Days 1 - 3
Steamy, frenetic and exhilarating, Thailand’s capital city is a legendary travel destination, equally famous for its rich cultural offerings, effervescent nightlife, superb shopping, and diverse dining options – which range from bustling, fragrant street markets to five-star haute cuisine establishments. The capital’s attractions are almost limitless, but if you only have limited time, not-to-be-missed attractions include the vast Reclining Buddha at Wat Pho, a morning boat trip down the canals to see the floating markets, and the opulent Grand Palace. For shopping, head to the tourist hub of Khaosan Road, the MBK Centre, Siam Square, or on weekends, the vast Chatuchak market, while for dining and entertainment it’s best to check with your guide on the hottest spots of the moment.
Days 3 - 5
Dubbed 'The Rose of the North', Thailand’s northern capital is far smaller and more serene than Bangkok. Despite this, the city has seen extensive development in the last decade that has transformed it from a low-key, old-world city into a modern hub, complete with top-notch restaurants and five-star hotels. A walk around the inner-city moat will take you past the array of glittering temples, aromatic food markets and eclectic shops of Chiang Mai’s downtown, while just five minutes away is the popular Night Bazaar – a shopping Mecca for tourists. Other highlight attractions include a visit to the trendy Nimmanhemin district, with its upmarket bars and shopping outlets, and a trip up Suthep Mountain, to see the hilltop temple and take in panoramic views of the city below.
Days 5 - 8
Best known as the gateway to the magnificent ancient temple complex of Angkor Wat, Siem Reap is a pleasant town with lovely French colonial and Chinese architecture, and a laid-back ambience. The main attraction here is of course the Angkor complex. Covering an area larger than Paris, it encompasses scores of exquisite temple structures featuring intricately carved detail – dancing ladies and lotus flowers embellish the walls, five-headed naga (serpent deities) fan out from chunks of rock. Abandoned for unknown reasons thousands of years ago, it was rediscovered in 1860 by a French explorer, Henri Mahout, and has been Cambodia’s crowning glory ever since. Other attractions in and around Siem Reap include an array of arts and crafts shops, a cultural village that allows a glimpse into traditional local life, and a bird sanctuary on the outskirts of town.
Ho Chi Minh City
Days 8 - 10
The perfect complement to the more serene Hanoi, Ho Chi Minh City (formerly Saigon) has a pulsating energy that is impossible to resist. Attractions include the bustling Ben Thanh Market, where vendors sell everything from food, sweets and spices to tobacco, souvenirs and clothing - including custom-made suits, and Nha Hang Ngon, where you can taste traditional street food served up from food stalls in a leafy garden. Other notable sites and experiences include the Notre-Dame Basilica, the Jade Emperor Pagoda for its statues and woodcarvings, the War Remnants Museum, and the Khanh Van Nam Vien Pagoda, said to be the only pure Taoist temple in Vietnam.
Days 10 - 12
Hoi An, on Vietnam’s central coast, is enchanting. This once-bustling port town has a colourful blend of French, Chinese and Japanese-influenced architecture, canals, bridges and temples, and the lack of noisy traffic (no cars are allowed on the main streets) means you can take it all in in relative peace and quiet. Its waterfront area is alive with boutique hotels, eateries and tailor shops, and art and craft shops. If you have time, try to fit in a visit to the ruins of My Son Sanctuary, an ancient Hindu tower temple complex.
Days 12 - 13
With its wide boulevards, ancient pagodas and tree-lined lakes, Vietnam’s capital is also the country’s most atmospheric and beguiling city. There is an energy and charm here arising from the genteel mix of French colonialism and Asian grace and tradition. Enjoy a showcase of synchronised t’ai chi at Hoan Kiem Lake; stroll around the lively Old Quarter with its narrow streets, traders and packs of scooters weaving in and out, and don’t miss the chance to see a water puppetry show at the Thang Long Puppet Theatre. Other places to visit include the Imperial Citadel of Thang Long, the Perfume Pagoda temple complex and the Hanoi Opera House in the heart of the French Quarter.