China and Southeast Asia with Abercrombie & Kent
If travel is about expanding your horizons, the destinations of China and Southeast Asia will certainly allow you to do just that. There are cities so teeming with life and culture you wonder how anyone could ever see it all. There are landscapes that make you question whether you’re still on Earth. The cuisines are so piquant and rich in flavor, you might never be able to go back to bland meals. But perhaps most importantly, everywhere there are friendly people ready to welcome you.
Fortunately for our travelers, some of those friendly people work for Abercrombie & Kent, which has on-site offices throughout the region. Travelers can enjoy touring with A&K’s expert guides, a hand-selected group of local experts and insiders who provide local insight with a passion and bring their destinations to life for the traveler. Drivers and vehicles used for transport are also overseen by A&K to ensure quality throughout. A&K can also take you places few travelers get to go.
Beijing’s Forbidden City is one of China’s most popular attractions. “Anyone can go and visit,” A&K China and Hong Kong specialist and director Gerald Hatherly said. “We are the only ones with access to take you inside.”
A & K has special access to closed parts of the Forbidden City including, for private groups, access to an area of the palace undergoing a 10-year restoration. In addition, for groups that want added convenience A & K can arrange for their vehicle to park inside the Forbidden City, bringing travelers into the heart of the Forbidden City thereby avoiding a walk of at least 20 minutes to enter.
“We can do a dinner at the Great Wall, where they light up the wall,” Hatherly said, describing one of the many unforgettable adventures A&K can provide in China. Others include special access when visiting one of the captive breeding centers for the giant panda in the Chengdu area and a behind-the-scenes museum tour in Shanghai.
The focus is always on human experiences, Hatherly said, and there is no end to those in a vast land with 56 distinct ethnic cultures. You can see the terracotta warriors of Xi’an with the former archaeological director of the site, take a private class at the home of a renowned dumpling chef, learn to plant rice or take private lessons from a calligraphy master.
Heading south from China, and you’ll find yourself in the magical region of Southeast Asia. Thailand, Laos, Cambodia and Vietnam are all ancient lands full of vibrant culture.
“One of our favorite places is Luang Prabang in Laos,” Sonja Stoerr, A&K’s director of sales for Southeast Asia, said. “It still has the laid-back Southeast Asia vibe with some beautiful hotels.
“If you look on the map, it’s on the same latitude as Chiang Mai (in Thailand). Take away the modern borders, and you’ll see a lot of the same beautiful landscapes and cultural influences of the ancient Lanna Kingdom.”
Laos is just coming up in terms of tourism, Stoerr said, and still very much off the beaten path. “There are so many ways that we can connect travelers to the local culture, whether it’s giving alms to the monks in the morning or visiting a local home to experience a Baci blessing.” It also offers great active touring: hiking, biking and beautiful waterfalls to splash in.You can visit a buffalo dairy for a cheese and ice cream tasting and learn about this first-ever dairy in Laos and their social enterprise that helps the local farmers.
In Vietnam, A&K offers in-depth experiences in kite-making, incense-making, biking through back streets and gorging on street food before engaging in a private lesson with a master of the martial art Vo Kinh Van An. And that’s just in the city of Hue.
Even in major cities well on the tourist track, A&K has something unique for travelers. In Bangkok, there’s a new creative district being formed in a neighborhood right along the Chao Phraya River. Stoerr’s team can arrange a meeting with one of the founder’s of the district, who will tell you about the effort to bring back the arts and preserve architecture as you stroll through the area exploring small art galleries, local designer boutiques and narrow lanes with colorful street art.
In addition to exclusive private touring, A&K specializes in luxury small-group journeys with a maximum of 18 guests. Northeast regional sales director Norma Spadola recommends Images of Indochina & Angkor Wat, covering Thailand, Laos, Cambodia and Vietnam, as “the best introductory program for that part of the world.”
For a more leisurely exploration of the region, why not consider a cruise on the Mekong, Yangtze or Irrawaddy rivers. If you have the time, consider extending your journey to Hong Kong and Mongolia. The exotic Marco Polo Journeys collection allows you can take a spiritual trek to Tibet and Nepal or travel by luxury rail from Bangkok to Singapore and continue on to the island paradise of Bali. In short, we recommend traveling with the experts at Abercrombie & Kent, who can show you the best of what China and Southeast Asia can offer, whether you choose to explore the region on one of their small luxury group programs or independently on a custom planned itinerary.