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Enjoy some of the best Spain has to offer on our insightful and indulgent Spain trip!
A FEW HIGHLIGHTS:
-sample traditional tapas specialities and mix with the locals in the bars of Spain
-take part in a Moorish and Middle Eastern cooking lessons
-visit beautiful old palaces, cathedrals and Alhambra!
-wander through fields of spring flowers and wild oaks with stunning views
-see wonderful Moorish architecture, with cobbled streets and alleyways
-soak your weary bones in a glorious Arab hammam
-stay in Vejer de la Frontera: a classically white, Moorish-looking hill town high above the Atlantic coast
-Sevilla: sample sherry at a Bodega. This city is full of wineries and influences from the English families who founded them, giving it a distinct atmosphere
-see live flamenco, an exhilarating art form that is unique to Spain
Day 1 Arrival in Madrid
Madrid is the Spanish capital and one of Europe's most liveable cities, as well as home to some of the continent's finest collections of European art. Your hotel is centrally located and it will be a good base to set off and explore the downtown, with its grand plazas, imposing architecture, and side streets full of interesting bookstores, designer clothes boutiques and antique shops. In the evening we will meet up for an orientation talk, and then off to one of Madrid's many bars for a meal of tapas - those little portions of food that the Spanish eat along with their vinos and cervezas, and which make bar-hopping such fun! Overnight Madrid - D
Day 2 - Madrid
This morning we take a fascinating guided walking tour of "Madrid of the Austrias", the oldest parts of the city which bear the imprint of the Habsburg dynasty that ruled Spain in the 16th and 17th centuries when Spain's imperial powers were at their height. We visit the sumptuous Royal Palace, built in 1734, a superb example of the Baroque in Spanish architecture and which boasts paintings by artists such as Caravaggio, Velozquez and Goya, frescoes and tapestries, and innumerable antiques. Afterwards you'll have some free time to go and rampage around the city and discover hidden corners on your own. Overnight Madrid - BLD
Day 3 - Cordoba
Today we travel by high-speed train across the plains of La Mancha to the ancient city of Cordoba. Once known as the "Ornament of the World" under the rule of the Umayyad caliphs, Cordoba is the best showcase for Spain's 8 centuries of Moorish legacy. On a tour this afternoon with an expert guide you will see the incredible building that is the current-day Cathedral, built around the original 8th century Mosque - a truly unique fusion of religions, architecture and aesthetics (entrances here and to the small synagogue in the Jewish quarter are included). This evening we dine in a local restaurant; Cordoba is known for its excellent cuisine. Overnight Cordoba - BD
Day 4 - Granada
Today we get to know the olive! Often referred to as "liquid gold" olive oil is an essential and age-old part of Andalucia's economic, agricultural and social life, as well as its cuisine. In the pretty white village of Zuheros we'll meet with a local who grows olives and makes his own oil, and who will explain some of the curiosities of the process to us. There will be a chance to taste different oils - oils like wines are all different! - and enjoy a lunch of some of the countless dishes which use oil and olives to great effect. In the afternoon we will take a stroll around Zuheros and then embark on a hike of around 4 kms in the river gully above the village, with breathtaking views over the "seas" of olive groves. We walk through fields of spring flowers, hawthorn bushes and wild oaks. After our walk we continue our journey south to Granada, renowned for its Moorish past and home to the legendary Alhambra palaces. After checking in at your hotel, you will meet your guide for an orientation walk around the city. Overnight Granada - BLD
Day 5 - Granada
We kick off our day in Granada with a walk in the Albaicon, the city's atmospheric former Moorish quarter. Its attractions are undeniable: a fascinating maze of cobbled streets and alleyways, carmen walled garden houses and miradores which look out on the snow-covered Sierra Nevada, and a rich history of two civilisations and religions. After lunch you will take part in either a Ceramic Tile Painting class or a Moorish & Middle Eastern Cooking class. We'll form two small groups for these activities and switch the groups over tomorrow.
Ceramic Tile Painting: In an absorbing 3 hour class you will learn how to hand-paint ceramic tiles under the guidance and inspiration of a local artist, working in her charming studio in her house. Suitable for all levels of artistic aptitude, this is a great activity and the tiles you paint are yours to take away - a unique souvenir of Granada.
