Joyce Siegel is truly a child of the raging 60s. Hailing from a tiny kampong (Malay word for village) that has since made way for rampant developments in Singapore, she was born the youngest girl in a Cantonese family of 7 at a time where life before independence in the former British colony was far from easy. Over the most difficult decades that followed the island's independence, Siegel saw herself through school where she mastered the English language, joined an international beauty pageant and established herself as one of the most sought after local models of her time.
Mrs Joyce Siegel, photographed at Belmond La Residence Phou Vao, Luang Prabang
When she met her husband Don Siegel, the 'American wild child, photographer and graphic designer' as she fondly recalls, she settled into her role as wife and mother to 2 children at a point where Singapore was developing at a prodigious speed. Like many of her generation, she played dual roles amidst blissful domesticity - she began life as an entrepreneur making puppets for the emerging tourist market and never stopped traveling, even with the tiny tots in tow.
"Traveling is a privilege," Siegel declares sagely. "Back in my days Singapore to Europe, or basically anywhere, wasn't a momentary choice one could just decide overnight. I was so lucky to have been chosen to promote the new Singapore-London flights for Singapore Airlines as a model and that sealed my lifelong passion for traveling. It started as work - from the memorable promotional trips for BP (British Petroleum) throughout Malaysia in a London cab to modeling in British cities like Manchester and London, I really got hooked on travel right from the beginning. It was such an exhilarating time."
Beer and local snack at Belle Rive Boutique Hotel by the Mekong
After her marriage, her career as a model may have stopped but her travels increased significantly.
"Don and I were always on the road. Anywhere is better than no where. We drove to Kuantan with the kids at a time when there was nothing but sand and sea at the Malaysian West Coast. We often visit my in-laws in New York and New Orleans and saw how America evolved, or devolved as a nation. And of course Australia, Europe and Asia! My love affairs with these continents never end."
The waterway of Corfu in Greece where Siegel is sailing with her husband at press time
Currently on an odyssey sailing from Copenhagen to Slovenia, Siegel recalls a magical week spent with LCO Travel in the UNESCO Heritage city of Luang Prabang.
"The sights there are some of the most stunning in Asia. Not many people have been to Luang Prabang or Laos and I must say perhaps that's why the place is still so charming and steep in culture. The blend of nature and culture here is simply wondrous. This city is definitely one of Asia's best kept secret."
With inimitable style, Siegel has traversed the sights and scenes of this beauteous destination for yet another travel memory. She shares with us some of her top experiences and recommendations on Luang Prabang.
6. Pha Tad Ke Botanical Gardens
Roots and rocks at Pha Tad Ke Botanical Gardens
"The first and only botanical garden in Laos, this charming attraction by the Mekong river is home to over 100 different ginger species, 200 species of tree found in the region, more than 30 species of palm and over 260 species of orchids! There is also a 2 hectares limestone habitat that is home to the unique flora and fauna native to Laos."
5. Laos Buffalo Dairy
Calves hungry for milk at Laos Buffalo Dairy
"This socially conscious farming project is an admirable enterprise that aims to improve both the stock quality and life of water buffalo farmers in Luang Prabang by renting their live stocks and educating them in modern farming methods as well. The dairy goods produced here are mostly sold to local restaurants and hotels, but one can sample home-made ice cream and snacks like the yummy Zeppole or Italian doughnuts right here after touring the farm."
4. Poolside Private Dinner, Belmond La Residence Phou Vao
Private dining at Belmond La Residence Phou Vao
"The staff at Belmond is the best I've encountered in Luang Prabang as they are so thoughtful and clever with the fine touches. The dinner they've set up by the pool was so magical with the lights and flower petals. The dinner, comprising of really tasty French food fabulously presented with Laotian influence, is such a gastronomic surprise and great pleasure for me."
3. Morning Almsgiving (arranged by Belle Rive Boutique Hotel)
Monks in saffron robes line the streets in Luang Prabang for morning almsgiving
"We had to get up at 5.30am and head out to the streets with the kind staff from Belle Rive who'd prepared a basket of eggs and hot sticky rice to offer to the monks as alms. It's a beautiful tradition as many local women in ethnic wear line the streets along the heritage old town to offer food for rows of monks in their saffron robes. This experience is both cultural and spiritual."
2. Mekong river cruise
Sunset on the Mekong
"When in Luang Prabang, one simply cannot pass up the chance to cruise the Mekong to catch the sunset while sailing on the river's currents. The views and scenes here - the children playing on the narrow banks, the rolling hills on both sides of the river and the occasional old temples set amidst gorgeous green terrain, are simply unforgettable."
1. Kuang Si Falls (arranged by Amantaka)
The rich green hues of gently flowing cascades at Kuang Si Falls
"When my daughter showed me pictures of herself cannon-balling into the stunning green pools here a few years ago, I just couldn't picture the beauty of this hidden spot. The folks from Amantaka offered an impeccable experience with a personalised guide (who is our driver as well) who walked me through the falls and pools here and waited for me while I indulged in a refreshing dip. The clarity and jade green hues of these natural pools are just amazing. "