Asia is host to a number of fascinating countries and cultures and Titan has recently introduced a new tour that visits three fantastic different countries in one itinerary; Thailand, Laos and Cambodia. I was lucky enough to experience most of the Hidden Treasures of the Mekong itinerary for myself earlier on this year and it was an awakening and an education of my soul, heart and mind. Starting off in Northern Thailand I spent time in Chiang Mai, Chiang Rai and the Golden Triangle region. While less famous tourist destinations than the capital Bangkok and the beach destinations of the South, the history and culture of the North was fascinating. From the beautiful countryside of Chiang Mai, to the striking White Temple of Chiang Rai and the thought provoking history of the Golden Triangle region, each visit brought something different to the forefront of my mind and sparked my senses.
From there I embarked on two full days cruising the stretch of the Mekong between Chiang Khong and Luang Prabang in Laos – where do I start? Beautiful, wonderful Laos. Probably the lesser known and least travelled to country on the tour, it quickly became the unexpected highlight of my trip. The stretch of the Mekong we cruised down was absolutely stunning, and we experienced it all from the relaxation of a traditional and comfortable riverboat. The best part of the journey was that unlike the sometimes busy and rather crowded stretch of the lower Mekong river that runs from Vietnam up through Cambodia, on our first day we didn’t see a single other tourist vessel, just the locals in their small fishing boats and children laughing and playing on the riverbank. The riverside lodge that we stayed at exceeded all of my expectations and we had dinner sitting out on the deck looking out over the Mekong river with the backdrop of a beautiful sunset before a huge tropical thunderstorm broke out which just made the experience that more amazing!
At the end of the second day the river started to become busier as we approached our destination, the UNESCO World Heritage listed city of Luang Prabang – which truly is a ‘Hidden Gem’ located on the banks of the Mekong! Small in size, I found it to be a completely unique experience and unlike any other city I have visited in Asia. You can feel the French colonial influence everywhere from the beautiful architecture to the delicious cuisine and the people were some of the friendliest and welcoming I have come across. I never felt hassled not even in the popular night market; I was just left to browse in peace and at my own pace, a stark contrast to the experience had in Bangkok’s famous night markets! It was also fascinating to hear about the history of Laos, particularly the political history, and I still find myself pondering over it now – weeks after my return home.
From Luang Prabang I flew to arguably one of the most popular and well-established tourist destinations of Asia – Siem Reap. It was a total contrast to both Northern Thailand and Luang Prabang which is exactly what is so wonderful about Asia and makes this trip so varied and insightful. It was busy and full of life and visiting the temples at Angkor is a truly breath-taking and humbling experience! On our Hidden Treasures of the Mekong itinerary, not only do you get to see Angkor, but you spend a culturally immersive morning visiting a local Cambodian village outside of Siem Reap where you get to eat breakfast (provided by your hotel), with a local family in their own home. This contrast in experiences means you get to discover rural Cambodia as well as the tourist hotspots.
Inspired? Discover more about ‘The Hidden Treasures of the Mekong’ on our website.