Aqua Mekong, the latest vessel from Aqua Expeditions, is set to launch on the Mekong River in August 2014. Check out this video on the inspiration behind expanding from the Amazon to the Mekong.
CEO Francesco Galli Zugaro dropped into the Hanuman offices earlier this week to discuss a pioneering approach to promotional videos. The Aqua Mekong looks set to take Mekong cruising to a whole new level. With just 20 cabins, this will be the most exclusive cruise boat on the Mekong River.
Aqua originally started offering luxurious, exploratory cruises on the Peruvian Amazon, from the jungle city of Iquitos to the Pacaya Samiria National Reserve which has proved to be very successful and we are excited to see them expanding into Vietnam and Cambodia. It’s very much aimed at discerning clients who want a luxurious experience whilst discovering the Mekong in depth. They offer a range of itineraries both upstream and downstream from 3 to 7 days.
They have also got Michelin-starred chef David Thompson on board, and he’s been appointed executive chef for the Aqua. He is renowned for his Thai, Khmer and Vietnamese cuisine and runs the famous Nahm restaurant at the Metropolitan Hotel in Bangkok.
We have negotiated the best possible rates with them. Contact our Sales Team for more on the Aqua Mekong.
Posts Tagged ‘Vietnam’
Aqua Mekong, the latest vessel from Aqua Expeditions, is set to launch on the Mekong River in August 2014. Check out this video on the inspiration behind expanding from the Amazon to the Mekong.
Hang Son Doong is the largest cave in the world, located in the Phong Nha Ke Bang National Park in Quang Bing Province in North Central Vietnam. Check out this video showing an Oxalis expedition into the cave.
Only explored for the first time by a British caving team in 2009, it is now possible for very limited numbers of visitors to undertake an expedition to Hang Son Doong. Only 22o permits are available to explore this cave complex in 2014 and group departures are limited to just eight people per day. Oxalis Adventures offers 7 day/6 night tours of Hang Son Doong costing US$3000 per person. For some incredible photos of this cave complex, check out the National Geographic images by Carsten Peter: http://ngm.nationalgeographic.com/2011/01/largest-cave/peter-photography#/04-jungle-inside-cave-714.jpg
Try Hanuman’s Top Ten Authentic Experiences in Indochina.
Enjoy a helicopter ride over remote temples or the islands of Halong Bay, enjoy a nostalgic city tour by vintage car, meet leading artists and sculptors in the regional art scene, learn the secrets of local recipes with a celebrity chef and learn the art of travel photography with a professional. All these authentic experiences are possible in Cambodia, Laos, Myanmar and Vietnam through Hanuman.
Helicopter Flights : Take to the skies to see the region from a different view. Fly to remote jungle temples in the far north of Cambodia, the endless array of temples in Bagan or discover the dramatic scale of Halong Bay from the air.
The Art of Travel Photography : Learn the tricks of the photographic trade from one of the professional photographers living in the region, including diverse destinations such as the temples of Angkor, lovely Luang Prabang, balloons over Bagan and the Mekong Delta.
Living History in Selected Cities : Understand the complicated history of the war years in Cambodia, Laos and Vietnam with a history tour of the leading cities. Experience an intimate tour of iconic locations in Phnom Penh, Saigon and Vientiane.
Wine and Dine in Memorable Places : Enjoy an exclusive private champagne dinner in a unique location. Imagine dinner at one of Angkor’s ancient temples or a romantic picnic on a deserted tropical island.
Encounter Wildlife in Remote Places : Cambodia, Laos and Vietnam have an extensive network of national parks. Sleep in a treehouse with the Gibbon Experience in Laos, visit Prek Toal Bird Sanctuary near Siem Reap or see rare langurs in Vietnam.
Cooking with a Celebrity Chef : Experience a cookery demonstration with one of the region’s finest chefs to learn more about the delights of Cambodian, Laotian or Vietnamese cuisine. This can be arranged in most popular visitor destinations.
Meet the Movers and Shakers : Enjoy a private meal with one of the leading lights of the Mekong region, from royal family members in Cambodia to respected international figures who live in Laos and Vietnam.
Hidden Treasures of Indochina : Enjoy exclusive access to leading museums and conservation departments of the region with leading art experts and archaeologists. Go behind the scenes to see forgotten treasures not on display.
City Tour by Vintage Car or Motorcycle : Explore the bustling streets of cities in Cambodia, Laos, Myanmar and Vietnam by vintage car. For the more adventurous, it is possible to experience a city tour on the back of an old motorbike.
