Category Archives: Asia

3 Cool Places to Take the Kids Over Winter

As most tried and true families know, winter doesn’t just mean bundling up and curling up by the fire. Sometimes you want to hit the ski slopes! Here are just a few ideas of cool winter fun to take the kids over the holidays.

Family Ski Vacations – Club Med

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Club Med is usually associated with its awesome beach resorts in the Caribbean. But there are several top-of-the-line ski lodges as well. An all-inclusive ski vacation can be just what you need to pack it all in one package: ski lessons, entertainment, guides, meals, childcare—all included in a roasty-toasty chalet in the French Alps. Club Med offers 18 locations in France, Italy and Switzerland for the little ones to try out their ski legs – so you can relax and focus on making memories. There is Val Thorens Sensations, a must for the ski fanatic; Peisey-Vallandry, a charming chalet with classic Savoy architecture. Their newest resort, Les Arcs Panorama, will open December 2018 and will offer cross-country and downhill skiing alike, plus a heated swimming pool and a Children’s Club.

Japan for Kids

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With loads of attractions, quirky shops and street festivals, Japan can be a real treat for kids. Blow their minds with the awesome view from the Skytree, the city’s highest observation deck at 1476 foot. The Akihabara district is a Mecca for anime-fans, while Asakusa Temple will transport you to the old Edo period. Robot-themed restaurants, ninja school, novelty capsule machines — what’s not to love? Brush up on their Hayao Miyazaki film trivia at the Ghibli Museum, or if they get bored, try out fun foods like okonomiyaki (“Japanese pizza”), dessert crepes, tempura and fish-shaped waffles. If all else fails, there’s always Tokyo Disneyland or Disneysea.

Thailand with Kids

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With its affordable prices, colorful landscapes and tons of adventures to be had, Thailand is great for families! Show them around temples in Bangkok, gorge on funky fruit you just can’t find at home, or hit the beaches at Phuket. They might not be ready for Thai spice, but start them off slow with something universal like Pad Thai or Pad See Ew or banana pancakes. I bet you anything they’ll get addicted to mango sticky rice! The best part about Thailand is that the dollar goes a long way. For a family of 4 in the touristy areas, you’ll spend around $40 per night—less in the countryside or mountains. In Phuket, Krabi or Koh Phi Phi, kids can try out sea kayaking, snorkeling, elephant trekking. Hint: If you can, try to save Bangkok for last. The hubbub of this wild town can be a bit dramatic for young kids not used to the fast pace. Start off with a few days in Krabi or Phuket, then head up north to Chiang Mai before capping off your trip with Bangkok.

We’ve booked countless families on adventures abroad. What are you waiting for? Just go! 503-224-0180 or email inquiry@wittravel.com. 

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Highlights of Vietnam & Cambodia

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Intrigued by our last post on Vietnam/Cambodia, featuring Pam’s visit with Vexplore Tours, but not sure what all the fuss is about? Here’s each highlight we mentioned, so you can truly appreciate everything Vietnam & Cambodia have to offer:

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1. Hanoi & Hanoi Old Quarter

Hanoi is the capital of Vietnam and a curious melange of East-meets-West, with French colonial architecture meeting traditional Sino-Vietnamese motifs. The most stunning part of the city is Hoàn Kiếm District, marked by the Hoan Kiem Lake and the Old Quarter. This area also houses most of the tourist attractions, from temples, cathedrals, bridges and the Hanoi Opera House.

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2. Tran Quoc Pagoda

This ancient, red Buddhist temple is located on a small island in Hanoi’s West Lake. Constructed in the 6th century, it was originally on the shores of the Red River, but relocated in 17th century due to risks of flooding.

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3. Van Mieu

The Temple of Literature was built in 1070, dedicated to the studies of Confucius. It’s remarkable for its elegant pavilions, halls and statues. If you’re lucky enough to be there during Vietnamese New Year Tet (February 5, 2019), you can watch the calligraphists at work outside the temple.

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4. Halong Bay

The much-revered Halong Bay is a UNESCO World Heritage Site, drawing thousands of visitors each year. The name means “descending dragon,” and is known for its limestone karats and millions of isles. Reaching an area of around 1,553 km2, including 1,960–2,000 islets, you can imagine how picturesque it is to cruise in the canals here!

