World Trip 2016: Discover Southeast Asia Tour Review

Tour Title: Discover Southeast Asia
Tour Company: G Adventures – National Geographic (Co-branded)
Tour Leader:  Benchaporn (BenGy) Amchang
Cities Visited: Bangkok, Chiang Mai, Luang Prabang, Hanoi, Halong, Ho Chi Minh City,  Phnom Penh, Siem Reap
Countries Visited: Thailand, Laos, Vietnam, Cambodia
Dates: 9 July 2016 to 26 July 2016 (Duration 18 days)

Tour Type
This tour is listed as one of G Adventures Comfort tours. In short the hotels you stay at will be very good, there will be a lot of high quality included activities but also a bit of free time for optional activities recommendation by the Chief Experience Officer (Tour Leader).

Tour Members
This tour had 10 tour members; Graham (USA), Ashley (USA), Sarah (UK), Josie (Ireland), Damian (Ireland), Karen (USA), Chris (Canada), James (Canada) and Bal (UK).  Tour members ranged from just finished Unversity to retired so are wide age range but the group really come together well.

Included Activities

  • Arrival transfer
  • Tour of Bangkok including boat ride on the klong (canals)
  • Visit the temple at Doi Suthep
  • Rural village visit with authentic Khantoke dinner in a local family’s home 
  • Thai cooking class with market visit
  • Orientation walk of Chiang Mai night market
  • Tour of Luang Prabang
  • Wat Visoun temples visit (no talk with a monk despite being advertised as included)
  • Boat tour to Pak Ou cave temples
  • Kuang Sii waterfall excursion
  • Hanoi old town cyclo tour
  • Ho Chi Minh Mausoleum (did not go inside)
  • Halong Bay overnight cruise
  • Ho Chi Minh City cyclo tour
  • Cu Chi tunnels tour
  • Phnom Penh cyclo tour
  • Tuol Sleng Prison (aka S-21) Museum tour and Choeung Ek memorial (the “killing fields”) tour
  • Siem Reap orientation walk and night market
  • Two-day guided tour of Angkor Wat
  • Visit and lunch at New Hope
  • Performance at Phare, The Cambodian Circus

Optional Activities
BenGy (Tour CEO) offered the following optional activities that I undertook (prices listed when I recalled them):

Chiang Mai

  • Thai Massage (600 baht plus 60 baht tip – exceptional 1.5 hour massage)
  • Muaythai kickboxing (600 baht ringside seats)
  • Cabaret / Ladyboy show 
  • Elephant Park (2,300 baht includes transportation and lunch)
  • Private Van for silk and silver factory visits (40 baht)
  • Hill Tribe Village visit (500 baht) and Orchid & butterfly farm visit (free) plus 150 baht for transportation to both

Luang Prabang

  • Alms giving ceremony ($3 USD for purchasing food plus need to get up before 5 am)
  • Hike up Mount Phousi (entrance fee 20.000 Kip, around US$ 2.60, per person)

Halong Bay

  • Rowboat tour of the bay ($10 USD each)

Hanoi

  • Hoa Lo Prison Visit (aka Hanoi Hilton)
  • Water Puppet Show

Ho Chi Ming City

  • Tailored Suits ($500 AUD for two tailored suits with two pants each and shipping back to Australia)

Phnom Penh

  • Shooting Range ($50 USD to shoot M16 assault weapon plus $15 for transportation)
  • Tonle Sap Sunset Cruise ($15 USD drinks on the boat included)

Siem Reap

  • Fish Foot Massage ($3 USD)
  • ATV / Quad Bike ($35 USD – note I did not do this activity but everyone said it was great)

Note: The elephant park (Chiang Mai) and shooting range (Phnom Penh) might not be offered by all CEOs.  I found the elephant park BenGy organised to be highly ethical, you don’t ride the elephant, you feed them, go on a hike with them (feed them as they go) and later bath them in a large pond.  

Accommodation
Bangkok, Thailand – FuramaXclusive Sathorn
Free Wifi in room. Two free water bottles provided. Breakfast included which was massive and mostly western style.

Chiang Mai, Thailand – The Empress Chiang Mai Hotel
No free internet. Two free glass water bottles that you can’t take from your room. Breakfast was included and was a mix of Western and Asian offerings plus chefs making you omelettes and other offerings.  Hotel pool.

