My interest in Southeast Asia started when I was a little girl. I remember watching The King and I, which took place in Thailand - it seemed so wondrously exotic to me. I also have a special place in my heart for elephants and I knew Southeast Asia was home to elephant reserves that might offer me the chance to get up close and personal with them.
Actually getting away was the biggest adventure for us. My husband had just retired and I was able to get a one month sabbatical; we hadn’t taken three weeks off together since 1983. Once the trip began we were worry free – the Thai and Vietnamese people were absolutely outstanding in terms of service and easily some of the friendliest and politest people I have ever met in my life.
Looking back I have to say the highlight of the trip was the Patara Elephant Village in Chiang Mai. What a contrast to the hustle and bustle of Bangkok! At Patara, we were thrilled to be able to bathe and feed the elephants. I really felt bonded with my elephant Neem and even found myself dreaming about her. Splashing around in a waterfall as we played with the elephants was an exhilarating ending to the journey. The day at Patara was truly life changing — it proved to be an incredibly empowering and overall amazing experience.
Another high point was simply exploring Chiang Mai. Our first evening, we climbed to the top of a mountain at sunset to listen to monks chanting outside of their monastery. For nearly an hour we watched the picturesque views while listening to the beautiful chanting.
The next afternoon, we had the pleasure of visiting a local Thai family’s home. After the father showed us his home and explained local customs, we roamed through the garden where we picked herbs for dinner that we helped to prepare . We loved the spicy dishes and the hospitality of our host family.
Vietnam was full of grand adventures as we explored Hoi An, Hue, Halong Bay and Hanoi. In Hoi An, a beautiful beach side community, we toured the rice paddies with a local farmer. We learned how rice was grown, how it was cultured, and how it was processed. He prepared a delicious dinner for us all made of rice. The next day, the farmer turned into a fisherman, and took us fishing on his boat and prepared another delicious meal of fresh fish, rice and papaya salad rice for us.
Next, we set sail on Halong Bay. We were aboard a small ship with only 12 of us, which was a relaxing break. The natural beauty of the bay, with its spectacular rock formations, was stunning. Viewing both sunrises and sunsets on the boat was a bonus! Kayaking and hiking in the huge caves were special ways to experience the Bay.
Our Southeast Asia adventure was the trip of a lifetime thanks to Audley, our specialist Lauren B. and our local guides and hosts. Every day was filled with new adventures, far exceeding our expectations! All went smoothly as clockwork. We loved our time experiencing the cultures with the local Thai and Vietnamese people. We were always met with friendly welcoming faces and our trip would not have been the same if we had not had the chance to connect with the people that we did.