Explore’s Sales Director Carl Burrows travelled to South-east Asia on our Magic of the Mekong family adventure. Here he shares his highlights:
“I have a demanding family when it comes to our annual holiday; we’re not beach lovers in any way (well my wife will argue this point), but we are all adventure seekers, looking for something that will engage the children as well as interest us all along the way. Our last outing was game driving across the plains of the Serengeti in Tanzania so I had a lot to live up to when we decided that Magic of the Mekong was to be our next ‘road trip’.
The sprawling city of Bangkok in Thailand welcomed our family to a whole new Asian experience with an instant culture shock of heat, traffic and the noise of everyday life. It was the beginning of two weeks covering three countries cramming in everything from exploration of large cities and towns with their impressive temples to remote villages along the Mekong that appear to be untouched by modern life.
Speedboats, slow-boats, elephants, mini-buses, open-sided taxis are to name only a few of the transport types we experienced. However the tuk tuks are always a winner with the children wherever we are. It doesn’t help when the kids encourage (no I should say bribe) the drivers to start racing one another through the streets of Bangkok. Tut - kids these days eh! Being honest, the Dads loved this also, but we would never admit to it.
The overnight sleeper train to Chiang Mai was a great experience, revealing a whole new landscape with hillside forests and deep gorges flanking the track as we travelled up to the Northern Provinces. Visiting the Lampang elephant sanctuary was a huge hit for everyone and the perfect opportunity to get up close and personal to these mighty animals. They walk freely around the sanctuary before heading out for a jungle walk with us riding them. Don’t turn your back on them for too long though; they have a sneaky streak about them and will shower you with water if you’re not paying attention, as I found out the hard way.
This is a fast-paced tour taking in many sights and temples around Bangkok, Chiang Mai and Chang Rai; however the pace takes a remarkable deceleration as we embark on our journey along the Mekong River by slow-boat. Cruising through the steamy forest, travel is slow and relaxing, allowing us to absorb the sense of remoteness and timelessness of life on the river. I feared the kids would get bored, but how wrong I was. The remote villages along the riverbanks and complete culture change from the big cities captivated the children’s attention for the whole two days. Batteries re-charged ready for embarking on the delights that lay ahead in Luang Prabang in Laos.
Although we all enjoy our rice dishes back in the UK, as a parent eager to make sure their children are always happy while on holiday, I was concerned that food may be a challenge for them. Well, I needn’t have worried at all. Without exception when Oliver (my youngest) applied his little pouty lips and puppy dog eyes (a trick that I always fall for) when he was desperate to get a ‘fix’ of western food, the restaurant came up trumps each time. Pizzas, burgers and ‘regular’ food can be found if you really need a change, but I don’t think I ever had a meal I was disappointed in. The food is absolutely delicious.
I couldn’t really close this without acknowledging Angkor Wat. This has been on my wish list for a very long time and I was so excited when we landed at Siem Reap for our few days in Cambodia. Angkor was everything I expected and more. We spent three days exploring the many Wats that adorn the forested landscape, including the iconic Angkor Wat and the kids’ favourite - Angkor Thom - with its many hidden doorways and passages that provide the perfect backdrop to a full scale game of ‘hide and seek’. Not to mention Lara Croft’s ’Tomb Raider’ was filmed on location here, which added to the kids’ interest.
There is so much to take in on this tour; it has a great balance for a family looking for some culture and sightseeing, but with enough down time (and pools) to be able to re-charge the batteries before heading out for your next daily adventure.”
Carl and his family travelled on Magic of the Mekong.