20 Life-Changing Trips
© Meghan Lamb
Southeast Asia with Elevate Destinations
Why We Love It: For travelers who still associate Southeast Asia with the Vietnam War, Elevate Destinations shows a rarely seen side of Thailand, Laos, and Cambodia, placing the conflict on the continuum of an ancient culture. The guiding notion of this T+L trip is to mix and mingle tours of breathtaking temples, like Angkor Wat, with experiences of daily life in villages that keep such temples alive. Dominique Callimanopulos founded her three-year-old company after seeing the world as a student and young professional revealed a disconnect between travelers and the places they are inspired to go. A portion of the trip’s cost goes to on-the-ground projects.
Where It Goes: Thailand: from Bangkok to the temple cities of Chiang Mai and Chiang Rai; Laos: Luang Prabang, a UNESCO World Heritage site, and the village of Pak Beng; Cambodia: Siem Reap, site of Angkor Wat.
What You’ll Do: Learn traditional Thai dancing; visit a rarely mounted exhibit of indigenous crafts sponsored by Queen Sirikit’s foundation; take an ecotour of a “community forest” in Chiang Mai where tea and coffee crops have replaced illegal logging; and indulge in a traditional Thai massage. Cruise the Mekong River toward Luang Prabang, Laos, stopping to watch a hill tribe pickle rice into whiskey, and sample (or purchase) the results. Ride a tuk-tuk to Luang Prabang’s temples, including Wat Xieng Thong, known for its magnificent tree-of-life mosaic, and Wat Mai Suwannaphumaham, with its five-tier roof; stop for a quick dip below the Kuang Si waterfall on the way to the Language Project Library, and in a nearby village, receive a blessing from elders in a traditional Baci ceremony. In Cambodia, visit Angkor Wat, then watch local fishermen ply the waters of Tonle Sap, Southeast Asia’s largest freshwater lake. More highlights: a hike to Kbal Spean, where 900-year-old int