A Three Week Adventure in South East Asia
From the livewire nights of Thailand to the mystical jungle temples of Cambodia, the peaceful gongs of Laos, and the enchanting lantern towns of Vietnam – this tour showcases the best of South East Asia. Brimming with exotic sights, sounds, and flavuors; you won’t skip a beat as you spend three weeks immersed in the fabric and finery of these lands. Drift down the Mekong River, whizz in tuk tuks around bustling towns, haggle at the markets, feast on street food, and fall in love with sacred sights and natural splendour – this is South East Asia…
The Bright Lights of Bangkok
Your journey through the magic and mayhem all starts in lively Bangkok. The bright lights of the city can be blinding, the crush of colour mesmerising, and the first time you bite into a Thai dish – your senses will be swamped with salty, sweet and sourness all at once.
To help you soak up the city piece by piece, check into the Novotel on Siam Square. Sitting right in the heart of the action means you can step out and explore the sights. You won’t want to rest easy after your flight; not when there are skyscrapers, world class shopping, nightly markets, and notorious clubs to devour.
Glimmering Gold + Midnight Feasts
After breakfast, get ready to be shown the swish sights of Bangkok with a half day city tour. Bangkok is home to three of the worlds most unusual Buddhist temples. Be blinded by the 5 tons of solid gold that make up the glimmering Wat Trimit. See Buddha in his best chill pose at Wat Po and admire the divinely decorated White Marble Temple brimming with its sprawl of Buddha images.
This evening gives you the chance to throw yourself into the culinary capital of Bangkok and learn the balance of salty, hot, sour and sweet at a cooking class and be immersed in the sights, smells and tastes of a local market then chow down on self-prepared dishes for dinner and learn best kept secrets. Take a starry-eyed visit to a temple after hours and flop readily on your bed by midnight.
The Colour of Cambodia
This morning, head back to the airport for your onward flight to Cambodia. Touch down in Siem Reap – the gateway to the ancient glory of Angkor. But the chic town is more than just a passage – Siem Reap is a destination in its own right. From colourful Cambodian circus tricks to sizzling food tours, floating villages, temples, and yoga pavilions – get ready for a different pace in this South East Asian Kingdom.
Check into the Frangipani Villa Hotel, a sweet haven in the city surrounded by lush fragrant gardens. The blend of Khmer and French sets a stunning mise-en-scene of dark polished woods, fresh white linens, and those stunning boutique touches that put the heart into a hotel.
Lost Cities + Lofty Temples
Today is all about entering the myth and magic of Cambodia’s temples. The intricately carved temples are the reason many travelers make the journey to Angkor. Lofty columns soaring to the sky, heavy stone hewn to Terraces of Elephants and Terraces of Leper Kings, and gigantic stone faces set against the back drop of twisted jungle roots – nothing can prepare you for the sight. Angkor Thom is lifted straight from the reels of the Tomb Raider movie and the history that seeps through the cracks, the tales of kings, and rulers’ weaves in even more wonder.
Next Angkor Wat – the Lost City – where orange robed monks tiptoe softly through sacred grounds. Be sure to see the surreal sight of a silk cotton tree strangling the carved stones from the Ta Prohm Temple. Hear the trees shake in the deep dark forests that fringe the UNESCO site. Admire the wild lilies that bloom, take photographs from across the lake, and lose yourself in shaded secret courtyards.
Holy Waters + Sunset Citadels
Delve deeper into the love and lore of ancient Hindu mythology as today you visit the places that bring these stories to life. Start at the Banteay Srei – the blushing temple dedicated to Shiva. Its russet sandstone walls are a vision of carvings so complex they look as though they will leap right off the stone. Next, Phnom Kulen will tempt with its sacred hilltop reputation and holy waters.
Just two inches beneath the surface of the water your hands can trace thousands of carvings etched into the riverbed. Follow the ebb and flow, listening to the elegant stories behind the carvings before reaching the gushing waterfall and pilgrimage pool. Pull yourself up the rickety staircase that wraps around the giant 55ft. Buddha – a place where incense burns sweetly into the thick air and monks bow and offer fruit.
