Asia: The Grand Tour
- Duration28 Nights
- StylePrivate Tour
- When to GoOct - Apr
- Price GuideFrom $22,727 Per Person
At a Glance
- Private transfer to hotel
- Private guided tour of Tokyo
- Tsukiji Market tour with Sushi Class
- Bullet train to Odawara
- Couple of days at your lesiure to explore Hakone National Park
- Bullet train to Kyoto
- Evening food tour of the Gion district
- Private guided tour of Kyoto
- Day at leisure in Kyoto
- Flights to Beijing with private transfer to hotel
- Private guided tour of Beijing
- Day trip to the Mutianyu Great Wall
- Flights to Bangkok with private transfer to hotel
- Full day Bangkok ‘city safari’
- Visit the floating markets
- Chinatown street food tour
- Flights to Chiang Mai with private transfer to hotel
- Private nighttime discovery tour with dinner
- Spend the day at a ethical elephant sanctuary
- Hill tribe hike with scenic lunch
- Bamboo rafting around Chiang Mai
- Flights to Hanoi with private transfer to hotel
- Local guided tour of Hanoi
- Overnight cruise in Lan Ha Bay
Ho Chi Minh City
- Flights to Ho Chi Minh City with private transfer to hotel
- Private nighttime street food tour
- Guided tour of the Mekong Delta
- Flights to Siem Reap with private transfer to hotel
- Visit the Cambodian circus
- Morning boat tour of Lake Tonle Sap
- Private tour of Angkor Thom & Ta Prohm
- Sunrise at Angkor Wat tour
- Flights to Singapore with private transfer to hotel
- Dinner cruise on the Singapore River
- Walking tour of the Lion City
- Michelin guide street food tour
Meet Our Expert
I am totally captivated by Asia. Having lived in Singapore, Nepal, South Korea and Hong Kong, travelled extensively across all of our destinations in Asia, and worked in luxury travel for many years, curating exceptional trips comes naturally to me.
- 28 nights in 4 or 5-star accommodation
- Daily breakfast throughout
- Half-board meals at Hakone ryokan accommodation
- Full-board meals on Lan Ha Bay cruise
- 8x additional lunches and 6x additional dinners also included during mentioned tours
- All mentioned airport transfers and road transport on a private basis in AC minivans
- Activities at Chiang Mai Elephant Camp and activities on-board Lan Ha cruise shared with small group of other guests
- All other mentioned tours and sightseeing on a private basis with private driver and English- speaking local guides
- Entrance fees for any mentioned sightseeing, permits, local taxes, etc
- Bullet trains in Japan in standard class
- All mentioned regional flights in economy class, inclusive minimum 20kg per person checked baggage
- 24/7 support from our dedicated staff
- Flexible, personalized itinerary based on your interests
What's not Included
- International flights from your country of origin
- Tips or gratuities to guides, drivers, hotel staff
- Any meals, tours, or activities other than those specifically mentioned in itinerary
- Incidental local expenses - souvenirs, laundry, taxis, etc
- Travel visas. Your consultant will advise of any required visas and how to obtain them.
- Travel insurance - we strongly recommend you purchase travel insurance as soon as you have booked your trip.
Day by Day Itinerary
- Day 1
Japan: Arrive in Tokyo
Welcome to Japan! You will be met in the arrivals hall by our local representative, who will welcome you to Japan and go through any immediate questions you might have. They will also hand you your tailor-made document pack which includes your Japan Rail Pass, any individual train or bus tickets, public transport cards (usable for local travel nationwide) each preloaded with JPY 2,500 credit, a detailed self-guiding itinerary, and lots more useful information. You will then be assisted to a private car in which you’ll enjoy a relaxed, hassle-free transfer to your downtown hotel. Dependent on traffic, this transfer will take around 75-90 minutes
- Day 2
Japan: Guided tour of Tokyo
Today you will discover Tokyo with a knowledgeable English-speaking guide, getting an in-depth orientation that will allow you to discover the best of this enthralling city. Your guide will meet you at your hotel and first give you a practical overview of your overall itinerary: addressing any queries you have on getting around, using public transport and trains, redeeming railcards and activity vouchers, and so on.
