Day 1 Depart USA
- A welcoming Thai massage at your luxury hotel in Bangkok
- Trekking with your elephant through the bamboo jungle in the Golden Triangle
- Watching the sun set on the golden dome of Rangoon’s Shwedagon Pagoda
- Rising early in Luang Prabang to watch the monks in their saffron-colored robes collecting their morning alms
- A nostalgic overnight cruise on Vietnam’s Ha Long Bay
- A private helicopter flight to Koh Ker with the chance to get a unique aerial view of Angkor Wat
You board your aircraft for the overnight flight to Thailand and its capital, BangkokDay 2 En Route
During your flight you will cross the International Date Line technically "losing" a day but you will regain it on your return flight.Day 3 Welcome to Thailand
Arriving in Bangkok you will be met by our representative as you exit the plane. They will facilitate your expeditious move through customs and immigration and assist you with the retrieval of your luggage. Once in the arrivals hall you will be introduced to your personal guide and escorted out to your car where your driver is waiting. Arriving at your hotel, your guide will assist with check-in and coordinate the next day's agenda. You then are free to relax in your room with a delightful view over the Chao Phraya River. This evening enjoy a quiet dinner in the hotel and a good night's rest.Day 4 A Leisurely Segue into Thai Life
Given your extended flight the previous day, we have left the morning open for a leisurely breakfast. We have also arranged for you to have a Thai massage to work all the kinks out and allow you to enjoy your first day of exploration. Late morning, your guide and driver will be waiting to take you to lunch at the delightful Supatra River House overlooking the Chao Phraya River. After lunch, your expert guide will take you "off the beaten track" as your first introduction to Bangkok. You will board a long tail boat for a ride along the Chao Phraya River before entering the quiet klongs (canals) of the residential area of Thonburi where you see how people have lived next to the water for centuries. You will visit a seventy year old Thai house converted into a small but fascinating Folk museum and also visit the Temple of Dawn. You then proceed on foot through Chinatown where you have chance to see (and visit if you choose) interesting shops, tea rooms, markets and temples. Emerging from Chinatown, your driver will be waiting to return you to the hotel. You have a chance to relax and freshen up before meeting your guide who will take you to "The Deck" where you will enjoy cocktails and dinner against the stunning backdrop of the Rattanakosin skyline. After dinner you can return to the hotel or take the opportunity to stroll along the flower market or the local night market along the banks of the river.Day 5 Flight to Chiang Rai
Your guide and driver will be waiting to take you to the airport for the flight to Chiang Rai. Upon arrival you will be met by your new guide and driver who will first of all take you to lunch before taking you on an overview of Chiang Rai. You will visit the main market area to get a feel for local life in Chiang Rai. Continue your exploration with visits to some of the temples in the area including Wat Phra Kaew with its beautiful brass and copper Buddha image and Wat Rong Khun with its unique "kanok" architecture. In the late afternoon you head out to the Golden Triangle area, the intersection of Thailand, Laos and Burma and your superb hotel.Day 6 Elephants, Hill Tribes and a Quick Preview of Laos
After breakfast you will trade in your car for an elephant and your driver for a mahout. Safely ensconced on the elephant you trek through bamboo forest, woodland and grassland habitats, spotting the seasonal birdlife and mammals. You will eventually reach the Ruak River and the Burmese border where you will meet your next mode of transport, a long tail boat which will take you on an exhilarating ride to the mighty Mekong and a quick stop at the Laotian village of Don Sao. You continue by ox-cart through rice paddies and farmland before stopping for a picnic lunch by the San Thung Reservoir. After lunch continue uphill until you reach Akha Hill Tribe Village on the top of Doi Sa Ngo Mountain. You will witness the tribal life and enjoy stunning views of the Mekong River. On the way down, you will visit the old capital of Chiang Saen on the steep banks of the Mekong River before returning to your resort. In the evening, immerse yourself in Lanna traditions with a private Khantoke Dinner at your resort. A feast of Northern Thai cuisine is served on special, low, circular tables called "toke", and accompanied by the soft melody of a khim, a local instrument. After the dinner you will light a "khom loy" paper lantern in the cool night air following a local belief that misfortune will be floated away.Day 7 The Journey to Burma
