Thank you for visiting us. We've been organizing trips in Indochina since 1993— the first North American company to do so in a newly-opened Vietnam, venturing into almost every unexplored corner of the country (read Escape Magazine's 1994 article on us). It was certainly a far more adventurous time with neighboring Cambodia under United Nations authority and Laos still largely off limits due to rebel activity. I lead many of our trips at that time, logging tens of thousands of miles researching and leading our trips.
Of course, much has changed since then. Travel has become far more comfortable in the region, and is now one of the safest for travelers. Yet, as Kurt Vonnegut once said, "peculiar travel suggestions are dancing lessons from God" and these places still excite travelers like no other. I still lead trips regularly (our Iron Chef tour of Vietnam with culinary Impresario Neal Fraser is a favorite) and after two decades in Vietnam, the country and especially the people remain a delight as do certain other places in the region, such as Inle Lake and Luang Prabang.
What's new? Quite a bit, we've been in Myanmar for over a decade now, organizing early adventure bicycle tours and festival trips, photography tours with Mark Tuschman, and a focus on the arts as artists emerge from decades in the shadows into what will certainly evolve into a vigorous scene similar to what is now found in Hanoi. Southeast Asia is no longer a challenging place to travel through, and our luxury tours feature world-class properties and dining we still plan trips with a careful eye to authentic experiences away from the ever increasing crowds.
As my own children have grown up along with the region, we have in recent years begun to focus on family travel hosting families with children of all ages (read about our Vietnam family tours including my 11 year-old's trip diary). I'm also thrilled about our family tours in Myanmar — the welcoming Burmese are gracious, warm, and delighted to see children visiting their country.
What's important to know about us besides our long and enduring experience in the region? Many years ago we decided to "keep it real" to respect the place and the people of the region and remain a smaller boutique operator, organizing immersive and completely authentic trips for only a few hundred discerning travelers each season. It's about the right amount that we've found we can still keep remember everyone's first name and provide all the attention and meticulous planning required to make sure every trip is not only perfect but thrilling and unforgettable. Let us plan an immersive, authentic, entirely unique trip, leveraging our local knowledge, from low-to-the-ground adventures to "ultra-luxe" journeys (without the ultra cost).
—Patrick Morris, Chief Experience Officer
Like many before me for generations, travel and then moving to Southeast Asia was borne from the most fascinating and thrilling experiences of my life. Years later, I still find the region to be no less exciting and even more so with the pleasant changes that are taking place.
Our private trips are marked by the highest attention to detail possible, including diet preferences, for example, to exclusive activities, such as entering the temple at Angkor before other tourists are permitted, to arranging the most unique activities any offers, such as learning the secrets of lacquer hands-on with Indochina's most renowned artist or enjoying dinner with the former Cambodia Ambassador to the United States.
One of my passions is the regional cuisine which differs far more than travelers realize and I look forward to working with you on exploring this magnificent facet of travel in the region. Aside from dining plans, I monitor each and every one of our trips personally and am available 24 hours a day for any of our travelers.
—Patrick Chase, Managing Director Asia
Dallas, Texas was was my adopted home for a decade where I worked as an engineer. A few years ago, I made the decision to return to sleepy Yangon (where things have forever moved along at a snail's pace), to experience this truly momentous era in my homeland.
President Obama's visit was a stark example of how much Myanmar has changed and I stood in awe watching his motorcade pass, a signaling of the transformative changes that have arrived and to come.
During your visit you'll hear from shortly after arrival and I will carefully monitor your trip throughout with the same meticulous focus on details I had when I was an engineer.
Myanmar is a wonderful place with very friendly and warm people. For those who prefer a simpler and older life style, it is ideal. Not to mention the scenic beauty, cultural richness and the country's wonderful travel destinations of Mandalay, Bagan and, Inle Lake.
—Min Lwin Win ("Min"), Yangon, Myanmar
My story is like others in Laos, growing up in one of the poorest countries in the world. My father, an educated man, lost everything after the revolution and as a young child I worked on the steep hillsides in "dry rice" fields with my family. But my father never stopped educating me and saved enough money for me to attend school.
Learning English was a fortunate thing for me, and allowed me to work as a tour guide when travelers began to come. As a guide I made many good friends from around the world and was surprised to discover I loved traveling myself. After twenty years of greeting new friends I still enjoy sharing my hometown, Luang Prabang, and the beautiful countryside along the Mekong river. I'm proud to say that when many of our travelers leave, they tell me they did not know much about my country before but that after visiting, Luang Prabang was their favorite place of all.
Yes, I still do enjoy bicycling and if you are visiting with us in Laos, please ask me to take you for a fun ride, it's the best way to enjoy my hometown and the scenic countryside. Of course, you must also join me in my home for a welcome dinner, it is a traditional custom in Laos.
