HANOI – HALONG BAY – HUE – HOI AN – HO CHI MINH CITY – SIEM RIEP – PHNOMPENH – LUAN PRABANG – VIENTAINE
|Day 1: Hanoi Arrival (-/-/D)|
On arrival at Noi Bai Airport, you are met and transferred to hotel. Hanoi, Vietnam’s capital, is one thousand year old city with peaceful lakes, French styled buildings, old quarter streets, three lined boulevards, brightly painted temples and pagodas. Discover the Old Quarter of Hanoi by tricycle. This fascinating area of narrow alleys and shop houses is also called “36 streets”.
Dinner at restaurant by beautiful Hoan Kiem Lake. Overnight in Hanoi.
|Day 2: Hanoi city (B/L)|
|After breakfast, we explore the city of Hanoi. First on the agenda is Ho Chi Minh’s Mausoleum, where Uncle Ho is laid out in state, surrounded by immaculately dressed soldiers. Next we visit the Presidential Palace where Ho refused to live, choosing instead a small stilt house beside a lake. Close by, the next stop is One Pillar Pagoda. A tour around the beautiful West Lake takes us to the venerable Temple of Literature. Have lunch at a local restaurant.|
After lunch, The Vietnam Museum of Ethnology is a must for all visitors; it’s one of the most interesting museums in Hanoi with many different things relating the 54 Vietnamese ethnic groups.
Enjoy Water Puppet Show – the unique Traditional Art in the North of Vietnam.
Dinner on your own expense. Overnight in Hanoi
Day 3: Hanoi – Ha Long (200km – 3.5 hours on road) (B/L/D)
Today we head out on the 3.5-hour drive to Halong Bay, a UNESCO World Heritage Site. Halong Bay, in the Gulf of Tonkin, includes some 1,600 islands and islets, forming a spectacular seascape of limestone pillars. Because of their precipitous nature, most of the islands are uninhabited and unaffected by a human presence. The site’s outstanding scenic beauty is complemented by its great biological interest.
Upon arrival at Halong bay, we board the Cruise for the overnight boat trip. After lunch we begin our fantastic cruise in Halong Bay. The scenery is truly breathtaking and is continuously changing. This includes a visit to Sung Sot Cave, round over Tuan Chau Island, Dinh Huong Island, Ga Choi Island, Dog Island, Sail Island and a swim at Titov beach. Enjoy dinner on board while watching the sunset. Overnight on board.
|Day 4: Ha Long – Hanoi – Hue (1 hour flight) (B/L/D)|
Greet the day with a morning Tai Chi session on the sun deck and take the opportunity to view the sunrise over the bay. Visit a beautiful Surprise Cave then head back to the boat for a final glimpse of Halong Bay and a buffet brunch while cruising back to the dock. Back to Hanoi for a flight to Hue.
Dinner and overnight in Hue.
|Day 5: Hue – Formal Capital exploration (B/L)|
After beakfast, ride a cyclo to the nineteenth Century Citadel, the impressive home of the Nguyen Dynasty emperors. The citadel was begun in 1802 and served as Vietnam’s capital until 1945. Visit the Thien Mu Pagoda, home to the oldest monastery in the city and Tu Duc, Khai Dinh Tomb to discover the story of this poet emperor and ancient burial rites.
Dinner on your own expense. Overnight in Hue.
|Day 6: Hue – Hoi an (140km, 3 hours drive) (B/ L)|
Check out from Hue and transferred to Hoi An over the spectacular Hai Van Pass, visit Ngu Hanh Son (five elements) mountains, a series of large marble outcrops which have acquired mythical significance over the centuries. The caves of the Marble Mountains have a number of sacred Buddhist shrines as well as a former Communist guerrilla hospital from the Vietnam War. From the Marble Mountains take a short drive around to China Beach for a well-earned swim at the former U.S. R&R beach escape.
