Glamour Returns to the Mekong as Aqua Mekong Begins Vietnam-Cambodia Cruises‏

October 24, 2014 on 8:56 am | In Adventure Travel, Asia, Cambodia, Cruise Boats, Laos, Vietnam | Comments Off



Goddess Swimwear from Today ShowAqua Expeditions’ Aqua Mekong has begun its schedule of three-, four- and seven-day cruises on Indochina’s Mekong River, connecting Saigon with Phnom Penh and Siem Reap (Angkor Wat).

The Aqua Mekong brings to the Mekong River a level of elegance and glamour not seen on the river since Catherine Deneuve starred in the 1992 movie, Indochine.

Brainchild of Italian-American entrepreneur, Francesco Galli Zugaro, the Aqua Mekong is the Asian launch vessel of the fleet that first debuted on the Peruvian Amazon in 2008. “The introduction of the Aqua Amazon (and later the Aria Amazon) was a game changer on the Amazon six years ago,” says Galli Zugaro, “bringing an unprecedented level of luxury, cuisine, service and experiential touring to the world’s longest river; and the Aqua Mekong will do the same thing for the Mekong.”

The Aqua Mekong accommodates 40 passengers in 20 design suites each with panoramic floor-to-ceiling views. Cuisine is by Michelin-star Bangkok chef, David Thompson, and the observation deck is home to sunbeds, shaded salas, spa treatment rooms, a screening room and outdoor plunge pool with private cabanas. Daily excursions to temples, markets, villages and French colonial homes are escorted by the ship’s expert private guides aboard the Aqua Mekong’s four launch boats, and passengers have the use of the ship’s 10 on-board bicycles.

“I am proud to bring this entirely new level of sophistication and elegance to this legendary waterway,” says Galli Zugaro.

For more information on Aqua Expeditions’ Aqua Mekong, please visit: www.aquaexpeditions.com

ABOUT AQUA EXPEDITIONS

In just seven years, Aqua Expeditions has become a recognized leader in luxury small ship cruising on the world’s greatest rivers. The realization of founder Francesco Galli Zugaro’s dream, the architecturally designed, custom-built 12-suite Aqua Amazon and 16-suite Aria Amazon cruise ships brought luxury cruising to the Amazon River in Peru, offering travelers nature-based professionally guided adventures combined with sophisticated 5-star, boutique hotel accommodations and gourmet cuisine. Recently, building on the growing interest among travelers in small-ship cruising, Aqua Expeditions launched a third luxury vessel, the 20-suite Aqua Mekong, on the historic Mekong River between Cambodia and Vietnam.


New Tour: Remote Cambodia: Forest and Tribes

August 23, 2014 on 12:55 pm | In Adventure Travel, Asia, Cambodia | Comments Off



Backyard Travel have today released news of a unique new tour that discovers the lush forests, indigenous tribes and diverse wildlife of Mondulkiri, Cambodia’s most remote province.

Backyard Travel specialize in unique and insider tours to Asia, and this insightful four-day, three-night tour starts in Cambodia’s vibrant capital, Phnom Penh, where travellers will head eastwards to Mondulkiri Province; distinct from the rest of Cambodia with its rolling hills and relatively temperate climate.

Guided throughout by their own Backyard Travel Guide, travellers will explore this lesser-seen region, paying visit to the stunning Bou Sraa Waterfall and enjoying guided walks through the Mondulkiri Protected Forest, with the chance to see diverse wildlife such as peacocks, monkeys and hornbills.

The protected forest is home to the indigenous tribe the Phnong, who make up over half of the inhabitants of this sparsely populated region, and travellers will have the chance to meet some of the local hill tribe, learning about their unique customs close up.

On this fascinating tour travellers will also discover how an NGO is rescuing elephants from captivity, and rehabilitating them back into their natural environment, before having the opportunity to participate in a volunteering project, helping continue the development of the NGO’s center.

“We think the Mondulkiri Province is one of the unearthed gems of Southeast Asia,” said Backyard Travel’s General Manager Maeve Nolan. “At the moment it seems that not many have discovered its beauty, which makes now the perfect time to visit.”

This insider’s tour is priced from $869 per person which is based on two people travelling, sharing a double/twin room, including daily breakfast and four lunches. All excursions are private and fully guided, tours and transfers are by private air-conditioned vehicle (with drinking water and cold towels provided) and all entrance fees mentioned in the visits are included.

About Backyard Travel

Bangkok based Backyard Travel is an online travel company specializing in tailor-made tours to Vietnam, Thailand, Cambodia, Laos, Myanmar, Indonesia, Japan and China.

For more information about Backyard Travel visit the website: www.backyardtravel.com  or social media:

Facebook: www.facebook.com/BackyardTravel

Twitter: https://twitter.com/Backyard_Travel

Google+: http://goo.gl/WpHXvB


See the Sunrise With Bedouins, Trek Taal Volcano or Do Yoga Paddle Boarding in the Seychelles, With Raffles

August 22, 2014 on 8:10 am | In Adventure Travel, Africa, Asia, Cambodia, China, France, Middle East, Morocco, Paris, Saudi Arabia, Seychelles, Singapore, Turkey | Comments Off



At Raffles, we know that a day that begins well for our guests, will end well too.

From a daybreak detox in Paris or sunrise yoga in the Seychelles, to Tai Chi in Singapore or a Bedouin breakfast in the Dubai desert, here are just a few recommendations for catching the magic moments of stillness in the early morning – as the world wakes up and the bustle of another day begins again.

