The countries of Indochine (Vietnam, Cambodia, Lao) have experienced an enormous
amount of modernisation in the last ten years. Within Indochine, the Lao PDR
has seen the most change in recent years as a result of the opening of the Friendship
Bridge over the Mekong River, connecting Thailand and Lao. Notwithstanding this,
outside the capital Vientiane the country and people are charmingly traditional,
as the country is predominantly rural and sparsely populated. Indeed, over 80%
of the country is covered by forest.
presents the traveller with a broad menu of attractions, ranging from the ancient
Hindu Champa civilisation and Nguyen emperors, to the country's French colonial
tradition and more recent political confrontations. There are pronounced regional
differences between north and south Vietnam, and our trip through the country
generally concentrates on the more traditional North. The overland transportation
network is relatively well developed (for Indochine, that is!) and we will generally
be travelling over land to gain closer contact with the Vietnamese people. The
people are understandably proud of their longstanding traditions and their record
of defending their land and culture against foreign influences. Modern Vietnam
is the most economically advanced nation in Indochine.
archaeological highlight of the region is undoubtedly the temple complex at
Angkor, near the modern city of Siem Reap in northern Cambodia. The preservation
of this ancient capital of the Khmer Empire has, unfortunately, deteriorated
as a result of the country's political turmoil in recent decades. In fact, the
difficulties of exploring Angkor are an ideal example of why the End-of-the-Tether
philosophy of flexibility is essential. Constant rebel activity by the Khmer
Rouge means that, at any given moment, certain of the outlying temples may be
off limits. Our ongoing intelligence and network of local contacts are invaluable
in ensuring a safe and rewarding experience for our expedition members.
The temple complex is quite extensive -- the entire complex comprises over
400 square kilometres of temples, canals, and moats -- and we would normally
spend several days on site, at times assisting with the official conservation
society, Conservation d'Angkor. Expedition members should be in good shape,
as a significant amount of climbing is required.
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