Giving to
Bryn Mawr

Katharine Houghton Hepburn Center

On Asia's Frontiers

October 31 – November 16, 2014

We invite you to join us in our exploration of the remote corners of Southeast Asia.The countries of Laos, Cambodia and Thailand beckon with their rich amalgam of cultural treasures, natural beauty and kind, friendly people. This superb itinerary combines iconic sites with avant-garde, practically unpronounceable destinations that will be on everyone’s radar in a decade. Our far-flung meanderings will allow access to remote tribes that are days away by foot from the nearest town. Recently built 4WD roads will take us deep into the countryside and we will utilize local footpaths to explore outlying villages, lost temples and the remnants of ancient civilizations.

This is a special moment in history. Thirty years ago this sojourn would have been all but impossible—fraught with transportation difficulty, closed borders, war-torn regions and plain inaccessibility. Thirty years from now, many of the supremely remote areas on this journey will be engulfed in the exponentially rapid waves of global modernity, as new roads, satellite connections and the worldwide web find their way into Asia’s most obscure corners. The time is now to visit these secluded hill tribes that still practice traditional ways of life, ways that have endured for thousands of years in the farthest reaches of Southeast Asia.

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Preliminary Itinerary
(please click on location to reveal details)


DAY 1: Depart

Depart the U.S.

DAY 2: Bangkok

Welcome to Thailand. Upon arrival in Bangkok, clear Immigration and Customs. Proceed to the arrival area and look for the Novotel Suvarnabhumi’s hotel representative. He/she will direct you to the hotel’s complimentary shuttle service. The shuttle picks up outside, between Gates 4 and 5, on the arrival level and departs every 10-15 minutes. Alternatively, access the hotel from the airport’s main terminal via the 200-meter, air-conditioned underground walkway.

This modern, well-appointed hotel is conveniently located within a 10 minute walk or a short shuttle bus ride from Bangkok’s international airport terminal.

When checking into the hotel, simply show your passport and if need be, also present your confirmation number which will be given to you prior to departure.

Settle in with the evening free at your leisure.

Overnight at the Novotel Suvarnabhumi Airport Hotel - Bangkok

Meals Provided: None

DAY 3: Bangkok / Chiang Rai

This morning you will be transferred to the airport in time for your flight to Chiang Rai.

Fly Bangkok Suvarnabhumi to Chiang Rai Economy Class

Upon arrival in Chiang Rai, you'll be met by your private guide and driver and enjoy the afternoon exploring local villages in the area.

Begin with a visit to the local Hilltribe Museum and Education Center, located in the heart of Chiang Rai. The Hilltribe Museum and Education Center was established to provide tourists in Chiang Rai with basic information about the culture of the six major tribal groups in Northern Thailand—the Akha, Hmong, Karen, Lahu, Lisu and Yao.

Enjoy lunch at a local restaurant.

Afterwards, you'll be driven to the Mae Kok River for an hour-long boat journey to the Karen village of Ban Ruammitr. From here, you will spend the next two to three hours walking among and exploring various villages in the area.

You'll then be transferred about one hour to the historic, old city of Chiang Saen, with its ancient walls, interesting museum and numerous temples. You'll have a chance to view the mighty Mekong River from Wat Chom Kitti and peer far into bucolic Laos.

Katiliya Mountain Resort & Spa is an all-suite luxury resort providing guests with superb services and facilities in a stunning natural setting. Surrounded by verdant forests and nestled within the mist-shrouded hills of northern Thailand, Katiliya Mountain Resort & Spa brings contemporary luxury to a land steeped in lore.

Settle in with the remainder of the day free at your leisure to relax. This evening enjoy dinner at the hotel.

Overnight at the Katiliya Mountain Resort & Spa - Chiang Rai

Meals Provided: B L D

DAY 4: Chiang Rai

This morning continue exploring this fabulous region.

This afternoon visit the Hall of Opium, an excellent museum focusing on the history of the Golden Triangle and the opium trade. Then explore the Golden Triangle area, a place of spectacular beauty near the borders of Thailand, Laos and Burma. Stop at Doi Tung, a mountain with wonderful views of the surrounding countryside, visit the impressive Mae Fah Luang flower garden, the Royal Villa and the beautiful Wat Prathat Doi Tung.

