Food Highlights of South East Asia 2014 – Itinerary suggestions

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South East Asia has so many great places to visit and so many food opportunities to enjoy that it’s hard to choose some of the highlights. But here are some ideas of good places to stay,  great places to eat, and interesting things to do, usually food themed, but not always.

Cambodia

Phnom Penh

Book six nights

How to get there

Fly with Thai Airways via Bangkok, or Singapore Airlines via Singapore.

Visas are available on arrival, but so much easier and quicker to get an e-visa on-line before you leave for $US37.

Where to Stay 

The Pavilion Hotel is a great pick. Go for the cheaper rooms as the central pool area is the loveliest place to spend time.

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What to Do and Where to Eat

Day 1

Enjoy your included poolside breakfast and complimentary 25 min massage.

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Then walk to the nearby Royal Palace and National Museum.

Head to Malis for dinner.

Day 2

Get a tuk tuk to the Russian Market early in the day while it’s cooler.

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Lunch at nearby Jars of Clay, (the Lok Lak is excellent).

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Enjoy the pool at the Pavilion in the warm afternoon, then dine at Romdeng Friends International Restaurant. Don’t miss the exquisite icecreams, wonderful cocktails and of course,…this is the best spot to try the famous Cambodian deep fried tarantulas with Romdeng’s amazing dipping sauce.

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Take your swimmers and enjoy a dip in their pool if you’d like which is open for the use of guests.

Day 3

Enjoy the Central Market, especially the fresh produce section .

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Wander the riverfront and enjoy happy hour 5-7pm (two for one drinks) at the Foreign Correspondents’ Club.

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Dine at the original Friends Restaurant.

Day 4 & 5

Join Intrepid’s Cambodian Real Food Adventure later in the day, or book an extra couple of nights at the Pavilion and copy Intrepid’s itinerary ideas:

Visit Tuol Sleng Genocide Museum and the Choeung Ek Memorial (very sad and challenging but a necessary part of understanding life in Cambodia and paying respect to your hosts.)

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Cyclo tour that includes the riverfront and Royal Palace at sunset, and the Independence Memorial after dark.

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Visit the local food stop at Sisovath High School to try deepfried battered frog and ‘special’ duck eggs.

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Try to include Sunday evening in Phnom Penh in your planning so that you can catch the picnicking families on the lawns of the Royal Palace.

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Battambong (with Intrepid or copy their itinerary)

How to get there

Take a local bus or organize a hotel transfer

Stay one or two nights

What to do and where to eat.

Lunch at My Kitchen along the river near Sosabike.

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Soksabike tour of local cottage food industries

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followed by a Home cooked meal

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Early morning or sunset bamboo train

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Banteay Chhmar

One night

How to get there

Contact the Banteay Chhmar Community-Based Tourism, the local organization for a pick up

Where to stay

Banteay Chhmar homestay

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(Ask for

What to do

Kick back and enjoy local village life, close up.

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Watch your meals being prepared in the co-op Kitchen.

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Visit Banteay Chhmar temple and take a sunset drink and snack.

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Siem Reap

Three nights

What to do and where to eat

Explore the temples (don’t miss Angkor Wat at sunrise).

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Visit the Old Market (Psar Chhaa)

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Check ou the Cambodian Circus, Phare

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Stop at the night market

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Eat at Marum Friends International Restaurant

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And at Pub Street, full of good picks like Amok, Khmer Kitchen Restaurant or Cambodian BBQ, followed by icecream at Blue Pumpkin nearby

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Book in for a rural setting cooking class with Beyond Unique Escapes

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Northern Laos

Luang Prabang

How to get there

Lao airlines fly via Pakse in the afternoon, arriving in Luang Prabang in time for dinner.

Luang Prabang

Where to stay

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Villa Santi is a heritage property that has an excellent location on Sisavongthong Street for sharing early mornings with passing monks, for restaurants, sunsets on the Mekong and the night market.

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However, the Apsara is also a good choice and there are a range of lovely, well positioned guest houses that are more budget friendly like Pak Luk Villa, Villa Champa and Villa Saykam.

After checking in, have dinner at Tamnuk Lao across the road from Villa Santi  (the chicken, eggplant and bean curry with sticky rice is sooo good.) Book ahead by email.

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Rise early with the locals to see the monks walk from the northern Wat past Villa Santi  and along Sisavangvong Street, gathering  early morning alms. Check with staff for  the best times.

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Then breakfast on Villa Santi’s balcony watching local life below.

After breakfast, walk along the Nam Khan River road down to the meeting point of the two rivers, enjoying the heritage architecture. Head back along the Mekong River road

to the Morning market before it winds up around 11am.

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Stop for a traditional Lao coffee or mango/pineapple/papaya shake along the way

Head to Mt Phu Si, well worth the short climb to see the great view

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Visit the TEAC Centre (closed Mondays)  to learn a little about traditional Lao life and textiles.

