Absolute Asia - Hanoi to Singapore. Trip Notes
Trip code: GTAA
Trip valid from: 05/02/2012
Trip valid until: 30/06/2013
Trip length: 29 days
Trip starts in: Hanoi, Ha N?i, Vietnam
Trip ends in: Singapore, Singapore
Maximum group size: 16
- Phnom Penh's History
- Foreign Correspondents’ Club Of Phnom Penh
- Tuol Sleng Prison Museum
- UNESCO World Heritage-listed Angkor Wat
- Angkor Thom's Stone-carved Human Faces
- Pak Klong Talat Flower Market,Bangkok
- Cu Chi Tunnels - The Underground Network Of The Viet Minh And Viet Cong
- Nha Trang Cruise - The Islands Of The South China Sea
- The Bustling Streets And Cyclos Of Saigon
- The Tailors And Market Traders Of UNESCO World Heritage-listed Hoi An
- Vietnam's Northern Capital Hanoi
- Perfume River Cruise To The Thien Mu Pagoda And Royal Mausoleum Of Emperor Tu Duc
South East Asia is revealed on this multi country journey that takes you through Vietnam, Cambodia, Thailand, Malaysia and Singapore. It’s packed with heaps of adventure and undeniable beauty as we travel overland by train, road and boat. We begin in North Vietnam and discover the charms of graceful Hanoi before taking the train down to a city that’s steeped in history and culture, Vietnam’s former imperial capital, Hue. A short drive through some remarkable rural and coastal scenery brings us to Hoi An. We spend some time in this wonderfully preserved ancient port town, a favourite of every traveller to Vietnam.
Further south at the beach resort-city of Nha Trang we’ll cruise the offshore islands and relax in the sun before once again catching the overnight sleeper train down to the steamy southern city of Saigon. We drive overland into Cambodia and after spending a day exploring its capital Phnom Penh, continue by bus around South East Asia’s largest freshwater lake to Siem Reap. From here we’ll explore what is regarded as one of the world’s greatest archaeological monuments, the magnificent Angkor temple complexes.
Our adventure is by no means over yet as we journey to the former French colonial outpost of Battambang. From Battambang we drive to the Cambodian/Thai border town of Poipet over rough and undeveloped roads, in local mini-vans. The roads improve and we continue on to exciting Bangkok. From here we travel down through Southern Thailand and the Malay Peninsula and onto Singapore. You will experience beach resorts, jungle walks, colonial towns, dynamic cities, tea plantations and much more! And of course there are the diverse, friendly, relaxed peoples of the region and lots of tasty local food. We travel on a wide variety of local transport, including train, bus, boat, songthaew, mini-van and tuk-tuk. We stay in an interesting mix of hotels and guesthouses.
After discovering the sights and sounds of Bangkok we head south to the beaches on the Andaman Sea, swimming and lazing around on the white sandy beaches near Krabi. In Malaysia we visit the island of Penang before heading into the tea plantations of the Cameron Highlands and on to Kuala Lumpur and the historic town of Malacca (Melaka). Our final destination is the modern and dynamic city-state of Singapore.
HanoiYour trip starts today with your arrival in Hanoi. No activities are planned until your evening group meeting, so you may arrive at any time. Please check the noticeboard in the hotel lobby, located on the ground floor, for a notice containing details of your tour. This will advise you of your tour guide's name, telephone number and the time and location of your group meeting. Normally this meeting takes place around 6pm. Until your meeting we encourage you to get out and discover the delights that Vietnam has to offer. Make sure that you take a hotel business card so that you will be able to find your way back to the hotel.
