Indochina

Discover the remarkable landscapes, amazing cultures and welcoming people of Southeast Asia, from a Vietnamese cooking class to Cambodia's remarkable Angkor Wat to Loas' rural lifestyles.

Country Information

Vietnam

Cambodia & Laos

Indochina Enrichment Series

(Countries Visited)

Vietnam

,

Cambodia & Laos


(Interest Type(s))

Adventure Travel


(Tour Length)

19 Days


Tour Highlights

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  • New graphic smSpend two days and nights cruising Halong Bay, Vietnam, one of the most beautiful bays in the world with thousands of limestone islands
  • Enjoy the charming town of Hoi An on the river and learn about Vietnam’s classic foods as you select fresh foods in the market that you prepare during a cooking class
  • Discover the art and artists of Ho Chi Minh City, formerly Saigon, during museum and artists’ studio visits
  • Take in Laos’ rural villages for a look at everyday life and visit Luang Prabang, an enchanting town and UNESCO World Heritage Site filled with historic temples and colonial-style architecture
  • Travel to Siem Reap, Cambodia, for a first-hand exploration of the fabled Angkor Wat Temple complex

Day 1: Hanoi, Vietnam
Welcome to Asia! On arrival you are met and transferred to your hotel. As the modern-day capital of Vietnam, Hanoi blends old-world mystery and charm with the frenetic pace of modern life. Narrow lanes and traditional shop houses invite exploration by cyclo, while its many beautiful public spaces - lakes, parks, tree-lined boulevards and monuments - give the city an air of elegance and harmony with nature unique among Asian capitals. And everywhere there are motorcycles, some of which carry entire families or impossibly overflowing bundles of goods. Sofitel Legend Metropole – Premium Room Opera Wing

Day 2: Hanoi
Tree-lined boulevards and colonial buildings give the city a touch of Western elegance, while crowded blocks of tiny old houses and narrow lanes brim with the colorful activities of daily life. Take a ride in an electric car to visit the Old Quarter, famous for the 36 streets of the craftsmen. Its well-known landmarks include Hoan Kiem Lake, Quan Su Pagoda, Silk Road, Hanoi Railway Station, Hoa Lo Prison and Hanoi Opera House. A brief guided walk through the old section of the city brings the history to life, where you see many Vietnamese still carrying on daily life as generations before them did – from shop keepers to restaurant owners. You visit a Communal House, which dates back to the 13th century. Communal houses, often called temples, are found across Vietnam in both the country and the cities. A typical Vietnamese communal house resembles a pagoda and can be as richly decorated. Its function is to provide a space for local people to meet and for ceremonies to be held. End the day at the Water Puppet Show. The culturally famous water puppetry is Vietnam’s singular variation on the ancient Asian puppet tradition. Literally, the “puppets that dance on water” is an ancient tradition with origins from as far as the 11th century CE in the villages of the Red River Delta area of Northern Vietnam. As a Big Five guest you will have special access to interact with the puppeteers. Tonight’s dinner is very special. The Nineteen 11 is the only restaurant located within the grounds of the famous Opera House. Sofitel Legend Metropole – Premium Room Opera Wing (B,D)

Day 3: Hanoi
Start your day in a traditional fashion – with a private Tai Chi class at Hoan Kiem Lake. Then, enjoy a look at everyday life in Hanoi as you meet up with noted chef and author Daniel Hoyer, who will be your guide for this special tour of the street vender’s foods and the markets. Drive to the Cho Hom Market to learn about and taste some of the ingredients used in local cuisine and watch the buying and selling rituals of a Vietnamese market. Daniel will introduce you to some of the vendors, explain about the ingredients for sale. Enjoy a Vietnamese coffee or tea at Daniel's favorite, Cafe Tho, one of the many sidewalk cafes in the historic French Quarter. He will give an overview of the Vietnamese food scene, particularly in Hanoi, and discuss the upcoming activities. Drive to Truc Bach Lake (Ngu Xa Street) for a snack of Pho Cuon, a grilled beef and rice noodle roll. Then make a short visit to a smaller neighborhood market and street vendor area to gain a deeper understanding of cultural and food traditions of Vietnam. Have lunch with Daniel at one of Hanoi's best Bun Cha establishments. Bun Cha Chanh, open only a few hours in the afternoon, is a restaurant run by sisters and uses real wood for cooking where they still fan the fire by hand instead of the ubiquitous electric fans. Situated down a narrow lane, you sit on tiny stools at low plastic tables along with the regular crowd of Bun Cha aficionados and enjoy traditional grilled pork and rice vermicelli noodles with fresh herbs and greens like true Hanoians. Return to your hotel for an afternoon break. Later, you meet with noted art director Suzanne Lecht for a tour of the other side of Hanoi that garners attention – the modern art scene. Explore the galleries in Hanoi, and their histories. View current exhibitions. Lecht specializes in the development of the fine arts in Vietnam. The tour culminates with a visit to the 54 Traditions Gallery, the only gallery in Vietnam focusing on the antiques, artefacts and art of Vietnam's 53 minority groups and the Kinh majority. With more than 1,000 objects on display, the collection focuses on the everyday things they use. The antiques and art are set up in rooms that are dedicated to each of the following categories: Central Highlands, Tribal Textiles, The Shamanic Tradition, Functional Objects and Water Puppets.  The museum gallery also offers select objects from the Viets (the Kinh), the majority culture of Vietnam, including objects from the distant past. Return to your hotel later today. Sofitel Legend Metropole – Premium Room Opera Wing (B)

