Top tips to know before travelling to Indochina

16, September, 2016

Top tips to know before travelling to Indochina

Indochina tour packages
The name ‘’Indo China’’ was coined in colonial times. It described an area between China and India, effectively the extreme South East of Asia. Much came under French colonial rule and their influence is still seen in the architecture and wide boulevards in major cities. The English ruled Burma for some time while the Thais are proud that no European country has ever been in control.

There are many similarities across the five countries of what is now known as Indochina, Thailand, Burma, Laos, Cambodia and Vietnam, but many differences as well. Influence crosses borders and the history of the region, its richness of culture, religion and wonderful environment make it a wonderful place for a holiday. Indochina tour packages offer that rich variety providing a different experience at every turn.

The colonial arrived in the late 19th Century and departed within ten years of the end of World War II. Newly found independence was not the end of their problems with the Khmer Rouge devastating Cambodia, the Vietnam War impacting on Vietnam and to a lesser extent Laos and a regime in Burma (now Myanmar) that resulted in its being effectively cut off from the outside world until recent years. It is now open for overseas visitors and is an obvious inclusion in Indochina tour packages covering a combination of the countries of South East Asia.

A holiday in Indochina is guaranteed to be an experience. While the climate brings certain rain, with monsoons reaching different areas at different times of the year, tourists will experience hot weather, often humid and wet, but a series of places, people and sites that will leave them desperate to return again and again to see more.

Each of the five countries has enormous variety, friendly people and interesting cuisine. The tourist infrastructure of Laos is perhaps not up to the standard of Vietnam or Thailand but that is part of the attraction. What better than to be able to visit tribal villages where life has changed little over generations?

Good tour companies can tailor Indochina tour packages to suit their clients’ tastes. Some may want to concentrate on history and culture, others want the natural environment with stunning fauna and flora as well; sorry but the chances of a wild tiger are remote. Both will get recommendations of the best things to see and do and this Indochina travel guide hopes to give you a few ideas to consider.

The most common combination of countries is Vietnam, Cambodia and Laos which have one common element, the iconic Mekong Delta though it is not navigable throughout. That does not mean that you cannot cruise on the Mekong and learn more about village life along its river banks. Anyway a brief look at the 5 countries involved in Indochina tour packages will provide further insight. One you decide on a holiday in Indochina you need to think about what to see and when to go.  Take a look.

The two major cities, capital Hanoi and Ho Chi Minh City (formerly Saigon) in the south are essential in any visit to Vietnam. They are both places of entry both into Vietnam and for the start of Indochina tour packages.

The Country covers many degrees of latitude and as a result there are distinct climatic differences. Hanoi represents the best of colonial architecture but has very much its own stamp. It is a naturally beautiful city with many lakes and once outside its boundaries visitors will be straight into a rural environment with farming villages

In the Northern Highlands there are the Sa Pa Terraces and the local tribal villages to visit. This agricultural region is famous for vegetables and especially its rice. Life has not changed here for generations.

Due west is the UNESCO World Heritage site of Halong Bay with its huge number of islands and fishing villages. The coastline is over 100 kilometres long. A cruise in the Bay is one of a number of great experiences during your time in Vietnam.

The Central coastline has some wonderful beaches though if time is short on the Vietnam leg of your Indochina holiday, the visit may be briefbecause the south has many fine beaches as well. The coastline of Vietnam is 3.400 kilometres long with one of the best beaches being on an island offshore, Phu Quoc in the East Sea off Cambodia.

Ho Chi Minh City is worth exploring; it is Vietnam’s largest city which has grown to include modern skyscrapers intermingled with the traditional architecture.  The Mekong Delta west of Ho Chi Minh City is worth a holiday on its own. It is Vietnam’s most fertile region and exploring its channels and tributaries with their many fishing villages is time well spent.

indochina tour packages

Angkor Wat is the highlight of Cambodia. It is a classic example of Khmer architecture and another UNESCO World Heritage site. During the time of the Empire there were many such places built and other examples are to the west and across the border into Thailand as far as Prasat Hin Phimai.The Angkor site is 400 square kilometres of forest with the best remnants of Khmer architecture dating between the 9th and 15th Centuries.  

Siem Reap is the closest major town with Cambodia’s largest lake, Tonie Sap, just to its south. It is a great place for birdwatchers while the ‘’floating villages’’ are extremely interesting. In the monsoon season the lake covers 15,000 square kilometres and is 8 metres deep.

The Capital, Phnom Penh sits on the Mekong River. It has Buddhist architecture such as Wat Phnom and Wat Botum but the main landmark is the Royal Palace which contains two 19th Century pagoda. Cambodia’s recent history includes the days of Pol Pot and the ‘’Killing Fields.’’ Many thousands were killed and Coeung Ek is just outside the City. There are also museums with Tuol Sleng Genocide Museum chronicling the terrible days of this regime. In contrast the National Museum goes further back in regional history.