Yoga Class in Unique Locations : Relax and unwind with your own private yoga session somewhere to remember. Try one of the more remote and secluded beaches of Vietnam or one of the lesser known temples around Angkor.
Check out this new video of Hoi An including some inspirational aerial footage from a drone-mounted camera.
Some of the Hanuman team were in Hoi An last weekend to discuss some exciting new travel initiatives in the Central Vietnam region and met up with event and travel media company Key Productions, who produced this short film, including some soaring aerial shots.
Hanuman Films has long produced high-quality travel videos for hotels, cruises and events in the Mekong region, including lots of great videos for Hanuman Travel TV. We’ll be adding some Vietnam videos to the channel in the coming months so watch this space: http://www.youtube.com/user/HanumanTourism?feature=watch
Away from the bustle of the mainland, on islands that were once hell on earth for thousands of prisoners, tranquility now reigns.
Vietnam is very densely populated. With most of its 90 million people living along a narrow coastal strip, it’s all too easy to experience the country through a blur of exhaust fumes, struggling along Highway 1 and stopping off at the most popular towns and cities along the way. As it’s a lot to take in, you would do well to factor in time away from the mainland, on one of the country’s beautiful islands that are fast attracting visitors.
In the north, the Ha Long Bay area has more than 2,000 craggy limestone islets, but you need to choose your boat trip carefully as the Unesco-listed region is wildly popular. So it’s worth investing a little time to explore the less-visited, outer islands.
Off the central coast, the Cham Islands are a great day trip from historic Hoi An, while in the deep south, Phu Quoc is developing fast but has a lush interior and unspoilt beaches. For the ultimate escape, however, my pick would be remote Con Dao, with a fascinating history and empty beaches.
The Con Dao islands have an utterly unhurried ambience. “There are two traffic lights, but no work,” the bike rental guy said apologetically as he gave me the island rundown. “One gas station, but close for lunch. Only one road, so you no lost. Right to airport or left to prisons and port.”
Moped key in hand, I was relishing the chance to get out and explore some empty roads in search of a perfect beach for the day. I’d spent the previous week embracing Vietnamese city culture and its furious energy and commerce, but was now in need of some serious hammock time.
A cluster of 16 islets in the South China Sea, the Con Dao islands are 155 miles from Ho Chi Minh City. Only the main island, Con Son, is inhabited (its population is just 6,000), though the other islands can be visited.
Once hell on earth to thousands of prisoners incarcerated by French colonists and the American military, today the Con Daos are blissfully tranquil. With their ravishing sandy bays, rainforests and healthy coral reefs, their tropical appeal is easy to grasp. Flight connections used to be atrocious, but Vietnam Airlines now offers three daily flights from Ho Chi Minh City (£52 one way).
The rental guy had lied about the one road. Easily sidetracked, my Honda and I had chanced upon a rough track close to the airport, and our inquisitiveness had rewarded us royally in the form of Dam Trau beach, a sublime half-moon crescent of pale sand, bookended by forest-topped rocky promontories.
After an hour’s snorkelling, exploring the kaleidoscopic coral teeming with macro life and spending five minutes swimming eye-to-eye with a hawksbill turtle, I retreated to the plastic chairs in the bay’s seafood shack, picked a victim from the live fish tank and gorged on crab with tamarind and chilli. The only other diners were a group from Hanoi, employees of a state-owned bank on a corporate jolly-with-a-purpose.
Vietnam is a country steeped in revolutionary rhetoric, and Vo Thi Sau, a teenage resistance fighter executed in Con Dao during the French occupation, fits the bill perfectly. (She killed a captain in a grenade attack at the age of 14, and wasn’t captured until years later.) The bank staff were here to pay their respects to this national heroine, and to the thousands of others who lost their lives in Con Dao’s 11 prisons.
Ghosts are everywhere in Con Dao, nowhere more so than at Phu Hai jail. Built in 1862, it once housed 20,000 prisoners – political and criminal inmates chained together naked in rows. The really troublesome individuals were kept in “tiger cages”, with six to 10 men crammed into a tiny open-roofed enclosure, beaten with sticks from above and dusted with lime and water (which burns the skin). Unbeknown to the world, the Americans continued operating these tiger cages until 1970 when a Life magazine report broke news of their existence, provoking an international outcry.