HanoiAlthough there has been a settlement here since the 3rd century AD, the city of Hanoi can trace its origins back to 1010 when Emperor Le Thai To moved his capital from Hoa Lu to this site. From the 1880s to World War II, Hanoi was developed as the French colonial capital of French Indochina and many of the old structures in Hanoi were razed to make way for new French buildings. Today's Hanoi people take a lot of pride in their grand old colonial buildings and these together with the wide spacious boulevards and tree-lined lakes help make Hanoi one of most graceful and charming cities in South East Asia. After breakfast, we'll take a half-day walking tour of the city, showcasing some of Hanoi's most interesting attractions. We'll begin by visiting the One Pillar Pagoda near the dour, Soviet-inspired mausoleum of Ho Chi Minh. (Please note that the mausoleum is closed on Mondays, so you will need to have visited it yesterday morning (Sunday) if you wish to see Uncle Ho lying in state. Also please be warned that opening times are also very limited and it is closed for up to three months a year.) The One Pillar Pagoda was first constructed in 1049 and as such it was Hanoi's oldest structure. If it doesn't look that old to you, it's because the French blew it up in 1954 as a parting gesture and the current edifice is a replica of the original. From here we'll walk to the Temple of Literature, a wonderful name for a wonderful place. Founded in 1070, it was Vietnam's first educational institute and a place where candidates for the position of Mandarin were examined. Finally we'll visit the Hoa Lo Prison, probably better known to most of us as the 'Hanoi Hilton'. Hanoi's tallest building now occupies most of the original site, and no, it doesn't belong to the Hilton Hotel chain, but the eastern wall and a small section of the prison behind have been retained and today serve as a museum. It mostly serves as a reminder of the Vietnamese who were incarcerated here by their French masters. The remainder of the afternoon is free for us to wander around town and check out the lifestyles of Hanoi's people. One of the best places to do this is the city's Old Quarter', situated to the north of the lake. It's a great place (and an easy place) to get lost in for a couple of hours. However, it's easy to find our bearings if we remember that its boundaries are the railway line to the west and the north, the Red River to the east and Hoan Kiem Lake to the south. This evening we board the Reunification Express for our overnight train journey down to Hue. (N.B: This is a local train and conditions on board are generally quite basic. Also, breakfast tomorrow is not always available on the train, so it is recommended that you purchase some breakfast supplies before boarding in Hanoi.) (B)
HueWe reach Hue in the early morning. During the reign of the Nguyen emperors, Hue served as Vietnam's capital from 1801 to 1945. Dripping with history, and often with rain, it has a certain serene and classic character that sets it apart from all other provincial centres. After disembarking from the train, we'll take a short spell to refresh in our hotel rooms before mounting our local 'shopping' bikes, as they're known here, and cycling down to the riverside. Here, we'll place the bikes on board our 'Dragon Boat', and enjoy a leisurely cruise up the timeless Perfume River to visit the Thien Mu pagoda, one of the oldest and most significant pagodas in Hue, the religious capital of Vietnam. You have the choice of cycling back into town from here, approximately 8kms, or staying on the boat to head back down river to the Citadel. We can spend a couple of hours exploring Hue's massive walled citadel and the Forbidden Purple Palace enclosed within. The palace's splendid 'Ngo Mon' gate gives little hint of the wholesale destruction that has taken place inside at the hands of various occupying forces. The bloody 'Battle of Hue' during the 1968 Tet offensive all but finished it off but skilled Vietnamese craftsmen, with the help of UNESCO and other non-government organisations are hard at work restoring and rebuilding what remains. Sadly it can never be returned to its former glory, but it's still a fascinating insight into Imperial Vietnam. The bikes are ours for the remainder of the day, and you may choose to cycle out to one of the Royal tombs such as the tomb of Emperor Tu Duc (1847-1883), one of the best remaining examples of its kind. Constructed between 1864 and 1867, it was more of a pleasure garden than a tomb and the Emperor used it as his second residence. Tickets to enter cost about 60,000VND.
Hoi An - Nha TrangOn Day 4, the morning is at leisure, then we have an enjoyable four-hour drive to Hoi An in the afternoon, through a region of Vietnam that's blessed with magnificent rural and coastal scenery. Shortly after passing through pretty Lang Co Beach, Highway One begins its winding ascent through Hai Van Pass or, 'Pass of the Ocean Clouds'. On the other side we drive through the busy streets of Danang and pass by the massive former US airbase that was, in 1968, the busiest airport in the world with all manner of aircraft coming and going in support of South Vietnam's war effort. The ancient and historic town of Hoi An was for three centuries one of the most important ports in Central Vietnam, visited by sailing ships from all over the world seeking trade in silk, ceramics, spice and the like. In the late 19th Century, the Tu Bon River, linking the port to the open sea, began to silt up and became unnavigable to large vessels. Trade moved up the coast to Tourane, now modern day Danang, and Hoi An went back to being a sleepy little fishing and rice farming community. Today however, Hoi An's fortunes are once again riding on the crest of the wave as Vietnam's No. 1 tourist destination. This is largely due to the fact that the old town's narrow streets are packed with a brilliant blend of Chinese, Portuguese, and Japanese style of architecture that has changed little from what it must have been like during its heyday as a major port of trade. After a walking tour of Hoi An, we get to enjoy free time because there's such a broad choice of things to see and do, and they can all be discovered and experienced without difficulty. We can rent bicycles and set off to explore the surrounding countryside, take a boat trip on the river, relax on the nearby beach, enjoy the wonderful cuisine on offer at some of the town's numerous cheap cafes or have some clothes made up. Hoi An has nearly 100 'silk shops' offering same-day service for tailor-made clothes at unbelievably low prices. If you'd like to venture further a field, it's only a short motorcycle trip up the road to Vietnam's world famous 'China Beach' and the adjacent Marble Mountains. If you'd like to learn more about the Kingdom of Champa, the ancient ruins at My Son can be visited inside half a day. Here you can see more than 70 monuments spread over a large area. 