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To travel beyond the crowds and popular sights, spare some space in your itinerary for one of these exclusive experiences in Southeast Asia.
Spiritual Awakening in Luang Prabang, Laos
Orange-robed monks receiving alms is an iconic image in the UNESCO World Heritage town of Luang Prabang, but it can feel a bit one-sided; you may well be surrounded by tourists itching to get a snap of this humble ritual.
To avoid simply watching from afar, learn about the spirituality of the town by spending a morning in a village just across the Mekong River. Meet the monks, take part in a calming guided meditation session and prepare khan dok mai (a traditional donation of marigolds and palm leaves).
Halong Bay by seaplane, Vietnam
While heading from Hanoi to Halong Bay by car is perfectly acceptable, there’s nothing quite like a bird’s eye view of those limestone pillars drawing closer. Take a seaplane flight between the two and swap a 4-hour journey by road with a 45-minute aerial experience over one of the most magnificent natural wonders in Vietnam. Soar over miles of patchwork countryside, rural villages and rambling rivers before weaving around 2,000 islands and islets on your descent into Halong Bay.
Mountainous Muang La Resort, Laos
Luang Prabang is often the northernmost point for travellers to Laos, but the imposing limestone mountains, dense forests and preserved villages of the rural north are well worth the trip. While the roads there twist and turn, reaching the Muang La resort on the banks of the Nam Pak River is a sweet reward. Private villas await in tropical gardens; each with a terrace overlooking either the gardens or a river – a tricky choice and both scenic spots for an aperitif…
Around the grounds, find a farm-to-table restaurant serving the finest fresh food and a spa with a sauna, hot spring bath and traditional Lao massages on offer. Spend the day with an expert guide to get to the heart of the region, before returning to this secluded sanctuary.
Audience with a Khmer Rouge survivor
At least 2 million people – including 90% of Cambodia’s artists, musicians, dancers and intellectuals – were killed during the devastating reign of the Khmer Rouge between 1975-79. Born into a family of musicians, Arn Chorn-Pond was sent to a children’s labour camp where his ability to play propaganda songs on the flute saved his life.
Having been adopted and taken to America, he returned in 1998 to launch Cambodian Living Arts, an organisation working to revive the country’s formerly vibrant heritage. Arn works with the few remaining cultural masters and gives talks about his harrowing experiences; while countless books and films have been made about the Khmer Rouge, meeting a survivor is a rare opportunity to hear a moving story first-hand.
Private Mekong Delta cruise, Vietnam
Don’t miss the chance to explore the enormous Mekong River, 2,700 miles of floating markets, quiet pagodas, and tiny stilted villages. Swap the busy streets of Ho Chi Minh City for a serene private cruise around the Mekong Delta’s quiet backwaters aboard a converted rice barge.
Private cookery class with Chef Duc, Vietnam
Whether it’s steaming bowls of pho, summer rolls packed with fresh herbs, or thick creamy curries served in banana leaves, every meal in Southeast Asia is a memorable one. On arrival home, you might find yourself scrabbling around the kitchen, desperately trying to replicate your favourite dishes. Take a half-day cooking class with revered Hoi An chef Duc Tran to bring some Southeast Asian food secrets home.
Private helicopter over Angkor, Cambodia
The incredible Angkor temple complex is the largest religious monument in the world, but it’s impossible to grasp the size and scale of the site from the ground. What better excuse to take a private helicopter ride?
Champagne cruise at Angkor Thom, Cambodia
If helicopter heights aren’t for you, how about taking to the water instead? A cruise on the moat around Angkor Thom is the perfect place to escape the crowds. Watch the sun dip behind the temples and raise a glass of fizz to your holiday (and this major feat of ancient engineering).
Sophie’s art tour
Discover Vietnam’s rich art history through Ho Chi Minh City resident and art expert, Sophie. Her tours take travellers on a potted history of Vietnam, from the French artists of the 1920s, through the years of popular propaganda art, up to the art market boom of the 1990s; a fascinating insight into how art has been inextricably linked with politics in Vietnam.
To make your trip to Southeast Asia extra special, get in touch with our team of travel experts.