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5. Saigon

Saigon, or Ho Chi Minh City, is Vietnam’s largest city. As the capital of the French colony of Cochinchina, it still bears nods to its colonial influences in food, architecture, and culture

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6. Cai Be

The small town of Cai Be is a river/land settlement known for its floating market. Lying along the Mekong Delta, the soil is fertile, tropical fruits are aplenty, and people are known for their warm hearts and welcoming natures.

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7. Siem Reap

Welcome to Cambodia! This popular resort town is known for its traditional Apsara dances, Chinese-style architecture, souvenir shops, rice paddies and a vibrant food and drink scene. It draws many tourists on account of its proximity to the Angkor temples.

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8. Treak Village

Treak Village is a traditional town just 4 kilometers south of Siem Reap. Its a great destination to see how life in the countryside was like 100 years ago.

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9. Angkor Wat

If you haven’t heard of Angkor Wat, chances are you’ve been living under a rock! Called the 7th wonder of the world, Angkor Wat is the largest religious monument in the world, stretching over 162.6 hectares. Initially built as a Hindu Vishnu temple, it was converted to a Buddhist temple in the 12th century. Serving as a temple complex, mausoleum and cultural symbol, Angkor Wat is a must-see for all visitors to Cambodia.

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10. Angkor Thom

Thom goes down in history as the last capital of teh Khmer empire. Built in 12th century, it is known for its stone monuments, peaceful Buddhist visages, and ancient temples.

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11. Banteay Srei Temple

Also known as the Citadel of Women, Banteay Srei is a 10th-century site dedicated to the Hindu god Shiva. Built of red sandstone, a malleable medium, the sculptures are revered for their miniature buildings, intricate carvings, elegant colonettes, and many other delicate features.

Intrigued and would like to know more? Call one of our agents to speak Vietnam, Cambodia, Southeast Asia — there and back again! 503-224-0180 or email inquiry@wittravel.com.

More of our posts on SE Asia, one of our most popular destinations for clients looking for a culinary and cultural destination!

Explore SE Asia with Vexplore Tours

Vexplore Travel: Unique Itineraries of SE Asia

The Quiet American”, and other classics of SE Asia

Festivals in Asia

 

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Pam in Vietnam with Vexplore Tours

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This week, Pam has joined Vexplore Tours on a fascinating discovery of Vietnam & Cambodia’s cultural & culinary delights. 

09 days / 08 nights
Hanoi – Halong Bay – Saigon – Mekong Delta – Siem Reap

 

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Day 1 – Arrive in Hanoi

Arrive in Hanoi airport, you have warm welcome from our guide. Transfer to hotel check in. Free time or you may take complimentary history tour “the Lost Bomb Shelter” of this hotel, an honorable mentioned in 2013 UNESCO Heritage Awards.

Accommodation: Sofitel Legend Metropole – 2 nights

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Day 2 – Hanoi (B,L,D)

Today we spend full day to explore Hanoi, the city’s cultural heart that bears trace of centuries of changing dynasties. We visit Tran Quoc Pagoda, the oldest pagoda in the city, and Van Mieu, a famous historical and cultural relic consisting of the Temple of Literature and Vietnam’s first university. Then enjoy traditional cyclo ride through Hanoi Old Quarter.

After lunch visit “Hanoi Hilton”, where American prisoners of war were once confined. We end tour at local coffee shop enjoy sips of coffee dripping from the filter. Transfer back to your hotel.

Dinner will be served at authentic Vietnamese restaurant.

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Day 3 – Hanoi – Halong Bay (B,L,D)

Morning, leave your hotel and drive to Dinh Vu Port. Onboard the Azalea Cruise. Cruise briefing and safety instructions. Start cruising and explore Halong Bay, UNESCO World Heritage Natural Site. Lunch and dinner on board.

Accommodation: Azalea Cruise / Deluxe balcony cabin – 1 night

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Day 4 – Halong Bay – Hai Phong – Saigon (B,D)

Enjoy Tai Chi session on the sundeck. Continue sailing across thousands of islets. Disembark and transfer to Hai Phong airport for flight to Saigon. We have dinner at local restaurant . Check in hotel.

