Ninh Binh

Why Indochina Travel

Robert Louis Stevenson wrote "for to travel hopefully is a better thing than to arrive." The Art of Travel's Alain de Botton also argues against disappointment, proposing that "the destination is of far less importance than an awareness of why we are on the move at all." Hmm, not too promising... Onward. Martin Buber notes "All journeys have a secret destination of which the traveler is unaware." Definitely more promising, and more apt of Indochina, China and Myanmar. Languid, vivid, devastated, bold, enigmatic, exotic, with plenty of secrets. Very few, if any places in the world are as fascinating... or are as challenging, at least to plan and arrange a meaningful trip.

"We are still aglow from our wonderful trip to Indochina. The trip was so wonderful that Sue is quite receptive to more third world travel (or whatever one calls travel outside North America, Europe, Australia, Japan, etc.). Five years ago, we found that you were able to offer private travel for a whole lot less than the likes of A&K and GeoEx. I subsequently discovered that, apart from cost, your trip was almost certainly better than what they would have provided." ~ Dr. Burt Zwick (read more comments)

We've excelled at doing this since we organized the first adventure tours over 18 years ago. We believe travel should be inherently personal and aside from our Photography Series and annual Arts and Lunar New Year tours, we meticulously organize private customized journeys that reflect every one of our client's unique style of travel. Because we organize our own tours in the region, our private tours cost about the same or less than other's group tours, while providing a more comprehensive and authentic travel experience, we know you'll be even more pleased with us.

Toss the guidebook. As Rudy Maxa says, "Other than gas prices, few things change as fast as the travel... Security rules for airline passengers are modified with little notice. Trends in hotels swing from bathrooms filled with amenities to boutique hotels where the entire front desk staff is outfitted in black t-shirts." Like Maxa, we keep up with the the most rapidly changing places in the world, steering travelers away from places no longer worth exploring (such as Saigon, but not Halong Bay which remains a delight with the right boat and crew). Most importantly, for a memorable trip, in this region it's the people, not places or things that are the real highlight.

Let us know like to see and do. If you've interest in colonial or religious architecture, contemporary pottery or traditional Lao Ikat textiles, performance arts, or everyone's favorite — cuisine Vietnamienne — we provide the expertise and knowledge to ensure your trip is yours alone, more personal, entirely uncommon, and although tailored to your particular interests, inclusive of a few surprises we know you'll enjoy. Let us saturate you in the real culture of Vietnam and Southeast Asia, not a packaged version. Let us sort through the confusion (lets' see, was it Binh Hoa or Hoa Binh? Of course, Veterans would know Binh Hoa was the largest base during the war, about 40 clicks north of Saigon), facilitate authentic experiences, and increase chances unanticipated pleasures. Isn't this ultimately a more fulfilling and satisfying travel experience? Put us to the test, call and see if we know our stuff.

Travel on your terms
Dalat PalaceExperience the highest caliber of travel management covering Southeast Asia that A-List celebrities, Fortune 50 executives, and their agents and friends call on for this region of the world. Let us plan, organize a manage an exceptional private custom-tailored tour with the finest guides and accomplished experts, fabulous accommodations, and what we take very seriously — cuisine. With our advice, you plan where you want go, see and do, not the other way around.

Is it wise to travel to Vietnam in September? Where can you find the best cao lao soup in Hoi An? What is the weather really like in Sapa or Paro during December? In which places do we need to take anti-malarials? Why aren't the Amans at Angkor or Luang Prabang the top choice? Where is the next Phuket (hint: not in Thailand)? Silk in Hanoi, tailoring in Hoi An or Bangkok? Where and what would teenagers or younger children find interesting? What is the best use of 48 hours in Luang Prabang? What differentiates the national parks in Vietnam? We can also tell you it's the dynamic culture and the people who are the highlight of the country and we'll make sure you meet plenty of them. In homes, not staged cooking lessons. We'll treat you to Cham ruins superior to those at the tourist trap, My Son, that are relatively unknown and easier to get to and a lot more to make your trip truly unique.

Our tours are private custom-tailored trips for couples in love (honeymoons and family trips are our specialty), seeking a very special romantic adventure, families and groups of friends looking for a memorable experience. We two exceptional tours a year — our Arts Tour and a popular, annual Tet (Lunar New Year) trip we have offered for over the last ten years. Aside from these scheduled tours, we plan exceptional, private trips for several dozen discerning travelers each season. As well as the highest-quality trip, we'll make sure your preferences and style of travel come out. We typically recommend an itinerary encompassing popular and lesser-known highlights of the region (is the Mekong Delta or Phnom Penh worth a visit? Should you stay at the Nam Hai in January?), with activities and particular places you are interested in. Depending on your interests, we excel at arranging expert guides in their field, such as Dr. Pich Keo, Director if the Angkor Conservatory, or Nguyen Qui Duc, PBS journalist with contacts, friends and knowledge of the vigorous, emerging Vietnam arts community.

