Day 1: Vientiane arrival
Welcome to Laos! Airport arrival transfer and hotel check in. Spend the afternoon and evening at leisure.
Day 2 Vientiane city tour
After breakfast we explore the charming capital on a city tour. Highlights include Wat Si Saket – the oldest Buddhist monastery temple in the country, the former royal temple of Haw Pha Kaeo, Pha That Luang monument and the Buddha Park with its incredible array of Hindu and Buddhist sculptures. We also visit to the COPE Centre, a charity working with victims of unexploded bombs and mines. End the day with a spectacular sunset dinner beside the Mekong River.
Day 3 Vang Vieng
We leave the capital early and journey north through lush countryside to Vang Vieng. Along the way we visit Ban Keun, famous for its salt extraction plant and a village of local Lao rice wine whiskey distillation. Our next stop is the busy and colourful market of Thalat, where local hill tribes come to trade and shop and the 11th century archaeological site of Vang Xang. Arriving at Vang Vieng, nestled on the banks of the Nam Song River is our delightfully rustic and rural hotel. The remainder of the afternoon offers free time, perhaps opt to explore the local caves, take a scenic bike ride or go tubing along the river.
Day 4 + 5 Luang Prabang with excursion to Kuang Si fall
We explore the famous caves of Tham Jang this morning and visit Ban Huai Ngai village before travelling north to the enchanting Luang Prabang.
Consider rising early this morning to view the daily ritual of saffron-clad monks and their procession down the streets of Luang Prabang collecting alms from the residents. Then a morning tour, takes in the highlights of Luang Prapang – the fabulous UNESCO Listed former royal capital. Sightseeing includes the ancient temples of Wat Visoun and Wat Aham, Ock Pop Tok weaving centre and the beautifully ornate former Royal Palace. In the afternoon we stop at ethnic minority villages before arriving at the beautiful Khouangsi waterfall.
Day 6 Pak Ou Cave + Flight to Hanoi, Vietnam
We head out of town to a local farm to learn about rice production. After lunch we cruise up the Mekong River to visit the Pak Ou caves crammed with Buddha images of all shapes and sizes, stopping Ban Xanghai village en route to sample local rice wine. Returning to Luang Prabang we stop at Ban Phanom village – known for its hand weaving,before boarding our evening flight to Hanoi. arrive and check in and overnight in Hanoi
Day 7 Hanoi on your own
Today offers free time for you to explore Vietnam’s capital.
Day 8 Halong Bay with overnight cruise
This morning a scenic drive leads us to the stunningly beautiful UNESCO World Heritage Site of Halong Bay. Boarding our traditional wooden junk boat we cruise the emerald waters soaking up the panoramic vista of the thousand or so karst limestone islands that stud the bay.
Later opt for a refreshing swim in one of the many sheltered coves before taking row boats to the pristine waterway known as ‘Dark & Bright Lagoon’. Tonight, there’s a Vientnamese cooking demonstration held on the sundeck before an impressive seafood dinner is served.
Day 9 Halong Bay, Hanoi, Hue
Start the day with a Tai Chi class on the sundeck or a traditional massage. After exploring a lofty grotto hidden beneath towering cliffs, we return to port. Arriving to Hanoi mid afternoon an hour or so is spent exploring the quixotic web of streets, known as the ‘36 streets of the old quarter’ by cyclo (rickshaw).
The motorbike swarming narrow lanes are each named after various guilds of the city’s artisan who established themselves here centuries ago. There is Silver Street, Silk Street, Comb Street, Paper Street and more. We explore the maze of rambling streets framed by narrow front tube houses and may have a chance to sample the exotic fruits, sizzling noodle dishes and delightfully sticky snacks being offers by the pavement vendors. After time to freshen up we board our overnight train on the ‘Reunification Express’ railway line to Hue in central Vietnam
Day 10 Hue city tour
Arriving to Hue we embark on a guided sightseeing tour of the 19th-century Nguyen empire capital. We visit the Thien Mu Pagoda, home to the oldest monastery in the city, whose 21m high tower has become something of a symbol for Hue and the citadel. Within the citadel is the Imperial Purple Palace, an exact copy of the Forbidden City in Beijing, with its impressive ramparts, formal moats and imperial palaces, some of which lay in ruin.
In the countryside lies the Royal Tombs of the Nguyen kings, here we’ll view the elaborate mausoleums of Emperors Tu Duc and Khai Dinh. As the sun sets opt for a cruise in a long boat along the gentle Perfume River, beautifully illuminated at night.
Day 11 Hue to Hoi An
Today we take the scenic Hai Van Pass (Road of the Ocean Clouds), which offers magnificent views of beaches to one side and lush hills to the other. En route we stop for a walk along China beach and visit peaks of the Marble Mountain. Reaching the summit of Thuy Son Mountain (Mountain of Water), we enter the naturally formed grottoes-cum- Buddhist sanctuaries. The enormous cathedral like Huyen Khrong cave is illuminated by shards of light and the towering seated Buddha carved from the rock face is spectacular.