'Spread' being the operative word, after the French meticulously began restoring the site, the Americans came along and blew it to bits. However, if only for its beautiful setting, it's still worth a visit and our tour guide can help you to arrange transport if you would like to see it. Depending on the train schedule, we plan to leave Hoi An on Friday mid-morning and drive back into Danang to then take the day train from here to Nha Trang. (N.B: Vietnam Railways often changes the departure time of this local train, so it may operate as an overnight sleeper instead. Either way, the conditions on board are generally quite basic. Be prepared for this and don't forget your spirit of adventure!! Also, breakfast is not always included on the train so it is recommended that you purchase some breakfast supplies before boarding in Danang). (3B)
Nha Trang - Island CruiseWith fabulous sunny weather for most of the year, crystal-clear blue waters surrounding a string of offshore islands and a beach that spans the whole length of the city, it's little wonder that Nha Trang has become Vietnam's premier beach resort. Although the town itself is a bit 'light-on' for tourist attractions, a steady increase in tourism has brought with it a much-needed boost in facilities and the city's diverse range of quality restaurants is second to none in Vietnam. We'll have plenty of time to worship the sun during our two full days in Nha Trang, and we'll head out onto the water for the day to cruise around the islands. Bring your towel and swimmers because there's a stack of time for swimming and snorkelling. At lunchtime our crew will serve up a sumptuous feast of freshly caught seafood and other delights for non-fish eaters. On Sunday evening, we board the Reunification Express for the final time and make our overnight journey to Saigon. (L)
SaigonWe wake to the sounds of frenzied activity this morning as our train rolls to a halt at Saigon railway station. Officially renamed Ho Chi Minh City after reunification in 1975, most people still prefer to use the old name Saigon, and they don't seem to mind if we do as well. Once referred to as the 'Pearl of the Orient', Saigon, with its unofficial population nearing 8 million, is Vietnam's largest city. As a city that stands in stark contrast to Hanoi, it lacks the charm of its northern cousin but still has a certain laid-back tropical ambience that makes it a distinctly South East Asian city. Our hotel is centrally located and convenient to all of the city's best restaurants, bars, nightclubs and most interesting sights. But to make the most of your time, you might like to consider hiring a 'cyclo' (bicycle rickshaw). You'll find cyclo drivers right outside our hotel and the going rate is 80,000 VND per hour. As with the airport taxi, make sure you negotiate a rate before setting out!
Saigon-Cu Chi TunnelsTake a spare shirt with you this morning because we’re literally going to ‘get down and get dirty’. Our little excursion to the north of Saigon would have been considered risky business indeed 30 odd years ago, but today the peaceful farming communities around the former Viet Cong stronghold of Cu Chi Tunnels belie the horrors that took place here during the Vietnam War. Begun by the Viet Minh and later expanded by the Viet Cong, Cu Chi’s tunnels were constructed to conduct covert operations and then quickly hide from the enemy. There are reputed to be around 200 kilometres of underground tunnels within the area, and in some places they even managed to penetrate the perimeters of nearby US military bases. We’ll actually be given the opportunity of crawling through a section of the tunnels while we’re here, and learn how the brave men and women of Cu Chi built underground hospitals, kitchens and meeting rooms during their struggle for a unified Vietnam. After lunch back in Saigon, we can spend our last afternoon in Vietnam shopping in the city’s main business district, or take a fascinating cyclo ride through the busy city streets to Saigon’s Chinatown district, Cholon. (B)
Phnom PenhWhen we look at a map of Indochina, it hardly seems that far at all from Saigon to Phnom Penh, but it’s still going to take us the best part of the day to drive there. Along the way, we pass the place where the young girl, Kim Phuc, was tragically burned with Napalm during the Vietnam/American war. You may be aware of the novel about her life story, “The Girl in the Picture”. Once we reach the border, we say farewell to our Vietnamese tour guide and cross over to pick up our new Cambodian leader. After crossing the Mekong River we drive on to Phnom Penh, arriving mid to late afternoon. In the 1950s and 1960s, Phnom Penh was one of the finest cities in South East Asia. Despite the wide scale destruction that took place after the Khmer Rouge emptied the city in 1975, Phnom Penh still manages to exude some colonial charm from a bygone era. Particularly down on the palm-fringed riverfront where a number of French-era shops and villas still exist and the spires of the Royal Palace pierce the skyline. Shortly before dinner this evening, your tour guide will hold a brief group meeting to outline the tour program over the next five days. (B)