Staff here speak very god English and love helping visitors in any way they can.

Lunch at Coconut Garden

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(the laaps are especially good, and so is the soft serve icecream).

Buy your Hobo map here for 30,000 kip, a great resource for finding your way in Luang Prabang.

After lunch organize a trip to Kuang Si falls trip for day 2. Travel agents along Sisavangvong Street sell tickets for a minibus (seats 11) 4 hour round trip for 50,000 kip per person. However, this can be quite a hot, cramped and uncomfortable trip. Consider going by boat (see the boat captains behind the palace) for 40,000 kip per person. The boat trip is one hour longer and includes a10 min tuk tuk ride at each end. Both options need you to purchase a separate entry ticket for 20,000 kip per person when you get to the falls.

Also possibly:

Enjoy a Lao massage ($8 per hour)

Dip in pool at Villa Santi

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Visit the Ock Tok Pop shop

Or check out the palace.

Get a great photo from the platform behind the Palace and watch the sunset over a Beerlao and Mekong riverweed.

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Dinner at the nearby Riverside BBQ Restaurant (book ahead) then head to the night market for chocolate crepes or coconut cakes for dessert and some open air, friendly market bargaining.

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After enjoying breakfast explore the rest of the peninsula in the cool air and possibly have a longer look at the morning market, help out with conversational English lessons at Big Brother Mouse, wander the temples or just enjoy the French cafes and lovely mix of colonial and traditional buildings.

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Late morning head to the Kuang Si falls for lunch with a great view at the café and a swim in the gorgeous pools.

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Take the pool path both ways (not the road) to the long drop at the top.

Go for another sunset drink along the Mekong.

Then head for dinner across the bamboo bridge over the Nam Khan River (or by boat if the bridge is missing)  at Dyen Sabai. Do book ahead by email, get there in time for two for one cocktails (12noon-7pm) and be sure to order the whole fish (amazing).

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Stop at the night market stop on the way home

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Nong Kiaw

How to get there

Mandala Ou Resort or Nong Kiaw Riverside can organize a 3 ½ hr private air conditioned mini van pickup ($US120 up, $US100 back). It is also possible to travel by local bus or by boat for part of the way (but not all, due to the dams being built).

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After lunch (either at your accommodation or in one of the recommended Indian or Lao restaurants near the bridge (Deen’s, Chennai or Vongmijay) (a 15 min walk from Mandala Ou, but very close to Riverside).

Explore Nong Kiaw by bike or foot.

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Watch the sunset from the bridge and try another recommended restaurant for dinner.

Next day:

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Take a day boat trip to Muang Ngoi further up the Nam Ou gorge and Sop Jam (a smaller weaving village) for 550,000 kip (staff at your accommodation can organize this, but worth emailing them to give them a heads up).

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Lunch in Muang Ngoi on the way back from Sop Jam at the Riverside Restaurant which has a great view. Choose the chicken laap which is their standout dish. Their coffee and mango lassi is also very good. (Or try ‘Ning Ning’ guesthouse, that is also recommended for having a nice restaurant with a great view!)

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Next day:

Take the private minivan back to Luang Prabang

Enjoy another lovely sunset drink on Mekong.

Dine at Tamarind and try their tasting platters

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Last day in lovely Luang Prang

Catch up on things you haven’t yet had a chance to see/do/eat or take a trip to the PakOu caves or visit the Santi Resort and Spa via complimentary shuttle from  the Villa Santi

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Possibly a cooking lesson at Tamarind, Bamboo Kitchen or Tamnak Lao

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Take sunset boat ride (30,000 kip per person) and see the sunset go down over the Mekong, (take your own drinks and snacks)

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After a last Mekong sunset, dine at Café Toui (perhaps the best meals in Luang Prabang)

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Next day

Chiang Mai, Thailand

Fly to Chiang Mai in the afternoon with Lao airlines.

Stay three nights

Where to stay

Rimping Village is great value, has a lovely pool, complimentary transfers, a location that is convenient to the night market, Riverside restaurants and the amazing Rimping Supermarket.

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What to do and Where to eat

Dine at one of the Riverside restaurants and try Chiang Mai’s famous Kow Choy curried chicken noodle soup then enjoy shopping at the night market or the Saturday or Sunday Walking Streets.

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(There are plenty of attractive restaurants at the Sunday Walking Street, but not so many at the Saturday walking Street. There is also plenty or interesting street food at both but stick with freshly cooked foods from busy stalls).

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Rimping supermarket is close by and great for supplies like Gin and Tonic for a drink on the balcony, snadwiches and ice creams.

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Enjoy a cooking lesson with Cooking@Home or Asia Scenic

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Hire a taxi and drive up the mountain overlooking Chiang Mai to the Buddist temple Wat Phra That Doi Suthep.

It is particularly beautiful as the sunsets when the lights come on.

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