A Bedouin Breakfast with Raffles Dubai

Dubai lends itself perfectly to early mornings; before the heat of the midday sun comes into full force there are a few precious hours to be enjoyed. Guests of Raffles Dubai can rise early, escaping the city under the cover of darkness. The destination: the desert – all rolling sand dunes and striking silhouettes as dawn rises. Discover wildlife on a sand safari, before arriving at a local Bedouin retreat to learn breakfast recipes handed down from generation to generation. Take the opportunity to hop on board a camel, try your hand at falconry, experience traditional Yowalah dancing and enjoy a delicious breakfast at sunrise. This is a rare opportunity to glimpse the rich, authentic history of Dubai in pristine desert surroundings. Return to the bright lights, hustle and heat of the city safe in the knowledge of a stolen few hours of peace… www.raffles.com/dubai

Sunrise Yoga Paddle Boarding at Raffles Praslin, Seychelles

What better way to start the day than with some carefully guided sun salutations… on a paddleboard… in the Indian Ocean… at sunrise? Raffles Praslin, Seychelles’ yoga master Sajeesh Pazhayidath regularly guides guests through sunrise yoga classes to the sound of the sea. But instead of just listening to the sea, guests are now being encouraged to practice yoga on the sea itself. Paddle Board Yoga helps develop core strength and balance. The board provides the perfect platform to increase the intensity of the yoga workout by creating a continuous challenge to balance and adapt to the motion of the board. This challenge adds to core stability and creates greater strength, flexibility, and balance.

Guests can enjoy a private sunrise session, with the idyllic ocean backdrop and natural surroundings providing the perfect environment for total relaxation and rejuvenation. Raffles Praslin, Seychelles resort is perfectly positioned to catch the best sunrise on the island, as the sun creeps over the mountains to one side, slowly moving high into the sky as the day goes on. www.raffles.com/seychelles

Trek to Taal Volcano with Raffles Makati

Taal Volcano is the world’s smallest active volcano; just the right size for a challenging yet achievable start to the day. Taal Volcano sits a boat ride away at the centre of Taal Lake, just fifty kilometres from Raffles Makati. The ethereal lake was formed when a much larger volcano cooled and collapsed to leave an open caldera which, over several thousand years, filled with water. Leaving Manila in darkness, visitors will arrive at the lake as the day begins, taking a beautiful boat journey across the water to the shores of the volcano itself. From here, a trail leads to the rim of the main crater, a breezy 45 minute walk – with an astonishing view waiting at the top. At the centre of the island, visitors will be surprised to find another highly sulphuric lake at its centre, and within that another small island. The views from the top of the trail both inside the caldera, and outside across the Philippines are at their best in the early morning, as the hazy dawn light gives way to bright sunshine. www.raffles.com/makati

Tai Chi in the Botanical Gardens with Raffles Singapore

The martial art of Tai Chi has long be revered for its natural benefits to health; a calming, slow-moving art traditionally practiced outside to lifts stress and build core strength, all fostering a healthy mind and body. The tranquil greenery of Singapore’s Botanical Garden is the perfect sanctuary for starting the day gently; slip out of Raffles Singapore to match up to the expertise of the locals. The gardens are a cool retreat from the morning bustle; catch the scent of frangipani and fruit trees drifting on the breeze, and slowly sway your body and hands in accordance with the soft movements of the Tai Chi teacher. The Botanic Gardens were originally the brainchild of Sir Stamford Raffles in 1822 – not only the founder of modern Singapore, from whom Raffles Singapore takes its name, Sir Stamford was also a keen naturalist. The gardens were moved to their current site in 1859, and remain an incredibly important botanical institute for the city. This is a natural wonderland for setting a slow pace of life for the day; return to the haven of Raffles Singapore ready for breakfast in the iconic Tiffin Room. www.raffles.com/singapore

Modern Art ahead of the crowd with Raffles Istanbul

Offering a new perspective on a timeless city, Raffles Istanbul sits at the heart of the Zorlu Center, a new hub for fashion, food and the arts on the European shore in Beşiktaş – a next generation bazaar where fashion, performance and art converge. When it opens on 1 September, the hotel will let guests in to the best kept secrets of the cutting edge of the city. Start the day with a dose of exciting modern art: the concierge will arrange a trip to be first through the doors of some of Istanbul’s best galleries… the Istanbul Modern – Turkey’s first private museum to show modern and contemporary art exhibitions – on the shores of the Bosphorus as the sun rises over the city, or SALT, the contemporary art space, which opened in 2012. Return to Raffles, inspired, for coffee with a view from the private balcony of your bedroom as the world wakes up. www.raffles.com/istanbul

Morning Calm at Raffles Makkah Palace

As one of the world’s most holy cities, Makkah is at its most magical in the early morning as the call to prayer wakes the city. Visit the legendary Zamzam Well, a miracle rising from beneath the sand which has generated water for thousands of years or the Jabal Al-Nour (Mountain of the Light), a mountain lying east of Makkah from which Abraham built the Kaaba. Catch the Qasr As-Saqqaf at its most peaceful: one of the oldest buildings in Makkah, this is typical of the traditional architecture of the city, with unique Islamic motifs. Or visit the Qasr Khozam, the palace of King Abdul Aziz, built more than 80 years ago with stone bought from the west coast of the kingdom. Part of the palace has now been converted into a museum of archaeology and ethnology. Or within the hotel, slip into the Raffles Makkah Palace library – the only library of its kind – with a collection of more than 2,000 Hadith and classic Islamic texts on its shelves. www.raffles.com/makkah

A Champagne Breakfast at Angkor Thom with Raffles Grand Hotel d’Angko

The temples of Angkor Wat are undoubtedly Cambodia’s most majestic of experiences: ancient monuments telling stories of hundreds of years. Angkor is at its most magical as the day begins, as the sun rises and the jungle around the temples wakes up. Raffles Grand Hotel d’Angkor guides its guests away from the main tourist sunrise spots to a hidden spot of Angkor Thom. Breakfast is served… tropical fruits, fresh pastries, and a glass of champagne as the cool dawn light lifts to reveal the 54 faces carved into the rocks at Bayon, and the charming figures on the Terrace of Elephants. Spot monkeys beginning their day, and make the most of the early start to discover the secrets of an ancient world before the sun rises too high in the sky and the cool of the pool at Raffles Grand Hotel d’Angkor calls. www.raffles.com/siemreap

