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Vietnam

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Is Asia the new Caribbean? For thousands of experienced cruisers ready to visit exotic places — such as China, Japan, Malaysia, Vietnam, and Indonesia — the answer is a resounding “yes.”

While some first-time cruisers set off for Asia, most are intrepid travelers who have already island-hopped in the Caribbean and sailed the familiar cruising grounds of Europe and Alaska. Now, they’re venturing off the beaten path — and cruise lines are delivering with more routes and better ports. Here’s a peek at what’s hot.

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ha long bay - vietnam - mekong river - amawaterways cruise

AmaWaterways.com/Ha Long Bay

Which cruise lines are making headlines this week? Travel journalist Donna Tunney — ShermansTravel’s cruise expert — has all the latest news. Check back every week for trends, new amenities, and money-saving ideas that help you plan a perfect vacation at sea. 

Tour a monastery in Oudong. Visit the Royal Palace in Phnom Penh. Ride through local villages in a trishaw. These are the adventures that await AmaWaterways guests on seven-night Mekong River cruises in Vietnam and Cambodia. Even better: Passengers who book by March 31 save up to $2,500 per stateroom, and those traveling solo pay no single supplement. With the price break, balcony cabins on these sailings cost $1,648 per person — a super value for this luxury river cruise line. Optional pre- and post-cruise land stays are offered, too, at an extra charge.

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sunset in kauai, a romantic destination that's great for solo travelers

Flickr/Nicki Dugan Pogue

Traveling by yourself? One great thing to note about some romantic travel destinations is that they can also be fantastic places for solo travelers. And just think — nobody will be harping on you about whether you got him or her something for Valentine’s Day. Here are some sweet destinations where it doesn’t matter if you have a plus-one:

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Hanoi - Andrea Schaffer

This coming year, 40 years will have passed since the war ended in Vietnam. A political topic still sensitive here in the States, the occasion is all the more reason to dive in and learn more about what Vietnam is like today. And we can’t think of a better place to start than the country’s capital, Hanoi.

Crossing the Pacific to get there is an upfront investment, for sure, but once on the ground, things get affordable in a hurry. With forty-cent beers and 5-star hotels for under $200 a night, even a traveler on a strict budgets can fully indulge here without worry.

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 BurmaWhen it comes to Americans making their way to Southeast Asia, there are often two costs that they consider carefully before making a single reservation. The first is the literal cost of the trip in dollars; and the second, and perhaps an even bigger barrier for some, is the “time cost” that it takes to get there. It’s one thing to pay close to $1,500, but when the total travel time approaches the 24-hour mark (as it does in the case of Malaysia), that can cause some travelers to skip Asia as a travel option altogether.

The good news is that Southeast Asia is trying – really trying – to make it easier on tourists who travel long distances by uniting its ten member countries into a single destination. (The tagline “Ten Countries, One Destination” has been officially coined.) From new rail lines to pedestrian bridges to the deregulation of the airline industry, these integrative measures are all part of the ASEAN Tourism Strategic Plan, which aims to significantly increase the number of international visitors to the continent by 2015.

Here are a few ways upcoming projects will save you time, money, or both, as you plot your excursion to Southeast Asia: Read more

firecrackers-chinese-lunar-new-year-Luica-MakTraveling in Asia, or to an Asian community, this week? You’re in luck. The Lunar New Year, typically falling at the end of January or the end of February, is arguably the most festive and also the most interesting time of the year. Big events like lion dances and firecrackers aside, this is when communities everywhere come alive with cheer and tradition, with good wishes and ancient folklore at top of mind.

While it’s unlikely that anyone would expect a traveler to follow all the customs, we can’t think of a better way to get to know a destination’s culture. Plus, helping to usher in auspiciousness is a great way to delight a kind host or helpful friend. Here’s our guide to the general dos and don’ts – there’s naturally an overlap between the traditions of different ethnic groups and countries – as well as a gift guide for visits and meet-ups.  Read more

UgandaAs much as we love travel, no one loves the red-tape-filled process of getting a new visa. Here are a few helpful tips for securing your travel documents in a few specific places around the world — namely, in East Africa, Southeast Asia, and Europe. We chose these areas because you’re more likely to cross a border while you’re traveling there, and/or because there are some new developments around visa laws in these countries. Our tips below (including a new multi-country visa program in East Africa) ought to make the process a little less cumbersome next time you embark on a multi-leg trip… Read more

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Hanoi-FishermanHistory isn’t the only thing that abounds in Hanoi, the bustling Vietnamese capital. A new museum, cheap hotels, vibrant shopping districts, and abundant public parks all help to make this city one of southeast Asia’s prettiest and most visited destinations. If you’re heading there soon (and with this week’s $1799 deal, why wouldn’t you?), here are a few ways to enjoy the best of Hanoi on a next-to-nothing budget:

