Explore ancient realms, eclectic history, unspoilt nature and vibrant cities with Victoria and Helen on their intoxicating adventure through one of the most emerging regions of South-East Asia.


We found Laos to be a great introduction to old South-East Asia: its history spans over 10,000 years, Buddhism permeates every corner of life and the pace of life is as slow as it has been for centuries.

​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​Largely unspoilt, much of this land is mountains, mists and natural beauty, with charming cities, and it’s safe to say we’d go back in a heartbeat. Calm and tranquil, its saffron-robed monks moving silently between centuries-old monasteries, Luang Prabang is possibly the best-preserved city in this part of the world. For us, the most magnificent temple here was Wat Xieng Thong (The Golden Monastary) – within walking distance of the town, and situated above the point where the Mekong and Nam Khan River meet, this beautiful golden-clad temple is one of Laos’ most important, and an absolute delight to wander around.​

Around 18 miles from Luang Prabang, and making for a lovely day trip is the gorgeous Kouang Si Waterfall.

Tumbling 60 metres before spilling through a series of crystal turquoise pools, this is the perfect spot for a picnic and taking a dip in the lower pool. Or, for a complete contrast to all the tranquility, head to the city’s fabled night market – just a few hundred metres from Amantaka and open every evening. Like most markets, there are a lot of unnecessary tourist knick-knacks, but if you look carefully there are some really quaint genuine local pieces to be found at very cheap prices, and while open to haggling, the genuine locals are more generous in their prices compared to some Vietnamese or Thai peddlers who may hike their prices up when they see a likely tourist target.

Where to Stay | Laos

French-colonial-style Amantaka on the banks of the Mekong is small and intimate, its suites encircling the beautiful central courtyard, and all just a short walk from all the quaint boutiques, delicious bakeries and the former royal palace.​

Very much the region’s rising star, Cambodia has put its troubled past behind it and is now attracting discerning visitors.

They flock here for its beautiful beaches, fascinating Khmer culture, absorbing cities like Phnom Penh (the modern day capital on the banks of the Mekong and perfect for an overnight stop if you’re heading over to Song Saa) and cultural centres like Siem Reap. We loved this place (especially staying at the extraordinary Amansara), it felt very relaxed and spiritual, with oodles of wow factor due to the mix of culture, vibrant restaurants and bars, great shopping, and lovely riverside setting. ​​

Most people head to Siem Reap for one reason only though – to see the legendary temples at Angkor Wat.

More than 11 centuries old in parts, the spectacular complex of over 100 temples is a breathtaking sight (see it at sunrise when the shadows are long, making it very picturesque and eerie and ask your guide for a good spot so you can take some snaps without too many other people in your path). ​Also worth visiting are Angkor Thom – the one with the faces; Ta Promh – famous for its appearance in the Lara Croft film, and unique due to the flora and fauna that have threaded themselves through the walls; and Banteay Srey – 15 miles from the main site but one of the best preserved of all the temples and well worth the extra journey if you have the time. ​

​Aside from the temples, the other great thing about Siem Reap is its location just north of the Tonle Sap.

Its proximity to the lake means that you can use Siem Reap as a centre from which to take a boat trip on the lake to see some of Cambodia’s natural beauty, some interesting birdlife and the famous floating villages that are located on the lake. An Aqua Mekong cruise between July and November is also a great way to see some more of Cambodia without hopping on and off planes. 

Phnom Penh

If you have time in Phnom Penh, visit the impressive Royal Palace – the official residence of the king; and Tuol Sleng – converted during the Pol Pot era into a centre for interrogation and torture. In most cases, a stay here ended in death for most prisoners, and is therefore a very harrowing experience that’s akin to a visit to Auschwitz but nevertheless serves as a reminder of what happened in Cambodia not so very long ago.​​​

Where to Stay | Cambodia

Amansara, Siem Reap

It has a lovely homely feel, and Sally the General Manager is exceptional. It's an architectural gem too, just 10 minutes from Angkor Wat and north of the Tonle Sap. Better for couples or families with older children, and they used old jeeps restored from the war to take guests around the city which was a nice touch.

Song Saa, Koh Rong Archipelago

Blissful seclusion! The villas here are just incredible, perfectly private, rustic with a modern twist, and all mod-cons but very eco-friendly. Set on a private island approximately 45 minutes from Sihanoukville Port, and again more couples-oriented but great if you have older kids who don't need a kids' club or organised activities.​

For us, Vietnam was probably the most unexpected surprise: beguiling, charming and dazzling.