You will then head out together to explore. Start by visiting the home of the Imperial family, the Imperial Palace and then explore the traditional side of the city in Asakusa, including a visit to Sensoji Temple, Tokyo’s oldest and most popular temple. Continue by subway to the Meiji Shrine, a shrine dedicated to the deified spirit of Emperor Meiji, and then if time allows, take a stroll down Omotesando shopping street, lined with the flagship stores of some of the top fashion brands in the world.
- Day 3
Japan: Tsukiji Market tour with Sushi Class
A half-day tour this morning delves into delicious Tokyo cuisine, starting at the world famous Tsukiji Market. Until recently Tsukiji was the world’s largest fish market, selling around 450 different types of submarine species. Although the inner market has now moved to a new location, the outer market is still here, still busy, and remains packed with fresh fruits and vegetables and an outstanding seafood section. Your private guide will lead you through the market with plenty of opportunity to enjoy samples along the way.
Afterwards, visit a chef nearby for a thorough examination of Japanese fish preparation. They will educate you on Japanese food culture, and answer any questions you have about sushi, before helping you to create a personalized selection of fresh seafood options for lunch.
After the class you are free to explore Tokyo at your leisure. Armed with your PASMO transport cards, and having had a thorough orientation with your guide the previous day, you should feel ready to dive and explore one of the world’s most enthralling capital cities.
- Day 4
Japan: Transfer to Hakone National Park
You’ll then say farewell to Tokyo, using your PASMO cards (or jumping in a taxi) to Tokyo station before hopping onto a Shinkansen bullet train to Odawara. From Odawara we are supplying you with Hakone Free Pass tickets, covering all forms of transport into and around Hakone National Park – including local trains, buses, the cable car, and even Hakone’s pirate ship sightseeing cruise. At Odawara station you can take a bus up into the hills (covered by your Hakone Free Pass) which will drop you right outside your hotel – full instructions to be provided.
While only 55 miles from Tokyo, Hakone feels like a totally different world, gazing out at the mountain scenery which towers above Lake Ashi and the hot spring villages that are dotted through the hills. You’ll be spending these two nights in traditional ryokan accommodation, where after a long day you can enjoy a relaxing soak in the hot springs and be treated to lavish kaiseki dinners.
- Day 5
Japan: Explore Hakone and Fuji Five Lakes
You’ll have a full day to spend as you choose in Hakone. A few suggestions include taking the Hakone Ropeway (cable car) to Owakudani, known as the “Valley of Hell” during the Edo period. Formed by 3,000-year-old volcanic eruptions, the crater is still active today, with white smoke billowing out across the landscape. While you’re here, try one of the sulfur-blackened hard boiled eggs, which are said to prolong life by seven years.
Alternatively, take a pirate-themed sightseeing cruise across Lake Ashi, visit Gora’s Open Air Sculpture Park or Venetian Glass Museum, or hike one of the many scenic trails which crisscross the park.
- Day 6
Japan: Bullet train to Kyoto; evening food tour of the Gion
This morning you’ll depart Hakone, traveling first by bus back to Odawara, then onward by bullet train, traveling at up to 190 mph to Kyoto, Japan’s former capital for more than a thousand years.
Early this evening you’ll be picked up from your hotel by a passionate Kyoto food guide for a voyage of gastronomic discovery. Your guide will be taking you on a food-influenced walking tour of the historic Gion district. This is Kyoto’s traditional heart, and for many visitors the most enticing neighborhood in the city: a network of tight cobbled streets lined with wooden
machiya houses and stores, and an entrance into the world of the geisha.
Start the evening at a lively restaurant serving fresh, locally harvested vegetables and fruit platters, before continuing to an izakaya-style bar that serves fresh, seasonal, locally-sourced fish and other fusion dishes, all of which are paired with complementing sake. Nearby you’ll also find a sweet stall dating back to the Edo period where you’ll enjoy some exquisite Japanese sweets.
Tonight’s final stop is a restaurant so carefully hidden that it is totally unknown to all but a select few locals. Here you’ll enjoy sumptuous beef barbecue, sampling the finest grilled cuts with an accompaniment of refreshing craft beer to enhance the experience. End the tour by indulging in one last dessert, after which the guide will drop you back at your hotel or – should you wish! – you can continue exploring the bars and eateries of historic Kyoto under your own steam.
- Day 7
Japan: Guided tour of Kyoto
This morning you will meet a private guide for a full-day tour of Kyoto, using public transport and taxis to discover the city’s rich array of cultural treasures. Head north of the city and visit Kinkaku-ji Temple, the Golden Pavilion. Originally built as a retirement villa for the Shogun, after his death it became a Buddhist Temple at his request and is now one of Kyoto’s most famous temples.