Middle Eastern and Moorish Cooking Class: Learn how to prepare a menu of Middle Eastern and Moorish-inspired cuisine with a charismatic local resident in the kitchen of her small town house in the upper Albaicion district. A cross-cultural experience that ends with a relaxed dinner with wine and chat! Overnight Granada - BD
Day 6 - Granada
Today enjoy a free morning in Granada, and an opportunity to visit the Alhambra. This complex of palaces, fortress, urban areas and gardens is a unique testimony to the Nasrid sultans whose 250 year reign in Granada proved to be the swansong of Muslim rule on the Iberian Peninsula. It will leave your speechless! In the afternoon, enjoy either the Tile Painting Class or the Moorish Cooking Class, the groups reversing from yesterday.
Overnight Granada - BD
Day 7 - Granada
Granada has some stunning hikes right on it's doorstep! This morning we enjoy a walk that goes through pine & oak woods above the Alhambra, descends to the verdant valley of the Roo Darro and passes through the fascinating cave house district of Sacromonte, before ending in downtown Plaza Nueva. What is the perfect way to end our walk? A soak in the luxurious Arab baths of the "Hammam Al Andalus! Located at the foot of the Alhambra and on the ruins of an old hammam, these are the first Arab baths in Europe to be reopened following the closure in the 16th century. A well-deserved treat! Overnight Granada - B
Day 8 - Alpujarra
We depart Granada today and head for the hills! The Alpujarra is a corner of Andalusia which shows rural life as it has been lived for centuries. Criss-crossed by trails which meander through orchards, meadows and crystal-clear mountain streams, the area offers some great hiking. On the steep slopes of the Poqueira Gorge we find three charming white villages, with crafts such as basketwork, weaving and pottery. The undoubted star of the excellent local cuisine is the "jambon serrano" (mountain-cured ham), and we will see how this is produced when we visit a secadero and sample this uniquely Spanish delicacy. Capileira, the village where we stay, is a delightful place, its flower-filled streets providing a welcome to all visitors. Overnight Capileira - BL
Day 9 - Ronda
A spectacular drive takes us down from the mountains to the Mediterranean coast and a drive along the "Costa Tropical". We pass the city of MÃfÂ¡laga and then turn inland to a stunning gorge, El Chorro, where we cool off with an afternoon of fun canoeing on its beautiful reservoir, and a paella lunch as we relax in the shade afterwards . In the late afternoon we arrive in Ronda: referred to as the "Queen of the White Towns" it is set atop a rocky plateau with a chasm-like gorge spanned by a daring 18th century bridge and is one of Spain's most picturesque towns. Free time this evening to explore the old parts of Ronda and - perhaps! - a bar or two for wine and tapas! Overnight Ronda - BL
Day 10 - Ronda
Ronda has a proud history, its fortress like setting meaning it was a key bastion to Moors and Christians alike. A local expert guide will tell us the history as we visit its monuments, attractive parks and a noble bull ring which dates back to 1785 - the subject of bull fighting being sure to arouse passions one way or the other! After some free time over lunch we are off to a unique place: a 16th century convent which occupies a fantastic position with superb views back to Ronda: now restored and converted into use as the bodega of a prestigious boutique winery. Time for some wine-tasting, ladies! Overnight Ronda - B
Day 11 - Vejer de la Frontera
After leaving Ronda, we descend to the coast via a beautiful drive and reach the border between Spain and Gibraltar. "The Rock" or Gibraltar is a British colony that clings to a steep, rugged rock that rises out of the sea to 1,400ft. Situated at the entrance to the Mediterranean Sea, Gibraltar has maintained a commanding and important military presence throughout history. We take a guided tour around this fascinating town and enjoy a typical English lunch - while enjoying the Spanish sun. Our overnight stop, Vejer de la Frontera, is very different: a classically white, Moorish-looking hill town high above the Atlantic coast. Explore the brilliant white, labyrinthine alleyways, wander past iron-grilled windows, balconies, and patios! We'll enjoy dinner tonight in one of its several excellent local restaurants. Overnight Vejer de la Frontera - BLD
Day 12 - Vejer de la Frontera
This morning we walk out of Vejer, past windmills and along a ridge overlooking the countryside and towards the Atlantic ocean. This is a lovely route, much of which is through pine forests and the last section over sandy tracks as we near the sea. A leisurely lunch in the small resort of CaÃfÂ±os de Meca is followed by a walk along the beach to Cape Trafalgar, site of the legendary naval battle of 1805. Time afterwards on the beach to take in some rays, before we head back by coach to Vejer. This evening you might like to explore the town's picturesque old quarter, where our charming hotel is located on the pretty Plaza de EspaÃfÂ±a. Overnight Vejer de la Frontera - BL
Day 13 - Sevilla