After breakfast your guide will meet you and assist you with your transfer to the airport for your flight to Yangon also known as Rangoon. Upon arrival at the airport, your guide will meet you, your bags will be collected and you will be taken to your hotel for check-in. Your hotel was, at one time, the home of a regional Governor. After a chance to relax and get settled in, your guide will return to give you an overview of the city highlighted by the view of the magnificent sunset over the golden dome of the renowned Shwedagon Pagoda, a visit highlighted by transportation in a locally decorated authentic colonial coach. This evening enjoy an alfresco dinner in the delightful grounds of your hotel.Day 8 Highlights of Rangoon
In the morning, your guide will be waiting to take you on a privately guided exploration of Yangon, formerly called Rangoon. Your first stop will be the National Museum. You then continue to the immense Bogyoke Market formerly known as Scott's Market which provides a glimpse at Burma's colonial past but with a wide variety of Burmese handicrafts. After lunch at Padonmar Restaurant you have the opportunity to visit a traditional jewelry and gemstone workshop. Here you can observe the cutting and polishing of Burma's most precious stones including the famous pigeon-blood ruby. You then continue to the centre of the city and the golden Sule pagoda which you visit before taking a stroll around the Mahabandoola Park to see the colonial courthouse and city hall. You finish your tour with a walk through colorful Chinatown and visit one of Rangoon's Chinese temples. This evening enjoy a special dinner at Le Planteur.Day 9 Eating Well and Doing Good In Vientiane
This morning, your guide will meet you to take you to the airport for the flight to Vientiane, the capital of Laos. Upon arrival a car will meet you and take you for lunch at Makphet which is a charity-run restaurant that supports street children by providing them training and a job at the vocational restaurant. The food is delicious, made from fresh ingredients and prepared in a kitchen which meets the highest international standards of hygiene. After lunch you will visit "Les Artisans Lao" Here, the trainees transform recycled and renewable materials such as bamboo, palm and mulberry leaves into quality notebooks, stationery and printed paper. By visiting the centre you help promote livelihood opportunities for disadvantaged groups as they learn a new sustainable trade. This evening, dinner is at Le Camargue, one of the best tables in town, renowned for its French dishes served in a cozy and intimate atmosphere.Day 10 Experiencing Vientiane and a Special Evening Ceremony
Start this morning with a visit to That Luang, the holiest site in Laos. Constructed by King Setthethirat on the 16th Century, the temple is resplendent as the sun shines on its golden spire. You then enjoy a panoramic view of the city as you climb the stairs to the top of Patuxai, Vientiane's own "Arc de Triomphe". After visiting several other notable temples, you have lunch at "Le Central", a French-style bistro run by French expatriates. The afternoon is free for you to enjoy shopping, sightseeing or a spa treatment. For your final evening in Laos we have arranged for you to participate in a traditional Lao ceremony. The Baci is performed to celebrate an important event such as a wedding, births or for welcoming guests and is a means of expressing good will and good luck to others. The Lao believe that each person has 32 spirits which constitute their spiritual essence and the Baci is the ritual used to call back any escaped spirits into the body. During the Baci, special flower trays and food treats are prepared for the participants while a Buddhist mantra is chanted. After the chanting, cotton threads are tied around the participants' wrist while they receive an individual blessing. Afterwards, as is tradition, all participants will sit down to share a delicious meal. Enjoy authentic Lao cuisine in the comfort of your local hosts' home and spend time talking and interacting with the friendly locals.
Day 11 Phou Si Hill and the Night Market
After breakfast your guide and your driver will be waiting to assist you with your transfer to the airport and checking-in for the flight to Luang Prabang. Upon arrival in Luang Prabang you are met by your guide and taken to the hotel. After a chance to freshen up, you are taken on an orientation tour of this historical and cultural town. You will visit a temple where you have the opportunity to speak with monks or novices who live at the temple and gain insight into the spiritual life of the Lao people. Next you climb the steps to the top of Phou Si Hill located in the centre of town and offering panoramic views of the Mekong and Nam Khan Rivers, the neighboring mountains and the town. Descend the steps on the other side of the hill and stroll to the nearby night market. Every evening along the main street, the area's ethnic minorities gather to sell their handicrafts and the soft lights of the stalls create a magical market setting. This evening enjoy dining at L'Elephant, one of the city's best restaurants.
