Once getting to Tsumago, which lies in the Kiso Valley of Japan, I was overwhelmed by the natural beauty of the area from the surrounding mountains, as well as the very authentic and traditional style of the smaller villages. It felt like I walked back in time and was truly experiencing the heart of Japan. The Kiso Valley, which holds a portion of the quite extensive Nakasendo Trail, offers a place of such serenity, but also the option to remain active by hiking from Tsumago to Magome, just a 7 km distance. This day trek was not only a lot of fun with all that you can experience along the way, but also stunning in terms of all the beauty you saturate of the area. This tiny bit of Japan definitely left a lasting impression in terms of how much I really loved my time there.
Rachel, Japan & Southeast Asia Specialist
Rachel's always had a drive to explore new areas of the globe. Whether living with a family in Italy, running a beach bungalow in Mui Ne, Vietnam, or teaching English in South Korea, travel has always been her greatest passion. After graduating with a degree in International Affairs from U.C. Boulder, she embarked on her transcontinental journey to Asia. Arriving home two and a half years later, she began a career in international travel.
Now at Audley, she's designing once-in-a-lifetime trips, diving into her favorite cultures in an immersive, exciting way. Thailand, Vietnam and Japan are such unique, different and exotic marvels that it's hard to not fall in love with all of these incredible countries and all that they have to offer. Whether it's hanging with elephants in their natural and preserved habitat in Khao Lak, Thailand, feasting on the unforgettably delicious banh mis (a type of baguette) in Hoi An, Vietnam, or hiking the stunning Nakasendo trail through the Kiso Valley of Japan — these destinations are without a doubt her three global favorites.
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My favorite accommodation is La Veranda on Phu Quoc island off the southern coast of Vietnam. Everything about this resort offered something to remember from the versatility of the interior design to the locally sourced cuisine. It was started and still actively run by Madame Catherine, an older French woman, who designed the property to follow the journey of her life. She created energy within the property that is both enchanting and captivating from creating a colonial design peppered with more retro funky furniture. The location is quiet and removed with easy access to surrounding activity, grasping the best of both worlds. Having its own private beach and villas designed with such an artistic, unique feel left it as a place I can't wait to return to.
I'll never forget when…
While driving into the Mai Chau valley in Vietnam, we stopped at this small market run by the Muong people who lived in the village at the bottom of the mountain pass. The market itself was so local and authentic. I noticed some of the older women wearing traditional dress. I sat with one of the older women while eating egg dipped in their local pepper, which had this amazing natural orange aroma to it, and trying her freshly brewed hot tea. Our guide translated some of our communication, which made the exchange even more meaningful. The woman allowed me to buy one of her similar, authentic headscarves. At the end of this fairly brief stop, I was so touched by the encounter and exchange I had with this woman and her family, I realized I wouldn't have ever experienced this if it weren't for traveling with Audley.