Travel Southeast Asia: The Real Deal with Elizabeth Avery
Ready to travel Southeast Asia? Here are the sites, restaurants and accommodations that Elizabeth Avery recommends for your trip.
Tell us about yourself! What do you do when you’re not traveling the world? Where do you live? What made you decide to go to your most recent destination?
I live in Washington, DC where I founded, and am working to build out, our free solo travel community, Solo Trekker 4 U. We connect individual travelers with top solo travel deals starting with global tours but also including more than 700,000+ hotels with specials up to 46% off.
Having been to 60+ countries and all 50 US states, each year I look to travel to one or more new countries.
How long did you go for? How did you spend your time?
I was gone for 17 days. I started in Siem Reap, Cambodia. At the airport taxi stand, I met a great driver, Phao Lem (firstname.lastname@example.org if you need a wonderful taxi tour), who took me on an independent day tour to Angkor Wat and multiple local temples and sites. I even had lunch alone at an authentic local cafe on the river and relaxed in a hammock afterwards.
Two days later, I joined an excellent Mekong River cruise that stopped in local villages, many accessible only by boat. Next was Vietnam and then independent time in Ho Chih Minh City. From there I had four days alone in Bangkok. I took a small tour on the first day. On the second day, I took a large tour outside of the city to the old capital. On the third day, I had a private tour for six hours via water taxi. On the last day, I went solo via subway around Bangkok. Each evening, I went to the rooftop of my hotel and swam and had dinner watching the sun set over the city.
What were your most memorable experiences? What were the biggest disappointments?
My most memorable experiences were: the day I solo traveled in Siem Reap, the river cruise and my day at the Bangkok King’s Palaces. I didn’t really have any disappointments.
Any favorite restaurants/hotels/hostels/sites you’d like to recommend? Tell us what made them great!
I loved my hotels: one night at the 4-star Novotel Bangkok Airport coming in nonstop from DC to Beijing, and the Siem Reap 5-star Sofitel. It was in a beautiful location surrounded by flowers and foliage. Service was impeccable and very friendly. The river cruise on the AMA Lotus was the best of the four river cruises I have taken. The Intercontinental Bangkok was elegant and, again, had wonderful decor and service.
Is there anything that women specifically should know before they travel to your destination?
I was very comfortable in Southeast Asia and had no problems. However, having been alone during a low-grade civil war in Africa and trekked alone in the Middle East, I have a pattern of travel that works for me:
1. I generally fly economy, motivated by price, but choose 5-star hotels.
2. After dark, I either have dinner at the hotel or go via a reliable taxi to a great restaurant with a return pick-up arranged.
3. In political uncertain areas, I have generally opted for a top river cruise where there is both a group for meals and sightseeing but time alone in a solo cabin.
4. I strongly recommend when arriving in an unfamiliar/challenging destination to arrive in the daytime and have the hotel recommend a taxi/pick-up.
On the latter subject, women travelers really need to be watchful. In one African country, I was told that only two cab companies were safe, and I was told the same in HCMC/Saigon. (At the latter destination, friends of mine, a couple and their young children, were taken by a driver who refused to let them out just short of midnight. The couple finally was able to get out and, with some difficulty, found help.)
Photo credit: Davidlohr Bueso