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Massimo Capra Asia Culinary Adventure 3 nights Bangkok, 7 Night River Cruise on the Mekong with optional discounted rate to Myanmar on Strand Cruise

Join Celebrity Chef Massimo Capra as his guests on a Culinary Discovery of South East Asia. Massimo will match his skills in a fun showdown with Celebrity Chef Naroor from the world Famous Blue Elephant in Bangkok as they both cook together.

We start our journey in Bangkok, Thailand. One of my favourite cities and a true foodie paradise. Bangkok is home to many of the top restaurants in Asia and 5 of the worlds 50 best restaurants.

Chef Massimo Capra is no stranger to television being the host of his own show Gourmet Escapes and is a regular guest expert on the long running City TV Cityline, chef host on the hit series Restaurant Makeover on the Food Network and now Massimo is a judge on the hit show Chopped Canada.

Bangkok’s street food culture is a tourist attraction in and of itself. On almost every corner, masterful chefs sell fresh, made-to-order food, spiced and flavored to personal taste. There are so many options it can be impossible to decide what to choose from and where. Luckily, we’ve got you covered. We will take you only to the best for you to try.

Craving something a little more sophisticated then on our third night we take a river cruise and have a delicious Thai Dinner on the boat while taking in the sights of the Chao Phraya River. A moonlight dinner cruise down the mighty Chao Phraya River is the most leisurely and romantic way to view the sights of old-time Bangkok that line the banks on either side. The Grand Palace, Wat Arun (Temple of the Dawn) and many other Chinese inspired temples are brightly lit and make an amazing backdrop. Anantara’s Manohra Cruise adds a touch of luxury to the proceedings with a sit-down banquet and traditional, warm Thai service on board one of three restored antique rice barges.

Cooking Class and Culinary Showdown at The Blue Elephant

Master Chef Nooror Somany Steppe has always enjoyed a deep link with the culinary world. Her passion for Thai cooking was inspired by her mother, an established cook and well-known for her delicious homemade curries. Chef Nooror creates new Thai dishes using the Royal Project products and ingredients, and travels worldwide with the pride of showcasing Thailand in her capacity as not only one of the country's foremost Thai women chefs but also an ambassador who plays a significant role in promoting Thai cuisine and culture globally.

We will enjoy dinner at one of my all time favourite restaurants and top 50 restaurants in the world. Issaya Siamese Club, is the flagship home for internationally renown Chef Ian Kittichai and incorporates Chef Kittichai’s Thai cuisine and style in a relaxed atmosphere of dining and lounge with a hip garden party vibe – all in an historical 100-year-old Thai villa and its tropical gardens in central Bangkok. In 2014, 2015, 2016, 2017 and 2018 Issaya Siamese Club was honored to be included in Asia’s 50 Best Restaurants, sponsored by S. Pellegrino and Aqua Panna.

Craving a bit of the cultural sightseeing? Don't worry we have that covered too. Visit three famous temples in Bangkok on a tour with our own private guide. Take in the golden wonders of Wat Pho, the Temple of the Golden Buddha (Wat Traimit), and the Marble Temple (Wat Benchamabophit).

Our guide shows you highlights, including the Golden Buddha statue, the reclining Buddha, and Bangkok’s Chinatown. Learn about Thai Buddhism and cultural traditions from our wonderful guide, Sara, who speaks excellent English.

You will have a choice of the Grand Palace tour or a half day excursion of the Famous Floating Market. You can do both if you like but it will make for a very long day!

On April 1st we fly to Ho Chi Minh City to board our Luxury AMA Waterways cruise for the next 7 nights.

On our way we will be taken on a sightseeing tour of Ho Chi Minh City and after a light lunch we will embark the cruise.

Charms of The Mekong River Cruise by AMAWaterways

The lively city of Ho Chi Minh City provides the perfect start to your incredible journey through Vietnam and Cambodia. Cruise along the mighty Mekong, visiting rural villages, historic pagodas, local markets and a Buddhist monastery where you’ll be treated to a special blessing by Monks. Get a glimpse into another era; one where people still happily honor the timeless traditions passed down through the centuries from their ancestors.

