Welcome to Bangkok fellow globe roamers, where a glorious adventure of Asia exploration lies ahead of us. After checking into our swanky hotel you may wish to do some DIY exploring, grab a massage or just lie by the pool soaking up those sweet Thai rays. Later the group will join forces to hear what's in store for the trip, then the night is yours. Maybe take to the streets for some authentic pad thai and eye-popping nightlife, or jump in a tuk-tuk and hit the buzzy Patpong Night Market, with its neon lights and vibrant street life.
Bangkok to Kanchanaburi
The Royal Palace and its 61 acres of incredible buildings will be number one on today's to do list. We'll start the day early, with so much to see there's no time to waste. We'll start with a tour of the klongs (canals) and some fish feeding, as well as watching locals go about their day and living life along the river. Just listing today's sites gives us the butterflies, and we'll take it all in with our Local Guide leading the charge. Armed with more Local knowledge than we know what to do with, get ready for ME Time. From shopping, grabbing a massage to indulding in delicious local eats, this afternoon is gearing up to be brilliant.Bangkok, you've been a dream, but the show must go on! Fast becoming a must-visit in this part of the world, we make tracks to our next destination, the sleepy town of Kanchanaburi to really get local. There's nothing like getting some local transport to keep things interesting, so we'll pop into a boat along the River Kwai where we'll reach our home for the night, the The Jungle Raft Hotel, Kanchanaburi. Rooms lit by candle light are what you'll be greeted with, followed by a delicious included dinner of local specialities at dusk. You can even jump in the river directly from your room. Amazing! Because of course here at Contiki we like to keep things a bit special. Tonight as we watch the sunset over the landscape we'll no doubt be toasting our first full day on the trip and contemplating just how good life is.
We'll wake up in jungle paradise, eat breakfast and take some time to enjoy our surroundings. Next up on today's activities is Sai Yok Elephant Sanctuary, where we'll spend half a day learning about how the sanctuary rescue and care for these beautiful creatures. Have a go at bathing the elephants, they love a bit of mud - so hope you're ready to get a little messy. Finish up with some lunch and a shower before visiting the famed Bridge on the River Kwai, without our guide giving us all the info we need on this riverside spot steeped in history. Afterwards, you've got some free time to explore Kanchanaburi town or just do some relaxing. It's up to you!
Kanchanaburi to Chiang Mai via Ayutthaya - Overnight Train
We’ll make a stop in the UNESCO listed city of Ayutthaya, once the capital of Kingdom of Siam before being destroyed by the Burmese in the 18th Century. We'll grab bikes & ride past ornate temples, towering spires and beautiful palaces. Ride past ornate temples, towering spires, and beautiful palaces. Later, we board our overnight train to Chiang Mai.
The laid-back city of Chiang Mai is ours as we wake this morning. Buddhist rituals, traditional architecture & surrounding countryside will see us smitten. The city is yours to make the most of YOU style - maybe that means roaming the old quarter or the city's heart on foot.
Another free day in this amazing city is a great opportunity to explore. Maybe hit the street food scene or treat yourself to a traditional Thai massage. Tonight we'll be dabbling in the art of Thai cooking - this is one class that's deliciously irresistible.
Chiang Mai to Pakbeng
Taking a border hop we’ll cross out of Thailand and into Laos. After collecting our passport stamps we’ll journey to Pakbeng, taking part of the trip by river cruise on a local boat. Remote, traditional, and endlessly charming, Pakbeng is a true traveller’s dream.
Pakbeng to Luang Prabang
Leaving Pakbeng, we make our way to Luang Prabang - get ready for gorgeous waterfalls, biking explorations and a chance to experience the local community and sacred Buddhist rituals.Ending our Mekong Delta magic we arrive in the much-loved city of Luang Prabang. Temples dusted in gold, historic French mansions, & locals wrapped in saffron robes make this one of the prettiest places in Asia. Our explorations will involve a sunset from a hill-top stupa & a bout of shopping at the local night markets.
A city cycle and a swim under the 60-metre cascades of Kuang Si Falls will provide our daily nature fix, but most of the day is yours to visit palaces & temples & watch local life by the river, or choose to explore any way that suits. Tonight, watch the sunset at a riverside bar, and contemplate just how good life is and how relaxed you already feel just one week in.