The English word "sherry" is taken from the name of the city where it is produced: Jerez de la Frontera. This city is full of wineries and influences from the English families who founded them, giving it a distinct atmosphere. We will learn about the process of making these fortified wines, as well as sampling them, in one of the most interesting of these bodegas - one which produces "Very Old and Rare" sherries and brandies, and which boasts an extraordinary art collection as well. We will then sit down to lunch at one of our favourite restaurants in Jerez. In the afternoon we will drive to Sevilla, the capital of the region of AndalucÃfÂa and one of Spain's most elegant cities, and to your hotel in the historic Santa Cruz quarter. Our guide will take us on an Orientation Walk of the area, and we will see some of the elegant buildings - such as the vast Cathedral - that you will see again on tomorrow's tour. Overnight Seville - BL
Day 14 - Sevilla
There is no better way to explore Sevilla and its sights than by bike. The city is flat, offers marked cycle lanes, and is almost always sunny! This morning's bike tour is a fun and informative introduction to the city, the perfect way to get a real feel for Sevilla. We introduce you to the most interesting and alluring sights: the old gypsy quarter of Triana on the far bank of the Guadalquivir River, the elegant Maria Luisa park with its fantasy structure of the Plaza de EspaÃfÂ±a, as well as the landmark monuments of the Cathedral and the AlcÃfÂ¡zar palaces. Your local guide will bring the city to life with fascinating stories and intriguing anecdotes! The afternoon is free for you to explore the city's many other attractions, perhaps sip a coffee in a plaza and watch the world go by. Sevilla is a wonderful place for people-watching! This evening we will see live flamenco, an exhilarating art form that is unique to Spain, deeply rooted in Sevilla in particular, and still very much a part of popular culture. We round things off with a dinner of tapas, taken in two different and distinctive bars, as we mingle with the sevillanos. Overnight Seville - BD
Day 15 - Barcelona
We cross the length and breadth of Spain today, travelling comfortably and rapidly thanks to the high-speed AVE train that, in just over 5 hours, takes us through the vast plains of La Mancha and via the Ebro valley to Catalonia and its capital city, Barcelona. The Catalan capital, one of Europe's most elegant cities, is our home for the following two nights. The city is unlike any other in Spain. Firstly, its geographic position makes for a self-identity which is more European than Spanish, Barcelona being far closer to the French border than to the nearest Spanish regional capital, Zaragoza. Its history, of a sea-faring state with a medieval power-base in the Mediterranean and a series of foreign alliances against Spanish pretensions, has also shaped an outwards-looking mentality. And then there is the language: on the streets of Barcelona you will mostly hear Catalan, a cousin of Castilian Spanish that feels like a cocktail of Latin, French and Spanish. All in all this is a vibrant, cosmopolitan city, and a fascinating end to our Iberian adventure. Tonight we have dinner in the downtown area. Overnight Barcelona - BD
Day 16 - Barcelona
Our final day of the trip is spent on a half day walking tour of the Barrio Gotico (Gothic quarter) with its superb cathedral, medieval lanes and specialist shops, the lively central boulevard of Las Ramblas where all the world meets, and the famous food market called La Boqueria, where we can try the odd tidbit at stall-side bars. In the afternoon you might like to visit the incredible works of 19th century genius Antoni GaudÃfÂ, whose basilica "la Sagrada Familia" is still under construction and which is one of the dominating features of the Barcelona skyline that became so famous with the 1992 Olympic games. Gaudi's houses for wealthy Catalan merchants, the Casas MilÃf and BattlÃfÂ³ are also well worth a visit, and the Eixample area in which they are located is also full of designer and brand name fashion stores, as Barcelona is something of a shopping paradise. The trip concludes with a group Farewell Dinner, as we review our memories of the past fortnight. Overnight Barcelona - BD
Day 17 - Barcelona
We say our farewells after breakfast as another fantastic Venus Adventures, full of great memories, fun and new friends comes to an end. What a great trip it has been!
Vietnam is a wonderful country of friendly people, lush landscapes, fascinating bustling cities, markets full of wonderful treasures, divine food, interesting history and culture and more! Everyday here is a new and different experiences - Vietnam really does tick all the travel boxes! You will love it!
-Sample traditional specialities and mix with the locals in the busy streets of Hanoi
-learn about Vietnam's interesting history, culture and people in the fascinating museums
-a very indulgent and totally unforgettable 3 days balmy cruise in the stunning Halong Bay
-visiting the incredible old and atmospheric town of Hoi An
-get wonderful new clothes made to order in Hoi An
-Cooking lessons aboard a boat in Hoi An
-A lovely hike in the lush highlands of Sapa, visiting the Black Hmong people
-explore the Mekong Delta by sampan (boat)
...and much more!!
