The grandeur of the Southeast Asia can be seen in the skylines and along the city streets, witnessed in the spectacular landscapes and showcased in its cultural history. Beyond the gilded temples and floating markets, the elephantine fun and fantastic karsts, is the majesty that brings Southeast Asia to life. Along the streets of the cities and villages, gliding along the rivers and seas, are the constant smiles of the friendly people that are guaranteed to make this custom tailored tour through...
En Route to Golden Dreams
Your tour begins before you ever set foot on the stunning earth of Southeast Asia as you glide over the calm waters of the Pacific. The history and mystery of the land goes beyond the beautiful and into the mythical. You can imagine the gilded frames of the temple towers, known as wats. The vibrant green mountains run along the horizon, and you are almost there, close to the emerald waters and fascinating cultures that have always been alluring, and lands that have always been exotic.
Crossing the Line
Your spring forward one day while you venture over the grand Pacific en route to the splendor of Thailand. Crossing the International Dateline gives you a glimpse into your future where you can see the fascinating villages outside of Chiang Rai and the contemporary history within the borders of Saigon. You can feel your heartbeat quicken with every moment, knowing that the splendor of Southeast Asia, an area of the world that has always seemed unobtainable, will soon be within reach.
The Grand Capital
Arrive in the bustling city of Bangkok where the metropolis has sprouted from the river and the surrounding wonder, spiraling around the traditional temples and finishing in the remote magnificence of the skyline. There is a palpable rush to the city, along the streets, within the markets, and around the everyday life of the people; however, hidden within that sensational flash, the beauty of Bangkok comes to life. When you settle into the city you can watch as what you once thought of as chaotic turns into structure, where the hectic dance is more of a ballet; the streets are brushed with the scent of freshly cooked food, from a sweet and lush chicken satay to freshly pressed sugarcane juice. Bangkok is anything but simple, but it is within the complexity that you will find its majesty.
Within Golden Reach
The mornings are graced with the sweet fragrance of fresh fruits, from juicy pineapple to decadent mango, colorfully displayed and always enjoyed. Once breakfast has been devoured you will embark on a tour of Bangkok’s greatness, where the city’s elegance hides beneath the shadows of the skyline. The Golden Buddha Temple contains the world’s largest solid gold statue, weighing over five-tons, and the sheen that comes form the impressive statue feels more like a grace than a reflection. The statue itself dates back between the 13th and 14th centuries, climbing over nine feet tall, and filled with astounding detail. The interior of the temple focuses on the sparkling serenity of Buddha, giving a simple décor to the gallery.
The Grand Palace of Thailand sits beside the Chao Phraya River. Spires rise in golden concentric circles giving the palace a light hue and towering charm. The entrance is empowering, raised onto a plateau with retracting porticos that make the palace look as though its length is forever retreating. The size and magnitude of the palace surrounds you and it is easy to become lost in its majesty. As the evening settles over the city you will have a delightful dinner amongst the movement and sound of traditional Thai performances, experiencing the glistening costumes that imitate the gilded spires of the palace. Each step and twist of a hand is deliberate and choreographed, and the gentle sound of strings and symbols help guide you deeper into the opulent night.
The sights and sounds of Bangkok escape you for the day as you venture to the wondrous old capital city, Ayutthaya, home to the King’s Summer Palace and an array of temples that bring elegance and splendor to every stone. The palace was formerly used by Thai kings but has lost none of its royalty over its 400 year history. The pavilion sits on the lake with its trophy-like spires and extraordinary porticos reflecting in the serene surface. The complex is remarkable in its tranquility and, in a way, reflects the grand history that surrounds the city, once forgotten and now shining. Wat Phra Si Sanphet is one of the most important temples around Ayutthaya where the world regresses back to its ancient roots letting you sample its majesty. The gold, silver, and bronze Buddha statues that once decorated the strong stone temples are now on display at the Bangkok National Museum. There is a stir of wind to the air that brushes the leaves away from the compound. The steps up the citadel help frame the round and terraced levels of the chedis, a Buddhist stupa, topped with a thin cone frame. The three remaining chedis stand in defiance of the city’s ransacked past and as inspiration to the country’s proud and illustrious present.