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CNN

Anthony Bourdain is a giant of the travel world. From scouting out local-only restaurants in unexplored locations (the Republic of the Congo, Libya, Burma), to delving deeper into the sub-cultures of well-known cities (K-town in Los Angeles, Tangier in Morocco), we’ve followed his every move on Travel Channel’s recently wrapped No Reservations and CNN’s new Parts Unknown. I got the opportunity to ask him for some travel advice, as well as his favorite restaurants, and more. Here’s what what he had to say…
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Fast-paced, frenetic, and altogether fascinating, Ho Chi Minh City (formerly known as Saigon), rewards intrepid travelers with a dizzying glimpse of Vietnam’s largest city on overdrive. Expect enlightening encounters with the country’s tumultuous past (from its French colonial period to Vietnam War days), and to discover its dynamic drive toward the future. Here, motorbikes whiz by at a mind-blowing pace, markets teem with vendors peddling their wares, vendors in sidewalk stalls hawk exotic fare, pagodas beckon with ancient rituals, and a smattering of modern skyscrapers loom overhead. Freshly back from three days of hopping around in Ho Chi Minh City, herewith some top picks for wallet-friendly lodging and dining, plus tips on what to discover and where to unwind on the cheap. Read more

Hotel Metropole bunkerSome hotels are merely a place to rest your head at night, but others hold fascinating tales of wartime refuges, remarkable wildlife, valuable art, and ghostly spirits that refuse to let go. Sign up to be amazed and maybe learn a thing or two on these exceptional hotel tours.

Until recently, most people had forgotten there was an air raid shelter underneath the Hotel Metropole in Hanoi, Vietnam. When staff discovered it during some routine work on the pool area, however, the hotel decided to excavate the bunker and restore it to its original state. Now, hotel guests can participate in nightly tours that highlight the shelter’s famous past residents – including Joan Baez, who recorded “Where Are You Now My Son” there in 1972 – and Hotel Metropole’s role during the Vietnam War.

An in-house historian leads groups through the Renaissance Vinoy Resort & Golf Club in St. Petersburg, Florida, each Wednesday through Saturday to reveal such nuggets as the unlikely origins of the hotel and President Calvin Coolidge’s preference to dine with the hotel staff during his visits. The tour costs $5 for guests, $10 for non-guests; alternatively, book the tour and a three-course lunch at Marchand’s Bar & Grill for $25.

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worlds-best-street-foodLonely Planet has come out with a new guide to the world’s best street food – and, it’s a cookbook!

My weak “Twilight Zone” joke aside, The World’s Best Street Food really is one part guidebook, one part cookbook. The book identifies the planet’s top one hundred can’t-miss street treats, revealing their origins and the best places to find them. For the home cook itching to replicate these delicacies, recipes are helpfully tagged as easy, medium, or complex. And, of course, having the ingredients handy will help parents determine if these foods will be potentially problematic for their families, whether they’re trying them in the destination or at home.

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By: Victoria De Silverio

Emeraude CruisesA Halong Bay cruise is just one stop on this entrancing, exotic itinerary

Experiencing extraordinary growth over the last two decades, Vietnam is buzzing with vigor and vitality. As fleshy hallmarks of capitalism adorn its communist backbone, the country is in a remarkable and unique moment in time. Status logos, Ho Chi Minh posters, red hammer and sickle flags, orange-clad Buddhist monks, and chic new restaurants and bars coexist seamlessly.
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Flickr/dr_tr

While we tend to think most of romance around Valentine’s Day, our favorite romantic getaways are guaranteed to rekindle a long-standing romance, or kick a new one up a notch, all year long. Whether you choose to cuddle up on a gondola ride in Venice; snuggle under a blanket on a caleche ride in Quebec City; dance cheek-to-cheek in Buenos Aires; spend long days canoodling on spectacular islands like Bora Bora, Santorini, and Nevis; cruise magical Halong Bay; or discover breathtaking Dubrovnik together, you’re bound to feel a renewed (or new) sense of intimacy with your partner. Of course, no list of this sort would be complete without a nod to Paris, the epitome of romantic getaways (and site of countless marriage proposals), but dear Santa Barbara, closer to home, is just as ripe for a tryst, with countless spas and vineyards in the vicinity that are sure to help you and yours relax – and lose your inhibitions.

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Table MountainThough votes are still being counted and the results are provisional, the New7Wonders Foundation announced a new list of wonders on Friday. In alphabetical order, the winners are: the Amazon, Halong Bay, Iguazu Falls, Jeju Island, Komodo, Puerto Princesa Underground River, and Table Mountain (pictured). 440 locations were in the running, narrowed down to 28 prior to the final vote.

The poll has created a bit of a stir, however, when, following paying a registration fee of $199, the Maldives and Indonesia were asked for $500,000 and $57 million, respectively. The New7Wonders Foundation allegedly asked Indonesia for $10 million in licensing fees and $47 million to host the closing ceremony. The Maldives and the Indonesian government did not pony up the cash, but did remain in the running. The foundation has denied these claims.

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