Two Pearls of Southeast Asia
This tour takes you to two very different SE Asian countries. Enjoy the excitement and magnificence of Vietnam and the extraordinary splendor of gentle Laos.
You will visit cities, ancient towns, unique natural landscapes, spectacular historical and spiritual architecture and the natural friendliness of the peoples of both countries.
DAY 1: ARRIVAL HO CHI MINH CITY (D)
On your arrival at the Tan Son Nhat International Airport, you will be picked up and transferred to check into your hotel (early check-in is subject to the hotel’s availability). Being the heart and soul of South Vietnam, Ho Chi Minh is a bustling, dynamic and industrious city. It is not only the largest city but also the economic capital and trendsetter of Vietnam. Yet within the teeming metropolis are the timeless traditions and beauty of an ancient culture. The city streets of Ho Chi Minh come to life as you experience a myriad of street markets, shops, pavements, cafes, stands-on-wheels and vendors all with their wares spread out on the sidewalks. Let the exhilarating vibe of Ho Chi Minh City fill you with joy and wonder. You will start off by visiting the Reunification Palace, a tribute to the war when the gates came crashing down in Saigon to the North Vietnamese. In the same area is the Notre Dame Cathedral with the twin bell towers that form the most famous landmark in Ho Chi Minh as that can be seen for miles. You will spend the rest of the night in Ho Chi Minh City.
DAY 2: HO CHI MINH CITY – VINH LONG – HO CHI MINH CITY (B/ L/ D)
To start the morning off, we leave Ho Chi Minh City for a beautiful scenic drive through the Mekong River Delta, home to the richest agricultural lands in Vietnam. Enjoy a boat trip to an island that houses orchard gardens and the beautiful Cai Be floating market, a famous place in the Mekong Delta. The Cai Be floating market is a magnificent site to see as hundreds of small merchant boats anchor alongside the banks of the river trading their commodities. We continue with our cruise through the maze of canals that crisscross around An Binh island. Lunch is served at Mr. Muoi Huong old house. We can enjoy the delicious fresh tropical fruits of the Delta as we continue to cruise through islands and cross the Mekong River to Vinh Long (2km). On our way back to Ho Chi Minh City, we will visit the bonsai garden. Enjoy dinner with delicious dishes and elegant music. You will spend the night in Ho Chi Minh City.
DAY 3: HO CHI MINH CITY - HUE (B/ L)
After breakfast, there is a half day tour around the city and a visit to the Thien Hau Temple. Thien Hau is a 16th century Chinese temple in Cho Lon, which is dedicated to Thien Hau or the goddess of the sea who is said to protect fishermen and sailors. A trip to the War Remnants Museum will introduce some culture but some history as you experience this tribute to the Vietnam War. Lunch will be served at Chateau 1 Restaurant. In the early afternoon, you will be transferred to Tan Son Nhat Airport to catch the flight to Hue City in the Central region of Vietnam. Hue was the political, economic and cultural capital of Vietnam during the Nguyen Dynasty (1802 – 1945) and was the home of past emperors. Our tour of Hue starts at the beautiful Imperial Citadel, a UNESCO World Cultural Heritage Site since 1993. The Citadel includes the Imperial City and Forbidden City. Enjoy the various palaces, ornate halls, libraries, residences, colleges, Flag Tower and Noon Gate. We then visit the traditional Dong Ba Market, a typical market that has existed in this way for centuries. Vendors sprawl their goods out for you where you can walk and select the items you want. Dinner will be served at Y Thao Garden Restaurant. You will stay the rest of the night in Hue.
DAY 4: HUE (B/ L)
We spend the entire day exploring ancient Hue and finding its beauties and marvels. We first start off by taking a boat trip down the romantic Perfume River to the Thien Mu Pagoda, one of the oldest and most beautiful pagodas in Hue. After that we move on to see the Minh Mang Tomb who was emperor of Vietnam from 1820 to 1841. Enjoy a vegetarian lunch and take the chance to chat with the nuns to learn more about Buddhism and gain insight into their daily lives. In the afternoon, we will start our journey by heading to the outskirts of Hue to explore the Tu Duc Tomb. On the way back to Hue, you will get to see a traditional village where they make conical hats and incense. Enjoy dinner and relax to traditional folk music on the mystic dragon boats down the beautiful Perfume River. You will spend the night in Hue.