DAY 1

HO CHI MINH CITY – EMBARKATIONBoard the AmaDara at My Tho Port. Meet your fellow travelers at a Welcome Dinner as the ship cruises to Cai Be. (B,L,D) Note: We recommend that you fly into Ho Chi Minh at least one day prior to embarkation; please inquire about important arrival arrangements prior to your cruise.

Day 2 - Take a local boat to Cai Be. You will have an opportunity to visit candy and rice paper making workshops and the historic Kiet Old House. Later in the day, journey to Sa Dec, a sprawling town on the Mekong Delta, where French writer Marguerite Duras spent part of her youth. You will visit the local market, Cao Dai Temple and the house of Mr. Huynh Thuy Le, Duras’ Chinese paramour, which her prize-winning novel, “The Lover,” is said to be based on.

Day 3 - Enjoy a visit to Tan Chau, a small Mekong River town unspoiled by tourism. You will have the opportunity to take a traditional “xe-loi” (trishaw) ride around the town, with stops at silk-making and rattan mat workshops, followed by a boat ride through the narrow channels of the Mekong River to “Evergreen Island.” Alternatively, simply take the boat ride to Evergreen Island and return to Tan Chau, where you will visit a rattan mat workshop. Later in the day, cruise from Vietnam to the Cambodian border en route to Phnom Penh.

Day 4 -PHNOM PENH, CAMBODIA

This morning’s excursion takes you to Cambodia’s infamous Killing Fields and the Khmer Rouge’s grim Tuol Sleng S21 detention center (Genocide Museum) just outside the city. After lunch on board, you’ll explore the highlights of the city, followed by a visit to the Royal Palace, the spectacular Silver Pagoda and the National Museum, which has an outstanding collection of Khmer crafts. After returning to the ship, enjoy Khmer folk dancing performed by local children in the Saigon Lounge. (B,L,D)

Day 5 - KAMPONG TRALACH – OUDONG – PHNOM PENH.

In Kampong Tralach, you will have a truly authentic excursion – an oxcart ride through a local village along the river bank. Afterwards, you will go to Oudong, Cambodia’s former royal capital from the early 17th century until 1866. Today, Oudong is a place of pilgrimage for Cambodians. While here, be treated to a memorable Buddhist Blessing Ceremony at a monastery. You may also take a walking tour of Oudong. Later in the day, experience Phnom Penh via a tuk tuk ride and be enchanted by the city's French Colonial architecture and tree-lined boulevards set amidst monumental Angkorian architecture. (B,L,D)

DAY 6. - OKNHATEY VILLAGE. In the morning, set sail for Oknhatey Village. Oknhatey is the “Silk Island,” located on the lush banks of the Mekong River and known for its rich tradition of silk weaving. While here, you will visit a local elementary school and observe the silk weaving of handicrafts. Later in the day, set sail to Angkor Ban. (B,L,D)

DAY 7 - ANGKOR BAN – KAMPONG CHAM - Angkor Ban is the only village that was not destroyed during the Khmer Rouge regime. Take a morning walking tour of the village to see some of the stilted houses, some dating back nearly 100 years, and witness this slice of rural life, which has barely changed for centuries. Then set sail for Kampong Cham and travel by motorcoach to the 12th-century Angkorian temple of Wat Nokor, a UNESCO World Heritage Site. The temple has been “fused” with a modern Wat. Continue by motorcoach to the Twin Mountain, known as Phnom Pros and Phnom Srei (male and female mountains). In the annals of Khmer legend, the twin mountains were formed as the result of a competition between the men and women of an ancient Cambodian kingdom to resolve which gender would be responsible for wedding proposals. As the story goes, the women lit a fire at night, which made the men believe the sun was rising. As a result, the men stopped working and the women won the competition. Thus, men still need to ask the women's parents for permission and Phnom Srei is higher than Phnom Pros. (B,L,D)

Your cruise comes to an end as you disembark at Prek Kdam, a small village on the Tonle River. From here you have a choice to travel to Myanmar to experience the River Iyerawaddy on the Strand cruise.

Pricing Includes for 3 nights/4 days in Bangkok followed by 7 night River Cruise along the Mekong.