Cambodian cooking with Raffles Hotel Le Royal, Phnom Penh

The cooking class at Raffles Hotel Le Royal has been described as “one of the most bespoke cooking classes South East Asia has to offer.” Early birds catch the best of Phnom Penh here, travelling to the local market with Chef to collect the freshest produce and finest ingredients of the day before the rest of the city wakes up. Returning to the hotel, guests will learn the secrets of Royal Khmer Cuisine: Raffles Hotel Le Royal was gifted exclusive rights to recipes from the Palace kitchen by King Father Norodom Sihanouk during his reign. Six dishes will be created in total using rice – a sacred component of Khmer Culture – and fish and shellfish fresh from the Mekong and Tonlé Sap rivers. Herbs and spices come fresh from the market, and the lesson ends with guests tasting their own culinary creations. www.raffles.com/phnompenh

A Morning Detox at Le Royal Monceau – Raffles Paris

Le Royal Monceau – Raffles Paris has the perfect recipe for a healthy, energizing start to the busy Parisian day; a morning mini-detox. Runners can take a turn around the Parc Monceau, just a short hop along the Avenue Hoche, while water babies can enjoy some peaceful lengths in the hotel’s pool – longer than any other hotel swimming pool in the city – for starters. On, to the stylish surroundings of La Cuisine breakfast, which marries gourmet food and wellbeing in a tempting spread. Begin with a cleansing ‘Royal Booster’ smoothie, packed with vitamin C rich Chia seeds, fresh fruit and spices. Next, choose organic eggs cooked any way – perhaps an egg white omelette – or seafood, rich in Omega-3. There is also seasonal fruit platters, an ‘Alternative Milk Bar’ (soya, almond milk, coconut water) and gluten-free cakes and bread, dried fruits, organic cereals and grains. Don’t miss the delicious Granola Ispahan by Pierre Hermé – a reinterpretation of a classic with oats, sunflower and pumpkin seeds, puffed rice, grated coconut, pistachios, pecan and almonds, flavoured with honey and rose, dried raspberries and lychees. www.raffles.com/paris

China’s most glamorous beach at its best: Raffles Hainan, Clearwater Bay

Every day marks a new beginning on Hainan as birdsong fills the gold coast of Clearwater Bay, and the world wakes up to a refreshing breeze off the sea. Make the most of the restorative early morning light with a range of outdoor activities. Take a yoga class on the beach, or jog along the water’s edge leaving footprints in the sand. Borrow a bicycle and be carried along the coast in no time, or head for the gentle pick-pock of tennis balls on court for starting the day à deux. Or simply take a wonder along the beach, collecting shells, and spotting crabs and small fish starting their day in Hainan style. This is China’s most glamorous beach at its best; all to yourself. www.raffles.com/hainan

Dawn flag raising ceremony with Raffles Beijing

While most tourists are still sleeping, guests of Raffles Beijing can join Raffles Ambassador John Spooner to witness the traditional and atmospheric Flag Raising Ceremony at Tian An Men Square, the largest city square in the world. The raising of the national flag is accompanied by a marching military band as the day begins in Beijing and the sun appears over Tian An Men. John will share his knowledge of the history of the ceremony, as well as taking guests on a journey through Beijing’s past. Opened in 1917 as the Grand Hotel de Pékin, Raffles Beijing Hotel’s graceful French-Orient façade has long stood as an icon of the city’s historical heritage. Just over six years ago, a new chapter began when it was fully renovated in 2006 by Raffles Hotels & Resorts. www.raffles.com/beijing

About Raffles Hotels & Resorts: Raffles Hotels & Resorts is an award-winning, luxury international hotel company with a history dating back to 1887 with the opening of Raffles Hotel, Singapore. The portfolio currently comprises ten luxurious properties, from secluded resorts to city hotels in key locations around the world: in Singapore, Cambodia, China, UAE, Saudi Arabia, Seychelles, the Philippines and Paris, each one is an oasis of calm and charm. The company is embarking on a new phase of expansion, with openings in key destinations scheduled over the next two years. With a compelling mix of cultures and styles, every hotel in the Raffles family has its own individual personality, with its own story to tell and its own sense of place. However, each one is proud to draw on the timeless essence of Raffles – to deliver thoughtful, personal and discreet service to well-travelled guests.

Raffles Hotels & Resorts is part of FRHI Hotels & Resorts, a leading global hotel company with more than 110 hotels and resorts worldwide under the Raffles, Fairmont and Swissôtel brands. The company also manages Fairmont, Raffles and Swissôtel branded luxury private residence clubs, whole-ownership residences and serviced residences properties.
www.raffles.com


Travel Indochina’s 2014-16 Asia River Cruise Portfolio Sets Sail

August 8, 2014 on 10:36 am | In Adventure Travel, Asia, Cambodia, Cruise Boats, Laos, Vietnam | Comments Off



Travel Indochina has launched its 2014-16 Luxury Asia River Cruise Portfolio contained in its expanded 84 page guide amid extremely strong growth in the sector and with a partnership announcement that it will be handling all Australian Travel Trade bookings for the newest small ship luxury cruise in Asia, Aqua Expeditions’ Aqua Mekong.

In the three years since establishing the product suite, boutique small ship Asian River Cruising has become Travel Indochina’s second most important market segment following the company’s core Small Group Journeys, registering 130% growth in the last year alone.

