With the most evocative hotels, our uniquely intimate adventure across Southeast Asia delves into the cuisines, cultures and landscapes of these diverse lands.
Day 1 - A VIP Welcome to Ho Chi Minh City (Saigon), Vietnam
On arrival, our VIP Fast Track Immigration Service expedites your arrival formalities. Before you know it, you’ll be on your way to the Park Hyatt. Ideally situated on Lam Son Square in the heart of the city, our luxury hotel is the best in town.
Day 2 - Out and about in Saigon
This morning we take you outside of the city to visit the infamous Cu Chi tunnels, the incredible underground network that was built by guerilla fighters beginning in 1940 and expanded throughout the Vietnam War. Marvel at secret trapdoors, underground kitchens, living quarters and even conference rooms. You’ll have ample opportunity to view the excavated areas from above; the more adventurous can explore the deeper second and even third-level tunnels.
After lunch in a local restaurant, return to the city for sightseeing - starting with Reunification Hall. Formerly known as the Presidential Palace, it was towards this modern building that Communist tanks rolled on the morning of April 30, 1975 as Saigon fell. Nearby, the War Remnants Museum offers a penetrating look into the ravages of the war as seen through the eyes of the Vietnamese people. Continue to Notre Dame Cathedral and the Hotel de Ville, two iconic city landmarks. Strolling along Le Cong Kieu Street, you’ll discover colorful shops offering Colonial memorabilia, old coins, art, fine antiques and moderately priced souvenirs. This evening, you’ll dine at Hoa Tuc, famed for its fine presentation of traditional Vietnamese cuisine. Meals B+L+D
Day 3 - Excursion into the Mekong Delta
This morning’s journey takes you to the rural district of Cai Be where you’ll board the Cai Be Princess, a traditional Vietnamese riverboat made from native hardwoods and bamboo. Enjoy a refreshing beverage as you venture onto the timeless waterways of the Mekong Delta. Take in the bustling river traffic, witness timeless scenes of daily life along the shores and waterways and enjoy the beautiful scenery as the attentive crew serves tea and fruits to you and your fellow passengers.
Visit a finely-preserved, 19th-century home to learn more about the Delta’s history, and then continue your cruise - visiting a number of small communities to learn about some of the cottage industries that sustain many Delta families. For lunch, we’ve made reservations at Le Longanier, an inviting restaurant set in a Colonial-style villa surrounded by riverside gardens and fruit trees. Enjoy a post-luncheon stroll with your guide along a quiet Mekong canal before returning to your hotel in Ho Chi Minh City. Meals B+L+D
Day 4 - Travel to Hoi An
You’ll be escorted to the airport this morning for your included flight to central Vietnam. On arrival in Danang, a scenic drive takes you past the five towering marble outcrops known as the Marble Mountains and Danang Beach; during the Vietnam War, Americans used the name China Beach to refer to this beautiful coastal stretch where they would come on R&R leave from bases all over the country.
This afternoon you’ll enjoy a guided tour of Hoi An #WHS#. Known as Faifo to early western traders, this was one of the region’s major trading ports during the 17th to 19th centuries. Today, this historic town is still graced with finely-preserved homes built by Japanese, Indian, Dutch and Portuguese merchants of old. As you explore through the charming cobblestone streets of this ancient port, it’s easy to imagine yourself a sailor of the 18th century when it was one of the busiest and wealthiest ports in all of Asia. Your guided sightseeing also showcases ancient Chinese temples, art galleries and colorful local markets. You’ll also have time to explore a bit at your own pace or just relax before this evening’s dinner. Enjoy two nights here at the luxurious Royal Hoi An MGallery Hotel by Sofitel, where A+R guests enjoy Deluxe Rooms with private balconies overlooking the peaceful Thu Bon River. Meals B+L+D
Day 5 - Get to Know Hoi An
After breakfast, our in-the-know guide will take you to Hoi An’s bustling central market, where residents come to shop for fresh seafood, herbs, produce and other daily staples. Learn about Vietnam’s culinary traditions and some of the exotic produce for sale as you browse in the market and sample regional specialties. A short cruise brings you to our modern kitchen for a hands-on cooking class with an engaging local chef. Then sit down to lunch featuring some of the dishes you and your fellow classmates have prepared! Enjoy a free afternoon to relax at the resort or take the time to explore more of ancient Hoi An at your own pace. This evening, you’ll dine at Brother’s Café, an inviting riverside restaurant set amidst lush tropical gardens. Meals B+L+D
Day 6 - Fly to Hanoi + Enjoy a Taste of the City
After breakfast, your scenic return transfer takes you to the airport in Danang for your included flight to Hanoi. On arrival, you’ll be met and escorted to the Sofitel Legend Metropole, the finest luxury hotel in the city.