Dalat PalaceI've dined and gone to heaven. Yes, there are other things but let's admit food tops the list. Although we can arrange specialized experts, we have culinary experts on staff, that's how importantly we take food. We always introuce chefs and can also arrange private, hands-on demonstrations in each region if you'd like to take it a step further. Interest in the Arts? Artists are re-emerging with a vengeance and in 2003 we organized Vietnam's first tour focused on the emerging arts scene in Vietnam. As Vietnamese artists open up the world, it's a great opportunity to visit them personally in their home studios and simple galleries. Historical interests and personal encounters?

Passion. We share your passion for new places and experiences, but specialize only in Southeast Asia to provide a high degree of current, local knowledge. Test us out — call us up and ask difficult questions. Read what our past travelers say and ask us for references in your region.

Exceptional, experienced managers, staff, guides, and guests. Michael Buckley, Le Van Sinh, and Mason Florence write for the top-selling guidebooks on Vietnam. Now find out what's not in the book. Personalities, such as Mr. Vinh, a Vietnamese royal ancestor in Hue, Mr. Hong My who piloted fighters in dogfights above Hanoi, the lively Vietnamese performance artist Dao Anh Khanh, and Roland Eng, former Ambassador to the United States and Minister in Cambodia, make for fascinating encounters.

Full-time, all the time. With in-country staff, we provide immediate and constant attention. We have local offices in country to provide complete support. Our travelers have mobile numbers of our office managers who can be contacted 24 x 7. Childcare and other personal services can be arranged.

The safest possible trip. Travel providers often wipe their hands somewhere in the fine print. We don't — our guides and staff carry mobile phones and are trained to respond in emergencies in coordination with Western-staffed, in-country International SOS medical clinics and emergency air-evacuation services.

Innovative itineraries. Nobody else goes where or knows what we do. Sapa may be overrun with tourists, but we know the other places where few go. Like cooking? We can include a tour with some of the best chefs in the country. Interest in the arts? We arranged the first arts tour of Vietnam. Multi-sport? We know kayaking and cycling in Vietnam, operating more tours than anyone else.

Flexibility. Want to change your day's itinerary, even the morning of? Khong sao dao (not a problem), it's your trip. At minimum, we'll provide your transport and hotel arrangements, everything else is up to you. If you are traveling with your children, of course you will appreciate that our family tours build in not only flexibility but places to pause and have downtime.

Saving something for souvenirs. Our private, custom tours often cost less than that of a group or package tour through A&K. But we provide much more — a tour that has been designed and arranged to suit your desires (and less rushed). And with the money you also save, you can pickup some of the fine art and traditional crafts being produced in Hanoi and Saigon (or splurge on a stopover in Bangkok or Hong Kong). Lower cost does not mean lower quality — we typically cover far more ground (compare itineraries), provide a longer trip with more activities, stay at the same hotels, dine well (for us, the traveling is just an excuse to eat), provide experienced guides, extended support, pre- and post-tour arrangements, and emergency medical and air evacuation insurance. Travelers who have traveled with other luxury tour companies have commented that they preferred the personal focus of their tour, the authentic experiences they had, and the inside knowledge of the region we know and love to share. We would be glad to put you in contact with these travelers.

Inspire Magazine Nha Trang

Local Knowledge. Compare us with others — being based in-country provides our travelers with an exceptional level of service and support. But we'll send you an extensive pre-tour packet with maps, food and cultural guides, phrase book, along with our fabulous insider guide and client-only Web pages listing current information on the best shopping, dining, activities, and more. Top lacquerware shop? Finest cha gio (spring rolls) and Bahn Xeo (stuffed crepe)? Where to go for the best massage in Saigon? My Son's ruins worth the drive? Most unimpressive, but we know of a wonderful Cham site south not many people see. What should you really be doing on the Vietnamese coast (hint: not lazing in the sun). Creamy, real Belgian chocolate mousse in Siem Reap? What is the only hotel to stay at in Luang Prabang (or Hue, Hoi An and Hanoi for that matter)? Garden dining on the Chao Praya River in Bangkok? Mud bath in the Mekong Delta? Fastrack immigration visas on arrival (no waiting in line)? Honeymoon or anniversary? We've got you covered.

Extreme Orient

Airlines Need advice or assistance with airlines? Private regional airline transfers? Private jet arrangements? We can simplify this often complicated issue and advise on preferred carriers, routing, mileage programs to Asia, and exceptional airline agents for booking.

Getting Away We travel exclusively in Southeast Asia — easily the most dynamic, fascinating regions you'll ever visit. If you're looking to get away from the usual (isn't that what travel is about?), then it doesn't get any more exotic or exciting than this. But not for long, the unprecedented rush of change in Asia means the unusual, traditional cultures of today will become the familiar sooner than later. Listen to your friends who have already been, the time to go is now.

Try Us Out Call us. Test us — ask the really tough questions — see if we know our stuff and if we can dramatically improve upon your trip ideas. You may also request a custom itinerary based on your preferences and our recommendations by submitting a request form, we'll respond within a day and follow-up with a rough or detailed recommended itinerary for your travels in the region. Please provide as much details as possible and we'll integrate that into your itinerary or make alternative recommendations.