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“Flavors Of Southeast Asia” Spices Up Winter

New luxury tour reveals the tastes and treasures of Singapore, Vietnam and Thailand

Artisans of Leisure (http://www.artisansofleisure.com/), the NY-based luxury tour operator specializing in private, tailor-made international tours, has just introduced “Flavors of Southeast Asia,” a 16-day tour sure to tempt all lovers of Asian cuisine— from “foodies” to chefs. The tour journeys into the spice markets and frying pans of Singapore, Vietnam and Thailand, where travelers experience local culture through not only their eyes and ears, but also their mouths and stomachs. The tour is private and departs daily throughout the year; Artisans of Leisure particularly recommends winter (November–April) as the ideal time to visit Southeast Asia because the weather is sunny and dry, and food and festivity abounds.

“This is a great tour for anyone who loves food and loves learning about cultures through food. We customize the itinerary for each traveler, whether an experienced chef or someone with only a casual interest in cooking but a great appreciation for food and international cultures,” says Ashley Isaacs Ganz, president of Artisans of Leisure.  “‘Flavors of Southeast Asia combines general sightseeing, food-focused touring, shopping for distinctive local goods and artisanal food products, a variety of dining experiences, and cooking classes, if desired. As with all our tours, accommodation is at some of the world’s most extraordinary luxury hotels, all of which emphasize the local aesthetic and cuisine.”

Flavors of Southeast Asia” begins in Singapore. Travelers tour a British colonial-era herb and spice garden (founded by Sir Stamford Raffles circa 1822), then, using fresh ingredients from the garden, they learn to prepare dishes that reflect Singapore’s Chinese, Malay, Indian, Peranakan and European influences, such as spiced cold mango soup and fried rice with prawns and chutney. The tour also includes visits to “wet” markets (where fresh meat, produce and live fish are sold), “dry” markets (spices, preserved foods, herbal medicine and other dry ingredients) and housewares markets (baskets and cooking utensils) in Little India, Chinatown and the Malay district. Travelers can also enjoy a walking tour through Singapore’s beautiful Botanic Gardens, and perhaps opt for the menu dégustation dinner at Au Jardin Les Amis, the award-winning restaurant inside the Gardens. They will have ample free time to enjoy the legendary Raffles Hotel Singapore, one of the world’s most luxurious resort hotels.

The tour continues to Vietnam, where travelers explore the country’s cultural sights and regional culinary traditions—southern (Saigon), central (Hue and Hoi An) and northern (Hanoi). In Saigon, they take a private class from Vietnam’s most famous television cook and sample dishes such as Vietnamese spring rolls, green papaya salad and shrimp steamed in coconut. One day, they cruise the narrow canals of the Mekong Delta, stopping to taste fish dishes, local sweets and tropical fruit. In Hue, the intellectual heart and former imperial capital of Vietnam, travelers dine on imperial-style cuisine at a private home that once belonged to a royal princess; visit royal tombs overlooking lakes filled with lotus blossoms; cruise the Perfume River to a small pagoda to taste Hue’s famous Buddhist vegetarian cuisine; and browse riverside markets where they can sample local snacks such as banh khoai, a crispy pancake with a peanut-sesame sauce. From there, travelers are driven along the spectacular coastline to Hoi An, a centuries-old trading town whose well-preserved architecture has been cited by UNESCO for its unique fusion of indigenous and foreign elements. Here, travelers can be measured for hand-tailored silk clothing, sip Vietnamese iced coffee at local cafes or relax on the beach at Vietnam’s premier beachfront property, the Furama Resort Danang. In Hanoi, travelers tour the Old Quarter, the city’s trade district since the 11th century. Each of the over 70 streets here is dedicated to the production and/or sale of specific goods such as embroidered linens, cooking utensils and fish sauce. Travelers can enjoy famous Hanoi flavors by tasting pho (noodle soup) and cha ca (spicy fried fish). They can relax in the French-inflected ambience of the city’s many fashionable cafes, sampling pastries and watching local life. Other highlights include guided tours of modern art galleries and riding in a cyclo to an upscale restaurant in a restored French colonial-era villa to dine on dishes such as banana flower salad and beef cooked with ginger and lime.

The tour concludes in Bangkok, Thailand. On a private boat ride through the city’s narrow residential canals, travelers glide past floating markets where merchants sell fruit, flowers, banana and coconut pancakes, and kitchenware from small boats. The tour includes a cooking class at one of the city’s leading cooking schools and ample free time to enjoy Bangkok’s wonderful restaurants. If possible, Artisans of Leisure recommends extending the tour in order to stay several days at the Four Seasons Resort Chiang Mai, one of Asia’s most luxurious retreats (with its own renowned cooking school) in the cultural heart of northern Thailand.

The cost of “Flavors of Southeast Asia” includes deluxe rooms in luxury hotels, flexible cultural and culinary-related touring with expert private guides and drivers, personalized cooking classes, regional flights, airport transfers, Vietnam visa, admission fees and access to Artisans of Leisure’s extensive network of international associate offices.

Artisans of Leisure is a boutique tour operator catering to a highly discerning clientele. For additional information and details about Artisans of Leisure tours, please call 800-214-8144 or 1-212-243-3239, or visit the company’s website www.artisansofleisure.com or blog www.artisansofleisuretraveler.com.