Indochina Past & Present
- Culture & Heritage
Day 1: Arrival in Hanoi
Day 2: Hanoi – Fullday City Tour & Local food discovery
Day 3: Hanoi – Mai Chau
Day 4: Mai Chau – Buoc Village – Hanoi
Day 5: Hanoi – Halong Bay
Day 6: Halong Bay – Hanoi – Flight to Hue
Day 7: Hue – Full day City Tour
Day 8: Hue – Day train to Hoi An – Walking & Food tour
Day 9: Hoi An – Fishing and Farming Full day
Day 10: Hoi An – Day at leisure
Day 11: Hoi An/ Da Nang – Flight to Ho Chi Minh City
Day 12: HCM City – Cu Chi Tunnels & Cao Dai Temple
Day 13: HCM City – Ben Tre – Can Tho / Mekong Delta
Day 14: Can Tho – Cai Rang Floating Market – Chau Doc
Day 15: Chau Doc – Speed Boat to Phnom Penh
Day 16: Phnom Penh – Morning City Tour – Afternoon Flight to Siem Reap
Day 17: Siem Reap – Full-Day Temple Exploration
Day 18: Siem Reap – Further Temple Exploration
Day 19: Siem Reap – Afternoon flight to Luang Prabang
Day 20: Luang Prabang – Full-day Heritage Tour
Day 21: Luang Prabang – Pak Ou Caves – Kuang Si Waterfall
Day 22: Luang Prabang – Departure
Gain a deep insight into the past and present of Vietnam, Cambodia and Laos – the three countries which made up the Indochina region. You will start with a tour in Hanoi, which then followed by an excursion to Mai Chau to explore the mountainous villages. Enjoy an overnight on the cruise at Halong Bay before you head to central Vietnam and discover the charming towns of Hue and Hoi An. Travel further to the south where you will visit Ho Chi Minh City and experience the lively vibe of life on the Mekong Delta on a boat. In Phnom Penh, you will learn about the country’s dark years when visiting the Killing Field. Find the time gateway as you explore the ground of Angkor Wat and Banteay Srei in Siem reap. Make a memorable closure for your holiday in Luang Prabang with trips to its famous attractions – the National Museum, UXO Centre, Pak Ou Caves, and Kuang Si waterfalls.
Xin Chao! Welcome to Hanoi, Vietnam.
Upon arrival at Hanoi Airport, your private guide and driver are waiting to meet you, holding up a welcome signboard with your names on it and take you directly to your hotel in the Old Quarter.
We have left this afternoon free for you to relax, unwind, and become accustomed to your new surroundings. There will be a short tour briefing this evening with your guide followed by a welcome dinner at KOTO restaurant, a social enterprise that trains and employs underprivileged youth to provide a step up in life.
Please note: Your travel documents contain a Visa-on-Arrival letter (unless otherwise arranged). Please ensure to pack this in your carry-on luggage. Your Visa-on-Arrival letter must be presented to Customs upon entry into the country.
Overnight in Hanoi
Today with the help of your private guide and driver, you will get to explore the city’s top attractions, sample Hanoi’s authentic local dishes away from the tourist trails, hunkering down with the locals on the street at a variety of atmospheric food stalls.
Begin with a tour of Ho Chi Minh Memorial Complex where the Vietnamese people honour the country’s ‘Great Father’. Here you’ll visit Ho Chi Minh Mausoleum which contains the embalmed body of Ho Chi Minh and his House on Stilts to observe how he lived and how his life unfolded to become one of modern history’s greatest names. Nearside his house is the miniature 11th-century One Pillar Pagoda, a Buddhist temple of historical and cultural significance.
From HCM Complex, you will take a leisurely walk through the small laneways toward Huu Tiep Lake. Explore the grounds of a 400-year-old temple, followed by a stroll through traditional local market streets to see the B52 crash site at the lake. This US bomber was shot down during the 1972 bombing raids of Ha Noi, a poignant reminder of Vietnam’s recent history.
Take a short drive to the outskirt of Hanoi to visit the fascinating Museum of Ethnology which is both a research centre and a public museum exhibiting the 54 recognized ethnic groups of Vietnam. Some of them you will meet during your trip to Sapa.
Today you will have Pho for lunch, a Vietnamese Noodle shop. Some of the local people call this world-famous Noodle soup “Mac-Noodles” since it is as popular here as MacDonalds is in other parts of the world! At the restaurant, your tour guide will explain the routine during Vietnamese meal times, and also tell you which special ingredients are needed for you.
After lunch, continue to visit the millennia-old Temple of Literature and explore its role in the country’s past, as both a university and a Confucius temple. Next is Hoa Lo (so-called Hanoi Hilton), a prison used by the French colonists in Vietnam for political prisoners, and later by North Vietnam for U.S. Prisoners of War.
Embark on a fun cyclo (a three-wheeled bicycle taxi) ride through the French colonial architecture of the precinct known as the French Quater, past the French-style villas, the Vietnam History Museum, the heritage Metropole Legend Hotel and the Opera House, name to a few.
Enjoy a cup of unmissable Egg coffee at Pho Co Café with stunning views of Hoan Kiem Lake, Ngoc Son Temple, and the surroundings.