The final stop of the morning can be Ryoan-ji Temple, the site of Japan’s most famous rock garden. Originally served as an aristocrat’s villa during the Heian Period, the site was later on converted into a Zen Buddhist temple in 1450. Now it belongs to the Myoshinji School of the Rinzai sect of Zen Buddhism.
Later visit Kiyomizu-dera or ‘pure water temple’. From the 13-meter high veranda jutting out from the main hall, enjoy amazing views of the whole of Kyoto whilst pondering the fact that both the main hall and the veranda were built without the use of nails. Finish off the day with a stroll through the atmospheric Higashiyama district, where busy lanes lead up to Kiyomizu and are filled with quaint shops selling souvenirs such as Kiyomizu-yaki pottery, sweets, and pickles.
- Day 8
Japan: Day at leisure in Kyoto / optional day trips
Today you are free to explore Kyoto as you wish. There is so much here, from stunning gardens and ancient temples to winding alleyways. Perhaps head out early to shop in Nishiki Market, gathering up local goodies for a later picnic in the grounds of the Imperial Palace. Away from the city center, the Arashiyama Bamboo Grove in western Kyoto is a magical wonderland of soaring bamboo trees, some of which tower more than 65 feet. When the sun filters through the darkness, walking in feels like walking into a dream. You can also continue to the Tenryuji Temple and Okochi Sanso Garden, or Nijo Castle with its spectacular gardens and famous nightingale floors, an anti-ninja security measure designed to make chirping sounds when walked upon.
There are also many day trips possible from Kyoto: to the busy city of Osaka, Himeji with its fine castle, or Kobe with its excellent wagyu beef. The closest day trip is Nara, former capital of Japan from 710 to 784 AD. Here you can take in the largest wooden building in the world, Todaiji Temple, which also hosts the country’s largest Buddha. You’ll also marvel at Nara’s most celebrated shrine, Kasuga Taisha, and perhaps visit Nara Park, often referred to as Deer Park, home to more than a thousand free-roaming deer.
- Day 9
China: Fly to Beijing
This morning you’ll be transferred privately to Osaka Kansai International Airport for your onward flight to Beijing. A two-hour flight later you will land in Beijing where you’ll be greeted in the arrivals hall by a private English-speaking guide, then a private driver, and transferred privately to your hotel in the center of the Chinese capital. Check into your hotel and have some time to relax and freshen up.
There is no better introduction to China than Beijing. This magical, many-storied city has 1000s of years of history to cover, while also being a thriving, modern, and increasingly cosmopolitan capital. Feel the weight of history while strolling through the Forbidden City or Tiananmen Square, while in the evening living it up in the lively nightlife and entertainment districts of Houhai or Sanlitun. A treasure trove of museums showcasing China’s epic past sit alongside vibrant modern art galleries; the atmospheric (and fast disappearing) hutong districts are just streets away from gleaming luxury shopping malls. Food in Beijing is exceptional and should be a feature of your stay: nobody should leave without sampling Peking duck, Jiaozi steamed dumplings, or inky black zha zhiang mian noodles. Day trips out of the city to the Great Wall are also an essential inclusion.
- Day 10
China: Guided tour of Beijing
Join a private guide today for a tour of Beijing’s principal sites: Tiananmen Square, the Temple of Heaven, and the epic Forbidden City.
Begin at Tiananmen Square, the largest public square in the world, which is your entry point to the Forbidden City. Built in the 15th Century, the Imperial Palace was the home of both Ming and Qing Imperial families for over 500 years. Throughout this time it was completely closed to the general population, right up until the Revolution of 1911. Exploring this vast and breathtakingly majestic Palace will take up much of the morning.
Lunch will be taken in a local restaurant, after which you’ll continue to the Temple of Heaven, located in the center of Tiantan Gongyuan Park. This spectacular Ming temple has become regarded as, and is widely used, the symbol of Beijing. Dating from 1420, its wooden pillars support a curved ceiling without cement or nails to a height of 38 meters. The temple’s intricate carvings and bright colors illustrate the opulent Ming style. Also in the Temple complex is the Echo Wall – a circular structure composed of polished bricks on the inside. The temple and its surrounding altars, gates, and park are a meeting place for the people of Beijing and it is possible to see the locals enjoying a game of chess or practicing the ancient art of Tai-Chi.
