Expert’s Eye: Faces of the Mekong

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The most treasured sights of a great journey aren’t the temples, urban skylines or mountain vistas — they’re the faces of the people you meet, as A&K Managing Editor Dan Wiencek learned on a recent trip to Southeast Asia.

People of the Mekong River

For ages, I have wanted to see Angkor Wat and the ruins of the Khmer Empire, the bustling streets of Bangkok and the rapidly rising nation of Vietnam. I had the opportunity as part of a seven-night cruise down the Mekong River, which began (after a few prefatory days in Bangkok and Siem Reap) at the port town of Kampong Cham, Cambodia, and ended in Saigon at the river’s mouth. Yet as great as these places are, what drew me irresistibly day after day was the people in the riverside towns along the way. I was astonished at the openness, curiosity and friendliness we encountered, without exception, everywhere we went. Most “vacation photos” — my own especially — are shots of the same sites thousands of other people have taken (only not as good). When it came to exploring the Mekong, the “sights” that stand out for me are the faces, each one unique, each one bringing the destination to life in a way no building or natural wonder ever could.

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Our Favorite Places for Breakfast in Bed

Mena House - Castro, Egypt

With A&K’s complimentary new amenity, Breakfast in Bed, you have the option to enjoy continental breakfast delivered to your hotel room on two select days of every 2018 Luxury Small Group Journey, and here are some of the best places we know for relaxing over coffee and pastries before starting a brand new day of exploration.

One&Only Cape Town

One&Only Cape Town

Take in majestic views of Table Mountain, framed by expansive glass doors opening onto your private balcony, from your Marina Table Mountain Room at this superb accommodation featured on South Africa & Victoria Falls.


Four Seasons Hotel Sydney

Four Seasons Hotel Sydney

Luxuriate in this five-star sanctuary perfectly placed between the cobblestone laneways of The Rocks and the ferry wharves of Circular Quay, enjoying a Premier Partial Harbour View Room for four nights on Australia & New Zealand: The Lands Down Under.

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Video: Experience Life Along the Irrawaddy River in Magical Myanmar

Travel to Southeast Asia and the mythical land of Myanmar and experience this long-hidden country in style. Cruise along the storied Irrawaddy River in luxury on an all-balcony river ship, going ashore to stroll through the markets and observe local life. Soar above the temple-dotted plains in a hot air balloon and witness a traditional boat race on tranquil Inle Lake for a complete — and authentic — Burmese experience.

Click here to learn more about luxury travel to Myanmar.

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Video: From Deserts to Kasbahs to Souks, Morocco Dazzles and Delights

Imagine camping under the stars in your private luxury desert camp, or wandering among Roman ruins in Meknes or down winding medieval alleyways in Fez. It’s all possible in Morocco, a land brimming with fascinating history, timeless landscapes and welcoming people. No visit is complete without a stay in the “Red City” of Marrkech, where locals and visitors alike throng to Djemaa el-Fna, where fire-eaters, snake charmers and street musicians perform at every turn. Travel on a Morocco tour for an experience like no other.

Click here for more on luxury travel to Morocco.

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Explore France from the Comfort of a Family-Friendly Villa

Villa Calvi

If you’re still mulling over a summer destination for your family, look no further than France. Picturesque landscapes, fascinating castles and cobblestone streets abound in the country’s medieval villages, making them a worthy addition to your bucket list. Add to that the countless activities available for all ages and interests, whether you want a hiking trip in Provence or to soak up sun at a beach on the Cote d’Azur.

Read on for inspiration planning your next holiday in France, with activities sure to be enjoyed by the whole family.

Côte d’Azur

Villa Soraya Eze to Monaco Coastline

The breathtaking French Riviera offers families ample opportunities to experience the country’s culture, relax in the sun or chill both on and in the water. We suggest canoeing between the Bay of Cannes and the Lérins Islands. It might seem like an impossible task at first, seeing the islands in the distance, but it is actually easier than you might expect, even for a beginner. Due to boat traffic, the route to the islands is clearly marked and supervised by an instructor. 

Taking a stroll through the streets of Saint Paul de Vence is always an adventure. The narrow cobblestone roads wind up the hill that this medieval town is perched upon and art galleries are found on both sides of your path. The kids will enjoy the ice cream shops at the corner, as well as artisan sweet stores that sell fabled nougat. For the full French experience, join locals for a game of pétanque on the boules court at the entrance of the Old Town. 

For an indulgence, the Confiserie Florian at Tourrettes-sur-Loup is the place to go for all sweet. Guided visits are offered and end with a tasting of the local treats, such as crystalized flowers, candied fruit and chocolate. 