Take a journey through the enchanting streets of Hoi An ancient town with their numerous art and craft shops and tailors. The town’s heritage is quite multicultural, the architecture a fusion of Chinese, Japanese, Vietnamese and European influences. You will visit a traditional ancient house, the Hoi An Museum, and a Chinese Assembly Hall. Also visit the town’s emblem, the Japanese Covered Bridge, which was originally built in the mid-16th century and which, along with the numerous Chinese assembly halls, helps to give Hoi An a cosmopolitan feel.
Dinner on your own expense. Overnight in Hoian
|Day 7: Hoi An – Tra Que Vegetable Village (B/L)|
Ride a bicycle to a local farm in Tra Que village. Introduction to the history of the village, the cultivation of the vegetables as well as discovering about the use of vegetables in traditional Vietnamese medicine.
You will take a trip around the vegetable garden and join the farmers in preparing the land and fertilizing it with seaweed from the local lake. Continue doing activities such as: raking, sowing, watering greens, picking greens and many more gardening activities. Then spend the rest of the morning working the land in the time honored way, before breaking to prepare lunch with a local family.Your lunch will consist of many local delicacies including ‘tam huu’ spring roll, Banh xeo or the local pancake of the people from the middle region. Free at leisure or free strolling around charming old street of Hoi An.
Dinner on your own expense. Overnight in Hoi An.
Day 8: Hoi An – Danang – Ho Chi Minh City (1 hour flight) (B/L)
After breakfast, check out from Hoi An and depart for Ho Chi Minh city, still called Saigon by local people. A half day tour of dynamic Ho Chi Minh City, still called Saigon by many locals takes in the Nôtre Dame Cathedral, Old Saigon Post Office. Then, we visit Independence Palace. Dinner on your own expense. Overnight in Saigon.
|Day 9: Ho Chi Minh – Cu Chi – Ho Chi Minh (B/L/D)|
This morning, we take an excursion to the famed Cu Chi Tunnels. Built by the Vietcong during the war, the tunnels were part of an underground network that provided a stronghold close to the city. After exploring part of the tunnels, which took decades to dig. Back to Ho Chi Minh city and visit War Museum. Dinner while cruising on Saigon River. Overnight in Saigon
|Day 10: Ho Chi Minh city – Cai Be floating Market (B/L)|
Pick up at your hotel in Ho Chi Minh City. Depart for Cai Be by car via Trung Luong Express Highway. On arrival in Cai Be, set off by motor boat to visit the Cai Be floating market and watch the locals trading fruit and many other commodities on board their vessels. Visit a small family business to see how coconut candy and crispy rice popcorn are made. Then wander into the small villages and visit the orchard and fruit plantation, accompanied by traditional southern Vietnamese folk music.
Keep cruising to experience the charms of the Upper Mekong Delta, where you can immerse yourself in nature. Enjoy your cooking experience and learn how to prepare special Vietnamese dishes. Food cooked by yourself and fresh river food served in the heart of the garden. Relax in the hammocks to get back your energy.
Cycle around the village path with fruit orchards and bonsai garden. Meet the local islanders to learn more about the local daily life in the Mekong delta. Take a boat ride back to Cai Be and meet your car for the trip back to Ho Chi Minh City.
Day 11: Ho Chi Minh – flight to Siem Reap (1.5 hour flight) (B/L)
Dinner on your own expense. Overnight in Siem Reap.Morning flight to Siem Reap, Cambodia. Arrival Siem Reap airport, pick up and transfer to your hotel, visit the floating village of Chong Khneas, located 10 kilometers south of Siem Reap. Take a traditional wooden boat for a ride on the Tonle Sap Lake, the “Great Lake” of Cambodia, one of the largest in Asia. Lunch at restaurant; visit “Les Artisans d’Angkor – Chantiers Ecoles” of Siem Reap renowned woodworking, stone carving and polychrome workshops. Free tours a glimpse into the unique skills of the artisans who were trained in the techniques and styles of classic Cambodian artistry, visit Angkor silk farm where collated in Puok, 16 km from Siem Reap, exhibition on silk and its process. The silk farm is a fascinating farm/workshop where you can see the entire silk creation process including growing the food for the silk worms, breeding the worms, silk extraction, spinning and refinement, traditional ikat dying, pattern creation, and looming and time at leisure at the local market.
