Top Things to Experience for Vietnam and Cambodia Tour
Unforgettable experiences are everywhere in Vietnam and Cambodia. These are two countries that are on the top of almost everyone’s must-visit list in Asia, and are two of the most popular tourist destinations for western travelers. And with their rich and varied histories, unique cultures, and the abundance of things to do, both ancient and modern, between them they cover almost everything you could want in a tour of Asia.
Cambodia is a land that has a violent history, dating back thousands of years to the beginnings of the Khmer Empire, although civilization has existed there for more than four thousand years. Back in the 9th century, the Khmer Empire was established by the ancient king, Jayavarman II, and a succession of sovereigns ruled this land for centuries. Then came the dark ages of Cambodian history, which lasted for almost a hundred years, until the French came to claim their colonial territory. In more recent years, Cambodia suffered from years of civil war that almost tore the country apart.
The tourist industry in Cambodia was late to rise, and has only been part of the economy for less than 25 years. And it is due mainly to the rise of the Khmer Empire that Cambodia has become popular. Filled with temples hidden away in the jungles for more than 1200 years, Cambodia is now showing the world what glories and architectural innovations it has brought to the region. But there are more things to do and experience in Cambodia than just temples.
Top Attractions in Cambodia
The legendary temple complex near Siem Reap contains one of the most famous temples in the world, Angkor Wat. And no trip to Cambodia would be complete without visiting it to watch the spectacular sunrise over this abundant temple complex. Originally built as a Hindu temple, it was converted to Buddhism in the 14th century. The temple contains thousands of examples of ancient Asparas carvings, and each one is unique and different from all the others. Angkor Wat is the most well-preserved of all the temples in Siem Reap, but it is nice to pay a visit to some of the less well known and well kept temples, as the differences in architecture are astounding across the whole temple complex.
Traditional Khmer Performance
For art lovers everywhere, Phnom Penh has one of the most stunning dance performances in the world, and it is one of the best things you can do in Cambodia. The Apsara Show, a traditional Khmer performance, is a cultural dance that draws its roots from the ancient courts of the gods and kings of the Khmer Empire. The dance revolves around a single theme, usually a story, which is narrated by the flexible movements of the dancers and the beautiful eye-catching costumes.
Dolphin Spotting on the Mekong River
The Irrawaddy River Dolphins are the rarest species of aquatic mammals in the world, and are unique to this part of Southeast Asia. These cute, snub-nosed dolphins make an exhilarating experience as one rides a local boat down the Mekong River, one of the last natural habitats of these divine creatures. The trip includes stunning natural views of the riverside country landscapes, and guarantees you will see the dolphins, as they love to swim in the wake of the boats as they cruise up and down the river. It is this innate friendliness that has caused their near-extinction in the past.
The Famous Temple of Tomb Raider
The only temple in the Angkor Complex that was left in exactly the same state as when it was discovered, Ta Prohm was the ideal choice for the filming of the hit movie, Tomb Raider. A fascinating example of the power of Mother Nature, as the enormous roots have taken hold of the temple, and seem to defy anyone or anything to make them let go. Probably the most photographed and photogenic place in Cambodia, this ancient sanctum is one of the best tourist attractions in the country.
Vietnam has played a pivotal role in the history of many of these Southeast Asian countries, such as Laos, Cambodia, and even Thailand, and has been widely influenced in the north by the Chinese provinces of Yunnan and Guanxi. China ruled what is now known as Vietnam for almost 1700 years, and they took over their own country for over three hundred years until the French and Portuguese took over in the 16th century.
A thin strip of land separates the northern area of the country from the southern, and was once known as the “demilitarized zone” during the Vietnam War. First established during the First Indochina War, it was used to keep the North Vietnamese soldiers out of South Vietnam. The war ended in 1975, and the country was reunited into one again.
Vietnam was instrumental in the overthrowing of the Cambodian Dictator, Pol Pot, and aided in the signing of the Cambodian Peace Agreement in 1991, that signaled the start of tourism in these two nations. After the many years of war and strife, Vietnam was finally able to reform its economy, and their rise to tourist superstardom began in earnest. A land of stunning natural beauty and complex culture, with dynamic megacities and small, tribal hilltop villages, Vietnam has conquered the tourist market with its variety of attractions, both old and new.
Top Attractions in Vietnam
Ho Chi Minh’s Mausoleum
The Ho Chi Minh Mausoleum is situated in Ba Dinh Square in Hanoi, and is one of the most visited attractions in the country. It is the final resting place of the most iconic leader in Vietnamese History, who was known to his people simply as “Uncle Ho”. Albeit against his wishes, his body was preserved in a glass shrine at the mausoleum in the center of Hanoi City. Modeled on the mausoleum of Lenin, in Russia, it was opened to the public in 1975, and the granite building has been a place of homage to many of the local people, knowing that their “beloved leader’ will live on forever.
Phong Nha-Ke Bang National Park
Set in the Quang Binh Province of north-central Vietnam, this beautiful natural park is a UNESCO World heritage Site, and the result of 464 million years of crust development that has produced the oldest karst formations in Asia. The park features an impressive cave and grotto system that extends for 70 kilometers underground, and its biggest chamber is more than five kilometers in length. This tropical rainforest area is one of the most important eco-regions in the Indo-Pacific area, and offers many unusual and astounding geomorphic features, including underground rivers, dry caves, dendritic grottos, and suspended cave formations. It is also the home to many endangered species of animals, including the black bear, tigers, and Asian elephants.
The Sand Dunes of Mui Ne
The sand dunes of Mui Ne are two of the most amazing geological wonders on the planet. incorporating huge areas of sand dunes of two different colors – red and white – it is a place best visited in the morning or late evening, as the days get too hot to handle.
The White Dunes are the larger of the two by far, and are known to the locals as Bau Trang, which means “White Lake”. Unusually, the area also has a huge number of pine trees growing within it, which seem to thrive despite the incredible heat of the day and the apparent lack of surface water.
The Red Dunes, feature sand that is reddish-brown in color, which makes them a great place for photography. Smaller and easier to reach, they are also higher dunes, which makes them popular for the local sport of sand sledding. Plastic sleds can be hired from the locals, and one can sled down the dunes in the same way one sleds on the snow, without the intense cold. The red sands are also known to shift regularly, making it almost impossible to get one’s bearings if you get lost.
Unique Homestay Experience
One of the most unique things about Vietnam is how friendly and accommodating the people are. And if you want to see the real Vietnam, and explore the culture of this ancient nation and how real people live, then a homestay with a real Vietnamese family, in remote areas of the country, is the way to go. Tours can be arranged through some of the local travel agencies, but for a real experience, you can ask around in the villages, and usually find a family that will let you stay for a few days, for a small fee. Eat the food they cook, see how they live there everyday lives, and enjoy the stunning beauty of the natural landscape, with no interruptions from the outside world.
Train Street, Hanoi
One of the least visited spots in Hanoi is known locally as train Street. very few people visit, since it is not widely known, but it is an exciting experience to walk down this strange residential street that has a railway track running down the middle of it. Every day at 3:30pm, a huge train passes along the street from the nearby railway station, and it is a photographers heaven to get a photo of the street as the train passes through. Even without the train running, it is a unique and unusual place to visit, and well worth a trip just for he photo opportunities.
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