Luang Prabang, Laos – Maison Dalabua Hotel
Free wifi in room. Spacious room, in-house laundry service was cheap and very efficient. Two free water bottles. Relaxing pool that almost everyone used. Good on-site restaurants that people outside of the hotel appeared to use as well. Breakfast was included with a more limited range but still enough.

Hanoi, Vietnam – Golden Silk Boutique Hotel
Free wifi in room. Staff had lots of problems organising rooms for our group. Two free water bottles. Breakfast was included with heavier focus on Asian than Western.

Halong Bay, Vietnam – Boat stay – Starfish
No wifi (and no surprise being on the bay). Excellent staff on the boat especially the chef and captain.  Fan and air conditioning in room but A/C isn’t powered up until around 10 pm and turned off at 7 am.  My room came with shower and toilet.

Ho Chi Minh City, Vietnam – Continental Saigon Hotel
Free wifi.  Enormous room.  Two free small water bottles included. Free local paper also delivered to my room. Breakfast was included and had a large range of both Asian and Western food. High end shops, the Opera House right across the road.

Phnom Peng, Cambodia -Eureka Villas
Free wifi in room (medium to slow speed).  Hotel has a pool.  Included breakfast was very basic.  More basic hotel stay but still fine.

Siem Reap, Cambodia – Royal Angkor Resort
A luxury hotel.  Super fast free wifi. Great rooms, excellent onsite facilities including pool, massage staff, gift shops and Olympic size pool. Restaurant had wide range of offering. Free 10 minute massage included in stay (which was excellent). Large include buffet breakfast which include a chef to make omelettes and similar breakfast items.

Tour Leader
Benchaporn (BenGy) Amchang is an experienced Chief Experiemce Officer (CEO).  BenGy ensured everyone had a great time, promoted sensible travelling and positive impacts. I’ve had 12 different G Adventure CEOs (not counting Antarctica) and BenGy is one of the best.

BenGy handled everything so well, from providing unexpected drinks and lollies when she noticed people were crashing in the hot and humid conditions, to handing out daily activity notes for the next day, a great range of recommendations for each new city (especially Chiang Mai), and good local contacts who organised best seats in the house.  BenGy provided entertaining stories and a lot of enthusiasm about what we were experiencing.  Also the trip video BenGy put together at the end was amazing.

Highlights
This is an amazing trip, you do a lot in a short amount of time with the multiple short plane rides between all cities except for Phnom Penh to Siem Reap creating more time to do things instead of just sitting on buses.  The major highlights for my included Halong Bay (Vietnam), there is a reason it’s one of the new seven natural wonders of the world, the visit to the Cu Chi tunnels (Vietnam), learning how to cook at the Thai cooking class (Thailand), the Pak Ou cave temples visit after cruising down the famous Mekong River (Laos), participating in the 14th century alms giving ceremony (Laos), the exceptional Kuang Sii Falls (Laos), hand feeding and bathing an elephant (Thailand) and the Muaythai kickboxing (Thailand).  Also getting two suits made from scratch was a great experience, almost looking forward to using them at work events!

However the greatest highlight is visiting the temples at Siem Reap, in particular Angkor Wat at dawn and later in the day.  It was an almost spiritual visit made even better by watching Sarah get a blessing from a monk at the Temple..

I would highly recommend this trip.  The price is reasonable and the experiences will stay with you forever, you might struggle with the heat and humidity but in the end it is worth it.  Plus being G Adventure you get to see their charity arm Planterra and what community projects that they support which are very worthwhile.


(Video created by our amazing CEO BenGy)

Tips: It can be hot and humid in Southeast Asia so very light clothes are necessary.  For the temples you will need pants or shorts that go at least to the knee.  A small towel for helping with the sweat after hikes is also a good idea.  

Photos: Thailand, Laos, Vietnam, Cambodia
Videos: Thailand, Laos, Vietnam, Cambodia

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About Nathan

An Australian World traveler who has been fortunate enough to experience 56 countries so far. https://nathanburgessinsights.com/travel/
This entry was posted in Travel, World Trip 2016 and tagged . Bookmark the permalink.

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