Visiting Southeast Asia is an experience that is sure to awaken all of your senses. The sights, the sounds, the smells: Few places on earth are quite like it. On top of being home to a myriad of cultures, traveling between cities in Southeast Asia will also give you the opportunity to see several different types of lifestyles. Even cities that are relatively close to each other, such as Hong Kong and Macau, are extremely different. This is not only because of these cities respective British and Portuguese influences; it is also because these cities march to the beat of their own drums. The same can be said of nearby nations such as Vietnam and Thailand, where traveling just a few miles down the road can take you a far greater distance than you’d think. . .
Hong Kong: The Fragrant Harbor
Far more than just a financial center, Hong Kong is renowned for its nightlife, its dim sum and its numerous parks, particularly Victoria Park. The people of Hong Kong are also some of the proudest individuals in the world, but only when it comes to their city’s magnificent skyline. As a consequence of this pride, there are numerous vantages from which to see it. You can scale the Sky Terrace 428, which, at 428 meters above sea level, is the highest viewing platform on the island. There is the classic tram, which has been traveling to the 552-meter Victoria Peak (the highest natural point on the island) for over 125 years. There is also the Star Ferry, which will give you the chance to see the city from Victoria Harbor. Why not look into day tours that will give you the opportunity to see all three? Make sure that you save some time to visit the largest population center in China, Shenzhen, and Guangzhou.
Macau: The Bay Gate
Macau is one of the most unique places in Southeast Asia, if not the world. The city wears its Portuguese influences on its sleeve and is far more diverse than you may initially think. Sample some Macanese food and you’ll taste cultures from as far away as African and India, and as close as Vietnam and Thailand. The Historic Centre of Macao dates back to the fifteenth and sixteenth centuries and is a UNESCO World Heritage Site. Made up of traditional Chinese complexes like the A-Ma Temple, as well as Portuguese structures, such as the Cathedral of St. Paul, the Historic Centre of Macao is a great place to experience the multicultural heritage of Macau.
Sightseeing, shopping and sampling some of Macau’s unique cuisine may be the best use of your day. Macau’s biggest attraction at night, however, is its casinos and world-class dining along the Cotai Strip. While you may think of it as the Las Vegas of the East, Las Vegas is actually the Macau of the West, as this Chinese city is the biggest gambling destination in the world.
A Macau Excursion that will take you, via boat, to the city of Macau for a day of sightseeing and a night on the strip, might be the best way to avoid getting into too much trouble.
Hanoi: The Soaring Dragon
Hanoi and the lands surrounding the city have been inhabited for at least five thousand years. The oldest permanent structure located near or within the city is the Co Loa Citadel, which was erected over two thousand years ago. The rich history of the Old Quarter is known for being a hub for backpackers, students and fun-seekers once the sun goes down—especially on Ta Hien Street. Central Hanoi, meanwhile, may be less of a party scene, but the French-influenced architecture and sights like the tree-lined Phan Dinh Phung Street are difficult to beat. The same can be said of Hanoi’s many lakes. Gray Line Hanoi offers a cyclo tour that explores all of the destinations: the Old Quarter, central Hanoi, and even the legendary Hoan Kiem Lake.
Halong Bay: A Natural Wonder
Just a few hours east of Hanoi is Halong Bay, a UNESCO World Heritage Site and frequently on the shortlist for the most beautiful place on Earth. Hanoi is home to, arguably, the most iconic turquoise bay - surrounded by towering limestone pillars, grottos and caves; it is no wonder that it is listed as one of the New Seven Natural Wonders of the World. If you're longing for some calm and tranquility after traveling through the hustle and bustle of Hong Kong, Macau, Guangzhou, and Hanoi, Halong Bay is is the place for you.
For those who want to experience Halong Bay in style, you can take an overnight luxury cruise in a traditional junk boat. After departing from Hanoi, it is just a brief ride through the Vietnamese countryside as you make your way to the bay. Once you board the ship, you will get to experience, firsthand, the majesty of this new wonder of the world from the lap of luxury. You can choose take in the views from the deck of the ship as you enjoy several beverages and feast on freshly grilled seafood. You can also choose to immerse yourself in both the scenery and the culture of Vietnam with a variety of options: Exploring the many inlets of the bay in a sea kayak; going squid fishing; learning how to make authentic spring rolls; a guided Tai Chi class at dawn; or visiting Sung Sot Cave. The decision of how to take advantage of all the ship’s many activities and amenities is entirely up to you.
Venture out, be bold, this trip has your name written all over it.