Day 1, HANOI
Our Vietnam experience begins in Hanoi's fascinating 'Old Quarter'. On arrival, we check into our hotel and have free time to freshen up and rest, or wander down to Hoan Kiem lake for coffee, patisseries and people watching on the lake front. We enjoy a delicious dinner together at one of Hanoi's restaurants, then wander through the fascinating market stalls and boutiques in the Old Quarter, back to our hotel for a refreshing night's sleep. Meals: D
Day 2, HANOI
Hanoi is a beguiling and vibrant city steeped in history, with a wonderful fusion of French colonial and Vietnamese architecture and cuisine. We take the day to visit the city's key sights such as the National Museum and the tranquil Temple of Literature, Vietnam's first university. We'll have an insightful meal at an NGO restaurant which educates and trains 'street kids', giving them skills to pursue careers in the hospitality and tourism industries. There's also be time to trawl the colorful streets of the Old Quarter, where streets are named for the products they sell and everything imaginable is being bought and sold.
We return to Hanoi for a relaxing free afternoon where you may choose to watch the world go by from a lovely cafe, take a stroll around Hoan Kiem lake, or squeeze in some shopping. Meals: B, L, D
Day 3, HANOI - night train to Sapa
Meals: B, lunch and dinner on your own / Accomm: Soft sleeper train - cozy cabin
Hanoi is bursting with things to see and do! You might like to start your day at around 5.30am at the lake watching the Vietnamese doing Tai Chi or ballroom dancing before they go to work. Go wild in the markets for beautiful silk, jewellery and more, indulge in a massage, or take a cyclo to get some history at the Vietnamese Women's Museum and the Hoa Lo Prison (Hilton Hotel).
In the evening, we are driven to the railway station for our night train to Sapa.
Day 4, Lao Cai - Sapa - trekking to Ma Tra - Ta Phin
Meals: B, L, D
Arrive in Lao Cai and be transferred by shuttle bus to Sapa. The bus ride uphill to Sapa takes a little over an hour giving you a glimpse of the stunning vistas and impressive rice terraces. On arrival, we meet our local tour guide and if we like we can take a shower in our partner's hotel.You will enjoy a full buffet breakfast at Chau Long hotel. We start trekking from Sapa and walk through the town for about 20 minutes before turning to a dirt road to Ma Tra, a black H'mong village. The trekking route offers a breathtaking view of vegetable gardens and rice terraces with green mountains rising above. There will be time for visiting with local families and learning about their traditional fiber processing. We continue trekking to Ta Phin village of the Red Dzao, in one of the most scenic valleys in Vietnam. Here we'll stop for a simple lunch before exploring the village.
3.00pm: Return to Sapa by private vehicle to check in to your hotel. You're free to explore the town, its market and sloping streets with all the colorful handicrafts.
Day 5, Sapa - trekking to Lao Chai - Ta Van & evening bus to Hanoi
Meal: B, L, Dinner at own expense | Accommodation: Essence Hanoi hotel
We will meet our guide and depart at 8.00. We start the day by going to the market with the guide to buy all the ingredients we need to cook lunch. We start trekking from Sapa town to Golden Stream valley. The trek offers some stunning views of the rice terraces, gardens and Fan Si Pan mountain range. After crossing a suspension bridge, we will hike up to Lao Chai San village. The scenery here is great. We will continue through the Golden Stream Valley, stopping at Lao Chai village for lunch. After lunch, we will explore the villages of Lao Chai (Black H'mong) and Ta Van (Dzay). This trek is relatively easy, though the trail can be quite slippery if it rains, so good footwear is recommended. After visiting a family of the village, we walk to the main road to meet up with our driver and return to Sapa town. Shower is available at our partner's hotel. In the afternoon, you're free to explore the town and it's market. 3.30pm: Meet the guide. A car takes us to the bus station. 4.00pm: Comfortable shuttle bus departs from Sapa to Hanoi. Enjoy beautiful views driving along the Hoang Lien Son mountain range. The bus is equipped with large individual seats, A/C and wifi. 2 stops on the way. One for toilets at about 6.30pm. The other one for dinner at about 8.00pm.
Around 10.00pm: Arrival in Hanoi center (Ly Thai To street).
