Discovering Indochina and the World Heritage Sites

From the very subliminal Frenchness that still pervades, to the influence of the Southern Chinese, the region is a potpourri of influences and mystery. Vietnam, Cambodia and Laos will open your eyes to the delights of Indochina and leave you awe-struck by these magical locations.

Angkor, Cambodia
Angkor, Cambodia

Each of the Indochinese countries has its own unique attractions, diverse cultures and beautiful landscapes. Ancient monuments, historic towns and old royal capitals are witnesses for the illustrious past and are now opening doors to the world and flaunting its hidden treasures. Mekong, hill retreats and coastal beaches- all contributes to your rich experience within these impressive Indochinese countries.

UNESCO has listed eleven sites as World Heritage Sites, both cultural and natural, across Vietnam, Cambodia and Laos. These eleven sites that are perceived to me the most culturally and naturally significant sites in Indochina and are definitely not to be missed while on your Indochina travel.

1. Central Sector of the Imperial Citadel of Thang Long – Hanoi, Vietnam

Located just east of the Ho Chi Minh Mausoleum, the Thang Long Imperial Citadel was discovered when the Ba Ðình Hall was torn down in 2008, to reveal remains including royal palaces built in the 11th century. Most of the structures were damaged by the French conquest of Hanoi, with many torn down. Artifacts from the 6th to the 20th century have been found here and are displayed at the National Museum.

2. Citadel of the Ho Dynasty, Vietnam

The Ho Dynasty citadel is a one hour drive from Ninh Binh, with few foreign tourists. With the rise of Neo-Confucianism in the late 14th century, the citadel was based on Feng Shui principles and is an excellent example of this style of architecture. The site was chosen for its natural beauty and axis joining two mountains. The huge gates to the citadel are in good condition and you can walk along the city walls.

3. Complex of Hué Monuments, Vietnam

Being the capital of unified Vietnam from 1802 – 1945, Hue was not only the political center but also the religious and cultural center. Set on the Perfume River are the Capital City, the Imperial City, the Forbidden Purple City and the Inner City. The nearby Thien Mu Pagoda and many of the Emperor’s tombs are World Heritage listed also. Hue is popular amongst international and local tourists and you can easily spend a few days exploring its relics.

4. Hoi An Ancient Town, Vietnam

Hoi An is an exceptionally well-preserved trading town in central Vietnam that serves as a fine example of the local and international influences on a port trading town, dating from the 15th to the 19th century. Winding lanes are lined with old shop houses, temples and pagodas. While many of these are preserved as museums, others house wonderful shops, tailors and restaurants creating a thriving town full of living history.

5. My Son Sanctuary, Vietnam

Nestled in the jungle, a two-hour drive from Hoi An or Danang are the remarkable tower temples of My Son. The site was the capital of the Champa Kingdom for most of its existence from the 2nd to the 15th century, a culture unique to the coast of Vietnam with spiritual origins based on Indian Hinduism.

6. Ha Long Bay, Vietnam

Halong Bay is indisputably one of the most beautiful parts of Vietnam. With some 1600 islands and islets jutting out of the Emerald Sea. These limestone pillars are almost all uninhabitable and therefore remain pristine. These rock formations are listed not only for their beauty but for their biological interest. The best way to experience this incredible landscape is on an overnight cruise.

7. Phong Nha-Ke Bang National Park, Vietnam

The limestone karst formations in the park are some of the oldest and most diverse in Asia. Evolving over 400 million years the region provides an abundance of information on the earth’s history. Complex formations include over 65km of caves and underground rivers resulting in incredible landscapes which can be explored by boat.

8. Luang Prabang, Laos

An exceptional example of the fusion of traditional Lao and French-colonial architecture, Luang Prabang has a rich artistic heritage. Once the center of Buddhism in the region the town is filled with temples and monks. With very limited access to cars the old world feel is well-preserved making this a traveler favorite.

9. Vat Phou and Associated Ancient Settlements within the Champasak Cultural Landscape, Laos

The Vat Phou Temple complex is a planned landscape which has been preserved over 1,000 years. Designed to depict the relationship between humanity and nature as per Hindu teachings, it is mainly associated with the Khmer Empire.

10. Angkor, Cambodia

UNESCO calls Angkor “one of the most important archaeological sites in Southeast Asia”. Once the biggest city in the world with around 1 million residents, the site stretches over 400 square kilometers and includes the famous Angkor Wat along with other temples such as the Bayon with its sculptural carvings and Angkor Thom.

11. Temple of Preah Vihear, Cambodia

Dedicated the Hindu Deity Shiva, this temple pre-dates the more famous Angkor Wat. Its cliff-top location offers sweeping views of the plains below. Due to its remote position the remarkable architecture and intricate stone carvings are very well preserved.

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