Singapore - the very name summons visions of the mysterious East. The commercial center of Southeast Asia, this island city-state of four million people is a metropolis of modern high-rise buildings, Chinese shop-houses with red-tiled roofs, sturdy Victorian buildings, Buddhist temples and Arab bazaars. Founded in 1819 by Sir Stamford Raffles of the fabled East India Company, the city is a melting pot of people and cultures. Malay, Chinese, English and Tamil are official languages. Buddhism, Taoism, Islam, Hinduism and Christianity are the major faiths. Singapore is an ever-fascinating island boasting colorful traditions, luxurious hotels and some of the finest duty-free shopping in the world. Lying just 85 miles north of the Equator at the tip of the Malay Peninsula, the island was a haven for Malay pirates and Chinese and Arab traders.
Whether you are on a wide boulevard admiring the French Colonial architectural influence, or in a bustling market haggling with a street vendor, you cannot escape the culture and history of this bustling city. Ho Chi Minh City is home to many colorful pagodas, cathedrals and palaces-including one of the city's oldest, Giac Lam Pagoda, dating from 1744. Sample shore excursions: Cambodia & Angkor Overland Adventure or Highlights of Ho Chi Minh City.
Sihanoukville, also known as Kampong Som, is located in southern Cambodia on the Gulf of Thailand, and is Cambodia's only international marine port. Its beaches are the most prominent natural feature of the city, spanning most of the surrounding coastline. Sihanoukville has several cultural sites, including Victory Monument built to symbolize friendship with Vietnam, and Independence Square, constructed in honor of independence and the Cambodians that lost their lives defending their country.
Laem Chabang is your gateway to Bangkok. This enchanting city on the Chao Phraya River is a magical place where graceful dancers perform in shimmering silk gowns, temples with gold-leaf spires harbor priceless Buddhas and riverboats cruise a maze of canals. The only nation in Southeast Asia to escape colonial rule, Thailand offers a rich and ancient culture that flowered unhindered by Western influence. Proud and strongly nationalistic, the Thai people call their nation Muang Thai - "Land of the Free."
This small tropical paradise, lined with coconut palms and white sand beaches and encircled by turquoise water is a perfect place to escape and explore. Gaze up at the Big Buddha, cool off in the natural pool at the base of Na Muang Waterfall and view the astonishing natural rock formations of Hin Ta and Hin Yai.
Bali is enchanting – a lush, verdant isle where rice terraces color every available acre with the brilliant green of young shoots, and volcanic peaks said to house the gods tower above. It is a deeply spiritual place, where artful offerings of flowers and incense are ever present, and on any given day at least one of the thousands of temples scattered around the island will be hosting a colorful festival. Culturally rich, each village has its own artistic specialty – music, dance, painting, and sculpture. The beaches are tempting, but if you want the real Bali, head for the hills – the Balinese occupy that middle ground, and demons reside in the sea.
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