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Friday, September 16, 2011

Travel Vietnam and Cambodia in luxury with APT

Lets Indochina enthral and enchant you as you explore the Mekong in comfort, says Kevin Coyd.

APT’s 18-day tour of Indochina is a remarkable adventure on which you will enjoy unparalleled standards of luxury. Combining 11 nights of guided touring and a seven-night river cruise, you will discover a vibrant, exotic culture, beautiful scenery and remarkable historical relics – including many places that are accessible only by water.

In Vietnam and Cambodia, APT offers two intimate vessels. MS La Marguerite is one of the finest ships on the Mekong, with just 46 suites and an elegant art nouveau-inspired design. This year, she is joined by the newly launched MS AmaLotus, an equally luxurious vessel with 62 suites.

On board, you’ll enjoy excellent cuisine and the attention of a knowledgeable APT tour director – local to the area and who speaks fluent English. They remainon hand to ensure that your holiday goes smoothly.

Shore excursions are led by expert local guides and conducted in groups of no more than 25, so you can be sure of individual attention and can immerse yourself fully in the culture of the places visited. What’s more, the price of the cruise includes all soft drinks, beer and spirits on board, plus wine at lunch and dinner and all tips.

Passengers can take advantage of three other exclusive benefits. Signature Experiences are special tours and activities that show youthe most amazing sights and hidden treasures of Indochina, and they’re included in the itinerary at no extra cost.

APT also recognises that guests have differing interests and tastes – so Freedom of Choice Touring offers a selection of activities at certain locations, while Dine Around Dinners provides a range of restaurant options. Both come as part of your cruise.

The Hanoi, Ha Long Bay to Ho Chi Minh City guided tour and cruise is among the most exciting and comprehensive introductions to Vietnam, Cambodia and the Mekong.

The adventure begins with a flight from the UK to Hanoi, the 1,000-year-old capital of Vietnam. Here, you can either visit a traditional Vietnamese home to meet a calligrapher, have a relaxing foot massage at your hotel, or take a walking tour of the ancient village of Bat Trang, celebrated for its pottery.

A further day of sightseeing in Hanoi offers the chance to see such landmarks as Ba Dinh Square, the One Pillar Pagoda and the Temple of Literature.

The evening brings two quintessentially Vietnamese experiences: a rickshaw ridein the Old Quarter and a water-puppet show. For dinner, there’s a choice of three top restaurants, including the six-storey Hanoi Press Club.

The first of APT’s Signature Experiences comes next, with an overnight tour of Ha Long Bay on board a traditional wooden junk. You’ll see Titop Island, one of 3,000 limestone islets in the bay, the Bat Cave and the world’s largest floating fishing village.

It’s then time to fly south to Siem Reap, for a three-night stay at Le Méridien Angkor – the closest luxury hotel to the ancient temple complex of Angkor Wat. There’s ample time to explore this famous historical site, and other parts of the Angkor Archaeological Park. The itinerary includes Angkor Thom, the last capital of the Khmer Empire, with its imposing Terrace of the Elephants and Terrace of the Leper King.

You’ll be introduced to the human story of the area, too, with a typical Khmer dance performance and a visit to a grass-roots orphanage.

Before boarding MS AmaLotus or MS La Marguerite for your seven-night cruise of the mighty Mekong, there’s another example of APT’s Freedom of Choice Touring. You can opt to go to the spectacular Wat Preah Phrom Rath Temple, experience a tuk-tuk ride or take to the air in a tethered balloon.

During three days on the Cambodian part of the Mekong, you’ll see many sides of this intriguing region. Near Kampong Chhnang, you’ll decamp to a smaller boat for a tour of the wetlands, passing floating houses and fish farms. Afterwards, there’s an ox-cart ride to see the pagodas of Kampong Tralach, and a coach excursion to Oudong – known for its Buddhist monastery.

The silk-weaving village of Chong Koh is the final port of call before the ship reaches Phnom Penh, Cambodia’s capital. Here, an escorted tour takes in the major landmarks, such as the Silver Pagoda, the Royal Palace and the national museum. A further excursion to the Killing Fields and Genocide Museum provides a moving insight into the most tragic chapter in the country’s history.

