Andrew Nicholson recently travelled on our Magic of the Mekong trip with his family. he shares his experiences of Southeast Asia in this blog, which is the August winner of our monthly competition.
"The Magic of the Mekong - the title barely starts to address the wonder of this trip. From the adrenalin-boosting elephant ride through the jungle to the chilling cruise down the Mekong itself, this trip had plenty of contrasts.
Starting in the high octane surroundings of Bangkok, the first days set a breakneck pace as we explored beauteous temples aplenty. The highlight was Grand Palace which has to be seen to believed. The pace slowed temporarily with a train journey to the former capital of Chiang Mai where everyone truly enjoyed the optional cookery class. Who would have known that Thai cookery is so simple when taught properly?!
From there it was on to Lampang where the kids adored the hour-long tour on their favourite pachyderms. Next came a long drive through the monsoon rain to the city of Chiang Rai and its spectacular modern temple featuring masks of Batman and Pinhead amongst other. It showed how religion has embraced modern culture to appeal to a new market. By the time we got there, there was no need for a swimming pool to cool us down as the streets were flooded to a height of 30cm - definitely an unexpected angle added to our adventure!
The entry to Laos involved the usual bureaucracy, but in truth it was a small price to pay. After all, what could be more relaxing than a slow boat down the mighty Mekong? At the end was the wonderful city of Luang Prabang and the saffron-robed monks wandering the streets. The couple of days we spent there allowed us to recharge batteries and complete some laundry, but it was not all a slow pace. The trip to the waterfalls proved a great highlight and the kids really enjoyed diving into the pools and getting their feet nibbled by the fish.
After a short flight to Siem Reap, it was time for something unforgettable; we embarked on a tour of the fabulous temples around Angkor Wat. Despite the sun not cooperating by not appearing from behind the clouds, when we got up at four thirty am to see it rise, we had more than ample compensation when we explored the jungle temples. Here we felt like we were truly following in Lara Croft's footsteps.
The trip ended with a return to civilisation and the bustle of Bangkok for some last minute retail therapy - the ideal way to finish a truly memorable tour."