Phnom PenhThis morning we travel by cyclo for a sightseeing tour of Phnom Penh to include the Royal Palace and the infamous Tuol Sleng Prison. Also known as Security Prison 21 (S21), Tuol Sleng is a former high school that was transformed into a detention and interrogation centre. An estimated 14,000 to 20,000 Cambodians accused of being traitors were tortured to death or sent to their execution from here. We then join our bus to visit another reminder of the Khmer Rouge atrocities. Just as horrifying, the Choeung Ek killing fields are situated 15 kilometres southwest of Phnom Penh and an estimated 17,000 people met their death at the hands of the Khmer Rouge here, most clubbed to death to save ammunition. A stupa-like tower of skulls was erected here in 1988 as a reminder of the atrocities that took place. After this sobering morning we visit the Central Market. Located in an old French colonial building, it’s a good place to look for clothing or sarongs before having the rest of the day exploring Phnom Penh city by ourselves. There’s plenty to see including the Silver Pagoda, the temple of Wat Phnom, the National Museum and the French Quarter. (B)
Phnom Penh - Siem ReapWe leave Phnom Penh this morning by private bus and make our way to Siem Reap. We follow the Tnl Sap River passing through fishing villages before crossing over the river and travelling through farming communities. The Tnl Sap River flows into the shallow Tnl Sap Lake, the largest of South East Asia's lakes. Numerous streams feed the lake and it then drains by the Tnl Sap River west to the Mekong River. During the wet monsoon season of June to November, the high waters of the Mekong River reverse the flow of the Tnl Sap River and increase the size of the lake from about 2,600 to 10,400 square kilometres. As it begins to recede again, the lake's huge stocks of fish are easily trapped in nets and bamboo traps or simply caught in the branches of trees. Late this afternoon we catch our first glimpse of what we’ve come here for when we drive out to the magnificent Angkor temple complex to watch the sunset from one of the amazing structures; Phnom Bakheng, Pre Rup temple, Sras Srong, Phnom Krom or Phnom Bok. (B)
Siem Reap (Angkor)The magnificent Angkor complex of temples is without doubt one of the most astounding archaeological sites in the world. Scattered over an area of 200 square kilometres, only Egypt's Nile Valley can compare to this vast array of ancient monuments. The ancient city of Angkor served as the royal centre from which a dynasty of Khmer kings ruled one of the largest, most prosperous and sophisticated kingdoms in the history of South East Asia. With a history covering over 600 years from 802AD to 1432AD, at the height of their power the kings of Angkor ruled over a territory that extended from the tip of the Indochinese peninsula, northward to Yunnan and from Vietnam, westward to the Bay of Bengal. Our local tour guide will take us on an informative day-long tour of the Angkor complex, visiting the South Gate of Angkor Thom, Bayon, Elephant Terrace, Baphoun, the Royal Enclosure, Phimeanakas, Terrace of the Leper King, Ta Prohm and, of course, fabulous Angkor Wat. Bring plenty of film you'll need it! At the end of the day, we return to our hotel in Siem Reap. (B)
Siem ReapToday has been set aside to allow us to do some exploring on our own. We have the option this morning of visiting the rose-coloured Banteay Srei Temple or returning to Angkor to wander through the ruins at leisure. Banteay Srei is located about 30 kilometres north of Siem Reap over a very rough and dusty road and is considered to be the best preserved of all of Cambodia's temples. But if you are feeling a bit 'templed-out' you might like to consider hiring a local site guide and going out into the countryside to discover facets of rural life that have changed little since the kings of Angkor ruled over the land. A local site guide won't cost you much and he or she will take you around the villages and explain local industries and the peoples' way of life. Ask your tour guide to help to arrange any of the above optional tours. Siem Reap has its own interests and an enjoyable afternoon can be spent wandering around the town, visiting its market, shops and restaurants. You may wish to have a therapeutic massage by the local blind association a great way to relax after a day or two of exploring! (B)
Siem Reap to BangkokJust when you thought it was time to relax, we sling our packs (and ourselves) into local mini-vans for an adventurous, and bumpy, four-hour road journey to the Cambodian/Thai border town of Poipet. After we've made the crossing and shaken off the dust, we continue on to the Thai border town of Aranya Prathet and stop for lunch. The final leg of our overland journey is made in the relative comfort of our private bus to Bangkok. The drive from Aranya Prathet to Bangkok should take us no more than 4-5 hours. (B)
BangkokBangkok is home to some of Asia's most elaborately adorned temples and the modern city's sights and attractions are so numerous you won't know where to begin. So we'll give you a helping hand and introduce you to some of Bangkok's most famous sights on a short walking tour, including a visit to the impressive Grand Palace, Emerald Buddha and Wat Po. The remainder of your time is free for us to further explore this vibrant city and the new, elevated Skytrain service now makes it easier than ever to get around the city centre by avoiding the nasty traffic snarls in the streets below. Needless to say, Bangkok is a great place to shop for bargains and the city has a mind-boggling array of exotic restaurants and bars for you to relax. In the evening we catch the overnight train to Surat Thani, in the south of Thailand (approximately 12 hours). (B)
Khao Sok National ParkWe arrive into Surat Thani early in the morning and then transfer by local fan bus to the Khao Sok National Park (approximately 3 hours). This is one of Thailand's best-kept secrets, containing some of the country's finest rainforests and home to a rich variety of wildlife. From our jungle guesthouse, we head down to the river for a canoeing trip. There is every chance of seeing monkeys playing by the water's edge during your excursion. Please note that we generally need to be lucky to spot other wildlife, due to the thick jungles and the nocturnal nature of many of the species. We also have the option of going for a walk along the many interesting trails and beside the many waterways that exist within the park.