Day 12 Experiencing Luang Prabang
If you are an early riser you can experience a very special dawn visit to watch the monks collecting their alms. As the sun begins to rise, long lines of orange-robed monks leave their pagodas and walk barefoot down the streets collecting offerings from Luang Prabang residents, a beautiful, serene ceremony which again highlights the spirituality of the Lao people. Your guide will then take you to the Old town of central Luang Prabang where you can walk through the rows of stalls looking at what is on sale. The locals come here every day to shop for vegetables, fruits and other specialties. Next to the market is the National Museum which was formerly the Royal Palace. You have a privately guided visit examining the art, artifacts and jewels in display. You will have lunch at Tamarind Restaurant where you will have a chance to sample local specialties. After lunch you get a detailed introduction into Lao textiles including the chance to design and dye your own scarf. You then return to your hotel where the chef, Mr. Chantanong will conduct a cooking class. The class is fun and a hands-on way to learn about the ingredients involved and the techniques used to create the local cuisine. At the end of the course, sit down and enjoy a delicious dinner which you have helped to prepare.Day 13 The Scents and Sounds of Hanoi
After breakfast, transfer to the airport for a short flight to Hanoi, Vietnam's capital. Upon arrival, your guide and private car will meet you and transfer you to your hotel for check-in. Start with a one hour tour by cyclo with a visit to a traditional noodle maker, right in the heart of the old quarter. Here you can see how the pho pancake is made before sampling this specialty dish. Continue with an insider's walking tour of the old quarter, "36 streets and 36 wares" to witness the vibrant life of the Vietnamese who live and work in this ancient area of Hanoi. With your specialist guide visit ‘traditional medicine street', your senses will come alive with the variety of herbs and spices on offer. Lunch is served in a restored colonial villa where a choice can be made from over a hundred traditional Vietnamese dishes. Enjoy a cup of Vietnamese coffee in one of the city's original gallery coffee shops before visiting a local market to discover Hanoi's specialty foods. Dine tonight at one of Hanoi's best restaurants.Day 14 Hanoi, Hoa Lu and the Tam Coc Caves
After breakfast your driver will be ready to take you on an exploration of the architecture and history of Hanoi. You will visit the Ho Chi Minh Mausoleum, his former residence, the One Pillar Pagoda and the Temple of Literature. You will then head to Hoa Lu, Vietnam's first capital stopping for lunch along the way. After you view the remains of the old capital you will board a sampan to make your way through the rice paddies to the grottoes of the sacred Tam Coc Caves. Large slabs of limestone pillars jut out of the rice paddies bearing a resemblance to Halong Bay which you will visit tomorrow. You return to Hanoi for dinner at a local restaurant followed by a water puppet show, an entertainment venue unique to Vietnam.Day 15 A Nostalgic Cruise on Ha Long Bay
Depart Hanoi for Ha Long by road. The journey through the rich farmlands of the Red River Delta and the scenery of rice fields, water buffalo and everyday Vietnamese village life. Arrive in Ha Long and check in at the Emeraude Café. Feel as if you are stepping back in to French Indochina as you board this wonderful replica of one of the classic steamships of the era. A welcome drink will be served as the boat leaves the harbor. Have lunch as you cruise among hundreds of islets to discover unspoiled pockets of Ha Long Bay and visit ‘Sung Sot', one of the most imposing grottos of the Bay. With luxurious air-conditioned cabins, a divine restaurant, two bars and a sundeck this is the ultimate Halong Bay experience. As the boat cruises through the limestone karsts and clear waters in the afternoon, several options are available. On-board kayaks are available for those wishing to go out for a paddle (guest's account) or have a swim off the boat's platform. For those seeking more culinary experience, take part in a Vietnamese spring roll cooking demonstration on the sundeck. After the sun sets, enjoy a delicious international / Vietnamese buffet dinner. Starting at 9:30PM, the Award Winning movie "Indochine" starring Catherine Deneuve will be screened on the sundeck should you desire to watch a movie before retiring to your cabin for a good night's sleep.Day 16 Ho Chi Minh City, but Everyone Calls it Saigon
For early risers complimentary tea and coffee are served on the sundeck followed by a Tai Chi class. As you return to Ha Long City, enjoy a wholesome brunch as your boat weaves through strange-shaped limestone rock formations. Upon disembarkation, your driver will meet you for the transfer back to Hanoi Airport where you board your flight for Ho Chi Minh City, usually called Saigon despite the name change. Upon arrival you are met by your guide and taken to your hotel where you have a chance to relax before dinner.Day 17 Tay Ninh, the “All Seeing Eye” and a Famous Tank