Managing Director, Paul Hole is buoyed by the growth in the sector which offers travellers a unique opportunity to gain greater access and deeper insights into a traditional way of life along Asia’s most iconic waterways.
“Having personally shared the experience of sailing on small boats along the Mekong, I’m more resolute than ever to bring this style of travel to travellers who prefer this style of exploration,” explains Hole.

“We’ve been sourcing more exclusive experiences as we develop an increasingly extensive product suite of quality cruise experiences and carefully crafted itineraries to meet our travellers’ demand, and importantly with a flexibility of offerings between tailor made and scheduled departures and itineraries.”

“We’re especially excited to announce our partnership with Aqua Expeditions for Aqua Mekong, which will set a new standard of small boat luxury on the Mekong between Vietnam and Cambodia. Aqua Mekong has the aesthetics and facilities equal to the most sophisticated five-star hotel, features world class cuisine designed by Asia’s top ranked chef, David Thompson and offers its own deck mounted tenders to provide on shore excursions into the heart of Mekong life, culture and nature. Luxury of the likes of this ship has never been seen by Australian river cruise aficionados unless they have been lucky enough to travel on Aqua’s Amazon based vessel.”

Travel Indochina’s newest guide to Luxury Asia River Cruising, which incorporates Vietnam, Cambodia, Laos, Burma, India and China, includes cruise itineraries and details for boutique small ship river cruising along the Mekong, Yangtze, Ganges, Irrawaddy and Chindwin. The only dedicated brochure in the market with such a large range of boutique river cruising options across Asia, the 84 page ‘Guide’ to cruising provides detailed ship information covering cabin selections, cuisine, on shore excursions, itinerary highlights with pre and post touring options, deck & cabin plans and dates and prices for a range of departures to help travel agents and travellers identify the most appropriate cruise.

In addition to Aqua Mekong, Travel Indochina’s cruise portfolio also includes the addition of two other cruise ships due to launch in late 2014 and early 2015; Haimark Luxury Expeditions’ Irrawaddy Explorer and Ganges Voyager I. Plying Burma’s Irrawaddy River and India’s Ganges River respectively, these two new cruise ships exude comfort and elegance while offering British-colonial era inspired luxury with quality service delivered by exceptionally high crew to passenger ratios.

Travel Indochina offers exclusive charters and preferred partnership sailings on the following Cruise Ships:

- Aqua Mekong (Aqua Expeditions), Mekong River (set to launch September 2014)

- The Jahan (Heritage Line), Mekong River

- Jayavarman (Heritage Line), Mekong River

- The Luang Say Lodge & Cruise, Northern Mekong

- The Vat Phou Cruises, Southern Mekong

- Mekong Sun, Upper Mekong

- Irrawaddy Explorer (Haimark), Irrawaddy River (set to launch September 2014)

- RV Paukan 2007, Irrawaddy River

- Sanctuary Ananda, Irrawaddy River

- Belmond Road to Mandalay (Belmond), Irrawaddy River

- Belmond Orcaella (Belmond), Irrawaddy River and Chindwin River

- Ganges Voyager I (Haimark), Ganges River (set to launch January 2015)

- Victoria Cruises fleet, including Victoria Jenna, Victoria Anna, Victoria Katarina, Victoria Sophia, Victoria Selina and Victoria Lianna, Yangtze River

- Yangzi Explorer, Yangtze River


Ho Ho Hot Savings This Christmas With Travel Indochina

July 5, 2014 on 5:54 am | In Adventure Travel, Asia, Cambodia, Indonesia, Laos, Thailand, Vietnam | Comments Off



Specialist tour operator, Travel Indochina, is encouraging travellers to beat the rush and book their Christmas holidays NOW to take advantage of better availability and savings on a winter escape to Asia. And as a very early stocking filler, they are offering discounts of £100 per person on all Small Group Journeys incorporating Christmas Day, if booked by 12th July 2014*.
Winter has long been a popular time of year for holiday bookings and Travel Indochina is already noticing reduced availability on flights over the Christmas period, with fares starting to increase due to the demand to get away at this time of year and avoid the UK’s cold, dark days.
Travel Indochina customers now turning their thoughts to December and Christmas will be rewarded with a more affordable trip than those booking in two months’ time, ensuring the best chance of getting the holiday they want at a reasonable rate. Plus they will be spoilt for choice with no less than 37 escorted tours across Vietnam, Cambodia, Laos, Burma, Thailand, China and India operating over 25th December 2014 for the £100pp special offer.
Whether customers are keen to escape minus temperatures, family get-togethers, mince pies or they’re simply a solo traveller looking to meet like-minded travel enthusiasts, December makes a great time of year to be on the ground in Asia – as referenced in Travel Indochina’s helpful online ‘Asia: When To Go Guides’. With a huge choice of journeys to choose from, the following touring options give a flavour of what’s available, each incorporating the £100 saving and flying with some of the world’s best airlines.
‘Vietnam Discovery’ (16 days)
Prices start from £2,635 per person, departing London Heathrow with Qatar Airways on 13th December and returning to the UK on 28th December 2014.
‘Burma Revealed’ (14 days)
Prices start from £3,225 per person, departing London Heathrow with Qatar Airways on 14th December and returning to the UK on 27th December 2014.
‘Highlights of Rajasthan’ (16 days)
Prices start from £3,445 per person, departing London Heathrow with Etihad and Jet Airways on 20th December and returning to the UK on 4th January 2015.
‘Cambodia & Vietnam Explorer’ (16 days)
Prices start from £3,265 per person, departing London Heathrow with Qatar Airways on 22nd December and returning to the UK on 6th January 2015.
In addition to the £100 savings, all customers travelling on a Travel Indochina Small Group Journey will benefit from the rare combination of a Western tour leader (once the seventh traveller books) and local English-speaking guides while solo travellers can enjoy even greater savings by taking up the operator’s ‘willing to share’ option and travelling at twin share prices. So don’t delay: Travel Indochina’s Asia experts are on hand to speak to customers today to guarantee an affordable and memorable holiday this Christmas!
* Travel Indochina’s £100pp saving is off the touring element of any Small Group Journey incorporating Christmas Day, 25th December 2014, subject to availability and not combinable with other others. Valid for bookings confirmed and deposited between 13th June and 12th July 2014. See website for full booking conditions.