Day 6, Hanoi - Halong bay cruise
Meals: B, L, D | Accommodation: Treasure Junk - 4 star
Depart from Hanoi at 8.00 for a 3.5 hours drive to Halong City through the Red River Delta. Upon arrival, get on board of the Treasure Junk. Start cruising from Hon Gai pier to the boundaries of Halong bay while lunch with fresh seafood is served (vegetarian available). After lunch, relax and enjoy the cruise through breathtaking scenery. We are slowly getting off the classic cruising routes, far from the tourists! Limestone rock formations will parade around us for about 2 hours before our first stop in Cong Do area.
We reach the perfect spot, remote and scenic, where the waters of Halong and Bai Tu Long meet. Let's get closer to the water in a kayak and explore the bay in depth, paddle closer to the rocks and go to one of the many beaches in the Bay.
After one and a half hour kayaking, we get back on board - it is time for a sundowner on the deck! The big red sunset will take your breath away. Enjoy a fun cooking demonstration before dinner. Enjoy a wonderful overnight on board in a cosy air-conditioned cabin with en-suite bathroom facilities.
Day 7, Halong bay Discovery & Kayaking
Meals: B, L, D | Accommodation: Treasure Junk - 4 star
Breakfast will be served from 7.15am. If you like, participate in a Tai Chi session before breakfast on deck. It's a great way to start the day.
Around 8.30am, we board a smaller boat. Today, we'll leave all the crowds behind and cruise deeper into Bai Tu Long Bay where we see more of the beautiful and strange rock formations that are only available in this area. We pass several floating hamlets including Cap La and Cong Dam, and we enter the centre of pristine Bai Tu Long Geology Park. A whole day of fun and relaxation with more kayaking, more swimming, more sandy beaches, more floating houses, more local cuisine, too divine for words! We are back to our support boat for a delicious hot lunch at noontime. After lunch, we spend a little more time for kayaking or relaxing.
The guide will lead you back to the Treasure Junk in the mid-afternoon. Time for more relaxation and a cocktail or 2 on the deck.
Day 8, Halong - Hanoi & nite train to Hue
Meal: B, L, D| Accommodation: Soft sleeper train
We will be back at the pier about 11am, and driven to Hanoi with an expected arrival time about 4pm. The day will be short so let's wake up early to take the maximum of it.
Coffee, tea and cakes will be served from 6.30am. A 30-minute Tai Chi session will energize your body and soul or just allow yourself some time for a sunbath with a cup of coffee. About 7.45am, we hop on bamboo boats to go visiting a secluded floating village surrounded by the mountains. We make our way between numerous floating houses and small rowing boats that serve as vehicles to itinerant shops, fishing utilities, and sometimes as overnight shelter. Back on treasure before 9am, we start cruising back to the pier. From 9.30am, a brunch will be served. Take a last glance at the rocks, standing still as the eternal guardians of a kingdom.
We return to Hanoi, for a final dinner in this buzzing city. After dinner we board the Reunification Express for our overnight train journey (in sleeper berths), to Hue. Overnight on soft sleeper train to Hue (shared 04 berth cabin, air-conditioner)
Day 9, Hue - sightseeing
Meals: B, L, D | Accommodation: Eldora Hue - 4 star
Our train arrives in Hue around 0940 am. Situated on the banks of the Perfume River and celebrated by Vietnamese poets for its romantic air and beauty, Hue was home to the Royal Dynasty until 1945. After checking in to our hotel, we take a fun tour of Hue's countryside, chauffeured on motos by the Lady Riders, visiting emperors' tombs, Buddhist pagodas and historic sites. This evening we enjoy a delicious gourmet buffet and cultural performance at the famed Saigon Morin.
Day 10, Hue - Hoian
Meals: B, D | Accommodation: HOTEL
We travel the scenic coastal road by private bus to our favourite Vietnamese town, Hoi An. On arrival we check into our tranquil hotel and have free time for lunch in the hotel's garden restaurant or a nearby cafe. This afternoon FREE TIME TO stroll along the river front or cycle out to the beach, then return and enjoy dinner together at one of the town's excellent restaurants - a great way to begin sampling the rich history and culture.
Day 11, Hoian
Meal: B, |Accommodation: HOTEL
Hoi An was an important trading port from the 17th-19th centuries. Wandering the streets, you really feel embraced by history. The town now has UN World Heritage status and its profusion of old houses, quiet streets and covered bridge are being preserved and restored. Motor vehicles are not permitted in the inner historic quarter, which makes for a fantastic walking and cycling experience.
Hoi An is also the ultimate place to have affordable clothes made to order. There's a gorgeous beach nearby and people-watching on the riverfront, cool drink in hand, is hard to beat. Shop for a new outfit (or new wardrobe!) and dine at your choice of the town's riverside caf??s.