This evening, our in-the-know native guide will take you our exclusive culinary adventure to experience the city’s vibrant food scene. Bustling by day, Hanoi’s Old Quarter is equally lively come nightfall as city residents head out to enjoy the many food vendors and cafes that line these historic streets and alleyways. Begin with a bowl of Pho, Vietnam’s famed beef noodle soup, and then take in the street life as you refresh with some locally brewed draft beer. Continuing along the quarter’s colorful streets, you guide will answer questions and share insight into the exotic foods being offered. Take in the tempting aromas arising from the sizzling woks and steaming pots and decide which dishes you’d like to sample – grilled meats, vegetable skewers, and classic banh mi sandwiches are just some of the many options. End the night with a traditional Vietnamese dessert – fresh tropical fruits served over shaved ice and drizzled with sweetened condense milk. After this exclusive culinary adventure, your guide will take you back to your hotel. Meals B+L+D
Day 7 - Hanoi, Past + Present
After breakfast, your full-day sightseeing begins at the Ho Chi Minh Mausoleum, an impressive monument constructed of marble, granite and precious woods. Nearby, you’ll see the unusual One Pillar Pagoda and the Presidential Palace, an elegant ocher-hued landmark built at the beginning of the 20th century. A tour of the Hoa Lo Prison Museum, ironically nicknamed the Hanoi Hilton by American POW’s during the war, offers a thought-provoking and sobering look into history. End your morning at the home of a water puppet artist, the descendent of a long-line of performers. Gain insight into his craft, learn how these unusual puppets are made – and enjoy a private performance of this ancient art form.
After lunch, you’ll visit the Temple of Literature, founded nearly 1,000 years ago and dedicated to the famous Chinese scholar and philosopher Confucius. At Ngoc Son Temple, built in the 18th century on a tiny island in picturesque Hoan Kiem Lake, you’ll hear a colorful legend about an emperor, a magic sword and a giant turtle! End your day with a Cyclo adventure through Hanoi’s colorful Old Quarter, where ancient byways like Tin Street and Bamboo Street are named for the goods that have long been sold there. Meals B+L+D
Day 8 - Ha Long Bay Cruise
This morning’s drive from Hanoi to Ha Long Bay takes just a few hours, but the amazing scenery that greet you on arrival will feel worlds away from the city… Ha Long Bay is filled with thousands of limestone islands, forested peaks, hidden coves, mysterious caves and emerald green waters that stretch forth as far as you can see. Traditional sailing junks and local fishing boats ply these waters and here awaits our deluxe Paradise Cruise vessel.
Enjoy a welcome drink and lunch onboard as you navigate through these breathtaking landscapes with their pristine beaches, tiny fishing villages and uninhabited islands. An afternoon cooking demonstration with our onboard chef is a chance to learn more about traditional Vietnamese cuisine. As water and weather conditions permit, there may be a chance to go swimming in a sheltered bay. Delight in a beautiful sunset before sitting down to a congenial meal accompanied by complimentary Vietnamese beer and house wines. Meals B+L+D
Day 9 - Disembark + Fly to Laos
Arise to the majestic beauty of Ha Long Bay! If you wish, you can join a Tai Chi class on deck before this morning’s delicious buffet breakfast. Step off at Ti Top Beach and ascend to the top of a nearby peak for breathtaking panoramic views before sailing back to the Paradise Cruise pier on Tuan Chau Island.
Upon disembarkation, we’ll take you back to Hanoi where you’ll have a late lunch. Then transfer to the airport for your included evening flight to Laos. Upon arrival in Luang Prabang, you’ll be met and escorted to the elegant Sofitel Luang Prabang Hotel. Meals B+L+D
Day 10 - A Temple, Palace + The Living Lands Farm
Your exploration of Luang Prabang begins this morning at Wat Xieng Thong, a splendid Buddhist temple with intricate carvings, rare Buddhist deities and the revered Tree of Life mosaic. Next is a tour of the Royal Palace, built in the early 1900’s in classic French Beaux-Arts style with traditional Laotian motifs. Today, it’s one of the city’s finest museums with extensive exhibits including the nation’s crown jewels, ancient art and artifacts and even several royal apartments that have been preserved to show the mid-20th century life of the king and his family. Then take in the views from atop Mt. Phousi before sitting down to lunch.
In the afternoon, you’ll spend time at the Living Lands Farm, a community project designed to develop sustainable farming techniques. Joining Laotian farmers for an authentic hands-on experience in the labor-intensive process of rice cultivation, you’ll learn how to plant rice and even try your hand at guiding a water buffalo to plow the field. If all that sounds a bit too adventurous, you might help with the harvesting of other organic vegetables and herbs or learn how to husk rice. There’s also an expansive verandah if you just prefer to sit back and watch. Faced with other destructive farming methods that persist elsewhere in Laos and the rest of Asia, Living Lands has successfully demonstrated the potential of sustainable organic farming methods. Meals B+L+D
Day 11 - Laotian Culture + Tribal Traditions
Arise early this morning to the sound of reverberating temple gongs. As hundreds of saffron-robed monks walk silently through the streets, you’ll join local residents for their daily alms ritual. Collecting sticky rice and other foods in their bronze bowls is a way for the monks to demonstrate their humility; and giving alms is an important religious action, one that is respectfully carried out by Buddhists here in Laos and across Southeast Asia.
