by Lee Cobaj from The Telegraph, May 21, 2018
Lee Cobaj suggest 10 adventurous trips around Asia using every conceivable mode of transport, from tuk-tuk to camel.
1. Tuk-tuk round Thailand
Part motorcycle, part tricycle, Thailand’s multi-coloured tuk-tuks are one of the country’s most instantly recognisable symbols – and you can learn to drive one on a 13-night tour of Thailand with Wix Squared. Adding some va-va-va-vroom in between stays in Bangkok and Phuket is a four-night, self-drive tuk-tuk circuit of the Thai countryside, with a visit to an elephant sanctuary and stays in mountain-ringed boutique hotels.
From £2,750, B&B, including flights and transfers. Departures between June 2018 and October 2019. Wix Squared (020 3808 6383; wixsquared.com).
2. Vietnam on two wheels
Intrepid Travel’s north to south cycling tour of Vietnam takes riders from the lakes and tree-lined avenues of the capital to the hills and rice paddies of Mai Chau, Ninh Binh’s limestone karst mountains and the ancient towns of Hue and Hoi An. The 15-day adventure ends in Ho Chi Minh City, with an unforgettable ride to the Cu Chi Tunnels, created by the Viet Cong during the war with America.
From £1,430 including accommodation, select meals, transportation and activities. Flights not included. Intrepid Travel (0808 274 5111; intrepidravel.com ).
3. Sail the magical Mekong
Saga’s 14-night voyage on the Mekong offers the perfect blend of big city hits, cultural kicks and long lazy days on the world’s 12th longest river. Spend the first two nights eating and shopping in Ho Chi Minh City, before boarding the RV Mekong Pandaw, an old-fashioned paddle steamer with just 24 state rooms. Spend seven nights sailing through the wilds of Vietnam and Cambodia, ending with the delights of Angkor Wat.
From £3,799, including flights, accommodation, transfers and most meals. Departures September 2018 to October 2019. Saga (0808 250 2710; travel.saga.co.uk).
4. Himalayan highs
Titan Travel is the only tour operator in Britain to offer rides on the Lhasa Express, the world’s highest-altitude passenger train. The route, which spirals down from the Tibetan capital to Xining in China, is just one part of a thrilling 19-night tour taking in many of China’s most impressive sights, from the Great Wall and Terracotta Army to the bright lights of Shanghai and the ethnically diverse districts of Yunnan.
From £3,999, including flights, accommodation, most meals, transport and excursions. Departures between March 2019 and September 2019. Titan Travel (0808 250 2803; titantravel.co.uk).
5. Up, up and away in Angkor Wat
The Unesco World Heritage site of Angkor Wat is the largest religious compound in the world – and there’s no better way to take in its full scale and majesty than from above. On Inside Asia’s Indochina Encompassed tour, guests spend 15 nights absorbing some of south-east Asia’s most alluring attractions – Halong Bay, Luang Prabang, Phnom Penh – and can add on an early morning hot-air balloon ride over the Khmer complex.
From £3,052, including accommodation, some meals and a number of excursions and activities. Inside Asia (0117 244 3380; insideasiatours.com).
6. The romantic rail journey
Scott Dunn’s ultra-luxurious, romantically oriented 16-night Highlands to Islands by Train itinerary takes in the ancient temples and shimmering rice paddies of Chiang Mai, luxury riverside lodgings in Bangkok, a three-night sojourn to Singapore on the elegant Eastern and Orient Express – all teak wood, jewel-toned fabrics and tea plantation views – plus a whole week flitting between the jade-green Andaman Sea and diamond white beaches in Langkawi, Malaysia. Swoon.
From £12,700, including flights, B&B accommodation, full-board on the Eastern and Oriental Express and private transfers. Scott Dunn (020 3130 6997; scottdunn.com)
7. Get the hump in Mongolia
Riding camels and camping out in traditional gers in the middle of the Gobi Desert are among the tantalising thrills of the 15-day Highlights of Mongolia tour with Steppes Travel. Other memorable experiences include visits to the beautiful Tibetan-style Gandan Buddhist monastery, meeting nomadic herdsmen in the Hogno Khan countryside and shopping for cashmere in Ulaanbaatar.
From £3,060, including flights, accommodation, most meals, transfers and a private guide. Departures between May 2018 and May 2019. Steppes Travel (01258 787 508; steppestravel.com)
8. Private jet tour of Asia
This 16-night billionaire-style odyssey begins at Aman’s latest luxury hotel, Amanyangyun, a traditional village compound set in a camphor forest on the outskirts of Shanghai. From here, guests board a 16-seater private jet to Amandayan – the Aman group’s beautifully designed hotel in Yunnan – and the cobbled streets of Lijiang before venturing on to the Himalayan kingdom of Bhutan, followed by river cruises and tiger-spotting safaris in Rajasthan and Ranthambore, before finally touching down in Sri Lanka.
From £56,660, based on double occupancy. The price includes accommodation, all transport, excursions, meals and transfers. Departures in October 2018 and October 2019. Aman (0800 2255 2626; aman.com).
9. Rajasthan in the saddle
Ride 100 miles and a thousand years back in time on Wild Frontier’s 12-night tour of Rajasthan, which includes seven nights’ horse riding through the ancient desert kingdom of Marwari. Steer your steed across shapeshifting sand dunes, along sandy river beds and over dusty red mountains, passing tribal villages and spotting wildlife – falcons, antelope, porcupine – along the way. The rough ride certainly ends by bedtime, with comfortable stays in converted castles, forts and blinged-up camps along the way.
From £3,745, including accommodation, all meals, transport and excursions. Flights not included. Departures throughout November every year. Wild Frontiers (020 8741 7390; wildfrontierstravel.com).
10. Airborne over Kyushu
Rainforest-frilled volcanoes, misty mountains, hot springs, waterfalls, rice paddies, Zen gardens, samurai castles, world-class museums and ancient imperial cities… Inside Japan’s 13-night Kyushu Elements tour incorporates all of this – plus 200mph transfers to Nagasaki on the Shinkansen bullet train, a jetfoil journey to sub-tropical idyll Yakushima, a thrilling helicopter ride over Mount Aso, the largest active volcano in Japan ; and a spectacular cable car ride to the forested Nakadake Peak.
From £3,690, including accommodation, most meals and transfers. Departures between May 2018 and May 2019. Inside Japan Tours (0117 370 9751; insidejapantours.com).