Finish the day with a walking tour through Hanoi’s Old Quarter (in contrast to the French Quarter) to discover the street food scene in Hanoi where it feels like you are never further than a few metres from a street food stall. Your guide will talk you through the ingredients and the different herbs of each dish, while you are crouching on tiny plastic stools in a back alley. Sample delicious dishes like Nom Du Du (green papaya salad), Banh Mi Pa Te (a sandwich that reflects Vietnam’s culinary heritage), and the famous Hanoi dish Bun Cha (grilled pork and noodles).
Overnight in Hanoi
After breakfast, meet your private guide and driver again and embark on a four-hour scenic drive through the picturesque countryside of green paddy fields and spectacular mountains to Mai Chau; home to many of Vietnam’s 54 indigenous minority tribes. Set in an idyllic valley, hemmed in by hills, Mai Chau is a world away from the bustling Hanoi.
Arrive Mai Chau around midday and check into the charming Mai Chau Ecolodge. Nestled in the Mai Chau valley surrounded by mountains and paddy fields this ecolodge is an oasis of peace, where you can totally regenerate.
Your guide will take you on a walking tour (or cycling if you wish) of Pom Coong and Lac villages. With stilt houses and lush, green rice paddy fields, Ban Lac and Pom Coong are quaint and serene ethnic Thai villages with many lovely and hospitable inhabitants. During the walk, you will be introduced to a local family. Have conversations on their life, festivals, and culture of the natives.
Continue your day to visit Mo Luong caves and Chieu caves. Two natural cavern systems with thousand-year-old stalactites and stalagmites are mother nature’s magnificent works of art. Filled with mineral structures of all shapes, sizes, and colors, these caves give you the feeling similar to that you get wandering into an ancient world of primitive creations. Such a unique experience cannot be ignored by those adventurous at heart.
You also pay a visit to Thai ethnographic museum. More than 1000 items on display are closely tied to the Thai’s everyday life. You will get to see hunting tools, ritual costumes, bowls, dishes, antique coins, musical instruments, hundreds of years old books, and so on. These authentic pieces of history represent the development of Thai culture over centuries.
Being one of the famous chef Gordon Ramsay’s destinations on his trip to Vietnam, Mai Chau offers an array of exotic native food. Tonight you will a local family and enjoy a delicious home-hosted dinner. Delight your taste buds with traditional dishes and try some rice wine made in the village.
After dinner, you will return to Mai Chau Ecolodge to attend a traditional dance show performed by the White Thai.
Overnight in Mai Chau
After breakfast, your private tour guide will pick you up and take you to the authentic Buoc village (travel time approximately 1 hour). On the way to Buoc village, you will pass by rice paddies and villages dotted with stilt houses. If you prefer, a bicycle ride can be arranged instead of the road drive. Upon arriving at Buoc village, you will enjoy a leisurely stroll visiting and interacting with the local families. A tribal family will warmly welcome you into their stilt house, where you will learn about their lifestyle, culture, and customs. Afterward, they will prepare a delicious, homemade lunch for you.
After lunch, bid a fond farewell to the host family and wind your way for 4 hours back to Hanoi. Arrive at your hotel in the late afternoon. The balance of the day will be yours to explore at your leisure.
Overnight in Hanoi
After breakfast, your private tour guide will pick you up and take you through the rich farmlands of the Red River Delta to the legendary Halong Bay where you will board a traditional-style Vietnamese Junk Boat that is your home for the evening. The limestone karsts and tropical islets rising up from the emerald waters of the bay provide an ethereal backdrop for your leisurely cruise.
Upon arrival you’ll be welcomed aboard your Stylish Junk boat, each with its own individual route, to begin your cruise around the bay’s thousands of limestone islets and caves.
After a delicious lunch on board, you will spend time to sunbathe on the sundeck and enjoy the peaceful tranquility of the bay.
Later you will visit Sung Sot Cave “Grotte des Surprises” a hidden gem of mother nature. Float peacefully through magnificent limestone formations containing thousands of stalagmites and stalactites.
Continue to cruise. As you weave your way through the islands, you’ll come across secluded bays, white sandy beaches, and floating villages.
There is plenty of leisure time to enjoy activities both onboard and around the fantastical scenery of the Bay. Pamper yourself at the cruise spa or swim in the emerald waters.
Toward the end of the day, you will sail to the overnight mooring area. During this time – the magical “blue hour” – Halong Bay reveals its true, magnificent beauty. You have a chance to attend the chef’s cooking demonstration or enjoy a mesmerising sunset on the top deck before a scrumptious dinner.
The rest of the evening will be at leisure. You can watch a movie or join the crew for squid fishing before retiring to your room for a restful sleep.
Note: If your time permits, we would highly recommend an additional night on board which gives you a lot more time to relax and take in the amazing landscape. You’ll get to cruise deeper into the Bay where it’s more beautiful and less crowded.
Overnight on board in Halong Bay
The graceful practice of Tai Chi eases you into your day as is the local custom. Join a ‘Local Specialist’ on the deck of the Junk boat for a morning class in exquisite natural surrounds. You’ll have time for an early morning swim at one of Halong Bay’s quiet beaches and, if you’re feeling energetic, hop on a kayak and paddle through the Dark and Bright Caves admiring the glittering stone walls.
