17 days / 16 nights
Duration
Vietnam, Laos, Cambodia
Destination
Da Nang, Ha Long, Ha Noi, Ho Chi Minh City, Hoi An, Hue, Luang Prabang, Phnom Penh, Siem Reap, Vientiane
City
CRT-CLS-17D
Tour Code

This tour is the jewel of the crown: it will take you through 3 different countries and 10 fascinating enclaves to deeply meet the best of Indochina. Phnom Penh, Angkor Wat, Hoi An, Halong, Luang Prabang, Vientiane; Cambodia, Vietnam and Laos… this list of cities and countries is just the beginning of what will be an once in a lifetime experience. Religion, culture, food, people, landscapes, enormous cities and charming villages, mountain passes and paradisiacal beaches… With this trip you will make the most of your time. Only with us!

DEPARTURE/RETURN LOCATION Phnom Penh/Vientiane
DEPARTURE TIME
RETURN TIME
WEAR
INCLUDED
16-night accommodation including breakfast
Domestic flights indicated in the tour
Private tour with English Speaking Guide
All entrance fees & excursions as per itinerary
Land tour and transfers with A/C vehicle
NOT INCLUDED
International air ticket
Visa in all 3 countries
Other meals not mentioned in the itinerary
Drinks, tips and other personal expenses
Extra charge for Christmas, New Year or Public Holidays
1

Day 1: Arrive Phnom Penh (Cambodia)

Welcome to Phnom Penh, a chaotic, energetic, and always fascinating city, with graceful tree-lined boulevards and riverfront promenades. You will be met upon arrival at the Phnom Penh airport and transferred to your hotel.

Your sightseeing begins in the afternoon at the Royal Palace, still being used as the royal residence. We will visit the exterior palace grounds, including the Silver Pagoda. The Silver Pagoda has this name because its floor is made up of 5000 silver tiles, and it is one of the most exquisite structures in Cambodia, as well as the most sacred temple in the country. Our next stop will be a visit to the National Museum to view some of its 5000 works of art, including pre-Angkorean pieces, and special pieces from the temples.

Our next visit will be the Central Market, located in a distinctive domed Art Deco building, and the sprawling Russian Market, a labyrinth of stalls selling a plethora of goods and souvenirs, where hand-loomed silk scarves and silver jewelry are particularly good value. We suggest you to visit the large food section, taking the opportunity to sample some of the local dishes such as Khmer curry chicken or shrimp won tons.

Overnight in Phnom Penh.

2

Day 2: Phnom Penh to Siem Reap (B)

This morning you will go to the Phnom Penh airport for your flight to Siem Reap. You will be met upon arrival, and transferred to your hotel with some time to take rest.

After lunch we will meet to go to the biggest archeological site in the world, the magnificent Angkor Wat. It was built by Suryavarman II in the early 12th century to honor Vishnu, one of the many Hinduist gods. The temple complex covers 80 hectares; similar to the Forbidden City in Beijing, Angkor Wat is considered by art historians to be the prime example of classical Khmer art and architecture. Its soaring five towers, with their distinctive extraordinary low reliefs, are proud part of the Cambodian flag.

End the day at Phnom Bakheng, to watch the sunset over the Cambodian countryside.

Overnight in Siem Reap.

3

Day 3: Siem Reap (B)

Get up early this morning to visit the jungle-covered temple of Ta Phrom while it is still cold, and before the crowds of tourists fill up the place. Ta Prohm is one of the most beautiful temples in the area, and it has been left untouched, still being swallowed by the jungle. After returning to the hotel for breakfast, let’s start your sightseeing for the whole day.

The first temple to explore is Angkor Thom, the last capital of the Khmer Empire. It was a fortified city which mainly consisted of monks, palace officers, and soldier residences. The city is notable for its five monumental gates. The 20 meters tall gates are decorated with stone elephant heads, and crowned by four gargantuan faces of the Bodhisattva Avalokitessvara. In front of each gate, there stand 54 gods (to the left of the causeway) and 54 demons (to the right of the causeway). The complex comprises a variety of important temples with the prominent Bayon Temple at the center. The Bayon Temple is unique because of its 54 towers decorated with more than 200 smiling faces of Avalokitessvara. See the Royal Enclosure, the Phimeanakas, the Elephants Terrace, and the Terrace of the Leper King, all of them spaces that were originally conceived to be special places for public ceremonies, both adorned with dramatic low reliefs.