After breakfast at the hotel, you’ll embark on a fascinating excursion into the mountains. Take in the spectacular views and visit a family farm to learn about some of their local crops and daily life here in the Laotian countryside. At a Hmong village, you’ll gain insight into tribal culture and traditions. Be sure to bring a swimsuit today as you’ll also visit Kuang Si Waterfall; with tranquil terraced pools and beautiful cascades, this is the perfect place to take a break from sightseeing. End your morning at a local conservation center where you’ll learn about their work rescuing sun bears from the illegal wildlife trade.
After lunch, return to the city to spend time at Ock Pop Tok – the East Meets West Living Crafts Center. Founded to empower local women and to preserve traditional Laotian handicrafts, especially weaving, this unique community project is set in charming house on the banks of the Mekong. You’ll have ample time to engage with the women and to watch as they work their looms, creating fine textiles with both traditional and modern designs. You can hand-dye a scarf and even try your hand at spinning and weaving. From silk cultivation to finished product, you’ll gain insight into one of Laos’ most venerated arts. Before returning to your hotel for a free evening, you can enjoy a sunset cocktail in the pleasant garden café of the Living Crafts Center. Meals B+L+D
Day 12 - Fly from Laos to Cambodia
After breakfast, you’ll be escorted to the airport for your included flight to Cambodia. Arriving in Siem Reap, our VIP Fast Track Immigration Service expedites your arrival formalities. Ahead of other airline passengers, you’ll soon be on your way to the luxurious Park Hyatt. Meals B+D
Day 13 - Temples of Angkor
Your full-day guided tour of the sprawling Angkor complex begins this morning with the impressive South Gate of Angkor Thom, where ancient statues of the Gods of Good and Evil line the entrance. Nearby, Bayon Temple* is renowned for its magnificent carvings – hundreds of smiling faces that adorn its ancient towers and detailed bas reliefs that tell stories of daily life during the Khmer Empire and the battles they waged. From the top of Phimeanakas, you’ll have impressive views of two ancient pools that were once used for religious rituals. This morning, you’ll also visit the Terrace of the Elephants and Ta Prohm; dedicated in 1186, this last temple complex has been largely left in its natural state – surrounded by the massive roots and limbs of the encroaching jungle.
After lunch, you’ll explore the imposing majesty of Angkor Wat - the largest temple in the world with a volume of stone equaling that of the Cheops Pyramid in Egypt. Inspired by 12th-century Hinduism, it took an estimated 30 years to build Angkor Wat, including the intricate bas-relief carvings which adorn all four sides of the temple. Late in the day, your guide will lead you to a prime vantage point to witness the sun set over Angkor, a magnificent and unforgettable spectacle. Meals B+L+D
*Bayon Temple will undergo extensive restoration work beginning in early 2020. Access to the upper levels will be limited and scaffolding may cover portions of the structure for several years.
Day 14 - Tonle Sap Lake + Fly to Bangkok, Thailand
Check out after breakfast and travel to the shores of Tonle Sap Lake, an impressive body of water that dominates the landscape in this timeless part of the country. A morning excursion aboard a shaded boat transports you across the tranquil lake waters to see traditional floating villages and small fish farms. It’s a fascinating up-close look at the enduring traditions and daily rhythms of life in rural Cambodia. End today’s sightseeing at Banteay Srei; also known as the Citadel of Women, this delicately carved, pink sandstone temple is hailed by many one of the finest of all the temples in the sprawling Angkor Complex.
Then continue to the airport in Siem Reap for your included flight to Thailand. Upon arrival in Bangkok, you’ll be met and transferred to the deluxe Anantara Riverside Resort, our inviting hotel along the fabled Chao Phraya River. Meals B
Day 15 - Palaces + Temples
Join your expert guide this morning to tour the spectacular Grand Palace. Built in 1782, this was the fabulous royal residence for the powerful Kings of Siam for more than 150 years. Today, it’s a major historical landmark filled with more than 100 royal halls, pavilions and buildings – many of them graced with golden spires and glittering mosaics that attest to the artistry and skill that thrived in the ancient Kingdom of Siam. Your guided sightseeing continues with the city’s most significant temples including Wat Phra Kaew. Popularly known as the Temple of the Emerald Buddha, this revered site houses a 2-foot tall image of the Buddha that sits atop a golden alter. Often adorned in a seasonal costume, this culturally priceless statue of the Buddha is made of green jasper or jadeite – and not emerald. After sightseeing, the rest of your afternoon is at leisure to enjoy as you wish. This evening, we’ll gather for a farewell dinner. Meals B+L+D
Day 16 - Depart Bangkok
We’ll take you to the airport today for your onward flight. Meals B