Enjoy lunch at a local restaurant.

Next, stop at the Burmese border town of Mae Sai, known in times past for its opium. Now it is a bustling town where the cultures of the Thai and Burmese peoples intersect. Enjoy dinner at the hotel.

Overnight at the Katiliya Mountain Resort & Spa - Chiang Rai

Meals Provided: B L D

DAY 5: Chiang Rai / Chiang Khong / Pakbeng

This morning we will drive to the Lao border and board our privately chartered traditional riverboat down the Mekong River to Pakbeng. En route we’ll stop to observe rural life along the Mekong and visit the Khmu village of Ban Houaypralam. Enjoy a lunch of Lao specialties on board and arrive at Pakbeng before sunset. Check into our lodge for the evening.

This comfortable lodge is built in traditional Lao style, with beams and floors of rosewood. Lao textiles lend an authentic local touch to spacious rooms, which feature a terrace offering apanoramic view of this remote section of Mekong.

Settle in for a lovely evening.

Overnight at the Pakbeng Lodge - Pakbeng

Meals Provided: B L D

DAY 6: Pakbeng / Muang La

This morning we will depart Pakbeng and drive 3-4 hours into the heart of northern Laos. Along the way, stop in Ban Long Sean to visit a local man who weaves beautiful bamboo chairs. Meet the weaver and learn about life in his village. There will also be a stop at Ban Yor, a charming Tai Leu village of about 700 people. The people of this village make their own pottery and most of the women work with cotton as they weave it into scarves. Meet a local potter and learn about local beliefs and traditions.

After lunch at a local restaurant, we'll depart on a 45-minute drive to Muang La, arriving early this afternoon.

Walk the short distance to Wat Chiao Pha Kham Sing, a famous temple housing a sacred Buddha statue. This afternoon partake in a traditional baci welcoming ceremony, which beckons the spirits of good luck. Then take a pre-dinner soak in the hot-spring-fed tub at the Muang La Resort.

This marvelous haven is one of those rare gems you hope to come across when exploring far-flung areas. French refinement and gorgeous local art combine to stunning effect in the eight bungalows that comprise this intimate jewel. An outdoor tub perched to maximize views is filled each evening with soothing hot water from natural hot springs. Six-course meals of Lao-French fusion cuisine tip the scales heavenward.

Overnight at the Muang La Resort - Muang La

**Please note that this hotel only has 10 rooms total.

Meals Provided: B L D

DAY 7: Muang La

Depart on a full day exploration of the surrounding countryside by 4WD and on foot. Drive to an extremely remote Akha village perched atop a mountain at just over three thousand feet. A sea of fog often blankets the lower valley, making for striking views. The Akha tribal people who inhabit this area are one of the most unassimilated minorities in Southeast Asia. They live very traditional lives dominated by farming and weaving. Their women wear distinctive colorful headdress adorned with large silver coins, displaying the family’s wealth.

Visit with the locals in their village and perhaps be invited into a home. Keep your cameras out of sight—mothers guard their children from the lens, believing a photo steals a piece of a child’s soul. We’ll perhaps enjoy a cup of tea or even be offered a draught of the locally made firewater (not for the faint of heart!). Don’t be surprised to find pigs, ducks and chickens roaming around the table in the “dining room”—livestock move about freely throughout the village. Watch how the locals spin and dye cotton to make their clothing. With the nearest town being two days walk away, nearly everything consumed in the village is locally produced. This visit is a glimpse into a way of life that has existed in Southeast Asia for centuries, one that is fading from the modern world at a rapid rate as remote tribes are engulfed in the modern global pop-information culture.

After a picnic lunch depart on an easy hour-long hike to a traditional Hmong village where you will have a chance to meet the inhabitants and observe their distinct traditional culture. Return to our resort where the natural hot spring tub and sauna await. Savor another dinner on the resort’s open-air terrace.

Overnight at the Muang La Resort - Muang La

Meals Provided: B L D

DAY 8: Muang La / Luang Prabang

Today will be a long and full, but interesting day of travel from Muang La to Luang Prabang.