Accommodation: Grand Hotel – 3 nights

Day 5 – Saigon – Cooking Class (B,L,D)

In the morning, we will join “Grain by Luke Nguyen cooking class”. Grain studio have its own fresh market on site. You will hand on cooking 4-­‐‑course meal, and demystify Vietnamese cuisine so you will gain a new-­‐‑found confidence that will inspire you to cook more at home. Lunch will be your own prepared and served at the cooking class. It will be a great Vietnamese cultural and culinary experience.

Afternoon, we have a sightseeing of the city’s colonial legacy; the Reunification Palace, the Central Post office, the Fine Art Museum and stop Ben Thanh Market. Tonight enjoy dinner at local restaurant in town.

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Day 6 – Saigon – Mekong Delta (B,L)

In the morning transfer to Cai Be. We take a small boat to visit interesting villages and workshops that produce local products. Go by boat deeper into the Delta to Tan Phong Island to visit workshops where villagers make unique products for export. Walk or bike on the island. Visit a traditional family home and enjoy Southern Vietnamese folk music. Return to hotel late afternoon. Evening is free on your own.

Day 7 – Saigon – Siem Reap – Cooking Class (B,L,D)

Arrive in Siem Reap, you have warm welcome by our tour guide.

Transfer to Treak Village (10 minutes drive from Siem Reap town). Learn to make traditional Cambodian Cuisine in a rural village. Classes include a visit to a local family and garden. Learn about cooking in a traditional Khmer household, local food customs and superstitions. Lunch will be served at lovely bamboo pavilion. Transfer to hotel check in.

Late afternoon. Inspection Villa Ni Say, cocktail and dinner will be followed.

Accommodation: Heritage Suites – 2 nights

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Day 8 – Siem Reap – Angkor Wat – Angkor Thom – Ta Prohm (B,L)

Early morning, we depart to Angkor Wat for sunrise picture. Back to hotel for breakfast.

After breakfast, we explore the wondrous Angkor Wat Temple Complex.

After lunch, continue vist Angkor Thom included the grand Bayon Temple, the South Gate, Bapoun, the Terrace of the Elephant, Leper King and Ta Prohm – the 12th century temple that has been left largely unrestored. Back to hotel. Evening is free, you may explore Siem Reap night market.

Day 9 – Banteay Srei – Siem Reap Departure (B)

Today we will visit Banteay Srei temple, the Citadel of Women with its very attractive carvings and Siem Reap market. Back to hotel check-­‐‑out. Transfer to the airport for departure flight. Have a safe trip!

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Inclusions

  • Private air-­‐‑conditioned vehicle;
  • Local English speaking guide in each city;
  • Accommodations based on Twin/Double sharing;
  • Meals (excluding drinks): daily buffet breakfast, 6 lunches, 5 dinners;
  • Boat fee & sightseeing fee as specified;
  • Government taxes and service charges

Excluded: Visas Vietnam & Cambodia; Travel insurance; Tips and gratuities; Personal expenses

More Tours from Vexplore

Northern Beauty with a Mighty Mekong Cruise

Cruising Mekong River on a Private Cruise

Cultural Mosaic of Indochina

Highlights of Cambodia

 

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Travel News: Taking Holidays Can Prolong Life

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A New Study Suggests Taking Holidays Can Prolong Life 

Travelmole reports three weeks’ holiday or more each year is the most important factor to a long life, according to researchers. The findings of a lifestyle study that began 40 years ago claim taking vacations is even more beneficial to following a healthy lifestyle. The study, which began in the 1970s, involved 1,222 middle-aged male executives, born between 1919 and 1934, who had at least one risk factor for cardiovascular disease, such as high blood pressure, overweight or smoking. Half were told to exercise, maintain a good diet, stop smoking or keep to a healthy weight, while the other half were given no advice. According to the findings, those given the regular advice were more likely to die young, possibly because they suffered extra stress by trying to live a healthy lifestyle. Among the same group, those who took less than three weeks off each year were 37% more likely to die young over the next 30 years. Professor Timo Strandberg, of the University of Helsinki, said: “Don’t think having an otherwise healthy lifestyle will compensate for working too hard and not taking holidays. “Vacations can be a good way to relieve stress.

