St Martin de Tours Church, Taal, Philippines. Image (c) Tralphe XY / Creative Commons.
A 7-day, 6-night hop through highlights from three different Southeast Asian countries: the Philippines' highlands, Viet Nam's colonial remnants, and relics from Cambodia's generations of royal rule.
The Philippines isn't well known for culture, but look around the slumbering Taal volcano and its scenic lake, and you'll find it.
The town of Taal, renowned for its Spanish-style churches and old houses, cast a spell on history buffs looking for remnants of Spain's rule over this realm. Trace a path back to Manila, with stops along Tagaytay, a town overlooking Taal lake; and Las Piñas, home to St Joseph’s church and its famous "Bamboo Organ", literally made out of treated bamboo pipes.
Overnight in Manila before flying to Ho Chi Minh City in Viet Nam. This southern Vietnamese city used to be a French colonial entrepot, a Cold War capital, and the site where the Viet Nam War ended. Sites around Ho Chi Minh City recall its storied past: the Cu Chi Tunnels, built by the Viet Minh fighting against the French; colonial heritage structures like the Independence PalaceNotre Dame Church, the Post office, and City Hall.
Indulge your shopping itch at working-class Ben Thanh Market and upmarket Dong Khoi Street; that's your last stop before crossing over to Cambodia's capital Phnom Penh, where the itinerary takes a turn for the Angkorian: from stopping at the Royal Palace, built in 1866 by King Norodom, and pagodas and museums around its perimeter.
Finally, you'll fly to Siem Reap, where the Angkor Temple complex stands in a grassy plain. Start your Siem Reap visit by taking a boat to the floating village of Chong Khneas, set on Cambodia's "great lake" Tonle Sap, inhabited by whole floating communities making their living from the water.
The Angkor Temple complex makes for an amazing end to the trip: explore a succession of ancient temples, including Angkor Wat, Bayon Temple, Wat Thmei, and Ta Prohm – all remnants of a once mighty empire that stretched across Cambodia and parts of Viet Nam and Thailand at its height.
Saigon Post Office. Image courtesy of Mike Aquino.
Phnom Penh Royal Palace. Image courtesy of Tourism Cambodia.
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