Day 1 VIENTIANE, LAOS – ARRIVAL (-/-/D)
Welcome to Vientiane – Laos! Upon arrival at the airport, pass through immigration, collect your luggage and meet up with your local guide for Laos. The remainder of the day is free for you to relax at the hotel after a long flight. Dinner at hotel.
Please note: Hotel check-in time is 14:00. Early check-in is subject to hotel availability.
DAY 2 VIENTIANE CITY TOUR – BUDDHA PARK (B/-/-)
After breakfast, see the major sights of the capital; including the oldest Wat Sisaket, the temple with thousands of miniature Buddha statues and the former royal temple of Wat Prakeo, which previously housed the famous Emerald Buddha Image. On the way to Lao’s national precious heritage, the famous and sacred structure of That Luang Stupa, stop en route to take some pictures of the imposing Patuxay Monument, which is well known as Vientiane’s own Arc de Triumph.
In the afternoon transfer out to see the Buddha Park, a scattered enchanting collection of Buddhist and Hindu sculptures on the Mekong Riverside meadow, close to the Friendship Bridge. There are approximately 200 religious images dating back over 500 years, which were created by a mysterious monk spreading his philosophy on life and revealing his ideas about the universe. A spectacular view of over the Mekong River at sunset is a perfect way to finish the day. Overnight in Vientiane.
Day 3 VIENTIANE – LUANG PRABANG (B/-/D)
After breakfast, continue visiting Vientiane by walking to Wat Ong Tue, Wat Inpeng and Wat Haisok Temples followed by free time in the major shopping area of the central market of Talad Sao and Talad Kouadin where various goods are displayed for sale including fresh food, household goods, souvenirs, textiles, gold, silver and antiques. Depart to the airport in time for your afternoon flight to Luang Prabang.
Upon arrival, meet up with your local guide in Luang Prabang and transfer the short distance to your hotel. Luang Prabang is perhaps the best-preserved traditional city in Southeast Asia. The tranquility and charm of this town with its splendid natural scenery and cultural sights make it one of the most delightful places to visit in Laos. The remainder of the day is free for you to relax at the hotel after a long flight. Dinner at hotel.
Day 4 LUANG PRABANG – KHOUANGSI WATERFALL – HILL TRIBE VILLAGES VISIT (B/-/D)
An optional early start (530am) gives you the fantastic opportunity to participate in the daily morning rituals of saffron-clad monks collecting offerings of Alms (ubiquitous sticky rice and other food) from the faithful residents and tourists in Luang Prabang. This tradition is unique in Laos, being the only Buddhist nation still preserving the procession. After breakfast at the hotel, visit the Phosi Market, where you will see such diverse offerings as dried buffalo skin, local tea and saltpeter among the chickens, vegetables and hill-tribe weavings. Laos is also known for its traditional crafts, and today you will visit local villages of Lao ethnic minority groups at Ban Ouay, Hmong Village, Ban Thapene and Khmu Village, before continuing your journey alongside the mighty Mekong River, through paddy fields and agricultural landscapes to the beautiful Khouangsi Waterfall. From the carpark, walk up through the woodland on a concrete path to the main waterfall (about 30minutes). Follow the river downstream, seeing the many pools and waterfalls along the way before cooling off with a refreshing swim in the turquoise pools. You can also walk along the forest trails, keeping an eye out for birds and other wildlife. Return to the city by late afternoon to watch the sunset at Wat Phabath and to enjoy a sunset boat trip with dinner on board.
Laos set menu dinner on boat.
Day 5 LUANG PRABANG – PAK OU CAVE (B/L/-)
After breakfast at the hotel, take a cruise (private boat) to Pak Ou Cave where there are a number of statues of Buddha in a cave, set above the river (walk up some concrete steps). Have lunch at a local restaurant overlooking the Mekong River before returning to Luang Prabang, stopping at Xang Hai Village (Whisky Village) and Ban Xang Khong Weaving Village on the way. In the evening, explore the night market, where you can find a lovely selection of handmade textiles and souvenirs made by local and hill tribe people surrounding Luang Prabang.
In the late afternoon, enjoy a cooking class at Tamarind Cooking school – ‘A taste of Laos’, an authentic cooking experience with insight into Lao ingredients, dishes and its cooking methods. The freshest ingredients are prepared daily and the instructors all have years of experience leading classes at the school.
Be prepared to be delighted at the complex taste of Lao cuisine and how easy it is for you to pick them up in just one session. You will be able to learn the following dishes:
1) A variety of ‘jeows’ – The Lao word for dipping sauces that goes with sticky rice
2) Mok Pa – Steamed Fish in Banana Leaf
3) Laap Gai – A minced chicken salad with fragrant herbs, a Luang Prabang staple
4) Lemongrass stuffed with Chicken – A Tamarind specialty
5) A surprise dessert that you will find out on the day itself! And of course you will be taught how to steam the quintessential sticky rice using traditional methods as well.