|Day 12: Siem Reap – Angkor Thom – Angkor Wat – Dinner with Apsara dance (B/L/D)|
Breakfast at hotel, visit ancient capital of Angkor Thom (12th c.), See the South Gate with its huge statues depicting the churning of the ocean of milk, the Royal Enclosure, Phimeanakas, the Elephants Terrace, the Terrace of the Leper King and Bayon Temple (unique for its 54 towers decorated with over 200 smiling faces of Avolokitesvara), Ta Prohm Temple of similar design to the Jayavarman VII temples, this quiet sprawling monastic complex is only partially cleared of jungle overgrowth. Intentionally left partially unrestored, massive fig and silk cotton trees grow from the towers and corridors offering some of the best ‘tree-in temple’ photo opportunities at Angkor Wat. Lunch at restaurant; visit the most famous of all the temples on the plain of Angkor: Angkor Wat. The temple complex covers 81 hectares and is comparable in size to the Imperial Palace in Beijing. Its distinctive five towers are emblazoned on the Cambodian flag and the 12th century masterpiece is considered by art historians to be the prime example of classical Khmer art and architecture. Angkor Wat’s five towers symbolize Meru’s five peaks – the enclosed wall represents the mountains at the edge of the world and the surrounding moat, the ocean beyond until sunset at Bakheng Mountain. Dinner with Apsara Dance show.
Overnight in Siem Reap
|Day 13: Siem Reap – Phnom Penh (5 hour on road) (B/L/D)|
Breakfast at the hotel, transfer to Phnom Penh by car (Approximately 5 hours), up on arrival pick up and transfer to have your lunch before check in your hotel, visit the National Museum, also called Musee des Beaux-Arts. A French archaeologist and painter, Georges Groslier, designed it in Khmer style in 1917. The museum contains a collection of Khmer art – notably sculptures – from throughout the ages. Visit the Royal Palace, built by King Norodom in 1866 on the site of the old town, and the Silver Pagoda. Located within the grounds of the Royal Palace, the Silver Pagoda is so named because of its floor, which is made up of 5000 silver tiles, of the Wat Phnom Temple, Phnom Penh’s namesake, from where you can enjoy views over the tree-lined avenues of the city, the Independent Monument, the Sisowath Quay & the Naga World Casino. Dinner at restaurant. Overnight in Phnom Penh.
|Day 14: Phnom Penh (B/L)|
Breakfast at hotel, visit the Notorious Tuol Sleng Museum, In 1975 Tuol Svay Prey High School was taken over by Pol Pot’s security forces and turned into a prison known as Security Prison 21 (S-21) and the Killing Fields of Choeung EK just outside Phnom Penh about a 20-40 minute was an orchard and a Chinese cemetery prior to 1975. During the Khmer Rouge regime it became one of the killing fields. Lunch at restaurant; visit the Russian Market (Psah Tuol Thom Pong), a lively outdoor market where you will find antiquities, silver and gold jewelry, gems, silk, kramas, stone and wood carvings, as well as T-Shirts, CDs and other souvenirs and the Cambodian Harvest Dried Fruit Co., LTD. The purpose of this company is to give employment and a future for land mine survivors.
Dinner on your own expense. Overnight in Phnom Penh
|Day 15: Phnom Penh – Luangprabang (5,5 hours – transit Bangkok) (B/L)|
Transferred to the airport for the flight to Luang Prabang.
Once arrived Luang Prabang, being welcomed and transfered to hotel for check in. Next we set out for a sightseeing tour, which includes stops at important Luang Prabang temples like Wat Visoun (known as the ‘Watermelon Stupa’ on account of its spherical shape). We end the day by walking up Phousi Hill – the 328 steps lead to the summit and provide the finest panoramic city view.
Dinner on your own.
Over night in Luangprabang.
|Day 16 Luangprabang – Pak ou cave – Cooking class (B/L/D)|
Breakfast at hotel. Transfer to the 16th century temple Wat Xieng Thong, which epitomizes all the elegance and grace of the city’s architecture.