Day 4: Hanoi / Halong Bay
Set out today on a drive to Halong Bay, a UNESCO World Heritage Site with absolutely stunning scenery. The bay features thousands of limestone karsts and isles, with many that jut skyward, many with domes covered in dense rainforest. Here, you board your vessel for a two-night excursion. The evolution of the karst here has taken 20 million years. The first day of your cruise introduces you to the dramatic landscapes of Halong Bay and Bai Tu Long Bay. After cruising to the east of Halong Bay, you travel by row boat to the floating village of Vung Vieng. Cruse into Bai Tu Long Bay, which, when combined with Halong Bay, creates one of the most beautiful bays in the world. M/V Au Co – Deluxe Cabin (B,L,D) 

Day 5: Halong Bay
Begin your day on the sundeck with Tai Chi. Try this ancient form of movement that is used for relaxation, balance and health while soaking in the amazing panoramic views. After breakfast on board, go on a guided kayaking excursion, and maybe go for a swim in the Vung Ha area, a remote part of the Gulf Of Tonkin, featuring isolated beaches and nature at its most serene. Savor a delicious lunch while the ship cruises towards Lan Ha Bay and Cat Ba Island. Cat Ba Island is the largest in the Gulf of Tonkin, covered with a rainforest ecosystem that supports numerous indigenous species of flora and fauna. The secluded Village of Viet Hai, situated in the middle of this pristine environment, is easily accessible via a short walk or cycle trip. You can visit an organic farm beig developed in the village. M/V Au Co – Deluxe Cabin (B,L,D)

Day 6: Halong Bay / Hanoi / Danang / Hoi An
After a final morning of cruising, disembark at the pier where you are met and transferred back to Hanoi for your flight to Danang. On arrival, you are met and transferred to nearby Hoi An and to your luxury resort, a member of The Leading Hotels of the World. The Nam Hai – One Bedroom – Beachfront Villa (B)

Day 7: Hoi An
Hoi An is a charming riverside town south of Danang. Known as Faifo to early western traders, it was one of Southeast Asia's major international ports during the 17th, 18th and 19th centuries. This beautifully preserved city is best seen on foot. Cross the Japanese Covered Bridge Pagoda. The first bridge on this site was constructed in 1593 by the Japanese community of Hoi An to link the town with the Chinese quarters across the stream. The bridge was constructed with a roof so it could be used as a shelter from the rain and sun. Sa Huynh Museum is near the bridge and contains exhibitions from the earliest period of Hoi An's history. Visit the Tran Family Chapel, a house for worshipping ancestors built about 200 years ago. The family traces its origins to China before moving to Vietnam around 1700. The architecture of the building reflects the influence of Chinese and Japanese styles. Phuoc Kien Assembly Hall is a Chinese pagoda dedicated to Thien Hau Thanh Mau, Goddess of the Sea and Protector of Sailors and Fishermen. It was built around 1690, and was restored and enlarged in 1900. This is typical of the Chinese clans in the Hoi An area. Stroll through the historic town to the Thu Bon River, where a boat takes you across the river to the art studio of Sinh Trong. Here you will learn about traditional Vietnamese painting, and hear the story of the artist, who grew up in an orphanage in Hoi An. He has become a successful artist through his own determination and the assistance of Lifestart Foundation, which you will also visit later. Return to town by boat, and visit another workshop to learn how to make your own miniature Hoi An lantern. The Nam Hai – One Bedroom – Beachfront Villa (B)

