The 'Terrace of the Elephants' are medieval tribunes of the high nobility of Angkor. The tribunes overshow victory square and victory road, where processions and games happened.
In the northern part of Angkor Thom are some seven or eight temple ruins who are quite impressive, but neglected. Barely a visitor goes here, although it's close by the other famous sights. It's worth to make a detour to the Preah Pithu Group.
The Thai/Cambodian border checkpoint at Koh Kong / Hat Lek is one of the quiet ones.
The country section is meant to give an overview on Southeast Asian countries, their politics, economy, ecology and peculiarities. It's not focussed on states only; a country here is meaned as a geographical, political, economical or ethnological unit, as Java is one, for example. Also historical countries as Angkor, Lanna or Funan get a place here.
The Empire of Angkor
The medieval empire of Angkor was the most significant state and civilization in Southeast Asia until today. It was remarkable above all for it's architecture, represented in numerous monuments as Angkor Wat and the Bayon, and it's cultural long-term influence in Southeast Asia until nowadays. But it was not only extraordinary for Southeast Asia; Angkor stands the comparison with the other great empires of world's history.
One of the totally wrecked down countries of the world is Cambodia, the biggest victim of the American Vietnam War and it's aftermath. Pulled into the war against the political will of it's leaders, after the American withdrawal it fell into the hands of a barbarious gang which damaged the Cambodian society so severly that there are only very few comparable examples in world's history. After about thirty years of war Cambodia is now struggling in a new world order of global neoliberalism and ruthless competition on the world market. It's chances to come up and create a society in which people can live in ease, free of fear and poverty, are against all odds.
Cambodian history consists of two significant eras. The first is coined by the remarkable medieval Angkorian empire with it's 'crown jewel' Angkor Wat. It set cultural standards for whole Southeast Asia.
The second is the time of the communist terror of the Khmer Rouge over Cambodia, with it's genocide and the 'Killing Fields'.
The Dvaravati Culture was a loose network of city states on the territory what is nowadays Thailand. There were three centers of the Dvaravati. Their time was roughly between the 6th and 13th century, until they were conquered and either destroyed or absorbed into the empire of Angkor or, as in the case of Hariphunchai, into the Tai kingdom of Lanna. The Dvaravati Culture evolved an unique art, which is clearly of Indian roots.
Funan is seen as the first civilization in Southeast Asia. It can barely be seen as an empire, for it was probably rather an alliance of towns along the lower Mekong River delta than a centralized state. The capital of this civilization was supposedly Angkor Borei. It later spread out it's influence, stretching over greater parts of nowadays Vietnam, Cambodia, Thailand until the borders of Burma/Myanmar and to the Isthmus of Kra. Funan was highly influenced by Indian culture.
Right side an example of a Funanese coin, depicting a rising sun.
Consisting of some 18,000 islands and stretching over 5,000 kilometers from east to west alone makes Indonesia a country with a wide diversity of species, climate and cultures. The landscapes are shaped by the pacific ring of fire, most of the islands like Java, the main island, came to existence due to volcanic activity. Mount Merapi is the most active volcano in Indonesia.
Indonesia impresses with it's stunning landscapes who are without compare in Southeast Asia. Here we see the ancient Tengger caldera, a former supervolcano on Java island, Indonesia. Nowadays a sandsea in which four smaller volcanoes are situated. In the foreground Mount Batok, left of him Mount Bromo, the only active one in the group. In the background are two bigger ones. In the very background Mount Semeru (3,676 m), another active volcano and the highest mountain on Java. Image by Asienreisender, 2012
Isan is Thailand's northeastern region, bordering Laos at the Mekong River and Cambodia along the Dangrek Mountain Range. The region has a long history and in the southern part are numerous Angkorean temple ruins to visit. Isan is insofar different from other parts of Thailand as the people here have mostly Laotian or, in a smaller part, Khmer roots. That reflects in the local culture and food. Also politically the region differs from central Thailand, as the population here is by a great part oppositional towards the Bangkok elites.
In the months March to May hot, dry and dusty, in the rainy season often flooded - Isan has both extremes. The floodlands in the months between June and October are an ideal habitat for water lilies. Image by Asienreisender, Surin, 10/2015
Java/Indonesia is one of the really down-to-the-bottom countries in the world. Poverty and social neglect is enormous. The population continues growing, and the poverty with it. There is only a very small middle class. A few people are shamelessly rich and - the masses of the people - are very, very poor. They are particulary extremely uneducated and extremely uncultivated.
A truly tropical island, closely south to the equator. Shaped by 38 volcanos, Javanese soils are very fertile. Only decades ago it was still kind of a garden eden, a healthy land to live in and blessed with a huge biodiversity. Now, due to heavy overpopulation, industrialization, extensive land use and massive traffic, wildlife and wild plants suffer mass extinction.