National Car Rental Chosen By Travel + Leisure Magazine As ‘World’s Best’ For Fifth Year In A Row  

Travelwirenews reports vehicle selection, customer service and overall value were just a few of the categories for which National Car Rental received praise, taking the top spot for the fifth year in a row in Travel + Leisure magazine’s World’s Best Awards. This recognition marks the 23rd year that National has qualified for the prestigious “World’s Best” list. In addition to the National brand, Enterprise and Alamo placed among Travel + Leisure magazine’s “Top 5 Car-Rental Providers.” This is the fifth consecutive year that all three brands have been named among the top rental car operators. Business Travel News magazine also recently recognized National and Enterprise for their mobile app technology, quality of data reporting and consistent communication, naming them as the top two car rental brands in its annual Car Rental Survey for the fourth consecutive year.

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Record Cruise Year For Northern Europe

Cruise Industry News reports cruise ships will be in record numbers in the waters of Northern Europe this summer, with 129 ships set to offer cruises in the region. Capacity will also move to a record high, with more than 2.5 million cruise guests expected, up from 2.3 million in 2017, and way up from just under 2 million in 2014. 

New Zealand To Abolish Departure Cards

New Zealand will follow Australia and abolish “bothersome” departure cards from November in a move pitched as bringing seamless travel between the close neighbors one step closer. Immigration Minister Iain Lees-Galloway and Customs Minister Meka Whaitiri announced the document’s demise Sunday but have yet to announce an exact date. The removal is in line with an international trend as countries rely on more sophisticated records to track traveler identity information. Australia axed its onerous green departure cards in July last year. New Zealand estimate it will save departing travelers 100,000 hours as they complete more than 6.5 million cards a year.

Air Yachts: The Next Big Thing In Yukon Luxury Tourism? 

Hybrid Air Vehicles of Britain has built a modern blimp with a passenger gondola that looks more like a luxury yacht than a platform for filming football games. Branded as the Airlander 10, it is a self-contained unit for transporting guests and everything they want. It has glass floors and 360-degree windows, a cocktail bar and bedrooms. Guests can stroll around the 20 metre-long cabin as they watch the landscape roll by underneath. The airships cruise at up to 150 kilometres per hour. The Whitehorse to Dawson run becomes an afternoon outing instead of a week-long saga. The Airlander 10 is designed to carry fuel for five days so, unlike a river boat, side excursions to land on a glacier or watch a herd of caribou on a distant mountainside are possible. You can also fly low and quietly hover. Unlike the infamous Hindenburg, the German hydrogen-filled airship that burst into flames spectacularly in 1937, today’s airships are filled with helium, which doesn’t burn. They have sophisticated multi-directional propeller systems that allow pilots to control them much better, even in high wind. In the off-season, you can fly it somewhere else and generate cash flow all year long. An Airlander 10 might do trips in the Yukon in the summer and spend the winter floating its cargo of people, money and champagne around California and the Caribbean. It’s an intriguing idea. However, the catch is the cost. Hybrid Air Vehicles is reported to be planning to charge about $40 million per airship. That’s not far off what a new Boeing 737 costs. So don’t expect to see a fleet of luxury airships hovering over Dawson City any time soon. 

Delta Is Adding New Seatback Screens While Other Airlines Get Rid of Them

In a press release last week, Delta Air Lines announced that it had installed a seatback entertainment system on its 600th aircraft. Delta now says it has more aircraft with seatback screens than any other airline in the world. The figure underscores Delta’s desire to keep passengers entertained in multiple ways. “With seat-back screens, customers don’t have to choose between using their phones or watching a movie,” Tim Mapes, the airline’s chief marketing officer, said in a statement. “Whether they want to work, relax, or a little bit of both – we want to give our customers the ability to choose and make the most of their time in flight.” Delta Studio, the in-flight entertainment system, works on seatback screens and personal devices. Last year, Delta introduced free messaging via Wi-Fi on board. 

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Fiji Increases Departure Tax 

The Fiji Government is hiking its departure tax by more than US$25, but players in the tourism industry don’t believe that will stop tourists visiting the popular travel destination. As part of its budget, the Government has announced its airport departure tax will increase from US$81 to US$108 from January next year. Fiji’s new departure tax is far higher than its direct competitors, including Samoa and the Cook Islands. Nearly $US3 of the tax will go to the Civil Aviation Authority of Fiji and five dollars will be given to Airports Fiji Limited. The tax, which is included in the price of the ticket, will also include a five-dollar environment levy.  

