Day 1 LUANG PRABANG, LAOS - ARRIVAL (-/-/D)
Welcome to Luang Prabang in Laos! Upon arrival at the airport, pass through immigration, collect your luggage and meet up with your local guide for Laos. 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 local restaurant.
Please note: Hotel check-in time is 14:00. Early check-in is subject to hotel availability.
Day 2 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
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 4 LUANG PRABANG – FLIGHT TO HANOI, VIETNAM (B/-/D)
After breakfast and checking out, 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. You will then be transferred to the airport and take flight to Hanoi. Welcome to Hanoi in Vietnam! After your international flight, pass through immigrations, collect your luggage and meet up with your guide who will travel with you through Northern and Central Vietnam. Transfer by private car to your hotel in the city center (about 40 minutes driving). Overnight in Hanoi. Free time to relax and to have dinner at the hotel.
Please note! Hotel check in time is from 14.00hrs.
Day 5 HANOI CITY TOUR (B/-/D)
After breakfast at the hotel, meet up with your guide who will take you around as you explore the capital city. Start from the Ho Chi Minh Mausoleum (from the outside), Ho Chi Minh’s simple house-on-stilts and the One-Pillar pagoda near Ba Dinh Square, where the most solemn ceremonies of Hanoi take place. Go on to the Temple of Literature, the first high school of Vietnam.
In the afternoon, enjoy a brief “cyclo” trip (like a cycle rickshaw) around Hanoi’s Old Quarters. Ride at the perfect pace to enjoy some of the 36 tree-shaded streets of this historic district named after the commodity produced and sold at each street, such as sugar, bamboo, leather or silver, etc. Afterwards, enjoy a fascinating show of Water Puppetry, the traditional stage art of Northern Vietnam.
Lunch at your own arrangement for more flexibility and dinner at local restaurant.
Day 6 HANOI – HALONG BAY (B/L/D)
After breakfast, check-out of the hotel and drive for about 3-4 hours to the coastline at Halong Bay, a Natural World Heritage Site as designated by UNESCO since 1994 and 2006. Subject to traffic and time, visit the Cultured Pearl Farm and shop before boarding your boat.
12:00 Arrive at the Gray Line Lobby for check-in (the port).
12:30 Enter your cruise via a private pier and being warmly welcomed by the crew. Enjoy welcome drinks, check in to your cabin and have a short briefing about the rest of the day and life on board the boat.
13:30 Have lunch while the cruise sails to Halong Bay and enjoy the scenery of hundreds of limestone islands with various shapes.
15:00 Drop anchor before taking a small boat to Luon Cave. Discover the area’s tranquility by kayaks or rowing boats.
16:00 Sail the short distance to Titov Island. There are various choices here - sunbath, swimming or conquering about 1000 steps up (25-30mins) to the peak to admire the panoramic view of Halong Bay.
17:30 Return to your boat to relax and watch the sunset before dinner.
19.30 Dinner will be served.
Lunch and dinner on board - Overnight on the boat.
Day 7 HALONG BAY – HANOI – NIGHT TRAIN TO DANANG (B/Brunch/D)
06:00 Waking up at dawn for sunrise over the islands in the bay.
07:00 Light breakfast will be served with cakes, bread, tea and coffee, etc.
07:45 A Small boat will collect you to visit the Surprising (Sung Sot) Cave, discovered in 1901. Walk up concrete steps to the cave entrance and along concrete and uneven paths inside the cave. After the rock formation and millions of years of water erosion, the cave now has hundreds of marvellous stalactites, stalagmites and grandeur stone chambers which are incomparable with any cave in the Gulf of Tonkin.
09:15 Return to the boat to freshen up and check-out of the cabins. Enjoy the scenery as you start sailing back to the mainland.
10:30 A buffet brunch will be served while the boat continuously cruises back.
11:30 Disembark from the boat and meet up with your driver and guide.
Visit the Cultured Pearl Farm and shop if not done on day 3. Drive back to Hanoi (3-4 hours) and check in to a small hotel in Hanoi for relaxing and refreshing yourself before going to a local restaurant for dinner.
After dinner, transfer to Hanoi station for your night train to Danang. Overnight on the train (a shared 4-soft berths – bunk beds). Snacks for the night journey could be bought at nearby mini-market or on board the train.
Vietnamese set menu dinner at local restaurant before train journey.
Day 8 DANANG – HOI AN ANCIENT TOWN (-/-/D)
Upon arrival in Danang station, you will be picked up by your private car where you will be transferred to have lunch at a local restaurant on route to Hoi An. (about 1-hour drive)
During the sightseeing in Hoi An, ride a bicycle to visit the highlights of the ancient town, including the market area, cultural and historical museum, the Japanese bridge and the Chinese assembly hall - (some walking and some cycling.) Watch the sunset over the Thu Bon River and see the streets lit up by the lanterns at night. Have dinner before cycling back to your hotel. Overnight in Hoi An with dinner at a local restaurant.