Luang Prabang to Vang Vieng
This morning early risers will be rewarded with Buddhist rituals kissed by the sun's morning rays. Take part in a sacred Laotian ritual offering alms (food) to Buddhist monks.This morning we take an overland journey to a lively tourist hub filled with opportunities for adventure. It makes leaving the charming town of Luang Prabang a little easier.Known for its dramatic limestone karsts & world food flair, Vang Vieng will keep you busy. Explore the local rivers and caves or chill out surrounded by like-minded travellers, watching the sun set over the mountains.
Today is yours to conquer Vang Vieng. Stuck for ideas? Grab a pushbike and allow yourself to get a little lost, stopping at swimming holes and weaving through limestone caves, watching life unfold in the pretty countryside of Laos.
Vang Vieng to Vientiane
Today you should wake up feeling satisfied with your Vang Vieng explorations, and ready to peel back the layers of another Laos hotspot.Welcome to the capital of Vientiane. If you’re expecting a bustling Asian capital, prepare to be surprised; the vibe in this quaint Mekong town is strictly chilled. Apart from seeing the beauty of Pha That Luang stupa & the artistic talent of Patuxai, we’ll use our time here to visit the COPE centre, a local charity that provide prosthetic limbs and rehabilitation services to those who have lost their limbs as a result of unexploded bombs. Our visit here will also provide an insight into Laos’ troubled history, and is a great chance for us to lend a helping hand to the Laotian community.
Vientiane to Phnom Penh
This morning we cross the border sky high, flying out of Laos as we make for the capital of Cambodia.Although it's easy to find reminders of Cambodia's dark past in the city of Phnom Penh, it is also a place brightened by shy smiles and pretty tree-lined streets. We'll learn about the horrific Khmer Rouge rule by visiting the mass graves of the ‘Killing Fields’ & the Tuol Sleng Genocide Museum with our Local Guide. With knowledge in hand, we'll lighten the mood by paying a visit to the Tree Alliance Restaurant, where disadvantaged and former street children are trained up in hospitality skills. And wow, do they do it well; their frozen shakes and mouth-watering menu never fail to impress. Later tonight, the night is yours to explore as you please.
Phnom Penh to Siem Reap
Another included flight takes us out of Cambodia's capital this morning, landing us in the heartland of an ancient masterpiece and what is still the largest religious monument in the world.You could relax poolside this afternoon, before seeing what's going on by night! There are plenty of things you could spice up your night with, like local night markets though probably best to reserve your energy for our early morning visit to an Eighth Wonder of the World and something we know you've all been waiting for.
Prepare to be moved to the core this morning as we journey to Angkor Wat through dawn's hours in preparation for sunrise. Nothing can quite describe the feeling of watching the day's first rays touch this ancient spiritual site, it's pretty much magic. After a siesta and pool hangs to break up the day back at our hotel, we journey back to the temples to explore Angkor Thom and the Tomb Raider temple of Ta Prohm, which is slowly being swallowed by the jungle. With no early rise on tomorrow's agenda, we can let loose on the city's famous Pub Street and the buzzing local night markets.
Siem Reap to Ho Chi Minh City
Saying good-bye to some of your group at breakfast will be sad, but the thought of getting to Vietnam will no doubt cheer you up!With a coriander filled Bánh mì in one hand and a Vietnamese coffee in the other, hit the road and get ready to explore the busy streets of Ho Chi Minh. Tonight we take on the Ben Thanh markets where you can eat and shop to your wanderlusting hearts content.
Ho Chi Minh City to Mekong Delta
Today we leave Ho Chi Minh exchanging fast paced city life for an energy that's a little more quaint. Such is the contrasting beauty of Vietnam.Though this isn't the first time we are seeing the Mekong Delta, our journey in a traditional boat will prove just how dramatically this river's fringes can vary. We'll see floating markets, visit a rice paper factory, and sip brewed herbs at a traditional tea house. A home-cooked meal and local musicians will round off our day as we settle in for a night at a local guesthouse.
