Alongside leading tours in Vietnam, Cambodia and Thailand, Anna has travelled widely throughout Asia from Hong Kong to Hampi, as well as through eastern Turkey, Georgia, South America and beyond. She’s collected some interesting memories along the way, from honing her construction skills building toilets in a village near Ollantaytambo, Peru, to hiking the Inca Trail an impressive seven times.
Despite working and travelling across many continents, Anna is always drawn back to Asia. Her most memorable moments include celebrating Tet Festival in Vietnam’s Mai Chau Valley (with rather too many shots of rice wine, apparently!) and spending an unusual Christmas Day in Ho Chi Minh City watching hundreds of people dressed in Santa suits zip through the streets on motorbikes!
After hanging up her tour-leading boots, she worked in various areas of the travel industry, from adventure tours to river cruising, before bringing her unique perspective and expertise to the Selective Asia team.
“Learn a few words in the local language, then be sure to use them! Please, thank you and sorry in particular are always sure to come in handy.”
These days, I feel a little embarrassed to confess that when I arrived to start tour-leading in Vietnam, fresh from surviving my first contract in the Middle East, it wasn’t actually my first choice of destination! However, from the moment I stepped out of my hotel and got lost in the narrow streets of Hanoi’s Old Quarter, I knew that this was a destination I’d fall head over heels for. By the evening, crouched on a small plastic stool with a cold glass of Bia Hoi, I was smitten.
"I really think Asia has everything. Amazing landscapes, vibrant cities, some of the most beautiful beaches in the world, friendly people who always seem to have time to welcome visitors – whether it’s the Thai people with their insistence on ‘sanuk’, which roughly translates as ‘fun’, or the Khmer people of Cambodia who have overcome so much in their recent history – and I haven’t even mentioned the food…”
I particularly enjoy sampling any and all aspects of Asian cuisine. During an especially memorable trip to Cambodia, I added beef with red ants and holy basil, snail salad, and frog to the list of dishes I’ve eagerly tried, joining ducks feet, snake, fried scorpion and some of the more ‘unusual’ parts of a goat. However, although I’ve taken part in numerous cookery classes during my travels, I’m still no chef!
“Always enjoy the journey. In Asia there are many opportunities to travel on foot, by bicycle, boat, train and more. Whilst your destination will likely be fantastic, the way you get there is bound to provide you with some of your greatest travel stories.”
Countries in Asia visited:
Borneo, Cambodia, Thailand, Vietnam, Sri Lanka, Myanmar & Japan
Malaysia, Singapore, India, China, Hong Kong, Bali and the Philippines
Favourite Asia-related book?
On one of my visits to Vietnam and Cambodia, I read ‘River of Time’ by foreign correspondent Jon Swain, which he wrote during the ‘70s whilst covering the war in Indochina. It really evokes the beauty of the region, as well as the tragedy of the conflicts that changed it forever.
Favourite Asian food?
Lahpet thoke, a Burmese fermented tea leaf salad, has to be my ultimate ‘you don’t know until you try’ Asian dish. Whilst a mixture of pickled tea leaves, fried beans, peas, garlic, peanuts, dried shrimp, chilli, tomato and cabbage might not sound immediately appealing, it offers the perfect mix of earthy and tangy. I’ve certainly never tasted another salad like it.
Favourite conservation project in Asia?
The Elephant Valley Project in Mondulkiri, Cambodia, is simply the best project of its type I’ve ever been lucky enough to visit. It offers an amazing opportunity to learn about and observe elephants ‘just being elephants’ from a respectful distance, as well as supporting the elephants' former owners, providing local employment, education and much more.