After breakfast you head west through typical southern Vietnamese countryside to Tay Ninh home of the Cao Dai sect. This sect was founded in the 1920's and its followers believe in a combination Islamic, Christian, Buddhist, Taoist and Confucian faiths. The symbol of the religion is an "all seeing eye" which dominates the altar at the Cao Dai Holy See, a colorful temple described by Graham Greene in "The Quiet American" as "The Walt Disney Fantasia of the East". Monks dressed in bright colors represent different branches of the sect and the noon mass is an amazing spectacle. You return to Saigon stopping for lunch along the way. This afternoon you see the highlights of Saigon including the reunification palace which used to be the palace of the president of South Vietnam until a tank drove through the locked gate in 1975. The tank has a place of honor in the courtyard. After a chance to freshen up, head out for dinner, a multi-course feast.Day 18 Diverse Images of the Mekong Delta
For many, the lush vegetation and snaking waterways of the Mekong Delta evoke memories and fire the imagination. The area is a maze of canals surrounded by swaying palms, banana trees and exotic fruit orchards and exploring these is a delightful way to spend the day. You will drive to My Tho where you will board a boat to an orchard-covered island. You board a horse-drawn cart to a bee farm then enjoy a delightful lunch before taking a sampan through narrow, tree-lined canals. Upon returning to the city and freshening up you start your evening with a cocktail in the Rex Hotel's famous roof top bar then you are off to dinner at one of Saigon's best restaurants.Day 19 The Charms of Phnom Penh
After breakfast you will meet your guide in the lobby for the transfer to the airport for the flight to Phnom Penh. Your guide will meet you upon your arrival and take you to lunch at the Khmer Surin Restaurant where you will get a chance to taste delicious fresh Khmer cuisine. This afternoon you will visit the most remarkable sights Phnom Penh has to offer. First, you will head to the National Museum which was designed by George Groslier and the Ecole des Arts Cambodgiens. The museum was built in 1917 in traditional Khmer style and was inaugurated in 1920 by King Sisowath. It houses the world's foremost collection of ancient Khmer archaeological, religious and artistic artifacts from the 4th to the 13th Centuries. Continue on foot to the Royal Palace dating back to 1866 and the last palace built during the French colonial period. You then check-in to your hotel where you have chance to freshen up and relax. This evening enjoy a superb Khmer dinner at Topaz, one of the best restaurants in Phnom Penh.Day 20 Siem Reap, Gateway to Angkor Wat
After breakfast you will be met by your guide who will escort you to the airport and assist with check-in for your flight across Cambodia to Siem Reap, the gateway to the majestic temples of Angkor and a charming little city. Your guide will meet you and accompany you while you check into your hotel. Settle in and refresh before heading for lunch at the excellent Café Indochine, located in one of the most remarkable traditional wooden houses in Siem Reap. After lunch depart by Tuk-Tuk on a very special sightseeing tour of the famous Angkor Wat built during the reign of King Suryavarman II in the early 12th Century. Construction is thought to have taken thirty years of intensive labor. Today, Angkor Wat is displayed on Cambodia's national flag as the temple symbolizes the soul of the Khmer people.
Day 21 A Fitting Finale
Today, your last day in Siem Reap and Cambodia, you will experience something special that will leave an image in your mind not soon forgotten. Your driver will take you to the airport where your private helicopter is waiting to take you into jungle temples only recently opened to the public. You are heading for Koh Ker with a stop in Beng Mealea and the flight will also give you the opportunity to see Angkor Wat from a vantage point seen by few. As you fly over, you view the entire temple complex and begin to grasp the sheer enormity of the former Khmer empire. Your guide will explain a history of the region and point out sights along the way. What took weeks of hacking through the jungle now takes much less time with modern conveyances. Upon arrival you will disembark and explore Beng Mealea. This temple is often missed by the crowds but offers excellent opportunities to take pictures and is often regarded as one of the most adventurous temples in Cambodia. You re-board the helicopter and continue on to Koh Ker, an area only recently opened to visitors. Here you will see various temples from the 10th century, including the massive Prasat Thom. You have a unique opportunity to have a picnic at the temple before flying back to Siem Reap. The rest of the afternoon is at leisure until transferring to the airport for the flight to Bangkok. Upon arrival in Bangkok you are escorted by our representative to a hotel at the airport where you have dinner and spend the night.Day 22 Depart for USA
Since you are already at the airport, you have the chance to have a leisurely breakfast before meeting your guide who will assist you with the transfer to the airport and check-in. You regain the day lost previously arriving back the same afternoon.
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