Day 12, Hoian - Cooking Class course
Meals: B, L
Today we drive to the My Son sanctuary. This was the site for religious ceremonies of kings of the Champa dynasty, and was also a burial place for Champa's royalty and national heroes. The My Son temples are one of the largest Hindu complexes in southeast Asia and are a premier heritage in Vietnam. Though much of the complex has been destroyed over time, we can still see many majestic ruins of temples and learn what archaeologists can tell us about the deep history in this area. Afterwards, we head offshore on a boat for a wonderful cooking class onboard! You will have lots of fun cooking up a storm and finding out the secrets behind all those amazing dishes you have been eating.
Day 13, Hoian - free in the morning - afternoon fly to Ho Chi Minh -
Meal: B, D | Accommodation: Harmony Saigon
We catch the afternoon flight to Ho Chi Minh city. Greeted at Tan Son Nhat airport and driven to your hotel.
Day 14, Ho Chi Minh - Cu Chi tunnels & city tour
Meal: B, L, D | Accommodation: Harmony Saigon
Visit of Cu Chi - a byzantine maze of underground passages, chambers, rooms and booby traps used during the war. You'll be able to get an idea of what it would have been like to live, sleep and eat in the underground passages and bunkers during the fierce battles above and below the surface. Return to the city for lunch at a tasty restaurant in the city centre.
In the afternoon, you'll discover the Reunification Palace - a blend of traditional ritual and modern architecture, served as the presidential palace of South Vietnam until reunification in 1975. Then, you'll also visit the War Remnants Museum - one of the most sobering, yet popular, museums in the city. It highlights the suffering of the Vietnamese people at the hands of the French and American forces up to 1975, and while its perspective is less than perfectly balanced, its exhibits nonetheless are well designed and ably document the folly of war.
Day 15, Ho Chi Minh - Ben Tre - Can Tho
Meal: B, L, D | Accommodation: Hau Giang hotel in Can Tho
We depart from the hotel and arrive in Ben Tre about 10am to board a boat for a nice cruise along the Ham Luong River. We go at an easy pace and enjoy several stops en route to discover some traditions of the region. To end a busy morning and prepare for a slightly late lunch, we hop on bikes and start a leisure ride through forest and orchards. We reach a nice riverside restaurant and taste some typical cuisine of the Mekong delta.
The afternoon is dedicated to waterways exploration. On a sampan along narrow canals first, and then back on the boat to cruise back to the pier. We loop-the-loop in Ben Tre and then get back on the car to drive to Can Tho. Spend the evening at your leisure seeing the town by foot or pedicab, or find a quiet place for a cocktail by the river.
Day 16, Can Tho - Ho Chi Minh
Meals: B, L, D| Accommodation: Harmony Saigon
After an early breakfast, we start a boat cruise to head to the bustling Cai Rang floating market - the largest and most colorful in the Mekong delta. Feel free to take photographs, talk or bargain while our boat glides slowly through the market mayhem. There are fantastic photo opportunities amidst the huge variety of agricultural bounty on sale here. Farming boats big and small trade seasonal fruits and an array of other goods in a chorus of sights and smells that you won't soon forget.
We then take a leisurely stroll through the farms and houses of a nearby village to see fragrant tropical fruit orchards, cross over quiet streams on monkey bridges, and pause for a cup of tea with friendly locals. We spend some time in the surroundings to visit a local fish market, a noodle workshop and an ancient Khmer pagoda. We then make the short drive back to Can Tho for a relaxing lunch, and we then start the drive back to Saigon and return you back to your hotel around 5pm. Final dinner together.
Day 17, Ho Chi Minh
What an incredible, unforgettable journey it has been! Vietnam is a trip that will stick with you for a long time - the lovely people, the breathtaking countryside, the fantastic shopping, the heartbreaking history and the delicious food. I'm sure it will leave you wanting more!
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Got a big birthday coming up that ends with a "0" (40, 50, 60...)? We'll make it fun and memorable for you..!
Why not celebrate your birthday with an exotic holiday? Whether it be sipping gins on the deck of a cruise ship gliding down the Nile in Egypt, or eating birthday cake under an African sky in the Saharan desert in Morocco, we can help you make it memorable! Start saving now, and bring your friends along too - we'll give you a discount for every friend you bring...just get in touch and we can discuss your birthday destination of choice. As you know, our motto is "Life is uncertain - eat cake!", so treat yourself to a fabulous birthday with us!
Bring a group of women on tour!