In the afternoon we will go outside Siem Reap to the charming Banteay Srei temple. Built in 967 by Jayavarman V, this temple is considered as the jewel in the crown of Angkorean art as it showcases the most exquisite, deep and complex sculptures of all Khmer architecture. An added feature of the exquisite decoration is the use of a hard pink sandstone, the quartz arenite, giving a beautiful red color to the temple. Continue on the Grand Circuit to the Preah Khan, also called as the “Holy Sword” Temple. This large temple Buddhist complex covers 56 hectares, and was built in the late 12th century by King Jayavarman VII, and dedicated to his father Dharanindravarman. Flat in design, the main Buddhist sanctuary is surrounded by many Hindu satellite temples. Still not restored, the main shrine and its adjoining buildings are richly decorated with Buddhist motifs and scenes from Hindu epic tales.

4

Day 4: Siem Reap to Ho Chi Minh City (Vietnam) (B)

After breakfast at the hotel, you will leave Siem Reap to take a flight to Ho Chi Minh City, the former Saigon. You will be met on arrival at the airport and then transferred to your hotel. Ho Chi Minh City is where colonial buildings and traditional temples stand besides the emerging modern skyline.

This afternoon enjoy a half day sightseeing tour of the downtown: learn why Vietnam has been one of the main symbolic historical scenarios in the world during the last century while you pass around  the Reunification Palace, the original Norodom Palace built by French and also used as the presidential house by the South Vietnam until it was taken on the 30th April 1975, day that Vietnam war ended. To see how cruent this war was, have a look at the War Remnants Museum, this visit will not remain you indifferent. Walk into the heart of the old colonial Saigon to see the old French colonial Post Office and visit the historic Notre Dame Cathedral, as well as the City Hall and the Opera House. Then drive along the former Rue Catinat, now called Dong Khoi Street. On the evening, stroll through the living Ben Thanh Market with its hundreds of stalls teeming with silks, spices and assorted souvenirs. The rest of the day is at leisure to explore this bustling metropolis.

Overnight in Ho Chi Minh City.

5

Day 5: Ho Chi Minh City to Mekong Delta (B, L)

After breakfast, you will have a full day trip to Mekong Delta, to the charming city of Ben Tre. On arrival we will take a boat heading to one of the many small islands in Mekong Delta to visit the tropical fruit plantations and we will learn a bit more about how the local specialty, the coconut candy, is made. After tasting it and enjoy the rest of local specialties, we will start coming back to Ho Chi Minh City with a short stop at a bonsai garden in My Tho. Return to Ho Chi Minh City in the late afternoon.

Overnight in Ho Chi Minh City.

6

Day 6: Ho Chi Minh City to Cu Chi Tunnels (B)

Today we are going to explore the outskirts of the city. In the morning we will visit the nearby Tay Ninh, considered as the epicenter of Caodaism, a sincretic religion created in Vietnam in the XX century that incorporates the main concepts of the major religions around the world. Attend the noon ceremony with the traditional Vietnamese orchestra and choir who lead the congregation in prayers. The hymns are very unique as they mix Western and Vietnamese rhythms and sounds.

In the afternoon, take an historic and emotional tour through the Cu Chi tunnels, explore part of the 245 km underground network that zigzagged from the southern tip of the Ho Chi Minh Trail near the Cambodian border that flows into the Saigon River. Visiting Cu Chi will give you an intimate understanding of the vital aspect of guerrilla warfare fought by the Vietnamese against both the French first and the Americans. Developed in the late 1940s, these criss-crossing tunnels were constructed by local resistance insurgents looking for a place to hide their weapons from the French. Discover the secret trapdoors, field hospitals, command posts, underground kitchens, living areas and meeting rooms… authentic underground villages ready to defeat the enemy.

Overnight in Ho Chi Minh City.

7

Day 7: Ho Chi Minh City to Danang & Hoi An (B)

Morning flight to Danang. Explore Danang by visiting the Cham Museum, with the largest collection of Champa artwork and sculpture in the world, spanning from the VII to the XV century. Enjoy the Marble Mountains, adorned with the subtle, lyric and poetical ambience of pagodas, grottoes, and green trees, its peaks that represent the five elements of the universe. Passing the curving beaches and clear blue lagoons of the South My Khe Beach, arrive in the picturesque riverside town of Hoi An. Previously known as Faifo, Hoi An was an ancient port town. A picturesque riverside town, Hoi An is also a designated UNESCO World Heritage site.
Sightseeing in Hoi An town, one of the best places to discover genuine Vietnamese architecture. Stroll through the narrow cobblestone streets of the Old Quarter, seeing the ancient homes (Phung Hung House) and merchant houses still filled with local vendors. See the Japanese covered bridge and visit a lantern workshop. Visit Quan Cong Temple, Phuoc Kien Pagoda and Sa Huynh Museum.

Overnight in Hoi An.

8

Day 8: Hoi An (B)

Today you are free at leisure to enjoy the town with its tailors or if you feel adventurous enough, try to reach the beach by bicycle.

Overnight in Hoi An.

