Asia

Cambodia: Serpents, skulls, spiders & Siem Reap

Cambodia: Serpents, skulls, spiders & Siem Reap

by Betsy Herbert

Most people come to Cambodia because the fabulous temples of Angkor Wat are on their bucket lists. Many tours of Cambodia, though, save Angkor Wat for last. What you see on your way to Angkor Wat will no doubt change you, shock you, deepen your experience of Cambodia, and maybe even inspire you to act on this experience.

Prelude to Cambodia. When we left Ho Chi Minh City, Vietnam, our tour group was dreading the 7-hour ride on a public bus to Phnom Penh, Cambodia. We assumed the bus would be hot, crowded, dirty, and generally uncomfortable. We were blown away when the shiny, new bus arrived on schedule, complete with A/C, upholstered seats, and wi-fi!

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Vietnam on speed; where is it headed?

Vietnam on speed; where is it headed?

by Betsy Herbert

Scary border crossing. When we arrived at the Hanoi airport in north Vietnam on November 8, I feared my visa would not be accepted, since just hours before we landed I noticed that it had fallen apart along its fold-line. My passport had been opened and closed so many times since I left the states seven months ago that my Vietnam visa inside simply deteriorated. My fears proved to be well-founded; I was rudely questioned and detained for four stressful hours by immigration in Hanoi before I was finally issued a new visa and admitted into the country.

Not an auspicious beginning! But, at least, due to a little help from my friends (thank god for travel buddies), I was finally in Vietnam!

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Laos: A resilient people up against the odds

Laos: A resilient people up against the odds

by Betsy Herbert

Surrounded by China, Vietnam, Thailand, Myanmar and Cambodia, Laos has the tragic distinction of being the most bombed country on Earth, as well as one of the 10 poorest. And yet, wherever you go, people are smiling and they are working hard.

I entered Laos (Laos People’s Democratic Republic), a Communist country, from the west through Thailand with a tour group. It wasn’t until we reached its eastern border with Vietnam eight days later that I realized the toll that the Vietnam War had taken on Laos, a country that was never declared as an enemy of the U.S.

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Thailand is for glitz: Temples, teak, elephants and ladyboys

Thailand is for glitz: Temples, teak, elephants and ladyboys

by Betsy Herbert

Just three hours after my flight left the New Delhi airport at 10 a.m. October 26 bound for Bangkok, the magnitude 7.5 Hindu Kush earthquake struck South Asia. Though the earthquake’s epicenter was in Afghanistan, there were hundreds of casualties in Pakistan and the tremors in New Delhi sent thousands of panicked people into the streets. I didn't learn of the earthquake until just after I arrived in Bangkok.

I had a few days to kill in Bangkok before meeting up with my next tour group, Intrepid Travel’s “30-day Indochina Loop,” which included Thailand, and later Laos, Vietnam and Cambodia.

I quickly learned that the Thais really know how to put on a show. Glitz is everywhere. . . in the ornate temples, the golden Buddhas, the orchestrated elephant performances, and the brash "Ladyboy" shows.

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Bhutan: Himalayas, official happiness & the Divine Madman

Bhutan: Himalayas, official happiness & the Divine Madman

by Betsy Herbert

For years, I’ve been intrigued by the small Himalayan country of Bhutan, where the government measures its success by the “Gross National Happiness” of its people. So, naturally, Bhutan was near the top of my list of places to visit when I started my year-long trip around the world six months ago.

What's so special about Bhutan?

In case spectacular natural beauty is not enough reason to visit, I did some reading beforehand. I learned that “Gross National Happiness” as measured by the Bhutanese government is based on a scientifically constructed index that considers non-economic aspects of people’s well being, such as education, health, social relationships, environmental protection and cultural preservation. Imagine!

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