Vietnam and Thailand, for the adventurous

Day 1. Ha Noi Arrival

A city of lakes, parks and colonial mansions, Ha Noi retains much of its historical charm and, with an eclectic mix of Asian tempo and French refinement, Vietnam’s capital is a city to be savoured. The labyrinthine streets of Ha Noi’s Old Quarter are the ideal place in which to wander and observe daily life. Here street traders jostle for space on the sidewalks and crumbling houses are crammed into narrow alleyways that are still named after the goods that were traded there – Silk Street, Gold Street and even Fried Fish Street!  A stroll around West Lake reveals a different side of the city and nearby you will find the sombre Ho Chi Minh Mausoleum, which is usually crowded with Vietnamese of all ages wishing to show their respects. The elegant French Quarter is home to some fine colonial architecture including the famous Sofitel Legend Metropole Hotel and the Opera House, whilst an early morning wake-up call and a visit to Hoan Kiem Lake will be rewarded by a display of local residents practicing their t’ai chi. Ha Noi is steeped in history from the ‘Hanoi Hilton’, the infamous Hoa Lo Prison where so many prisoners of war were incarcerated, to the religious pride that constructed the 11th century Temple of Literature, the heart of the Confucian education system. Ha Noi is a delightful city of contrasts and the ideal city in which soak up the ebb and flow of life in Vietnam.

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Hanoi After Dark by antique Vespa – We meet at our stylish local Café and start the evening with a cocktail or another kind of drinks (coffee, tea, juice, etc. ) and a delicious snack from one of the nearby night time vendors, before jumping on the back of the vintage Vespas. After weaving through the magical, busy back streets of the Old Quarter, we soon arrive at a fascinating local joint, right on the railway tracks (literally!) where we try some infused rice wine and a Buffalo Jerky appetiser. It’s back riding through the narrow streets again, as we head toward our next foodie place, a lively local restaurant serving Bun Cha. This quintessential, must taste Ha Noi dish of rice noodles, grilled pork and meatballs, with a side of Nem (spring rolls). Simple but delicious.We then head out of the Old Quarter and ride toward West Lake to try the local speciality of Pho Cuon, and learn the art of wrap ‘n’ roll, Vietnamese style. with these fresh & fragrant ingredients, and the Pho noodle! A short ride on the Vespa takes us to our final port of call, next to the superb Opera House. The halcyon days of the 930’s may be over, however this Jazz Club will wow you with a truly unique blend of styles-30’s style Jazz & Traditional Vietnamese music!

Day 2. Ha Noi

Full day Hanoi Mausoleum & Countryside – Duong Lam ancient Village

Visit Ba Dinh Square where silent sentries guard the marble mausoleum in which Ho Chi Minh lies in state. Usually crowded with Vietnamese of all ages wishing to show their respects the interior of the mausoleum may be visited, subject to opening hours.

Then, depart Hanoi for the 1.5 hour drive to Duong Lam village, one of the few heritage protected villages in Vietnam. This excursion provides the opportunity to trace the origins of many of Vietnam’s traditions as well as discover the architecture of its ancient houses and wander through narrow alleyways. Arrive in Duong Lam, an agricultural village of the northern Red River Delta where traditional houses built over one hundred years ago are preserved. A short walk brings you to the village communal house, a place where locals worship the gods and stands as a fine example of northern Vietnamese architecture.Image result for Duong Lam ancient Village

Take to two wheels (or a walk) for a one hour bicycle ride through winding village lanes and lush green rice fields, appreciating the simplicity of life for a Vietnamese farmer and the natural beauty that surrounds their existence. Continue by bicycle to Mia Pagoda where you will learn of the legend of a 17th century Vietnamese Queen and see the 287 Buddhist statues kept there – more than at any other pagoda in the country.

After returning from your ride visit a 300 year old traditional house where you will be invited for lunch by the family. Return to Ha Noi in the late afternoon and the rest of day at leisure.            

Day 3. Ninh Binh

Full day Ninh Binh: Hoa Lu Ancient Capital, Trang An & Van Long

With its landscape of impressive limestone karsts and its location away from Vietnam’s coast, Ninh Binh is often referred to as ‘Ha Long Bay on Land’. But instead of the sea at the base of the cliff faces, in Ninh Binh’s case a network of tributaries from the Hoang Long River wrap around and through the towering stone formations, and the multitude of limestone karsts rise out of the surrounding rice paddy fields.

This morning, visit to the once impressive citadel of Hoa Lu, which the capital of Vietnam during the Dinh (968–80) and early Le (980–1009) dynasties.

