I fell in love with Northern Thailand when I first went there in 2015. I loved it so much that I even went back the next year before heading to Laos and Cambodia. Here’s an entry on golden temples that glow under the sun by day and stars and lanterns by night, the majesty of riding an elephant, and a glimpse into a culture so welcoming I felt I must have already been here before (in another life). Continue reading “Traveling Northern Thailand”
Laos was the country I’d been waiting to visit for my entire life. Tourism only started there in the late 1990s, and this is a good thing for many reasons. But one of the best parts about traveling to a country just opening to the world is that I had no preconceived notions about it. No stock images in my head of what I’d see. Even after researching the trip, I still didn’t know what to expect. But even if I had had expectations, Laos would have exceeded them every time. Here’s a Laos travel itinerary with impressions and stories and pictures from the land of a million elephants.
I’ve had the good fortune to have traveled some pretty amazing places in my life. But this trip to Southeast Asia – from northern Thailand to Laos and Cambodia – was the best yet. For so many reasons: elephant sanctuaries, slow boat cruises on the Mekong, cities of golden-tipped temples, Lao coffee, motorbike trips into brocade jungles, hidden waterfalls and bayou river islands and ancient temple ruins, learning the other side of a history I thought I knew, pepper farms and crab markets, museums of murder, an abandoned mountaintop fortress camouflaged in perpetual clouds, and post-apocalyptic ruins in a seaside town that had once been slated for bigger things. Here’s an overview of the best things I did in Southeast Asia.
Last Christmas, I traveled the tiny island of Con Dao off Vietnam’s southern coast, where I somehow managed to unwittingly fly straight into a typhoon. After the storm passed, I explored the island’s notorious and expansive network of prisons. From 1862–1975, Con Dao was France’s, and then Vietnam’s penal colony in the South China Sea, and today, the ruins coexist peacefully alongside markets and homes and schools. Here’s an entry on off-hand discoveries, official histories, and the infamous tiger cages of Con Dao.
A typhoon usually doesn’t just sneak up on you. But that’s exactly what happened to me last Christmas Eve, when my husband and I unwittingly traveled to the Vietnamese island of Con Dao the day before a roaring typhoon was scheduled to hit. Here’s a story about taking cover in the eye of tomorrow’s unknown.
During our two-day Mekong slow boat cruise from Thailand to Laos, I found myself hypnotized by waveless muddy waters and mountain jungles, and discovered that a slow boat rocks you to sleep like a hammock. Here’s an entry on a journey into the green heart of Laos.
Traveling to Laos is half the fun. The southeast Asian country was virtually closed off to tourism until the late 90s, and is just opening to the world. What I had read about Laos said that things there move at a different pace: everything slows waaay down. So, we would too. We traveled to Laos from Thailand by plane, bus, taxi, foot, and finally, a 2-day slow boat cruise on the Mekong River to reach Luang Prabang, Laos.
Laos’s Bolaven Plateau is another world of waterfalls straight out of Jurassic Park, quiet village life, and the best coffee I’ve ever had. We drove into the plateau with a rented scooter that maxed out at about 30 km/hour, not really knowing where we were going or what we were going to see…and were rewarded with landscapes that reminded me of what the word “stunning” really means.
When I was in Laos last month, I drank A LOT of coffee. Well, I always drink a lot of coffee, so what I mean is that I drank a lot of really exceptional coffee. With the perfect geology and climate for coffee cultivation, Laos’s Bolaven Plateau produces some of the best coffee beans in the world.
I got a recipe for the perfect pour over from a barista at Jhai Coffee House in Paksong, and I’m sharing it with you here…it’s changed my mornings forever!
During the Vietnam War, there was this entire Secret War going on in Laos that I learned about while I visited what is one of the world’s most beautiful – and unfortunately, most heavily bombed – countries. It got me thinking about what it means to travel as an American to places like Laos, where they are still dealing with the legacy of destruction with millions of unexploded bombs littering the countryside. Especially at this fraught political moment, just weeks before Trump’s inauguration.