Cruise Line To Avoid Swamping Small Towns With Thousands Of Passengers

Visits by the 3560-passenger Majestic Princess are expected to inject $100 million into the New Zealand economy over the coming summer cruise season. A cruise line bringing almost 100,000 passengers to New Zealand this coming summer says the industry needs to be careful not to swamp smaller ports as vessels get bigger. Princess Cruises largest and newest ship, the Majestic Princess, which carries almost 5000 passengers and crew, will make its maiden voyage here at the end of September. Akaroa residents have complained about the small port town being swamped by cruise visitors and tour buses, and some have called for an end to “two ship” days at the height of the season. Princess Cruises’ senior vice president for Australia and New Zealand Stuart Allison said they were mindful of the impact ships had on smaller centres such as Akaroa, and they had worked hard to increase shore excursions getting guests off the beaten track.

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Autumn in New York (and London, and Tokyo…)

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End of Summer is fast approaching, and the brisk autumn wind has begun to seep into our evenings. While some of us are recovering from sunburns and sand in our shoes, we’re already looking forward to scarves and hot mochas. Today, we have time for a brief tour of the world in all its autumnal colors. 

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Vienna

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Argentina

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Tokyo

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Paris

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New Zealand

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Berlin

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Chile

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India

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Belgium

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Ireland

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Istanbul

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Greece

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Seoul

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Budapest

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Melbourne

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China

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New York

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Switzerland

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Amsterdam

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England

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France

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Rome

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Beijing

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Sail the Mekong with the Brand-New Emerald Waterways Harmony

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If you love Emerald Waterways, here’s your chance to join their brand-new river cruise ship on the Mekong River.

The 84-passenger Emerald Harmony, will sail the Mekong River in 2019.

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Emerald Harmony will have many of the features of the line’s European “star ships,” including:

  • Panorama Balcony suites with drop-down windows
  • Asian design touches
  • Horizon Bar & Lounge will be Asian-themed
  • the ship’s main dining venue, Reflections Restaurant, will serve a locally-inspired menu.

One standout feature of the ship is that it will be built to allow access to the center of Ho Chi Minh City, so passengers can embark there as opposed to a dock outside of the city. Emerald Waterways has been sailing on the Mekong since 2014, with a chartered vessel, Mekong Navigator.

Emerald Harmony will be the first time that the company has put a “star ship” style ship outside Europe.

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Itineraries

Beginning August 2019, Emerald Harmony will sail three itineraries in Vietnam and Cambodia:

a 13-Day Majestic Mekong River Cruise – cruise tour sailing between Ho Chi Minh City and Siem Reap, with time for Angkor Wat; 

Your journey begins in Siem Reap, where early mornings and ancient architecture promise to be the perfect combination. Angkor Wat is sure to fascinate, as is Angkor Thom and Ta Prohm. Then your journey along the majestic Mekong introduces Phnom Penh, invites you to a family-owned silk-producing factory and to attend a scarfweaving workshop in Long Khanh Island. Continue onwards before leaving your Star-Ship at the center of Ho Chi Minh City for a two-night stay in a 5-star colonial-style hotel.

a 17-Day Treasures & Temples of Vietnam & Cambodia: that adds stops at Hanoi and Halong Bay in the north;

Begin your adventure in Hanoi, where centuries-old architecture is a wonderful nod to the past and the Old Quarter strikes a fine contrast with its many temples. Cruise the emerald waters of Halong Bay in a traditional junk boat, learn of Ho Chi Minh City’s fascinating war history and embark on a once-in-a-lifetime river cruise along the Mekong. Enjoy tuk-tuk and ox cart tours in Phnom Penh and finish your adventure in the Cambodian city of Siem Reap, where you’ll witness Angkor Wat and attend a circus performance.

and a 21-Day Grand Tour of Vietnam & Cambodia that encompasses all of the above, plus Hoi An and Hue.