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The temples are said to be built on the old foundation of their original palaces in 11-12th centuries and restored in 17th century The energetic may undertake the climb of some 200 steps for a rewarding view, and exploration of the temples of Dinh Tien Hoang and Dai Hanh. Then get on boat to visit Trang An Eco-tourism Complex – covering an area of 1,961 hectares, Trang An belongs to the mass of Attraction Relic of Hoa Lu Ancient Capital and includes three main functional subdivisions: Center area for welcoming visitors and festival organization; tourist area of Grottoes with 48 grottoes and caves together 31 large and small valleys. The whole complex has 47 historical relics and nearly 100 grottoes stretching around 20km South– North.

If time and energy permit! Climb up 500 steps to the Mua Cave to enjoy a stunning panoramic view of the countryside and Ngo Dong River.

Later this afternoon, visit Van Long Natural Reserve– known as the “Preserved Nature Area” of Ninh Binh, it offers wonderful views of landscapes and rural life. Compared to Tam Coc – the used-to favorite site, Van Long is much more primitive and completely untouched. River, mountains, grottos, rice paddies, old houses, friendly locals, tiny-bamboo boat riding, ect., all contribute to make Van Long a must-see for the connoisseurs of traveling. Tourists who come to admire the reserve will have the opportunity to view rich flora and fauna within the most bio-diversified wetland in Vietnam, according to research by national and international scientists.

Day 4. Ha Long Bay – Bai Tu Long Bay – Thien Canh Son Cave

Approximately 170 km from Ha Noi, the mystical landscapes of Ha Long Bay are one of Asia’s most iconic sights. Translated as the ‘Bay of Descending Dragons’ and located in the Gulf of Tonkin, Ha Long is made up by some 1,600 islands and islets, forming a spectacular seascape of limestone pillars, lush islands and emerald waters. Although best explored from the comfort of a Chinese-style junk or replica paddle steamer ensure you make time to ascend one of the surrounding hills for a memorable panoramic view of the verdant islands and shimmering waters below. One of the most beautiful places on earth, this magnificent feat of nature rarely fails to impress. Breathtaking beyond words, and often compared with the limestone mountains around Guilin in China, Ha Long Bay is justifiably one of the world’s natural wonders and more than deserves its UNESCO World Heritage status.

12:00 pm – 12:30 pm      Embark at Hon Gai International harbor.Image result for L’Amour private 1-cabin boat

12:30 pm – 1:00 pm        Check-in, enjoy welcome drink & cruise briefing.

1:30 pm – 3:00 pm          Have lunch while cruising to magnificent Bai Tu Long bay; admire the fascinating formations on the way.

3:15 pm – 3:40 pm          Explore the well- hidden Thien Canh Son cave

3.45 pm – 6:00 pm          Enjoy relaxing on a white sandy beach at Hon Co island, swimming or kayaking

6:00 pm – 7.00 pm          Back to junk for refreshing before having dinner on board

8:00 pm – 9:00 pm          Relax, enjoy fresh air & overnight on board

Your accommodation tonight is on board the L’Amour private boat allowing for a peaceful night’s sleep and a memorable morning out on the bay.

Day 5. Vung Vieng Fishing village – Ha Long Bay – Ha Noi – Bangkok

7:30 am – 8:00 am           Morning view of Bay’s landscape with a cup of tea or coffee. Have breakfast in the fresh air.

8:30 am– 9:.30 am           Visit Vung Vieng fishing village by a rustic row-boat

10:00 am                         Check out of the cabin. Start cruising towards the harbor while an A la carte lunch is served

11:45 am – 12:00 pm       Disembark

You will have time at your leisure to explore Hanoi city or visit a museum.

 Sawasdee…Welcome to The Lands of Smiles

 Well known as the City of Angels, Krungthepmahanakorn (Bangkok) is the present capital city and the focal point for Thailand.  It was made the capital of Thailand in 1782, the first monarch of the present Chakri Dynasty.  It is a vibrant city, a national treasure house and Thailand’s spiritual, cultural, political, commercial, educational and diplomatic enter with endless choice of sightseeing and entertainment opportunities.  In addition to the many temples and historic buildings, such as The Grand Palace and Wat Arun, the list of interesting places to visit is endless. There are numerous canal (klong) networks, the Chaophraya River, giving it the name of “Venice of the East”.

