A Perfect Blend of Cultures and Landscapes

thailandThailand is a country with a mixture of a diverse culture and even more diverse landscapes with mountains in the north and gorgeous beaches elsewhere. Travelling through the country can lead you from the busy metropolitan city of Bangkok to more serene, peaceful areas with hardly a soul anywhere.

Travelling around Thailand is very easy due to the country having a well equipped bus and rail system as well as internal flights if you wish to get there quicker. You can of course hire a car for your trip if you are exploring the country and not just staying in the one place. However, the driving there is a bit more chaotic than usual. It is certainly advisable to not hire a car if you have had no experience of these conditions before.

Thailand is really seen as a backpackers delight. Accommodation can cost next to nothing yet it can be located in the most stunning of places meaning you can wake up to a view straight from paradise. The food, especially off the beaten track, can also cost very little however you might have to be a bit more adventurous in trying things but this is not really different to other countries in the Far East.

The main, and most popular, destinations are Bangkok, Phuket, Pattaya, Chiang Mai, and Koh Samui with these spread over the country. Indeed Phuket is one of several islands off Thailand and you can then find Chiang Mai in the north of the country in the more mountainous area. But if you are not pushed for time then travelling between the places can let you see what life is like for normal Thai people.

Places such as Bangkok have all of the tourist lights and are geared up for people from all over the world and indeed the prices of food and accommodation in Bangkok can be significantly higher than other places. For Bangkok it is certainly best to do your homework first as it can save you a lot of money. You are therefore best to check out what others have said and go with the general consensus before finally booking where you are going to stay.

Five Good National Parks in Southeast Asia

phnom-kulenVacationing in Southeast Asia is about more than the cities, the museums and the food. Indeed, no vacation to the region is complete without a trip to a few of the region’s many pristine national parks. One of the first parks on the list of important national parks is Kinabalu National Park in Malaysia. Located on the island of Borneo, Kinabalu Park is dominated by Mount Kinabalu, a popular destination for mountain climbers and hikers.

The park is on UNESCO’s list of World Heritage Sites for its unique ecology and natural beauty. This includes a variety of orchids and carnivorous plants. The park spans four climate zones. It’s possible to arrange for a guide through the park administration but whether you’re seeking a guided climb up the mountain or simply a leisurely hike through the grounds of the park, it’s a beautiful natural landscape that attracts thousands of tourists each year.

Another important national park is Phnom Kulen National Park in Cambodia. The site is of national and religious importance in the region and has played a role in everything from the founding of the Khmer Empire in 802 AD to the end of the Khmer Rouge in 1979. The water is sacred to Hindus and underneath the water are hundreds of ornate stone carvings depicting Hindu religious scenes. The site is also notable for its two waterfalls and an eight-meter long Buddha statue.

Gunung Mulu National Park in Indonesia is important not because of its history but because of its caves. The park is listed as a UNESCO World Heritage Site and is home to the largest cavern in the world. Many of the caves are uncharted and the aforementioned largest chamber in the world (named the Sarawak Chamber) was only discovered in 1981. Today, the park can be reached by helicopter and there are a variety of ecotourism activities on offer for visitors.

Ba Be National Park in Vietnam is also home to a cave but the focus of this park is more on its freshwater lake. Surrounded by forests and limestone cliffs, Ba Be Lake is home to a variety of wildlife including King Cobras and European Otters. It’s visually arresting and its biodiversity makes it the perfect place for ecotourist activities such as hiking, bird watching and boating.

Khao Sok National Park is the final park on my list. Located in Thailand, Khao Sok is notable as a rainforest with more biodiversity than the Amazon. The park also includes a reservoir and is known for a variety of flowers and animal life that make it an important ecological preserve. Perfect for hiking and photography, the Khao Sok Park sounds somewhat more tame than the other parks on the list but with water, forests and wildlife, it’s a good place to get away form the urban bustle of modern Thailand. Indeed, these parks are all great getaways from the modern economies and urban centers that often define Southeast Asian tourism today. Hiking may be much simpler than touring a modern city but it’s equally enjoyable and important in an Asian vacation.

Visiting Sites in Asia

great-wallIf you’re planning a trip to Asia be it a tour of the region or a vacation to a single country, it’s important to draft an itinerary that includes the historic and cultural sites you intend to visit. But in a region with so many thousands of years of history, it’s difficult to choose just a few sites or to find sites that are less popular but may have more meaning to you as individual. Selecting such sites is easier if you have access to the right resources and, luckily, many of these resources are available for free from both government and non-government sources.

One such resource is the list of UNESCO World Heritage Sites. These are sites of historic, cultural or natural beauty and include everything from the Great Wall of China to the tropical rainforests of Sumatra. These sites are uniformly impressive and you should make sure to see them if they are within your reach. UNESCO maintains a very useful index of these sites organized by country and identified according to either their cultural or natural significance. As a bonus, many of these sites are free and open to the public because, after all, it’s not really possible to charge admission to a rainforest.

But the UNESCO list isn’t the only resource available to curious travelers. Indeed, the official tourism sites maintained by each nation can often be a great resource in deciding what to visit, how to get there and when to go. For instance, Singapore’s tourism site contains detailed information about what to see, how to get there and where to go next. Sites like these are a great source because they present all of the most popular places to visit along with the latest local events that might interest tourists.

Of course, you have to be careful when you use government tourism sites because their mission is to sell you a product. Take everything they say with a grain of salt but in the end they have your happiness and safety in mind because it’s in their best economic interest to do so. Another resource that can be helpful when selecting sites to see on your Asian vacation is Wikipedia. The online encyclopedia often has good information on local cultural events including festivals that tourists will find entertaining.

Simply look up the city or country you’ll be visiting and spend some time looking through links on their history, food and culture to find places and things that look interesting. Wikipedia probably won’t include tour information or the cost of admission but it is a starting point. It will also give you some background on the places that look interesting and you’ll be able to see if they truly captivate you or if they’re not worth

There are a broad variety of resources prepared by governments, world bodies and private citizens and they’re all available to tourists planning a trip to Asia. Take advantage of them when you’re deciding what to visit and hopefully they’ll enrich your trip by helping you select the best sites according to your interests.