Touring Southeast Asia

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Vietnam, Cambodia and Laos, three gorgeous, enigmatic, exotic and thrilling destinations that were the focus of much history and turmoil only a few decades ago, have re-emerged as perhaps one of the most desired travel destinations for Americans itching to set foot on unforgettable locations.

Not long ago the troika of countries the French knew as L’Indochine were forbidding places wrecked by war and volatile politics where few tourists dared to venture. A virtual closing of the area was enforced during the turbulent years immediately following the Vietnam War and only in the last few years have Laos, Cambodia and Vietnam resumed their rightful place as world-class destinations.

The tricky part for travel agents is how to give clients a unique perspective into the region’s attractions in a way that travelers will return home with deep and pleasant memories from places that evoke such strong feelings in the American psyche.

Tour operators ferrying visitors to Vietnam, Laos and Cambodia are legion, but only a few stand out by the meticulous care given their clients while at the same time planning tours that stretch beyond the well-trodden path.

Volumes have been written about Vietnam. Its beauty is unparalleled in the region. Today visitors throng to the country including it as the first stop while visiting Indochina, a start-off point for the marvels that lie ahead.

“Southeast Asia always has had a special attraction for North Americans,” says Hima Singh, president of Asian Pacific Adventures, “and today’s peaceful political climate makes it the ideal spot to visit in order to get a unique perspective into this wonderful region.”

Singh was born in Nepal and worked throughout Asia for years before founding Asian Pacific Adventures. She explains that the company “specializes in group tours and in designing the perfect trip” for the large number of adventurous clients who have made Indochina one of the world’s hottest destinations.

In addition to offering traditional tours, Asian Pacific Adventures pioneered many of the attractive packages that have become almost common to the region.

“These include bicycle tours of China, festivals in Burma and India, visiting ethnic tribes in Vietnam and other exclusive experiences. We even arrange lodgings in private residences where our clients interact with locals. Some lodge with artists, writers, office workers and even museum curators. At the same time, our clients learn to prepare local cuisine and enrich themselves by immersing in the local customs,” she adds.

Asian Pacific Adventures has planned tours for UCLA graduate students, organized cultural and photographic trips for the Pacific Asia Museum in California and planned treks into remote places for photographers on assignment for a number of national and international publications.

One of the company’s most alluring offerings is its Best of Indochina, a 21-day package that combines Laos, Vietnam and Cambodia.

Asian Pacific Adventures has tours departing in the spring and autumn of 2010 where travelers can get glimpses of the best the three Indochinese countries offer. The first begins in late-February and ends in early-March; the second runs from mid-October to early-November.

Land packages for both costs $5,790 pp for a party of six or more, with minimal additional cost for fewer travelers within the group. Single supplement is $2,380; air travel is not included.

These spectacular tours enthrall arrivals from the moment they land in the enchanting city of Luan Prabang, Laos’ historic, religious and artistic capital. This is the Laos of lore, a magical place deep in a valley surrounded by mist-enshrouded mountains and full of pagodas crowned with golden spires. Luan Prabang is full of houses and temples decorated with exquisite tile work and thriving, colorful markets, a photogenic and colorful town that dazzles.

Visitors will have the opportunity to hike up Phousi Hill for magnificent sunset panoramas, enjoy the quietude found inside the caves of Pak Ou, a religious destination, or merely enjoy the tranquility of old Laos while watching the world go by from the verandah of an old French colonial cafe.

Afterwards, the tour moves to Hanoi, once a verboten city for Americans during the Vietnam War and now one of the most alluring destinations in Southeast Asia.

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