Laos set menu lunch at a local restaurant
Day 6 LUANG PRABANG – FLY TO SIEM REAP IN CAMBODIA (B/-/D)
After breakfast and checking out of the hotel, enjoy a short-guided tour seeing the city’s oldest temple of Wat Sene and the magnificent Wat Xiengthong with its roofs sweeping low to the ground, which represents classical Laotian architecture. There is also the option to climb about 300 steps up to Wat Chom Si Temple where there are great views of the town and rivers.
Leave to the airport in time for your short flight to Siem Reap. Check in to the hotel and have the rest of the day free to relax. Dinner at a local restaurant
Day 7 SIEM REAP – TONLE SAP LAKE- KAMPONG PHLUK FLOATING VILLAGE (B/-/D)
Breakfast at hotel. You will visit the Kampong Phluk floating village on the Tonle Sap, the “Great Lake” of Cambodia and the largest in Asia, on a traditional wooden boat. The floating village is home to about 700 families or about 4,000 people. The houses in Kampong Phluk sit three to ten meters above the lake in the dry season, while in the rainy season they swim like islands on the lake. Transfer back to your hotel. Rest of the day is at your leisure until dinner at a local restaurant.
Day 8 ANGKOR TEMPLES FULL DAY EXPLORATION (B/-/-)
Breakfast at hotel. Start the tour by exploring South Gate of Angkor Thom known as Big Angkor, 3km2 walled and moated royal city and was the last capital of the Angkorian Empire, The famous Bayon Temple was an architectural muddle, in part because it was constructed in a somewhat piecemeal fashion for over a century. Terrace of the Elephants is an impressive 300-meter-long terrace wall adorned with carved elephants and gradual that spans the heart of Angkor Thom in front of Baphuon – huge temple mountain in the heart of Angkor Thom, Royal Palace Area and Phimeanakas – impressive rite and sandstone pyramid. Terrace of the Leper King is at the north end of the Terrace of the Elephants, a double terrace wall with deeply carved nag as, demons and other mythological beings.
In the afternoon visit Angkor Wat temple, the founder of the temple was Suryavarman II who reigned Cambodia from 1113 to 1152 and built five towers in the 12th century to dedicate to the Hindu God Vishnu. Enjoy sunset view at the Pre Rup temple. Return to your hotel for dinner.
Day 9 SIEM REAP – PREK TOAL BIRD SANCTUARY – SIEM REAP (B/L/D)
Breakfast at hotel. Drive to Tonle Sap lake, we will board our motor-powered sampan for the journey to Prek Toal Bird Sanctuary. Along the way we will wind through floating villages and flooded forests and have a chance to observe the different fishing methods used on the lake. Enjoy picnic lunch aboard the boat. The bird sanctuary and biosphere reserve of Prek Toal protects some of the rarest water birds in Southeast Asia and if you are lucky you might see both lesser and greater adjutant storks, spot-billed pelicans, milky storks and perhaps even a saris crane. Besides the big wading birds the sanctuary is home to a host of other bird species and the concentrations can be staggering. Transfer back to hotel. In the evening watch Apsara, the traditional Khmer dance – drama performance with dinner.
Day 10 SIEM REAP TO PHNOM PENH (B/-/-) – no guide escort
After breakfast, check out of the hotel and drive the short distance to the bus station in Siem Reap for the shuttle bus to Phnom Penh. This is a good quality tourist bus, with air conditioning, Wi-Fi (most of the time!), designated seating, driver and an on-board host / assistant who speaks English. There will be rest stops along the way and a lunch stop at a good restaurant. Upon arrival in Phnom Penh, meet up with your new guide who will be with you for the remainder of your time in Cambodia. Transfer to your hotel and have the rest of the day free to relax. Dinner at a local restaurant.
Day 11 PHNOM PENH CITY TOUR (B/-/D)
After breakfast at the hotel, visit the “The Killing Fields” of Choeung Ek, where between 1975 and 1978 about 17,000 men, women, children and infants were detained and tortured at S-21 and transported to their death. Sadly, there is now a stupa-shaped mausoleum with, inside, about 10 shelves high of skulls in a glass case. Continue to Tuol Sleng prison, which is now the Genocide Museum, the most secret part of the Khmer Rouge regime. It is also called S-21 (abbreviated for Security Office 21), a Khmer Rouge’s premier security camp, specifically designed for the interrogation and extermination of anti-Angkor elements. Walk through the prison cells, see the torture chambers and equipment – a very chilling reminder of what happened. Afterwards, walk around the Russian market, enjoying the bustling daily activities of the locals and this is also a good place for souvenir shopping. Return to the hotel to relax before taking a cruise to see the sunset on the Mekong and Tonle Sap River in the “Four Arms” section where the Mekong meets the Tonle Sap River before splitting into two branches.
