Postcard from Thailand, Laos, & Cambodia with @Contiki!!

Sunday, April 5, 2015

Two weeks ago today I returned from the trip of a lifetime to Southeast Asia with Contiki Vacations. Though I'm currently in Toronto, if I close my eyes, I can still feel the warmth of the sunset in Van Vieng, Laos over the Nam Song River. Having travelled with Contiki through Turkey, Egypt, and Greece, I thought I would be quite prepared for my excursion with them to Thailand, Laos, and Cambodia. As I would quickly come to know, there are some places in the world that you simply can't prepare for...





We kickstarted our tour in beautiful Bangkok. For me, there was no greater feeling than overcoming my fear of flying across the Pacific Ocean, and touching down on the opposite side of the world. I love being pushed out of my comfort zone, being challenged to think on my feet, and opening my eyes for the first time to a city I've only ever dreamed of seeing. Visiting the Grand Palace on our first official day was a complete and utter eye-feast. My mouth was watering over all that incredibly ornate gold!! I also couldn't get over just how happy the locals were. There is such a joyous energy in the air that it is truly infectious...

Our time in Bangkok was brief but oh so sweet. Once we reached Chiang Mai, after our overnight train ride, I welcomed the laid back vibe of the city with open arms. It was so incredible visiting the Wat Phra That Doi Suthep Temple and being blessed by the monk in a traditional ceremony. It is both humbling and enlightening to experience another culture's religion. Later that night we had the opportunity to shop the local food market with our guide so we could learn to prepare quintessential thai dishes out in these remote rice fields.


Every experience we had from the get go felt like an absolute blessing. Maybe because I have never been to Asia before, it all felt so new and inspiring. I especially loved learning about the different hill tribes in Chiang Mai (a woman from the long-neck Karen tribe pictured below). Beauty is interpreted and showcased in such different ways around the world, and as a fashion illustrator, I can't help but be completely moved by the various traditions and want to capture them through my art.




When we left for Laos, I illustrated the jasmine garland to commemorate my time in this stunning country. We departed into our second leg of the tour by boarding a slow boat along the Mekong River. This was definitely one of the highlights of the trip for me. I felt so at peace floating along the water with this endless landscape of untouched mountains and greenery. Best part was our guide allowed me to play all my favorite tunes on the boat speakers along the way. This is also where I got to know my tour mates much better and really bonded over our shared passion for travel, music, and the like...

Laos feels so untouched and exotic. The first town we stopped at had only received power 5 years prior. This is where we woke to the sound of elephants bathing their young in the Mekong. Luang Prabang itself is a UNESCO world heritage site. It fuses French colonial influences with its own unique cultural attributes.

I loved getting up before sunrise to greet the monks on their morning procession of the ritual alms. It was such a privilege and honor to participate in this tradition. Contiki did an amazing job making these otherwise inaccessible moments completely attainable.

After my first week into the trip, I really started to feel the stress of New York fall behind me. Life moved slower, conversations with my tour mates replaced anxiety over social media posting, food was savoured longer, dancing was appropriate at all hours of the day, and suddenly life felt in balance again.


It was hard to say goodbye to Laos after spending 7 days there. It really had become our home away from home. We rode through the forests on elephants, swam through the natural springs of the waterfall, kayaked on the Nam Song River, and so much more. It was also where our group really started to feel like a family. We learned about the hardships many Lao people still endure in rural farmland as a result of the Vietnam war. One thing I can really say about this trip, in contrast to the others I have taken with Contiki, is that we were not sheltered. We really were exposed to the good and bad of each destination. But in doing so, we appreciated the culture that much more. We felt for the people that much more...

By far the hardest place we did visit and experience was Phnom Penh, the capital of Cambodia. Right when we arrived we visited the killing fields of the Cambodian genocide and no one walked away unscathed. I was deeply, deeply moved by the history of this country, most of which I only learned upon arriving. But because we saw what we did, we have the power to educate those around us, to not let history repeat itself.

Finishing the tour in Siem Reap, visiting the site of Ankor Wat, felt like a perfectly appropriate way to commemorate the trip and our time in Cambodia. It's hard to put into words just how much this trip meant to me. Sometimes you have to travel to the opposite side of the world to find yourself again. When you experience a life so different from your own, it's perhaps easier to see yourself in the contrast. If you would like to experience the tour yourself, please do not hesitate to email me with questions at mmillustrations@gmail.com and/or visit the Asian Adventure tour over on Contiki.com!!

Thank you to all of you for joining me on this journey and especially to Contiki for making this dream a reality!!

Much love,
Meag xx

10 comments:

  1. Replies
    1. Yes, all three destinations had such incredibly unique beauty! xx

      Delete
  2. Gorgeous post!
    http://inkandlacedesigns.blogspot.com.au/

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. @lorenabr thanks love, have you been to any of the three destinations? xx

      Delete
  3. This truly looks like an amazing experience and what incredible places! All the richness of colors and opulence of architecture contrasted with rural scenery and everyday life and struggles of people living there! Beautiful life-changing trip! Love all the photos and illustrations! I'd love to see all that myself, one day!;-) Thanks for sharing Meagan!

    www.PurseFixation.com
    Toast your Purse with an Outfit!
    Fashion Advice, Events and More

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. @Purse Fixation I'm so thrilled that you got all of that from my post!! I really wanted to do this trip justice and it seems that I may have done just that. Much love to you xx

      Delete
  4. Thanks for this post; it’s really amazing to read.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. @Trip Reserver thanks so much, I'm thrilled to hear that! xx

      Delete
  5. Most of the blogs pretend themselves as most usable and updated blogs with new information but sometime truth might different. I want to share some facts related to this subject which will help people to enhance their skills.
    pcso lotto result

    ReplyDelete
  6. I am thankful to this blog for assisting me. I added some specified clues which are really important for me to use them in my writing skill. Really helpful stuff made by this blog.
    Ayutthaya Tour

    ReplyDelete

Proudly designed by Mlekoshi playground