Before sunset falls there is time to visit Banteay Samre and its 12th century citadel. Watching the changing light hit the golden stone is enough to make you tingle.
Palatial Spires + Pungent Spices
Leave the landscape of ornate temples behind as you board your flight to Phnom Penh. The capital of Cambodia can be overwhelming at first glance; a land of glimmering palatial spires, pungent spices, whizzing motorbikes, and the constant chatter of a city that has risen like a phoenix from the ashes of war.
Check into the Sunway Hotel Phnom Penh in one of the best addresses in town surrounded by historic landmarks with many attractions and the riverfront just a short walk or drive. Check in to your spacious and modern room that redefines comfort with large bay windows offering magnificent views.
Enjoy an evening of leisure, exploring the city at will. Dine at one of the cosmopolitan restaurants that line the riverside, sip a sundowner at one of the many rooftop bars, and take a wobbly tuk tuk home to your hotel.
Painful Pasts + Bright Futures
Some atrocities need to be looked at in the eye, and The Killing Fields is one of those places. The peaceful rural setting just outside the capital may not whisper immediately of death and fear, but this is the spot where thousands of people were slaughtered and buried in mass graves under the fierce regime of Pol Pot.
Take your time at this site before heading to the Museum of Genocide to turn another page in the book of Cambodia’s heart-breaking past. The former high school shifted to become a Khmer Rouge interrogation facility in 1975 – from the thousands who passed through their doors, only seven lived to tell the tale.
After a day immersed in the bitter history, return to the capital with new eyes. Relax with a cold local beer brewed from rice, chat with the friendly locals, and if you are feeling brave – try one of the fried tarantula specialties.
The Capital of Calm
Today you head to the airport for a transfer flight to Vientiane. Laos’s capital of calm was once a French trading post and hasn’t lost its lovely luster. Glittering serpent statues bake in the sun, tuk tuk drivers nap in the shade, and frangipani blooms sweetly into the afternoon air.
Check into the Ansara Hotel, a serene dream of a boutique hotel just a short stroll from the Mekong River. Hand woven silks and vintage style photographs fill the rooms and private balconies are perfect for stepping out and soaking up the scent of tamarind wafting with the evening breeze. Spend the day exploring; duck into the silk shops and sip a cold beer beside the river.
Tuk Tuk Tours + Handicrafts
A private half way walking tour will show you the golden highlights of Vientiane. A tuk tuk is the ultimate jingle jangle way to get around; from the bright clad marketplaces to the ancient temples and historic monuments. Wander down Lane Xang Avenue, buy handicrafts at the Talat Sao, and visit the Siamese style temple of Wat Sisaket.
After visiting the Presidential Palace, stop close by in one of the colonial influenced bakeries for a flaky pastry and cup of coffee – thumbprints of France can be found everywhere. Weave around the temples along Setthathirath before kicking back and relaxing in your tuk tuk for a ride along the Mekong River.
Flowing Robes + French Finesse
This morning head to the airport and prepare to swap the capital for the meditative flow of the river and the gentle sound of gongs. Welcome to Luang Prabang, even the name rolls right off the tongue. Sitting peacefully beside the evocative flow of the Mekong and Khan River, the UNESCO splendor and spirit of Laos is captured in the flowing robes of golden monks, the bedazzling collection of 33 wats, and the stunning villas that dot the landscape.
Let your welcome team whisk you away to the Villa Maly Boutique Hotel. This hotel is all about heritage and luxury, evoking Art Deco ambience in a home once owned by Lao royalty adorned with a hint of French finesse. The blend of local textiles and colonial antiques flood your senses with revelry so take some time to settle into your new abode, take a siesta and spend the day soaking up the delightful surroundings.
