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Building Dreams: Kingdom to the Coast

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Building Dreams: Kingdom to the Coast

Jaz MojicaBy Jaz Mojica   Posted 26th Apr 2019

It’s always satisfying when I receive an email or phone call from an eager cyclist who specifies their preferred destination, duration, average biking distances, etc... and I look at our calendar and we happen to have JUST the right itinerary at the right time! Everything falls into place and they can pedal right into that exciting adventure.

But…what happens when the stars don’t align in this way? What if a rider wants to join a group tour but nothing scheduled at that time is quite the right fit? Well, that’s when I get to indulge in the favorite part of my job: custom itinerary design! I’m always up for a creative challenge, and living vicariously through our guests by putting together personalized journeys for them is the next best thing to making my own travel plans!

When Laura and Mike from the US originally messaged Grasshopper, they were considering enjoying our Cycle Angkor to Saigon tour, because they were keen to explore both Cambodia and Vietnam on two wheels. Unfortunately, we didn’t have the trip scheduled when they were traveling, and with less than a couple months notice there wasn’t enough time to schedule a group tour. While we could offer this tour for them on a private basis with a surcharge, the couple was really seeking a social experience through which they could meet other travelers. Luckily, I could tell these two keen explorers not to worry - I would be happy to put together a special adventure for them that would fulfill all their travel needs and ambitions.

For privacy: names and pictures are not the actual guests

First, I sent Laura and Mike a laundry list of questions that would help me craft their ideal excursion: their preferred duration and pace of the tour, hotel standards, cycling distances, off-bike activities, and more. I discovered that Mike and Laura had about 2 weeks in the region total and would appreciate the convenience of a full-package program for the duration of their stay. While they do enjoy biking, they were happy with just a few days of light cycling combined with other activities and even some free time to explore and relax independently.

They wanted to enjoy a 5-star resort during their time at the beach and a 4-star hotel for their last couple of nights, but otherwise, they were happy with a bit more modest accommodation (3-star) for cost savings. Most importantly, they wanted to be sure to see the highlights of the region but also spend time getting off the beaten tourist track to discover some hidden places they’d only have the opportunity to experience with Grasshopper.

In the end, after some back-and-forth conversation to ensure that the trip was modified to their liking, we ended up with following unique itinerary:

Part 1: Siem Reap

  • Day 1: Arrive at Siem Reap; Phare Circus
  • Day 2: Angkor at Sunrise; Cycle the Temples
  • Day 3: Cycle the Siem Reap Countryside; Kayak the Floating Villages
  • Day 4: Cooking Class; Visit the Landmine-sniffing Rats Center
  • Day 5: Free Day

Upon arrival to Cambodia, Laura and Mike were met at the airport and driven to their comfortable & centrally located hotel, Riversoul Residence. There is no better cultural introduction to the country than an acrobatic, artistic, and musical performance — so we got them front row tickets to Phare Circus. (Phare first started as a creative arts training center for vulnerable children living in poverty and is now a must-see attraction in Siem Reap!)

I knew Laura and Mike would be eager to visit the famous Angkor Wat straight away, so we arranged for them to join our group ride with up to 4 other like-minded travelers who had booked this day tour. They visited a few of the extraordinary temples in the area by foot and bike, all while avoiding the large tourist crowds.

The next day was a real treat as the couple joined a group of up to 6 other cyclists to pedal through charming countryside communities in the morning. After a tasty local lunch, they had the chance to kayak through the unique floating villages on the Tonle Sap, the largest lake in Southeast Asia. I figured that after a couple of days of riding, Laura and Mike would appreciate a bit of time off the bikes - but I didn’t want them to miss out on a couple of my favorite things to do in Siem Reap, so still a full day of activities was ahead!

In the morning I arranged for them to enjoy a group cooking class where they could learn to cook authentic Cambodian cuisine then devour it for lunch. I also scheduled a visit to a humanitarian demining organization which uses the innovative procedure of training rats to sniff out landmines and save lives.

I thought by now Laura and Mike might be ready for a bit of downtime, so the last day in Siem Reap was left free to do as they wished, whether it was shopping at the local markets, exploring the various dining options in town, or simply relaxing by their hotel pool.


