You will be met upon arrival into Luang Prabang airport and transferred to your hotel. Please look out for the World Expeditions welcome sign in the arrivals hall. You will have some time to unwind and adjust to the gentle pace of the World Heritage listed ancient capital of Laos. Set on the banks of the mighty Mekong River, Luang Prabang is said to be the best preserved traditional city in Southeast Asia. In the evening, meet your guide in the hotel lobby for a trip briefing before heading out for a welcome dinner.
Overnight in Luang Prabang - Hotel
Head out south of town to Khuang Si Waterfalls. Visit the Free the Bears Sanctuary, to see first hand the good work being done to help the bears. The sanctuary was opened in 2003 and houses Asiatic Black bears which were cubs when they were confiscated by the Forestry Department as they were being taken to the markets for sale. All are growing rapidly and are in good health. Khuang Si Waterfalls, where water tumbles over multi-tiered limestone formations into cool and crystal clear pools, is ideal for anyone seeking an enjoyable escape when the heat becomes unbearable. These waterfalls are a paradise setting surrounded by lush forest. Spend your time splashing around in the pools or walking along the forest paths in the upper part of this fall. Drive back to town.
Built in 1513, Wat Visoun or Wisunalat is the oldest and perhaps the most beautiful temple of Luang Prabang. The temple strikes visitors with its huge stupa, called That Makmo, which dominates the temple compound. Because of its odd shape, this stupa is commonly known as the watermelon (Makmo) stupa instead of its official name That Pathum (Lotus Stupa). The National Museum (closed on Tuesdays), housed in the former Royal Palace, showcases many treasures of Laos' royal past and features the Prabang, the sacred Buddha image for which Luang Prabang was named. Rising 150m in the centre of town, Mount Phousi cuts a distinctive figure on the Luang Prabang skyline. The hill is a popular as a place to watch the sun rise or set. From the summit you enjoy spectacular 360 degree views across the city and its many temples, and over the surrounding landscape to the mountains in the distance. The Night Market here is a great place for wandering, offering a lovely variety of handmade textiles crafted by local and hill-tribe people, along with street food, knick-knacks and friendly banter.
Overnight in Luang Prabang.
In the morning, head out to a local farm outside Luang Prabang to experience the local methods of rice cultivation. After an overview presented by a small rice museum, you will learn how rice is farmed using water buffalo for plowing, together with the traditional manual processes of ranking, transplanting, sowing, grinding, and pounding.
Get back to city center, after having a brief on cycling in Luang Prabang, testing your bike, you are now ready for an interesting half day cycling to the outskirt. The first stop is Ban Xangkhong, a Saa Paper & weaving village where you get an explanation of the silk weaving process and Saa paper of Laotian.
Boarding on a boat for a short ride to the other side of Mekong River, you continue your cycling to Wat Long Khoun also known as "The Monastery of Happiness" which has historically significant connections with the Royal Family of Luang Prabang. Keep cycling to Ban Xieng Mene, an authentic Lao village just opposite Luang Prabang town. Passing small villages, feel the slow life pace gs through. Arrive Ban Chan, famous for producing pottery, wander around to learn more manufacturing pottery and bricks
Boating back to the town and drop off at your hotel
Overnight in Luang Prabang.
An optional early start gives you the fantastic opportunity to participate in the daily morning rituals of saffron-clad monks collecting offerings of alms (ubiquitous sticky rice) from the faithful residents. This tradition is very unique in Laos, being the only Buddhist nation still preserving the procession.
Wat Xieng Thong is the largest and most splendid temple of Luang Prabang royal city. Built on the Mekong River bank in 1560 under the reign of King Setthathirat (1548 1571), the temple is best known for its impressive Tree of Life mural depicting the Buddhist story. You then embark on a cruise upstream the Mekong River, which gives a breathtaking view of the tranquil countryside and explore Pak Ou Caves. Locally called Tam Ting, the caves are filled with thousands of gold lacquered Buddha statues. The caves are noted for their miniature Buddha sculptures. Hundreds of wooden Buddhist figures take many different positions, including meditation, teaching, peace, rain, and reclining (nirvana).
Lunch at local restaurant by the river.
Continue by car to Nong Khiaw. Make a short stop en route to visit Ban Nayang village as known weaving craft village if you take a walk around the village you will see people making silk handmade, waving & rice fields
Overnight in Nong Khiaw
Today your road travels through Nam Et-Phou Louey National Biodiversity Conservation Area, so the forests lining the road will be quite lush.
Overnight in Sam Nuea.
This morning you explore the quaint morning market along the river in this mountainous town. Drive to Vieng Xai, the cave city which was home to the Lao People's Revolutionary Party. Visit the Information Center to learn more about the interesting historical significance of the area during the Indochina War. Continue to the Hospital Cave which was used as a hospital during the war. Inside you can see intact medicine bottles still strewn about the rubble. After the bombing raids ended, a new hospital building was built in front of the cave. Now the site is a local school. Continue to the Laos/Vietnam border.
