All photos courtesy Balcon Media Group.
No matter the destination, travel can often leave lasting impressions on visitors who want to experience new things. For those inclined to travel coast-to-coast, Trails of Indochina has become one of the most pioneering boutique tour operators in Southeast and East Asian countries. Having just marked its 20th anniversary, the firm continues to stay true to founder John Tue Nguyen’s approach to tourism by highlighting immersive experiences for a high-end audience.
Hang En cave, Quang Binh province.
When Nguyen was a young boy growing up in Hue, Southeast Asia barely had a tourism industry. These days, the region ranks among the world’s most sought-after vacation destinations with travellers flocking from all corners of the globe to sample its diverse array of experiences: a compendium of offerings spanning everything from culinary-themed discoveries and rip-roaring adventure to idyllic honeymoons at bucket-list resorts.
“Since the start we’ve been focused on delivering unique tailored tours in Asia,” Nguyen says. “What sets us apart from other tour operators is that we really believe in developing exclusive products and aim to deliver those to our customers in the most personalized way possible.”
Nguyen has been widely credited for popularising unique trips and selecting endeavors that are unforgettable, from watching a master artisan weave kimonos in Kyoto and private lessons in Shodo, an ancient Japanese calligraphy style exemplifying his innovative approach.
Experiences — many of which are exclusive to Trails of Indochina — might include a master class on Hue’s imperial gastronomy with a recognized authority on the cuisine. Or an audience in Hanoi’s backstreets with one of the few remaining practitioners of Hang Trong, a traditional genre of Vietnamese woodblock printing.
Trails is the anchor to an organization that also includes Heritage Line (river cruises on Mekong, Ayeyarwady and Chindwin Rivers), Indotrek (adventure travel) and Ancient Hue (a collection of beautifully realised traditional-style garden homes in Vietnam’s imperial capital Hue).
Heritage Line cruise to Myanmar.
Over the course of the past two decades, Trails of Indochina has notched several prestigious industry accolades at awards events such as the World Travel Awards and the Luxury Lifestyle Awards, and has expanded its destination portfolio to cover most of Asia.
“Today, travellers are more willing to explore and they have certain expectations. That’s why it’s just as important for us today as it was in the beginning to really learn, understand and to innovate with the ultimate goal of delivering unforgettable experiences to our travellers,” Nguyen says.
Traveling the world typically leads to atypical adventures, and the guides and experts behind the tours of Architectural Adventures are masters at giving adventure seekers unique experiences. One of its more “mystifying” adventures that showcases some of the most intriguing architectural wonders is the company’s “Discovering Mystical India” tour.
Photo courtesy AdobeStock 9468600
Tour travelers will get the chance to see what makes India mystical and spiritual while traveling through the classic Golden Triangle of cities: Delhi, Agra, and Jaipur. The important sights of both Old and New Delhi are sprinkled throughout the journey, which can be enjoyed via a rickshaw ride through colorful Chandni Chowk market. One can explore Hawa Mahal, the elaborately carved “Palace of the Winds,” whose pink sandstone façade allowed the ladies of the court to view the streets of the city from behind its 953 small windows. Take in a drive through Ranthambore National Park, with its picturesque ruins of forts and palaces, in search of elusive Bengal tigers and other wildlife. Speaking of forts, historical adventure seekers can take in Shahpura Haveli, a 300-year-old Rajput fort and palace complex with extensive courtyards, staircases, and arches that typify Indo-Saracenic architecture. Similar to the nature of the region, however, there is more to this tour than meets the eye.
Bahai Lotus Temple, New Delhi. Photo courtesy @diegograndi
Hawa Mahal, the Palace of Winds. Photo courtesy ©jura_taranik
“India is always known to be mysterious, charming and captivating,” notes tour leader Nitin Jain. “I think our guests are going to find India and their experience even more incredible than what they would have envisioned!” As the architectural expert on the tour, it is Jain’s hope to showcase both the rich historical and modern aspects of India that make it like almost no other place in the world. While he says no trip to India is complete without visiting Agra and Jaipu, Jain is especially intrigued to highlight the modern architectural marvels on the tour’s excursion to Le Corbusier’s Chandigarh.
Other architectural highlights include seeing India’s largest mosque, the red sandstone and marble Jama Masjid, exploring the Taj Mahal, and visiting Birla Mandir, the Hindu template made of pure white marble.
Being an architect who spent his formative years in India as well as someone who bridges the gap between an Indian as well as being an American, Jain affirms that he is perfectly, and uniquely, positioned to offer such a diverse perspective to guests. “My hope is to provide an enriching and fulfilling experience by showcasing India’s past, present and future as seen through its’ architecture and culture,” he says.
Photo courtesy ©Curioso Photography