Koh PanyiWe leave Khao Sok behind and travel by local bus to Phang Nga (approximately 3 hours), where we board a longtail boat for a leisurely excursion, exploring the narrow tidal waterways and the limestone caves of the region. We make a short stop at Koh Phing Kan (James Bond Island) before continuing to Koh Panyi - a Muslim fishing village and our home for the night. The entire village is built on stilts complete with its own mosque, shops and school. Its history dates back over 200 years, when the original inhabitants migrated up from Malaysia. In the evening our host will prepare us a traditional Muslim dinner. Please note that the accommodation on Koh Panyi is local style and very basic. As it is a Muslim community we ask that you refrain from taking alcohol onto the island, in order to respect their culture and customs. This is a fishing village frequented by tourists during the daytime; however very few people stay overnight, so you get the special opportunity to experience a unique perspective on a very different way of life.
Ao NangReturning by boat to Phang Nga we catch a local bus south to Krabi (approximately 3 hours). From Krabi we travel to Ao Nang where we spend two days appreciating the peace and tranquillity. This is a great place to kick back, relax and swim in the warm waters of a hidden tropical paradise. Our accommodation is in comfortable, but basic, fan cooled bungalows. There are plenty of optional activities to fill your time, you can choose from cave exploring, sea kayaking, diving and rock climbing or even day trips out to the surrounding islands. (2B)
Ao Nang to PenangReluctantly, we leave the sands of Ao Nang. There may be time for a quick look around before jumping on board the bus for the nine-hour drive to Penang. The first part of the journey takes us to Hat Yai where we change buses for the onward journey to Penang. During the afternoon we will cross the border into Malaysia, so keep your passports handy. The whole process is very quick and before you know it, we'll be driving down the multi-lane highway on your way to Penang. We arrive in Georgetown, the largest town on the island, in the evening.
PenangIn the morning we enjoy a walking/sightseeing tour of Georgetown, following the Heritage Trail. The city's population is probably the most diverse in all of Malaysia, with influences from Thailand, Burma, Sumatra, Java, India, South China and Europe. Penang was the oldest British settlement in Malaya (1786) and as our tour winds its way around the busy narrow streets, you witness all the different elements that contributed to its rich cultural heritage. We visit Fort Cornwallis, built on the site where Captain Francis Light first set foot on the island, and the fascinating Penang Museum, a small eclectic collection showcasing the various cultures. On the ground floor are displays about the customs and traditions of the island, whilst the first floor recounts the local history. There's free time here for you to discover the colourful markets, old temples and historic Chinese clan houses of Georgetown or to catch the bus to Batu Ferringhi Beach (bus depot situated at the base of the Komtar Building). At some stage during your stay, be sure to hunt down a street stall in Little India, where you can buy cheap snacks such as samosas or pakoras - they are a real taste sensation! Penang's population is dominated by Hokkien Chinese and their cuisine is everywhere to be seen. An optional evening rickshaw ride to Gurney Drive enables you to dine at one of the many hawker food stalls there local specialities include char kway teow, Penang prawn mee (noodles) and laksa.
Cameron HighlandsIn the morning we leave for the mainland and continue on the hot coastal plains until the turn-off for the Cameron Highlands (approximately 4-5 hours). It was here that the famous silk trader, Jim Thompson, vanished back on March 26, 1967, when he went out for a pre-dinner stroll and never came back. No trace of him was ever found! The bus ride will take up much of the afternoon, but will take you through a wide variety of scenery from the flat lowlands up through mountainous terrain, before arriving at the scenic hill town of Tanah Rata. Here you can choose from the many optional activities (at your own expense) such as a trek along one of the many surrounding mountain trails, a visit to the lush green tea plantations that have made this region famous (this can be pre-arranged with the local taxi drivers) or maybe you would prefer a relaxing day enjoying afternoon tea and scones at a quaint English-style place of lodging called 'Ye Olde Smokehouse'. Please note that all walking trails are numbered and well marked, so it is relatively simple to organise your walk.