Day 9 HOI AN AT LEISURE (B)
Breakfast at hotel. A free day for you to enjoy Hoi An for additional exploration, sight-seeing – there are many cultural buildings to see in the town, shopping at the night market and in the many souvenir shops or just relaxing at a café over-looking the river
- Borrow a bicycle from the hotel for as long as you wish for the day (subject to availability)
- Take a sun set boat trip to admire the sunset on the Thu Bon river
- Visit the night market
Lunch and dinner on your own arrangement to give more flexibility
Day 10 HOI AN – DA NANG BEACH RELAX (B/-/D)
Drive from Hoi An to Danang. Check-in to the beach resort and have the rest of the day free to enjoy the beach and the resorts facilities (optional extras).
Dinner and overnight at the resort
Day 11 DA NANG BEACH RELAX (B/-/-)
Free day to relax, enjoy the sunshine and beach at Da Nang. Overnight in Da Nang.
Day 12 DA NANG - BACH MA NATIONAL PARK – HUE (B/L/D)
After breakfast, with a packed lunch, drive to Bach Ma National park (approx. 1.5 hours) where there are many good trails for birder watchers / nature lovers and for non-birders alike with several waterfalls and small lakes. Pass through the small village before arriving at the ticket office and entrance gate. Drive up through the tropical vegetation on the concrete road from sea level to about 1400m – depending on the weather, enjoy the views back down towards the coastline.
Walk to the summit tower / temple along the woodland paths (mud and paved – uneven in places) and back down through the woodland keeping an eye out for birds and insects. Enjoy your picnic lunch before more walking to visit waterfalls – enjoy the “Five Lakes” walk which involves walking down many steps before following the river, scrambling over rocks, holding on to a fixed rope, crossing the river (getting wet up to your knees) and climbing down wooden ladders – if you like a little bit of adventure this is an enjoyable walk!
Optional extension to the walk of going down and back up 738 steep steps to see the 600ft high Do Quyen Waterfall. There are also alternative walks available. Return to your car and drive north to your hotel in Hue. Dinner at hotel in Hue.
Day 13 HUE SIGHTSEEING (B/-/-)
After breakfast, start your sightseeing in the town - being recognized by UNESCO as the 1st Cultural World Heritage for Vietnam, Hue is highlighted by the old royal architectural works and the most traditional Vietnamese lifestyle. Discover the charm of the city from the Royal Citadel, Forbidden City, Hue Royal Museum. In the afternoon, take a traditional dragon boat on the Perfume River, visit the well-known Thien Mu Pagoda, which is consecrated to the heavenly mother and rises directly on the riverbank and the mausoleum of King Minh Mang one of the most beautiful works of royal architecture in Vietnam.
Overnight in Hue and dinner at local restaurant.
Day 14 HUE – FLIGHT TO SAIGON (HO CHI MINH CITY) (B/-/D)
Breakfast at hotel. Time to relax before transferring to Phu Bai Airport for your flight to Saigon. Upon arrival, you will be greeted by your new tour guide for Southern Vietnam and transferred to hotel for check-in. Overnight in Saigon with dinner at the hotel.
Day 15 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 16 SAIGON – MEKONG DELTA – SAIGON (B/-/-)
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 before taking a boat back across the Mekong river and driving back to Saigon for dinner at a local restaurant.
Day 17 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 18 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.
Vietnamese set menu lunch and dinner at the park restaurant
Day 19 CAT TIEN NATIONAL PARK – SAIGON (B/-/D)
Wake up to the sounds of the native birds. Breakfast at the restaurant in the park before an optional morning walk to Crocodile Lake if not done the day before or a bike ride along the forest tracks. 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 20 SAIGON TO PHNOM PENH, CAMBODIA (B/-/D)
Breakfast at hotel. Check out and depart to the airport in time for your short international flight to Phnom Penh. Welcome to Cambodia! Clear immigration and collect your luggage before meeting up with your Cambodian city guide and driver who will take you to your hotel. Free time to relax for the rest of the day. Dinner at hotel
Day 21 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 22 PHNOM PENH – BUS TO SIEM REAP (B/-/-) - no guide escort
After breakfast, check out of the hotel and drive the short distance to the bus station in Phnom Penh for the shuttle bus to Siem Reap. 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 Siem Reap, 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 23 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 24 ANGKOR TEMPLES FULL DAY EXPLORATION (B/-/-)
Breakfast at hotel.
We then 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.
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 25 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 26 SIEM REAP DEPARTURE (B/-/-)
Breakfast at hotel. You are at leisure until check out and transfer to Siem Reap airport for your departure flight.