Traveler Help Desk: Planning Trips to Spain, Hawaii, and Southeast Asia
Traditional Khmer dancers perform in Siem Reap.
We combed our social channels and chose three travel conundrums to demystify—or dreams to realize—enlisting the expertise of our editors and travel experts. Give us a shout on Twitter (@cntraveler) or on Facebook with your travel questions. This month, we’re planning trips to Southeast Asia, Spain, and Hawaii.
“What’s the best way to temple-hop in Southeast Asia?”
—Shubhra Chatterji, Mumbai
Start in Siem Reap, Cambodia, gateway to Angkor Wat and Angkor Thom. You can see both sites on your own, but you’ll get much more context from professional guides like those arranged by Andrea Ross of Journeys Within.
Thousand-year-old temples and a hit of more recent history in Vietnam. The port town of Hoi An is a veritable time capsule of atmospheric shophouses and pagodas. An hour southwest, portions of the My Son Sanctuary date back to the 4th century. From Saigon, a 90-minute drive takes you to the remarkable Cu Chi Tunnels that the Viet Cong used during the Vietnam War.
“What about trying the food?”
“There’s phenomenal street food just about everywhere in Vietnam,” says Senior Editor Paul Brady, and Ross can arrange a hands-on experience via a private in-home cooking lesson with a Hanoi family. In Cambodia, tour local markets and then get schooled in Khmer recipes at Raffles Grand Hotel d’Angkor.
“Where can I find Spain’s most iconic dishes?”
—Anquanette Gaspard, Miami
Everyone knows tapas and pintxos, but Spain’s largest cities offer more esoteric things to eat and drink as well, from vermouth on tap in the bodegas of Barcelona to paella made from heritage rice varieties grown on the coast in Valencia.
“Can I do it all in a week?”
Yes, if you plan well in advance with a specialist like Virginia Irurita of Made for Spain. “She can introduce you to standout sommeliers, cookbook authors, and clued-in gourmets who will steer you to the best local olive oil shops, food markets, and wine bars,” says Brady.
“What should I do between meals?”
You can see all of Barcelona’s touristy for-a-reason modernist gems—like the Park Güell and Sagrada Família—in a (rather busy) morning. In the evening, Irurita can introduce you to one of the country’s top sommeliers, Ferran Centelles, for a tour of his favorite vinotecas. In Madrid, she’ll arrange a guided tour of the finest specialty food stalls at the Chamberí Market; in Valencia, a paella cooking class.
“I’d like to take the family to Hawaii. What’s my first step?”
—Annie Lasalle, Montreal
First, decide which of the islands to visit. “Families tend to limit themselves to Oahu—tranquil surf, lots of activities—but with a little extra time, it’s easy to see a few more, thanks to frequent inter-island flights on the excellent Hawaiian Airlines,” says Features Editor Rebecca Misner.
“How can we keep the kids busy?”
On the Big Island, Hawaii Volcanoes National Park has guided hikes, and Mauna Kea has some of the world’s best stargazing. On Oahu’s west coast, Aulani, A Disney Resort & Spa is perhaps the islands’ best family-friendly property, without the over-the top shtick you might expect. On Lanai, the Four Seasons Resort Lanai at Manele Bay has snorkeling, horseback riding, and even ukulele lessons.
“Where should we eat?”
Restaurants across Hawaii have stepped up their farm-to-fork game, though Honolulu remains the most exciting place to eat. Chef Ed Kenney recently opened Mud Hen Water, with dishes like tilapia skin salad and soba noodle soup. Well before Kenney there was Alan Wong’s Honolulu, whose chef pioneered Hawaiian Regional Cuisine, which emphasizes locally raised produce. The best place to get shave ice—that ubiquitous frosty treat drenched in sticky sweet syrup—is whichever stand you’re in front of (though we love Waiola Shave Ice).
Travel specialists Ross and Irurita have designed customizable itineraries to Southeast Asia and Spain. If you’re one of the first ten readers to book a trip, you’ll receive a ten percent discount. Visit editorsitinerary.cntraveler.com for more on how to get going.