The mighty mekong - A Voyage of Discovery of NUESCO's Mekong World Heritage Sites
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The Mighty Mekong

 A Voyage of Discovery of NUESCO's Mekong World Heritage Sites

Winding 4,148 km from the highlands of Tibet to the Pacific Ocean, the Mekong River is a continuous thread, connecting each Indo-Chinese country with the next. From the virgin forests of Xishuangbanna in southern China, the Mekong flows on to Burma, Laos and Thailand, before proceeding on through Cambodia and southern Vietnam, ultimately disgorging into the South China Sea.

Throughout the ages, the majestic Mekong has shaped the history of Indochina. Forming natural borders between territories, the river's nourishing waters drew farms and settlements to its banks. For thousands of years, great civilizations have grown beside the stately river, yet despite their geographical proximity they have developed their own distinct cultures, lifestyles and architecture.

Now, like the mighty Mekong, the Bangkok Airways flight network flows between the key UNESCO World Heritage Sites of Indochina, connecting four historic kingdoms. The Mekong World Heritage Tour has been conceived to enable these areas of significant historical intrigue to become accessible in comfort and style. This classic tour will take approximately eight days and seven nights and tailor-made tours can be developed in accordance with individual schedules.

From the City of Angels, the Mekong World Heritage Tour flies directly to the first of four UNESCO World Heritage Sites; Sukhothai the first capital of Thailand. Sukhothai, the Dawn of Happiness, was established as the capital of the first real Thai state some 700 years ago in the 13th century. Under the caring reign of King Ramkhamhaeng, the development of political philosophy and the arts was encouraged. He is remembered for creating the Thai alphabet and establishing trade, law and regulations. The Sukhothai period is hence regarded as the cradle of Thai culture. It was also during this glorious time of invention and discovery that the distinct style of Thai architecture was born.

Sukhothai went on to extend its influence over an area stretching from Laos in the north, to the Andaman Sea in the west and south to the Malay Peninsula. Eventually, Sukhothai fell to the Kingdom of Ayutthaya and the capital city was abandoned in the early 16th century. In 1978, the largest and most complex restoration effort in Thai history was undertaken and today the ancient city is a visual feast of evocative ruins situated among rolling green hills and tranquil lotus-filled ponds. The tour strolls around the Sri Satchanalai Historical Park, the Sukhothai Historical Park, Wat Mahadhat and Wat Srichum.

Overnight in the Pailyn Hotel will give travellers a luxurious rest before boarding the next flight to Luang Prabang, "Land of A Million Elephants". Located on the banks of the Mekong River, Luang Prabang was the ancient capital of the Lan Xang Kingdom from 1354 AD until the capital was transferred to Vientiane in 1560 AD.

Luang Prabang's location is stunning. Cradled among the high forested mountains of northern Laos, the city stands in marked contrast not only to the present-day capital, Vientiane, but also to just about anywhere else you can imagine. In 1995, UNESCO designated the town as a "World Heritage" site worthy of protection and development. The numerous temples, many of them hundreds of years old, provided the primary impetus for the designation. However, they are only part of what makes Luang Prabang so attractive. The examples of French colonial architecture, the different ethnic groups strolling the streets in traditional garb, the green of the surrounding mountains and the general absence of the hectic pace of modern life all add to the general appeal. World Heritage status by UNESCO ensures that the glorious temples, royal architecture, culture and traditions will remain pristine for residents and visitors alike.

The tour navigates through peaceful temples, Wat Sene, Wat Xieng Thong and climbs Phousi hill for a panoramic view of the city and sunset over the Mekong River. The following day's excursion includes a visit to the National Museum and a river boat cruise stopping off at the pottery village of Ban Chan, the Pak-Ou Caves with thousands of Buddha statues and the local rice alcohol distilleries.

The flight to Danang takes approximately two hours and an overland transfer brings the group to Hoi An for leisurely sightseeing and shopping in local handicraft shops. The following day, the tour rolls overland along the spectacular tropical coastline to Hu?, home of fascinating Imperial ruins, citadels, palaces, royal tombs, pagodas and temples. Four hundred years ago, Hu? (pronounced "way') was the capital of Vietnam and court of the Nguyen Dynasty. For 20 years labourers worked day and night to construct the six miles of walls that contain the palaces, religious sites and many pavilions for official mandarins and dignitaries.

This ancient capital, also a UNESCO World Heritage Site, located on the banks of the Huong (Perfume) River is surrounded by a lush valley and guarded by the Tu Duc Monarch, the tombs of the 13 kings . This area can easily be explored by bicycle and boat. A dragon boat moored on the east bank of the "Perfume' River, will coast three miles upstream to the tombs, temples and pagodas. From Hu? you can also explore the local beaches and the best kept secret of central Vietnam, the Bach Ma Hai Van National Parks.

After one night staying in the Hoi An Hotel the trip heads back up to Danang by road in order to board a flight to Siem Reap. A sleepy town in northwestern Cambodia, Siem Reap is the gateway to Angkor, one of the seven wonders of the world. Founded in the 9th century, the temples of Angkor are awesome. Powerfully beautiful and intertwined within the tropical jungle, they are lasting monuments to the greatness of the ancient Khmer Empire. The site covers almost 200 square kilometres and attracts visitors from around the globe. Tourism is increasing rapidly and it is not only foreign tourists who are eager to see Angkor. The Khmer people themselves also come flocking for they are intensely proud of the achievements of their ancient forebears. The lotus towers of Angkor Wat dominate Cambodia's flat landscape. In fact, no matter where one treads on Khmer soil, the shadow of Angkor seems omnipresent. Khmers of all political persuasions respect these monuments as the very symbols of their nation. This reverence spared Angkor all but a few stray bullets and mortar shells during the long wars that swirled over and past it many times.

The final two days of the Mekong World Heritage Tour delve into the historical significance of Angkor and a magical sunset over the ancient ruins is firmly on the itinerary.

The tour completes the circuit with a short flight back to Bangkok where, sadly it comes to an end. This unique cultural tour of the fabled Indochina peninsula is offered by Bangkok Airways and Siem Reap Airways International in cooperation with Diethelm Travel, Indochina Services and Pinkrose Holidays. The tour package includes all air tickets, accommodation, meals, services charges, room tax and baggage handling.

For further information contact Pinkrose Holidays
Tel/Fax: +66(0)2 255 8966,
Fax: +66(0)2 255 8969,


- November Issue, 2002

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