Recommended Villa:

Villa Soraya
Saint-Jean-Cap-Ferrat | Bedrooms: 8 | Sleeps: 16
From $54,905 per week

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Video: Unearth the Wonders of Deeply Spiritual, Stunningly Beautiful Nepal

From its deeply spiritual people to its breathtaking terrain and time-worn temples, Nepal is a destination unlike any other. Discover its rich cultural and spiritual heritage during a luxury travel adventure, whether you choose to trek through its mountainous landscape, flightsee over Mount Everest or visit a plethora of UNESCO World Heritage Sites, among them Durbar Square. Combine a Nepal journey with travel to India for the ultimate experience.

Click here for details about a Nepal travel adventure.

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Stories from Antarctica: My Favorite Heroes

Burton Shackleton's Grave

As told to by A&K Expedition Team Member and Antarctic History Lecturer Bob Burton

Bob BurtonWhen I was the director of the museum at South Georgia, I used to weed Ernest Shackleton’s grave. When we visit Grytviken with A&K guests and come ashore, we go out to the cemetery where he’s buried and I lead a toast to “The Boss.”

Shackleton first set off with his men to cross the Antarctic from South Georgia. When his ship ‘Endurance’ sank, he managed an amazing 16-day trip on one of its rescue boats (the ‘James Caird’) from Elephant Island across stormy seas back to South Georgia — and then traversed it, which was another notable feat. Eventually, he came back to South Georgia on another expedition in 1922 and died there. So, he’s very much connected to the island.

When Shackleton and his two companions were crossing South Georgia, it wasn’t far as the crow flies, but it was quite a circuitous route between the mountains. They completed it in 36 hours nonstop because they knew that if they stopped and rested, they wouldn’t wake up. On one occasion, Shackleton told them they would have a meal and a rest. After they ate, he let the other two fall asleep. After a few minutes, he woke them up and said, “Right, you’ve had a good long sleep.” They felt better and off they went. 

'Endurance'

I used to say that my hero was Shackleton because I’ve spent a lot of time on South Georgia and I’ve studied his expeditions. But as Shackleton became everyone’s hero over the last couple of decades, I decided I needed a new hero. Continue Reading ›

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Video: Immerse Yourself in Budapest, Vienna and Prague

Explore the great cities of Central Europe during luxury small-group travel, enjoying a private evening cruise through Budapest on the Danube; a Chef’s Table experience in Bratislava; a tour of Vienna’s Schönbrunn Palace; and a visit to the Jewish Quarter in Prague. As you revel in your surroundings, travel in luxury, learning about the region’s architectural, artistic and cultural heritage firsthand, from the foremost experts in the region.

Learn more about the Splendors Budapest, Vienna and Prague

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Stories from Antarctica: Nothing Compares to This Family Vacation

Antarctica Family Zodiac

As told by A&K guest David Jacobson

Jacobson Family in AntarcticaWhen our boys were seven and nine, my wife and I took them on a seven-month trip around the world and visited 21 countries and six different continents. Antarctica was the only one we didn’t hit. We recently got back from A&K’s Antarctica, South Georgia & the Falkland Islands with our now 13- and 16-year old boys and consider it one of our best trips ever — in the top two to three for sure.

The driving force to go wasn’t really about Antarctica being our seventh continent, but more about the chance to experience the novelty and uniqueness of this place that we imagined in our minds — and that proved to be true. Antarctica is so different than anywhere else we’ve been. None of us had seen an iceberg or a penguin up close. And then we went and saw penguins, and realized the experience is so much richer than that. It reminded me of the plains of Africa in that it’s one of those places that make you feel like you’ve punched through to an alternate reality.

Whale Sighting from Zodiac

One of the best moments happened on New Year’s Day, when we were approaching the Antarctic Peninsula on a Zodiac and came across five or six humpback whales. They were bubble-net feeding and, I mean, just right there in front of us. Our naturalist driver turned off the motor so we could watch and listen as they blew bubbles and jumped up. It was a bright sunny day, so we could see them clearly, plus we could hear everything. It was an amazing, full-sensory experience. Continue Reading ›

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Video: Marvel at the Great Migration During an African Safari in Kenya and Tanzania

Witness the spectacle of the Great Migration during a luxury travel safari to Kenya and Tanzania, keeping watch for East Africa’s abundant wildlife on game drives through the region’s most stunning parks and reserves. Meet with a Maasai elder and visit a Tanzanian village for authentic insight into daily life. Then, each evening, settle in to boutique camp and luxury lodge accommodations in the heart of the action.

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