DAY 5: HUE – DA NANG – HOI AN (B/ L)
Out of ancient Hue and into a more modern setting of Da Nang then onto the exotic Hoi An. You will depart from Hue and travel to the rapidly growing city of Da Nang. Along the way, you will have the opportunity to stop en route to take pictures at the summit of Lang Co Beach, Hai Van Pass and visit the Cham Museum located in Danang City. The museum offers the most extensive collection of Cham art sculptures throughout the world. The sculptures date from the 7th to the 15th century. Finally, you will head to Hoi An, another UNESCO World Cultural Heritage Site. Dinner will be served at Sakura Restaurant, a beautiful Japanese – Vietnamese restaurant on the banks of the Thu Bon River. You will spend the night in Hoi An.
DAY 6: HOI AN (B/ L)
Today we enjoy a walking tour through the narrow and ancient streets of this charming town. Perhaps more than any other place in Vietnam, Hoi An retains the feel of the splendor of past centuries. Once known as Faifo, Hoi An was an influential port along the Silk Road. For over 500 years, merchants from China, Japan, France and Portugal settled in the prosperous town resulting in a distinctive blend of culture, cuisine, religions and architecture. In 1999, the town was declared an UNESCO World Heritage Site listed for having the most unique architecture in Southeast Asia. It has been restored and protected by both the UNESCO funding and proud locals ever since. Lunch will be served at the Cargo Restaurant. Take the whole afternoon to relax and be lazy on the beach or be adventurous and set of and explore the surroundings of Hoi An by bicycle, visit the local market or take a trip down the river: the choice is yours.
DAY 7: HOI AN – DA NANG - HOA LU – HA NOI(B/ L)
After breakfast, you will depart from Hoi An back to Da Nang to catch the flight to Ha Noi. Upon your arrival, you will be picked up and transferred to Ninh Binh Province. This area is known as “Ha Long Bay on land” and is located 80 km South of Hanoi. Today you will experience the ancient culture and history of Vietnam as well seeing the stunning landscapes and beautiful scenery. We will start the tour by going for a relaxing sampan ride through the gentle and elegant landscape of plains and mountains leading to the beautiful and mysterious Tam Coc Grottoes followed by a gentle cycle ride (4km) and boat ride to Bich Dong Cave and Pagoda. This journey takes you through breath taking scenery of rice fields and imposing mountains. We then move on to the Thai Vy Temple. Being built in the 13th century, the Thai Vy Temple offers magnificent insight and depth into the ancient Vietnamese culture. Once departing the Thai Vy Temple, we then head off to Hoa Lu, formally the capital of the Dinh and early Le dynasties between the 10th and 11th centuries. We will then head back to Ha Noi where you will enjoy dinner at one of the local restaurants and spend the rest of the night.
DAY 8: HA NOI – HA LONG (B/ L)
After breakfast, we drive to Ha Long Bay, one of the most beautiful places in Southeast Asia and a UNESCO World Heritage Site. The day starts with a leisurely boat ride through the breathtaking Ha Long Bay where you will see mountainous rock formations (karsts) reaching majestically out of the water. Lunch will be served onboard while cruising to Bai Tu Long Bay, Teapot Islet, Blockhouse Islet, and Goat Head Islet. Fresh local seafood will be served in the characteristically delicious style of the Vietnamese. We will explore the mystery of Sung Sot Cave, one of the most beautiful caves in Ha Long Bay before getting the opportunity to relax at a beautiful beach where you can also go swimming & kayaking to explore the bay. Later we will head back to the boat to enjoy a relaxing sunset while cruising to the Hang Trong area to anchor at Ho Dong Tien, near Trong cave. During the evening, relax to the casual and comfortable atmosphere on the luxury boat where you will have an elegant dining experience. If we are in the right season, we can see fresh squid being caught the traditional way. You can then relax under the clear, starry sky, enjoying the peace and quiet of the Bay before retiring to your cabin for the night.
DAY 9: HA LONG – HA NOI (B/ BRUNCH/ D)
After breakfast, we will continue to cruise through the karsts some of which display fantastic and mystical shapes before getting into a small boat to visit the Luon Cave. Back on board for an early lunch before saying goodbye to our boat and crew and heading back on the road to Hanoi stopping off at the Bat Trang ceramics and pottery village. The village sells all kinds of ceramics, embroidery and marble statues. We will enjoy dinner at the “Rung” Restaurant before going to see the unique and intriguing Water Puppet Show, a traditional folk performance held on the Red River Delta. You will stay the rest of the night in Ha Noi.