It had been a chastening day, the brutality of prison conditions contrasting acutely with the overwhelming beauty of my surroundings. As I strolled along the seafront promenade in Con Son town, it was easy to marvel at the sheer gentility of this pocket-sized island capital, its litter-free streets, French-era villas, well-kept municipal buildings and air of calm and prosperity.
Con Son town has a dozen or so hotels and guesthouses but the Six Senses resort (sixsenses.com; from £441), a short ride away to the north, really is in a class of its own. Occupying the island’s best beach, it comprises 50 or so ocean-front, timber-clad beach villas, each fusing contemporary style with rustic chic.
The next day I dropped by the National Park offices just outside Con Son town. The islands’ ecosystems are unique, with 11 trees found nowhere else in the world. It’s thought that a dozen or so dugong, or “sea cows”, remain in the waters around Con Dao, though they are extremely elusive.
You’ve a much better chance of seeing sea turtles as the islands are Vietnam’s most important nesting ground. The World Wide Fund for Nature has supported conservation efforts to protect the green turtle, and national park rangers run night-time boat trips to neighbouring Bay Canh island (the main turtle-nesting season is May to November).
I’d already been lucky enough to snorkel with a turtle, so I fixed up a hike with a ranger instead. Following a slippery but well-marked trail we entered the ever-dripping island rainforest, inching up a mountainside past giant creepers, roots and shoots, picking our way over colossal hardwood buttresses up to the long-abandoned So Ray Plantation, established by the French but now occupied by a sociable troop of long-tailed macaques which are thriving amid the fruit trees planted decades earlier.
On my last day I hooked up with a Honda again for a ride south. Bicycles are also available for rent from hotels (from £2 per day) and taxis can be booked, though they are quite pricey. We hugged the coastline, buzzing past coves and beaches, the lonely road lined with wild bougainvillea and the curious aerial-rooted pandan tree. Towering granite cliffs cascaded down to a turquoise sea as we rounded Ca Map point before rolling into Ben Dam, a no-nonsense port preoccupied with the gritty business of Vietnamese life.
Here sailors sell giant durian fruit from boats and their decks are crisscrossed with clotheslines pegged with drying seaweed, fluttering in the ocean breeze. I ordered a treacle-thick Vietnamese coffee from a café to fix me up for the return leg and paused to watch ruddy-cheeked, beer-happy men paddle from the shore in bizarre coracle-like contraptions back to their fishing boats moored in the bay.
My final stop was Hang Duong cemetery. In the windy season, bones lie exposed in the sun here when the sandy topsoil is blown away. But today there was just the gentlest of breezes, on which drifted the smell of incense.
Following the scent through the flowering scrubs and trees, I was guided to a specific grave, one of thousands there. Here I found the group of bank workers again, heads bowed, at the tomb of Vo Thi Sau as prayers were offered and thanks given to a national icon.
I found myself contemplating the nature of the modern Vietnamese nation: the long struggle for independence and years of suffering, today’s breakneck pace of development, the economic successes and the inevitable growing pains. Here in Con Dao, I enjoyed the silence.
Rugged, mountainous Cat Ba island is emerging as a great base to explore the wider Ha Long region. Most of the island is a national park, with trails that fringe the habitat of one of the world’s rarest primates, the cherubic-looking, but highly endangered Cat Ba langur.
Cat Ba is also something of an adventure sports mecca thanks to pioneering work by Asia Outdoors (asiaoutdoors.com.vn), which has established dozens of climbing routes on the spectacular limestone islets that fringe Cat Ba, and also offers all sorts of kayaking and sailing excursions.
In Vietnam you’re never far from a reminder of the conflict locals call the American War. Cat Ba’s amazing Hospital Cave was used by the North Vietnamese as a safe shelter for the military elite, and has its own operating theatres, a small swimming pool and even a cinema.
Until a few years ago the Cham islands in central Vietnam were a military zone and off-limits to tourism. Times have changed and the islands are now accessible by boat trips (April to September only) from Hoi An.
During the main Vietnamese holiday season (July and August) local tour groups can swamp the golden beaches, but after they’ve departed (around 2pm) normal service (peace) resumes.
Make sure to drop by the unusual little temple Ong Ngu in Bai Lang, which is dedicated to the whale and whale shark (regarded as oceanic gods by locals until a generation or two ago).
In Vietnam’s extreme south, Phu Quoc island is tipped to be the country’s next beach hot spot. A new international airport opened in 2012 (daily flights arrive from Ho Chi Minh City) and dirt roads are steadily being paved.