After breakfast depart the resort on a two-hour drive to Muang Khua village. At Muang Khua you will board your privately chartered riverboat for a four to five-hour cruise down the Nam Ou River to the town of Nong Khiew. The boat is covered and pillows will be provided for comfort. The cruise will take you through some of the most spectacular river scenery in Northern Laos. Enjoy a picnic lunch on a secluded beach.

The cruise will end this afternoon in the town of Nong Khiew, where you will meet your awaiting vehicle and depart for Luang Prabang, a drive of about another three hours on a relatively good, paved road.

In Luang Prabang you'll check in at your lovely hotel. Enjoy a good night's sleep after your long day of travel.

Overnight at the Maison Souvannaphoum - Luang Prabang

Meals Provided: B L D

DAY 9: Luang Prabang

Begin the day with a walking tour of Luang Prabang, a UNESCO World Heritage site. Visit Wat Visoun, Wat Xieng Thong, Wat Mai and the Traditional Arts and Ethnology Center, a non-profit museum dedicated to the ethnic cultures of Laos. A delicious lunch awaits at the acclaimed L’Elephant Restaurant. Spend the afternoon relaxing or exploring. Reconvene for dinner and a traditional Lao dance performance at a favorite local restaurant.

Overnight at the Maison Souvannaphoum - Luang Prabang

Meals Provided: B L D

Day 10: Luang Prabang

Early risers will have a chance to witness a moving ritual—as long lines of barefoot monks walk silently along the streets on their morning alms rounds, watch locals offer alms. This represents a symbiosis in which rice sustains the monks’ bodies, while the monks’ prayers nourish the spirit of those giving the rice. Nearly all Laotian boys enter the monkhood for a period of time during late childhood, where they live in a monastery and study Buddhism.

Note: please observe at a respectful distance and silence while witnessing this ancient, sacred ceremony.

After breakfast, depart for a full-day excursion to Elephant Village and several surrounding villages, located outside of Luang Prabang along the Nam Khan River. This unspoiled valley is one of the most beautiful in the area. Although historically known as the “Land of a Million Elephants,” Laos is gradually losing its most treasured animals to human encroachment.

Elephant Village is investing in community-based eco-programs in Luang Prabang to give Lao elephants a new home. As forests disappear, the elephants that used to log them have become neglected. The aim of the project is to give these elephants a brighter future. So far five elephants have been freed from logging work and given a new home in the park. Experienced mahouts (trainers and care-givers) and veterinarians help the elephants adapt to their new environment. Tour the elephant project, watch the elephants bathe, and enjoy an hour-long ride on the back of one of these intelligent, highly social and emotional creatures.

Venturing into the beautiful Lao countryside, stop at the cascade falls of Tad Sae before returning to the camp for lunch. After lunch enjoy an (optional) afternoon half-day hike to an ethnic Khmu village to gain insight into the daily life and culture of this hill tribe. The village is nestled at the foot of the nearby mountains. Most of the people here are farmers and fishermen and live close to the land. During the afternoon you will be blessed with great views of the surrounding mountain range covered in dense jungle.

End the day with a short boat ride on the Nam Khan River from where you will return to town. For those wanting to forego the village hike, we will arrange transport back to town after lunch, with the rest of the day free to relax or explore on own. Dinner will be on your own this evening to offer opportunities to rest or explore on your own.

Overnight at the Maison Souvannaphoum - Luang Prabang

Meals Provided: B L D

Day 11: Luang Prabang / Siem Reap

This morning transfer to the airport in time for your flight to Siem Reap.

Fly Luang Prabang to Siem Reap Economy Class

Upon arrival, check in and enjoy lunch at the hotel.

A refinement of the French Art de Vivre, this hotel enjoys a good location in the heart of Siem Reap. Authentic artifacts and soft, exclusive fabrics complement stylish architecture.

Then depart on an afternoon exploration of Angkor, on a par with Machu Picchu as a testament to the greatness of a lost empire.

