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5 reasons to spend this holiday season in Southeast Asia

20th September 2019

Lately, it seems that the winter holidays have become more and more stressful and the idea of getting away from the consumerism and commercialization surrounding the holidays can start to sound pretty good!

When my kids were little and we were living in Cambodia, I loved the efforts that the local community went to throwing themselves into the holiday spirit despite most locals being Buddhist. Winter is, in fact, a great time to go to Southeast Asia as the weather is cool and dry, but the dust hasn’t started yet so everything is still green and accessible. Perfect if you want to want to flip your traditional Christmas completely on its head!

Here are our top five reasons for heading to Southeast Asia for the holiday season…

Reason #1: The chance to visit two of the world’s best cities – Hoi An, Vietnam & Chiang Mai, Thailand

When Travel + Leisure magazine released their “World’s Best Awards 2019” list in August, we were thrilled to find our name at #3 on the World’s Best Tour Operators list thanks to the feedback of our clients. After that pleasant surprise wore off and we turned to the list of the World’s Best Cities, we weren’t at all shocked to see Hoi An, Vietnam on top of the list at #1 and Chiang Mai, Thailand at #3.

As Travel + Leisure writes, “The enchanting port city [of Hoi An] leaps from last year’s No. 8 spot on the strength of its artisanal goods, innovative cuisine, and historic Vietnamese architecture, which incorporates Asian and French influences.”

Andrea Ross – a T+L A-List Advisor for Southeast Asia – recommends working with a local seamstress to create a beautiful and custom traditional áo dài (pronounced “aow dye”) dress for your Christmas Eve celebration, then taking a public ferry out to one of the local islands where you can cycle around and pick up a souvenir bamboo basket made right before your eyes.

Chiang Mai, Thailand is another regular on T+L’s list of World’s Best Cities, and for good reason. World-class shopping at the Saturday, Sunday and Night markets mean you should wait until you arrive to find unique presents for the people on your Christmas shopping list. And the chance to hang out with and help care for rescued elephants will make you forget all about imaginary reindeer living at the North Pole.

Recommended sample itineraries include:

Reason #2: Skip the mall and spend the holidays exploring one of the world’s archaeological masterpieces – Angkor Wat

December and January are popular times to visit Cambodia and the Angkor Archaeological complex, but that doesn’t mean you have to feel like a Black Friday bargain hunter stuck in the crowds at your local mall.

Our expert guides will have you in and out of the major sites in the Angkor Grand Circuit – Angkor Wat, Ta Prohm, Angkor Thom and Bayon temples – during the early-morning and late-afternoon hours when the crowds are absent, and will lead you to lesser-known temples and sites where you won’t see another soul during the peak times when the big temples are overrun.

Recommended sample itineraries include:

Reason #3: December is beach season in Thailand & Cambodia

According to April Cole, a Condé Nast Traveler Top Travel Specialist for Southeast Asia, “Anywhere along the west coast of Thailand or Cambodia is going to have the amazing beaches and the most beautiful weather you can imagine” over the holidays.

If Thailand is on your bucket list, Cole recommends quieter beaches like Khao Lak or the islands surrounding Phuket such as Koh Yao Noi, where white sand beaches, crystal clear water, amazing seafood and affordable accommodations await holiday visitors.

For those looking to add a little luxury to their holiday plans, our Southern Cambodia in Luxury tour includes three days in a villa on the private Six Senses Krabey Island resort in the Gulf of Thailand, followed by luxurious jungle accommodations at the Shinta Mani Wild resort on the border of the Cardamom, Bokor and Kirirom national parks just inland (you zip line directly into the lobby of this hotel!).

Recommended sample itineraries include:

Reason #4: Spice up your holiday traditions with new flavors

Skip the same old Christmas ham or turkey and sample the wonderful fusion of tastes and traditions you can find throughout Southeast Asia instead… Sweet, sour, salty and spicy, Southeast Asian dishes embrace everything from Indian spices and Chinese noodles to the elegant flair of French colonial cooking techniques.

Whether you’re looking to try the bold spices of Thai cuisine, the more subtle yet incredibly fresh flavors of Laos, or the mouth-watering regional specialties of Cambodia, our staff is ready to plan the perfect Southeast Asia foodie adventure for your taste buds.

Recommended sample itineraries include:

Reason #5: Give the gift of gratitude this holiday season

Feeling like your family gets too caught up in the consumerism built up around Christmas here at home? Teach your kids about the importance of giving back and being grateful in a place where your contribution can make a big difference.

The jungles of Cambodia offer many ways to support projects that are helping ensure the survival of endangered species such as Asian Sun Bears and Irrawaddy River Dolphins, and get a glimpse of elephants in their natural habitat at the Elephant Valley Project. Or explore the archipelago of islands that make up Indonesia and view some of the most bio-diverse habitats on earth while helping ensure that local industry values the wildlife that makes this place special.

Talk to any of our Southeast Asia travel specialists about how to get involved in the local communities you will visit during your trip – options include helping students practice their English, leading art classes for kids, or simply eating out in community-run training restaurants that are providing pathways out of poverty for local residents.

Recommended sample itineraries include:

Andrea Ross

With British parents, Andrea grew up in England listening to stories of colonial Africa and the Far East. At the age of eight she took her first solo …

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