There are few words with a wider range of meanings than “Culture”, ranging from historical ruins and temples, to museums and arts, both traditional and contemporary. However, regardless of the specific meaning you take from the term, there will be something that qualifies nearly everywhere you look in South East Asia.
Perhaps the most famous is the gargantuan temple complex of Angkor Wat, near Siem Reap in Cambodia. Here the millennia old Khmer architecture stands defiant in the face of the slow reconquest of nature.
In Vietnam, the ancient cities of Hoi An and Hue offer an informative look at the country’s past, while also being stunningly beautiful to walk around. Meanwhile, Hanoi and Ho Chi Minh have thriving art scenes, with seemingly a gallery located on every block. Great museums, both historical and artistic, can also be found in abundance here.
Moving west to Northern Laos, Luang Prabang, besides having a staggering amount of Buddhist temples, is also home to perhaps the most unique and memorable cultural performance you will experience anywhere. At Garavek Storytelling, tales of the city is told through traditional Laotian storytelling techniques, accompanied by a live score played on traditional instruments.
For a look into the ancient past, there are a few standout locations. As mentioned earlier, first among these is enormous Angkor Wat in Cambodia, the crown jewel of Khmer architecture. Second is Champasak in Southern Laos, which while smaller than its bigger brother in Cambodia, is surrounded by more impressive scenery, complementing the ancient grace of the Khmer site. For Thai history, the historical sites at Ayutthaya and Sukhothai, remnants of the two earliest united Thai kingdoms stands in defiant memory of the nation’s early history.
Finally, for authentic and bucolic cultural experiences, consider heading out into one of the many remote villages spread across all four countries. These villages are often inhabited by ethnic minorities still living their centuries-old traditional lifestyles. Great places these villages include the northern hills of Thailand, Laos, and Vietnam and the floating villages of the Mekong Delta in Vietnam and Tonle Sap lake in Cambodia.
South East Asia is brimming with cultural experiences of all kinds, and a look into its deep history, rich culture and traditional lifestyles are treats to any traveller hungry to make unforgettable memories.