Team travel journal: Cambodia, Indonesia, Japan, Vietnam

6th April 2017 | by Anna

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The Selective Asia Team is always on the go, discovering the best spots and experiences in Asia - follow their steps as they make their way through Asia.

 

Anna in Cambodia

'As our small boat travels upriver, it’s increasingly difficult to believe I’m just a couple of days drive from the Angkor Temples. I've just spent a couple of days exploring Mondulkiri and Ratanakiri in the far north-east of Cambodia with their distinct minority groups, volcanic lakes and waterfalls, gem mines and elephants, and now I can’t really pick out anything in the lush forest along the river banks, nor hear anything other than the buzz of insects and the hum of the engine. In fact at times I feel more like I’m heading out into the far reaches of the Amazon jungle! That feeling doesn’t change when we arrive at our destination, a Kachork village about 30 minutes away. Our local guide shows us around, explaining the lifestyle of this remote community, and laughing and joking with the villagers (mostly, I suspect, about how tall and pale this particular foreigner is!).

Then he tells us it’s time to visit the ‘ghost forest’ - a burial ground kept entirely separate from the main village. He gravely explains that, once we have set foot there, we cannot return to the village, as this would be extremely unlucky for the local people. At first it’s difficult to see anything in the dense gloomy forest, but as we get closer I start to pick out fenced areas with colourful roofs, surrounded by somewhat eerie carved figures. These figures hold both the kinds of possessions that their owners used in their everyday lives, but also what they hope to have in the next life – even down to a pair of sunglasses copied from a visiting traveller:


I’ve never seen anything like it before, and I left feeling absolutely fascinated - if also slightly spooked!' Start planning your holiday to Cambodia...

Annie & Louise in Japan

'It was fantastic being back in Japan to see some new sights a year after launching it as our newest destination. Highlights included experiencing Tokyo’s food tour (which really does get you to places you wouldn’t find by yourself) and the crazy Robot Restaurant, travelling to the contrasting city of Kanazawa with its peaceful Kenrokuen Garden, and visiting Higashiyama Hanatoro in Kyoto, where lanterns and light sculptures illuminated the streets. We felt like pilgrims as we witnessed the stunning mountain scenery whilst walking the Kumano Kodo, and concluded the trip with karaoke in Osaka, all topped off with some exciting new products which will soon be revealed in the revamped and new itineraries that we are now busy working on!' See our Japan holidays here...

Danielle in Indonesia

'Borobudur sunrise, 5.30am. An early wake-up call was followed by a bumpy ride on top of an open top buggy through the pitch dark to the temple site, where we would experience the magical Borobudur sunrise. Everything was silent as we waited for the sun to rise. Slowly, the sky turned a mystical shade of blue, as we witnessed the sun rising up and over the temples - it was stunning.

The whole experience was really serene and quite spiritual. After the sun had risen, we walked down through the temple's gardens where coffee was waiting for us, before driving back through the greenery to our hotel for a delicious breakfast.' Start planning your holiday to Indonesia...

Andrew in Vietnam

'It was great to make it to the Mekong Delta, staying at the Coco Riverside Lodge. To me the just the name Mekong River is evocative, and conjures up a lot of different imagery - and I would be lying if I said that it didn’t have connotations of the Vietnam war. It turns out that this extensive part of Vietnam was a major battleground during this period. A part of this recent history was brought to life when I had the chance to sit down with an old Vietcong war veteran (now a farmer) who lives right opposite the lodge. We had a chance to question him on his war experience and he finished off our experience by regaling us guitar in hand with some old patriotic war songs. You really need to let your imagination run riot these days when observing the slow Mekong River overshadowed by coconut trees and edged by dense jungle to think that at one time there were battles raging here. The Mekong Delta is known as the breadbasket of Vietnam, supplying nearly all the fruit and rice that the country consumes. Rural Vietnam at its best.' Read more about Vietnam here...