Transfer to the boat pier for a boat trip on the Mekong River to visit Pak ou cave with thousand of antique Buddha images located in front of Pak ou, On the way back, stop to visit Ban Sanghai local rice whisky distillation and ancient pottery village.
Lunch is at local restaurant overlooking the Mekong and cruising downstream for a 02 hours on the Mekong River. Visit Ban Muangkeo where locals collecting river-weed, making one of the most distinctive snacks of Luang Prabang. Return to Luang Prabang by the same boat, continue by car to visit Ban Xangkhong, the well-known village for its wood paper making and also Lao silk weavings with natural dyes, where you can do shopping there.
At 5:30 PM transfer to the Tamarind Cooking School for a join-in evening class. The expert chefs will first demonstrate how to prepare authentic Lao dishes. Then it’s your turn to try your hand at cooking local Lao cuisine. Slice and pound your way through the ingredients before cooking each dish in the traditional way. You will be given a cook book that you can take home to practice your newly learnt cooking skills and relive your time in Laos. Overnight in Luangprabang.
|Day 17 Luangprabang – Kuangsi water fall & Bear sanctuary (B/L/D)|
We have an optional early wake-up call to participate in giving food to hundreds of Buddhist monks returning from dawn prayers. Otherwise we take a stroll through the morning market. We then head back to the hotel for breakfast.
We will drive to visit the National Museum and the former Royal Palace, home to a collection of valuables including the famous Prabang Buddha statue as well as gifts received from foreign dignitaries. A H’mong market and craft shop are also worthwhile stops.
A winding road takes you through small minority villages (Lao Lum, Khmu & Hmong) and rice paddies into the lush area of Kuangsi water fall. As you wander through the cool rain forest you will come upon a majestic tiered water fall tumbling a 100 meters over white limestone formations into turquoise multi-level pools. It is possible to cool off in some of the pools below, or just wade in the water. Walk down the path that follows the stream, passing small pools and ancient trees before arriving at the bear sanctuary. Asiatic black bears, now a class I endangered species, are poached throughout Asia for their supposed medicinal value, young cubs are trafficked from Laos to ‘Bile farms’ where they are kept imprisoned in small cages while their bile is extracted. Free the bears fund established the rescue centre at Tad Kungsi to care for bears rescued from illegal poachers and traders. The rescue centre is now home to around 23 bears from newly orphaned cubs to full grown adults. Get back to Luangprabang late after noon.
At 5:30 transfer to Traditional story telling theater is promoting and preserving the local traditional stories – myths, legends, and folktales. Every evening, from 5-6pm, 2 Lao people present a selection of traditional Lao stories in an intimate twenty-five seat theatre. The stories are told in English, by a Lao storyteller, with the live musical accompaniment of the khene.
Dinner at nice local restaurant.
Over night in Luangprabang.
Day 18 Luangprabang – Vientiane by flight (45 minutes flight) (B/L/D)
After break fast at the hotel. Free until transfer to airport flight to take a short flight to Vientiane.
Arrive Vientiane welcome and transfer to hotel for check in. City tour of Vientiane to include: Wat Sisaket,the oldest standing temple in Vientiane housing many important documents and treasures, including 6,840 Buddha images. Across the road we visit Ho Prakeo, home of the Emerald Buddha (Prakeo) and a museum with the most extensive collection of Buddhist artifacts in the country and Next is the opportunity to photograph and/or climb to the top for a panoramic view of the city at Patuxay (Victory Gate), the monument was modeled after the Arc de Triumph in Paris yet retains its Laotian identity with traditional decorative motifs. Visit That Luang (The Great Sacred Stupa) said to contain relics of the Lord Buddha and is the country’s most cherished religious monument, the largest Buddhist festival of the year is held here on the 12th month of the Buddhist calendar. The perfect way to round off our day is to watch the spectacular sunset over the Mekong River from one of riverside bars. Overnight in Vientiane.
|Day 19 Vientiane – Departure (B/-/-)|
After breakfast at the hotel. Free for leisure until being transfered to the airport for your return flight.