Back to the Junk boat. Check out of the cabin and then enjoy a full brunch buffet as you cruise back to the shore.
At around noon, you will return to the main harbor where your driver is waiting to take you back to Hanoi’s Noi Bai airport to board a short flight to Hue. There will be a stop en route to visit the Ancient Pottery Village of Phu Lang.
Upon arrival at Hue Airport, a new private guide and driver will pick you up and take you to your hotel in downtown Hue for check-in. The rest of the afternoon and evening will be free at your leisure.
Overnight in Hue
Start your day with a fun cyclo (rickshaw) ride through the ‘Old City’ to Tinh Tam Lake where the Emperors used to come to relax. From here you will explore the Imperial City (the fifth Unesco World Heritage site on your list) with walls six miles in length; inside are the palaces, halls of the Mandarins, and the remains of the Forbidden Purple City.
Travel to the surrounding countryside to visit the final resting place (royal tomb) of King Khai Dinh, designed in traditional Vietnamese style with a European touch making it unique from the other tombs in Hue.
Pay a visit to Uu Dam Orphanage, home to about 50 orphans. Gain insight into their daily activities as well as the effort to take care of children. Chat with the children to understand their life at school as well as their dreams, before teaching them basic English, or join them in some games. Roll up your sleeves to prepare a vegetarian lunch for the kids and join them for lunch.
After lunch, your guide will take you to see Vietnam’s only Ancient colosseum “Tigers Arena” which was reserved for the battles between elephants and tigers. Most of the time, it was organized for the pleasure of the royal family and a part of the population.
Embark on the Dragon boat trip cruising down the famous Perfume River. En route, you will make a quick stop, get off the boat to visit Thien Mu Pagoda– Hue’s most famous religious site. Explore the pagoda’s landscaped gardens, the seven-storey octagonal tower, and watch the monks chanting.
Continue onto Truc Chi Garden, the crafting bamboo paper art workshop. You will have a chance to meet one of the students there and be treated to hands-on experience to learn how to use the etching technique with bamboo pulp to create artworks.
End your day at Dong Ba Market which runs along the north bank of Huong (Perfume) River. You will have a chance to discover a favorite Noddle shop by Anthony Bourdain – the World Famous Chef and TV Producer. Sample the best Bun Bo Hue “Hue Noddle soup”.
Overnight in Hue
After breakfast, transfer to Hue Railway station to catch the day train (soft seats with air conditioning) to Da Nang, enjoy the best scenic train route in Vietnam. The three-hour train ride passes through picturesque countryside, then skirts on the side of a mountain as you travel along the coastline. You have the chance to meet locals on board and make new friends on the journey!
Upon arrival in Da Nang, you and you will be picked up and driven to your hotel in Hoi An, the UNESCO heritage town. Hoi An has a pick of two beaches just 5kms (3 miles) away with so many beautiful beach resorts so please advise us if you prefer to stay on the beach.
Your tour guide will take you to the Ancient Quarter of Hoi An where you will embark on a walking tour visiting the major attractions such as Chua Ong Pagoda, Tan Ky Ancient House, Fujian Assembly Hall, and the Japanese Covered Bridge.
Continue to visit the Precious Heritage Museum, home to the permanent exhibition of Réhahn’s Precious Heritage Collection. While transporting you to the furthest reaches of Vietnam, the collection will unveil the rich cultural tapestry of the ethnic tribes.
The highlight of the day is the visit to the Reaching Out Tea House, a welcome little oasis of calm in the busy, vibrant Old quarter, owned and operated by the mute and deaf people. Here you will be treated with delicious cakes and incredible tea in the Eastern style.
Move on to the house of a lantern craftsman. There, you can observe the lantern craftsman’s technique before hands-on work through each stage of lantern-making under the guidance of the enthusiastic craftsmen: from bending it into the frame, cutting cloth, gluing, to completing lanterns. Before this trip concludes, you will have your own lantern created by your own hands.
Now, it’s time for your Hoi An street food discovery tour. With your guide, you will weave in and out the tiny alleyways, get to chow down with the locals at stalls you’d never discover on your own. Every day at 4 pm, Hoi An’s streets filled with a myriad of street food carts, stalls, and vendors. The street food tour is a great introduction for you to enjoy a few of the Hoi An specialties cooked up by the locals, to introduce you to the faces behind the stock pots and to teach you how the Hoi An locals deal with those condiment trays!
Overnight in Hoi An
Today you will join a farming and fishing tour in Hoi An’s beautiful surrounding countryside which provides you with a close-up and intimate exposure to both the local farming and fishing communities.
(Note: you don’t know how to ride bicycles, please use our scooter “XE OM” services with little additional charges)
Kick off your Hoi An tour by cycling bikes through the paddy fields and taking in the rural scenes – farmers tending to their crops and water buffalo ploughing the fields. You will experience the friendliness of the local people greeting you along the way. The photo opportunities are endless.
Your first stop is at the Tra Que Vegetable Village where you take part in the farming section. This organic vegetable and herb farm is beautifully presented and it supplies much of Hoi An with its fresh produce. Here, you will learn the traditional methods for tilling the soil, planting and watering the vegetables. Certainly, you will have a chance for some hands-on fun.