DAY 10: HA NOI LUANG PRABANG (B/ L)
A city tour of Hanoi starts with a visit to the Hoan Kiem Lake where you will see Ngoc Son Temple which worships saint Van Xuong and Tran Hung Dao, a former general commander. We will then take a drive to visit the Temple of Literature. The temple was built in October 1073 to worship Confucius and is considered to be the first university in Vietnam. Hanoi is one of the few places found in this part of the world that has such elegance. Walk down the tree lined boulevards where we see many French influences such as Hanoi Opera House, the State Bank, the former Governor’s palace, and the Hanoi Cathedral (Saint Joseph’s built in the late 19th century). You can then relax and enjoy a 1-hour cyclo ride around the 36 streets in the old quarter of Hanoi followed by a lunch at a local restaurants. In the early afternoon, you will be picked up and transferred to the airport to catch the flight to Luang Prabang in Laos. Upon your arrival, you will be greeted by our driver and brought into town to check into the hotel. After that you are free to venture out on your own or relax in your hotel room. You will spend the night in Luang Prabang.
DAY 11: LUANG PRABANG (B/ L)
Today you will get the chance to see the National Museum which was the former king’s Palace. The Palace was built upon an older Palace foundation and finished in 1909 by French architects. Here you will get to see a blend of French and Lao art such as the paintings and murals of the royal family. In the reception area, you can see busts of all the past Lao kings. Next see the peaceful Wat Visoun, a 16th century temple that served as a small museum for religious artifacts. Following the Wat Visoun, you get to see the Wat Aham, built in the 19th century. This temple houses two guardian figures at the foot of the steps which represent two characters from te Ramayana – Hanuman, the Monkey god and a fierce Yaksa. Next see the peaceful Wat Mai which is the largest and most richly decorated of the temples in Luang Prabang. Afterwards, enjoy a casual stroll around the Darat market to observe the locals buying and selling goods. Finally we will climb up 328 steps to the summit of Phousi Hill which dominates the sky-line of Luang Prabang and provides the finest panoramic view in the city. For the remainder of the day, you are free to do whatever you wish and you will spend the night in Luang Prabang.
DAY 12: LUANG PRABANG – PAK OU – LUANG PRABANG (B/ L)
After breakfast, you will get to see the 450 year old Wat Xieng Thong which has survived Chinese sieges as well the wear and tear over time. The Wat Xieng Thong is a UNESCO world heritage site. It is a great place to visit to experience and gain insights into the Buddhist religion. Next you will take a 2 hour riverboat cruise up the Mekong River towards the Pak Ou, at the confluence of the Nam Ou, and Mekong Rivers. Here you will visit the sacred caves of Tham Ting and Tham Phum which is home to hundreds of Buddha Statues. You will have lunch at a local restaurant near one of the caves before heading back to Luang Prabang. On the way, we will stop at the Ban Xang Hai village where the distillation of sticky rice wine can be seen. Also visit the weaving village of the Ban Xang Khong where the traditional Sa paper is made. You will spend the night in Luang Prabang.
DAY 13: LUANG PRABANG VIENTIANE(B/ L)
After breakfast, you will be brought to the airport to catch the flight to Vientiane. You will be greeted upon arrival and brought to the hotel for check-in and to drop off your luggage. (Early check-in is NOT included and is subject to hotels availability). Then you will get to a enjoy city tour to visit the city’s major historic sites including, Wat Si Saket – the oldest standing temple in Vientiane and among the most atmospheric. It was built in 1818 by Chao Anou in the Bangkok style. Within the cloister walls are hundreds of niches housing Buddha images large and small, made of wood, stone, silver and bronze. Wat Haw Pha Kaew (opposite Wat Si Saket), King Setthathirat’s former royal temple, which housed the magical Emerald Buddha (Pha Kaew) after it was taken from Lanna (Chiang Mai). The interior has been turned into a small jumbled museum housing Buddha images. Look out for the beautiful tall, lithe, long-armed Buddha in the hands-down “calling for rain” pose. That Luang Stupa, the national symbol and most important religious monument in Laos, That Luang is a three-layered gilded stupa. The current version dates from 1566, although it has been ransacked and renovated numerous times since then. Patuxai (Victory Gate), is a local version of Parisian Arc de Triomphe. Aside from the monument itself, the palm tree lined park is a beautiful place to relax. Despite the lack of shade, the fountains make the park even more enjoyable. During the day, you have the option of climbing up the 7th layers (by stairs only) for a beautiful view of downtown Vientiane. Afterwards, enjoy a casual stroll around the Morning Central market to observe the locals buying and selling goods. You will spend the night in Vientiane.
DAY 14: VIENTIANE – DEPARTURE (B)
After breakfast, you are free to go shopping or sightseeing while you wait for your ride to the airport for your departure flight.