9

Day 9: Hoi An to Hue (B)

This morning, drive north to Hue through the dramatic Hai Van Pass. The highest pass in the country, Hai Van is the high dividing line between the climate zones of north and south Vietnam. We will stop at several places to admire the spectacular views and take some pictures, as well as a visit to a fishing village near Lang Co Beach.

This afternoon, visit the Imperial Citadel, a vast 400-hectare complex built in 1800’s, it was modeled after the Forbidden City in Beijing, with a 9.6 km wall and surrounding moat. Though it was seriously damaged through war, today you can still see the monuments to life during the 19th century Nguyen Dynasty. View the Flag Tower and the imposing Ngo Mon Gate, one of the ten entrances to the complex. In the spacious courtyard area, see the Palace of Supreme Harmony and the throne hall, where the Emperor would meet foreign rulers and other high-ranking dignataries. Explore the heart of the Imperial City, site of the Forbidden Purple City. Only members of the royal family, the Emperor’s concubines, and trusted senior mandarins were allowed inside to these various palaces and the Emperor’s private apartments. Then see the Thai Hoa Palace, Hall of Mandarins and see the original Nine Dynastic Urns.

Overnight in Hue.

10

Day 10: Hue (B)

We will start the day going by boat down to the Perfume River, heading to the Dinh Market where they make paper mache, and then visit the iconic Thien Mu Pagoda (Heavenly Lady Pagoda). This elegant seven-tiered octagonal tower is one of the oldest pagodas in the country. Built in 1601, it is Hue’s most widely recognizable monument and one of the prettiest religious buildings in the country.

After the cruise we will visit a local home to enjoy a lunch repast of local dishes with the family. Next it will be the time to explore some small country villages where they produce the trademark Vietnamese coco hats, and incense. Pass by the “Phuong Duc” where people produce bronze products, though not as active as the past, it is still a wonderful example of how a traditional Hue handicraft village is.

Late we will visit the Tomb of Tu Duc. The longest reigning Vietnamese emperor, the king Tu Duc designed and built this elegant tomb for use it as a retreat for meditation, reading and theater performances. It is one the most beautiful works of the Nguyen Dynasty Royal architecture, and lies on a boundless pine forest with mounts and lakes.

Overnight in Hue.

11

Day 11: Hue to Hanoi (B)

Morning flight to Hanoi. You are met on arrival at the Hanoi airport, and transferred to your hotel. Enjoy a walking tour through the Old Quarter – the oldest continuously developed area of Vietnam, highlighting more than 1000 years of history. Explore the network of narrow alleyways known as The 36 Streets. This is a wonderful place to watch the local life and purchase items from fabrics to crafts, to exotic medicines. Each street was named to reflect the specialized trade of the merchants – such as silk traders, jewelry, etc. Go around the Hoan Kiem Lake and visit the Ngoc Son Temple right in a small island.

This evening, laugh with the local children as you watch the delightful water puppet show. This unique art form created in the 10th century, came from the Red River delta region of northern Vietnam. Using the water’s surface as stage, puppeteers stand behind a curtain and control the puppets using long bamboo rods and a string mechanism hidden beneath the water surface. A Cheo (a form of opera) is sung to tell the story acted out by the puppets.

Overnight in Hanoi.

12

Day 12: Hanoi to Halong (B, L)

Halong Bay is a 1500 Km2 area of picturesque islands shrouded in mist, floating villages and pearl fisheries. Today, enjoy a relaxing full day private boat excursion aboard a traditional Chinese-style wooden junk:
– Cruise on the emerald waters between dolomite islets and some of the 3,000 craggy limestone cliffs dotted with breathtaking caves and grottos.
– Sail by rock formations with names as pintoresque as Stone Dog and Incense Burner (Dinh Huong), and stop to explore the Thien Cung or Sungsot Cave to enjoy the beauty of the surreal and subterranean world of stalagmites and stalactites.
– Anchor at Titop Beach to relax under the sun or enjoy a swim.
– Have a wonderful seafood lunch with a spectacular sightseeing of this mystical bay

Overnight in Halong.

13

Day 13: Halong to Hanoi (B)

Drive back to Hanoi in the morning. Arrive to Hanoi, where you will have a half day sightseeing that begins with a visit to the Van Mieu or Temple of Literature. The temple dates back to 1070, and is dedicated to the cult of Confucius. Note the peaceful series of walled courtyards and graceful gateways; this is one of the best examples of traditional Vietnamese architecture. Next, continue to the Ho Chi Minh Memorial Complex, containing a museum and Ho Chi Minh’s final resting place. See the Ho Chi Minh’s Stilt House, the simple two-room dwelling where he lived from 1958 until his final days in 1969. Nearby, sitting in a lotus pond, view the miniature One Pillar Pagoda, or Chua Mot Cot. Made out of a single large tree trunk, it was originally constructed in 1040, and then rebuilt after destroyed by the French in 1954.

