Lisa Sun and Asia go back a long way. She lived in Beijing for almost a decade, traveling all of China as well as 15 countries in Asia on her own. Now after fourteen years with Absolute Travel, she continues to return to Asia annually to ensure her wealth of knowledge is current, from the best area to catch the bustling night market scene in Bangkok to the top spot to take in Tokyo’s skyline. Just back from traveling with her boyfriend through Cambodia, Thailand, Laos and Japan last month, she shares her inside scoop.
Cambodia, off the beaten Angkor path
Cambodia’s Khmer temples are breathtaking, certainly one of the most captivating sights in all of Asia. It’s almost unthinkable that for centuries, Angkor’s towers were hidden from most of the world, slowly engulfed by the jungle. These days they are mostly engulfed by tourists. For my third visit to Cambodia, I wanted to see another side of the temple complex, away from the tourist crowds of Angkor Wat. A ninety-minute drive later, I arrived at Beng Mealea, an amazing temple complex that remains largely unrestored with much less vistors. Huge piles of broken blocks lie scattered throughout the grounds, while trees and vines ran freely up the walls of its towers and courtyards, giving this UNESCO World Heritage Site an otherworldly façade. There were no signs, ropes or handrails. Good thing that I wore my sturdy shoes to clamber over the rocky ruins! Nearby is Phnom Kulen, a national park where a climb of 100 steps brings you to its 1,000 lingas (phallic representations of the Hindu god Shiva) carved into the riverbed below, two waterfalls, and a reclining Buddha statue. This day excursion from Siem Reap is perfect for travelers seeking adventure and variety while exploring.
The allure of Laos
The city of Luang Prabang, a UNESCO World Cultural site, was once considered “the best-preserved city in Southeast Asia,” and they are working hard to keep it that way. Whether we were unwinding with a refreshing iced coffee with coconut milk or luxuriating at one of the Amantaka’s refreshing pools, we still found that the city retained the charm and tranquility of this small sleepy town filled with over 30 temples. But one of my favorite experiences in Laos was a 45 minute drive outside of Luang Prabang at the Kuang Si Falls. The beautiful three-tiered waterfalls were stunning, particularly during rainy season. The natural swimming holes were a lovely turquoise color, providing the perfect place for us to cool down from the summer heat and humidity.
Another side of Bangkok
On my fifth visit to Bangkok, I wanted to dig deeper, beyond boat trips on the Chao Phraya River and Buddhist temples, and touring Bangkok with our team provided me with one of my most memorable and special experiences of this incredible city! I highly recommend a customized after-hours excursion with us in the City of Angels, packed with out-of-the-ordinary experiences matched to your particular interests. Perhaps you’d fancy a walk through the Arab quarter, to feel as if you have been transported to a bustling corner in Cairo with kebab shops, hookah cafes and women veiled in black from head to toe. Or, take a behind the scenes walk through the wholesale flower and produce market – which surprisingly is quite active and busy through the night. Stop at a rooftop bar for a nightcap while enjoying the evening glow of the city’s superb monuments. Or maybe you’d care for some Bangkok jazz instead? Thailand’s top acts play almost nightly at the Saxophone nightclub. After many visits to Bangkok over the past decade, this visit made me realize why Bangkok is so amazing, and one of my top favorite cities in the world once again. Certainly one of the highlights of our trip – you must see for yourself!
Taking in Tokyo (from the tallest tower in the world)
I made a quick stopover in Tokyo where it is business as usual; Japan is safe! Make sure to look out for the new Tokyo Sky Tree: a broadcasting, restaurant and observation tower, currently the tallest tower in the world. Its observatory deck will be open to the public by summer 2012 to catch panoramic views of Tokyo’s sprawling metropolis below.
Intrigued by Lisa’s discoveries in Asia? Contact Lisa Sun to learn more.