Kuala LumpurWe leave Tana Rata and travel by bus for the five-hour journey to the Malaysian capital, Kuala Lumpur. Meaning 'Muddy Confluence', it was settled in the 1860s by tin prospectors who named it after its location at the meeting point of the Kelang and Gombak rivers. An orientation tour will take us past some of its most famous sights including Merdeka Square, Lake Gardens, National Monument and the impressive old railway station, designed in a Moorish style. KL, as it is commonly known, is home to the world's tallest twin-towered buildings, the Petronas Towers (491 metres), as well as many impressive colonial structures. Here you have time to discover and experience for yourself the diversity of old and new Malaysia. With its strong Indian and Chinese influences, the city contains some of the finest markets and restaurants in South East Asia. Our hotel is located right in the heart of Chinatown all you need do is walk out the front door and you are spoilt for choice with a multitude of hawker stalls and cafes to pick from. For the best views of the city we suggest you take a ride up the elevators of the 421 metre tall Menara Kuala Lumpur (KL Tower).
Malacca (Melaka)We continue heading south to 15th-Century port town of Malacca (Melaka). It all began in 1403 when an exiled Hindu prince from Sumatra sought refuge in the little fishing village. The Malay name 'Melaka' comes from the name of the tree the prince sat under when he first arrived here. Under his rule the little village quickly became a strong maritime trading port visited by merchants from China, India, Arabia and Europe. Due to the spice trade, it wasn't long before its prosperity attracted the attention of European maritime powers. The Portuguese were first to arrive in 1511, colonising and ruling it for 130 years. Then in 1641 it was taken over by the Dutch, who ruled before the British came in 1824. It remained part of the British Empire until Malaysia gained independence in 1957. Our accommodation is located in the heart of the old town, and is an old Baba home. As we step out the front door of our guesthouse, we take a walking tour through these ancient streets and experience the eclectic cultural mix. We visit a variety of temples such as Cheng Hoon Teng Temple, Kampung Kling Mosque and Sri Poyatha Venayagar Moorthi Temple. We also visit the fascinating Baba Nonya Museum, which showcases the history of the Straits Chinese immigrants, who were the result of the original Chinese overture dating back to 1405. In your free time, you can hire one of the colourful rickshaws and explore the intriguing Chinese side streets that are dotted with old churches, antique shops, temples and other remnants of the past.
SingaporeThis morning we head off on the four-hour bus ride that brings us to the Straits of Johore and then on to the island state of Singapore. The border crossing from Malaysia into Singapore is one the largest you will ever come across, yet it is usually very efficient. After arriving at our hotel we are soon out exploring this modern city. Making our way past modern skyscrapers and bustling street stalls, we visit Chinatown, Boat Quay, as well as the Merlion statue - the half-fish, half-lion icon that became the symbol of Singapore in the 1960s. The remainder of the day is yours to sample the contrasts in this exciting Asian city.
SingaporeYour adventure ends this morning and it's time to head home. However you may wish to extend your stay in Singapore, to explore its other attractions. Singapore has one of the best zoos in the world, whilst Sentosa Island has its share of tourist attractions, as well as a small beach.
Itinerary VariationWhile the information presented here details our planned itinerary, including routes taken, activities included, accommodation and meeting times, please accept that unforseen changes may occur. We are constantly on the lookout to improve our program and further enhance your experience. Naturally, we will keep you up to date with any last minute amendments to your tour.
About The Imaginative Traveller
Our aim has always been to provide exceptional travel experiences. We believe that adventure travel should be stimulating, and that it should give you an authentic experience of a place. We want our travellers to relish the amazing diversity of countries and cultures the world has to offer. Our focus is on innovation, not imitation.
Obsessed with quality
One of our strengths has been our obsession with quality. We've always believed that our commitment to you doesn't end as soon as you've paid for your holiday. On the contrary, it is just beginning. Whilst most operators simply get a local company to handle the day to day operation of their tours, we do it all ourselves. We have managers for each of our key destinations around the world and all our small groups are escorted by our own leaders. Our local teams include guides, drivers, administration staff and contacts in the local community who help us ensure that our adventures are active and involving.
For comparability, all prices in this dossier are quoted in one currency. We use the US Dollar since that is familiar to most. However, once on tour you will need to pay for all goods and services in the local currency. See your Country Dossier for details of exchange rates.
Maybe you’re after a ramble through Morocco’s Dades Gorge, or a stroll in Malaysia’s Cameron Highlands. Or perhaps something more energetic, a hike in South Africa’s spectacular Drakensberg Mountains or along a stretch of China’s Great Wall. Whatever you want, the same principles apply: keep it simple, and slow it down. Stretching the legs is a great way to discover somewhere, whether a city’s downtown or remote countryside. You quickly get into the feel for how life’s lived, the local rhythm of where you’re travelling. And there’s no better way of meeting locals – take a walk through African plains or South American valleys and you’ll soon be trying to hurdle language barriers with friendly villagers and farmers.
Whether you’re taking in man’s greatest works at places like Petra or Angkor Wat, experiencing grand set-pieces like the Trans-Mongolian Railway or trying your hand at regional specialities like tango in Buenos Aires, getting to grips with local cultures is what travel’s all about. A few tips from a guide and a sense of adventure are pretty much all you need. So what are you waiting for? It’s time to get the lowdown on high Tibet among Lhasa’s magisterial temples; follow up Delhi’s eye-popping bustle with a fix of its fiery food; and mix manic markets and Incan masterpieces in Peru.
