|Our second installment on the countries of Southeast Asia will be the final segment of Mrs. Lin’s Kitchens’ “Travel to Asia” newsletter series. This month, the spotlight is on Thailand, Vietnam, Cambodia, and Laos. Though they are neighbors, each country is strikingly different, evoking its own special appeal to travelers. Join us on a brief tour of these enchanting Asian countries.
A gem of Southeast Asia, Thailand has a balance of everything travelers are looking for. The land and the people of Thailand come to life with a harmonious blend of nature and culture. Tourists from all over the world flock to Thailand by the millions each year to see temples and archaeological sites, enjoy a thriving nightlife, splurge on an abundance of shopping possibilities, and feast on delectable food. To top it all off, the people of Thailand are known for being well-grounded, easygoing, and gracious. Some sightseeing highlights from Bangkok are described below.
Bangkok – Those who take the time to discover Thailand’s capital won’t be disappointed. A can’t miss stop in Bangkok is the Grand Palace. The Grand Palace is adjoined to a series of temples, including the Chapel of the Emerald Buddha, the country’s most sacred temple. With royal mausoleums, national museums, classical Thai architecture, grand audience halls, and much more to see, visitors to the Grand Palace can explore for days.
Thailand is recognized as the “shopping capital of Asia.” In Bangkok, markets such as the Pratunam and Banglampoo brim with Thai silks, traditional handicrafts, imported items, antiques, leather goods, gemstones, clothing, and a multitude of other goods. In the market, prices are usually uniform and bargaining is expected. Nightlife in Bangkok ranges from intimate nightclubs, such as those on Sukumvit Soi 33, to high-tech discos and notorious live shows, such as those found on Soi Diamond. For an inexpensive lunch, travelers can make their way to Ambassador Food Center in Sukumvit, where tasty Thai dishes come to life.
(Do a search on Thailand on Mrs. Lin’s Kitchen to experience some of the quality-made products from this region. We have everything from books on the cuisine and arts of Thailand to beautiful chopstick sets, bamboo placemats, wall fans, incense stands, and more.)
Visitors to Bangkok can wind down from the hustle and bustle of shopping and sightseeing by catching a Thai dance, drama, or musical performance. Thai performing arts include puppetry, traditional music, ram wong and fawn lep dance, and khon, classic Thai theater. Also, various nature regions surround Bangkok, with waterfalls, caves, hiking trails, and wildlife abounding.
Though tourism in Vietnam has been at a minimum during the decades following the Vietnam War, it has been increasing slowly. Seasoned travelers consider Vietnam among the most beautiful destinations in Southeast Asia. Behind the country’s mystery are a cultured and hospitable people, a haven of untouched coastline and rainforest, and the magical remains of ancient civilizations. Hoi An has the remains of pre-war architecture, set in a small fishing village that once was a major trading port. Other sightseeing highlights include the following.
Saigon – This former capital of South Vietnam is vibrant with cafes, restaurants, and discos. Visitors can take a ferry on the Saigon River, stroll in the Saigon Zoo and Botanical Gardens, or visit Saigon’s most famous Vietnam War-era site, the War Crimes Museum.
Dalat – North of Saigon is Dalat, a mountain resort with a temperate climate and natural attractions such as forests, waterfalls, and lakes. With a range of hotels and cafes quietly immersed in calming scenery, Dalat is a popular getaway for honeymooners.
Nha Trang – This fishing town is popular among local tourists. Travelers enjoy the clean beaches and historical ruins. Diving and fishing are also pastimes in Nha Trang, which is surrounded by small, nearby islands.
(Did you know that the popular dish, pho, is part of Vietnamese cuisine. Try flavoring your pho with some of the sauces available in our Grocery Category.)
Cambodia is a destination for the adventurous traveler. Sparsely populated, Cambodia is sheltered from neighboring countries by thick forests. Within the country, attractions include the following.
Angkor – The ruins at Angkor, remnants of the ancient Khmer empire, are among the world’s greatest architectural achievements. The three most important sites to view portions of the 300 monuments scattered in Angkor are in the Bayon and Baphoun region, the Ta Prohm and Preah Khan region, and the Angkor Wat region.
Phnom Penh – Once nicknamed the “Paris of the East” for its wide boulevards, Phnom Penh has recovered from years of occupation. Clean streets, new shops, museums, nightlife, and friendly people make it a favorable stop. Cambodia’s Royal Palace is here, exhibiting Phnom Penh’s traditional architecture. Close to Phnom Penh are phenomenal beaches, including Koki Beach.
Tonle Bati – This resort town is host to a recreational water park. The temple of Wat Ta Prohm is also here, with five chambers and two galleries that include images of Hindi gods. (At MrsLinsKitchen.com, take a look at our textiles, pagoda lamps, teaware, and more. Notice how items made in Asia attest to the significance of the temple, from its architectural influence to its impact on daily ritual.)
Our final stop is Laos, a country that only recently opened its borders to visitors. Once called the “Land of Elephants,” Laos is spectacular because of its untouched natural wonders and serene atmosphere. The majority of Laos is covered in mountains, and the Mekong River rungs along the southern region. Though travel within the country may be time-consuming, it is definitely worthwhile. Four main ethnic groups reside in Laos—the Lao Loum, the Lao Thai, the Lao Theung, and the Lao Sung. Visitor highlights within the country include the following.
Vientiane – The capital of Laos, Vientiane is a market town that can be explored within a matter of hours. Aside from shopping, travelers can visit monuments and religious sites such as temples and statues. The Pra That Luang, a relic of the Buddha, is considered Vientiane’s most important religious site.
Luang Prabang – Nestled between the Mekong and Khan rivers, Luang Prabang is in a wondrous location that boasts with caves, palaces, and temples. The Royal Palace Museum, once the palace of Savang, is a well-maintained relic of a former dynasty. Mount Phousi offers panoramic views above the Mekong River and is surrounded by small temples.
The Plain of Jars – This mysterious region gets its name from a scattering of stone urns found in the vicinity, which visitors can see through an organized tour. These large 2,000-year-old urns are left in the hundreds, and their origin and purpose are unknown. Located in a wreckage site where numerous bombs were detonated, the Plain of Jars is a surreal site to witness.
(Jars of a different sort can be found on MrsLinsKitchen.com, including an array of vases, celadon, sakeware, and teaware products. Take a look at our selection.)
From bustling tourist destinations and exotically appealing travel spots to re-emerging countries and isolated wilderness locations, there is much diversity to be found in Southeast Asia. However, gracious people, stunning visions of nature, delectable food, and thriving cultures are something each Southeast Asian country has in common. Mrs. Lin’s Kitchen hopes you have enjoyed the adventure and taken a small part of Southeast Asia with you.
Previous topics in the Travel to Asia series include China, Japan, Taiwan, Korea, and Southeast Asia I.
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Holiday Shopping Guide for Women
Flowers in the Sky – Cherry and Plum Blossoms in Asian Culture
Travel to Asia: Southeast Asia II
Travel to Asia: Southeast Asia I
Travel to Asia: Korea
Travel to Asia: Taiwan
Travel to Asia: Japan
Travel to Asia: China, Part II
Travel to Asia: China
1,000 Cranes in Asian Culture and Art
Chinese New Year
Cookware for Your Asian-Style Kitchen