Day 6. Bangkok

Half day Grand Palace and Wat Po with Thai set lunch – The Grand Palace is the “must see” attraction in Bangkok. It is an architectural wonder of golden stupas, walls and pillars encrusted in shining and colourful mosaics. Previously the residence of past Kings of Thailand, you will see palaces once used for different occasions; the Reception Hall, the Coronation Hall, the Throne Hall, the Royal Guest House and Wat Phra Kaew. The architecture is predominantly Thai, though there are some European influences. The palace served as the official residence of kings of Thailand from the 18th to the mid-20th century. The most famous building within the palace grounds is Wat Phra Kaew and this is regarded as the most sacred Buddhist temple in Thailand. Continue to Wat Po, with its massive reclining Buddha. Lunch at Sala Rattanakosin Restaurant

Half day Canal Tour – One of the best ways to explore Bangkok is by boat. A cruise along the Chao Phraya River and the canals of Thonburi on the east side of the river reveals a scene that offers a stark contrast to the frenzied activity of the modern metropolis of Bangkok. The city’s network of canals earned Bangkok the title of “Venice of the East” we travel along these waterways by long-tail speed boat to see family homes and temples. On the return journey, we stop at the Temple of Dawn (Wat Arun) whose towering spire has become an iconic symbol of Bangkok. There will be ample opportunities to photograph the magnificent multi-colored porcelain-studded tower of this temple.

Evening Food and Tuk Tuk Adventure – Food and tuk tuks! Two of the things that Image result for Food and Tuk Tuk AdventureBangkok is most famous for and one of the best way to spend an evening! On this food tour we combine them with a little bit of mystery for a fantastic evening of eating and adventure as we whizz around Bangkok. This food adventure gives you a local’s perspective on night time eating in Bangkok. We will travel by tuk tuk as we explore the food in both the historical center of the city and more local areas. We combine a few street food eating experiences with a few of our favorite local restaurants to give you a diverse look at the Bangkok food scene. We will also explore how Thai food from different parts of the countries varies and also how it has been influenced by other countries in the region. The majority of the places we will stop to eat have come through recommendations from locals, friends, parents, staff and guides. We don’t promise to take you to the most famous places or the ones you will find on TripAdvisor. What we do promise to do is share an experience with you. Our expert guide will share insights into the various foods as you eat and help you dig deeper into Thai culture as you explore the city. We suspect you will be grateful of the occasional cultural break or tuk tuk ride to give you time to digest between food stops. We will drive around the historic Rattanakosin Island with stops outside the beautiful Phra Sumen Fort next to the river, and the view of the Ananta Samakhom Throne Hall and Rama 5 statue.

Day 7. Bangkok – Chiang Mai    

Popularly known as the Rose of the North, Chiang Mai is blessed with stunning natural beauty and unique indigenous cultural identity.  Founded by King Mengrai the Great as the capital of the Lanna Thai kingdom by merging the various city states in the region in 1296.  Today Chiang Mai is the economic, communications, cultural and tourism centre of Northern Thailand. About 700 kilometres from Bangkok, Chiang Mai is situated on the Mae Ping River basin some 310 metres above sea level.  Surrounded by high mountain ranges, it covers an area of approximately 20,107 square kilometres.  The terrain is mainly jungles and mountains, parts of which are within national parks which are still fertile and verdant with plentiful flora and fauna.  There are many sites and locations where tourists prefer to visit to study the lifestyle of the tribal people who live on high hills.

Evening Thai Boxing Match – Thai boxing (or Muay Thai) is a sport developed long ago from combat training and has become well known throughout the world. Foreigners who watch never cease to be amazed by the strange rules (or lack of them) that allow the boxers to not only use their fists for punching, but their feet and knees for kicking or pushing, and their elbows for jabbing while striking any part of the opponent’s body. Still, the matches of today are greatly refined (and less bloody) from those that took place years ago. Back then, there were no gloves, the boxer’s hands and arms were bound only with knotted starched cord, and the rules were much different. Visitors to the Kingdom should not hesitate to witness this thrilling and unforgettable spectacle. There are fights on weeknights at the city’s two major boxing stadiums and there is absolutely not a more energetic sport available than Muay Thai.

Day 8. Chiang Mai    

Local Market and Alms Offering – This early morning adventure takes us to a local market at the busiest time of the day when you will be able to make “merit”. Each morning before dawn, monks wearing saffron robes walk quietly along the streets carrying alms bowls to receive boiled rice and other food donations from bystanders. In return, the people receive holy blessings. You can participate in this very special Thai custom by personally presenting alms. You can also buy a local-style breakfast at a nearby market.