From Tra Que Village you continue to paddle along palm-lined paths through the paddy fields, passing flocks of ducks scrabbling up muddy banks and water buffalo catching forty winks in the shade to reach your next stop. This is where you will ride a water buffalo in a rice paddy field and enjoy the freshest air of the countryside beauty.
Once your brush with the farming life over, you will board the wooden boat and cruise to the mouth of the river where it meets the Cua Dai Sea. Start the fishing section of the tour. First, you will learn how to paddle bamboo basket boats and take them for a ride along the secluded waterways, before meeting up with some local fishermen who will teach you to a few traditional net fishing techniques. You may be not very skillful – but it is certainly fun to give it a go.
Your tour ends with a delicious Vietnamese lunch on board the boat, cooked by your friendly crew, who also keep you entertained by making you and your kids some amazingly intricate creations from palm fronds.
Transfer back to your hotel where the balance of the day is at your leisure.
Overnight in Hoi An
Spend your full day to relax at your leisure in this UNESCO heritage town, which has some of the best food, architecture, and shopping in all of Vietnam. Hoi An is the perfect place to potter around, shop at the many tailor stores, and dine at the town’s fabulous restaurants. In this town, you can get a suit/ tuxedo made within 24 hours at a reasonable price. You can also take an opportunity to join a cooking class to learn about the arts of Vietnam culinary; visiting the local market, choosing ingredients and preparing and cooking Hoi An special dishes. This is great fun.
Overnight in Hoi An
After breakfast, you will be picked up and driven to Da Nang Airport for a short flight heading south to Ho Chi Minh City, still called Saigon by the locals. It is the largest city in Vietnam and is located near the Mekong Delta.
Upon arrival, you will be met by a new private driver and English-speaking guide who will drive you to the hotel in the city centre for check-in.
Spend the rest of the day visiting some of Ho Chi Minh City’s key highlights. We’ll tailor your tour to suit you, but we particularly recommend visiting the Notre Dame Cathedral, the ornate City Hall (Hotel De Ville), the old Opera House, the historic Rex Hotel, the Central Post Office, renowned for its architecture, and Ben Thanh Market, where vendors display a vast array of goods and handicrafts, appealing to every taste.
Later stop at the Reunification Palace and the moving War Remnants Museum to for an insightful, yet sombre, look into Vietnam’s military history and turbulent past.
Proceed to the atmospheric Jade Emperor Pagoda before finishing the day in fine style with a sundowner at the top of the Bitexco Tower, the tallest building in Vietnam.
Overnight in HCM City
After breakfast, your guide and driver will transfer you to Cao Dai Temple in Tay Ninh Province.
On arrival, set out to explore the sacred temple and learn more about the fascinating Cao Dai religion, which borrows elements from Buddhism, Christianity, Confucianism, Hinduism, Islam, and Taoism. You will then take part in the midday mass, admiring the monks in their colorful robes and listening to the mesmerizing chants.
After enjoying lunch at a local restaurant you will be transferred to Cu Chi, a small community located northwest of Ho Chi Minh City, known for its network of deep tunnels that provided shelter and an effective source of infiltration for the Vietcong during the later years of the Vietnam War.
Upon arrival, you will watch a short introductory video from the period before exploring the tunnels, the most famous battlegrounds in the world. The hidden network of Viet Cong tunnels is believed to stretch to “hundreds of miles,” in total length, housed living quarters, storage rooms, makeshift hospitals, and kitchens…etc. Although originally very narrow, some parts have been widened for the tourists and you have the opportunity to explore parts of the system.
Please note that these tunnels will be hot and can get claustrophobic, so there is an option if you’d like to view from above ground.
Try some of the main food of the Viet Cong Soldiers with a cassava tasting served with tangy tea. After experiencing the Cu Chi Tunnels, return to Ho Chi Minh City where the remainder of the day will be at your leisure.
Overnight in HCM City
After breakfast, your private guide and driver will take you out of HCM City in a private vehicle and onto some beautiful country roads to Ben Tre Town in the Mekong Delta, famous for its vast rice fields, numerous waterways, and beautiful landscapes. Known as the ‘rice bowl’ of Vietnam, this region produces most of Vietnam’s fruit, rice, sugar cane, and coconuts.
After the two-hour drive through the lush farming land, you will arrive in Ben Tre where you will set out on a motorized boat trip on narrow channels winding through the coconut forest. During the boat ride, you will stop at the local cottage industries to see how the local people make bricks and weave sleeping mats by hand. Learn about their craft handed down through generations.
Take a leisure walk along the village lanes, visiting the local homes to try fresh fruits, taste delicious honey tea while enjoying a local Tai Tu music show. Continue to visit another workshop where the local delicacy of coconut candy is produced and a wide range of coconut husk and fiber products are skillfully handcrafted.
Next, take a small sampan through palm-fringed back canals, gliding peacefully along the hidden waterways surrounded by an immense variety of tropical plants. The quiet, rural setting is a welcome and restorative retreat to the frenetic buzz of HCM City which seems far, far away.
Enjoy sitting in the back a Motor Cart (xe lôi) passing local hamlets, rice fields, coconut groves, and lush orchard farms while meeting with local people.