  • 11 days with Luxury Riverview room in Bangkok and Cabin Category with Balcony CB $5985 inc Tax and port charges and international flight Bangkok to Vietnam
  • 11 days with Luxury Riverview room in Bangkok and Cabin Category B - Double balcony $6584 inc Tax and port charges and international flight Bangkok to Vietnam
  • 11 days with Luxury Riverview room in Bangkok and Suite on the cruise $7244 inc Tax and port charges and international flight Bangkok to Vietnam

Current Airfare prices I have found but are subject to availability.

Air Canada and Asiana Airlines with one stop at $1343 from Toronto shortest time. Short Layovers. Economy Premium Economy from $2700

Business class from $4500

Optional Add on to Myanmar.

I’m a passionate traveler - I find almost childish excitement from every new place I visit even if it isn’t too far from home. I delight in the new discovery, the hidden restaurant or a new item I find handmade by a local vendor. As a travel agency owner I often get invited to places that seem even out of my comfort zone and Myanmar earlier this year was exactly one of those invitations.I happened to be visiting a travel trade event in Thailand and the person who owns the Strand Cruise asked if I had time for last minute adventure to go to Myanmar. Myanmar, formerly known as Burma, is one of the least known countries in Asia. So, feeling a little trepidation although not one to pass up an adventure, I said yes I would love to. I then embarked on one of my most surprising and uplifting travel experiences of my life.

Step back in time as we begin our journey in Myanmar. After our international flight we will sit back and enjoy the stunning Strand Hotel. An old Colonial hotel with service that makes you wonder if they would be tying your shoes next.

"The finest hostelry East of Suez" Author John Murray in his 1911 ‘Handbook for Travellers in India, Burma and Ceylon’ declared The Strand as “the finest hostelry East of Suez”, a title it has enjoyed for more than 100 years.Built in 1901 and acquired soon after by the Sarkies brothers, famed for the likes of Raffles in Singapore and The E&O in Penang, The Strand Hotel remains one of Asia’s most enduring and awe-inspiring Colonial landmarks.

Spend 2 nights in the Capital of Myanmar, Yangon. Yangon originated as a small town called Dagon on the outskirts of the ancient kingdom of Okkalapa. In 1755 the founder of the Third Myanmar Empire, King Alaungpaya – who reigned from upper Myanmar – conquered the southern parts of the country and renamed the town Yangon, meaning End of Strife. After the British colonised the south they turned the town it into a busy port. The British have long since departed but they left a legacy of beautiful colonial architecture and tradition.

This country is as you would imagine most South East Asian countries to have been like hundreds of years ago before tourism became the currency of choice. It has the look of old Asia that has been preserved by its harshly imposed self-isolation.

Todays Yangon appears lost in time and you almost feel like you have been given an early entry pass to an amazing place that will soon be overrun with tourists. Here life seems to have gone on largely unchanged for the past 2,500 years: peasants, oxcarts, the same kinds of food and clothes yet they are surrounded by beautiful gold pagodas and shrines everywhere you look.

The Strand’s four-night cruise from Bagan to Mandalay begins with breakfast in the tranquil gardens of the oldest lacquerware house in Bagan, before passengers visit the nearby Shwezigon Pagoda, famous for its gold leaf décor, and the Ananda temple, one of most exquisite temples in Myanmar. After enjoying lunch on board, passengers continue their exploration of the Bagan Heritage Trail, including the beautiful Sulamani and Gubyaukgyi temples.

The Strand Cruise was custom built in 2015 in a shipyard in Yangon with a shallow 1.4m draft, designed to successfully navigate the shallow rivers of Myanmar. The 61m ship carries up to 50 passengers in 25 cabins along the mystical waterways of the Ayeyarwady River. Named and styled after its sister property, the luxury heritage hotel,

The Strand Yangon, The Strand Cruise offers all the features passengers would expect from a Strand product, from flawless service and gourmet a la carte cuisine, to signature elements celebrating the golden age of the Strand as a meeting place for explorers and raconteurs. The Strand Cruise’s interior design takes as its inspiration the fascinating and changing landscape of the Ayeyarwady River, from ancient temples and civilisations, to the daily life of the communities living at the water's edge. Every aspect of The Strand Cruise was designed to echo this, with floor to ceiling windows in every cabin suite offering views of the riverbanks. The natural beauty of the waterways is reflected in the colour palette of leafy greens, warm teak wood and traditional gold leaf, creating a cultural link to Myanmar as South East Asia’s Golden Land. Featuring design that evokes the character of the Strand in its heyday as a meeting place for explorers and raconteurs, together with the latest technology and creature comforts.

