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Southeast Asia photo diary: Kerris' highlights

Southeast Asia photo diary: Kerris' highlights

By Kerris Ursell

My love affair with Southeast Asia began with annual childhood escapades to Thailand, however I had never managed to venture beyond the borders of The Land of Smiles, until a recent research trip led me to neighbouring Vietnam, Cambodia and Laos. Immersing myself in each of the country’s inspiring cultures and sampling their varied and unique cuisines, I quickly discovered that the warmth and kind nature of people remained across Southeast Asia. Food is an offering and integral part of the local’s lives, allowing people to show their care and compassion towards you; one is often received with “have you eaten?” instead of the Western “how are you?”

Delving into the history and culture of each destination, I really got a sense of what makes them so special; exploring the elegant Royal Palace in Luang Prabang, transporting myself back in time at the War Remnants Museum of Ho Chi Minh City (formally known as Saigon), lighting lanterns in the historic waters of the Old Quarter in Hoi An, partaking in a private Buddhist monks blessing in Siem Reap and whizzing through the chaotic streets of Saigon on the back of a Vespa (the only recognised way to explore the city!) for an evening street food tour.

But the two most outstanding experiences for me were visiting Angkor Wat at sunrise and exploring the hidden temples at Marble Mountains. The ancient kingdom of Angkor Wat is recognised as a UNESCO landmark, and rightly so. Although possibly the most well-known landmark in Southeast Asia, it is worth the visit, particularly during sunrise or by boat at sunset where you can avoid the crowds. The five mystical Marble Mountains make for an idyllic daytrip from Hoi An. On arrival I was met by an astonishing treasure trove of peaks, caves and tunnels, and Buddhist temples and pagodas dating back to the 17th century, all tucked away in the mountain hills. Climbing to one of the peaks, one can enjoy spectacular views across untouched surroundings, adding to the beauty and magic of the historic temples that lie in between these hills.

I left Southeast Asia with a deep and established love affair, one that has spilled over the borders from my first love of Thailand, leaving me with a thirst to delve deeper and to learn more about the history, culture and customs of these incredible countries.


1. Racing around Saigon by Vespa

2. Experiencing local Vietnamese street food

3. ‘Jumping Chicken’ Frog for dinner

4. Vibrant colours at the early morning Flower Market

5. Visiting Saigon’s poignant War Remnants Museum

6. The hotel lobby at Hotel Des Arts ‘Inspired by Her’


7. Hunting for Herbs at Tra Que Village

8. Cooking Vietnamese pancakes for lunch

9. Lighting Lanterns at The Old Quarter

10. Picture Perfect Paradise at Fusion Maia

11. Hidden Temple at Marble Mountain

12. Pagoda at Marble Mountain

13. Buddha

14. Incredible view at The Four Seasons, Nam Hai


15. Outside the infamous Sofitel Legend Metropole

16. Watching the guards at Ho Chi Minh’s Presidential Palace

17. Chatting and feasting with Mr Vu Long

18. Ho Chi Minh’s Presidential Palace

19. Temple of Literature

20. Lotus pads not Lillie Pads!


21. Glimpsing The Emperor Cruise along Ha Long Bay


22. Sunrise at Angkor Wat

23. Mischievous Monkeys at Angkor Wat

24. Eskimo kiss at Bayon Temple

25. Treading in the footsteps of Angelina Jolie at Ta Phrom

26. Admiring iconic Angkor Wat

27. Poolside at The Raffles Hotel, Siem Reap

28. Coffee, fresh fruit and croissants in the Cambodian Countryside

29. Waving to the children on the Floating Village at Tonle Sap

30. Monks inside Angkor Wat

31. Enjoying the local dish Amok at The Park Hyatt, Siem Reap

32. Receiving our special Monk’s Blessing

33. Boating across Cambodian Waters

34. Sunset at the Rice Paddies of Phum Baitang, Siem Reap


35. Tucked away at The Rosewood, Luang Prabang

36. Visiting the Royal Palace

37. Exploring the Night Market

38. Catching the sunset at the Top of Mount Phousi


39. The Terrace at the The Mandarin Oriental, Bangkok on Chao Phraya River

40. Save the best for last: The iconic Authors Lounge at The Mandarin Oriental, Bangkok

For more information or to start planning your tailor-made holiday to Thailand, Vietnam, Cambodia and Laos please contact us: // +44 (0) 207 819 9770


Ampersand’s preparation, attention to detail and interaction before and during our trip show exactly why good travel agents have a role in today’s internet booking age. They were a delight to deal with!
- Mr David Wallace, North India
So many highlights to choose from! The hotels were amazing but Maya Villa was a highlight… I loved just hanging out in the hammock reading my book and watching the peacocks chase the cows!
- Krista Weir, Sri Lanka
Difficult to articulate just how good the service from you and your team really was. We know you will continue to do well and hope we have the chance to seek your assistance again before long.
- Mr & Mrs Manson, North India
I thought the Ampersand team was outstanding. We couldn’t have hoped for anything more.
- Mr Geoffrey Johnson, India
Without question, you put together the best trip I have ever taken. We were shown around like visiting dignitaries, the hotels were fantastic and the itinerary was just right. Everybody I know will hear about how amazing Ampersand is!
- Leslie Siben, India
We had a wonderful holiday - everything was perfect. Thank you for helping us to make a thoughtful plan to enjoy and make most out of our trip. The places we visited, the guides, the transportation and driver, the hotels selected... Everything was great!
- Jaime Benitez, South India
Everything you did for us whilst we were away was hugely appreciated, and Ampersand has been exemplary in every way. I'll always recommend you!
- Mr Richard Stoughton, Sri Lanka
I had a very lovely time and was looked after splendidly. My first visit to India could not have been better, save for being longer! But I shall return at some point and I shall look to you to make the arrangements.
- Matthew Nicklin, North India

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