For now it’s still possible to find a quiet place to escape the mainland crowds. Try eco-friendly Mango Bay (mangobayphuquoc.com; from £80) or Itaca (itacalounge.com), which offers modern-Mediterranean and Asian food, hip decor, DJs and a chilled atmosphere.
Break up the beach-hopping, if you can brave the smell, with a visit to the nuoc mam (fish sauce) factory in Duong Dong, the main town.
When to go
Vietnam has a very complicated climate. The best time to visit the Con Dao islands is between November and March.
Disaster strikes RV Saigon Pandaw.News just in that the RV Saigon Pandaw cruise boat has sunk off the Malaysian coast whilst under tug tow from Saigon in Vietnam to Singapore and then onto Yangon in Myanmar. There was no one on board thankfully, after the hull became swamped with water and the cruiser capsized in heavy seas. The boat was to be renamed the Sagaing for its move to Myanmar and was built just three years ago in Vietnam with three decks and room for sixty passengers. Pandaw River Cruises who own the boat, have two more cruise ships under construction.
Keeping on the cycling theme, the backroads of the Mekong Delta in Vietnam are an engaging attraction for cyclists with its lovely landscapes and welcoming people. Why not try our nine-day cycling adventure through this beautiful part of the country.
Vietnam is emerging as a popular destination for cycling holidays. Unless you are in training for the King of the Mountains jersey, you might be put off by the formidable mountains of the north, but down in the Mekong Delta the country is pancake flat and criss-crossed by pretty country roads. We leave the city by minibus to avoid the chaotic traffic and cycle from Mytho to the backwaters of Ben Tre. From Ben Tre, we cycle through pretty countryside to the ethnic Khmer area of Tra Vinh where we can see some striking Cambodian pagodas. Using local ferries and small roads, we continue to Soc Trang before heading to the heartland of the Mekong Delta in Cantho. We have a slow day to relax, but visit the floating markets in the morning for some superb photo opportunities. We travel to Rach Gia to board a hydrofoil for the lovely island of Phu Quoc. We bike around the island, passing through areas of national park, but leave the penultimate day free to relax on the beaches.
Contact our Sales Team at Hanuman for more information or visit our website at http://www.hanuman.travel/Tours/Vietnam/Cycling_Southern_Vietnam.html.
Here at Hanuman, we want to put the personality back into travel. Our travel collection is inspired by imagination, driven by our daydreams. We love Cambodia, Laos, Myanmar and Vietnam and want to share our passion with you. A successful trip is down to service and we understand the importance of getting this right every step of the way, from hotels of distinction to guides with passion and personality. This is our commitment to travel with a personal touch.
As well as Lonely Planet, he also works as a freelance writer for leading newspapers and magazines such as BBC Travel, The Times and Wanderlust. He also works as a Location Manager and Producer for television and films, including work as the Location Manager on Tomb Raider and Line Producer on the famous Top Gear Vietnam special. He has worked with numerous celebrities over the years, including Gordon Ramsay, Angeline Jolie, Charley Boorman and Samantha Brown.
Should you have any questions for Nick on any aspect of travel in the Mekong region, don’t hesitate to drop by the Hanuman booth on 23-25 October 2013 at the ITB Asia.
Immerse yourself in the trio of beautiful and varied World Heritage locations in Luang Prabang, Halong Bay and Angkor with our 15-day journey of discovery.
Indochina is home to several stunning UNESCO World Heritage Sites and this signature trip takes in the most impressive of these in Cambodia, Laos and Vietnam. Starting in lovely and languid Luang Prabang, we enjoy the combination of rich culture and lush nature in this charming town. Flying to elegant Hanoi, we pay our respects to Uncle Ho and explore the exotic Old Quarter. Halong Bay is the only natural World Heritage Site on this list, but it is undoubtedly one of the most memorable with a forest of karst peaks soaring skywards from the sea. Flying south, we stop in Hoi An to explore the compelling historic house, tailor shops, galleries and cafes of this atmospheric place. We leave some time to enjoy the beach before flying on to Siem Reap, our base to visit the simply sublime temples of Angkor. Our visit includes all the world famous temples such as Angkor Wat, the world’s largest religious building, as well as some of the floating communities of the Tonle Sap.
Contact our Sales Team at Hanuman for more information or visit our website at http://www.hanuman.travel/Tours/Indochina/World_Heritage_Indochina.html.