Rolling Up the River
The morning mist rises over the river where the cool air mixes with the warm morning and disappears. Along the waterway, up river, you will visit one of the fabulous floating markets. Within the canals of the old river the quiet morning comes to life. Small boats are filled to the brim with mountains of goods to sell. Locals from villages near and far come to buy fresh produce, fish, and flowers. The colors are astounding, from vibrant blues and almost fluorescent yellows that are natural in blossomed petals and ripe fruit. Dragon fruit gives a lush red to the outer layer; its inside is perfect white interspersed with black seeds. Merchants and locals call and haggle to one another. The sweet scent of the fruit blends with the perfume of the flowers, until the calls and haggling subside and the river calms. You will then head back toward the city where you are taken to the airport for your travel north, arriving in the beautiful hills that surround Chiang Rai.
A Golden Triangle
The forest surrounds the city of Chiang Rai, the largest northernmost city in Thailand. Amidst the rolling hills and lush trees of the countryside, the city is filled with an air of purity reaching outward from the unbelievable snowy color of the White Temple; it almost looks as if the tiered triangular roofs were carved from ice. A tour in and around the city will eventually bring you to the Golden Triangle, a space where three countries, Thailand, Laos, and Myanmar, meet along the river. The mountain atmosphere offers a cool breeze that rushes along the river. Watching out over the river brings a clear shine to the water’s surface, opening up the valleys that kiss the foothills of the distant mountains. There is something amazing about the beauty of land where these countries meet, where you can watch the river wind along the sensational green, and where, instead of an “X,” golden spires and statues mark the spot.
Once More into the Hills
The morning rises over the city and gives a glimmer of dew to the forest around the Chiang Rai. The scent of vibrant leaves and bark drift through the streets. After breakfast you will venture out into the hillsides to experience the traditional lives of the mountain tribes. The local traditions are an experience, meant to show you and include you in the lives of those that have never known another way, but who also enjoy their day-to-day ways of life. Within an Akha village you immediately see the wooden huts placed on stilts and rising feet off of the clear, arid ground. There is a presence of smoke in the distance, an important flame preserved throughout the day, constantly in use.
Fences are woven from dried grass and sticks, beans are dried in the sun, and bamboo platforms offer spaces of respite from the afternoon sun. The colorful garments of the Akha are reserved for special occasions, such as their celebration of the earth in lasting for four days in August, when vibrant beads are displayed on their bodies, wrapped around their necks and heads, and the people adorn themselves with colorful platelets and jewelry. As the day winds along you will have the opportunity to see more spectacular cultures of the diverse hillside tribes until the evening falls and you find yourself in the wonderful city of Chiang Mai.
There is a moment in the morning when the mist flows through the trees and makes the city look as though it was born from the mystical fog. Within that misty morning you will venture to the fabulous temple complex of Wat Phra That, located near the peak of Doi Suthep. Originally a Buddhist monastery built in the late 14th century, the temple begins at the intricate and mythical Naga Serpent Staircase. The dragons adorn the flanks of the stairs, watching out for intruders along the pink steps that climb up the mountainside in-between the ethereal tree growth. On the citadel the soft glow of golden statues opens up to the sunlight. The scent of burning incense wafts along the temples amidst the peel of bells. Look over the foothills of the mountain as the golden colors of the temple sparkle behind you, the lush forest expands before you, and the serenity of the mountaintop absorbs you.
Elephant’s Never Forget
The sensational sights of the city are more than just the surrounding forest and imposing fortress, but the wildlife that has been coveted from Thailand’s medieval past to its modern present. After breakfast you will venture to the elephant camp where famous Thai elephants are sustained and maintained. The pachyderm has been a celebrated religious symbol throughout Southeast Asia but with the wide berth of cities overtaking the hills, sanctuaries help keep the country’s celebrated elephant safe. The animal is graceful, even in its size, as its large feet press against the ground. They are loyal and endearing to their guide as they boast their skills. You can choose how up-close and personal you’d like to get with the elephants; perhaps you’d like to take a ride on top of these majestic animals in a harness or take the opportunity to learn the traits of the mahuts. In the mahut training you can feel the power of the elephant by riding bare back, and if you’re up for it you can get wet bathing with the elephant in the nearby river.
Part of the charm of the forest is the wildlife and the colors; orchids blossom with intense and delicate hues, floating along the canopy with a quiet splendor. Float through the water on a bamboo raft and see the beautiful surrounding mountains.