Focus on the fortified city of Angkor Thom built by the greatest Khmer king, Jayavarman VII, who ruled from 1181 AD to 1201 AD. Explore some of Angkor’s most magificent sights, including the Bayon, Baphuon, Phimeanakas, and the Terraces of the Elephants and Leper King. This evening enjoy dinner and a classical Khmer apsara dance, featuring the same stylized movements that are depicted in the ancient Khmer carvings of Angkor.

Overnight at the Victoria Angkor Resort & Spa - Siem Reap

Meals Provided: B L D

Day 12: Siem Reap

Depart before dawn for Angkor Wat and prepare to be floored: this is the largest and most breathtaking monument of the vast Khmer Empire. Built as the funerary temple for Suryavarman II, whoruled from 1112 to 1152, the complex is awe-inspiring for its monumental scale, surreal bas reliefs and unbelievable attention to detail. Spend the morningexploring one of humankind’s most magnificent creations. Return to the hotel for a late breakfast and some time to relax. Enjoy lunch at a local restaurant.

Next, continue to Banteay Srei, which for many years was off limits due to its remote location and Khmer Rouge activity. Built in the late 10th century and dedicated to Shiva, Banteay Srei’s pink sandstone walls contain the best-preserved bas relief carvings of any temple at Angkor.

Then, visit Preah Khan, with its labyrinth of grey, decaying stone courtyards that are slowly being reclaimed by the jungle. Large kapok trees extend limbs and roots throughout the carved stone work; while raucous parrots screech and monkeys keep watch to complete a surreal picture. Return to Siem Reap early this evening with the remainder of the evening free. Enjoy dinner at your hotel this evening.

Overnight at the Victoria Angkor Resort & Spa - Siem Reap

Meals Provided: B L D

Day 13: Siem Reap / Kompong Thom

This morning drive to Beng Mealea, a seldom-visited ruin. This spectacular jungle temple is located about 40 kms north of Siem Reap. It was constructed during the reign of King Jayarvaman VII and surpasses even the famous Ta Prohm for atmosphere.

Continue to Kompong Kdei, leaving the crowds far behind, striking out along the newly constructed Kambor or road where few travelers have trodden. This gravel road leads through beautiful, traditional typical Cambodian countryside.

Stop along the way at small traditional villages that almost never see a visitor, and enjoy a picnic lunch. Stop at Spean Thmor Kambor and Spean Praptos, two impressive bridges from the Angkor period. Arrive in Kompong Thom in time for dinner.

Overnight at the Sambor Village - Kompong Thom

Meals Provided: B L D

Day 14: Kompong Thom

After breakfast head out on unpaved roads to the hidden jewel that is Sambor Prei Kuk. This was the capital of the Chenla Kingdom which predates Angkor by several centuries. This treasure-trove of ancient monuments is spread out over a vast distance. The whole area could pass for an Indiana Jones movie set if it weren’t so completely authentic. Scores of 7th century temple ruins stand silently in the forest, the roots of giant kapok trees wrapped around their elaborate Hindu carvings. Monkeys scamper through their inner chambers, and wild parrots fly overhead. These lost temples exude a serene ambience, and an intoxicating sense of mystery.

Japan’s Waseda University has been involved in the preservation of Sambor Prei Kuk since 1994. You will witness their restoration and excavation work. An expert guide will accompany you during the visit of the three main sanctuaries of Sambor Prei Kuk—Prasat Sambor, Prasat Tao and Prasat Yeai Poeun. Enjoy a lunch amidst the ruins atlocal restaurant in Prei Kuk, then visit with local people. Visit several handicraft shops that specialize in stone carving and weaving. We will also visit a high school that is funded by the Thai royal family.

Overnight at the Sambor Village - Kompong Thom

Meals Provided: B L D

Day 15: Kompong Thom / Phnom Penh

Continue the drive to Phnom Penh, arriving in the early afternoon. Upon arrival, check in to your historic hotel.

The former haunt of such luminaries as Jacqueline Kennedy and W. Somerset Maugham, this historic hotel is Phnom Penh’s most prestigious address, located in the heart of the city. It gracefully melds Khmer, Art Deco and French colonial architecture and design.

Once considered the loveliest of the French built cities of Indochina, its charm has managed to survive the violence of its recent Khmer Rouge history.

