Upon arrival you will be transferred to hotel. There are no activities planned. You are free to relax, explore the city & adjust to the frantic pace and humid heat of Bangkok. Please plan your arrival at our start point hotel before 6pm for an important group meeting where you will meet you Chief Experience Officer (CEO) and the other group members. Please look for a sign on the hotel's notice board for the time and location of your group meeting. At this meeting your CEO will ask to sight your travel insurance, check that you have a visas for Vietnam and complete some other paper work. Please note that you MUST arrive on tour with your Vietnam visa. Please refer to the visa information section of these trip notes for more information on obtaining your Vietnamese visa. After your meeting, you may choose to head out for an optional dinner to further get to know your CEO and fellow group members. Our hotel is located in heart of Silom, very close to the BTS Skytrain which allows easy access to most of Bangkok including MBK, Siam Paragon shopping areas. The hotel has a beautiful pool and has wifi available.
This morning we take a boat ride through the klongs (canals) of Bangkok, where we catch a slice of local people living a simple life inside such a vibrant city. We also visit the halls and murals decorating the Grand Palace, built in 1782. After a rest and some lunch you will join your Discovery Adventure Guide for a one hour Thai Language lesson. Tonight's accommodation is an overnight sleeper train. Beds are dormitory style, with bunks on two layers along the side of the train carriage. There are curtains along each bunk for privacy. Your luggage will be accessible during the journey. The train has air-conditioning and clean bedding is provided for each bunk. There are both western style and asian style toilets at the end of each carriage. Food and drinks are served on the train but you can always bring your own food from the shops and restaurants in the train station. Approx travel time: Overnight train from Bangkok to Chiang Mai: 12-13 hours
We arrive early into Chiang Mai, and settle into our exquisite surroundings, taking a relaxing break from the fast pace of Bangkok. Later in the day we visit Doi Suthep Temple. Established in 1383, this is one of the most sacred Buddhist temples in Thailand. The views and serenity, our reward after climbing over 300 stairs to reach the top, are amazing. In the evening, we enjoy a Kantoke dinner, sampling several small dishes of exotic Thai flavors and relaxing to some Thai music and dance. Our hotel is located in the heart of Chiang Mai city, within 5 a minute walk of the famous night bazaar. The hotel has great views of the city. The rooms are all air conditioned with en suite bathrooms. Wifi is available for an additional cost. There is also a pool for a relaxing afternoon swim. Approx travel times: Transfer to Bangkok airport: 45 min Flight Bangkok to Chiang Mai: 1 hour Transfer to Chiang Mai hotel: 30 min
Today, we try our hand at creating some of the dynamic taste's we’ve been eating for the past few days at a Thai cooking school. With our teacher, we visit a local market to learn more about the main ingredients in Thai cooking and then take our purchases back to the school where the teacher will explain and demonstrate the basics of some of the more popular Thai dishes. We then enjoy the results for lunch. In the evening, we are treated to a traditional Thai massage and explore Chiang Mai’s popular downtown night market where all the locals and visitors are spending the evening.
