For the curious traveller, the journey into Laos is a rewarding and fantastic experience. Part of what was known as Indo-China, the collective name for the former French Territories in the region. Whilst Vietnam and Cambodia were prized possesions, Laos was seen more as “buffer” value against invasion. It remains one of the less developed (and least populated) countries in south east Asia. Laos is a hidden gem, with a less frantic pace than all of its neighbours. It might lack the infrastructure of commercialised tourism but that makes it all the more appealing. Development is gradually coming, with more small hotels opening, but it has to be on terms that satisfy the Lao people. Of all the countries in the region, it is the least openly commercial and interested in western style consumerism. It has a delightful serene, totally laid back style, with Buddhism dominating every aspect of day to day life.
Lombok is a neighbouring island to Bali. Equally scenic, with maybe even better beaches, Lombok is a much quieter, less developed alternative.
Malaysia is one of the most fascinating countries in the region with a rich diversity of cultures, scenery and resort variety. Peninsula Malaysia stretches down from the border with Thailand in the north through to Singapore in the south. On the separate island of Borneo you have the states of Sarawak and Sabah. Flying time from UK is approx. 12 hours to Kuala Lumpur (known as KL). Onward travel to Penang or Langkawi is one hour, two hours to Kota Kinabalu, Sabah and Kuching, Sarawak.
Mandalay is the second largest city in Burma, with a population of 1.5 million. It is the religious and cultural centre of the country, with a sky line of glittering pagodas and temples, with equally impressive whitewashed stupas. Much more conservative, spiritual and slower paced than Yangon. Much of the colonial heritage was destroyed during the 2nd World War, and further obliterated by several fires that ravaged the city. However many of the religious sites remained wonderfully intact. The downtown area is modern, highly influenced by the many Chinese residents who have made Mandalay home.
Be it chillout retreats, island escapism or developed resorts, Peninsular Malaysia has so much choice. We cover Penang, Langkawi and Tioman Island.
Phuket Thailand is the most developed of the resort islands in the south of Thailand, one hour flight from Bangkok. Good infrastructure, with many top class hotels and restaurants, and tourist attractions both on land and at sea.
Sabah and Sarawak offer authentic eco-adventures, monkeys and fireflies, numerous indigenous jungle tribes and superb beaches.
Singapore offers a fantastic selection of restaurants and night-life, as well as parks, museums, and on Sentosa Island, beaches.
The skyline is maybe more North American at first glance, but like Hong Kong, go below the obvious and it has some traditional busy little street markets that offer a perfect contrast to the numerous shopping malls. In our view the very best introduction to the region for the first time Asia traveller. Plan to spend at least 2 clear days as there is so much to see.
Thailand is probably the most exotic country in South East Asia, with a rich diversity of cultures and attractions. Superb beach resort islands in the south, misty mountains and fast flowing rivers in the north. Vibrant cities such as the lively capital Bangkok and the equally emotive Chiang Mai. Flying time from London to Bangkok is 12 hours, and from there to most of the resorts another 60 minutes. Bangkok is also the most obvious gateway for onward travel to Vietnam, Cambodia and Laos
Located on the west coast of the Gulf of Siam, just over 2 hours drive south of Bangkok. For years they have been the aspirational centre for affluent Thai families who have holiday homes in the area. The two resorts run into each other along the coast, with Hua Hin the more developed with many hotels and in particular high rise condominiums.
Indochina is the collective name for Laos, Cambodia and Vietnam, the former French territories in the region. Despite huge changes in the last decade, the French influence still remains in majestic colonial buildings, the art scene and of course the food.
Vietnam in particular is a baguettes and noodles country, and at times you seem to sense the entire history of the country in the bowl of food in front of you. Vietnam is also the country that is developing fast with many new hotels and resorts, most attractive, others not quite – but it still remains a totally enthralling place to visit. Cambodia is home to Siem Reap, where you find the incredible ruins of Angkor, an absolute must of any tour of this region. Laos is the least developed of the three, with Luang Prabang being one of the most charming towns, with its hundreds of monks emerging through the mist every morning. Absolutely magical.
Yangon is the commercial heart of the country and the largest city, with a population of 6 million. Formerly known as Rangoon, the city still has some of the most impressive old buildings from the British Colonial rule to be found in South East Asia, along with large parks and lakes. Yangon is probably the most diverse city in Myanmar, often reflected in the places of worship. Buddhist and Hindu temples, Mosques, Catholic and Anglican churches, and even a small synagogue.