• Gecko’s expert English-speaking local tour guide in each country, and local site guides at some sites.
• Sightseeing (including entrance fees where relevant): Hanoi - One Pillar Pagoda, Temple of Literature and Hoa Lo Prison (Hanoi Hilton); Hai Van Pass; Hoi An’s ‘Old Town’; Cu Chi Tunnels; Phnom Penh - Choeung Ek killing fields and the Russian Market; Tônlé Sap Lake - the largest of South East Asia’s lakes; Thai border town of Aranya Prathet; Bangkok - the Grand Palace, Emerald Buddha and Wat Po; Heritage Trail walking tour of Georgetown in Penang; Kuala Lumpur including Merdeka Square, Lake Gardens, National Monument and the old railway station; 15th-Century port town of Malacca (Melaka) - Cheng Hoon Teng Temple, Kampung Kling Mosque, Sri Poyatha Venayagar Moorthi Temple and Baba Nonya Museum; and Singapore - Chinatown, Boat Quay and Merlion statue.
• Local ‘shopping’ bike ride around Hue and Dragon Boat cruise up the Perfume River to visit Thien Mu pagoda (with option to cycle back through the countryside).
• Day cruise on the South China Sea in Nha Trang, with a freshly-caught seafood lunch included (non-seafood options available).
• Cyclo sightseeing tour of Phnom Penh including the Royal Palace and Tuol Sleng Prison.
• Visit to the Angkor complex: Angkor Wat, South Gate of Angkor Thom, Bayon, Elephant Terrace, Baphoun, the Royal Enclosure, Phimeanakas, Terrace of the Leper King and Ta Prohm.
• Stay in a jungle guesthouse in Khao Sok National Park, including a canoeing trip.
• Longtail boat ride in Phang Nga Bay with a stop at Koh Phing Kan (James Bond Island) and an overnight homestay in Koh Panyi - a Muslim fishing village built on stilts.
• Two days relaxing in secluded Ao Nang, with accommodation in comfortable, fan-cooled bungalows.
• Free time to explore Hanoi, Hue, Hoi An, Nha Trang, Saigon, Phnom Penh, Siem Reap, Bangkok, Penang, Cameron Highlands, Kuala Lumpur, Malacca and Singapore.
• 'Reunification Express' train journeys - Hanoi to Hue (overnight), Danang to Nha Trang (day), and Nha Trang to Saigon (overnight).
• Overnight sleeper train from Bangkok to Surat Thani.
International flights, arrival and departure transfers, departure and airport taxes, visas, all other meals, all optional tours or activities during free time, transfers outside of the tour program, travel insurance, tips and items of a personal nature.
14 breakfasts, 1 lunch
3 nights Sleeper train,19 nights Hotel,6 nights Guesthouse
Single room supplementMost of our travellers like the thought of travelling with a few like-minded souls. There are NO compulsory single supplements on most tours as we simply arrange twin shared accommodation for you and another tour member of the same sex. But don't worry if that doesn't appeal. We do understand there are times when you just want a bit of privacy and 'me' time so we are more than happy to arrange a private room upon request when you book.
Bicycle,Boat,Canoe,Local bus,Long-tail boat,Mini-van,Private bus,Sleeper train
*prices below are guide onlyBangkok - Jim Thompson's House
- Jim Thompson’s House - US$3
- National Museum - US$2
- Royal Barges Museum - US$1.50
Gunung Brinchang Tour- US$15
½ day Cameron Highlands Tour- US$6
½ day Guided Jungle Trekking- US$10
Taxi to Batu Ferringhi Beach- US$8
- Ho Chi Minh’s Mausoleum - Free
- - US$1.30
- Taxi to Ho Chi Minh’s Mausoleum - US$5
- Taxi to Ho Chi Minh’s Museum - US$5
- Bicycle Hire – Per day - US$2
- Car to My Son Cham ruins - US$25
- My Son Cham ruins - US$5
- Tu Bon River boat trip - US$10
- Bicycle Hire – Per day - US$2
- DMZ tour (time permitting) - US$15
Islamic Arts Museum- US$2.00
Petronas Towers - Skybridge- Free
Stadthuys Museum- US$2.00
- Bao Dai’s Villa - US$1
- Mud Baths - From US$5
- Return Taxi to Bao Dai’s Villa - US$8
- Return taxi to Mud Baths - US$12
- National Museum - US$3
- Royal Palace - US$7
- Wat Phnom - US$1
- Reunification Palace - US$1
- Taxi to Reunification Palace - US$4
- Taxi to War Remnants Museum - US$4
- War Remnants Museum - US$1
- Angkor Pass - Additional Day - US$20
Sentosa Island- US$2.00
Changi Prison Museum- Free
National Museum- US$2
Singapore Zoo- US$10
Responsible Travel - Travellers' Guidelines
At Imaginative Traveller we love helping our clients experience the beauty and cultures of the destinations we visit. However, hand in hand with this we have always been aware that we have a responsibility to minimise any negative impacts that tourism can bring.