Get a group of 10 ladies from your club, your work, or just all your friends and you get a great discount for your efforts! "Hen" trips: Maybe you want to getaway with your girlfriends for a few days before you get married....
Custom Women's Trips - you tell us where and for how long
Would you like to go to a Venus destination with a group of female friends/workmates, but the dates or trip length does not suit? Talk to us about a tailor-made Venus Adventure!
Would you like to give a friend a gift voucher to convince her to come on a trip with you? Or maybe you know someone who really wants to travel, but can't seem to take the big step? A gift voucher might be just the ticket to get them going...you just let us know the amount, and we will send it to you!
Pull up a seat, I'd like to have a chat with you about risk, travel and common sense. Yesterday I was sitting with my Dutch friend Jose commiserating the lack of tourists in the Sinai, Egypt. We both live here at the moment, in this sleepy, peaceful Red Sea beachside town, inhabited by ex-pats and the local Bedouin tribe. Since the revolution in Egypt, ongoing unrest and some kidnappings in the past couple of years here in the Sinai desert, tourists have been warned to stay away. Even though you couldn't be in a safer place. We need to get this in perspective.
Recently Joses family visited her and she wanted to take them on a safari into the beautiful local desert. Because of the brief kidnappings of 2 Americans and later a couple of Brazilians, her sister didn't want to go. Jose, who works in tourism, was insulted that her sister even considered that she might be putting her life at risk. She knew that the kidnappings were a protest by the oppressed Bedouins to get some wrongfully jailed relatives freed. (There was a law in Egypt whereby you could be imprisoned on suspicion of something and without trial, needless to say there are many innocent people in jail here.) In both cases of the kidnappings, the "hostages" had a cultural experience. The Americans were given tea and food and a nice time, and the Brazilians were asked to give the prizes at the local Camel Race - just to show it was not aimed at them, just to prove a point to their oppressors, the Egyptian government. To add insult to injury, Jose's sister later booked a trip to New York. Jose was flabbergasted (love that word!). I mean, hello??
Because of the kidnappings foreign governments issued travel warnings about going into the Sinai desert, thereby killing the safari business which local Bedouins live on. Further oppression. However, consider this: after recent shootings in the US, people continue to go to Batman movies and they are still sending their kids to school. Noone was hurt here in the Sinai, yet harmful paranoia was spread.
I firmly believe, after many years on this planet, and working in adventure tourism, that when your number is up, your number is up. I fell 20m out of the sky once in a paragliding accident. I was delivered to hospital by helicopter with a broken back and foot severed at the ankle. Nurses kept coming in and telling me my life was a gift from God. I didn't end up in a wheelchair or die. My number wasn't up. S*** happens, that's life. But my number wasn't up that day.
I worked in an adventure office selling rafting, canyoning and bungy jumping trips. I often got asked, as someone booked a trip "Am I going to die?" I was never quite sure how to answer this one, but my response was usually one of the following:
"I don't know" (I'm not God after all!),
"I didn't just sell you a death trip, I sold you a rafting trip",
"Yes. One day...",
or "You have just booked a raft trip, I can't guarantee that you wont walk outside and get hit by a bus". The answer depended on my mood, of course. We can't predict our deaths, and it usually happens when we least expect it.
The word "adventure" implies a certain amount of risk. There is "soft adventure" and "extreme adventure". Whatever the case, adventures are great, they make us live in the moment and keep us alive and our hearts beating. It is important to calculate the risk. Some adventures are controlled, some are not. Its up to you how much risk you want to take, just like in the share market. But always calculate the risk based on good information, not on rumours and hearsay.
A plane falls out of the sky and 300 people die, and people don't stop flying. Its just media hype that puts fear into the hearts of the all the sheeple out there and stops them thinking and influences their decisions. Fear makes you buy certain beauty creams, life and car insurance etc. Stop and have a think for a minute and ask yourself what you are really afraid of. You might find you are fearing nothing at all, something that does not even exist or that might not even happen.
Lets talk about beliefs - remember Bird Flu? It was going to wipe out lots of the worlds population and governments were preparing for it. It wasn't a matter of IF it was going to happen, but WHEN. This had people living in fear and probably adjusting their lives in strange ways, just like the end of the world and the Mayan calendar. If you believe all that stuff, chances are you are a "sheeple". Sheeple don't analyse the news, they just take it at face value. So why do you believe that stuff? Is it because someone told you it so it must be true, or is it because it is something you experienced? Why do you accept it to be true? Watch the news - they tell you exactly who are the good guys and who are the bad guys, you are not even allowed to decide for yourself. That's why there is so much anti-muslim sentiment. If you watched Arab news you might decide the US is the worlds' biggest terrorist for all the damage done and lives lost in Iraq and many other countries.
