Trains, planes and tuk tuks

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iol travel may 14 Bayon temple angkor . In Cambodia we take tuk-tuks to Angkor Watt.

Contiki loves to go local so they give their clients 10 grass roots ways to get around Asia.

Take a rickshaw ride through Beijing's hutongs. These narrow streets are still inhabited by local families. Get out on two wheels as you cruise around the hutongs in the back of a rickshaw, before we meet a local family living in the area and take a tour of their home before sharing lunch with them.

Sampans are flat bottomed boats powered by two oars that are used by rural locals for travelling from one place to the next. Many people use these boats as their homes and often they are grouped together forming a floating market where you can walk from one boat to the next buying fresh produces and local delicacies.

The long tailed boats, or hang yao, are powered by engines and act as shuttles across rivers. In Bangkok you will experience these on a guided tour of the canals or klongs. You'll soon understand why this city is often dubbed 'Venice of the East'. Get around like a local on a typical Thai boat - it's perfect for taking in this sprawling megalopolis from the water. You'll see the landmark Dawn Temple, the Royal Barge and some of the major hotels as we cruise along Bangkok's main artery, Chao Praya River.

The maze of backwater canals will give you a good look into everyday Thai life as we cruise past a jumble of buildings and houses, and see locals going about their day.

The overnight train from Bangkok to Chang Mai is an experience not to be missed. It's loads of fun and the conductor usually doubles up as the one who makes up your bed and sells drinks and sandwiches on board.

iol travel feb 15 hutongs Foreign tourists pass by in tricycles in one of Beijing's many old hutongs, or ancient alley or lane. AFP

In Laos we travel down the mighty Mekong River on our own private boat. Catch some sun, read a book or listen to some tunes as you take in the wild beauty of the countryside. You'll soon understand why the river is the region's lifeline, doubling as both a transport route and food source. Glide past remote villages, hillside crop farms, bamboo fish traps and watch locals enjoying a swim.

A Junk Boat excursion on Halong Bay is another highlight of Contiki's Asian programme. Board a Chinese-style junk boat for an overnight cruise through the absolutely stunning waters of this Unesco World Heritage-listed site.

This natural wonder doesn't come up short on views: traditional sampans and junks sail the crystal waters of the Gulf of Tonkin, where nearly 2,000 limestone islands dot the sea. Kick back on deck and soak up views of grottos, lagoons and thick forests. Our boat passes hidden coves, sheer cliffs and stunning beaches before arriving at the Sung Sot Caves where we'll visit the limestone interior and take in the fantastic views.

Back on board there's a little more cruising before we stop for a swim in an idyllic remote lagoon and dock at Dao Titop for sunset.

On Koh Samui take a short ferry journey across the Gulf of Thailand to the island of Koh Tao, also known as Turtle Island. Smaller than Koh Samui, Koh Tao is famous for its underwater scenery & laid-back lifestyle.

In Cambodia we take tuk-tuks to Angkor Wat, the largest religious monument in the world, to watch the sun rise. The heart-stopping combo of soft light, lily-filled waterways and an intricately carved temple will give you goose bumps.

From the bump bump of a tuk tuk to the smooth sailing on a traditional junk adventure awaits you on a Contiki trip to Asia.

For more information or to book contact your ASATA travel agent or Contiki on (011) 280 8400. Visit www.contiki.com for details on these and other Asian tours.

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