I’ve always believed Macau is magical. Part old Portuguese, part new Chinese, and all steeped in money and luck, it has a legendary quality like no other travel destination. I’ve long imagined that being there would be like a James Bond film, a briefcase full of cash and contraband required for entry. And now I’m here, excited to see how reality compares with my imagination.
As I step onto my flat-bottomed sampan boat in Vietnam’s Mekong Delta, I can tell I’m in for a treat. The open front has comfortable chairs arranged under a woven canopy, offering expansive views of the riverbanks and insights into daily life.
The best way to travel from Hanoi to Halong Bay is by seaplane. I know this because I’m on one and it’s spectacular. The views of the countryside, with its green fields and snaking rivers, give way to thousands of spectacular limestone islands and white junk boats in the Gulf of Tonkin. I can’t take my eyes off this magical place.
I don’t have much time in Hanoi—only one day to pack in 1,000 years of history. It’s going to be a challenge, but if I can hit the highlights I will leave the first destination on my week-long trip to Vietnam with a feel for one of the most important cities in the country.
“You’ve eaten lunch?” she asks. She’s not actually wondering whether I’ve consumed my afternoon meal. Rather, she is greeting me in the traditional Malaysian manner. And this simple salutation speaks volumes about the culture here. The food culture. The food obsession.
It’s not every day that I wake up in time to see the sunrise. And it’s not every week that I wake up in time to see it twice. But after the spectacular pink sky I saw at Angkor Wat in Siem Reap, I couldn’t turn down an opportunity to see the sunrise over the rainforest in Borneo. Standing atop a 60-meter platform in the middle of the jungle, I was awed by the beauty of the golden disc over the misty mountains in Brunei’s Ulu Temburong National Park.
Bangkok is bustling. Spending four days in the serenity of the great temples in Siem Reap and Luang Prabang before heading to Thailand threw the intense urbanity of the country’s main metropolis into stark relief. Bangkok is one of my favorite cities in Southeast Asia, and I was exited to let its energy sweep me up and send me off to explore.
Everybody loves Laos. I have read innumerable travel blogs extolling the country, its people, and its culture. So after visiting Siem Reap last week, I continued my Southeast Asia travels with a stop in Luang Prabang, Laos’ northern gem.
Siem Reap is magical. Full of centuries-old temples like the mighty Angkor Wat, the Cambodian city has intrigued me for years. The rich culture and deep history of the area beckoned for so long that this week I finally answered their siren call and traveled to Southeast Asia.
After almost three weeks of traveling in Asia, exhaustion started to overtake me. I had been to three countries—one of them three times—and had not spent more than three nights in any one place. But I still had another destination on my itinerary before my trip was over: Ho Chi Minh City.