- Day 11
China: Day trip to the Mutianyu Great Wall
Stretching from the Gobi desert to the Yellow Sea, the Great Wall of China is the largest man-made structure on earth, famously viewable from space. This incredible feat of engineering, labor, and sacrifice, was first started over 2,000 years ago to protect the Empire of Qin Shi Huang from marauding nomads. Construction of the wall used hundreds of thousands of political prisoners and an estimated 180 million cubic meters of packed earth.
Just under two hours drive from Beijing, the Mutianyu pass is further out of the city than some of the more developed parts of the Wall but remains our preferred section thanks to its thinner crowds and dramatic views. Walk a short section of the wall, passing through a series of impossibly steep climbs and falls, stopping at semi-restored watchtowers and ramparts along the way. Gawp at the sheer feat of engineering and the incredible views of the Great Wall snaking into the distance and over the horizon.
Ascent from the car park up to the Wall is by an open ski-lift style gondola, and descent is a curious but very fun bonus feature of Mutianyu – by toboggan, snaking back down the hillside! After ample time to walk the walls you’ll enjoy a late lunch in a local restaurant and then return to Beijing late afternoon.
- Day 12
Thailand: Fly to Bangkok
This morning you’ll be transferred back to Beijing Airport for a 5 hour flight south to Bangkok. On arrival in Bangkok you’ll be met by a local guide and driver and transferred to your downtown hotel to relax.
Thailand’s bouncing capital is one of the world’s great cities. Sitting at the mouth of a tropical river delta, facing the Gulf of Thailand, the ‘Venice of the East’ is bisected by the languorous Chaophraya river and riddled with natural and manmade canals. You’ll find the city caught between the past and present with modern shopping malls, galleries and spas, sitting alongside atmospheric temples, glittering palaces, and ancient canal-side neighbourhoods. Bangkok is a cacophony of sights and sounds, and the fun here is just diving into the nonstop action, while sampling some of the world’s best cheap eats along the way.
- Day 13
Thailand: Full day Bangkok ‘city safari’
Today’s full-day tour of Bangkok will see you discover the city like a local, taking advantage of the city’s varied public transportation network to cover all the main sites while also getting a closer look at the traditions and lifestyles of the Thai people.
Your guide will meet you at your hotel around 8.00am and take you down to the nearby launch on the Chao Phraya. Here you’ll board a public ferry, traveling up along the river and watching the city skyline slip by. Disembark at the iconic Wat Pho and Grand Palace, Bangkok’s cultural icons, and spend the remainder of the morning exploring these two remarkable sites, learning about the country’s regal history and of the deep-rooted spiritual traditions of its people.
Hop aboard a tuk-tuk, the ubiquitous Thai three-wheeled moto-taxis, used by locals across the country. Zip through quieter city streets to Soi Ban Batra, where you’ll visit a family-run workshop that produces monks’ alms bowls. Witness the artisans at work and learn about the daily lives of the Buddhist monks who wake early to collect alms offerings from the city’s residents.
The final leg of the tour is on a ‘bus boat’ through the canals which cut right through the heart of the city. Rarely used by tourists, this mode of transport provides an up-close look at the ways of life of the local people who live right up against the edge of the canals. Disembark and take a short walk up to the Jim Thompson House. Take an insightful tour of the compound’s tranquil gardens and traditional buildings, which showcases the history of the mysterious American silk merchant. Afterwards, stroll to the nearby modern shopping malls on Rama I Road for some retail therapy, then return to the hotel via Skytrain, Bangkok’s modern elevated railway which whistles through the city up above its busy traffic-clogged streets.
- Day 14
Thailand: Outer Bangkok’s Unique Markets & Chinatown Street Food Tour
Make an early start this morning, driving 80 km southwest from Bangkok to the suburban province of Samut Songkhram in the Mae Klong River Delta. You’ll be dropped at a small, unassuming local train station, where you’ll jump on a slow-stopping local service. A ride of around 30-40 minutes brings you into the terminus town Mae Klong, famed for its busy market which is held around and right on top of the train tracks. After time to explore the market you’ll step back and watch the train begin its return journey inching its way slowly back out through the market stalls on the way out of Mae Klong.