Travel Indochina has been operating Small Group Journeys and tailor-made travel to the “real” Asia for 20 years. Today, the company features the widest range of itineraries and departures to Vietnam, Cambodia and Laos than any other tour operator in the UK, as well as a large variety of journeys to Thailand, Burma, China and Tibet, India, Japan, Bhutan, Mongolia and Sri Lanka. Unlike many other travel companies, Travel Indochina limits its group size to a maximum of 16 people. These smaller groups enable travellers to gain the best from both worlds – greater access to the local culture and plenty of opportunities for independent exploration.

For more information on Travel Indochina, please visit: www.travelindochina.co.uk  or telephone: 01865 268 940.


Authentic Experiences in Southeast Asia

July 4, 2014 on 5:45 am | In Asia, Cambodia, Laos, Thailand, Vietnam | Comments Off



Artisans of Leisure announces new food, culture, art and style activities throughout Southeast Asia

New York,  – Luxury tour operator Artisans of Leisure has recently introduced a number of exciting new activities and experiences in their private Southeast Asia tours. All of the activities—including culinary, active and art options—can be incorporated into their private luxury tours in Thailand, Vietnam, Cambodia, Laos, Singapore, Myanmar (Burma), Indonesia and Hong Kong.

“Our in-house experts travel in Southeast Asia throughout the year, uncovering the region’s most interesting people, places and experiences,” says Ashley Isaacs Ganz, founder and CEO of Artisans of Leisure. “We’re excited to add these new activities to our already comprehensive portfolio of special interest experiences in the region as we continue to pioneer ways for our travelers to have access to the world’s most interesting and authentic cultural experiences.”

Artisans of Leisure arranges private, personalized tours in Southeast Asia with special interest activities that include:

Culinary Touring
Artisans of Leisure arranges private culinary tours, cooking lessons, market tours and related activities throughout Southeast Asia.
New activities include:

Learning to prepare pho (noodle soup) and banh mi (baguette sandwiches) in Vietnam
Taking a hands-on lesson with a dim sum master in Hong Kong
Private street food and night market tours in Saigon, Hong Kong and Bangkok
Visiting local producers, including a tofu maker in Indonesia, a winery in Myanmar (Burma) and a noodle maker in Singapore

Special Access & Meetings with Experts
Artisans of Leisure tours include access to fascinating people and places throughout Southeast Asia.
New access includes:

Tours of herbal markets and meetings with traditional health practitioners
A tour of a Buddhist monastery in Mandalay with a head monk
Behind-the-scenes tours of a water puppet theater in Hanoi
Private Thai massage lessons in Bangkok
A private gamelan lesson in Bali

Shopping Excursions
Artisans of Leisure arranges private, insider shopping tours throughout Southeast Asia.
New activities include:

Private art-buying tours at up-and-coming galleries in Yangon, Hong Kong and other cities
An insider’s tour of the latest shops in Bangkok, Hong Kong and Singapore
Visiting the best lacquerware studios in Myanmar (Burma)
Visiting the shop and studio of a renowned weaver in Laos
Appointments with renowned designers and artists in their studios, including jewelers in Bali and Hong Kong

Art, Architecture & Design Touring
Artisans of Leisure organizes private tours with curators, art experts and other specialists. The company also arranges for travelers to skip the lines at renowned art museums and historic sites in the region.
New activities include:

Touring interiors with a feng shui expert in Vietnam or Hong Kong
Tours of Singapore’s newest outdoor art, architecture and garden sites, such as Gardens by the Bay and Parkroyal on Pickering
A private decorative arts tour of Bangkok
Learning about the design and techniques of traditional weaving in Indonesia, Thailand and Laos

Family & Active Experiences
Artisans of Leisure customizes Southeast Asia tours based on each family’s interests, such as private martial arts lessons (kung fu, tai chi, Thai kickboxing), visiting local schools or homes, hiking and biking in the countryside, learning about local languages, and hands-on crafts lessons. Some of the latest activities include:

Meeting novice monks in Myanmar (Burma) and learning about their lifestyle
A family bicycle tour, including a picnic, in rural Cambodia
A rice-planting experience in Vietnam
Working at a private elephant conservation camp in Thailand
Surfing lessons in Bali
Bicycling among the rice terraces of Bali, on undeveloped islands in Singapore, or around scenic Inle Lake in Myanmar (Burma)
Learning to make shadow puppets in Indonesia

Artisans of Leisure’s Southeast Asia tours also feature the finest and newest luxury resorts, spas and cruises in the region, including recent additions such as Amanoi in Vietnam, Belmond Orcaella in Myanmar (Burma), and Aqua Mekong in Vietnam and Cambodia.

In addition, Artisans of Leisure tours in Southeast Asia include personalized itinerary planning by the company’s travel specialists, touring with private guides and drivers, preferred rooms in the most luxurious hotels and resorts in the region (e.g., Aman, Four Seasons, Mandarin Oriental and Peninsula properties), private airport transfers, visas, admission fees and more. The company also assists its travelers with VIP fast-track at airports, reservations for dining and spa services, babysitters, private cruises, preferred seats to performances and events, and private air charters.