Anchor at Angkor
From the elephantine grandeur of Chiang Mai you will depart Thailand, flying over the border and landing in Siem Reap, which is the home of the fabulous collection of temple complexes know as Angkor Wat. After you settle into your luxurious accommodation you embark into the jungle where the dense forest was the ancient city’s grand savior during the Khmer Rouge reformation. Angkor Thom is the ‘Great City,’ where the bridges were lined with statues of soldiers both guarding the city and welcoming guests. There is a gate that opens in the middle of each wall, over 20 feet high, while some of the monumental gates stood over 60 feet. The gates are decorated with elephant trunks engraved into the stone. Fifty-four gods and and the same number of demons are carved into the causeway that leads over the moat. Tremendous faces are everywhere, smiling, ornately situated, and giving ominous power to the temple complex that is only an introduction to the grandeur of this decadent city and your fabulous visit.
Along Temple Grounds
The Lost City of Angkor was redeemed and reestablished paying homage to its full beauty. Angkor Wat is made up of five central shrines all encircled by a moat. The main temple sits along a small plateau where towers rise over the square and a serene pond trickles in the early morning. Water lilies blossom in the water. The ceiling of the first gallery situated between the pillars is decorated with a lotus rosette and the closed wall is decorated with dancing figures setting the tone for your exploration. Each temple has its magical elements fixed within the stones, ornate carvings, forgotten niches, the refreshing fragrance of incense, devout monks, and, even within the bustle of visitors, some aspect of privacy that often leaves you traversing the steep steps of a temple all on your own.
You can also have the option to explore the local culture more deeply by trying your hand at making some of the local dishes, or by taking a bicycle tour through some of the surrounding villages.
More than Stone
With the air of Indiana Jones sweeping you up in verve, today you will venture into the dense jungle at Ta Prohm, where the forgotten temple looks to have been reclaimed by the trees. The jungle not only leans and towers over the remnants of the temple but roots climb over the roofs and dig into the earth at the central sanctuary. Stone reliefs can be viewed beneath the extent of foliage, including a Buddha whose outstretched finger touches a tree root and looks as though the tree has sprung from the relief’s finger. Part of the true splendor of the temple is how it was forgotten, reclaimed by the surrounding jungle, and is just as breathtaking, if not more so, than some of the other local temples. From the blanketing moss to the fallen leaves, the greenery coats the grounds and the walls. Buddha graces the gates, and you will come face to face with archeological site as captivating in life as it is in the movies.
Good Morning Saigon
Today you will depart from the sensational temples of Angkor Wat for the famed metropolis of Ho Chi Minh City, also known as Saigon. The bustle of the city is filled with markets and motorbikes, cars and lights, where the river winds through its center like a reminder of Saigon’s history. You will be met by private transfer at the airport and taken to your luxurious accommodation. Along the streets you can see where the modern world rises above the historic sites of the city, where the second tallest skyscraper in Vietnam, Bitexco Financial Tower, casts a shadow over the French Colonial and revolutionary history of the city. Cafes and bakeries continue to populate the streets giving the city a delicious scent of buttery croissants and baguettes.
Arrive at the War Remnants Museum where the large and shimmering stones cast an arresting glare over the square, which overtook an old United States Information Agency. The interior houses many pieces of art and artifacts that tell the story of Vietnamese occupation amassed throughout history. The polished floors and lighting give an almost peculiar essence highlighting the pieces. In the courtyard an impressive display of tanks and aircrafts give a shrinking feeling to your size, where the weight and height of the vehicles are not just imposing but striking. The scent of fresh greenery from the trees adds a natural fragrance and delightful organic spice to the exhibit filled with remnants of power and metal, where the past is sensational and always worth a visit.
Within the Honeycomb
The morning brings with it the illustrious scent of tropical fruits; the juicy and colorful flesh of the dragon fruit brightens the early hours. Venture out on a tour to see the Cu Chi Tunnels, the intricate tunnel system used by the Vietcong as hiding spots, supply routes, and even living quarters. Hidden beneath brush and trees, the scent of nature, pine and fallen leaves, surrounds you. Your guide finds and lifts the latch, shimmies into the hole and shows you how tiny the opening is, wrapping snuggly around his frame. Not for the faint of heart, the tunnels squeeze tightly beneath the earth, turning, rising and falling into hidden rooms, larger and tighter spaces hiding distant openings. The air is damp and cool within the snug structure. Although the tunnels are difficult they are truly unique, worth every close turn, and are where the history of Vietnam and parts of the world were changed forever. Later in the day you will be transferred to the airport for your flight to the capital city of Hanoi.
