Cambodia's second largest city has largely been ignored due to the culturally rich attractions of nearby Siem Reap. Now it's starting to open up. Words by Nick Ross
When looking at a world map, Hong Kong is usually represented by a tiny dot, or sometimes nothing at all. Other, larger countries in Southeast Asia may seem like more worthy destinations to the unknowing traveller, but maps, as we all know, don’t always accurately represent reality.
If you like cities, you’ll love Manila. It’s huge and colorful, rich and poor, chaotic, modern, religious and sinful. Try to be reluctant and it will flirt with you until you give in.
I’ve just got back from a four-day trip to Singapore for ITB Asia, the region’s biggest travel trade show. I have mixed feelings about Singapore — living in Vietnam, it’s nice to escape to somewhere peaceful and orderly for a few days, but generally I find Singapore to be lacking in charm. Most of its old colonial buildings have been bulldozed to make way for tower blocks, it lacks the bustling street life one normally associates with big Asian cities, and beer is ruinously expensive. And yet despite this, Singapore attracts serious tourist numbers – nearly 12 million of them in 2010. How it does this contains valuable lessons for Ho Chi Minh City and Vietnam as a whole, as it struggles to develop sustainable growth in tourism.
My most enduring memory of Paris was on a school 'Economics' trip when I was 18. We were staying near Porte de Clichy and one night rather than coaching it back to the hotel we decided to walk. The road took us past the Moulin Rouge in the Montmartre area and our economics teacher Mr Connolly — infamous for having tried to persuade the now legendary John Barnes to finish his last two years of school rather than pursue a career in football — led the way, his wife a few paces behind. Suddenly a lady of the night accosted the poor man and tried to drag him into a taxi. He fought back but it took his screaming wife and a short tug-of-war to prevent a potential tragedy.
Take two Eastern Bloc countries from 20 years ago such as Belarus and Vietnam, and then compare them today. The difference is stark. Vietnam has embraced business and market principles, and the annual growth rate in GDP is above 5 percent.
Travelling around Vietnam is certainly no carefree jaunt. Busses can be cramped, stuffy and undependable, while the drivers can often be maniacs. Hustlers are a constant annoyance and the hassles are numerous. But all that is a breeze compared to traversing around India. Fortunately, it doesn’t have to be that way if you skip Delhi and head straight to Rajasthan.