Saturday, February 15 - HONG KONG, CHINA (Overnight)
Sunday, February 16 - HONG KONG, CHINA
The Hong Kong Island skyline, with its ever-growing number of skyscrapers, speaks to ambition and money. Paris, London, even New York were centuries in the making, while Hong Kong's towers, bright lights, and glitzy shopping emporia weren't yet part of the urban scene when many of the young investment bankers who fuel one of the world's leading financial center were born. Commerce is concentrated in the glittering high-rises of Central, tucked between Victoria Harbor and frosted peaks on Hong Kong Island's north shore. While it's easy to think all the bright lights are the sum of today's Hong Kong, you need only walk or board a tram for the short jaunt west into Western to discover a side of Hong Kong that is more traditionally Chinese but no less high-energy. You'll discover the real Hong Kong to the east of Central, too in Wan Chai, Causeway Bay, and beyond.
Monday, February 17 - AT SEA
Tuesday, February 18 - HA LONG BAY, VIETNAM
A visit to the north is not complete without a trip to Halong Bay, where placid waters give way to more than 3,000 limestone karsts and wind-sculpted limestone formations that jut from foggy lagoons. Dotting the bay are tiny islands bordered by white sandy coves and hidden caves, adding to the majestic landscape of this UNESCO World Heritage Site. Adding to this naturalists's dream is the biodiversity of islets, grottos, and Cat Ba Island National Park. The by, however, shows tourism's impact: the clearing of mangrove forests to make way for jetties and piers, marine life threatened by game fishing, and garbage from passenger boats and fishing villages washed up on the shores. Beyond its geological uniqueness are activities like hiking, kayaking, rock climbing, or exploring one of the many floating villages where fishermen bring in their daily catch.
Wednesday, February 19 - CHAN MAY, VIETNAM
Hue (pronounced hway), bisected by the Perfume River and 13 km (8 mi) insland from the South China Sea, in the foothills of the Annamite Mountains (Truong Son Mountains), stands as a reminder of Vietnam's imperial past. The seat of 3 Nguyen-dynasty emperiors betweein 1802 and 1945, Hue was once Vietnam's splendid Imperial City. Although it was devastated by the French in the 19th century and again by fighting between the Vietnamese Communists and the Americans in the 20th, the monument-speckled former capital has a war-ravaged beauty. One can still imagine its former splendor, despite gaping holes in its silhouette. Hue is a UNESCO World Heritage Site, and the city's gems are slowly being restored.
Thursday, February 20 - AT SEA
Friday, February 21 - HO CHI MINH CITY, VIETNAM (Overnight)
Saturday, February 22 - HO CHI MINH CITY (Overnight)
Sunday, February 23 - HO CHI MINH CITY
Romantically referred to by the French as the Pearl of the Orient, Ho Chi Minh City today is a super-charged city of sensory overload. Motorbikes zoom day and night along the wide boulevards, through the narrow back alleys and past vendors pushing handcarts hawking goods of all descriptions. Still called Saigon by most residents, this is Vietnam's largest city and the engine driving the country's current economic resurgence, but despite its frenetic pace, it's a friendlier place than Hanoi and locals will tell you the food-simple, tasty, and incorporating many fresh herbs-is infinitely better than in the capital. This is a city full of surprises. The madness of the city's traffic-witness the oddball things that are transported on the back of motorcycles-is countered by tranquil pagodas, peaceful parks, quirky coffee shops, and whole neighborhoods hidden down tiny alleyways, although some of these quiet spots can be difficult to track down.
Monday, February 24 - At Sea
Tuesday, February 25 - Bangkok (Laem Chabang), Thailand (Overnight)
Wednesday, February 26 - Bangkok, Thailand
There are two Bangkoks, the ancient soul of Thailand with its long and fascinating history and the frantic, modern metropolis that embraces the latest trends both Eastern and Western. The two blend together remarkably well-even the most jarring juxtapositions of old and new somehow make sense. Bangkok is not only the biggest city in Thailand, but also the most mesmerizing, with some of the country's most beautiful temples and shrines. The city's energy is palpable, especially at night, when traffic opens up a bit, its famous markets get going, and everything seems lit up-from its proudest monuments to its seediest streets. When Ayutthaya was besieged and pillaged by the Burmese in 1766, Thonburi became Thailand's capital. The Thais call Bangkok Krung Thep (City of Angels), and in 1782 King Rama I moved his capital here, just across the Chao Praya River. Laem Chabang is approximately 130 km (81 mi) from Bangkok.