Bob, Berkeley

Siam Roads has given me a deeper and greater appreciation for the people of Southeast Asia in their uniqueness and their commonality. I have a better understanding of the cultures, the religions, the food – don’t forget the food, and the landscapes that make up a special part of the world.

Without the careful guidance of Siam Roads, and it’s guide Ya, I’d have managed to get around on my own but I’d have spent a lot of my time figuring out where to go, how to get there, where to stay that’s close to what I should see, and pushing the “translate” icon on my phone,

I’ve now taken three tours with Siam Roads. A two-day tour of Bangkok and environs; an airport pickup with local tour to Pattaya, and a ten-day excursion to northern Thailand to visit Chiang Mai, then into Laos for a stop in Vientiane, and to celebrate the end of Buddhist Lent in Luang Prabang

Going back almost fifty years, I’ve disliked formal tours. Mostly due to the need for the tour companies to include multiple shopping stops (e.g. we have an hour for the Great Wall, but first let’s stop for a ninety-minute carpet making demonstration!). This is not how Siam Roads works, the guides listen to their clients and tailor the tour to what works best for the client and if there is to be shopping it’s at the request of the client.

Back in May, after multiple trips to Bangkok, I realized I didn’t know the city very well other than the neighborhood where my hotel was located. After seeing a review of Siam Roads in an online forum, I contacted them and set up a tour. There were numerous emails back and forth asking about what I wanted to visit, suggestions were made, and a date set. I met the guide, Mac, who was eager, knowledgeable, and willing to adjust our plans. I mention this as the weather turned against us and Mac kept coming up with creative and satisfying alternatives.

In early September, I knew I was coming back to Thailand and hoped to arrange to meet a friend coming from Vietnam and go to Pattaya for a couple of days, before going on to Bangkok. I emailed Ya and he went out of his way to contact my friend, set up a meeting point, pick him up, meet me at the airport, get us to Pattaya, provide a overview tour, show us a great place to dine, and introduce the night life as well as the day time beach life.

During this short visit, I thanked Ya for going above and beyond and making things easy and mentioned that I wanted to visited northern Thailand and go somewhere else where I hadn’t been such as Laos or Myanmar or Cambodia. He, as a good businessman, offered to send me some suggestions.

Which he did and strongly suggested that since my available dates included the period when Buddhist Lent ended, that being on the Mekong in Luang Prabang would provide a special opportunity to witness and participate in an annual cultural experience.

He sent a stream of options as to other stops and one those were determined (Chiang Mai and Vientiane), he suggested hotels, telling me about the locations and linking me to both the hotel websites and the various review sites. I looked at guidebooks and mentioned somethings I thought I should see but told Ya that he was in charge of giving me an introduction to these new (to me) places.

He booked the hotels, arranged the internal flights, and made sure there was ground transportation, where needed. Ya was a charming guide who, having visited our tour stops many times, made the use of time efficient and informative. He sensed when I might need a break from touring, but, if there was a key site nearby, manage to cajole me into traveling on – to my benefit. And, he could seize the moment, as when he adjusted the first afternoon in Luang Prabang to arrange for a private sunset cruise on the river.

The trip was a joy and began a cultural awakening in me. I plan to return to visit Myanmar in the near future and will definitely call on Siam Roads to ease my path.