Enjoy lunch at a favorite local restaurant. Then visit the National Museum with it’s huge collection of Khmer sculpture and artifacts recovered from Angkor.

Continue to the adjacent Silver Pagoda. Although some 60% of the pagoda’s contents were destroyed under Pol Pot, what remains is spectacular. This is one of the best places in all of Cambodia where objects embodying some of the brilliance of the Khmer civilization can still be viewed. Transfer back to your hotel with the remainder of the evening free. Enjoy dinner at your hotel this evening.

Overnight at the Raffles Hotel Le Royal - Phnom Penh

Meals Provided: B L D

Day 16: Phnom Penh

This morning visit the Russian and Central Markets.

Then take an excursion to the infamous Tuol Sleng Prison, the Khmer Rouge prison camp that was located in a high school. Glimpse the devastating horrors that prevailed during Cambodia’s ultra-radical Marxist movement, when the country started at Year Zero in 1975, and Pol Pot became the Brother Number One. This visit may prove distressing; it is nothing if not graphic. The life-size photos of the faces of the tortured prisoners at Tuol Slung are among the most haunting sights to be encountered anywhere in the world. It is, however, a crucial piece of this country’s 20th-century historical puzzle.

Afterwards, take an excursion to Choeng Ek Killing Fields located just outside the city. The harsh reality of these sites makes for an intense day, but is an important part of Khmer history.

Enjoy lunch at a local restaurant.

This afternoon after lunch we will be transferred to the boat pier and transfer by boat to Koh Dach or ”Silk Island’’, one of the amazing freshwater islands located just outside the capital of Phnom Penh. We’ll cross the river by boat and take in this relaxing 25km ride through Cham Muslim communities on quiet back roads to reach the Mekong Islands. On the islands, explore through orchards and market gardens. Enjoy the peaceful farmland and learn about the lives of the people who live here.

You will observe that many of the families are making weaving traditional silk scarves and other garments,this gave the island it’s name.

This evening enjoy dinner at the Bopha Phnom Penh Restaurant.

Overnight at the Raffles Hotel Le Royal - Phnom Penh

Meals Provided: B L D

Day 17: Phnom Penh / Depart

This morning you will be transferred back to the airport in time for your international flight back home (B).

Meals Provided: B

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Cost and program Inclusions

Land cost per person: $8,990.00
Internal air cost per person:$560.00
Single Supplement:$2,295.00
Non Refundable Deposit per person:$1000.00

All meals as designated in the itinerary (B=Breakfast, L=Lunch, D=Dinner); hotels as shown based on double occupancy; airport transfers as indicated; all transfers to and from hotels as indicated for planned activities and sightseeing tours-entrance fees, domestic permits; all applicable service charges and taxes (excluding some international or domestic airport departure taxes); predeparture materials including a customized Travel Guide containing destination information, travel tips, and cultural primer; limited travel insurance coverage including emergency medical evacuation coverage up to $200,000 per person, and in-country emergency medical expenses up to $5,000 per person.


Any item not specifically included in your program including all snacks, extra personal beverages & bottled water, etc. other than during designated meals, alcoholic beverages; passport and visa fees, video fees, excess baggage fees, laundry, phone calls, internet and any other items of a personal nature not specifically indicated; tips for your guide, ground staff, drivers, hotel porters and other service staff; ADDITIONAL INSURANCE OF ANY KIND, including trip cancellation/interruption/delay, air ticket cancelation, additional medical, and lost baggage insurance; any and all expenses resulting from delays arising beyond our direct control due to bad weather, trail, river, sea, and/or road conditions, sickness, civil unrest, government action; or any other transportation delays for any reason beyond our direct control; optional activities, free-day activities, including any additional stopover arrangements not specifically included in the itinerary. We can make additional arrangements for you. Extra charges will apply.


We highly recommend purchasing additional insurance, including trip cancellation. Information will be sent to you from the Bryn Mawr Alumnae Association upon your reservation.


INTERNATIONAL AIR: There is no international air included in this trip cost.

INTERNAL AIR: Bangkok Suvarnabhumi - Chiang Rai | Luang Prabang - Siem Reap on preferred local airline carriers - Economy class.

