Tag: Cambodia

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12 of the World’s Great Wonders

Ancient, Modern, Natural and the lists go on…remember when there was just the classic Seven Wonders of the World? We agree, it’s not easy to include all of our planet’s incredible places in any one list, but Gate 1 has narrowed it down to Twelve Wonders of the World that we think are worthy of being on your bucket list this year.

Machu Picchu, Peru

The ‘Lost City of the Incas’ was built in the 15th century, famously re-discovered in 1911 and today is the highlight of any tour to Peru. Dramatically positioned at over 2400 metres above sea level, the citadel’s scenic location is where the Peruvian Andes and the Amazon Basin meet. The World Heritage-listed site is described by UNESCO as “among the greatest artistic, architectural and land use achievements anywhere and the most significant tangible legacy of the Inca civilisation.”

Machu Picchu Peru

Great Wall, China

Okay, so we know that the Great Wall can’t really be seen from the moon, but it still feels out of this world to walk on this incredible man-made structure. Construction of individual walls started way back in the 7th century BC and gradually these linked together to create a formidable protector of China’s northern borders. There have been many reconstructions and repairs, but the main areas you can visit were built during the Ming Dynasty from the 14th to 17th centuries. A tip: do some stair training before you attempt the climb and wear study shoes with good grip to improve your chances of making it to one of the 25,000 watchtowers along the wall!

Eiffel Tower, France

Standing proud at 324 metres tall and celebrating its 128th birthday on 31 March, 2017, the Eiffel Tower is one of the most famous attractions in Paris. Each year the tower welcomes over seven million visitors and, not surprisingly, most people choose to take the lift to the top rather than walk the 1,665 steps! Did you know that the Eiffel Tower is also a smog metre? Paris has introduced many great environmental initiatives to improve air quality and on days when the iconic tower is barely visible due to pollution, the city provides free public transport to encourage commuters to leave the car at home.

Eiffel Tower Paris

Chichen Itza, Mexico

So far the Wonders on our list are places you would have heard about and might have already been, but here’s a site that often flies under the radar yet deserves to be high on your bucket list! World Heritage-listed Chichen Itza is one of Mexico’s most spectacular Mayan sites. This magnificent metropolis was the principal ceremonial centre of the Yucatan and here you can learn about the unusual beliefs and rituals that defined the ancient Mayan civilisation. The site is dominated by the towering walls of the dramatic Temple of Kukulkan, also known as El Castillo with its 365 steps – one built for each day of the year.

Colosseum, Italy

The mighty Colosseum is the largest amphitheatre built in the Roman Empire that seated over 50,000 people. It’s where gladiatorial contests and public events were attended by the rich, the poor and by the Emperor himself. The venue was also known as the Flavian Amphitheatre because it was built during the Flavian dynasty, but the name Colosseum came about thanks to a nearby statue of ‘the colossus of Nero’. Discover more about this great feat of Roman architecture and engineering on Gate 1’s 12 Day Enchanting Italy with Amalfi

Colosseum Rome

Taj Mahal, India

In 2001 the Taj Mahal was officially crowned in the New7Wonders of the World, but of course long before that we’ve all been in awe of the majesty of this monument to love. Completed in 1648 after 22 years of painstaking work, the Taj was built by Emperor Shah Jahan as a mausoleum for his beloved Queen. This is perhaps the most perfect architectural monument, built of white marble and precious stones; regarded as the finest example of Mughal design in the world.

Grand Canyon, USA

The Grand Canyon is more than a great chasm carved over millennia through the rocks of the Colorado plateau – it is truly a momentous and unforgettable experience. Almost 450 km long, the Grand Canyon varies in width up to 29 km, with the Colorado River winding below. With Gate 1 you get to stay in a lodge that’s less than a half hour walk from the South Rim of the canyon, so just imagine the sunrise that awaits!

Grand Canyon USA

Northern Lights, Norway

Maybe more of a thing or experience than a place, auroras, or the Northern Lights, are an incredible Natural Wonder of the World. Predominantly seen at high latitudes, auroras are caused by interactions between the solar wind and the Earth’s magnetic fields. The brilliant variations in colour that you see dancing across the night sky are due to the type of gas particles that are colliding. Norway has some of the best locations for viewing this spectacle and it’s worth braving the colder months from September to March to see this stunning celestial performance.

Christ the Redeemer, Brazil

Construction was completed 86 years ago in 1931, so that makes Christ the Redeemer the youngest member of the New7Wonders of the World. When in Rio de Janeiro you can ascend by a scenic cog railway to the summit of Corcovado Hill. Here, at 700 metres above the Rio’s favelas and beaches, stands the 38 metre tall statue of Christ the Redeemer with its arms outstretched to embrace the city below. See the thrilling 360 degree sweeping view and understand why Rio is known as one of the most beautiful cities in the world.