Continue by road to the famous Damnoen Saduak floating market. Although now rather touristy, the market remains the best example of how a floating market may have looked decades ago. Transfer to a gentle paddle boat into the quieter nearby waterways to visit a family that makes coconut sugar syrup at their teak house, stopping to observe the cottage industry in process and tasting a glass of the sweet produce. Also nearby are some beautiful local temples, a beautiful 400 year-old banyan tree, and a park dedicated to King Rama II, which houses a small local museum. You’ll then return to Bangkok by road, arriving back at your hotel early afternoon.
Your guide will meet you at the hotel in the early evening, and you’ll then set off together on a voyage of culinary discovery. Traveling by tuk-tuk, you’ll whizz through the buzzing city streets and sample the best street food the city has to offer, including an authentic Isan (northern Thai) restaurant, a Michelin-listed chicken noodle stall, and a vendor who claims to serve up the best pad thai in the city.
- Day 15
Thailand: Fly to Chiang Mai; Explore Chiang Mai by night
This morning you’ll fly north to Thailand’s northern capital, Chiang Mai. Its higher elevation means it enjoys a cooler climate than Bangkok, and it has a more laid-back atmosphere too, with more of a sleepy town feel than a bustling capital. The historic city interior houses over 300 temples, and you’ll also find lively markets, cooking classes, craft stores, and fantastic street food.
Meet your guide around 5.30pm to enjoy a nighttime discovery tour of Thailand’s northern capital. Travel by tuk tuk to a local temple arriving to see the evening prayers as the sun sets and the temple is illuminated like a glistening diamond. Observe the monks chanting their evening prayers and join local worshipers in lighting incense and candles, and giving offerings of good luck and health.
Continue to the Three Kings Monument, where you’ll learn more about Chiang Mai’s history as the capital of the Lanna kingdom, a separate country independent of Thailand. You’ll then dive into Warorot Market: even at this late hour it is a hive of activity, with stalls selling fresh flowers, clothes, and mouth watering street food.
Next up – dinner. Cross the Ping River on foot using the ‘Indian Bridge’ and arrive at a picturesque riverfront dining spot, where you’ll enjoy a sumptuous meal of Northern Thai delights accompanied by live music. Round off the evening with a cocktail at a rooftop bar nearby, after which you can be dropped off back at your hotel or continue the night’s adventures independently.
- Day 16
Thailand: Spend a day with the elephants
This morning you’ll travel out in the countryside, around an hour north of Chiang Mai, where you’ll visit an ethical and sustainable elephant interaction center. They offer a retirement home for elephants that have previously worked hard for tourism entertainment or in the logging industry. Throughout the day you will gain an insight into elephants’ life and their story while spending time with them in a safe area.
Upon arrival at the sanctuary, get changed into traditional clothing, followed by preparing fruits to feed elephants. Enjoy delicious Pad Thai for lunch at the sanctuary. After lunch, prepare and cook sticky rice mixed with herbal for elephants. Get to learn more about their background, health care, and common behaviors. Have more fun with them in the pool by giving them a bath and mud scrub and taking pictures with them. A tea and coffee break will be served before departing the sanctuary for your hotel.
- Day 17
Thailand: Hill tribe hike and bamboo rafting around Chiang Mai
After an early breakfast you’ll be picked up by your private guide and head out to explore the lush scenery and secluded villages north of Chiang Mai. Your first stop will be at the lively Mae Malai market, a well-known destination for various hill tribes who come down from the surrounding hills to gossip and trade.
After a quick walk through the market stalls you’ll transfer to a 4×4 and head off the main road and up to the remote village of Baan Thong Youa – the starting point of your morning hike. Take up a gentle path through the lush hill scenery, with your guide providing colorful insights on hill tribe groups and their culture, learning how the former opium trade has evolved into artisanal crafts, farming, and coffee plantations. You’ll hike for around 2.5 hours, stopping for a scenic picnic lunch along the way and eventually reaching the isolated village of Baang Phong Ngan.
After meeting the local Lahu villagers you’ll transfer onto a bamboo raft and begin a relaxing return journey, being gently paddled down the pristine waters catching sight of tranquil agricultural scenery and the occasional wading buffalo along the way. The rafting journey will be around 60-90 minutes, after which you’ll reunite with your driver and return to your Chiang Mai hotel by road.