We catch our plane to Siem Reap, Cambodia, the gateway to the temples of Angkor. You will be able to get your Cambodian visa on arrival. Ask your CEO for further information. The former capital of the Khmer kingdom, Angkor is a UNESCO World Heritage site and one of the great wonders of the archeological world, rediscovered at the end of the last century by French explorers. This vast ruined city is becoming one of the most popular sites in Southeast Asia. We arrive in the afternoon, and catch our first views of Angkor Wat at sunset. You will have the evening to enjoy a nice Khmer dinner and then visit the night market for a little bit of shopping. Our hotel in Siem Reap is a very well appointed hotel with all the amenities for your stay. It is located near the Angkor Wat temples and the old city of Siem Reap. The rooms are all air conditioned twin or double share rooms with a relaxing swimming pool to use after a long day of temple touring. Free wifi is also available. Approx travel time: Transfer to airport Chiang Mai: 20 min Flight Chiang Mai to Siem Reap: 4 hours (via Bangkok) Transfer airport to hotel Siem Reap: 20 min
Over the course of two days, we visit some of the highlights of this ancient capital, such as; the magnificent temple of Angkor Wat, the enigmatic Bayon within the walled city of Angkor Thom, Preah Khan and Ta Prohm, which is a temple in the jungle also known as the 'Tomb Raider' temple. We also visit New Hope, a Planeterra supported project located in Mondul 3, Siem Reap, one of the poorest areas in Cambodia. This community consists of army families, karaoke/sex workers and displaced men, women and children. The mission of this project is to restore hope, dignity and promise to these once proud and prosperous people. New Hope conducts workshops in the community, with the goal of providing people with skills they can use to earn a living including; a sewing work shop, tourism courses and a cooking and hospitality school. During our visit we learn about the importance of this project and have lunch at the cooking and hospitality school. Here we will see the positive results of the project, as local villagers work in the kitchen, and are taught how to prepare meals using local ingredients. Other villagers work as waiters and restaurant staff, providing them with skills that will help them find jobs. While here, we will taste the delights of Khmer Cuisine. Known for its use of Prahok, a type of fermented fish paste, and coconut milk, Khmer cuisine is often less spicy than its South East Asia neighbors. Over lunch, we get to sample some well known local dishes that can include: -Local Catch of the Day - Frog, locust, snake, tarantula or simply fish -Vegetable Curry -Stir Fried Noodle with Vegetables -Hot and Sour Fish Soup or Amok Trey, fish cooked in a thick coconut milk curry wrapped and steamed in a banana leaf -Pork with Ginger -Loc Lac, a stir fried beef served with lime and pepper sauce. -Rice -Fresh tropical Fruit
We travel by private bus to Phnom Penh, Cambodia's capital city. Here we explore the dark side of Cambodian history with visits to Choeng Ek Memorial, the site of the infamous Killing Fields that were the execution grounds for Pol Pot and the Khumer Rouge during their rein from 1975 - 1979. We also visit Tuol Sleng prison, the notorious Khmer Rouge prison where thousands of Cambodians perished. This is a haunting look into history which serves to remind everyone that genocide must not be ignored or those lost, forgotten. Depending on timing, we may do these visits on the morning of day 9. We also have the option to take a cyclo city tour along the waterfront and passing key city sites and to visit the famous Foreign Correspondents club for drinks. Our hotel in Phnom Penh is located a 2 minute walk from Sisowath Quay and the waterfront. The rooms are all twin / double share with air conditioner and en suite bathrooms. There is a beautiful pool and wifi in the hotel. Approx travel time: Private bus from Siem Reap to Phnom Penh: 6-7 hours
In the afternoon of Day 9 we head to the Airport for our flight to Ho Chi Minh City. With a population of approximately 7 million, Ho Chi Minh City is the largest city in Vietnam. The huge number of people rushing about their daily business gives it a dynamic atmosphere. Ho Chi Minh City is characterized by a vast variety of sights and sounds, from ancient pagodas, mosques and cathedrals to the former Presidential Palace and the War Museum. Explore Dong Khoi Street (the Rue Catinat from Graham Greene's novel The Quiet American) to the bustling markets of Ben Thanh and Cholon (Chinatown). Much of the city's life takes place on the streets which are lined with stores, shops, stalls and vendors with their wares spread out on the footpath selling everything from soup to sophisticated electronics. The French influence is evident in the excellent baguettes and coffee. During our time here, we take a short cyclo orientation tour of the city’s main highlights. On day 10 we