Mekong Delta to Ho Chi Minh City
After an early breakfast we'll make our way back to Ho Chi Minh, detouring past the staggering 250-kilometres of tunnels that make up the Viet Cong’s Cu Chi.Back in the addictive mayhem of Vietnam's biggest city you will have free time to carry on your explorations. Continuing to eat your way through Vietnam's culinary highlights would be one wise way to use your time (we think).
Ho Chi Minh City to Nha Trang
With some traditional R'n'R on our afternoon agenda, the morning can be used to put on our discovering boots. We'll dabble in history and religion before taking flight to a coastal town overlooking the South China Sea.Golden sand beaches, turquoise oceans, water sports galore - this is Nha Trang. This afternoon why not book in for a mineral mud bath and hot thermal spring experience before heading out to dinner with your crew. Ah, the good life.
Good news - we're kicking it in Nha Trang for another night. Have a massage, sign up for the optional cruise, or just hang on the beach saving your energy for seaside bar fun as the sun sets.
Nha Trang to Hoi An
After a zippy flight north & a short coastal drive we find ourselves in a canal town overflowing with beauty and ancient history.With Japanese, Chinese, Vietnamese and European influences, Hoi An has no shortage of charm and architectural interest. Bike riding through rice fields, roaming the old quarter & ordering custom made clothes at an artful tailor are just some of the activities that will colour our day. Tonight you can opt onto a Vietnamese cooking class, whipping up a storm of up to 4 traditional dishes.
Visit the ruined Hindu temples of the Champa Empire on Marble Mountain, poke around in galleries & antique shops, and marvel at traditional methods of pottery, silk weaving and wood-carving on display at the local markets. That's how your free day in Hoi An could roll.
Hoi An to Hue
Though we'll have grown content with Hoi An life, this morning the show must go on. After all, the former imperial town of Hue has invited us over, and we'd be foolish to turn it down.Intricately decorated pavilions, lotus flower ponds, and colourful artworks mark our first sightseeing venture in Hue. Totally in awe of Tu Duc Mausoleum, we move on to the 7-story Thien Mu Pagoda & learn of the horrific history of the Hue Buddhist massacre as well as taking in a cyclo ride to see the city from a whole new angle.
Hue to Hanoi
Today we fly out of Hue in the direction of Vietnam's time capsule capital. A trio of influences and filled with romance, 2-nights here will see us utterly smitten.With an epic fusion of French, Chinese & Vietnamese influence, you'll be nothing short of ecstatic as we check-in to our Hanoi hotel, right in the middle of the bustling Old Quarter. Our time will be spent weaving through a maze of 36 trading streets filled with colourful goods for sale, and unwinding in the walled gardens of the Temple of Literature. Later, we'll roam French-style boulevards and maybe dine on a nom ngo sen lotus-stem salad, dau chien ron fried tofu & a few bia hoi beers.
Hanoi to Halong Bay
After a Hanoi history 101 lesson we move on to Halong Bay where a night on a UNESCO World Heritage-listed site awaits.A drive through stunning scenery will evoke plenty of 'oh wow's, but it only gets better as we board our home for the night, a Chinese-style junk boat in Halong Bay. Feel the serenity kicking in immediately as we drift the limestone island seas of the Gulf of Tonkin. We will pass hidden lagoons, thick forests & dreamy grottos, & stop to explore the Sung Sot Caves. A fresh seafood dinner and sunset at our docking spot will polish off a wonderful daypacked with No Regrets moments and simply unforgettable experiences.
Halong Bay to Hanoi
Today will be all about the leisurely vibes as we wake up to breakfast and a grotto swim. Make the most of your time on the junk boat & kayak your way around Halong Bay - the views don't get much better than this.After heading back to Hanoi we find ourselves enjoying our final night together on tour. Save the choir of tears for tomorrow - this evening is all about making the most of your free time and staying positive. The quirky world-famous water puppet performance in Red River Delta makes for the perfect send off, should you fancy opting for something a bit different.
Enjoy one final squad breakfast this morning before the tour wraps up. Hug it out and make plans to reunite somewhere fabulous sometime soon - Latin America, perhaps?