After enjoying lunch at a local restaurant you will return to Ben Tre town and continue the drive through the fields and towns of the Mekong to Can Tho city, stopping at the Vinh Trang Pagoda if time permits.
Spend the evening at your leisure. Explore Can Tho night market by yourself and try some local food. The market streets come alive with dozens of bustling food stalls selling grilled meats and tofu on skewers, as well as grilled rice-paper banh trang nuong(‘Vietnamese pizza’)…etc.
Overnight in Can Tho
Rise early for a boat trip to Cai Rang market, the biggest floating wholesale market of the Mekong region. The market is filled with hundreds of small boats darting through the water as vendors sell their wares. Glide through the matrix of boats to see how the locals trade their fruits and vegetables and learn more about the floating marketing culture and the floating life on the boats. After that, you will be treated with a delicious local breakfast (rice noodle soup) on the boat just like the way the local people do. You will also have a chance to stop at a local boat to enjoy some of the succulent fruit in the season.
Leaving the market, continue your boat ride along narrow canals to visit a traditional homemade rice noodle factory where you can see how the locals make rice noodles, and enjoy the homemade “rice noodle pizza”.
Next, transfer to a local farm where you’ll spend the rest of the morning interacting with a local family. Take a tour around their property as they describe their daily tasks and responsibilities. Learn about the traditional methods of planting and watering vegetables, local herbs, and flowers. After some lessons, you have a go at planting some vegetables and try to cross a challenging monkey bridge.
End your farming and country experience with delicious authentic Vietnamese lunch cooked and served by the family.
After lunch, bid a fond farewell to the local family, and take a 3-hour drive Chau Doc to visit Tra Su Forest & Bird Sanctuary, a surprisingly beautiful and serene spot. Upon arrival, take a motorboat to venture into the heart of Tra Su Forest. After that, switch to a sampan boat to discover the natural sights for about 15 minutes and then visit the wild bird sanctuary carpeted with green duckweed. Proceed to the observation post where you can take in the magnificent view over the forest and nearby mountains.
Finish your day and transfer to the Victoria Nui Sam Lodge for check-in. Nestled on the side of the spiritual Sam Mountain, home to dozens of pagodas and temples, the 26 stone bungalow lodge offers a unique experience in a truly magnificent location.
Overnight in Chau Doc
After an early breakfast and check out, a member of the staff from the speed boat company will pick you up and take you to the docks for a 5-hour boat ride crossing the border into Cambodia as you travel to the next country in Indochina. The speed boat crew will assist you with the Cambodia entry visa process at the border (this usually takes about 30minutes).
Note: For the Cambodian Visa on Arrival, please make sure you have 1 passport sized 3 cm x 4 cm photo and $30 for the stamping fee.
Arrive in Cambodia and transfer to your hotel in downtown for check-in. After short rest, head out to visit the infamous Tuol Sleng Genocide Museum (also known as Prison S21) and listen to English commentary en route. The prison comprises 4 buildings with exhibitions in several rooms. During your visit, you will barely meet a single person who didn’t lose a member of their family during these years, yet they are all willing to talk openly about it with you. They wish you to hear about it and see these places, to ensure that it never happens again.
Following the museum, take a 40-minute drive to the Killing Fields, see a documentary on the Khmer Rouge regime. Under the leadership of Pol Pot, his government caused the deaths of more than two million people. There will be around 1 hour and 15 minutes to explore the site. An audio guide is available in 15 languages along with a map of the fields.
End your day at Wat Phnom, the birthplace of the city, located on a small hilltop that forms the highest elevation of Phnom Penh.
Overnight in Phnom Penh
After breakfast, take a guided tour to visit the most remarkable sights of Phnom Penh in a Cyclo (a three-wheeled bicycle taxi), an original Phnom Penh means of transportation and a fun way to explore this lively city.
Begin with a visit to the Royal Palace Compound built-in 1866 by the Predecessors of King Norodom, the most conspicuous feature and also one of the most impressive colorful Khmer-style Palaces. Nearside the Royal Palace is Silver Pagoda (The Emerald Buddha temple), which displays plenty of Buddha Statues that were decorated and made by diamond, emerald, gold, and silver.
Next, proceed to visit Independence Monument which was constructed in 1954 after Cambodian took their country back from the French colony. Continue to visit the National Museum, the distinctive red building with a beautiful Khmer architecture was built since 1917 containing more than 5000 art objects made of sandstone, bronze, silver, copper, wood, and others. Pass through the River Front Park whose scenery is much worth shooting.
For lunch, you will be treated to a delicious Khmer meal at Le Lotus Blanc, a lovely charity restaurant where former street children are taught the principles of hospitality.
Following lunch, transfer to Phnom Penh airport to board a short flight to Siem Reap. On arrival, you will be met and driven to your hotel in downtown Siem Reap for check-in. After a short rest, head out to visit the excellent Angkor National Museum. The visit serves as an excellent primer to the gems of Angkor before visiting the temples. The museum provides a potentially large collection of relics, texts and audiovisual presentations relating to the Angkorian era. With even a basic knowledge of the history and symbolism of the architecture, you will have a much richer and engaging experience visiting the temples.