A few of the most popular Artisans of Leisure tours in Southeast Asia are:

Southeast Asia in Style
Flavors of Southeast Asia
Perfect Days in Bali & Thailand
Family Tour of Southeast Asia
Essence of Vietnam
Active Tour of Cambodia & Laos
Journey Through Indochina
Journey Through Burma & Bhutan
Luxuries of Burma
Best of Singapore & Bali
Vietnam for Foodies
Highlights of Thailand
Indonesia Luxury Adventure
Romantic Vietnam

All Artisans of Leisure tours depart daily and can be fully customized to suit individual interests.

Artisans of Leisure arranges private, customized luxury tours in more than 50 countries worldwide. For more information, visit http://www.artisansofleisure.com or call (800) 214-8144.


Secret Retreats Expands its Collection in Asia and Welcomes 9 New Members

July 4, 2014 on 5:34 am | In Asia, Beachbooker, Cambodia, Indonesia, Thailand | Comments Off



After the recent launch of Secret Inns, Secret Villas, Secret Cruises and Secret Tables, Secret Retreats is pleased to welcome 9 New Members into its portfolio, including a private estate on the east coast of Bali, an elegant floating camp in the remote jungles of Cambodia, and an adventurous cruise down Borneo’s Rungan River.

“We are very excited with the positive response we have received so soon after launching our new labels and we will continue to enrich our collection with a variety of experiences in exotic destinations so that our guests can discover parts of Asia that are more removed from the main sight-seeing trails”. – Stephane Junca, Managing Director of Secret Retreats

Secret Retreats 9 New Members:

Jeeva Saba, Bali – Indonesia

Comprising a mix of colonial and modern architecture, Jeeva Saba is a beachfront estate located on Saba beach, along Bali’s east coast. From the Pura Anyar temple at the estate entrance to the uninterrupted views of Gunung Agung and the Nusa Penida islands, at Jeeva Saba you are truly embraced by the spirit of Bali.

Mekong Villas, Isan – Thailand

Mekong Villas is a magical retreat situated on a promontory overlooking the Mekong River in Pakchom, Loei Province. Reflecting the area’s unspoiled beauty, and offering panoramic views of the Mekong and Laos, the 3 villas sleep 12 people in 6 double rooms.

4 Rivers Floating Lodge – Cardamom Chain – Cambodia

Offering the same high-end facilities as a four-star boutique resort, 4 Rivers Floating Lodge is a luxurious camp set amidst nature. Environmentally friendly, the resort’s secluded floating lodges are a peaceful place in which to relax and let your senses take over.

Bali Jiwa, Bali – Indonesia

Bali Jiwa Villa is located just 15 minutes north of Ubud. Set in a lush natural environment, its 2 luxurious villas offer sweeping views of the mountains and rice paddy fields. Tastefully decorated with a modern Balinese twist, both villas can accommodate 2-3 people. Each has a private pool, open-air living room, private balcony, and luxury amenities.

Villa Idanna, Bali – Indonesia

Set on a peninsula overlooking the spellbinding Sidemen Valley’s rice terraces and forested hills leading up the sacred volcano Gunung Agung, Villa Idanna, Bali offers a quiet refuge for rejuvenation and solace. The 3 bedroom villa features 2 king size bedrooms with en-suite bathrooms, a bedroom with twin beds, spacious al-fresco seating areas, and a private 20-metre long heated pool.

Spirit of Kalimantan and Ruhui Rahayu Borneo – Indonesia

The Spirit of Kalimantan Cruise offers 3 air-conditioned cabins and a sitting area with an inviting open deck. Besides exquisite cuisine, their English speaking guides will introduce you to the BOS Orangutan rehabilitation programs, black water lake systems, and local Dayak culture as you cruise down the Rungan River. The Ruhui Rahayu is a more slightly more intimate size vessel. Private double cabins and folding shuttered doors that open up directly onto the deck are ideal for family and friends, or for a couple looking for a romantic experience in Borneo.

Alila Purnama, Eastern Indonesia – Indonesia

Meaning Full Moon and able to accommodate up to 10 guests, Alila Purnama is one of the most luxurious live-aboard Phinisi ships in Asia. Handcrafted in the traditional style of boats once used by the Bugis seafarers from south Sulawesi in Indonesia, the 46-metre-long vessel features 3 decks, and 5 well-appointed en-suite cabins including a master suite containing large wraparound windows with 180-degree views.

Supanniga Eating Room, Bangkok – Thailand

Inspired by his grandmother’s recipes, the owner Eh serves an appetising range of traditional Thai dishes from both his grandmother’s hometown in Trat (near the east coast) and Khon Kaen (northeast) where his family is currently based. The restaurant has a comfortable but chic décor, and an outside terrace in which to sip delicious martinis and savour wonderful food.

The Common Tiger, Phnom Penh – Cambodia

The Common Tiger specialises in contemporary world cuisine made with local Cambodian produce and flavours whenever possible. A first to offer this new style of cooking in Phnom Penh, this restaurant has both indoor and alfresco seating.

Discover Secret Retreats properties on www.secret-retreats.com/en/collection com


Siem Reap in Style, Khmer Cuisine and Culture

June 26, 2014 on 8:37 am | In Adventure Travel, Asia, Cambodia | Comments Off



Bangkok, Thailand (April 23, 2014) – Backyard Travel, the online boutique travel agency specializing in unique and insider tours to Asia, has today released details of a new luxury Cambodia tour taking visitors beyond the temples of Siem Reap to experience a side of the region few see.

The new four-day, three-night tour , which explores the very best culture and cuisine that Siem Reap has to offer, begins with a superb dinner at ‘Cuisine Wat Damnak’, where Head Chef and restaurant owner Joannès Rivière uses only the freshest local produce to create high end Khmer cuisine.

On the first full day travellers will gain a unique understanding of how the very best local cuisine is prepared by taking part in a half-day cooking class at the home of renowned local chef, Kathana Dunnet. Her time spent in New Zealand is evident in her cooking, which is an appetizing fusion of western cooking techniques and Cambodian specialities. Most interestingly she teaches how to replace essential Khmer cooking ingredients that cannot be found in other countries.

