Seasoned traveler and Ker & Downey Luxury Travel Consultant Jamie Bell shares nine of her top things to do in Southeast Asia.
Jamie Bell is a seasoned traveler who has spent over 25 years as a destination specialist with Ker & Downey. Having traveled extensively throughout Eastern and Southern Africa, she took a big jump out of her usual spots in the world with a fast-and-furious multi-country jaunt through Southeast Asia. After her trip to Vietnam, Cambodia, and Thailand, we asked her to share her list of top things to do in Southeast Asia.
My expertise has always been Africa. but I’ve wanted to visit and experience Vietnam, Cambodia, and Thailand first-hand for some time. My wish came true for my 25th anniversary with Ker & Downey. The best part: I had the opportunity to travel with the Ucars, some great clients of mine, whose trips I have been planning for about 10 years. It was a wonderful celebration. I enjoyed exploring all Southeast Asia has to offer with the Ucar family and gaining insight from my client’s perspective.
My journey began with a week in Vietnam. We continued on to Cambodia to see the famous Angkor Wat, and finished in Thailand. What an adventure to explore and be a part of this fascinating culture. As always, the guides really made the trip special. They speak with such passion about their country and are so knowledgeable.
Here’s just a glimpse into some of my top things to do in Southeast Asia:
1. Cruise through Ha Long Bay in Vietnam aboard the Halong Violet, a traditional boat known as a “junk.” The cruise makes its way through the bay, a UNESCO World Heritage site with giant limestone cliffs and tiny islands. It’s absolutely breathtaking. On board, you can also participate in a small cooking class to learn how to make fried spring rolls.
2. Take a private tour of Angkor Wat. Be prepared for a lot of information and a lot of walking, but it’s worth it!
3. Set off on the back of a Vespa through Ho Chi Minh city, cruising around from bars to restaurants all over the city. You’ll try all different kinds of foods and see everything from a classy nightclub to a rock bar. It’s a truly enjoyable and must-do experience!
4. Stay at Anantara Golden Triangle in Chiang Rai, Thailand. There, you can interact with elephants and their caretakers (called mahouts). If you’re lucky, you could even get to swim with them!
5. Head out on a bike ride through the small villages near Hoi An. It’s a great way to see the countryside and take some beautiful photos. Take a break from pedaling to tour a garden and learn how to make Vietnamese pancakes and rice paper rolls with pork, shrimp, and green onions.
6. Watch the train make its way through the Maeklong Railway Market in Bangkok. It runs through the middle of the market several times a day. A bell rings to alert the vendors along the tracks, and they scurry to move their baskets of goods to make room for the train to pass. It’s exciting to see all the vendors in action, and see how close the train passes to the stalls.
7. Sample the street food of Hanoi on a tour with the famous culinary guide Van Cong Tu. It’s a full day affair that begins with breakfast and egg coffee as you make stops at all the best locations for food and culture.
8. Visit the many floating markets. In Halong Bay, you’ll head out on a canoe, which offers a unique picture into the daily life in the floating villages. The largest one to experience is in Ho Chi Minh. It has miles of floating homes and stilt homes, and you can get out of your boat and walk through the village.
9. Visit the Karen Long Neck Villages in Thailand, where the women wear brass rings around their necks, arms, and shins. It’s a fascinating culture best experienced in person.
I am thankful to have been able to explore and embrace this amazing journey and to be surrounded by such beautiful people. I loved seeing the countryside and the way of life in each country I visited. It’s so easy to get from one country to the next in Southeast Asia, so don’t be afraid to combine multiple countries on your journey. Be daring, adventurous, and have an open mind!