Overnight in Siem Reap
Today with the help of your private and driver you will embark on a full day’s sightseeing around the Angkor Archaeological Park which stretches over some 400 square kilometres, including forested area. The park contains the magnificent remains of several capitals of the great Khmer Empire of the 9th to the 15th centuries.
Begin your day with an early visit (avoid the crowds) to the 13th-century Ta Prohm, a hauntingly beautiful temple where the roots of giant banyans and strangler figs enfold much of the stonework, creating scenes little changed since the French Adventurer Henri Mouhot re-discovered Angkor in the 1850s. This temple makes the ‘Tomb Raider Temple’ one of the most picturesque and memorable of the Angkor temples.
Continue your explorations by visiting the ancient capital city of Angkor Thom, the last capital of the Great Khmer Empire that once ruled much of Southeast Asia. This city is surrounded by an 8 m high wall drawing a perfect square. You will enter the city from the ancient South Gate, an impressive stone gate carved with Elephants and four giant faces. On each side of the entrance path, a row of 54 gods or demons is holding the sacred Naga snake.
Return to the hotel for a relaxing break during the midday heat.
Your exploits will continue as you visit Banteay Kdei (“Citadel of Chambers”), a Buddhist monastery from the late 12th Century, and Sra Srang, also known as the “pool of ablutions”. From here, move onto the Bayon Temple in the exact centre of the ancient city. This 12th-century masterpiece is a study in grandeur and is well-known for its 54 towers with enigmatic faces representing the 54 provinces of the Great Khmer Empire.
You will also visit the Terrace of the Elephants and the Terrace of the Leper King as they are both known for their intricate bas-reliefs. Stroll through the grounds of the former Royal Palace to discover some small hidden temples that are rarely visited.
Finish your day sightseeing with a leisurely gondola boat ride through the moats of Angkor Thom. In the tranquil solitude, visualize the royal city when it ruled over two million people nearly 800 years ago. As the sun approaches the horizon, make your way to Prasat Chrung, a small temple built in the style of Bayon, and climb an iron staircase to a quiet spot for excellent sunset views over the ruins.
Your tour guide and driver will transfer you to a local village on the outskirt of Siem Reap where you will enjoy a home-hosted dinner. Experience the simple Khmer village life, relaxing in a swaying hammock, or helping the local family to prepare dinner, picking fresh produce from their organic gardens. In this amiable and informal setting, feel free to ask the village elders about Khmer traditions and daily life in this community.
Overnight in Siem Reap
Today, you’ll continue to experience the temple relics but in a way that will really let you feel like you’ve escaped the 20th century and traveled a thousand years back to a time when life was simple and nature was surreal.
As first light dawns, you will be at the most important religious monument in the country, admiring the extraordinary Temple of Angkor Wat across a reflecting moat.
When the sun rises behind the triple towers, the crowds will thin out as most people return to bed or a hotel breakfast. We will make use of the cool temperatures and soft morning light to explore Angkor Wat in a more peaceful atmosphere.
After enjoying your takeaway breakfast (prepared by your guide) near the temple, you will start exploring one of the Seven Wonders of the World: Angkor Wat. At this point, you most probably have gotten glimpses of the towers over treetops and the gates in front of passing. But now you’ll finally get to satiate that curiosity that’s grown in the last few days.
Enter Angkor Wat and learn about the stories and amazing architecture that has stunned archeologists leaving more questions than answers. Angkor Wat possesses some of the most intricate and longest stone carvings in the world. This complex is four times the size of the Vatican City making it the largest religious site in the world. Spend the rest of the morning adventuring through the many passages, levels, and exploring chambers that once housed one of many treasures of the ancient world. It will be an experience you will never forget.
Leaving Angkor Wat behind you will travel to the countryside to see the “gem” of the Angkor area, the pretty temple of Banteay Srey. The so-called “Citadel of the Women” remains the best-preserved temple in Cambodia. It displays some of the finest examples of classical Khmer art as this small temple is noted for its truly remarkable fine bas-reliefs. Banteay Srey is unique in that it is constructed of pink sandstone, which is seen nowhere else in Angkor.
Continue your day by driving up north to Kbal Spean, one of the earliest Hindu pilgrimage sites in Cambodia. Upon arrival, you will take a short trek up the hill through dense jungle with excellent views over the plains and the Kulen hills. At the top, be surprised about the “River of 1000 Lingas” with some remarkable stone carvings of Hindu gods, animals, and other symbols in the river bed.
After enjoying a picnic lunch you can take a refreshing bath in the nearby waterfall, which is extremely popular with the local families.
On the way back to Siem Reap, make a quick stop at the Land Mine Museum which promotes mine awareness. Mr. Aki Ra, the museum founder, was trained as a child soldier during the Khmer Rouge regime and is working today as a de-miner. The museum serves also as a rescue centre for a number of land mine amputee children that Aki Ra has brought off Phnom Penh’s streets or from impoverished rural communities.
Your guide and driver will take you out to watch Phare – the Cambodian Circus, an amazing blend of traditional and modern theater, music, dance, acrobatic, juggling and contortion beautifully choreographed and performed in a story about Cambodian lives and society.
Overnight in Siem Reap
After breakfast and a leisurely morning on your own, you will check out of your hotel by midday.