—Chitthavone ("Chit Chit") Philavanh, Managing Director, Laos
As a Chinese American growing up San Francisco, it wasn't until I read Richard Rodriguez' Hunger for Memory that I understood the sense of being neither this or that, that certain feeling of absence was a longing for culture, at least the strongly felt association that comes from more homogeneous societies. I later attended Rhode Island School of Design studying design. John Maeda, the President of RISD recently wrote "What people want now goes beyond sleekly designed objects and experiences. We're all hungry for authenticity—in the form of the human hand, mind and heart..."
This want of authentic culture provoked decades of travel with a passion for textiles and gemstones that lead me to Turkey, Laos, Vietnam, Myanmar and other places where the craft is practiced as an art. In these places I not only witnessed textiles and jewelry being designed and produced, but experienced societies with deep cultural ties and fascinating expressions of their cultures. Experiencing these cultures in unique, meaningful, and authentic ways provides the color to any journey.
—Tree Tam, Founder, San Francisco
Yes, it's true... All of these lovely ladies work in our Hanoi office (with Hien, Nhung, Hien, Thuy, Thuy, and Lam). Come by and visit near the Metropole!
Yangon office with Ma Ma, Zarni, Yu, Tin Tin, Myat, Patrick, Phyo, Win Le, Regina, and Swe.
There are many wonderful NGOs and charities focused on human assistance and development the region, including one of our favorites, Room to Read. Sadly, native wildlife has been decimated in recent decades with little attention. A handful of projects have appeared, including Orangutan and Asian elephant programs in Borneo, Sumatra, Laos, and Thailand. In the spirit of bringing attention to this plight, we've adopted Chocolate as our mascot and provide support to the Orangutan Project that provides funding and expertise for his well being at the Batu Mbelin Quarantine Centre located in Borneo. Camp Leaky is another such projects focusing on Orangs.
"Born in June, 2010, Chocolate was confiscated from villagers in Southwest Aceh. He was very thin, with dry skin and dull, wiry hair. By chance, his confiscation coincided with the presence of a film crew from NBC in the USA, and Paul Hilton, a well known photographer based in Hong Kong, so the whole process was well documented. Both were in the area covering a spate of recent fires in the nearby Tripa peat swamp forests, from where Chocolate without doubt originates. He was named Chocolate, as someone stopped at a roadside store to buy some chocolate, and was then informed during discussions with locals about an orangutan for sale, hence the name… Chocolate has now been introduced to another young infant male orangutan, named 'Pandu', from Kutacane in South East Aceh. At first Chocolate seemed not so interested in 'Pandu', and 'Pandu' seemed a little afraid of his new room-mate. But after a month they were much happier and were often seen playing together." Read more about Chocolate and the Orangutan Project.
Read more about us: Why Indochina Travel
It begins the before you touchdown… You feel it when you enter the terminal. It hits you during the drive from the airport—this is a place unlike any other. We’re inspired and passionate about the unique places we travel, with a deep commitment to culture and authenticity and never satisfied with the ordinary. We’re honored to host our travelers on what we've planned to be momentous once-in-a-lifetime journeys, exploring what we consider the most thrilling places in the world for travel. Even the most experienced of our travelers find themselves fascinated and delighted at every turn. As your experienced partner (the very first American tour operator in Vietnam, Laos, Cambdoai and Myanamr), we plan only extraordinary trips, introducing you to people, places and doing things that will inspire you as they do us.
No two trips should ever be the same. Especially given the mystery and enchantment of Asia. It's not just the destinations and hotels that can be different. The beauty of travel is how everyone has their own personal inspiration, their own perceptions and preconceptions that can evoke emotion from afar. It arouses us to move, encourages the removal of boundaries, and embraces the exoticism that makes our planet so unique.
After more than two decades we've never ran the same trip or itinerary twice. Every tour is private and customized, based on an intimate understanding of the local. We were the first North American tour operator in Vietnam and have pioneered the development of luxury tourism in the Asia region. And we're still evolving, crafting new experiences to provide a fresh angle on a region that is very different now to what it was in 1993.
We want you to be immersed in the destinations you visit. We want you to share stories with iconic people who have shaped their city. We're passionate about insider experiences that go far beyond what you can find in the guidebook. We want to softly open all your senses to the allure of the continent. And returning home, we hope you feel the same way that we do about travel: it is not just about exploring and discovering; it's also about the intimate connections you are able to make, with both a place and a people.
The perfect Indochina travel starts with you. Inspiration and dreams provide the foundations, the building blocks for us to customize the experience. It could be anything you can picture from afar: a destination, an idea, an activity, an image you treasure or something you saw on a travel documentary. We're also inspired by your own interests. We can arrange almost any type of trip and will incorporate your passions, whether it's rugged adventure in the wild or discussing contemporary art with gallery directors.
