I just returned from a 23-day trip to southeast Asia. And what an adventure! Okay, truth be told, I returned just before Thanksgiving and have been racing to keep up with the holidays. Hope your holidays were great!!
But oh the places I have been!!!
Hanoi – The number of scooters is overwhelming and to see what they can do from a scooter or bicycle is amazing, both in terms of transport and commerce. We walked and walked throughout the city. It was like being on sensory overload, the sights, sounds, smells, tastes . . . . everything!
Halong Bay – This area along the northern coast of Vietnam has long been known for its geologic beauty and has developed into a major tourist attraction (for both good and bad). The floating village in the area is being ‘encouraged’ to resettle on land, so we saw something that will not be there in the future. The peaceful, rugged beauty of the area is mesmerizing!
Ho Chi Minh City (Saigon) – More cars than scooters, much more developed city than Hanoi. Big buildings, very big buildings. A lecture by Tim Dooling, an author on Vietnam provided the historical framework for visiting Vietnam and Saigon in particular. Unfortunately, a lot of the historical buildings are being lost in the development.
Seam Reap – What an amazing place! Cambodia is quickly developing to accommodate all the tourism, but seems to be doing it in a controlled fashion. Our focus was the Angkor Wat complex with the temples dating back 1,000 years representing changes in regimes, religions, and geo-political boundaries. It was great going with a guide that could tell us the stories that the carvings represented.
Chiang Mai –We stayed outside the city of Chiang Mai in a more rural setting that was beautiful and peaceful. Our city visit included a motorized tuk-tuk ride that was both exhilarating and terrifying in equal portions!
Bangkok – A big, energetic and congested city. Fantastic array of architecture from old to new. But a few minutes outside of the city, a rural, calm, beauty surrounds you. But throughout Thailand the people loved their King, King Bhumibol Adulyadej, who passed away about a year ago!! He was well educated and traveled, played the saxophone and composed jazz music (yes, he even has a CD available!). He reigned for 70 years and was revered by all. His son has very big shoes to fill!!
We used Gate1 Travel to provide an organized tour through the three countries. Four different friends recommended them, that all have done similar tours in SE Asia. And Gate1 didn’t disappoint. Having everything run smoothly on a tour is one level of assessment. But when plans have to be adjusted on the fly and it is done flawlessly, that’s a great group to work with! Our tour was supposed to go to Hoi An, but Typhoon Damrey hit the area a few days before we were scheduled to be there. It was one of the worst typhoons in years, deaths and destruction (very sad). Our itinerary was seamlessly adjusted, we spent the extra days back in Hanoi with activities added. Well done Gate1!
The places we stayed were some of the finest properties I have every stayed at. They were well located, had lovely staff and oh the amenities! I would recommend all of them and return without hesitation.
- Hotel Metropole in Hanoi
- Classic Bhayan Junk in Halong Bay
- Melia in Hanoi
- Intercontinental in Saigon
- Sofitel Phookeetra Resort in Seam Reap
- Four Seasons Resort in Chiang Mai
- Shangri-la in Bangkok
During this adventure, we flew seven different airlines, road on buses, a train, a raft, an ox cart, fast boats, a rice barge,and tuk-tuks (both bicycle powered and motorized)! And we walked, when ever we could we walked. It just provides a slower pace to soak it all in!
If you are considering a trip to these locations, I would be happy to share more details. Give me a shout!!