Southeast Asia, including Myanmar (formally Burma), Thailand, Laos, Cambodia, and Vietnam, is one of the most exotic and mysterious places you'll ever visit. The architecture, landscape and cultures reveal ancient civilizations that one could hardly imagine in your wildest dreams. Most itineraries past through at least three of these countries, which share long and curvy borders.  

      Myanmar (Burma)      

What We Love

•  Historically this country has been known for its plight to preserve its unique culture by shutting its doors to the outside world. It is only in recent years that the socialist government has allowed foreigners to see its hidden and timeless beauty. There are few countries remaining in the world that have resisted western influences, where a traveler can absorb a culture in its native form. 

• The Buddhists endless and peaceful search for nirvana is a welcome reprieve from modern Western life. Once you adjust, it is easy to just float along at their serene daily pace.

• The magnificent Shwedagon Pagoda in the capital city of Yangon (previously Rangoon) is an awe-inspiring 326 foot golden dome encrusted with 5,448 sparkling diamonds and over 2,317 rubies, sapphires and topaz. 

What To Do

• Float in a hot-air balloon above the 5,000 shrines and temples that rise from the other-worldly Plains of Pagan.

• Rise with the sun and partake in a ritual where one is able to put food in the bowls of the waiting monks.

• For those who need a reprieve from archaeological sites and temples, the Inle Lake area in the hill country is a beautiful natural environment. The ethnic minorities of this area anchor patches of weed on the water and use them as floating flower and vegetable gardens. One can also visit the "Jumping Cat" Monastery where monks have trained cats to do amazing tricks.

Where to Stay 

An ideal way to see a different side of life in Myanmar is aboard one of the Orient Express' luxury river cruisers, the "Road to Mandalay." One can make the peaceful river journey along the Ayeyarwady River from the cultural center of Mandalay to Pagan, the treasure trove of Buddhist art history. Here one has the opportunity to disembark and visit one of the nearby villages to see how the local people live. A truly eye opening experience!

Relax on the upper deck while taking in the temple studded horizon and ever-changing scenes of the surrounding river life.

While You’re in the Neighborhood 

We highly recommend a combination trip to Thailand. It is a nice contrast to see two countries similar in that both are predominantly Buddhist, yet on different sides of the spectrum in terms of modern development.

 

 

Thailand 

What We Love 

  • Being draped in a jasmine wreaths upon arrival, a local custom. 
  • The joyful Thai people who believe in chai yen (cool heart) and sank (life is pleasure). The country’s 55 million citizens have long been known for their independent spirit with a history of rejecting foreign control and colonialism. 
  • The diversity of the landscapes and architecture from the glittering temples in the capital to fertile rice fields, lush tropical rainforests and beautiful white sand beaches. 
  • The complex and adventurous flavors in their coconut milk based cuisine laced with lemon grass, ginger, coriander, and lots of hot chilis.

What To Do 

  • Spot the wild elephants (maybe even a tiger or two) in the Khao Yai National Park. Hiking trails meander through lush forests with waterfalls and cacophonous tropical birds.
  • Expand your bargaining skills in the famous floating market in the canals of Bangkok. Expand your mind in the swirling kaleidoscope of smells and colors at Chiang Mai's Night Market.
  • Coordinate your trip with one of the country’s many festivals that celebrate things like Buddhism, the harvest, and past kings.
  • Visit the eclectic hill tribe villages in the northern reaches of the country.

 

 

While You're in the Neighborhood

Legendary spas are a great extension for a few extra days in either Thailand or Bali. It’s also nice to combine the relative peaceful and tranquility of Myanmar with the more populated Thailand. 

 

 

Laos

Mixed rights

What We Love

  • A “long-lost Asia” still exits here in lush forests, vibrant markets, iconic rice fields with a dash of French colonial influence.  
  • The interesting mix of colonial and Buddhist architecture and Lao wooden homes tucked side by side on quaint cobblestone streets. 
  • The Mekong River meanders through large canyons and into the rainforest.

What To Do 

  • Watch the silent procession of young monks accepting alms at dawn.
  • Visit the Wat Si Saket Temple in the capitol city of Vientiane and climb the long staircase up to the Phoussy Temple in the former imperial capitol city of Luang Prabang. 
  • Once in Luang Prabang, board a riverboat on the fabled forest Mekong River and drink in stunning mountain vistas and the mystical caves of Pak Ou.
  • Spend a day with a hill tribe and learn locals trades like the ancient distillation process of Laotian whiskey.

While You're in the Neighborhood

 

 

Cambodia

Images courtesy Abercrombie & Kent

 

What We Love

  • Exploring the lost city of Angkor. Abandoned deep in the forest centuries ago, it was the capitol of the Khmer Empire which flourished from the 9th to the 15th centuries. It was the largest pre-industrial city in the world, with an elaborate infrastructure system connecting an urban sprawl of at least 1,000 square kilometres (390 sq mi) and housing .1% of the world’s population.
  • The fact that the present-day capital, Phnom Penh, has as many historical wats (temples) filling the skyline as it does skyscrapers.

What To Do 

  • Visit The Royal Palace in the capital city, which was the inspiration for the Grand Palace of Bangkok. It is a dazzling sight of multicolored layered roofs, carved lintels, and a throne room where a golden Buddha studded with nearly 10,000 diamonds resides.
  • After a long day exploring Angkor, spend a relaxing evening in Siem Reap attending a traditional dance performance. The dances enact stories that have been passed down over an hundred generations. 
 

 

Vietnam 

A+K mix AKT 

What We Love

                                               China Beach

                                             China Beach

  • The new Vietnam has emerged as a fascinating mix of tradition, colonial influences, and vibrant modernization. 
  • Spotting all the classic images of farmers working in stepped rice fields in straw conical hats, school girls in flowing white ao dais gracefully pedaling down French styled boulevards. 
  • Taking a break from the dizzying hustle and bustle of Ho Chi Minh (formerly Saigon) to visit the old imperial capital of Hue. 
  • Even hyperbole fails us in trying to describe The Bay of Descending Dragons. The 3,000 rocky islets rising from the water create one of the most awe-inspiring vistas on Earth.

What To Do

  • Get a local’s view of Hanoi on a Cyclo. 
  • For those interested in seeing landmarks from the Vietnam War, the Cu Chi Tunnels are extraordinary. The underground network–or underground city really–was used as hospitals, hiding places, meeting areas, and storage areas for the Viet Cong and North Vietnamese forces. It gives one a new appreciation for what the US was up against.   
  • Take a visit to the famous American GI R&R retreat, China Beach. Enjoy endless white sandand clear blue water.