Around the Spiritual Turtle
Set around the famed Hoan Kiem Lake is the beauty of a serene city surrounded by the bustle of modern day Vietnam. The legend claims that that heaven sent a 15th century emperor a magic sword to rid the Chinese from Vietnam; the sword now lies within the serene waters of Hoan Kiem Lake. The cool morning mist rises around the lake and gives a certain crispness to the air. At the edges of the Old Quarter is the Ho Chi Minh Mausoleum Complex filled with gardens, monuments, memorials, and pagodas. Upon the hour you can see the changing of the guards. Dressed in immaculate white uniforms with beads of yellow draped around their shoulders, they quietly step in unison giving a choreographed serenity to the imposing stone mausoleum above them.
The Presidential Palace sits within the tailored greenery of what feels like a park, located on the complex grounds. The yellow palace is tall and proper, built by French Colonialists at the turn of the 20th century, and looks like a Parisian home situated around the Champs Elysee. However, look beneath the overhanging vines and tropical orange blossoms and you can see what used to be the electricians house; this was where Ho Chi Minh decided to stay during his tenure as president. The simple and pure elegance of the area filled with gardens and fruit trees adds gracefulness to the history of the area and the splendor to the complex. Inside the home you can see Uncle Ho’s bedroom, where a single wooden bed, a small blanket, and a rush mat continue to decorate the chamber.
A Bay Full of Wonder
The wonder of Halong Bay is its sensational natural beauty, where the cool breeze is as welcome as the vibrant waters. The turquoise turns to sapphire and back again beneath the stunning golden sails of your traditional Vietnamese cruise ship. Set out along the waters where the karsts, breathtaking limestone pillars, rise from the sea. Shaped by time and the elements, they weave in and out of the ocean and one another, shimmering their white stone in the daylight, reflecting off of the water, and adding a sense of unparalleled mystique to the already gorgeous bay. Caves tunnel into various islands around Halong. The cavernous spaces rise and fall into the earth where the stalactites drip from the ceilings like melted icicles and the stalagmites rise from the ground like rugged columns. Bask in the serenity by spending the night on a luxurious junk boat.
The early morning rises over the bay and glistens along the limestone of the karsts. You will dock along the shore and make your way back to Hanoi where the day is at your leisure to explore and experience the capital city of Vietnam. The gentle breeze brushes against your hair. The powerful height of Vietnam’s largest tower looms around the clouds in the distance. There is never an end to the possibilities of the city; for a delectable and exciting day you could indulge in a food tour. Throughout the Old Quarter is a series of alleyways and walkable streets where vendors display vibrant, colorful clothes, textured fans, and comfortable locally made sandals. The exotic tastes of Vietnam are all demonstrated, from the delicate colors of dragon fruit to the creamy texture of jackfruit. A wok filled with noodles, sesame oil, and fresh seafood stirs about sending a sensational perfume along the streets. Each bite will bring a variety of flavor and a taste of the passion from which each person makes and creates their food. For a dish that you will never forget you can grab a stool at Hang Da, where the bun ca, noodles cooked in a wok with fish and vegetables in a decadent broth, will bring you a depth of flavor that will truly give you an unforgettable taste of Vietnam.
Day 19 – Confucius Wisdom
When morning reaches over the city, it is almost as if the worlds of old and new are reawakened within the streets of Hanoi. After a delicious breakfast where the sweet juice of the pineapple could be considered your dessert or your meal, you will explore the streets via a rickshaw ride. Sit back and admire the skill of your driver weaving his way among the streets. Learn how the city streets historically each had their own theme, each shop representing this tradition. You will then venture out to visit the Confucius Literature Center. The temple is a demonstration of preserved Vietnamese architecture filled with the grandeur of a tiered gateway. The entrance gate is an imposing structure, reminding visitors of the temple’s rich past. There is a distinct scent of polished stone and manicured gardens. The gateway continues to be poised and dominant along the wide paths, its arches climbing into the trees. A large ceramic statue of the Master sits draped in a scarlet robe decorated with gilded dragons, watching over the knowledge that he has passed down over the millennia. Four disciples sit at his sides and watch out along the vibrant red pagoda housing set within the garden. The quiet day rests over the large square pond known as the Well of Heavenly Clarity; you take a breath and know that there is no reason to question the name.
Never Ending Grandeur
Today you will have a private transfer to the airport where you will begin your journey home. Your time within Southeast Asia brought you to gilded palaces, towering Wats, and sensational rock formations. You witnessed past and present wonders in an area of the world that is brimming with spectacular history. Your holiday may be coming to an end but as the plane begins to soar, you can close your eyes and picture all the wonders you have experienced, assuring you that there is no end to the grandeur that you have seen.
