A Journey Through Indochina
Indochina Travel Blog› entry 1 of 1 › view all entries
Day 1 Arrived in Bangkok and checked in to the Royal Hotel. I'm told that as Bangkok is a city of Rivers and Canals then the best place to see it from is the water. We therefore hired a longtail boat for a trip along the busy 'klongs' where we passed many of the stilt house villages that make up a large part of the city. We also visited the Royal Barge Museum.
Day 2 In the morning we took in a sightseeing tour of the city, on foot and by boat. We started at the Grand Palace and saw the stunning Emerald Buddha. We also went to Wat Po (Temple of the Reclining Buddha) and Wat Arun (Temple of Dawn) which contains Thailand's tallest prang (tower). In the afternoon we drove to Kanchanaburi where we visited the famous 'Bridge over the River Kwai'.
Day 3 Today we spent the morning exploring the jungle and visiting the nearby minority Mon village and we even took an elephant ride. In the afternoon we took a bamboo raft down the Kwai where we relaxed in the sun and spent time swimming in the river.
Day 4 An early start today as we left via longtail boats to meet our minibus for a drive back to Bangkok Airport. Our flight took us to Luang Prabang in Laos. Luang Prabang is situated in the rolling hills of the Upper Mekong River and is a tranquil town celebrated for it's exceptionally lovely setting.
Day 5 All the main places in Luang Prabang are close together so in the morning we start at Wat Visun where we saw the biggest Buddha statue in Laos. Wat Xieng Thong (Golden Temple) built in 1559 and probably the most beautiful temple in Luang Prabang. We also visited Wat Sen and Wat Mai ("What? Another Temple?" I hear you say). In the afternoon we walked down to the jetty to board a boat for a trip along the Mekong out to the Pak Ou Caves. At the caves we climbed the steps up the limestone cliffs to reach the sacred Buddhist shrine. Although now abandoned by the monks, there is an altar for incense burning, flower offerings and numerous rock shelves crammed with thousands of Buddha images of all shapes and sizes.
Day 6 In the morning we spent time wandering around Luang Prabang looking at the temples and visited the Royal Palace where the National Museum is housed. In the afternoon we took a short flight to Vientiane. This low-built, red roofed town is the attractive, if somewhat sleepy capital of Laos. Incredibly for SE Asia the streets are largely traffic free save for pedestrians, bicycles and mopeds. In the afternoon we visited the Victory Gate, the That Luang stupa which is said to contain a hair of the Buddha and Wat Sisaket which is packed with fine Buddha images. In the evening we took a stroll along the banks of the Mekong to watch the sun set over the Thai city of Nong Khai across the border on the western bank.
Day 7 In the morning we visited Buddha Park where we saw the amazing gardens and statues. In the afternoon we drove to the airport for our flight to Hanoi in Vietnam.
Day 8 In the morning we toured the main sights in Hanoi. Architecturally styled like a French provincial town with tree-lined boulevards and substantial low-built houses; the city is wonderfuly nostalgic. Among the interesting sights are the charming One-Pillar Pagoda and the Presidential Palace, a very fine example of French colonial architecture. Ho Chi Minh himself, a spartan-living and scholarly man, chose not to live in the Presidential Palace; he preferred instead a simple teak 2-storied stilt house specially built for him in the grounds (it reminded him of the many years he spent in the forest directing his wartime campaigns, first against the French, then the Americans).
Day 9 In the morning we visited Ho Chi Minh's mausoleum which resembles Lenin's in Moscow. In the afternoon we drove to Halong Bay in the Gulf of Tonkin. Thousands of jagged limestone islands rise out of the jade green waters like the hairy scales of a submerged dragon. In fact Ha Long means ' where the dragon descends to the sea' as legend tells that the rugged seascape was created by the pounding tail of a dragon as he ran from the mountains in to the sea, carving islands in his wake.
Day 10 In the morning we took a cruise amongst the islands in Ha Long Bay. We stopped at some of the hidden grottoes beneath the towering cliffs and also stopped on one of the quiet beaches, fringed with thick jungle, to have a swim. In Ha Long Bay we saw an amazing assortment of boats, junks and wooden sampans with their sails hoisted as they glided through the Bay. On board the boat we had a delicious seafood lunch. In the evening we returned to Hanoi to board the overnight sleeper train to Hue.
Day 11 We arrive in Hue which is one of the great cultural and religious centres in Vietnam. The Perfumed River divides the city in two; it has been an inspiration for poets and painters for many centuries. In the afternoon we take a long-tailed boat to the Thien Mu Pagoda.
Day 12 On the left bank in Hue is the Old Citadel, the palace built by the Nguyen dynasty (Vietnams ruling emperors from the early 1800's to 1945). The citadel has formal moats and impressive ramparts which were constructed by 20,000 men and was an exact copy of the Forbidden City in Beijing. Although most of the Inner City was totally destroyed during the month long Tet Offensive (1968), the vast outer walls and the West Wing remin and are an eloquent reminder of the palace's former glory.
Day 13 Today we enjoyed a scenic drive across the spectacular Col des Nuages (The Pass of Ocean Clouds), passing rural scenes of thatched, wooden houses and lime green rice paddies. Pausing at Danang, the one time centre of the important Kingdom of Champa (2nd century AD to 1720).
Day 14 The historic merchant town of Hoi An had become one of the busiest international trading ports of southeast Asia by the 17th and 18th centuries and it stil retains it's medieval charm with many of it's buildings superbly preserved.
Day 15 In the morning we drove back to Danang to take a flight to Ho Chi Minh City (Saigon). On arrival we had a walking tour of the city's central sights. We visited the Presidential Palace (renamed Reunification Hall) and the War Crimes Museum. We also took a cyclo taxi for a tour of the Cholon district, the animated Chinese area.
Day 16 Today we drove to the famous Cu Chi tunnels which formed an amazing underground command base for 10,000 Viet Cong troops and were a major part of the Tet Offensive in 1968.
Day 17 The morning was used to have a lie in and generally relax. In the afternoon we took our flight to Phnom Penh in Cambodia. On arrival we immediately took in a city tour which went to the Royal Palace and the Silver Pagoda (also called the Pagoda of the Emerald Buddha). We also visited Wat Phnom.
Day 18 Once again we embarked on an exploration of the city. We went to the National Arts Museum which contained a notable collection of Khmer sculpture. We also went to the Toul Sleng Genocide Museum (a High School that became the Khmer Rouge's main torture and interrogation centre).
Day 19 & 20 In the morning we flew to Siem Reap, our base for exploring the ancient temples of Angkor. This amazing ruined city, built between the 9th and 13th centuries deep in the Cambodian jungle, is spread out over some 155 square kilometres and is scattered with walled cities and magnificent stone temples, sculptures, causeways and reservoirs. Firstly we visited the 1st Angkor Capital which contains the Rolous temple group including Bakong, Preah Ko and Lolei. In the afternoon we visited the 2nd Angkor Capital including Ta Keo, Kravan and East Mebon with a sunset at Pre Rup. In addition we took a boat excursion to Tonle Sap, Great Lake of Cambodia and one of the natural wonders of Asia.
Day 21 We continued our explorations with a visit to the temples of King Jayavarman VII, reputedly Angkor's greatest king. The complex includes many of the most impressive buildings and temples in Angkor including Angkor Thom, the Bayon and the Elephant Terrace. Late afternoon we made our way back to the airport for our flight back to Bangkok.