Tours + More Temples
After a beautiful breakfast, today you can enjoy a full day tuk tuk tour around the old French town and its sublime natural surroundings. Surrounded by hazy green mountains, tumbling waterfalls, and ornate temples, breathing in the bright air and cycling is the best way to explore. Start at the Mornging Market and traverse the local stands laden with family farmed fruit and veg.
Next, cycle to the Wat Mai Monastery whose richly gilded panels tell the tale of the incarnation of the Buddha Vessentara. The former Royal Palace, and now National Museum offers a fascinating look into the rich treasures of the Lane Xang Kingdom.
This afternoon is all about temples! From the ancient Buddha images of Wat Visoun to the 16th century Stupa of the Great Lotus, the royal temple of Wat Xieng Thong, and the many shrines adorning the stairs of Phou Si Hill – the ornamental world of Luang Prabang is tantalizing.
Lakeside Pavilions + Lao Cuisine
Head to Tamarinds luscious lakeside pavilions for a fabulous day learning how to cook some of the most beloved dishes in Laos cuisine. Start with a visit to the market; where your guide will lead you through the gauzy color of the stalls, helping you select the freshest farm ingredients to make your masterpieces.
Head back to the Tamarind Gardens and cook up a storm beneath the watchful eye of your master chef. From spiced dipping sauces to fragrant herb stuffed fish flaking inside a banana leaf, sublime sticky rice, and a seasonal desert to brighten the palate. You will leave the gorgeous gardens with a full recipe book of wonders you can now cook.
Colonial Charm + Foodie Finesse
One last bow to the glory of Laos and its’ time to be whisked away to the airport for your flight to start your tantalizing tour of Vietnam. Touch down in the elegant and eclectic city of Hanoi. Hanoi is a city of contrasts; blaring horns and mirrored lakes, squashed back streets and boutique hotels – it makes for a fascinating culture – historically blended with strands from the French and Chinese.
Traditions + Cyclos
Take a private full day tour of the enigmatic city of Hanoi. There is an air of mystery draped like a fine silk across Hanoi. The traditional au dai draped photoshoots by the lake, the wide tree lined streets, and the secretive shop houses on tightly wound streets all add to this fabulous story. Visit the revered embalmed body of Ho Chi Minh and peek through the windows of the Stilt House where the revolutionary leader once lived.
Admire the ancient manuscripts and ornate walls at the Temple of Literature and pad around the handicraft shops that make up the famed 36 streets in the Old Quarter. Finish with a one hour cyclo ride as you travel like a local.
Fabled Bays + Rainbow Caves
This morning you can embark on your two-day tour of the fairy-tale Halong Bay. Halong Bay is a UNESCO world wonder. The towering limestone cliffs seemingly suspended out of turquoise hues makes for a dreamy day tour. 170km from Hanoi you can board a traditional style Junk Boat, for a day cruising the calm waters of this fabled bay.
Pass by the Stone Dog, the Fighting Cock, and slip inside the Heavenly Residence Grotto where rainbow stalagmites and stalactites drip like a vision from Gaudi. This evening you can rest easy on the boat, being gently rocked to sleep by the shimmer of moonlit waters.
Emerald Islets + Breakfast on Board
Start the morning on deck watching the amazing rock formations of Halong Bay pass before you. No less than two thousand islets rise majestically out of the emerald waters making for an incredible sight. Take breakfast al alfresco style as you glide serenely back to the port. Take a transfer back to Hanoi where the rest of the day is yours at leisure. Some last-minute city haggling over a silk dressing gown, an iced coffee beside the lake, or a fascinating trip to the Women’s Museum to learn all about the local and tribal culture of Vietnams female population.
Ancient Dynasties + Perfumed Rivers
After breakfast board a brief flight to touch down in Hue. The ancient imperial capital still holds notes of its empirical hay days. Century old city walls still standing firm, the elegant rooftops of palaces and citadels, the ornate pagodas, and still that exotic hint of the jungle creeping in on the city.