Day 8: Hoi An
Today is a leisurely day, with the only activity being a unique cooking class. Begin with coffee at the Hai Scout Cafe before setting out to the Hoi An Market to purchase ingredients for cooking. Chat with the local vendors and experiencing the sights, smells, and action in this vibrant market. Weather permitting, you enjoy a brief 20-minute boat trip up the Thu Bon River to reach the Red Bridge Restaurant and Cooking School, where you prepare five traditional dishes to enjoy with lunch. You also see a demonstration of fruit and vegetable carving.The Nam Hai – One Bedroom – Beachfront Villa (B)

Day 9: Hoi An / Danang / Ho Chi Minh City (Saigon)
Transfer this morning to Danang airport for your flight to Ho Chi Minh City, still often referred to as Saigon. On arrival, you are transferred to your hotel before setting out on a private, guided tour of the city, including the art district. Visit the ochre-colored Fine Arts Museum (closed on Mondays) to learn more about the past, present and future of the arts movement in Vietnam. Head to Ben Thanh Art & Frame Gallery to admire contemporary artworks. Discover the private museum of art collector Duc Minh, who displays striking works of young artists and provides an overview of the flourishing Vietnamese arts scene. Drop by Gallerie Quynh, founded in 2000 by a Vietnamese-American Quynh Pham to promote a selected group of young artists. It also exhibits international artists, allowing local community access to a diverse range of contemporary art. This afternoon, drive to the impressive studio of a celebrated artist in Saigon’s suburban District 2. Being inspired by the lights, shadows and colors of Vietnam, artist Helene Kling has lived and painted in Vietnam since 1996. Wander around her studio to see her stunning artworks and antiques. Learn about her work and her inspiration on each piece. She also supports Operation Smile, by painting to raise funds for children needing cleft surgery. Time permitting, you will have time to relax before setting out this evening to enjoy Saigon like a local. Start with a sundowner drink at the new Skybar which offers panoramic views of the city, followed by a walk along the 23/9 Park. You see the brand new AO show, an intricate mixture of dance, percussion, acrobats and comedy – with bamboo poles and baskets as the only props. From here, you ride to dinner in vintage Vespa scooters to the 3T Quan Nuong Rooftop, a popular BBQ Restaurant. End up next door at Fanny's for ice cream. Movenpich Hotel Saigon (B,D)

Day 10:  Ho Chi Minh City / Luang Prabang, Laos
Today, you fly to Luang Prabang. On arrival, you are greeted and given a private transfer to your hotel, where the rest of the day is at leisure. 3 Nagas Boutique Hotel – Superior Room (B)

Day 11:  Luang Prabang
Today you begin your sightseeing tour of Luang Prabang. Set between the Nam Khan and Mekong rivers, Luang Prabang is an enchanting town filled with historic temples and colonial style buildings. The entire town was declared a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 1995. Start the day at Wat Visoun (Wat Wisunalat). The oldest living temple in Luang Prabang, Wat Visoun dates back to 1513 and contains a collection of antique wooden Buddhas. Visit the nearby Wat Aham before continuing to Wat Xieng Thong, the crowning jewel of all the monasteries and temples in the city. Its many ornate buildings feature exquisite mosaic and gold-stenciled murals. From there, stroll down the main street of Luang Prabang, stopping at some of the many temples that line its sides, including Wat Sibounheuang, Wat Si Moungkhoun, Wat Sop and Wat Sene. Continue to the National Museum (Royal Palace), a modest but graceful building which combines traditional Lao and French beaux-arts motifs. This turn-of-the century royal residence has been preserved as it was when the royal family last lived here and provides unique insights into the history of Laos. (Closed on Tuesdays). Afterwards, visit Wat Mai.  3 Nagas Boutique Hotel – Superior Room (B)

Day 12:  Luang Prabang / Oudomxai / Muang La
Set out to Oudomxai (Muang Xai), traveling through the scenic Laos countryside, stopping at minority villages enroute. Just before arriving in Oudomxai, stop at Tad Lak Sip-Et Waterfall, which cascades in a narrow stream over a limestone cliff.  Continue through other villages and  Song Cha. In Oudomxai, you explore this provincial capital with its richly mixed population of Lao Theung and Lao Seung, Chinese and Lao Loum. Off the main street there are traditional thatched houses spreading across the edge of the valley towards the base of the surrounding mountain range. Visit the local market, Phou Phra That and enjoy panoramic views of Oudomxai from Phou Xay Hill. From here, drive on to  your resort.  Muang La Resort - River View Room (B)

Day 13: Muang La 
Here you can take time to relax or enjoy the acitivites offered by the resort including 4x4 excursions into the mountians to encounter the hill tribes. Muang La Resort - River View Room (B)