Your private driver will take you to the Siem Reap airport for a short flight to Luang Prabang, the ancient first capital of the Lane Xang kingdom. It is the centre of religious life in Laos and a World Heritage City.
At the Luang Prabang airport, for the Laotian Visa on Arrival, please make sure you have 2 passport-sized photos and $40 for the stamping fee. After you have gone through customs, your private guide and driver will pick you up and take you to your hotel for check-in. The balance of the day will be free at your leisure.
Overnight in Luang Prabang
Start your day with a visit to the Morning Market, a lively street where locals shop for everything from colorful vegetables and exotic fruits to live frogs.
From the energy of the market, you’ll step into the serene calm of one of the city’s most elaborate monasteries, Wat Mai, and then to the former King’s Palace, where you’ll discover the history and present life of Luang Prabang. Next, head to the ancient Wat Xieng Thong temple, which features a spectacular low sweeping roof. It’s Luang Prabang’s most distinctive and recognized monastery.
After lunch at a local restaurant, continue to explore the 16th century Wat Visoun temple, best known for its enormous stupa and its collection of old gilded Buddhas.
Pay a visit to the Traditional Art and Ethnology Centre (TAEC)**, the only independent resource center in Laos dedicated to the country’s many and diverse ethnic groups. If time permits, you can visit the Ock Pop Tock Living Craft Center, set serenely close to the Mekong, this beautiful, traditionally styled workshop, where weavers, spinners, and batik makers produce top-quality fabrics, offers free tours every half-hour.
Feeling suitably enlightened, end your day with a climb to the top of Mount Phousi, the city’s highest point where you’ll enjoy sweeping views of the city and the Mekong River below. After that transfer back to your resort where the rest of the evening will be at your leisure.
Overnight in Luang Prabang
Rising early to join the most sacred tradition of Laos, the daily morning almsgiving, which dates back to the 14th century. Every morning, hundreds of monks from the various monasteries walk through the streets collecting alms.
After breakfast, meet your guide for a forty-minute drive to the Pak Ou Village where you will explore the many crafts that the locals make before crossing the mighty Mekong River by small boat to the base of a limestone cliff, the site of the Pak Ou Cave. The lower cave is impressive and filled with Buddhist statues and relics. Take your time to explore the reverent scene scented with burning incense and overlooking the impressive Mekong landscape. Up a winding series of stairs, grab a flashlight and you’ll find another fascinating and easily navigated cave to explore with its ancient Buddhist relics.
After having lunch at a local restaurant, you will cross the Mekong River again by boat and continue with a drive downriver for 1.5 hours to the famous Kuang Si Waterfall, one of the most spectacular swimming holes on the continent. The jungle around the waterfall remains lush and beautiful year-round. The waterfall cycles between placid, turquoise waters during the dry season to the impressive, roaring falls during the rainy season.
Before taking a dip in the beautiful Kuangsi Falls, you will get a behind the scenes experience with the team from Free the Bears. This sanctuary rescues and rehabilitates sun, moon, and sloth bears from bile farms.
Transfer to an organic farm where you experience the new Lao Buffalo dairy that produces cheese and a range of delicious dairy products. The diary provides income and a sustainable future for the Lao people involved. Learn how to milk a Buffalo, cuddle a Buffalo for the perfect selfie and try some incredible ice cream.
You will end this full day with a return drive to Luang Prabang late afternoon. Stop en route to see the popular Whiskey Village and sample the locally made Lao Lao.
Overnight in Luang Prabang
Your private transfer greets you at the hotel after breakfast and escorts you to Luang Prabang International Airport where you board your flight home or travel on to more adventures, we will help you with the planning.
This tour is built upon our firsthand knowledge & experience, offering you the best choices available. The price of this trip varies depending on the number of people in your party, dates of departure, and availability of ground services. Please click on REQUEST A FREE QUOTE (above) and supply the required information, enabling us to send you your personalized quote within 24 hours!
Note: Amendments CAN be made to this tour to suit your requirements.
- Discover Hanoi’s best-known landmarks, enjoy authentic local food
- Travel to the verdant Mai Chau Valley, a patchwork of rice paddies, emerald hills, and charming traditional villages
- Sail the Emerald waters of Halong Bay on an overnight cruise
- Discover the Imperial Citadel and the Emperor Mausoleums in Hue
- Stroll through streets of Hoi An Ancient town and taste the delicious local food
- Visit Tra Que village and take part in a fun farming lesson. Cruise on a wooden boat to explore the local fishing communities.
- Discover the spectacular maze of Cu Chi tunnels below ground. See the Notre-Dame Cathedral and the Reunification Palace in Ho Chi Minh City
- Discover the famous Cai Rang Floating Market and the Cottage Industries in the Mekong Delta
- Visit Tra Su Forest & Bird Sanctuary, a surprisingly beautiful and serene spot in the magnificent view over the forest and nearby mountains
- Delve into the dramatic Khmer legacy in Phnom Penh on a full-day guided tour around the Cambodian capital, passing by the sobering Tuol Sleng Genocide Museum (S21) and Killing Fields of Choeung Ek
- Enjoy one day of fully guided Angkor complex tours in Siem Reap, with in-depth insights into the history of these extraordinary structures and plenty of time to see the spectacular Angkor Wat
- Visit various temple and museum in Luang Prabang to learn about the culture of Laos
- Walk around the evergreen nature of Kuang Si waterfalls, Cruising along the might Mekong River to visit the mysterious Pak Ou caves.