Christ the Redeemer

Angkor Wat, Cambodia

UNESCO has set up a programme to safeguard Angkor, because they consider it to be “one of the most important archaeological sites in South-East Asia.” This sprawling city, built by Khmer Kings, was once home to more than one million people at the height of the empire. Your visit can include the fortified city of Angkor Thom and its mysterious Bayon Temple, replete with beautifully preserved bas-reliefs and more than 172 giant smiling stone faces. Ta Prohm is famously where the jungle was left untouched, but the most dramatic is stunning Angkor Wat, a temple dedicated to the Hindu god Vishnu. Renowned for its beauty and splendour, Angkor Wat has the longest continuous bas-relief in the world, which runs along the entire outer gallery walls, narrating stories from Hindu mythology. Gate 1 travellers get to top off an incredible day at Angkor Wat with an unforgettable sunset!

Lake Louise, Canada

Canada conducted its own poll in 2007 to find their Seven Wonders and everyone agreed, the Rockies had to be on the list. The famous mountain range spans the provinces of British Columbia and Alberta. National Parks in the region include Jasper, with the massive Athabasca Glacier, and Banff, site of the glacier-fed Lake Louise. Known for its sparkling blue waters and nestled at the base of impressive Victoria glacier, the Lake Louise area is one of the national park’s most picturesque and a symbol of the quintessential Canadian mountain scene.

Canada

St Basil’s Cathedral, Russia

The Church of Intercession, better known now as St Basil’s Cathedral, is Moscow’s most famous tourist attraction. Commissioned by Ivan the Terrible in the 16th century to commemorate a military victory, legend has it that the ruthless ruler had the architect of the cathedral blinded so that he couldn’t create anything more beautiful (even though this myth has been busted, if you knew Ivan, it’s totally believable!). St Basil’s has survived centuries of war, fire and revolution, and even escaped a demolition order from Stalin. Thankfully the ornate building with its onion domes and circus-like decoration still stands at the southern end of Red Square and today is a must see on any tour of Russia!

Gate 1’s 12 Wonders of the World are on SALE NOW – Save $500 per person until 28 January, 2017. Click here for the full details.

Which Wonders of the World will be on your bucket list this year?

Asia & Pacific

Vietnam & Cambodia: Cultural Treasures of Indochina

Westerners often think of mainland Southeast Asia as a lush paradise of emerald-hued mountains overlooking tranquil villages, terraced farmland tilled by plow-pulling oxen, and French-flavoured cities frozen in time and buzzing with bicycles and motor scooters.

It is, indeed, all of these things. And two nations on this vast peninsular region south of China — Vietnam and Cambodia — stand out as the undeniable cultural core. Each is brimming with ancient sites that have had a dramatic influence in the region, natural beauty found nowhere else and rich traditions that celebrate an enduring heritage.

Vietnam North to South

A profound sense of humanity and harmony infuses every aspect of Vietnam. This mysterious and beautiful country boasts 2,140 miles of coastline, bays crowded with a maze of limestone towers, stunning French-colonial architecture, soaring mountains and a river and delta system that hosts a rich array of wildlife and supports an ancient rural way of life. Gate 1 travellers witness it all in the most enriching manner possible.

Hanoi recently celebrated its 1,000th birthday. For much of its history, it has been the political and cultural capital of the country. During the nation’s more turbulent times, it was the capital of French Indochina (1902-1954) — during which its elegant colonial-era buildings were constructed — and of North Vietnam (1954-1976). More than 50 ethnic groups have shaped Hanoi and the surrounding region; many of their stories and cultural relics are on exhibit at the Museum of Ethnology. But perhaps nowhere is the nation’s heritage more dramatically represented than in the world-renowned water puppetry that originated here. These fascinating shows are performed over a pool of water, depicting ancient folktales and long-cherished lore set to traditional music and Cheo, a form of opera.

Halong Bay Vietnam

Nearby, more than 3,000 islands rise from the shimmering waters of Halong Bay, many of them several hundred feet tall. This UNESCO World Heritage Site is shrouded in myth and legend. According to one tale, the gods sent dragons to this coastline to protect the country and they spat out jade and other jewels into the water. These precious stones protected the land from enemies approaching by sea. Gate 1 takes you sailing through this breathtaking archipelago of karst cliffs on a traditional junk. Floating fishing villages and inviting sandy beaches cling to the shores and vast echoing caves have been carved within the hulking rocks over millennia.

Though Hue was the capital of Vietnam for only 143 years, from 1802 to 1945, its cultural influence on the region has been immeasurable. This may be because the Nguyen Dynasty that ruled from here constructed such a vast and imposing complex of palaces and fortresses. Their Imperial City has undergone remarkable restoration. Its most notable structures are the 1.5-mile wall that surrounds it, the Imperial Enclosure, Thai Hoa Palace (or the Hall of Supreme Harmony), Hall of the Mandarins and the Forbidden Purple City, named after its Chinese counterpart.