Khmer set menu dinner at local restaurant overlooking the river.
Day 12 FLY TO HO CHI MINH CITY (SAIGON) (B/-/D)
After breakfast, check out of the hotel and relax before your departure for the airport in time for your flight to Saigon, in Vietnam. After your international flight, pass through imigrations, collect your luggage and meet up with your guide who will travel with you through Southern Vietnam. Transfer by private car to your hotel in the city centre. Free time to relax and to have dinner at the hotel.
Please note! Hotel check in time is from 14.00hrs.
Day 13 SAIGON CITY TOUR – CU CHI TUNNEL (B/-/D)
Breakfast at hotel. A busy day of sightseeing starts with a city tour. Visit the Reunification Palace, the witness of the fierce Vietnam War which ended in 1975 – the grand building today is a Museum. Nearby the Palace are the colonial-styled Post Office, built between 1877 and 1883 and Notre Dame Cathedral, two of the city’s major landmarks. Visit the Ben Thanh Market – a wholesale market, to intermingle with the local lifestyle and a good place for souvenir shopping. Also visit the War Remnants Museum (US military) which is interesting and sad.
Optional afternoon excursion – drive for about an hour to the Cu Chi Tunnels, an incredible underground network of tunnels constructed by Vietnamese guerrillas to protect the region against the American attacks during the Vietnam War. You can even crawl inside the tunnels (which have now been enlarged), visit the infirmary and kitchen to discover how people survived.
Return to Saigon to visit the Skydeck Tower for 360-degree views of the city and enjoy dinner with panoramic views of the city from the Eon 51 restaurant. Overnight in Saigon.
Day 14 SAIGON – MEKONG DELTA – SAIGON (B/L/-)
Breakfast at hotel. Drive south for about 1.5 hours to My Tho enjoying the scenic journey along the way as the road is bordered by many green rice fields. Upon arrival in My Tho, visit Vinh Trang Pagoda seeing the large reclining and laughing Buddha. Take a leisurely boat ride along the river, view the stilt houses, fruit plantations and fishing villages along the riverbank. Then a boat ride to An Khanh – a less touristy attraction in Ben Tre – enjoy cruising on a hand-rowed sampan under the shadow of the water coconut trees along natural canals, before sampling seasonal fruit and honey tea to the sound of Southern Vietnamese folk music, performed by the local people.
Visit a family business which makes delicious coconut sweets and observe the pastoral life as you roam through the fruit plantation and village. Lunch at a local restaurant enroute before taking a boat back across the Mekong river and driving back to Saigon for overnight.
Day 15 CAT TIEN NATIONAL PARK (B/L/D)
After breakfast, check out of the hotel. Drive to Cat Tien national park (4 hours approx.) through lovely landscapes and villages. The landscape rises gradually via a volcanic area. Upon arrival at the park, say goodbye to your car as you cross the Dong Nai River on a small boat to the park centre and begin your wildlife experience. Check in to your accommodation.
Cat Tien is blessed with fantastic birds including green peafowl, orange-necked partridge, Siamese fire back pheasant, and numerous hornbills, broadbills, and babblers. After lunch, go on a nature walk where you will see many trees of different species that are hundreds of years old, plants, birds and butterflies. After sunset enjoy a jeep safari for animal spotting at night – if you are lucky you might see Indian Gaur, Sambar deer and owls.
Overnight in Cat Tien National Park – BASIC GOVERNMENT ACCOMMODATION
Vietnamese set menu lunch and dinner at park restaurant
Day 16 CAT TIEN NATIONAL PARK (B/L/D)
Start the day with a sunrise boat trip on the river for bird watching and enjoy the environment around you. Return to the lodge for breakfast before optional cycling along some of the park’s tracks, walking, relaxing, bird / butterfly watching. If you want to, drive 10km further inside the park to a junction where you turn off the main route and then trek for about 5km to Crocodile Lake Station. Along the route, (if you are lucky), see primates and birds such as Germain’s peacock-pheasant, bar-bellied pitta, orange-breasted trogon and red-and-black broadbill. You might also see gliding lizards along this trail as they cling to tree trunks and extend their dewlaps in territorial displays. Check out and leave Cat Tien National Park by river-crossing and meet up with your driver again. Drive back to Saigon. (4-hour drive approx.) – Overnight in Saigon with dinner at the hotel.
Day 17 TOUR ENDS
Check out of your hotel in time for your departing flight – return home or onward travel