- 21 hotel buffet breakfasts.
- 13 lunches, 3 dinners and at well-selected restaurants
- 2 street food tours
- Your own private guide and driver for in-depth cultural touring based on your interests
- Firsthand, sophisticated destination knowledge and recommendations from our locally born travel specialists
- Itineraries that are customized according to your interests and preferences
- A seamless travel experience, including all logistics, hand-picked hotels and restaurants, private airport transfers, internal transportation, and entry visa assistance…etc
- Around-the-clock support from your travel designer and concierge before, during and after your trip
Private English speaking guide, accommodation, private tours and transfer, domestic flights, A/C vehicles, some main meals, all entrance fees, tax and service charge.
What’s Not Included?
Your international flights to Vietnam and from Laos, entry visas, personal expense, tips to guide and driver.
Free service. No credit card required
Reviews on Our Service
We are committed to giving our customers unforgettable experiences in Vietnam, Laos, Cambodia and beyond, not just something staged for tourists. Read reviews written by our customers about their experiences in Indochina after they have returned home. These include the ratings and comments on attractions, guides, activities, hotels and food.
Vietnam Luxury Vacation Review: Sightseeing, Culture, 12-Day Travel
Hanoi, Ho Chi Minh City, Sightseeing, Rice Fields, Boat Rides, 18-Day Trip
We started searching for our tour for Vietnam / Cambodia back in October 2022 to start the tour in the first week of January 2023. We selected this travel agency, and contact name provided to us was Elly. She was extraordinary with her communication with us. Excellent English speaking language capability & excellent in communication on Whats app and email communication. We went back & forth few times to arrange the tour we wanted. She was very accommodating in arranging our schedule. We requested automobile tour for both countries, just for two of us.
We requested SUV FOR OUR COMFORT AND WE GOT IT!
We requested to get the high end hotel in each city and she gave us choices and not only that but send videos of each hotel for each City and then waited for us to decide which hotel we select. All the Hotels turned out to be one of the best we would expect to be. M/s Elly, personally came to visit with us on the evening of our first day tour. Very respectful and asked if she could do anything for us.I had requested before in our communication, if she would arrange for power converter for us, since my camera chargers are all in 110. So brought two power converters for us! Something, not everyone will do this kind of service. So all the kiddos to her!
as to the drivers in each city were very courteous, very professional and very careful in how and where they have to do driving.
our Guides in each city were so friendly, courteous and knowledgeable in where ever we visited. How ever wish two guides in Hue An and Ho Chi Minh City spoke English more clearly.
We only wish we had one extra day in Hanoi and Ho Chi Minh City, , however, there is so much to see in the world! Perhaps next time will visit Vietnam.
As to Cambodia, same thing to express about site seeing and our Guide and drivers. Guides and drivers really made our travel thro’ the countries where we do not speak that language, made it so comfortable and enjoyable.
Hi Lam…hope you don’t mind me contacting you directly. My wife Barb & I (Paul) have just arrived home after completing a great tour of Vietnam which was organised through your company Asia Pioneer Travel.
We want to tell you personally how impressed were were with the level of service that we received…it was amazing and the best that we have experienced anywhere. After we made initial contact with you, you handed us over to Chloe to arrange the trip which she did in very quick time and the amount of detail that she went to was fantastic. From the moment that we walked out of Hanoi airport on arrival to see our guide waiting, we knew that we were in for a great trip. The drivers & guides were fantastic and Chloe was in contact by email constantly making sure that everything was going to plan & that we were happy. At one stage we need to vary the itinerary by extending accommodation & changing air tickets and Chloe did that without any fuss or bother.
We also met some wonderful Vietnamese people along the way and Ive got to say that they are our kind of people, very generous & friendly.
Enough of my ramblings, thanks for a great visit to Vietnam, and a special thank you to Chloe for looking after us in such a terrific manner…she is a very special caring lady.
Kind regards & I hope that we have the opportunity to use Asia Pioneer Travel again….Paul & Barb Little from Newcastle Australia
Superbly organised and very flexible
We travelled to Vietnam for two weeks, booking the whole trip through Lizzie at Asia Pioneer, including hotels, excursions, trips, guides and internal flights. Lizzie was so helpful and flexible, accommodating changes to our schedule until the last minute, especially as we missed our connecting flight in Dubai and arrived a day later than planned (our fault). Nothing was too much trouble, including getting my wallet back to me after I left it in the car taking us to the airport.
We started in Hanoi in the North and worked our way south to Ho Chi Minh city (Saigon), taking in Ha Long with its amazing sea stacks and sleeping on a boat, then to Sa Pa on the overnight sleeper train from Hanoi, with its wonderful countryside and rice terraces. Afterwards, we went to Hoi An for three days of relaxation. Hoi An probably my favourite place and three days are enough to cover it. Then onto Hue, the original capital, my least favourite place and then finally on to HMC, which was a real contrast to the North.
The 3-star hotels that Lizzie picked were very good and comfortable, and the guides were very knowledgeable. I would definitely use Asia Pioneer again for future Asia trips.