- Day 18
Vietnam: Fly to Hanoi
Today you’ll take a short regional flight over to Hanoi, the quixotic capital of Vietnam. On arrival in Hanoi you’ll be greeted by your new English-speaking guide, and then private driver, and together they will transfer you to your downtown hotel.
Located in the northwest of the Red River Delta, Hanoi translates as “the hinterland between the rivers.” It’s also a city of lakes, with 18 found here, the most prominent of which is the picturesque Hoan Kiem lake situated right in the city center, just south of the bustling Old Quarter. A heady mix of Eastern and European styles, Hanoi is a fascinating and fun place to explore independently. Your guide will provide a brief introduction to the city during the transfer and after checking into your accommodation you’ll have the remainder of the day to relax, or to head out and discover plenty of places to drink, dine and shop.
- Day 19
Vietnam: A local’s tour of Hanoi
After breakfast you will meet your guide and head out for a private tour of the city, focusing on its local life and culture. Head first to Hoan Kiem Lake, the spiritual center of the city, which is especially alluring in the morning with locals practicing Tai Chi – join in if you wish! – against the backdrop of the highly photogenic Ngoc Son Temple.
Continue to a small nearby cafe that specializes in ‘Banh Cuon’ – slippery rice noodle parcels, filled with fresh herbs, cucumber, bean sprouts, and invariably pork, chicken, or prawns. Learn how to make this Hanoian specialty, sampling as you go! You’ll then take a gentle rickshaw tour through the atmospheric and energetic Old Quarter, which includes a short stop at Dong Xuan Market, where you’ll stop to sample Hani’s famous ‘egg coffee’.
Later you’ll take in the Temple of Literature, the first university in the country, built in 1070 instructing the teachings of Confucius, and then return to the Old Quarter to visit a small family home. By this time you should have worked up quite an appetite, so the morning finishes with the heartiest of Hanoi lunches: a soothing bowl of pho at Pho Thin, thought to serve the best in the city. The afternoon is then yours to relax back at the hotel or continue exploring independently.
- Day 20
Vietnam: Overnight cruise in Lan Ha Bay
After an early breakfast you’ll be transferred out to the mouth of the Red River delta, making for Tuan Chau Marina, from where you’ll begin your overnight cruise in Lan Ha Bay. Lan Ha is the less-visited but equally stunning neighbor to Halong Bay (which has begun to suffer with over-tourism), made up of 100s of dramatic karst outcrops and islets.
Your overnight cruise will pass through some truly breathtaking scenery, and will include excursions such as visits to small and sparsely populated islands, kayaking or swimming, and cooking demonstrations. Accommodation is in an extremely comfortable private cabin, with dining and service on board second to none. Please note that your local guide is not permitted to join you onboard; all excursions will be led by cruise guides and shared with other passengers.
- Day 21
Vietnam: Disembark and fly to Ho Chi Minh City; nighttime street food tour
You have the option of an early start for an energizing Tai Chi lesson on the sundeck before the cruise begins its sail back to the mainland. A good breakfast and a further excursion on board will be included before you disembark back in Tuan Chua. You’ll be met by your private guide and driver once more and then transferred to nearby Haiphong Airport for an onward flight down to Ho Chi Minh City.
On arrival at Tan Son Nhat International Airport, you’ll be greeted by a new private English-speaking guide, and then private driver, and together they will transfer you to your downtown hotel. Formally known as Saigon, modern Ho Chi Minh City is the commercial hub of Vietnam and now famous for its intriguing mix of modern and historic attractions, lively nightlife, and endless shopping opportunities.
In the evening you will be picked up for a part-nocturnal excursion, part street food adventure – a tour of the city and its nightlife on the back of vintage Vespa scooters. Taking you through Chinatown and central Districts 1 and 4, the tour includes stops at several bars and cafes, during which you’ll sample Saigonese specialties such as Banh Mi (stuffed baguettes), Banh Xeo crispy (oversize pancakes filled with beansprouts, herbs, and shrimp) grilled seafood, Vietnamese coffee and smoothies, plus cold beer and cocktails
- Day 22
Vietnam: Guided tour of the Mekong Delta
After an early breakfast you’ll be picked up from the hotel and transferred south of the city and into the lush Mekong Delta. Head for Ben Tre province, famed for its coconut production and quiet, peaceful waterways, a private road journey of around two hours. On arrival, take a Xe Loi (cycle rickshaw) ride through the local village of Huu Dinh and then switch to a small longtail boat for a gentle glide through the emerald green canals and waterways. Along the way you’ll make interesting stops at a brick-making workshop, rice noodle factory, and a small shrimp farm operated by Mrs Huong, who’ll invite you for tea and snacks in her fruit and vegetable garden.