Traditional Javanese Culture consists mainly of gamelan music, wayang shadow puppet plays and batic. There is a contemporary art as well, but I didn't notice much of it. It's, as everything nowadays, completely commercialized and, as it seems, designed to be displayed in wealthy places like banks, insurances, other big companies, lawyers and the riches homes. But there are some cultural highlights Java is shining with - one just has therefore to go a step back in history...
A fresco at the relief walls of Borobodur, central Java. 8th century Borobodur, a stepped pyramid, is a cultural highlight for whole Southeast Asia and can be seen in it's magnificience as a wonder of the world.
Image by Asienreisender, 2012
A Journey on Java
Starting a journey over Java, it's recommendable to have a soft start, adapting to Indonesia's main island. Digesting the culture shock, in fact the lack of culture in all-day-live, is a real challenge. A good starter therefore is Pangandaran.
There are some real highlights to visit on Java. One of them is Borobodur, the grand medieval monument in central Java. The photo shows a wall carpet, seen in a shop in Yogyakarta.
Image by Asienreisender, 2012
Lanna ('Land of a Million Rice Fields') is the name of a medieval kingdom which comprised north Thailand, north Laos, the Shan states of Burma/Myanmar and south China (Yunnan). From the mid 13th century until the 18th century Lanna played an important role in the local history of the area what became later known as the Greater Golden Triangle. Lanna resisted successfully the Mongolian armies in the 13th century who tried to invade the area to make their way to conquer further south the Chao Phraya plains.
Lanna is rich in a unique style of temple paintings, who depict not only the Life of Buddha but also events in the traditional life of the Lannanese people. This picture bedecks a temple in the countryside between Wiang Kaeng and Toeng, north Thailand. Image by Asienreisender, 3/2012
Little Laos, the country with the mountain tribes and some of the last thick forests in Southeast Asia started opening it's economy for foreign investment, mainly from China, Vietnam and Thailand. Late Capitalisms hunger for profit in times of overaccumulation and overproduction, and technical potences never seen before performs a high-speed industrialization of the no more that forgotten country. The forests fall, streets and big infrastructural networks are under construction. The country's capital Vientiane is under massive change. The quiet, remote and widely unknown country, the 'Jewel of the Mekong', as it is marketed by the tourist industries, is eating up it's natural treasures in fast motion.
Limestone Mountains in North Laos
The mountainous surrounding of Vang Vieng, one of the touristic spots in Laos, at the Nam Song (River).
Malaysia is a country with a multitude of cultures and people. It's also one of the three high developed countries in Southeast Asia, together with neighbouring Singapore and Thailand. The once huge rain forests fall victim to the palm oil industries, little native forest is left nowadays. Most tourists visit Penang and Malacca, maybe the Cameron Highlands as well. But there is more to see in Malaysia.
Singapore gives quite a contrast to all the other Southeast Asian countries. It's the only state which is considered a 'first world country' in the world region. Living standard is high, as the living costs are. The corruption level is low, and the authoritarian system is well known for it's draconic punishments also for minor offences.
The skyline of downtown Singapore. Image by Asienreisender, 2012
Southeast Asia includes twelve countries. It's part of the Asian continent and covers the span between the east of India, the south of China and the north of Australia. It contains a lot of different landscapes. Civilizations date not back here as long as in Europe, China or India. The first civilized people came from India into the region.
There is a great variety of customs, people, nature, religions and history in the different parts of the world region. Photocomposition by Asienreisender, 2012
Magnificient Lake Toba in the Barisan Mountains of north Sumatra. Image by Asienreisender, 2010
Sumatra is the world's sixth largest island, the westernmost island of Indonesia. It's nature is home to one of the highest biodiversities on earth. Travelling Sumatra was always a great thing for great parts of the nature were still widely intact and it's home for a number of very archaic cultures and a lot of exotic animals and plants. Formerly almost completely covered by tropical rainforests and mangrove forests along the long coastlines, the nature get's rapidly destroyed in our times. The population is growing rapidly and moreover the natural forests are irreversebly butchered for the sake of palm oil plantations ('bio fuel') and rubber plantations (automobile industries). Unique natural habitats come more and more under pressure and extinct.
Thailand is a main tourist destination in the world. It's coming close to 30 million tourist arrivals per year. What's the fascination of the country? Well, apart from sex-tourism and full-moon-parties it's a really interesting country do explore in detail.
A painting of rural live in Lanna, the historical name of the northern part of what is nowadays Thailand. Thai history is thrilling like a crime. The image shows a temple painting in Wiang Kaeng, north Thailand, shot by Asienreisender, 2012
The easternmost country of Indochina forms geographically a long and partially narrow shape, stretching from the Gulf of Thailand and the Mekong Delta to the Yunnan Highlands, from the South China Sea to the Annamite Mountain Range. It's natural variety is as big as it's cultural; the people of Vietnam are very heterogenious.