OK, you get the picture now? Good. Don't forget: Life is a risk, that's all there is to it. Strange things happen. Good things happen too. Don't believe all that you read and hear if you weren't there yourself. Don't let the media tell you what to believe. Live the day, for you never know when the end will come. Have adventures. And only believe what you want in this article, because its just based on my own meandering experience. Thanks for your listening. â~º
The following answers sum up why our adventure trips for women are so awesome!
-Usually you can relax more - not intimidated by the way you look or dress and usually have a hell of a lot more fun and laughs
-Safer, more relaxed environment, no competition with the men (or for the men!)
-It is more relaxing to visit/shop/look at something/take ones time/etc and not wonder if ones partner is - or isn't- enjoying himself.
-Mixed trips change the dynamics of the group. Always!
-Women only rules!!!!!
-we talk the same language
-Women travelling together are for the most part easy going, not competitive, more open to trying new things, more comfortable in our own skin, and more willing to let a country and its people under our skin. Also, we can forget about our roles in life (wife, mother etc) and focus all our energy on just being us!
-...men are a pain and whine to get their own way.
...and last but not least, and this answer sums it all up:
-Because men are from Mars and women are from Venus! (simple really...)
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It's usually just before dinner, in a wonderful spot - maybe on a sand dune, or in a locally decorated beautiful room. It's a time when we unwind, relax, have a drink and socialize together, maybe tell a few tales of the days events and get to know each other more. And of course, have a few laughs! Gin is our preferred tipple, but of course, you can drink anything from a juice to a glass of wine, depending on your taste!
Did you know
.... that the recipe for Gordon's Gin is known to only twelve people in the world and has been kept a secret for 250 years?
...that Bombay Sapphires name originates from the gin's popularity in India in of the days of the British Raj and the sapphire in question is the Star of Bombay on display at the Smithsonian Institution.
OK, so have found yourself in a fabulous Arab bazaar in some hot, sandy and exotic country. It is a maze of twisting alleyways crammed with people and intriguing shoplets selling bright and alluring handicrafts: colourfully decorated carpets, lamps, clothes, leather and metalware. Trapped in shopping heaven, you almost pass out with excitement. Sweet, musky incense wafts through the air, and as you saunter along in the heat, handsome swarthy men try to entice you into their shops with cheesey one-liners "Madame, can I ask you something?"
Shopping in an Arab souq is something you have to be in the mood for. Patience and a sense of humour are a necessity or you won't last 5 minutes. And if you don't have your wits about you, you may find yourself limping back to your hotel under the strain of five carpets and no money to finance the rest of your trip and wondering how that all happened when all you wanted to buy was a scarf. You had only asked out of interest how much that lovely rug was...and before you knew it - you had five!
Golden Rule No. 1: don't ask how much something is unless you want to buy it. If you do ask, you are entering into a "negotiation" - commonly known as "haggling". Your lovely salesman will enquire how long you have been in his country to see how green (stupid) you are, suss out how many gold rings you have on, and then name an extortionate price. Your jaw will drop and you will gasp in horror.
Golden Rule No. 2: ask yourself how much you might pay for this item back home, look at the quality, and then remember you are buying it at the source. It has not been imported and you are cutting out several middlemen. Think what you would be prepared to pay, and then name a lower price. Now it is your salesman's turn to gasp in horror and act insulted. Game on!
Haggling is theatrics, and can be a lot of fun if you are patient. Have a mint tea and get comfortable! You will now negotiate with your man, he will try to force your price up with all sorts of sob stories about how business has been bad, how many kids he has to feed etc. You have to invent some of your own sob stories about how little money you have and you saved all your life to get here...remember, keep it fun and encourage humour!
Golden Rule No. 3: Stick to your guns! The Arab salesman always wants to win this game, even if only by a small amount, but if possible, by a huge amount! If the price gets beyond what you are willing to pay - walk away. Better to walk away than to regret it later. If your price was not fair, he will let you go. If your price was reasonable after all, your charming salesman will most likely come after you (he hates to miss a sale), drag you back to the shop, wrap your exotic treasure into a neat package, and relieve you of your cash.
And this brings me to the most important rule, Golden Rule No. 4: both parties should be happy at the end of the transaction - you should be happy with what you paid and the treasure that you bought, and the salesman should be happy with his sale. And thus you will get the lovely scarf you wanted and not five rugs.
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