Feng Sui resounds on the city design, and the tomb of Tu Duc is a fascinating relic in the forest; one that comes with fables of beheading slaves, marrying scores of wives, poetry, coups, and graverobbing on dark nights. Find out all about the scandals and fates of the Emperor as you tour the Forbidden Purple City and the Citadel on a half day tour.
Ocean Clouds + Cham Art
Start the day in pure poetry, with a relaxing boat ride down the dashing Perfume River. Watching sleepy eyed locals sip their morning coffee on the banks. Stop at Thien Mu Pagoda and the Tomb of Emperor Minh Mang. As you continue your journey to Hoi An, you will witness the natural wonder of the Hai Van Pass – a mountainous stretch of road where the ocean clouds roll.
Like a scene from Jurassic Park – velvet mountains rise and fade and seemingly fall straight into the sea. Make on final stop en-route to witness the largest collection of Cham art in the world at the Danang Cham Museum.
Enchanting Lantern Towns
One of Vietnam’s most enchanting towns, Hoi An is a haiku of floating lanterns, French style boutique shops, paradise beach scenes, fishing boats and gentle bridges arching over the sleepy river. This is the town of tailors; and where keen buyers flock to find silk fitted suits. Once it was a seafaring town for merchants from the far-flung corners of the east, now it is a UNESCO declared wonder.
Take a walking tour around the town, duck into the bright and charming authentic market, admire the architecture of the Chinese Assembly Hall, and take plenty of pictures of the 17th century Japanese Covered Bridge – the symbol of Hoi An.
In the afternoon, you can take a public boat to the tiny carpenter’s town of Cam Kim. Here you will see the locals calling on techniques from the 18th century as they piece traditional fishing boats and handcrafted furniture together. Swing by Thanh Ha on your way back to Hoi An, for a chance to see the pottery village.
Duck Down Beneath the Streets
This morning transfer to the airport for your flight to the former city of Saigon. Take a deep breath before you touch down in Ho Chi Minh, the high energy city will immediately sweep you away in a tidal wave of beeping mopeds, exotic street hawker scents, and thick humidity.
Start with a fascinating duck down into the Cu Chi Tunnels. Beneath the buzz of the city there is a sprawling 250km of tunnels blooming like branches. Dug by hand in the war, you can tiptoe through the veritable maze hearing all about the secret lives of the Vietcong who traversed this underground world.
Mekong Markets + Orchard Islands
After breakfast take a trip to the port where you will board a public boat for a rare and wonderful ride down the Mighty Mekong River. Sail to the colorful floating markets of Cai Be, where row boats are laden with freshly farmed fruits and vegetables from the islands, gardens and hills. Drift through the tightly wound maze of canals and visit the slips of sandy islands where fruit orchards and cottage industry create a rich palate of working life for the locals. Afterwards return to Ho Chi Minh for one last magical night sipping bia hoi on the bustling street corners.
A Final Glimpse + Fond Farewell
It’s time to journey onwards, but not before one last whirlwind tour of the city. Take a half-day adventure and delve deep into the city of a staggering 8 million inhabitants. Unraveling the onion like layers of history you will see European influences at the elegant Hotel de Ville, bright Chinese Temples, a tapestry of history at the War Remnants Museum, and the wonder of witnessing cathedrals that seem to belong in France sitting beneath the shimmer of Asian skyscrapers.
Spend your last hours doing some haggling for souvenirs at the Ben Thanh Market before a private transfer to the airport in the afternoon.
21 nights' accommodation, meals as specified by travel agent, private transfers, Highlights of Vietnam Tour (10 Days / 9 Nights), Venture Far Experiences (Bangkok City + Temples Tour, Full Day Tour of Angkor Wat + Angkor Thom Tour, Full Day Tour of Phnom Kulen +Bantey Srei, Killing Fields + Tuol Sleng, Vientiane City Tour, Tuk Tuk Tour of Luang Prabang, Tamarind Cooking Class) internal flights Bangkok to Siem Reap, Siem Reap to Phnom Penh, Phnom Penh to Vientiane, Vientiane to Luang Prabang, Luang to Hanoi.
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