Hanoi’s labyrinth of streets is filled with food stalls and markets. Journey to Halong Bay and embark on a traditional junk boat as you sail its ethereal waters, and drive through Da Nang before crossing the Pass of Ocean Clouds. Discover Ho Chi Minh City’s Cu Chi Tunnels, before meeting your Star-Ship and sailing the Mekong, stopping off in My Tho, Sa Dec and Phnom Penh. Conclude your trip with three nights in Siem Reap, attending the Phare Cambodian Circus and visiting the historic Angkor Wat.

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Inclusions

Fares for Emerald Harmony will have the same inclusions as other Emerald Waterways ships:
  • transfers,
  • port charges,
  • meals,
  • unlimited wine and beer with lunch and dinner,
  • bottled water in the cabins,
  • complimentary Wi-Fi,
  • at least one shore excursion in every port and
  • all onboard and excursion gratuities.
  • During the cruise tour portion of the trips, hotel, internal flights and transfers are also included.

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8 New UNESCO World Heritage Sites

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8 New UNESCO World Heritage Sites

We have a bunch of New UNESCO Heritage Sites on the list, to add to our ever-growing bucket list!

All of these cultural and natural landmarks are recognized for their outstanding value to humanity. Discover which wonders made the list this year. This is by no means an exhaustive list, but just a handful of our favorites. Learn more about other sites on the UNESCO official webpage

What are some of YOUR favorite UNESCO World Heritage Sites?

Let us know in the comments!

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1. Naumburg Cathedral, Germany

Built in the 11th century, this gorgeous cathedral is remarkable from a distance for its stain glass windows and soaring Gothic arches. Its real claim to fame, however, is the medieval art inside—including 12 life-sized statues of the cathedral’s founders. The Naumburg Masters was a workshop of sculptors and stonemasons in the 13th century who dedicated their work of realistic sculptures to the cathedral and all over France, Middle Rhine area and boundaries of the German Empire. This is a destination for history buffs — the cathedral and the region around it has a high density of authentic monuments and structures dating back to the High Middle Ages.

2. Chiribiquete National Park, Colombia

Ever-surprising Colombia takes next place with this national park, sometimes called the Maloca (“Amazonian long house”) of the Jaguar. As Colombia’s largest protected site, it protects 10,810 square miles and over 3,000 species of animals and plants. High on the sandstone plateaux, over 75,000 rock paintings have been found. Nature lovers will surely love this one.

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3. Ivrea, Italy

This small Piedmont town near Turin is famous for its 20th century industrial boom in typewriters and computers. Stunning Ivrea is also a remarkably beautiful village, resting on the Dora Baltea river, and, at the time of writing, still off the usual tourists’ map.

4. Caliphate City of Medina Azahara, Spain

The Islamic civilization of Al-Andalus is highlighted all across southern Spain, especially Alhambra. Added to the list of must-sees this year is the Medina Azahara. These ruins, 1.5 hours from Seville, were built between 940 and 975 c.e. and once held the seat of the Caliphate of Cordoba.

5. Barberton Makhonjwa Mountains, South Africa

The Barberton Makhonjwa Mountains are so ancient, with volcanic and sedimentary rocks dating back over 3 billion years. More adventurous travelers will have quite the holiday hiking and biking around the town of Barberton and the nature reserve.

6. The Border of Hedeby and the Danevirke, Germany

Once a Viking trading post, this cultural landscape now consists of the ruins of a 33-km-long fortification–the Danevirke–as well as the archaeological site of the trading town Hedeby. Hedeby rose in power on the major trade routes between the Frankish Empire and Scandinavia, as well as between the Baltic and North Seas.

7. Göbekli Tepe, Turkey

This mysterious archaeological site in southeastern Turkey is the oldest known example of hunter-gatherer settlers in the world. It houses the world’s oldest known megaliths, with around 200 pillars in about 20 circles, and may have the world’s oldest temple as well. Göbekli Tepe dates back to around 9600 and 8200 b.c.e., and is a fascinating glimpse into ancient Mesopotamian culture.

8. Hidden Christian Sites, Japan

Kyushu Island keeps many historical secrets, but its historic Christian community that draws the eye of UNESCO—with 10 villages, Hara castle and cathedral that were built between 16th-19th centuries, despite a ban of all outsiders during the Tokugawa Shogunate. Along with these Christian remnants, visitors can explore active volcanoes, bubbling hot springs and marvelous waterfalls.

What UNESCO World Heritage Sites are you looking forward to seeing in 2018?

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