Thailand is easily associated with palm fringed beaches, endless shopping opportunities and spectacular night life. Yet, Thailand is also famous for its ancient temple ruins, dating back to the Khmer Empire or the earlier Kingdoms of Sukhothai and Ayuthaya, its Buddhist religion that permeates everywhere, its many colorful festivals.
The morning’s first sun rays pierce the mist hanging over the Mekong River, the smell of smoke from wood fires permeates the air, a rooster croons while – in silence – hundreds of Buddhist monks in saffron robes walk in single file past womenfolk placing offerings in their alms bowls – this is a scene that occurs every morning in Luang Prabang.
Siem Reap is surrounded by rice fields, seemingly endless and dotted with palm trees and grazing buffaloes. Yet, it is here, hidden deep in the jungle, that you suddenly enter upon the awe inspiring temples of Angkor and realize that over 200 smiling faces of Avolokitesvara, “the lord who looks in every direction” look down upon you from the towers of Bayon Temple.
The delicate ring of a temple bell swinging in the gentle breeze, the scent of cardamom and incense spicing the air, the soft padding of thousands of feet clad in leather thongs, the dark red robes of Buddhist monks, colonial style buildings everywhere; this is the fabric that Myanmar is made of.
The word Vietnam immediately conjures up images of farmers under conical straw hats tending rice fields, tree-lined boulevards with cafes and bistros in Hanoi, colorful hilltribe markets nestled in breathtaking mountain scenery, a wooden sailing junk crossing Halong Bay.