Xin chao! Welcome to Vietnam. You are greeted by your Vietnamese guide and driver for your transfer to Mai Chau.
Overnight at homestay in Van Village of Mai Chau.
Located in a beautiful valley with a patchwork quilt pattern of rice terraces and villages which are home to the White Thai people, Mai Chau is known for its stunning scenery of palms, green mountains, paddy fields and picturesque stilt houses. In the morning we take a leisure cycling tour around the peaceful Thai villages of Mai Chau to enjoy the landscape and see local lives.
After lunch take the drive to Hanoi. The capital of Vietnam is one of Asia's most enchanting cities, full of culture, history and the engaging contradictions of a rapidly developing and deeply traditional society.
Overnight in Hanoi.
Take a walk through Ba Dinh Square where you'll see the Presidential Palace, President Ho Chi Minh's Mausoleum and the National Assembly Building from the outside. Recognized by UNESCO as a World Heritage Site in 2010, the Central Sector of the Imperial Citadel of Thang Long Hanoi is a relic of a succession of dynasties. Dating back over a thousand years to the Chinese Tang dynasty, Hanoi's ancient citadel was the home of Vietnamese sovereigns going back to Dai Viet, when Hanoi was known as Thang Long. You will visit the ruins of royal palaces, a revolutionary bunker and the archeological site. The Temple of Literature, dedicated to Confucius, was built in the 11th century. It was the first university in Vietnam and students still come here to burn incense. You will find a peaceful atmosphere tinged with incense smoke, and sunken lotus ponds populated by fish and turtles.
Next is a visit to the Museum of Ethnology, which gives an excellent overview of the country's ethnic groups, their customs and ways of life. The highlight here is the large, beautiful outdoor area featuring genuine houses and compounds as built and used by the many different ethnic groups. You then explore the lively Old Quarter. This bustling heart of Hanoi has been a commercial centre since King Ly Thai To built his palace there in the 11th century. Skilled craftsmen started to migrate and artisan guilds were formed on the famous "36 Streets". Previously, each street carried the name of the item produced and sold there, and many still have the same names. This is a place you must see to experience Hanoi, where you will find shopping and cultural/historical sites all wrapped into Enjoy the unique performance of a water puppet show, a traditional art form closely linked with the agricultural roots of the Vietnamese people on the Red River Delta. It is performed in a pool of water, with the water surface being the stage. The puppeteers stand behind a screen and manipulate the lacquered wooden puppets using long bamboo rods and strings hidden beneath the water surface. A traditional Vietnamese orchestra provides Overnight in Hanoi.
Note: Most of Hanoi's museums also close on Mondays, except Museum of Vietnam Women & Museum of Vietnam Fine Arts. The Central Sector of the Imperial Citadel of Thang Long Hanoi is closed on Monday.
Skip breakfast at your hotel and have ph? (Vietnamese noodle soup with beef or chicken) at a local restaurant like Hanoians do. This is without a doubt Vietnam's most famous dish. Drop by a local caf to observe how Hanoi locals enjoy sipping every drop of Vietnamese coffee. Try the bittersweet c ph tr?ng (egg coffee), which is something like a Hanoi's Capuccino.
Head out to Ha Long Bay, a UNESCO World Heritage Site. On arrival we will join our traditional 'junk' sailing boat and head out into the Gulf of Tonkin amongst the huge limestone outcrops and emerald waters. We will spend the rest of the day cruising in our boat around the myriad of tiny islands and exploring the many grotts created by the wind and the waves. While on board we will have a fresh seafood lunch followed by a swim and exploring one of the limestone caves in this area.
Dinner and overnight on board.
Note: Cruise itinerary and schedule are subject to change due to weather, tide levels and operating conditions. Swimming or kayaking excursions may be cancelled due to poor weather. Unused services are not subject to a refund.
Today we continue to cruise to visit more sightseeing and spots in Ha Long Bay. We will reach the pier around noontime and transfer back to Hanoi.
Enjoy some free time in Hanoi before transfer to the railway station to take the evening train to Dong Hoi.
Overnight on train in a 4-berth cabin, soft sleepers.
Head out with your cameras for a day filled with amazing sights and experiences. Explore the amazing temple complex and spend most of the day in the UNESCO World Heritage site of Angkor. Visit the ancient city of Angkor Thom, surrounded by an 8m high wall. Angkor Thom was the last capital of the Great Khmer Empire under the reign of Jayavarman VII. Continue to Bayon in the exact centre of the city. This 12th century masterpiece is a study in grandeur, its exterior gallery walls featuring extensive, superb bas-reliefs, particularly the East and South Galleries. Ta Prohm, unlike most other Angkor temples, has been left just it was when rediscovered: a photogenic and atmospheric maze of trees growing out of temple ruins amidst jungle surroundings, making it one of Angkor's most popular temples with visitors.