Back on the river, a smaller rowboat will take you into the deepest and narrowest canals, with lots of opportunities for photography and interaction with locals along the way. Lunch will be taken in a tiny local restaurant, before you continue to cycle (or re-join the car if you prefer) to the home of Mr. Sau Tuong’s: a former Viet Cong soldier who survived two years of fighting the Khmer Rouge in Phnom Penh. After the visit, the boat will be waiting for you at the pier nearby to bring you back to Ben Tre and then on the way back to Ho Chi Minh City. Arrive back at your hotel in the late afternoon.
- Day 23
Cambodia: Fly to Siem Reap; visit the Cambodian circus
This morning you’ll be transferred back to HCMC Airport and then board a short flight over the border to Cambodia, landing in Siem Reap home to the temples of Angkor. You’ll be greeted on arrival by your private English-speaking guide, and then a private driver, and together they will transfer you to your nearby hotel.
While best-known for the temples and ruins of Angkor, once the world’s largest and greatest pre-industrial city, Siem Reap also offers opportunities to explore museums, markets, and buzzing nightlife. Once checked in you will have the remainder of the day free to rest and recuperate at the hotel, or jump in a tuk-tuk and head out to explore.
In the evening you’ll be taken to enjoy Siem Reap’s finest contemporary spectacle, the Phare circus. Tightrope walkers, contortionists, and acrobats take to the stage for a dynamic artistic spectacle that blends visual art, music, dance, and circus skills. Phare arose from Battambang-based NGO Phare Ponleu Selpak, with all proceeds from the Siem Reap event going back to their mission of skilling impoverished children in the arts and performance. The NGO’s impact on rural Cambodia is genuinely remarkable, and the show itself hugely entertaining, so on all counts the 90-minute show (with private transfers to and from included) is an inspiring and invaluable use of your time.
- Day 24
Cambodia: Morning boat tour of Lake Tonle Sap; afternoon visit Angkor Thom & Ta Prohm
Early this morning you will head out to the great Tonle Sap Lake: the richest freshwater fishing ground in the world, and a Cambodian national treasure. A privately guided boat tour will introduce you to the communities that live around the margins of the lake, who adapt to the continual variation in water levels by building their homes on floating stilts. Take the opportunity to pause at the stilted houses to learn how a subsistence fishing family lives, before continuing by boat along the margins of the lake. A light picnic breakfast is included on-board.
Later in the afternoon you’ll be picked up by your guide and driver to embark on your first visit to the Angkor Archaeological Park. Start at imposing Angkor Thom literally ‘Great City’ – exploring the imposing Victory Gate, then continue along the 5m high former city walls to the ‘Death Gate’ and then the Terrace of the Leper King. A further short walk from the Buddhist sanctuary of Preah Palilay takes you through shaded woodland to the three tiers of Phimeanakas, flanked by beautiful lakes, and then to the Hindu temple Baphuon.
Arrive at the exact center of Angkor Thom at the Bayon, former state temple of Jayavarman VII. The Bayon is known for its captivating bas relief faces, carved in their hundreds, each telling a different story of daily life or epic events in the time of Angkor. Finish at the iconic jungle temple of Ta Prohm, which has been partially engulfed by roots and vines, and is also known as the ‘Lara Croft Temple’ for its starring role in the 2001 film.
- Day 25
Cambodia: Sunrise at Angkor Wat
Wake early this morning to visit Angkor Wat, the mother of all temples. You will visit at dawn, seeing the sunrise over the temple and bathe it in the softest and best light of the day. Your private guide will then lead you on a comprehensive tour of the temple complex, which has stood as a site of major religious significance since its construction in the 12th century.
Explore the well preserved central complex and detailed bas-reliefs depicting scenes from Hindu mythologies and battles of the ancient empire. The beauty in balance and composition, combined with its sheer scale ensure Angkor Wat’s place as the crowning achievement in Khmer art and architecture. This is truly one of travel’s remaining great adventures.