* All airfare is subject to change until ticketed. We will always do our best to confirm the most desirable seats on internal and/or international air (if ticketed by Asia Transpacific Journeys). Confirmed seat assignments are never guaranteed and can be changed at the discretion of the airline. Often with minor schedule changes, seat assignments are cancelled by the airlines. Please feel free to contact the airlines on your own to check on your seat assignments

If your itinerary includes airline tickets issued by Asia Transpacific Journeys you will be required to provide us with your first, middle and last names, as well as your birth date, exactly as it appears on your passport. Failure to provide us with the correct information may result in significant penalties and increased fares. In addition, Asia Transpacific Journeys will administer a $75 per person surcharge for any changes made after airline tickets have been booked.

VISAS - CUSTOM TRAVEL: VISA FEES ARE NOT INCLUDED in your trip cost. You are welcome to obtain the visa on your own or through our recommended service provider G3 Visas & Passports (visit for links to their site and select 'Asia Transpacific Journeys Custom Traveler' to print all required forms).

We cannot assume financial responsibility for situations where a visa or entry permit for an individual is denied, restricted, or not obtained in a timely manner. We strongly urge you to confirm your visa arrangements and requirements with the appropriate embassy, consulate or reputable visa service prior to travel.

Following are requirements for your program for U.S. citizens (different regulations may apply for other nationalities). All visa information is subject to change.

  • Cambodia - On arrival or pre-arranged. Cambodia requires a visa, which can be pre-arranged or obtained on arrival (1 passport photo required).
  • Laos - On arrival or pre-arranged. Laos requires a visa, which can be pre-arranged or obtained on arrival (1 passport photo required).
  • Thailand - No visa required if arriving by air (30 days) - overland crossing obtained at border (15 days). Thailand does not require visas for visits less than 30 days if arriving by air. Travelers entering Thailand by overland crossing of a land border from Laos, Myanmar, Cambodia or Malaysia will only receive a 15-day visa, available at the border.

The above is an ESTIMATE only. Actual availability and pricing have not yet been confirmed. Confirmation of arrangements will begin upon receipt of a $1,000 per person non-refundable deposit. If you would like to make your deposit online, please visit The deposit is applied toward your final balance due and is non-refundable unless we are unable to confirm your arrangements as outlined or confirm acceptable alternatives. Payment of your deposit indicates agreement to the attached Terms &S Conditions (or view at and agreement to complete, sign and return our Application, Waiver and Release of Liability, which must be submitted to complete the sign up process.

The sooner we receive your approval and deposit, the better your chances that we will be able to accommodate you on the above program at the estimated price.

Airfare and Land Payments: Full airfare and 50% of the land cost, minus your deposit, is due upon confirmation. Final balance is due 60 days prior to departure. If your departure date is within 60 days, full payment is due immediately. All deposits and payments can be made by personal/cashier's check, American Express, Visa or Mastercard.

  • From time of confirmation until 60 days before departure - cancellation fee is limited to your deposit or 25% of all land cost, which ever is greater.*
  • From 31 to 59 days prior to departure - cancellation fee is limited to your deposit or 50% of all land cost, which ever is greater.*
  • Less than 30 days prior to departure - 100% of land arrangements is non-refundable.

* There may be circumstances where non-refundable full payments or deposits have been made on your behalf for airfare, ship or other charters, hotel or other custom arrangements that will supersede the above policies

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Faculty Study Leader

Kristin Kelly '74
Kristin Kelly '74

Kristin Kelly will be the Bryn Mawr study leader on our trip on the Mekong River. Kris left the J. Paul Getty Trust in 2008 after eighteen years—nine at the J. Paul Getty Museum as the Manager of Administration, and nine at the Getty Conservation Institute (GCI) in various positions responsible for public education about the conservation of cultural heritage. She graduated from Bryn Mawr College in 1974, and earned a Ph.D. in art history and archaeology from Columbia University. Since 2009, she has been the chief consultant to a heritage center devoted to the history and culture of the Sikhs in Punjab State, India which opened in the fall of 2012. She is the author of The Extraordinary Museums of Southeast Asia (Harry N. Abrams, 2001) and travels to Southeast Asia to research its art, archaeology, and culture as often as she can.

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