Downriver, the Mekong passes into Vietnamese territory. At the small town of Tan Chau, the schedule includes a visit to a fish farm and a rickshaw tour of the town. The next day, a local boat service takes passengers to the unique floating markets of Sa Dec and Cai Be; and the last night aboard MS AmaLotus or MS La Marguerite is marked by a lavish farewell dinner.

Your base for two nights in Ho Chi Minh City is the deluxe Sheraton Saigon Hotel and Towers. The first day brings a choice of excursions – a walking tour and cycle-rickshaw ride, a visit to a calligraphy house or a motorbike tour – and a choice of restaurants for dinner.

The final Signature Experience is perhaps the most memorable. Laboriously excavated by Viet Cong fighters during the Vietnam War, the Cu Chi tunnels make up a subterranean network of more than 70 miles. Take a guided visit, before going on to the Tay Ninh Holy See. This is the most important site of the Cao Dai faith, which has more than two million adherents in Vietnam.

By the time you board a plane to return to the UK, you’ll have experienced many highlights of this most intriguing part of South East Asia – with all the comfort and high standards of service that come as standard on an APT tour.

- The 18-day Hanoi, Ha Long Bay and Ho Chi Minh City guided tour and luxury river cruise costs from £4,355per person, twin share.The fully inclusive price includes flights, guided excursions, cruising aboard a luxurious river ship, accommodation in top hotels, most meals, wine with lunch and dinner on board, plus all tips, taxes and port charges.Departures are from now until December 2012.

More Tours
With APT, you can explore the world in style. An extensive portfolio of luxurious river cruises and guided tours includes destinations in Europe, Russia, the Far East and South America.

Imperial China tour
On APT’s 14-day Imperial China tour, discover this fascinating country on both land and water. Starting with a three-night stay at the Grand Hotel, Beijing, you’ll visit Tian’amen Square, the Forbidden City, the Summer Palace, Longevity Hill, Kunming Lake, the Great Wall of China, above, and the Ming Dynasty Tombs, and take a rickshaw ride through the streets of Old Beijing.

Next, fly to Yichang to join your luxurious river ship for four nights on the Yangtze. You’ll pass through the Three Gorges region, take a traditional longboat tour, visit the markets of Fengdu and the temples on Ming Mountain.

Disembarking in Chongqing, see giant pandas at the zoo before flying to Xi’an for a two-night stay and a visit to the Terracotta Warriors.

The tour ends with a three-night hotel stay in Shanghai. Explore the ancient city, cruise the Huangpu River, wonder at the lavish Yu Garden, visit the No 1 Silk Factory, dine at the Dragon Phoenix restaurant and more.

- The 14-day Imperial China tour and cruise costs from £3,895 per person, twin share. Departures: from now until October 2012.

South America
APT offers a range of luxurious small-group guided tours to South America. As one of just 24 guests on these fully inclusive journeys, you’ll explore iconic attractions and step off the tourist trail with expert local guides to lose yourself in the colours and culture of the world’s most exotic continent.

Tours range from a 12-day Buenos Aires, Iguassu Falls and Rio tour to a 31-day Very Best of South America itinerary that takes in Argentina, Uruguay, Brazil, Chile, Peru, Ecuador and the Galapagos Islands.

An amazing journey along Russia's waterways
To travel from St Petersburg to Moscow by river is, without doubt, one of the world’s most fascinating journeys.

On APT’s 12-day Russian Waterways cruise, you’ll travel in luxury while gaining an insight into the world’s largest and most intriguing country.

The 12-day Russian Waterways river cruise costs from £2,995 per person and can be travelled in reverse.

Save up to £630 per couple if you book before October 31, 2011.
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Cambodia Seeks Chinese Investment to Boost Economy

(Source: BBC Monitoring Asia Pacific) – Beijing, 16 September: Relations between China and Cambodia have grown closer in recent years, with Beijing investing billions of dollars in the Southeast Asian nation to help boost its economy, an official said Friday [16 September].

China has become Cambodia’s biggest source of foreign direct investment, said Mao Tianyu, division chief of the International Department of the Ministry of Commerce.