Ho Chi Minh City (previously known as Saigon) is Vietnam at its liveliest, where commerce and culture combine in a flurry of chaos. The locals are constantly on the move, and it’s another city of great contrasts, where gleaming skyscrapers rub shoulders with ramshackle wooden shops and old French colonial architecture. For a more leisurely way to see the city, take a Cyclo Tour. The guide sits in the saddle behind and pedals you around sites like the History War Remnants Museum; Reunification Palace, the replica of Notre Dame Cathedral and the local markets. Formerly known as the ‘Museum of Chinese and American War Crimes’, the History War Remnants Museum is a very interesting stop – it doesn’t pull any punches but it does give visitors a real insight into what happened during the invasions by France, China and the USA from the Vietnamese perspective.

South of Ho Chi Minh are the floating markets of the Mekong Delta, where vendors will paddle their boats over to you and offer everything from fresh fruit and seafood to local crafts.

In Hue, it’s all about the large walled Imperial City with its integrated waterways. You can spend a good few hours discovering the various monuments dotted around the main citadel. There’s an outstanding collection of pagodas and palaces, royal tombs and temples here, and while much of the Imperial City was flattened during the Vietnam War, some excellent buildings remain while others have been rebuilt.

Hoi An on the other hand is notable for its restrictions on motorbikes and other traffic in an attempt to retain what it has in abundance: old world charm.

This is one of the region’s oldest trading centres and while its Old Quarter is beautifully preserved, the town’s quiet narrow streets are filled with cafés and up to 500 of Asia’s finest and fastest tailors (you can visit one of the local shops and have a made-to-measure outfit created for you within a matter of a few hours at very reasonable prices). 

Hoi An by night is a delight too – the shop owners are compelled to adorn the facades of their premises with lanterns that glow with colour along the narrow streets and the river.

If you’re in town on the fourteenth day of every lunar month, the lantern-lit streets come to life with dance and music performances. And if you didn’t manage to see Angkor during your trip, head to the My Son ruins – not as well-known and certainly not as grand as those in Siem Reap, they still hold considerable charm with some sections dating back around 1000 years or more. 

Where to Stay | Vietnam

  • The Reverie Saigon

    ​The highest hotel in the metropolis, with incredible service, great views and an excellent location right on Nguyen Hue Boulevard, so brilliant for browsing the designer shops in this part of the city. Every room was slightly different in terms of design, very spacious and super-stylish.​

  • Banyan Tree Lang Co, Hue

    ​Typical Banyan Tree in style and service, very spacious villas, an amazing setting, very peaceful and ideal for a resort-based holiday, or relaxing after a busy itinerary. ​

  • Four Seasons Resort The Nam Hai, Hoi An

    ​Lovely location directly on an incredible beach. Asian with a modern twist, the rooms were very different, and the even though the hotel was full during our stay, it never felt too busy. Excellent food, a great cooking class and fabulous overwater spa. ​

Our Featured Hotels

  • Amantaka Luang Prabang

    Housed in French colonial buildings, this peaceful retreat offers several dining options from authentic Lao to French-influenced cuisine awaits, and is in walking distance of Luang Prabang’s many attractions.

    Call us on 01244 567 000 to start planning your next holiday.

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  • Amansara Siem Reap

    True 1960s cool brought bang up-to-date, the sleek modernist architecture of this former royal guest house has been exquisitely restored. But the real highlights are the guided temple excursions by remork (moped-powered trishaws), balloon, or helicopter.​

    Call us on 01244 567 000 to start planning your next holiday.

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  • Song SAA Private Island Koh Rong Archipelago

    Cambodia’s very first private island resort, and as seductive as its name implies, ‘special’ hardly covers this magical place – intimate, luxurious and in complete harmony with all the elements of nature.

    Call us on 01244 567 000 to start planning your next holiday.

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  • Banyan Tree Lang Co Hue

    Dramatic landscapes and sensational East Sea vistas greet you every day at this Vietnamese-inspired all pool villa resort in the heart of Vietnam's newest international playground.

    Call us on 01244 567 000 to start planning your next holiday.

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  • Four Seasons Resort The Nam Hai Hoi An

    With its centrepiece of beautiful pools and endless palms, there’s a Zen-like quality to Four Seasons Resort The Nam Hai that continues inside the plush villas and throughout.

    Call us on 01244 567 000 to start planning your next holiday.

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