The Hariphunchai Kingdom – Before Thailand Was Thailand

Before there was a Thailand, there was the Mon-speaking Dvaravati culture, which migrated from what is today Myanmar. The Dvaravati occupied present-day central and northern Thailand, and their seat of power was the central city of of Nakhon Pathom. One of the earliest cultures to reside in Southeast Asia, it lasted from around the 6th to the 11th century. Dvaravati was not so much a civilization as a …

Visiting Japan: Two Weeks, Four Destinations, A Multitude of Impressions

On the surface, Hiroshima, Japan, was like any other large metropolitan city. Traffic streamed down the broad boulevards. Trams trundled noisily past on tracks set in the middle of the street. People hurried along sidewalks under a searing sun. Yet from the moment I set foot in Hiroshima, I felt wrapped in a cloak of peace. War leaves its marks on cultures as firmly as it does on individuals. The devastation suffered from the A-bomb that was dropped on Hiroshima at the end of WWII might easily have… (Visited…

Viking River Myanmar Explorer Cruise – A Perfect Sampler for the First-Time Visitor

The sprite of a girl stood half hidden behind the bamboo gate leading to her family home. “Bye bye,” she said, waving and giggling. “Mingalaba,” I replied, using one of only two Burmese words I learned during my tour of Myanmar. This was not the first time I had felt welcomed during my two…

Shwedagon Pagoda in Yangon, Myanmar – Dazzling to See But Hard on the Feet

The soles of my feet were black as tar by the time I’d made a circuit of Shwedagon Pagoda in Yangon. Fortunately, the folks at Viking River Cruises were waiting for us with wet wipes. I cleaned and massaged my aching feet without complaint, for the famous Buddhist shrine, which requires visitors to remove their shoes and socks before entering, turned out to …