While in the area, travelers will then be taken to visit the nearby Golden Silk Pheach Farm, a silk manufacturer run by Oum Sophea Pheach, which employs more than 100 local staff to produce high quality products.

The unique tour continues with a visit to the temple of Banteay Srei and then travellers are spoilt by watching the sun go down with a relaxing glass of champagne and a gondola cruise around majestic Angkor Thom’s moat. That evening travellers dine at Marum, a restaurant that supports marginalized local children and offers local tapas style dishes.

Day three of the insider tour starts with a visit to Artisans d’Angkor which backs local Cambodian arts and crafts and then travellers have the opportunity to explore the dozens of different stalls at Siem Reap’s landmark ‘Old Market’.

Rounding off the insider tour of Siem Reap, travelers are then treated to a unique experience at the Phare Cambodian Circus Show. Before the main event, a Backyard Travel guide will take visitors behind the curtain to see a sneak preview as the artists prepare, and even get the chance to interact with the performers.

The performance combines traditional and modern aspects of theatre with something for everyone, mixing dance, music, contortion and acrobatics to tell the story of modern life in Cambodia today.

“Of course Siem Reap is famous for its impressive temples and rightly so, but there is so much more to Cambodia’s cultural capital”, said Backyard Travel’s General Manager Maeve Nolan. “We hope this new tour, which takes travelers off the well-trodden path highlighting the very best local culture and cuisine, will open travelers’ eyes to some of the rarely seen sites of Siem Reap.”

About Backyard Travel

Bangkok based Backyard Travel is an online travel company specializing in tailor-made tours to Vietnam, Thailand, Cambodia, Laos, Myanmar, Indonesia, Japan and China. For more information about Backyard Travel, visit www.backyardtravel.com  or Facebook page www.facebook.com/BackyardTravel.


Audley Launch New Southeast Asia Brochure

June 24, 2014 on 12:33 pm | In Adventure Travel, Asia, Cambodia, Laos, London, Malaysia, Myanmar, Singapore, Thailand, United Kingdom, Vietnam | Comments Off



Audley have launched a new Southeast Asia brochure. Their extensive knowledge of the region means that they can advise clients on new ways to see classic sights, such as a Vespa tour of Saigon at night and a helicopter trip over Angkor Wat, as well as recommending off the beaten track options into areas where there are few other visitors. There are also options for homestays and small family run bed and breakfasts and lodges.

Highlights include:

Vietnam –a new Adventurous Vietnam 16 day itinerary that takes you from north to south, combining walking in the Tonkinese Alps with time to explore the extraordinary Phong Nha caves, the rice terraces of Mu Cang Chai and Bach Ma National Park. You will also visit Hanoi and the historic towns of Hue and Hoi An before heading to Saigon.

Cambodia – a focus on the resurgence of local culture and the restoration of colonial buildings with several new boutique hotels in Phnom Penh that are set in renovated old villas. Cambodia has a wonderful cultural legacy yet the Khmer Rouge did everything they could to erase evidence of this past. In recent years, traditional art forms that disappeared have been brought back to life. Audley highly recommend clients visit the Phare Circus in Siem Reap – a charity run initiative offering a mixture of theatre, music, dance, acrobatics and juggling. They also suggest a visit to a silk weaving farm, an Apsara dance lesson and attending a show by Children of the Bassac – a popular dance troupe.

Laos – a stronger focus on the remote north where a craggy and mountainous landscape has kept the modern world at bay. Opportunities exist to explore on foot, by kayak and on mountain bike. There is also the new Nam Nern night safari where you pay per sighting in order to incentivise the local community to protect wildlife in the region. Common wildlife includes Sambar deer, civet, sun bears, pythons and macaques.

Audley have also given more focus to the scenic town of Vang Vieng, once the preserve of backpackers. A government inititative to clean up the town means it now has much more to offer with good hotels and a range of activities including boating, trekking, caving and cycling. Its stunning mountain backdrop makes it an ideal place to stop for a few nights when travelling between Luang Prabang and Vientiane.

Thailand – Audley have included a feature on the beaches of Thailand to help clients choose the most appropriate option depending on their travel dates and the activities and type of accommodation that appeals. They have also included a page on Audley Gems – a select group of hotels that have been hand-picked by the Audley team for evoking the simple, non-commercial ways of Thailand several decades ago.

Myanmar – Audley have included a section on ‘Off the Beaten Track’ giving suggestions of more remote and adventurous areas. Some of these are subject to changing permit requirements or travel embargoes and so Audley constantly monitor the situation. They include Mrauk U and the chance to visit the Chin villages; the northernmost outpost of Putao and Myitkyina and Indawgyi Lake – an area with wonderful hiking opportunities.

They have also included the fishing villages and wonderful beaches of Ngwe Saung and the spectacular Mergui Archipelago in the south of Myanmar – over 800 unspoilt and idyllic islands.

Malaysia – a new Colonial Malaysia itinerary combines the modern cities of Singapore and Kuala Lumpur with the old towns of Penang, George Town, Ipoh, Kuala Kangsar and Taiping. Over the centuries the country has been home to many different fortune seekers from tin miners and rubber tappers to Chinese merchants and Indian traders. This itinerary demonstrates the profound influence of all these different cultures and their effect on modern Malaysia.

Indonesia – Audley suggest clients visit the east coast of Bali, away from the crowds in the south for a more authentic Balinese experience with beautiful countryside, traditional villages and relaxed coastal towns. They have designed a 12 day ‘Bali Refound’ itinerary visiting Ubud, Mount Agung, Tembok, Amed and Candidasa with some trekking and a local cookery course also included.