Hoi An Vietnam

For a stroll through Vietnam’s past, there is no place in the world like Hoi An, a remarkably preserved trading port. The buildings and streets of its Old Quarter remain much as they were more than 500 years ago. As far back as the 8th century, a thriving spice trade brought unprecedented wealth into the region. Much later, a vibrant trade with Japan, China, India and Holland lured settlers here from those countries. With such a rich past, it’s easy to understand why Hoi An is an important UNESCO World Heritage Site. The spirit of its origins live on in the fascinating Old Quarter, as artisans fashion paper lanterns and residents carry goods in wicker baskets hanging from sticks slung over shoulders.

Like in Hanoi, the city’s French colonial influence is prevalent in the glorious architecture and wide boulevards of Ho Chi Minh City. The twin-spired, neo-Romanesque Notre Dame Basilica was built with materials imported from France. The Saigon Opera House carries echoes of the Petit Palais in Paris. Even the Post Office was designed by a Frenchman, one Gustave Eiffel. The true Vietnam here lives in the city’s lively and mesmerising markets. Dong Khoi Street captures the pulse of the city with its colourful shops and aromatic food stalls. At the intoxicating indoor emporium of Ben Thanh Market, all things Vietnamese can be found, from handicrafts to ao dai, the traditional silk tunic worn by women. And at the city’s fascinating floating markets, ancient houses and canal-side stalls are orbited by traditional longboats laden with all manner of goods and produce plucked from local farms.

Legacies of Cambodia’s Ancient Past

The centerpiece of any visit to Cambodia is the ancient city of Angkor, 40 square miles of stupendous architectural treasures unrivalled anywhere in the world. Its famous temple, Angkor Wat, took 25,000 workers 37 years to complete. Many historians call it the largest single religious monument in the world. Its five lotus-style spires are said to represent the five peaks of Mount Meru, home of deities from Hindu mythology. Its walls and moat symbolise Meru’s surrounding mountains and ocean. Remarkable in scale and design, it is considered a perfect example of the high classical style of Khmer architecture.

Angkor Wat Cambodia

The bustling and laid-back city of Siem Reap is the gateway to this spectacular site. Its streets lined with colonial and Chinese-style architecture are a delight to explore, and the city’s artful Apsara dancers cast their spell on all who attend a performance.

The city is also a launching point to one of the region’s most fascinating natural phenomena: Tonle Sap Lake. Loosely translated as “Great Lake,” Tonle Sap has an unusual geographic feature that affects village life on its shores. The flow of water exiting the lake changes direction twice a year. The lake empties into the Tonle Sap River, which later spills into the Mekong River and the Mekong Delta. During most of the year, the lake is fairly small and just three feet deep. But during monsoon season, the delta backs up. The resulting backwash reverses the Mekong’s flow and pushes water up the Tonle Sap River into the lake, enlarging its size six times and increasing its depth to 27 feet, setting in motion the fishing season for surrounding villages.

Cambodia’s capital, Phnom Penh, is the nation’s historic and cultural centre, and its capital. One of the prettiest French-built cities at its colonial height, it was known as the “Pearl of Asia” and was named for 14th-century Wat Phnom, still the city’s tallest structure. Elegant architecture and gracious boulevards set a sophisticated tone here and the city’s stunning temples are simply spellbinding. The Royal Palace, especially, boasts magnificent treasures such as the Silver Pagoda, with its floor of 5,000 shimmering tiles and bejewelled Buddha statues. On a more sobering note, the city commemorates a dark chapter in its history at the Tuol Sleng Genocide Museum, set in the former high school used as a security prison by the Khmer Rouge, the notorious regime that sent millions to their deaths in the late 1970s.

Explore the River that Connects Cultures

Vietnam and Cambodia are inextricably linked in so many ways, not the least by the Mekong River. Gate 1 Travel’s cruises along this fabled waterway are the most awe-inspiring way to connect with this forgotten world of stilt houses, narrow sampan boats, and locals sporting traditional straw hats.

Along the river’s banks in Cambodia, hilltop temples at Wat Hanchey and Kampong Cham overlook stunning landscapes. Tiny villages welcome you into their communities and schools. A call on Phnom Penh allows for exploration by 3-wheeled cyclo and a chance to pay homage at the Choeung Ek “Killing Fields.” As the river flows into Vietnam, small riverside towns open up to you, revealing long traditions of handmade mat-weaving and floating fish farms in the Cao Dai region. French influence lines the Mekong’s shores further downstream toward Sa Dec, lined with old mansions and merchant homes. In and around Cai Be Harbour, more than 500 vendors gather in boats and at dockside stalls to sell fruits, vegetables and handmade wares. It’s an intoxicating atmosphere, all unfolding in the shadow of the massive French Gothic Cathedral.

So Many Ways to Explore Vietnam and Cambodia with Gate 1 Travel

Gate 1 Travel shows you the best of these remarkable countries and their captivating cultures. You’ll enjoy comfortable accommodations every step of the way, the expert and welcoming services of our Tour Managers and generous features that bring the local culture to life – all at the Gate 1 value you know and love.

We hope to see you in Vietnam and Cambodia!