The ship casts off on day two for a relaxing cruise upstream towards Mandalay to enjoy the passing landscapes and villages along the river bank, with scenes reminiscent of the days of Rudyard Kipling and other intrepid explorers who have visited this rugged landscape over the centuries.

After a leisurely breakfast, day three brings a visit to Ava, the ancient imperial capital of successive Burmese Kingdoms from the 14th to 19th centuries. Horse carts await the ship to transport guests for a delightful ride through the naturally preserved Ava landscape and key landmarks.

Day four sees The Strand Cruise arrive in Mandalay, Myanmar’s second- largest city and the last royal capital of Myanmar. Our passengers first stop is the U-Bein Bridge, a crossing that spans the Taungthaman Lake near Amarapura, before visiting the Mahamui Buddha temple and the Shwe In Bin monastery. Following lunch back on board as we cruise, the ship stops in Mingun, one of the country’s former capitals. Guests will visit the unfinished pagoda, as well as the Hsinbyume pagoda and Mingun bell. Our final night is spent at an exclusive mooring overnight close to a temple in Ava, while guests say farewell to their fellow passengers with a gastronomic dinner.

Each day we were greeted with grateful thanks from the people for coming to visit their country and we were made to feel very welcome and special. The area of Bagan to Mandalay has over 230,000 ancient pagodas. These vary in size from just a few feet tall to towering Gold and marble structures housing giant Buddha sculptures.

On one morning many of my fellow passengers chose to take a hot air balloon ride over the temples and pagodas for one of the most spectacular sights. Looking down from the matching red balloons as you float gently along at dawn will be forever burned into my memory as one of my life highlights!

Lets get the elephant in the room out of the way.. Myanmar is not without it's problems right now. The troubled small northern area close to Bangladesh is undergoing a terrible tome and has been putting of most nervous tourists. This affects the regular people of Myanmar who rely on you for their meal every day. The government is not just by the drop in tourism, only the kind people of this charming country. So got let a small area of a country put you off visiting, it is a very very long way from any where we will be visiting and very isolated similar to the Basque Country territory war in Spain. It's very safe where we go and we will be with you every step of the way. The people need your help.

This fabulous once in a lifetime is at special rates

  • Deluxe room including ground transportation plus cruise in 17 sq m $1650 US$ per person. Price does not include flight to Myanmar.
  • Strand Cabin $2400 US$ per person
  • Strand Suite $2700 US$ per person.

Rates Include

  • Fully escorted by your concierge from Canada Lorraine and also Massimo Capra and Rosa
  • Accommodation on a per person basis double occupancy
  • Ground Transportation
  • Cruise - Three meals during full sailing days, breakfast on day of disembarkation
  • All sightseeing as stated in set itineraries
  • Soft drinks & local beer.
  • House wine during meals
  • Transfer from Point of embarking/disembarking to airport or hotel in either Bagan or Mandalay
  • Port charges
  • English speaking guide. Alternative language guides can be provided on request and subject to availability (additional cost may apply)
  • Wi-Fi available in all cabins and public areas with satellite internet connection. Due to the current environment and its infrastructure, the internet connection might be unstable.
  • Complimentary International daily newspapers.

The Strand Cruise has all the features passengers would expect from a luxury river cruise experience, from flawless service standards to insightful guides and exceptional levels of comfort throughout the ship. Passengers can choose to spend their time on board on the Upper Deck, relaxing by the pool or on the shaded sofas of the Sun Deck, or relaxing in one of our 25 beautifully appointed cabins, spread across two lower decks.

Credits:

Created with images by Simon - "thailand bangkok temple shrine gold altar southeast" • chosang - "market market introduction oden fishcake street food" • sasint - "children fishing teamwork" • sasint - "buddhism monk monastery" • sasint - "umbrella buddhism monk" • Raj Eiamworakul - "The Shwedagon Pagoda in Yangon, Myanmar" • Roxanne Desgagnés - "Field of plants" • sasint - "buddhism asia phra nakhon si ayutthaya"

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