Half Day Chiang Mai City Temples – The city of Chiang Mai has an abundance of beautiful and historic Buddhist temples and this tour takes in the most interesting. One Image result for Chiang Mai City Templesof the highlights is a visit to the 600 year-old temple of Wat Pra That Doi Suthep, near the summit of Doi Suthep mountain. After a drive up the mountain’s winding road, the final climb to the site is via a magnificent Naga (dragon-headed serpent) staircase of 306 steps. Inside is an intriguing copper-plated chedi topped by a five-tier gold umbrella which contains partial relics of Lord Buddha. On a clear day, there are incomparable views over the city of Chiang Mai. Other temple visits on this tour include: Wat Suan Dok, whose large central stupa contains the ashes of Chiang Mai’s royal family; Wat Chedi Luang, where the Emerald Buddha was once enshrined; and Wat Phra Singh, housing a very sacred 1,500 year old Buddha image.

Chiang Mai Culinary Delights – As the former capital of the Lanna Kingdom; the second-oldest Thai Kingdom after the Sukhothai Kingdom, Chiang Mai became a vital cultural and commercial crossroads city between Thailand, Myanmar (Burma), Laos and China. The first Thai culinary recipes, as identified by many ingredients that are still in use today such as lemongrass and galangal, have their roots in culinary use in the north and were perfected in the Chiang Mai royal courts. This evening tour provides an insight into the culinary heritage of the “Rose of the North”. You will embark on a guided tour, where you will sample the delights of Chiang Mai cuisine, including various mouthwatering local snacks, and the delicious Khao Soi – a delicious coconut curry noodle dish that is unique to Chiang Mai. After the tour, you may wish to go to the night market, where your guide will assist you should you want some help with bartering, or searching for particular items.

Day 9. Chiang Mai    

Full Day program at Elephant Jungle Sanctuary – A full-day Elephant Jungle Sanctuary package offers visitors the opportunity to get to know each of the remarkable elephants and gain a special understanding of their daily lives and behaviors. Experience life with the elephants in their natural home – A freely roamed environment which is both safe and sustainable. Located beside a Karen village in a densely forested mountainous region, the Sanctuary is surrounded by spectacular jungle scenery.

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In small groups, you will meet and interact with each of our friendly elephants personally. Learn about elephant behavior, and discover the unique and interesting history of each elephant as you touch, play, feed, and photograph them. Once you have met and spent time with each of the elephants, you can retire to a relaxing platform overlooking a picturesque river and jungle. There, you will enjoy a delicious lunch of traditional Thai food and fresh fruit, before being re-united with your elephant friends.

At this point during the day, you will walk alongside the elephants to a nearby river and join them for a bath in the refreshing water. Here, you will have the opportunity to bathe and brush the elephants while they enjoy wading through the water. Next, it will be time for a therapeutic mud spa. Feel free to get muddy as you cover the elephants in a protective layer of mud. Have fun playing with them and watch as they joyfully frolic in the mud spa.

When it’s time to say goodbye to the elephants, you can take some final photos with them to preserve this precious memory, then head upstream and wash off your remaining mud, or relax with a swim in the fresh, clean water. Finally, you will change clothes and take a scenic walk back through the Karen village. You will then part ways with your local guide, and return to Chiang Mai, experiencing the drive through picturesque rural scenery in the pleasant glow of the afternoon sun.

Day 10. Chiang Mai – Phuket    

Phuket is the largest island in Thailand and is a province in itself.  Phuket itself is a beautiful island with many great beaches, rocky capes, mountains and forested hills as well as lush farmlands incorporating crops such as rubber, pineapple and tapioca.  Phuket is also a central point from which travelers may discover alternative but equally exciting destinations. Phuket has a major International airport, hotels of all categories, excellent infrastructure, established international standard restaurants, small local eateries, shopping centers, excellent nightlife, marina, movie cinema and a wide choice of recreation activities.

Day 11. Phuket

Today is yours at leisure to enjoy the facilities of your resort or exploring the amazing beach.

Day 12. Phuket

Phang Nga Hong by starlight – There are 42 islands in the Phang-Nga Bay National Park and this cruise gives the best view of this fascinating land and seascape. Limestone cliffs rise vertically out of the sea creating a surreal image fit for a mythological legend. We use kayaks to visit the tidal caves and washouts called “Hongs” which are part of the incredible limestone karst formations that have made the area a backdrop for countless international movies. Besides exploring the area, we also have the opportunity to swim, relax, or even make a Loy Krathong; a decorative float that the Thai people set sail on streams and rivers during the Loi Krathong festival on the evening of the full moon of the 12th month in the traditional Thai lunar calendar (in November). You can launch your own Krathong under a moonlit, starry night. En-route back to Phuket, we will be entertained by “Star Games” on the starlight deck. A buffet lunch and dinner will be served onboard.

Day 13. Phuket

Today is yours at leisure to enjoy the facilities of your resort or further exploring the amazing beach.