- Visit the fascinating metropolis of Thailand’s capital, Bangkok
- See the sensational Grand Palace and fantastic temples that line the river of Bangkok
- Witness the soft spoken beauty of Ayutthaya
- Cruise through the colorful and fresh floating markets outside of Bangkok
- Ascend the mountaintop to experience the temple at Doi Suthep
- Celebrate with elephants at the Elephant Camp in Chiang Mai
- Discover the hidden and not so hidden grandeur of Angkor Wat
- Traverse the contemporary and ancient history of Ho Chi Minh City through museums and wonderful sites
- Revel in the diversity of Hanoi, Vietnam’s capital city
- Sail through the splendor of Halong Bay’s illustrious waters
A plethora of possibilities thrives within the majesty of Southeast Asia where the gilded temple towers continue to shimmer along the riverbeds and beneath the expansive cityscapes. You will experience it all on this 20-day journey meant to take you to the grandeur of this mystical corner of the world. From spectacular riverbanks surrounded with vibrant landscapes and filled with colorful everyday splendor, to the regal ruins of historic empires, your time through Southeast Asia will be filled with adventure, majesty, and the unforgettable diversity of life.
Your journey through Southeast Asia begins with your arrival in Bangkok, the capital of Thailand. The modern, expansive city is filled with the sparkling gems of its quiet history hidden in the shadows of its skyline. Tour the city and witness the enchanting Grand Palace that sits along the riverbanks overlooking the waterway. Temples continue to decorate the city, complete with the splendor of the city’s sovereign past, where jade Buddha sits, golden Buddha reclines, and the atmosphere is nothing less than magical. Venture to Ayutthaya where the royal capital of Thailand can be viewed in the spectacular ruins that continue to grace the city, complete with carved reliefs. Witness the fabulous floating markets where the vibrant colors of the hillsides come alive in the produce and flowers, set in boats that drift down the serene river.
In the northern corners of Thailand you will settle in Chiang Rai, the largest, most northern area of the country, where you will visit the Golden Triangle, the gorgeous point where three countries, Thailand, Cambodia, and Laos meet. Explore the mountainous jungles to discover a variety of tribes that continue and prefer to live in their traditional styles and ways that have been passed down for centuries, before you arrive in the capital of the north, Chiang Mai. Once settled into the city you will traverse the mountain of Doi Suthep where a fascinating temple decorates the plateau and overlooks the valley below. Witness the elephant camp where the once holy animal is protected and cared for inside the walls of an expanding city.
Your adventure continues in Cambodia where the modern city of Siem Reap borders the incredible ancient stone city of Angkor Wat. Discover the majesty of the historic empire that was lost to history, reemerging as a mystical and astounding connection to the Khmer past. From the historic jungles of Cambodia you will step into the modern city Ho Chi Minh City, still referred to by locals as Saigon. You will quickly see how contemporary history has shaped the current city, from the rich scent of croissants, the intense armaments displayed at the museums, and in the intricate tunnels that wind through the southern landscapes.
In Hanoi, the capital of Vietnam, you will stroll through the beauty of the Ho Chi Minh Mausoleum, a serene space where French Colonial decadence contrasts with the simplicity of Ho Chi Minh’s legacy. Along the shores of Halong Bay you will witness the gargantuan and awesome display of nature where time and wind have shaped the karsts that decorate the sea. Cruise along the bay and feel the comfortable chill of the China Sea before returning to Hanoi. Your departure for home will bring you back to familiarity but the splendor of Southeast Asia will always be lingering in your mind ready to be revisited and enjoyed.
$3,855 per person (excluding international flights)
Your Zicasso trip is fully customizable, and this sample itinerary is a starting place for your travel plans. Actual costs are dynamic, and your selection of accommodations and activities, your season of travel, and other such variables will bring this budget guideline up or down. Throughout your planning experience with your Zicasso specialist, your itinerary is designed around your budget. You can book your trip when you are satisfied with every detail. Planning your trip with a Zicasso travel specialist is a free service.
- In-country transportation
- Some or all activities and tours
- Expert trip planning
- 24x7 support during your trip
Your final trip cost will vary based on your selected accommodations, activities, meals, and other trip elements that you opt to include.
Reviews of Zicasso's Referral Service
4.89 stars based on 81 reviews.
Reviewed By David G.
Reviewed By Robyn H.
Reviewed By Suzann S.
Reviewed By Robert T.
Reviewed By Tim H.
Reviewed By Matt B.
Get Weekly Inspiration and Expert Advice on Travel
during the COVID and post-COVID era