Overnight in Hanoi.

14

Day 14: Hanoi to Luang Prabang (Laos) (B)

Arrive to Luang Prabang, a quiet town named UNESCO World Heritage Site for its unique mix of Laotian and European architecture. This ancient capital is nestled in the mountains at the confluence of the Mekong and Nam Khan rivers, and adorned with gilded temples on nearly every street corner. You will be picked up upon arrival, and transferred to your hotel with time to freshen up.

This sightseeing tour begins by visiting the impressive Wat Visoun stupa. Its style is closer to Silankalese than Lao artistic standards, and even though this is a replica built in 1898, it exudes the Middle Ages atmosphere from its original construction in 1513. The next step will be a walk to Wat Aham, the old residence of the Sangkhalat, the Supreme Patriarch of Laotian Buddhism and the Wat Mai, the most important spiritual shrine in the whole town. Your tour continues hiking up the 355 steps to the top of Mount Phousi to explore Wat Chomsi, a sacred, gilded stupa. Enjoy the beautiful sunset view of the city and the Mekong River below.

During the evening we will visit the colorful Night Market. A red canvas canopy covers the street vendors and their extensive selection of handmade textiles, including silk scarves and a Hmong embroidery, all made by people from the surrounding hill tribes, will undoubtedly delight you. Watch and mingle with the locals to learn about everyday Laotian traditions and culture.

Overnight in Luang Prabang.

15

Day 15: Luang Prabang & Pak Ou Caves (B)

Awake at sunrise to enjoy the sacred Buddhist ceremony of giving morning alms to the local monks. Watching the saffron robed monks strolling peacefully through the throng of visitors is an unforgettable experience and a wonderful photo opportunity.

After having breakfast at the hotel, your tour begins with a visit to Wat Sene and Wat Xieng Thong, good examples of how the classic Luang Prabang temple architecture is, with roofs that sweep low to the ground. The rear wall features an impressive “tree of life” mosaic set in a red background. Inside richly decorated wooden columns support a ceiling vested with Dharma–wheels. In the compound stand several small chapels housing bronze Buddha images, and an impressive 11-meter high funeral chariot and various funeral urns for each royal family member.

Our next move will be outside the city, as we depart through Mekong river in a pleasant two-hours longtail boat cruise on the Mekong River. Going upriver you will go through stunning landscapes of limestone cliffs dotted with waterfalls and stop at one of the remote villages that you will find along the way, named Ban Xanghai, a renowned production center for Laotian rice wine. The final destination of the cruise is the Pak Ou caves. These holy limestone caves are located on a rock cliff, rising vertically from the waters of the Mekong River. Two are the most famous caves, as they are filled with thousands of gold lacquered Buddha statues of varied shapes and sizes left by devoted pilgrims. On the cruise back to Luang Prabang, stop for a short drive to the weaving village of Ban Phanom. This Tai Lue village is well known for its traditional hand-woven cotton and silk.

Overnight in Luang Prabang.

16

Day 16: Luang Prabang to Vientiane (B)

This morning, you visit the National Museum, located in the former palace of exiled King Savang Vattana, to view the famous Pha Bang, a 45 kg solid gold Buddha. Then explore the Central Market – a great place for people watching and last minute shopping as well as lunch. You will have a free time until transferred to the Luang Prabang airport for your departing flight to Vientiane. Arrive in Vientiane, nestled along the Mekong River, with French colonial roofs and gilded temples that form the skyline of this peaceful yet developing city. Monks in their classic orange robes are everywhere, along with birds, butterflies, and French cafes that serve coffee from beans grown in the Laos highlands. You are met upon arrival at the Vientiane airport, and escorted to your hotel.

In the afternoon, your sightseeing tour begins with a visit to the 19th century Wat Sisaket. This terracotta tile roofed temple, the oldest in Vientiane, has countless niches displaying thousands of miniature Buddha statues. After that we will go to the former royal temple of Wat Prakeo, which previously housed the famous Emerald Buddha Image. Visit the famous and sacred structure of That Luang Stupa, a national icon with this 145-foot tall structure has gone through many reconstructions, being first placed in the site of a XII century Khmer temple, where King Setthathirat built the first monument in 1566 that was destroyed by the Siamese, re-built by the French and in 1930 it took its actual shape. The courtyard houses a sacred by Laotian people Bodhi tree. The locals say that, to stay in Buddha’s good grace, you must walk around the stupa for three times. End the afternoon with a photo stop at the Patuxay Monument, known as the Vientiane Arc de Triumph, but uniquely decorated with Laotian friezes from Buddhist mythology.

Overnight in Vientiane.

17

Day 17: Depart Vientiane (B)

Free at leisure until your transfer from the hotel to the airport. Tour ends.

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