Next month I am headed to SE Asia for a scouting trip through Laos, Vietnam, and Cambodia. As the Asia Program Director, I like to revisit all of our destinations on a regular basis to stay in touch with our guides, find new exciting and authentic adventures, and seek out the best places to send you when you visit. It's a tough job, but someone's gotta do it! Here's what I can't wait to see and do:
Vientiane for Lao New Year
I'm lucky enough to arrive into Vientiane in time for Lao New Year festivities. Also known as Pi Mai Lao, it is traditionally a time of renewal where water is used as the main symbol. Images of Buddha are washed, temples repainted, and homes cleaned from top to bottom. Young people first respectfully pour water on their elders, then on monks for blessings of long life and peace, and last of all they throw water at each other, which no one seems to mind since it is the hottest time of year.
World Heritage town of Luang Prabang
I'll wander the small side streets of Luang Prabang exploring temples, shops, and charming markets. A day in the countryside will give me the chance to meet with some locals from the Hmong and Khmu communities, soak in the crystal clear waters of Kuang Si Waterfall, and cruise to the Pac Ou Caves that store more than 3,000 images of Buddha.
In Hanoi, I'll stroll through the Old Quarter with its fusion of French and Vietnamese architecture dodging scooters and bicycles, while munching on street food along the way. I'll bike through the countryside along the rivers and waterways to flower markets and fruit groves, stopping to chat with locals to learn about their lives and livelihoods.
Ha Long Bay
I'll explore one of the most spectacular UNESCO World Heritage sites, home to the world's largest marine karst landscape, and enjoy two days of kayaking, swimming, cave exploration, sunbathing, and squid fishing!
The historic cities Hue and Hoi An
Once grand cultural and trading cities, Hue and Hoi An are now adventure seeker hot-spots full of history, both ancient and recent. They both boast architecture indicative of their French and Chinese influences, tasty food (always my highlight), and rivers and beaches to stroll along.
Ho Chi Minh City (Saigon)
I'm excited to experience the nightlife of Saigon the way locals do, from the back of a vintage Vespa scooter! I'll cruise the waterways of the Mekong Delta exploring the floating markets, workshops, pagodas, and families who call this vast maze of rivers, swamps, and islands home.
The capital city Phnom Penh
In Phnom Penh, I can't wait to indulge in more of my favorite activity, eating local delights, while learning more about the history, culture, and lifestyles of the Cambodian people. I'll take a sunset cruise on the Mekong River through the city to see how the past meets with the present as Buddhist pagodas and tall commercial buildings coexist along the river.
I'll venture into the jungle of Botum Sakor National Park for a couple of nights at the new Cardamom Tented Camp, where I'll take part in patrolling with forest rangers, setting up camera traps to monitor local wildlife, and exploring the river systems by kayak, looking for monkeys and birds.