Responsible Travel is twofold. It’s about taking people to the places they want to go in a safe and responsible manner but also about respecting and maintaining the natural and often delicate balance of the destination. Economic gain from tourism is often fundamental to a country, but should never be at the expense of its culture or the environment.
- It is our aim to provide journeys that have minimal negative and maximum positive impact on the places we visit.
- We do not believe that, as visitors, we should impose our own cultures on others; rather that we should experience foreign cultures and appreciate them for what they are.
- Whilst it is our aim to show destinations and cultures in a positive light, we do not believe in papering over the cracks or shielding visitors from the realities of life. This does not mean, however, that we condone or endorse certain situations or regimes that may be in place.
Our guidelines are meant not as rigid instructions but rather as suggestions to make our holidays more enjoyable – for everybody. As cultural and environmental sensitivities vary from country to country more specific guidelines can be found in our individual country and trip dossiers.
Before you depart try to spend some time familiarising yourself with the destination you will be travelling to – their culture and customs. The country dossiers on our website offer detailed information about all the regions we visit. They also include some useful phrases in the local language for you to use on your trip! A few words of the local language can open up many more opportunities for you to interact with the people you will meet.
Although it is tempting to give out pens, sweets and money to people begging, and particularly tempting to give to children, we feel that this encourages a begging mentality and has a long-term negative impact on communities. If someone begging earns more than someone in the same community who works this can discourage local employment. If children regularly bring home money it may discourage their parents from sending them to school. It is of course your own personal choice but you could consider giving to registered charities or contributing to our Responsible Travel fund instead. Money donated through our fund to our worldwide projects is matched pound for pound by Imaginative Traveller and used to help local grassroots projects.
Always ask permission to photograph local people and respect their decision if they would prefer not to have their picture taken.
Respect local dress codes, especially at religious sites. Our tour leaders are always on hand to give you advice about this.
In many of the countries we visit you might see examples of animal cruelty (for example dancing bears, performing monkeys and snake charmers). Please do not take photographs of this or offer money as it encourages the activity.
Respect the environment you are in. It sounds obvious but do not throw litter, take it with you or use rubbish bins! You may see locals throwing rubbish on the street but do not follow their example!
When shopping in countries where haggling is the norm – enjoy it and only pay what you feel is a fair price for the goods you are purchasing. However, remember that the shopkeeper does have to make a living so do stop once you have reached a price you are happy with. Bargaining should be fun but always remember that a small amount can mean much more to the vendor than to you.
Endeavor to take home souvenirs made locally; the money you spend can be very important to the local communities. However, do use your common sense and don’t buy anything that you think might be made out of endangered animals or plants.
To help keep as much money as possible in the host country - try to eat in locally owned restaurants and order local drinks and produce rather than international brands.
In hotels do be conscious of how much water you are using. Many of the areas we visit regularly have shortages; try not to have hour long showers! Don’t leave lights, air conditioners or fans on when you leave the room – you wouldn’t at home!
Respect the environment you are in, especially when in national parks or reserves. Pay attention to rules about keeping on paths, keeping a distance from animals and not removing any of the natural habitat.
Relax and immerse yourself in the differences of the culture you are in – you’ll be back home in the familiar soon enough (and wishing you were still on holiday!). These cultural differences are part of what makes your experience special.
If you would like to offset the carbon dioxide that will be produced on your flights you can do this on our website (on our Responsible travel page). We work with climatecare, who will reduce the equivalent amount of carbon dioxide that you produce in another part of the World through their emission reduction projects. These projects are low carbon efficient technologies in developing countries and not only serve to reduce emissions but also help to spread the adoption of low carbon technologies and improve the quality of life for local communities. Details of climatecare’s projects can be found on their website.
If you would like to contribute to our Worldwide projects, helping communities all over the World, you can also do this on our website or with a sales consultant. Please refer to our responsible travel page on the website for details of our current projects. Any donation you make will be matched £ for £ by Imaginative Traveller (up to a maximum of £1000).
Have a great trip!
Please do let us know if you have any comments about responsible travel at firstname.lastname@example.orgThe Imaginative Traveller & Gecko's Adventures This trip is operated by our partner company, Gecko's Adventures. Gecko's is an Australia based company with more than 10 years experience in adventure travel and they share our ethos for offering unique holiday adventures. As this is a code shared departure you can expect there to be both Imaginative Traveller and Gecko's travellers on your trip.
Last updated: 06/03/2012