Onward to Hoi An. The charming, old-world trading port of Hoi An with it cobbled streets, traditional homes and tiny shop houses is a perfect place to lose yourself in a by gone era. Boutique restaurants, hip cafes along the waterfront, delightful craft shops and artisans including some of Asia’s best bespoke tailors (whose services come at a nominal price), all can be found here.
On a short walking tour of the enchanting historical town, we’ll visit the Chua Ong Pagoda, Chinese Assembly Hall, 200-year-old Tam Ky house, former merchants’ homes and the 400 year-old Japanese Covered Bridge.
Day 12 Tra Que village
A bicycle ride into the countryside, leads us to Tra Que village. Here, we discover age old farming practices and learn about traditional medicine. It’s a hands on experience today where we’ll assist with tending the fields and gardens and cooking lunch.
Day 13 Free day in Hoi An
A free day for you relax or further sightseeing. You may wish to take a relaxing rowboat journey along the river or spend the day lazing by the beach or hotel pool.
Day 14 Flight to Saigon
Early morning flight to Saigon. Drive to the Mekong Delta. Often referred to as the ‘rice bowl’ of Vietnam, the fertile Mekong Delta is famous for its abundant harvests of tropical fruits, flowers and rice, as well as it fantastic views while boating along the canals. Taking our sampan from Vinh Long we’ll cruise downstream through the maze of waterways of Cai Be visiting local cottage industries that produce popcorn, coco candies and paper along the way. Lunch is served today in a traditional wooden home on Dong Hoa Hiep Island. Overnight in Can Tho
Day 15 Can Tho – Saigon
Early today we visit the ever lively Cai Rang floating market. Watch as melons, pineapples, fresh greens, sacks of rice and children’s toys get tossed from one sampan to another at great heights and speed before driving back to Saigon. Once called the Pearl of the Orient, modern Saigon is a thriving metropolis on the move. Sleek sky scrapers, gourmet restaurants, designer malls and swanky bars and spas are scattered between ancient pagodas, colonial era landmarks and lively street markets. Our walking tour of Saigon includes visits to the Notre Dame Cathedral, Old Post office and the uniquely designed War Remnants Museum. Evening at leisure. Overnight Saigon
Day 16 Cu Chi Tunnels & Travel to Phnom Pehh
This morning we visit the famous Cu Chi Tunnels, a sprawling underground network of tunnels and living quarters used by the Viet Cong during the war. Then we drive to the Cambodian border (crossing at Moc Bai/Bavet) and continue on to the capital of Phnom Penh. Today the nation’s capital offers a bustling mix of Asia’s past and present, a city quickly taking its place amongst the trendy capitals of the region with superb restaurants and a number of attractions. Overnight Phnom Penh
Day 17 Phnom Penh city tour
Today we’ll enjoy a full day sightseeing tour of Phnom Penh. The National Museum of Fine Arts, a graceful terracotta building of traditional design, houses the world’s finest collection of Khmer sculpture. We continue with the Royal Palace and Silver Pagoda, famed for its lavish decorations – the floors are paved with silver tiles and statues of Buddha are encrusted with thousands of diamonds.
We later come face to face with the horrors of the Pol Pot regime as we visit Toul Sleng (Security Prison – S21), a school that was gruesomely transformed into a torture chamber under the Khmer Rouge, and visit the Killing Fields where over 10,000 people were executed.
Day 18 Flight to Siem Reap
Early morning flight to Siem Reap, after time to freshen up we visit the Angkor National Museum – an archaeological museum dedicated to the collection, preservation and presentation of Angkorian artifacts and Khmer civilisation, with collections mainly dated from Khmer Empire’s Angkor period circa 9th to 14th-century.
This afternoon we explore iconic Angkor Wat, easily the most famous and best-preserved of all temples within the Angkor complex. It is a massive three-tiered structure crowned by five lotus-like towers rising 65 meters from ground level. The centrepiece of any visit to the temples around Siem Reap, Angkor Wat provides plenty of incredible photo opportunities. Overnight Siem Reap
Day 19 Angkor Thom temple tour
Early this morning you can opt to return to Angkor Wat for sunrise. Later we drive out to see the well-preserved temples of Banteay Srei, stopping at an exotic butterfly sanctuary along the way. After we return to the Angkor Temple Complex to explore the ancient city of Angkor Thom. The last capital of the Great Khmer Empire, it is home to the fascinating Bayon Temple, the Baphuon royal enclosure and the Terraces of the Elephants and Leper King. We continue on to Tra Prohm Temple, which unlike the other temples here has been left in the same ruined state that it was first discovered in with a tangle of trees growing out of its ruins. Overnight Siem Reap
Day 20 Tonle Sap Lake
This morning we drive to Kampong Phluk, a cluster of three villages of stilt houses built within the floodplain of Tonle Sap Lake. After a boat trip on the lake we return to Siem Reap for free time. Pick up some last minute souvenirs at the central market or head down to lively Pub Street.
Note: Between Feb – July the water levels at Kompong Phluk village maybe too low to go boating, if so, we will visit Chong Kneas floating village where it will still be possible to go boating. Afternoon and evening at leisure and overnight in Siem Reap
Day 21 Siem Reap Departure
End of the trip, transfer to the airport for departure flight.