The ancient civilizations of Vietnam, Cambodia and Laos (Indo-China) had long fallen into decay when I travelled through South-East Asia. Inevitably degeneration had followed contact with the West and the invasion and subsequent colonization by the French and the war with the Americans; yet much of the charm and grandeur of the past has survived in these countries, protected by their remoteness to a large degree and the dense rainforests and mountain ranges covering half their area.
The population of Vietnam, Cambodia and Laos is Buddhist and therefore in essence gentle, tolerant, and addicted to pleasures and satisfactions of a discriminating kind. There is a right way to do everything, a gentle but persuasive protocol, full of subtle allusions, and nuances in gesture and speech that evades the foreign barbarian. The Europeans corrupted but failed to barbarise, fortunately, Indo-China (the former French colonies). Laos was considered the earthly paradise of South-East Asia, although Cambodia ran it a close second until the horrors and consequences of the Khmer Rouge regime. What could these people have suffered to have transformed sons and brothers, formed in the ambulatories of monasteries, into those terrible and implacable warriors who flocked to the standards of the Khmer Rouge?
These three oases of decorum and charm have been devastated and debauched in the Vietnam war (known in Vietnam as the American war!), when as many bombs were showered among the shrines and pagodas of these small countries as were expended in all the bombings put together of World War II.
Further south-east asian countries to be added: Thailand, Malaysia, Indonesia, Myanmar (formerly Burma) and Singapore.