There is also a feature on the lesser known eastern islands including suggestions for exploring this area by boat. A number of options including schooners, luxury yachts and ‘liveaboards’ ply these waters and can take you to Komodo, Flores, Sumba, Sulawesi, Raja Ampat, the Spice Islands and Papua, mooring in remote areas that are seldom visited by Westerners.

The Philippines – the new direct flight with Philippines Airlines has made the Philippines more accessible. Audley encourage clients to visit the quieter, more traditional areas such as Southern Luzon and the small coastal towns of Legazpi and Donsol famed for its whale sharks. They have also included a feature on Volcano Trekking on Luzon as well as offering 4×4 trips or scenic helicopter flights as ways of seeing them.

For further details and a copy of Audley’s Southeast Asia brochure call Audley on 01993 838 100 www.audleytravel.com

Follow Audley on Twitter www.twitter.com/audleytravel

Subscribe to Audley’s RSS feed of travel articles www.audleytravel.com/magazine


Audley Launch New Southeast Asia Brochure

May 25, 2014 on 10:03 am | In Adventure Travel, Asia, Borneo, Brunei, Cambodia, Indonesia, Laos, London, Philippines, Thailand, United Kingdom, Vietnam | Comments Off



Audley have launched a new Southeast Asia brochure. Their extensive knowledge of the region means that they can advise clients on new ways to see classic sights, such as a Vespa tour of Saigon at night and a helicopter trip over Angkor Wat, as well as recommending off the beaten track options into areas where there are few other visitors. There are also options for homestays and small family run bed and breakfasts and lodges.

Highlights include:

Vietnam –a new Adventurous Vietnam 16 day itinerary that takes you from north to south, combining walking in the Tonkinese Alps with time to explore the extraordinary Phong Nha caves, the rice terraces of Mu Cang Chai and Bach Ma National Park. You will also visit Hanoi and the historic towns of Hue and Hoi An before heading to Saigon.

Cambodia – a focus on the resurgence of local culture and the restoration of colonial buildings with several new boutique hotels in Phnom Penh that are set in renovated old villas. Cambodia has a wonderful cultural legacy yet the Khmer Rouge did everything they could to erase evidence of this past. In recent years, traditional art forms that disappeared have been brought back to life. Audley highly recommend clients visit the Phare Circus in Siem Reap – a charity run initiative offering a mixture of theatre, music, dance, acrobatics and juggling. They also suggest a visit to a silk weaving farm, an Apsara dance lesson and attending a show by Children of the Bassac – a popular dance troupe.

Laos – a stronger focus on the remote north where a craggy and mountainous landscape has kept the modern world at bay. Opportunities exist to explore on foot, by kayak and on mountain bike. There is also the new Nam Nern night safari where you pay per sighting in order to incentivise the local community to protect wildlife in the region. Common wildlife includes Sambar deer, civet, sun bears, pythons and macaques.

Audley have also given more focus to the scenic town of Vang Vieng, once the preserve of backpackers. A government inititative to clean up the town means it now has much more to offer with good hotels and a range of activities including boating, trekking, caving and cycling. Its stunning mountain backdrop makes it an ideal place to stop for a few nights when travelling between Luang Prabang and Vientiane.

Thailand – Audley have included a feature on the beaches of Thailand to help clients choose the most appropriate option depending on their travel dates and the activities and type of accommodation that appeals. They have also included a page on Audley Gems – a select group of hotels that have been hand-picked by the Audley team for evoking the simple, non-commercial ways of Thailand several decades ago.

Myanmar – Audley have included a section on ‘Off the Beaten Track’ giving suggestions of more remote and adventurous areas. Some of these are subject to changing permit requirements or travel embargoes and so Audley constantly monitor the situation. They include Mrauk U and the chance to visit the Chin villages; the northernmost outpost of Putao and Myitkyina and Indawgyi Lake – an area with wonderful hiking opportunities.

They have also included the fishing villages and wonderful beaches of Ngwe Saung and the spectacular Mergui Archipelago in the south of Myanmar – over 800 unspoilt and idyllic islands.

Malaysia – a new Colonial Malaysia itinerary combines the modern cities of Singapore and Kuala Lumpur with the old towns of Penang, George Town, Ipoh, Kuala Kangsar and Taiping. Over the centuries the country has been home to many different fortune seekers from tin miners and rubber tappers to Chinese merchants and Indian traders. This itinerary demonstrates the profound influence of all these different cultures and their effect on modern Malaysia.

Indonesia – Audley suggest clients visit the east coast of Bali, away from the crowds in the south for a more authentic Balinese experience with beautiful countryside, traditional villages and relaxed coastal towns. They have designed a 12 day ‘Bali Refound’ itinerary visiting Ubud, Mount Agung, Tembok, Amed and Candidasa with some trekking and a local cookery course also included.

There is also a feature on the lesser known eastern islands including suggestions for exploring this area by boat. A number of options including schooners, luxury yachts and ‘liveaboards’ ply these waters and can take you to Komodo, Flores, Sumba, Sulawesi, Raja Ampat, the Spice Islands and Papua, mooring in remote areas that are seldom visited by Westerners.

The Philippines – the new direct flight with Philippines Airlines has made the Philippines more accessible. Audley encourage clients to visit the quieter, more traditional areas such as Southern Luzon and the small coastal towns of Legazpi and Donsol famed for its whale sharks. They have also included a feature on Volcano Trekking on Luzon as well as offering 4×4 trips or scenic helicopter flights as ways of seeing them.

For further details and a copy of Audley’s Southeast Asia brochure call Audley on 01993 838 100 www.audleytravel.com

Follow Audley on Twitter www.twitter.com/audleytravel

Subscribe to Audley’s RSS feed of travel articles www.audleytravel.com/magazine


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