Searching for the exotic? Seeking the mysterious? Looking for wild unexplored islands and beaches? Fascinating temple culture? Bizarre scenery? Gastronomic delights? Exciting nightlife? Adventure trails? Lively markets? Wildlife? History? Come to Indochina!
All this and more can be found in what is still a largely unexplored part of the world. East of India and south of China lays a group of countries some of which are only now beginning to fully open their doors to outsiders and they have so much to offer in the way of travel opportunities. This is the fabled Indochina, home to many different peoples and ethnic groups who welcome you to travel to their homelands to enjoy the riches they have to offer.
Thailand calls itself “The Land of Smiles” but, to be fair, the epithet could apply to the whole of Indochina. The peoples of this part of the world are, in general, very hospitable and there is no greater pleasure than to sit with them and share a meal, or laugh together while bargaining over a purchase.
Whichever country you travel to in Indochina; Vietnam, Thailand, Laos, Cambodia or SW China, you will be struck by the glorious colours – in the ethnic minority people’s clothes and jewellery, in the stunning fruit and vegetables in the markets, the green of the jungles, the turquoise of the seas, the saffron colours of the Buddhist monks.
It is also an area of unforgettable tastes. Mainstream Thai and Vietnamese food have become well known in the west, but the tastes of Laos or Cambodia are much less well known as are the foods of the ethnic minorities of all these countries. Few people can resist the allure of limes, coriander, lemongrass, coconut and the other spices and unusual flavours of the local cuisines.
This is a region of water, both rivers and seas which have both contributed to the region’s diverse agriculture and acted as transport routes and national borders. Thailand and Vietnam have long coastlines with beautiful beaches and isolated islands. Even landlocked Laos shares part of the great Mekong River, the main artery of the region, which begins its life in Tibet and works its way through Yunnan, Burma, Thailand, Laos, Cambodia and Vietnam linking all of this region together.
Different cultures have influenced the region, leaving a fascinating hybrid culture in each. Thailand, despite being the only country in the region never to be colonised, shows the influence of India as does Cambodia which also shows a Chinese influence. Vietnam and Laos show more of a Chinese influence with much less Indian. These influences can be seen in the religion, cuisine and architecture. All of these countries except Thailand were French colonies and their influence also shows in the same ways. And, of course, the countries have influenced each other.
More recently, partly through war, and later through trade the region has taken on influences from all over the world, showing the people’s natural ability to absorb and adapt. But at heart the indigenous culture remains: the Viet culture in Vietnam, the Khmer in Cambodia etc.
The region has recently emerged from a deeply troubled past and is now generally peaceful and is poised on the brink of taking a strong place in the future and it welcomes travellers from all corners of the world to come and see its magical countryside, vibrant cities, and breathtaking beaches.