many people visiting Asia yearn for.
A hugely Buddhist country, the whole place is scattered with temples and monasteries, and the ancient ruined city of Bagan has a temple complex that is comparable to that of Angkor. With more than 26 square miles of temple sites, the Bagan Archaeological Zone is like stepping back in time to a period when the Pagan Kingdom ruled the entire length of the Irrawaddy River Basin. With a huge number of ethnic groups around the country, exploring Myanmar can sometimes feel like you are the first explorer to have set foot in some of the villages, which have changed very little over the centuries.
Top Attractions in Myanmar
Yangon, formerly Rangoon during the British Imperial occupation of the country, is slightly a smelly and chaotic, yet charismatic city, which holds its own unique charm for visitors to Myanmar. The sights of the downtown colonial buildings are awe-inspiring in their beauty in this ragged former capital. Still the largest city in the country, Yangon is the commercial hub of Myanmar, and a haven for the artistic. Since the country was reopened to tourism, it is in Yangon that the most changes can be seen, with floods of investors from all over Asia descending on the city to open trendy new bars and restaurants, and a plethora of boutique hotels in the old colonial buildings.
The massive golden icon of Yangon could not be missed on any visit to the city, and as one of the most famous pagodas in the world, Shwedagon Pagoda is breathtakingly beautiful. the pagoda’s golden spire can be seen from almost every rooftop in the city, and is a symbol of Burmese pride for the people. A complex collection of gilded stupas, set around one huge pagoda, Shwedagon is one of the most visited sites in Asia. Buddhists go to pray at the eight day-posts set around the pagoda, depending on the day of the week on which they were born. There is one post for each day of the week, and two for Wednesday, one morning post and one afternoon post.
Similar in form to the temple complex at Siem Reap in Cambodia, Bagan is the pinnacle of ancient architecture in Myanmar. Containing hundreds of temples that date back almost two thousand years, the site is best explored by motorbike or tuk-tuk. There are organized tours of the temple complex for those who want a guided tour, but it is easy enough to get around, and there are handy maps available that mark the most popular temples in the site. And if you can get up early enough, the sight of the sunrise over the jungle-encrusted temple complex is worth the bleary eyes of an extra early wake up.
U Bein Bridge
The world’s oldest and longest bridge, U Bein was built in 1850, and is made of locally chopped teak. Looking like a rickety pile of logs embedded into the bed of the Taungthaman Lake at Mandalay, this unique crossing is one of rare beauty. The subject of thousands of silhouette photos, showing the bridge against the sunset, U Bein has gained in popularity over the years, but even the crowds of people that line the bridge to watch the sunset every day cannot detract from the unique beauty of the vista.
Still one of the most famous and popular destinations in Myanmar, Inle Lake, with its famous “leg-rowers”, is a place that will bring happiness and tranquility to your visit. The idyllic setting of the lake is a welcome sanctuary after visits to the temples of Bagan or the delights of Rangoon. The lake shore is filled with local craft shops where you can find locally hand-made gifts to take home, and boat rides across the lake, powered by a leg-rowing boatman are a divine way to get around. And if that is not enough, the hotels and guest houses are built on stilts out in the lake.