From the ancient temples of Angkor Wat to the bustling streets of Bangkok, Asia is a rewarding destination for travelers. The continent is home to 48 countries, each one rich in history and culture.
As travel resumes, how about adding a trip to Asia to your bucket list? Not sure where to go? Here are our recommendations for three countries to visit in Asia.
WHY YOU SHOULD VISIT CAMBODIA
Once a mighty empire led by powerful kings, Cambodia’s history stretches back thousands of years. That legacy is best seen at Angkor Archeological Park, a UNESCO World Heritage Site in Siem Reap. You’ll need a solid day to explore its many temples, which were built from the 9th to the 13th centuries.
Angkor Wat, the best-known temple, is best seen at sunrise. Watching the gray sky slowly turn to pink behind the temple is a magical experience.
Siem Reap is worth a visit on is own. The city’s tree-lined streets are home to lovely hotels, good restaurants and small shops and art studios. Well-preserved colonial architecture dots the city, which you can explore by tuk-tuk for just a few dollars.
Cambodia’s capital, Phnom Penh, is a fast-growing city of two million. It’s a blend of traditional Khmer architecture, French Colonial influences, and modern skyrises. The top landmark is the Royal Palace, which was built in 1866 for the Cambodian King. Today, it’s the official residence of King Norodom. The gardens and several buildings are open to visitors.
Yet, Cambodia is an agricultural country at heart. Take time to explore its countryside and small towns. Just a few miles from Phnom Penh, but a world apart, is Oknhatey Village, known as Silk Island. Cambodia’ rich silk-weaving heritage stretches back to ancient times. You can watch local artisans—who raise silkworms—use traditional wooden looms to create beautiful silk scarves and clothing.
One of the best ways to visit Cambodia and Vietnam is with an AmaWaterways river cruise that runs from Ho Chi Minh City in Vietnam to Siem Reap, Cambodia, on the slow-moving Mekong River. Along with a luxurious cruising experience, AmaWaterways has local guides who provide an authentic look at each culture.
Floating homes on the Mekong. Photo by Janna Graber
WHY YOU SHOULD VISIT VIETNAM
Vietnam is a land of contrasts. In the past decades, it has undergone fast-paced transition to the modern world, yet many of its timeless traditions are still part of life today.
Ho Chi Minh City, once known as Saigon, is a lively city with luxury resorts, fancy shops, and busy streets. But just outside the city, you’ll see ox-driven carts carrying produce and farmers working in their fields. Along the Mekong River, fishermen in conical hats bring in their nets. Floating villages gently move with the water, as barges give way to tiny Sampan boats on this gentle river highway.
Top destinations in Vietnam include Hue, a historic town that is home to the Imperial Enclosure, a 19th-century citadel-within-a-citadel, and Ha Long Bay, home to more than 1,600 limestone islands and islets. This natural wonder is a UNESCO World Heritage site.
Phuket's Big Buddha is one of the island's most important and revered landmarks on the island. Photo by Thaisign/iStock.com
WHY YOU SHOULD VISIT THAILAND
Thailand is a top destination in Southeast Asia for good reason. The country’s landscape is diverse, from golden sand beaches in the south to the lush hills of Northern Thailand. Most travelers begin their visit in Bangkok, home to the Grand Palace. The famous Damnoen Saduak Floating Market is 62 miles from the city, but it’s a must-see when visiting Bangkok.
Thailand is known for its spas. Massage is a revered form of relaxation, and you’ll find spas of all price points throughout the country, from small local spas to world class spa retreats. Other travelers come to experience Thailand’s beaches. Popular beach resorts can be found in Phuket, Krabi, and Koh Samui.
Northern Thailand is hill country, and laid-back Chiang Rai is the perfect base to explore the region. Visiting the Chiang Rai night market is a popular local experience. Located 700 miles north of Bangkok, the region is home to six distinct hill tribes— the Akha, Karen, Lisu, Yao, Hmong, and Lahu—each with their own language and culture. Local trekking guides offer opportunities for guests to explore this unique region of Thailand.
Thailand has more than 31,000 Buddhist temples, and you’ll see them throughout the country. One of the most stunning is Wat Arun, the Temple of Dawn, which sits on the banks of the Cho Phraya River in Bangkok. Its highest tower is almost 350 ft. tall and is decorated in porcelain. Take your camera and visit at sunset for an incredible view. The resulting photos will be a welcome reminder of the good times you had in Thailand.