Whatever your traveling soul may be hoping for this year, don’t wander too far without seeing the most talked about destinations in 2010. Take your choice of Morocco, Thailand, Vietnam, Cambodia or Laos. For each destination, We’ve put together the best places to stay and the top choices of things to do when traveling the next list.
A remarkably varied country with a rich history, Morocco is situated on the coast of northern Africa – an arid region that borders the Atlantic Ocean and Mediterranean Sea. Strong European influences can be seen throughout the architecture of the cities, as Moorish and Art Deco styles mingle, illustrating the story of years of French, Spanish and Portuguese occupation. Modern structures surround Renaissance-age medinas, walled districts characterized by narrow tangles of streets. Cars are replaced by carts and mules in the maze-like medinas, bringing the cities of the past to life. The famous Djemaa el Fna in Marrakesh and many open-air markets throughout the country are teeming with fine leatherworks, textiles, jewelry and delicious outdoor cafes. A parade of cultures lend their influences to Moroccan cuisine creating a blend of Berber, Spanish, Portuguese, Mediterranean and African flavors. Relaxed moods and rocky beaches define the coastal towns, including Casablanca, immortalized in the 1942 film. Fez, one of the country’s most popular cities, is home to plenty of the historic fondouks, palaces, residences, mosques and fountains that date back to the 13th and 14th century. Away from the colorful burgs however, there is a vast wilderness of mountain and desert that tempts visitors with the promise of solitude and adventure in the Atlas Mountains. Guests to Morocco can also trek the Sahara via camel through the crimson and gold dunes where giant Kasbah fortresses sprout from the rocky hills, echoing of ancient battles. Let Ker & Downey guide you through this diverse domain in refreshing luxury.
The Must Do List: Get a view from the tents at Kasbah Tamadot, listen to the storytellers at the Djemaa El Fna Square, desert drives in Erfoud
The Kingdom of Thailand is a cosmopolitan haven in the center of Southeast Asia. Bangkok, the country’s capital and largest city, is a bustling metropolis that contrasts gilded temples with towering skyscrapers, befitting of the city’s status as a center of financial and business growth. A vibrant nightlife features colorful dance clubs, elaborate stage shows and night markets teeming with handcrafted treasures. By day, many of the historical marvels can be reached by boat on the Chao Phraya River that runs through the city center. Tour the Temple of the Reclining Buddha (Wat Pho), or the Grand Palace, home to the mysterious Emerald Buddha. Conversely, a relaxed pace reigns in rural northern Thailand – brightly-lit streets are replaced by terraced rice paddies and acres of viridian farmland where mountains, not buildings, dominate the sky. In the northernmost jungles of the Golden Triangle, encounter indigenous hill tribe cultures as well as the Asian elephant, Thailand’s national symbol. Long synonymous with royalty and power, these gentle giants are now the subject of conservation efforts. Thailand’s diverse culture of modern-day excitement and a tradition of serenity ensure an engaging journey for privileged Ker & Downey guests.
The Must Do List: Interact with the elephants at the Golden Triangle, Lay out at the beaches of Krabi
Vietnam has risen from its war-torn past and transformed into one of the most stunning, eclectic countries in the world. Whether you are looking to hike through the emerald trails of the northern mountains or gaze at the native wildlife of its central rainforest, Vietnam intertwines the past and present for a unique cultural adventure. Explore the history of the country in Ho Chi Minh City, formerly Saigon, rich with many landmarks and lively floating markets. Pristine beaches and hidden islands along the South China Sea are a surprising contrast to the thick jungles typically associated with Vietnam.
The Must Do List: Street food tour in Hanoi, Halong Bay cruise
Formerly part of the French empire , Cambodia is a nation with an intriguing past and emerging future. The distinct French-Colonial architecture in the kingdom’s capital, Phnom Penh, earned the city the nickname “the Pearl of Asia” and the same French influences mingle with Khmer styles throughout most of the country. Intricate sandstone towers and bas-reliefs define the astounding Angkor Wat complex, a favorite destination along with the smaller surrounding temples, including the Bayon Temple. Intriguing floating communities dot the massive Tonle Sap Lake, where several series of tethered structures are the unique homes to thousands of Cambodians. Cambodia’s gorgeous southern coast on the Gulf of Thailand is a surprise to many visitors, featuring mid-century resort towns with white sand beaches and a growing number of beautiful resorts.
The Must Do List: Spend a day at the Knai Bang Chatt Sailing Club, Khmer cuisine lessons, bicycling around Angkor Wat
The tranquil country of Laos unites untamed natural beauty with its deep ethnic background to create an idyllic escape. Laos holds tight to its Buddhist tradition, the citizens living each day peacefully and gracefully with a pleasant, laid-back attitude. Watch the sun set on the Mekong River after a day-long journey through the mysterious Pak Ou caves, watery crags home to thousands of Buddha statues. Relaxed activities allow for a soulful discovery of the subtle beauty of Laos. Submerge yourself in the Lao culture as you watch traditional dance theater groups perform legendary tales and poems with colorful costumes and haunting melodies. Hundreds of saffron-robed monks move silently among centuries-old monasteries in Vientiane, performing a regimen of venerable rituals. Become a part of other rituals during a baci ceremony, where spirits are summoned for special occasions, granting prosperity after birth or marriage, or welcoming guests after long journeys. An escape with Ker & Downey to this nation of peace and serenity is at once rejuvenating and memorable.
The Must Do List: Wat Ho Phakeo, sightseeing along the Mekong River, wake up at dawn for morning rituals with the monks