You’ll return to your hotel for a late breakfast, then have the rest of the day to relax. Within town we recommend exploring the busy central markets and lively nightlife scene around Pub Street. Foodies can indulge in a wealth of dining tours and cooking classes. Adventure seekers have adrenaline-fueled activities galore, with quad biking, ziplining, hiking, cycling, and kayaking all possibilities. Shoppers will enjoy an enormous array of craft and souvenir venues, including charitable ventures such as Theam’s House or Artisans d’Angkor. Outside of the city day trips can be made to the remote jungle temples of Koh Ker or Beng Mealea, to the lush jungles of Phnom Kulen, or for bird-watching and kayaking around Tonle Sap’s Prek Toal village.
- Day 26
Singapore: Fly to Singapore; dinner cruise on the Singapore River
This morning you’ll fly across to Singapore then enjoy a private transfer to your downtown hotel. The Lion City’s cityscape is a mix of sci-fi skyscrapers and heritage shophouses, proudly showing the exotic mix of Chinese, British, Tamil, and Malay influences which made the city. Once arrived at the hotel you have the remainder of the day to recuperate after your flight. You might want to relax with a drink in one of the rooftop restaurants overlooking the Singapore River or walk in one of the city’s heritage neighborhoods; when it comes time to dine, the incredible cuisine reflects the melding of cultures, with a wide range of delicious options.
This evening, you will be picked up at your hotel by a guide & driver and transferred to the Singapore River, for an evening spent cruising downstream in a traditional bumboat to see the legacy of Singapore’s history. Your cruise passes godowns: the old shophouses, which now stand as a silent reminder of Singapore’s humble past and colonial buildings which contrasted with imposing modern skyscrapers. You will also be able to see the majestic water-spouting Merlion (a mythological half-lion, half-fish creature) guarding the mouth of the river.
Towards the end of the tour you will be served a seafood dinner and get to savor an authentic dish of chili crab served with mantou (fried Chinese buns), a local favorite and a must-have in Singapore!
- Day 27
Singapore: Walking tour of the Lion City
This morning you’ll meet a local guide for a half-day tour of downtown Singapore, also affectionately known as the ‘Lion City’ or the ‘Little Red Dot’. Your adventure begins with a ‘bumboat’ (traditional Singaporean ferry) ride around the riverside district, offering one of the best perspectives of the soaring city skyline and historic quays below. Disembark at the Merlion – symbol of Singapore – which looks back to Clarke Quay on one side and across to futuristic Marina Bay on the other. Continue with a drive through the ‘Civic District’, which calls back to colonial Singapore, with its elegant Cricket Club, Supreme Court, old Parliament House, and City Hall.
Head from here to buzzing Orchard Road, epicenter of commerce and shopping – the Singaporean national pastime! Finish the tour with a visit to the National Orchid Garden, set within the excellent Singapore Botanic Gardens, where you’ll find our 60,000 orchid plants, including Singapore’s national flower the Vanda Miss Joaquim. Your guide will leave you at this point, with the rest of the day yours to continue exploring independently.
- Day 28
Singapore: Michelin guide street food tour
This morning you’ll meet with the guide for a day of Michelin Guide street food discovery at Singapore’s popular hawker centers. You’ll start at the Chinatown Food Complex, a multi-storey market that is popular among locals and foreigners alike, for a breakfast of kopi tarik or teh tarik the famous pulled coffee or tea and thick kaya toast (a typical everyday breakfast for the locals).
After learning all about hawker culture in Singapore, you’ll take a walk past the famous Buddha Tooth Relic Temple, towards the Singapore City Gallery, which tells the story of the city’s physical transformation. Next you’ll take a short walk up Ann Siang Hill, through the park and arrive at Amoy Street Food Centre, a slightly more modest food center, situated among office buildings for a taste of J2 Famous Crispy Curry Puff (a ubiquitous Malay snack) washed down with a sugarcane juice or soya bean milk.
Finally, you’ll take a short ride on the MRT to Little India – the heartland of the Indian communities (passing by Singapore’s oldest Chinese Temple, Thian Hock Keng Temple on the way). After arriving in Little India, try out Bismillah Briyani, who are famous for their Dum Briyani and complete your culinary experience with a typical sweet pistachio dessert.
- Day 29
Singapore: Transfer to Singapore Airport & fly home
Sadly your adventures have come to an end. At the appropriate time you will be picked up by a private driver and transferred back to Singapore Changi Airport to check in for your onward flight.
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