With many of our clients we find that their preconceived image of travel in Asia differs from what is found in the region. Destinations are changing at a rapid pace, some for the good, others to a point that they are unrecognizable from the dreamy initial promise. When discussing travel plans we will always offer you alternative ideas and explore options that you may never have considered, or perhaps have never even heard about. We pride ourselves on sage travel advice, helping you understand when and where to go in a region that is always two years further ahead than what the guidebooks and the internet will say.
Travel is passion. It is color and life and the vitality of new experience. We don't start from pre-populated forms but build a custom-tailored tour through conversation. Getting to know you helps us match you to experiences and people within the country. Knowing the destinations you've enjoyed in the past helps us plan something that suits. Understanding your passions helps to customize it further. And let's not forget the interests of those you travel with, whether a romantic getaway or the activities loved by your children.
At the heart of every tour are the insider experiences that make us so unique. The places we take you are beyond the beaten track. The people you meet are based on friendships we've nurtured over the decades. We pull from an always-expanding menu of activities and experiences that you can't find anywhere else. Why? Because we love looking and developing these experiences, pushing our own horizons and satisfying our own passion for discovery.
After an initial consultation we start to build out potential itineraries. Like all good creative processes, there are hundreds of ideas and avenues that can be crafted into something that is perfect for you. Creating a final itinerary takes many days of work. There are the logistics: hotels, guides, activities, transfers, dining reservations and recommendations. Then there are the extras: tailoring the route around local festivities; a cooking lesson with a world-renowned chef; coordinating your trip with the availability of a decorated Vietnamese fighter pilot you can have lunch with. We have never been an online operation. And we've resisted the chance to develop into a larger travel agency. Throughout the process we're always available, working with you to fine tune all the details. In a region that can be confusing, our personal service saves you innumerable hours in planning and organizing a vacation. We've tested the hotels, commending their service and quality based on many years of client feedback. When situations change in the region we already have alternative plans in place.
We offer same-day airline and trip booking, so when the itinerary is finalized all the details are coordinated together. As you're getting close to the vacation we send out a comprehensive pre-departure packet. It includes concise information about what is important now – vaccinations, packing details, general practicalities – along with all the emergency and in-country contacts you need.
A little closer to the time we also send you a pack of inspirational information that's fully personalized to the destinations you are visiting: our favorite travel literature, an overview of restaurants we recommend, some helpful phrases in the local language. After the booking we are also always available to answer your questions about the upcoming trip.
It's one thing to plan. Quite another to execute. While we run an office in the U.S. the day to day operations are delivered by our in-country teams. Visit Vietnam and our local team of Vietnamese experts ensures everything runs smoothly. Venture to Cambodia or any of the other countries we operate and there's a local office providing assistance. You enjoy 24-hour dedicated support throughout the trip and are given direct contact numbers of the in-country managers and directors. Our service on the ground goes far beyond hotel, guide and driver. You're always getting a local tour manager with a minimum of 15 years experience, plus the support of an entire local office.
Asia has developed enormously since 1993. Emergency procedures were much trickier back then than they are now. Safety still comes first though and over the years there have been occasions when we've had to put emergency plans into practice. We maintain a detailed knowledge of medical facilities throughout the region and understand what to do dependent on where you are. We also have a longstanding relationship with insurance providers to assist before you travel.
Developing an intimate understanding of Indochina has always been a twofold process. We are the first North American tour operator in Vietnam and one of the first in various countries across Asia. Throughout the last two decades we've helped to translate a Western understanding of luxury into new travel markets. In many countries and destinations we've played an integral role in establishing the luxury tourism sector.
At the same time, we believed that local knowledge is fundamental to the authenticity of travel: our private tour are about the people you meet and the stories you share, not just the destinations. Luxury is experiential and we always want to celebrate the cultural opulence that can make Asia so special.
20 years ago we was a boutique tour operator. But boutique is a buzzword thrown around so liberally that we're a little bashful about using it now. The principles haven't changed though. We know you by name not by booking number, and we're just as interested in your impressions after the tour as before. And we're still pioneering new ways for people to explore Asia. In 1993 it was opening up new regions that had never seen by tourism before. Now it is developing new immersive angles, like an Iron Chef food tour guided by Los Angeles impresario Neal Fraser and evolving art tours in Myanmar.
Over the last 20-odd years we kept a regional focus. There have been times we've the opportunity to expand, either geographically or through a more commercialized approach to travel. Maintaining quality has always demanded this localized focus. And the experiences we can offer are not those that you will find in the guidebook, nor those that have a TripAdvisor rating. Instead we aim to feed your imagination with the infinite possibility that travel can promise.
These are many other reasons why we think we're different (and why our repeat client rate is so high). But we encourage you to call us and ask the hard questions. Test our knowledge and challenge our understanding: let us explain in person what makes the experiences.