An Insider’s Guide to Southeast Asia
I recently traveled with a group of fellow luxury travel agents on what is known as a FAM, a familiarization trip, to enable me to experience foreign lands first hand so that I can better plan vacations for my clients when they ask to visit these countries. This trip to Thailand and Laos proved to be one of my most memorable trips in that I was able to experience the two countries very much like the inhabitants of those lands.
FAM trips, such as the one I was on are usually arranged in the off season, or low season, a time when visitors are fewer in number and this trip proved to be no exception. It was Monsoon Season, a time of very high temperatures and humidity. I was lucky in that it didn’t rain, but the high humidity was at times, for me, almost unbearable. Thankfully, I got to sleep in air-conditioned hotels, unlike most of the population for whom air conditioning is a luxury that few can afford.
On the other hand, visiting at this time of year, when there were few tourists gave me an opportunity to truly immerse myself in the daily life of the Thai and Laotian people. I worked in the rice paddies of Laos to learn how rice is grown, how the fields are ploughed with the help of strong water buffalo. (I’ll be happy to share with you a video of me in the field, mud up to my knees, behind one of these beasts trying to get her to turn over the mud, with the biggest smile on my face. I can’t say if the water buffalo was equally as delighted to have me shouting and cursing her from behind.)
My week in Chiang Mai and Chiang Rai were at the same time that the 13 boys were trapped in the cave and hearing the news of their rescue from but a few miles from where it was happening, where relatives of the boys were praying and rejoicing, made being there the most moving experience one could imagine, especially when they were all safely brought out of the cave.
Travel not only takes you out of the familiar but can, if you are willing, also take you out of your comfort zone and expose you to the outside world in ways that create memories that can last a lifetime. I highly recommend it. And if you call me, I can also give you a lovely, laid back, pampered experience to end your vacation and relax.