It is possible to cruise south down to the Delta and out into the East Sea but simply cruising for a day is usually all there is time to do.  Freshwater dolphins playing around the boat are a common feature of time spent on the river.

indochina tours

Laos is the least developed of the countries of Indochina with roads that can be difficult to negotiate when the monsoon rains are at their heaviest. It spent years in isolation but in recent years tourists are rediscovering the wonderful natural environment and the friendly people.

The highlight of Laos is its ancient capital Luang Prabang, a further UNESCO World Heritage site. After perhaps a little time in Vientiane, the modern day capital, Indochina tour packages will take clients north to Luang Prabang to see its many major attractions. There are still the traditional wooden houses, orange –robed monks as well as the colonial architecture of the French.

There are many highlights including the former royal palace, Haw Kham, Vat Xieng Toung monastery and Vipassana Temple.

Vang Vieng is a small town in the middle of Laos but it has become the centre of outdoor activities in Laos. It lies between Vientiane and Luang Prabang but it is now more than just a place to split the journey; caving, mountain biking, rock climbing and trekking opportunities exist for the energetic.

In the north there are additional opportunities both for activities and well as seeing rural village life among the indigenous tribes.

Depending upon how much time can be devoted to Laos within Indochina tour packages, there is also the Plain of Jars, thousands of them, the Pak Ou Caves, the Bolaven Plateau and Wat Phou, Laos’ answer to Angkor Wat, near Pakse in Champasak. There is no chance of getting bored in Laos.

laos tour vivutravel

It is only in recent years that overseas’ visitors have returned to Myanmar. Formerly Burma and under British control the military government has only recently relaxed its attitude to foreigners and human rights. That has not affected the rich history and culture of the Country. In some ways its isolation has meant there have been fewer outside influences to change the way the locals have always lived.

The modern capital was Yangon (formerly Rangoon) until ten years ago but it remains the main city. The Shwedagon Pagoda is over 2.000 years old and covered in gold and diamonds. The influence of the British and the Chinese is clearly evident.

The capital of the first Myanmar Empire is to the north, Bagan which dates back 1,000 years. It once had over 10,000 temples with in excess of 2,000 surviving today. It is only Myanmar’s isolation that has denied Bagan’s growth as an extremely important historical, cultural and religious site to compare favourably with the best.

The Burmese monarchy’s final home was Mandalay which is still the second largest city in Myanmar. The Maha Myat Muni Paya with its 4 metre high Buddha statue of gold and jewels is a sight to behold. Another notable attraction is Shwenandaw Monastery on the hill above the City. It is made of wood and features beautiful carvings.

Myanmar has many natural attractions including Inle Lake and Pindaya Caves while the coastal beaches are stunning. There are beaches both on the Bay of Bengal and the Andaman Sea all likely to be quieter than those elsewhere in South East Asia.

myanmar tour packages

Thailand was the first of these countries to establish a large tourist following with Bangkok regarded as one of the top city destinations in the whole of Asia. It is a crowded city with a number of highlights and is most tourists’ introduction to the Country. From there many head to the beaches of Pattaya or Phuket for the great beaches or north to Chiang Mai to explore the natural environment and learn more about the indigenous hill tribes.

The well-established infrastructure includes domestic flights all over the country as well as a rail system, if somewhat slow. The roads are good and there are border crossing by road for those visiting neighboring countries on Indochina tour packages.

Bangkok is the obvious starting point in Thailand with a great deal to see and do. The Temple of the Emerald Buddha, Wat Pra Kaew, is within the Royal Palace complex. The Reclining Buddha at 45 metres long reclines in Wat Pho while the solid gold Buddha, its true value hidden for centuries by plaster has a final resting place in Wat Tramit. Add to these the floating markets, the many fine dining choices and luxury hotels and there is everything you would expect in an exotic city.
If you head north from Bangkok to Chiang Mai there are the mountains, outdoor activities, hill tribes as well as Wat Phrathat Doi Suthep, the 14th Century golden domed temple looking down on the City from above.

The South Coast with beaches both on the Gulf of Thailand and the Andaman Sea are hugely popular with Eastern Thailand and Pattaya attracting huge numbers as well. There is even room for reminders of the Khmer in Isaan near the Cambodian and Laos borders. Khao Yai is a UNESCO World Heritage site and certainly worth a visit.

If you have read through these brief descriptions of the five countries of Indochina you will now have a better idea of the whole region and the riches that it holds. It is possible to personalise an Indochina tour for a group with a specific interest. That may be archaeology, religion, and demographics with numerous tribes often living in more than a single country, the natural environment or activities both on the extensive coastline and in the interior. A family holiday in Indochina offers a real education for children with plenty of time to enjoy the beautiful beaches and warm seas.

South East Asia is a monsoon region with climatic differences within this extensive area. It does mean some compromising on season if you want to cover it all; you will catch up with some rain at some time probably but it may not be more than an afternoon shower which in fact can be quite refreshing.

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