Day 14: Muang La / Muang Khua / Nong Khiaw
Early this morning you will drive from Muang La resort to Muang Khua from where you take a boat to Nong Khiaw with sightseeing at Muang Ngoi.  This part of the river winds through spectacular scenery, with impressive limestone cliffs, jungle-like vegetation and sandy beaches. On the way, stop at MUANG NGOI, a lovely village right in the middle of the mountains, still inaccessible by road. Break for lunch and spend a few hours exploring the area before continuing to Nong Khiaw. Nong Kiau Riverside – Bungalow (B)

Day 15:  Nong Khiaw / Luang Prabang
Today you head by road to Luang Prabang.  En route, stop at Ban Pak Ou Village, and cross by local ferry to the steep limestone cliffs overlooking the Mekong and Nam Ou rivers, home to the Tham Pak Ou Caves. These extraordinary caves are filled with Buddha images, of every style and material imaginable. Continue to Ban Xang Hai Village, a local village famous for the production of lao-lao, the local rice wine whisky.  3 Nagas Boutique Hotel - Superior Room (B)  

Day 16:  Luang Prabang / Siem Reap, Cambodia
Transfer to the airport for your flight to Siem Reap, Cambodia, where you are met on arrival and transferred to your hotel.  This afternoon, you begin your exploration of one of the most extraordinary collections of city and temple ruins in Southeast Asia.  Angkor Thom was a fortified city that covers an area of 10 square kilometers/3.9 square miles.  Enclosed by a wall and wide moats, the city includes many of Angkor's most renowned sites. Enter by the monumental South Gate over a causeway lined on both sides by statues of demons and gods, each carrying a giant naga. Continue to the Terrace of the Elephants and the Terrace of the Leper Kings, former spaces for public ceremonies, both adorned with dramatic bas reliefs.  Visit the ruined Baphuon, Royal Enclosure and Phimeanakas before continuing to the mysterious Bayon Temple.  In this temple, one of the most popular and compelling in Angkor, explore the galleries of beautifully preserved bas reliefs and ascend narrow stairs that reach the central sanctuary, where you will find giant stone faces smiling enigmatically down at you from every angle.  Watch the sun set over the Cambodian countryside from the upper terraces of an ancient Angkorian temple. Belmond La Residence d’Angkor – Deluxe Room (B)

Day 17:  Siem Reap
The crowning jewel of Khmer architecture, Angkor Wat, is the national symbol and the highlight of any visit to Cambodia.  The largest, best preserved, and most religiously significant of the Angkor temples, Angkor impresses visitors both by its sheer scale and beautifully proportioned layout, as well as the delicate artistry of its carvings.  As you enter the main building, ascend through a series of galleries and courtyard before reaching the central sanctuary, which offers beautiful views back over the causeway and across the surrounding countryside.  On the way, you see intricate stone carvings adorning nearly every surface, with some 1,700 Apsaras, celestial dancers, sculpted into the walls.  The outer gallery walls displays the longest continuous bas-relief in the world, which narrates stories from Hindu mythology, including the famous Churning of the Ocean of Milk.  Angkor Wat is stunning at any time of the day, but sunrise and sunset are especially beautiful times to watch the play of light on the stones.  Ta Prohm is one of the most popular attractions of Angkor as much of the jungle has not been cleared away, and it looks very much as it would have appeared to the first European explorers who stumbled across this magnificent site. Seemingly miniature in comparison to the other Angkor temples, Banteay Srei is considered the jewel of classical Khmer art.  Built in pink sandstone, the walls are covered in exquisitely preserved carvings of unusual delicacy.  Because of its small size, fairy-like atmosphere and extraordinary examples of Khmer sculpture, this temple is a favorite with visitors. Belmond La Residence d’Angkor – Deluxe Room (B)

Day 18:  Siem Reap – Koh Ker
Today you have a full day excursion to Koh Ker* and Beng Mealea.  Koh Ker was once capital of Jayavarman IV.  It features the pyramidal Prasat Thom.  Beng Mealea, a 12th-century temple the size of Angkor, lies about 40 kilometers/25 miles from the Bayon.  It is enclosed by abroad moat.  The temple is still being reclaimed from the jungle as years of conflict in the region left it neglected and almost forgotten.  It is now one of the most popular remote temples owing to its wealth of classical bas reliefs.  Belmond La Residence d’Angkor – Deluxe Room (B)

*The Spirit of Big Five Foundation supports the nonprofit Heritage Watch organization in preserving and protecting these important ruins from looting and vandalism while helping the local community realize benefits through sustainable tourism.

Day 19:  Siem Reap / Bangkok / Depart
Today you are transferred to the Siem Reap airport for your flight to Bangkok, where you connect with your flight home.  (B)

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