take a half day trip to the Cu Chi tunnels with a local guide. This network of over 125 miles (200 km) of tunnels became legendary during the 1960's when they played a vital part in the war, allowing the Viet Cong to control a large rural area only 25 miles (40 km) from Ho Chi Minh City. At its heyday, the tunnel system stretched from Ho Chi Minh City to the Cambodian border. The network, parts of which were several stories deep, included trap doors, specially constructed living areas, storage facilities, weapons factories, field hospitals, command centers and kitchens. Today the remaining tunnels have become a major site giving the visitor a unique experience and feel for what underground life during the Vietnam war was like. Our afternoon will allow some free time for independent exploration or shopping; we can try our hand bargaining at the Ben Thanh Market, hire a cyclo (pedicab) for sightseeing or take a boat ride on the Saigon river. Our hotel in Saigon is located a 10 minute walk from the Ben Than Market and a 15 minute walk to the Reunification Palace. The hotel is very comfortable with twin and double share air conditioned rooms. Free wifi is available throughout the hotel and there are computers to use for free in the lobby. Approx travel time: Private transport to Cu Chi tunnels: 1 1/2 hours each way
This morning we take a short flight from Ho Chi Minh City to Hanoi. Classic French colonial architecture, beautiful decor and a scenic location makes Hanoi a fantastic place to visit. The capital of Vietnam is a charming city of about 4 million people, famous for its beautiful lakes, shaded boulevards and vast public parks. The city center is an architectural museum piece, its blocks of ochre buildings retaining the air of a provincial French town of the 1930s. As Vietnam develops to compete with other South East Asian countries, Hanoi's Hoan Kiem Lake reflects this struggle with modern office buildings, old Buddhist temples and tangles of ancient streets. The city hums with the never-ending flow of bicycles, cyclos, the latest Mercedes Benz and motorbikes. In the afternoon we head out for a city tour of the old quarter and then an evening at the world famous water puppet show. Our hotel in Hanoi is located a 20 min walk or a short taxi ride away from Hoan Kiem Lake and the Old Quarter. The rooms are comfortable twin / double share with air conditioning. There are computers for use in the lobby as well as free wifi in the rooms. Approx travel time: Transfer to airport HCMC: 30 min Flight HCMC to Hanoi: 2 hours Transfer to hotel Hanoi: 45 min
Early on day 12 we enjoy a visit to Ho Chi Minh's mausoleum and House On Stilts before our drive takes us to Bai Chay Harbor, the entrance to Halong Bay where we board a junk boat, our home for the evening. This traditional wooden sailing boat offers a unique way of navigating the lime karsts of Halong Bay with all the comforts of a motorized, floating hotel. Once settled in, you start your cruise around the majestic Halong Bay, while enjoying a delicious seafood lunch. Halong Bay is a breathtaking secluded harbor with 2,000 limestone islands rising from the emerald waters of Bac Bo gulf. It is one of the most scenic regions in Vietnam and has been referred to as the 8th Wonder of the World. The area of about 1,500 sq km is dotted with innumerable beaches and grottos, created over thousands of years by waves and wind. After lunch we will have the chance to explore some of the limestone caves dotted around the bay. In the evening the cook will prepare a sumptuous meal as the boat weighs anchor in the heart of the bay and we spend a very peaceful night beneath the stars. Approx travel time: Private bus Hanoi to Halong Bay: 4 hours
On the morning of day 13 we continue the cruise past the many islands and visit one of the caves by small bamboo boat. After an early lunch on board the boat, head back to Hanoi where the rest of the afternoon is free for shopping or visiting one of the many historical museums. For our final night dinner we have the option to visit KOTO, a restaurant set up to help disadvantaged street children.
Today we say goodbye to Vietnam and board a plane back to Bangkok. Explore this wondrous city, or just relax by the pool. What better location to say our fond farewells than a farewell dinner with a view. We'll reminisce about our wonderful journey and enjoy a delicious buffet 81 floors over Bangkok at the Baiyok Tower. Approx travel time: Halong Bay to Hanoi: 4 hours Transfer to airport Hanoi: 45 min Flight Hanoi to Bangkok: 2 hours Transfer to hotel Bangkok: 45 min
Depart any time today. We look forward to receiving your evaluation regarding this tour itinerary and your CEOs performance. We value your input into what we could improve to make this trip even better and of course love hearing about what we are already doing well! You will be sent a post tour email on your return with details on how to go in line and fill in this simple form. Thank you so much in advance.