 

Part 2: Saigon

  • Day 6: Fly to Saigon; Vespa Food Tour
  • Day 7: Cycle the Mekong Delta & Cu Chi Tunnels
  • Day 8: Free morning / optional museum visit; Fly to Hoi An

As much as I love Cambodia, I knew there would be so much to explore in Vietnam that we had better get Laura and Mike moving! We booked them a flight from Siem Reap to Saigon (also known as Ho Chi Minh City) and arranged all the airport transfers so they wouldn’t have to worry about the logistics. Laura had mentioned that food was a passion of theirs, so I knew that they would especially enjoy the food tour in Saigon on the back of a vintage Vespa with a skilled driver zooming them around to excellent restaurants and lively local bars.

The next day, I knew it would be ideal to travel outside of the city - first by van, then speedboat, and then bikes - to the Mekong Delta, known for its lush scenery and friendly locals. With a group of up to 10 others, they’d stop at various points of interest including the Cu Chi Tunnels which offers powerful insight into the war history of the area. Anticipating that Laura & Mike may want to spend their last morning in the city wandering the fascinating streets of Saigon, or maybe just resting up before their next adventure, their final morning was left free before we had them on an afternoon flight to the country’s central coast.

Part 3: Hoi An

  • Days 9-10: Free Beach Days
  • Day 11: Cycle the Hoi An Countryside
  • Day 12: Hike Bach Ma National Park; Explore Hue; Fly to Hanoi

If there’s anywhere to enjoy a free day, it’s Hoi An: a photogenic UNESCO world heritage listed town. The beach is an easy 7km bike ride away, the town is packed with eating options, and there are lots of beautiful souvenirs available to take home for loved ones. I could be sure that Laura and Mike’s stay at MGallery Royal Hoi An would be a nice one.

After a couple of free days to relax, Laure and Mike would enjoy a final morning on the bikes with a group of up to 8 other Grasshoppers riding through lovely village communities. I got excited just thinking about how much these two would enjoy their time in the Hoi An countryside -- memories of my first time in the region still fill me with joy. I knew the couple would certainly be enjoying all the sightseeing thus far, but by now might be wondering if Southeast Asian landscapes are nothing but flat!

Well, time to prove them wrong and show them just how diverse Vietnam’s scenery can be by bringing them a little way by car up north for an ecological hike through the atmospheric forest and to the Rhododendron waterfalls. Here they’d have a chance to observe interesting flora & fauna, peer out over spectacular views of the coastal beaches, and even swim in the jungle. In the afternoon, we arranged a transfer a couple of hours north to Hue, a city that does not get anywhere near the tourist attention it deserves. The city center and its stunning Citadel is a historic showcase of culture and architecture and so I budgeted them a couple of hours to explore before catching a quick late evening flight to Hanoi and being delivered to The Lapis Hotel.

Part 4: Hanoi & Lan Ha Bay

  • Day 13: Hanoi City Sightseeing
  • Days 14-15: Lan Ha Bay Overnight Cruise
  • Day 16: Depart

Laura and Mike had always heard that there are great contrasts between the two major cities in Vietnam (Saigon and Hanoi) and by exploring the capital city with their guide - by taxi, rickshaw, motor-scooter, and foot - it’s finally time for them discover that for themselves. To top off an amazing adventure, a visit to a regional highlight is in order. Neighboring the famous Halong Bay with the same spectacular scenery of but a less touristic environment, Lan Ha Bay provides a serene environment surrounded by breathtaking limestone towers. Kayaking, Tai Chi, swimming, and sampan rides are all included on this overnight cruise.

After their fun-packed 2-week active adventure, Laura and Mike will deserve some pampering, so I hope they’ll treat themselves to the massage/spa treatments on board!

Laura and Mike’s itinerary didn’t end up resembling anything we offer on our website -- but sometimes all you have to do is ask, and you’ll find yourself with a perfectly-tailored journey that offers a chance to explore beautiful landscapes, meet other travelers from around the world, discover a region’s vibrant culture & powerful history, and indulge in its delicious cuisine. So come on, make my job a little more fun today and let me know what your ideal adventure would look like!

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