Ann St. Hilaire
New York, New York Travel Agent
Off the Radar in Southeast Asia
Southeast Asia has some fantastic ways to connect with its diverse people and traditions. The countries, their landscapes and their cultures are all so different, and as Americans, we generally know little of them or their thousands of years of history.
Some of the most unusual experiences are accessible with no sacrifice in comfort. For example, in Chaing Rai, Thailand, two five-star properties, the Four Seasons Tented Camp, Golden Triangle resort and Anantara Golden Triangle Elephant Camp and Resort, invite guests to interact with elephants and bathe them as well as take jungle walks and enjoy spa treatments. The Four Seasons accommodations are rustic chic, tents built on stilts in the jungle. Anantara is a more modern multi-story property.
Located at the northern point of the golden triangle, this is also a great jumping off point for day trips into Myanmar and Laos, so you can visit three countries and not change hotels.
Another unforgettable experience is in Chaing Mai, where the entire community gets up at around 5 a.m. to offer alms in the form of scoops of rice to the hundreds of monks walk down from monasteries. The hotels set up areas along the road for their guests to serve the monks as they file by. Amazingly, that meal is all they eat for the day.
In Luang Prabang, Laos, there’s an interesting buffalo cheese farm started by two ex-pats who noticed that buffalo weren’t being used in the off season. They began renting the buffalo and developed a business that now provides cheese for the whole area. They also began teaching the kids English and now offer tours and cooking classes.
Cambodia is also amazing. Having watched the Angelina Jolie movie, “First They Killed My Father: A Daughter of Cambodia Remembers” before my trip, it was wonderful to see Angkor Wat and there are a number of five star hotels within a few miles of the site.
Throughout Southeast Asia, one of my favorite things to do is go to the night markets. They are for the locals more than tourists and you see the most incredible things. For example, I’ve seen pedicure stands where fish nibble the dead skin off your feet with three people’s feet in a single large aquarium, with a food stand on one side and a sneaker seller on the other.
If you’re thinking of going to Thailand, Cambodia, Laos, Vietnam or Burma, I’d love to plan your trip. Thanks to my travels and connections, I can help you plan every step of the way and, if you want to travel independently, I can arrange for excellent English-speaking drivers and guides who will greatly enrich your experience.