Chinese companies invested 395 million dollars in non-financial sectors in Cambodia last year, an increase of 83 per cent year-on- year. By the end of July 2011, China’s outbound direct investment in non-financial sectors in Cambodia amounted to 1.2 billion dollars, Mao said.

Cambodia’s economy has been growing rapidly but is still weak compared with other countries in the region.

Its gross domestic product (GDP) rose 5.9 per cent year-on-year to reach 11.44 billion dollars in 2010, a growth rate slower than Thailand’s 7.8-per cent increase and also below the 6.8-per cent rise seen in Vietnam, said Xu Ningning, executive vice secretary- general of the China-ASEAN Business Council.

Cambodia’s per capita GDP stood at 792 dollars last year with an annual inflation rate of 3.1 per cent.

Most rural households in Cambodia depend on agriculture and related sub-sectors. Agriculture, apparel, real estate and tourism are the country’s four pillar industries.

As a country endeavoring to integrate itself into the global economy, Cambodia has shown great enthusiasm for foreign investment.

The country approved 5.5 billion dollars in foreign investment during the first seven months of this year, up 301 per cent from last year, Xu said.

Khek Caimealy Sysoda, Cambodia’s ambassador to China, said she hopes to see more Chinese investment in her home country.

“Cambodia enjoys political and macro-economic stability as well as a transparent legal framework. It has a lot of potential for investment,” she said.

Source: BBC Monitoring Asia Pacific
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Business and Politics Surround Shinawatra Visits

“It will anger some Thais, or makes Cambodia look like it has a political relationship with or is creating a haven for Thaksin.”

Former Thai Prime Minister Thaksin Shinawatra, center, gets on a car upon his arrival at a military air base in Phnom Penh, (file photo).

Thaksin Shinawatra, the fugitive former prime minister of Thailand, was slated to arrive in Cambodia late Friday, following a brief visit by his sister, Yingluck, the current premier, on Thursday.

Yingluck’s visit with Prime Minister Hun Sen was cordial and touched on some of the major issues facing the neighbors, including border demarcation, officials said.

Both visits signal a warming in relations between the countries that have soured since 2008, in the face of an ongoing military standoff near Preah Vihear temple.

Hun Sen and Yingluck agreed in principle to abide by temporary cease-fire on the border, where the UN Security Council has said there should be a demilitarized zone, officials said Thursday.

Thaksin, who is expected to stay in Cambodia until Sept. 24, will attend the Asian Economic Forum. But analysts questioned with it would be all business, or some politics.

Ou Virak, president of the Cambodian Center for Human Rights, said Thaksin’s own economic deals would take precedent for his visit.

“Thaksin has more interests from investment in Cambodia and wants to continue the investment in Koh Kong [province] and to strengthen other sectors like oil and gas,” he said. “So Cambodia is willing to allow Thaksin to come and discuss some investments.”

Ou Virak warned that Cambodia had placed too much faith in the Shinawatras’ Pheu Thai Party, whose “red shirt” supporters are only one side of a political divide in Thailand.

“We have chosen the red-shirt movement, and we have openly opposed other political groups,” he said. “In general, I see such politics as dangerous politics, because political regimes always change.”

Favoring one party over another could create an “instable relationship” between the two countries, he said. “I do not see the long-term interest for Cambodia.”

Kimsour Phirith, a lawmaker for the opposition Sam Rainsy Party, said Thaksin’s presence here was “symbolic” of Cambodia’s relationship with the administration of his sister. But though it offers a “good picture” of friendly relations, he said, it does not offer much gain to Cambodia.

Even so, Thaksin can provide some knowledge and experience in economics to Cambodia trade officials and businesses, said Heng Sreang, a professor at the Royal University of Phnom Penh.

“His intelligence helped Thailand get clear of the 1990s and 2000 economic crisis,” he said.

He warned Cambodia to steer clear of Thaksin’s role in Thai politics, however, where he is a divisive figure and wanted on corruption charges.

“It will anger some Thais, or makes Cambodia look like it has a political relationship with or is creating a haven for Thaksin,” he said. “I think that’s a loss for Cambodia.”
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