Explore Angkor Wat, easily the most famous and best-preserved of all temples within the Angkor complex. It is a massive three-tiered structure crowned by five lotus-like towers rising 65 meters from ground level. The centrepiece of any visit to the temples around Siem Reap, Angkor offers many iconic sights for amazing pictures.
The trip to Pre Rup will reward you with a spectacular sunset over the Angkor Archaeological Park and its surroundings.
Overnight in Siem Reap.
Note: Appropriate attire when visiting Angkor temples is long pants (covering the knee) and shirts that cover shoulders. Skirts, small shorts, tank tops, and other items of revealing clothing are not allowed within temple grounds. Visitors can and are frequently turned away from temples when wearing revealing clothing.
After breakfast take the drive to Siem Reap. Stop by the town of Skuon, also known as Spiderville, which boasts one of Cambodian's more exotic culinary delights the deep-fried spider. Set out along the road to Kampong Thom, winding through farmer's fields, rubber plantations and typical Khmer villages, on the way to this picturesque town on the banks of the Stung Sen River. Visiting Sambor Prei Kuk, you will explore a collection of 7th century (600 years before Angkor Wat) temple ruins. This Hindu temple complex was established in the early 6th century AD at the city of Isanapura, the capital of Raja Isanavaram. The site, part of the Chenla Kingdom, includes an area of nearly 1000 acres enclosed by double walls, and over 150 temples and towers. Continue to your hotel in Siem ReThis evening enjoy a special treat with a performance from PHARE. The Cambodian Circus has long been famous for their performances, and this NGO teaching streetkids to become circus artists is a regular at international circus conventions worldwide. Enjoy their interpretations of modern life and issues in Cambodian society.
Overnight in Siem Reap.
After an early breakfast proceed to the pier and take a 5-hour speedboat ride upstream Mekong River crossing the border to Cambodia.
Sua s'dei! Welcome to Phnom Penh, Cambodia. You are greeted by your guide and driver at Phnom Penh Port for your transfer to the hotel. Please look for the WORLD EXPEDITIONS welcome sign. You will have time to relax at your hotel and adjust to the pace of Phnom Penh. The capital of Cambodia was once called "Paris of the East". Despite its rapid development, it has retained a lot of its rustic charm and elegance.
Embark on a cyclo ride through the bustling streets passing by the Central Market, Independence Monument and along the riverside. Among the city's prime attractions, you will explore the famous Royal Palace, built in 1866 under the French protectorate and King Norodom. The adjoining Silver Pagoda, built in 1962, is famous for its lavish decorations, silver paved floor and several Buddha statues made from precious metals & stones. Wander the National Museum, a treasure chest of Angkorian and pre-Angkorian artefacts.
Overnight in Phnom Penh.
Note: To see the Royal Palace and Silver Pagoda, visitors are required to wear appropriated clothes. Short pans (above knees) and sleeveless tops are not permitted.
Depart for Ben Tre in the Mekong Delta, famous for coconut production. Upon arrival, set out on a boat trip on narrow channels winding through coconut forest. Stop at brick and coconut processing workshops to see how locals make bricks by hand and learn how to make different products from coconuts as well. Then jump on your bike, cycle on village roads through local hamlets, rice fields and coconut groves. Stop at any places which interest you, to have a close look at local life and culture. You'll then arrive at Mr. Sau Khanh's house, whose ambition is to collect antiques. His collection varies from ancient and valuable ceramics, pottery pieces like bowls, dishes and vases, to ceiling lights, sculptures and Buddha statues. Chat with him and try out the local skill of climbing coconut trees. Return to the pier and drive to Chau Doc.
Overnight in Chau Doc.
Arrive at Dong Hoi in the early morning, pick up and drive to Phong Nha for breakfast. Phong Nha - Ke Bang National Park is home to Son Doong Cave, the world's largest. The park features many beautiful limestone grotts and caves, and boasts lush forestland. Visit the Phong Nha Botanic Garden which boasts an area of over 40 ha and 500 plant species. A guided plant tour along a 3-kilometre path inside the garden provides opportunities to see wildlife in both semi-wild and wild areas as well as natural landscape of waterfalls and lake.
Discovered by a local man in 2005, Thien Duong Cave was later explored by the British Cave Research Association and found to be 31 km in length. Your visit to some of the accessible areas of this cave will give you a taste of the wonders that lie its depth.
Overnight in Phong Nha.
Walk the ancient streets of Hoi An, lined with Chinese traders' homes and wooden houses reincarnated as restaurants, caf s, and outlets for local artists, craftsmen and tailors. Hoi An's unique fusion of Chinese, Japanese and Vietnamese architecture is well displayed here, in what is arguably Vietnam's most tourist-friendly town. The iconic lanterns are a symbol of Hoi An old town and seem to be a part of the spirit of Hoi An. Join in a lantern making class to create your own Hoi An lantern. At home of a craftsman you will get a brief introduction to the history, shape, and color of the lanterns, as well as the many stages of making them. The craftsman will show you how to decorate and instruct you in making your own lantern. Discover your inner skill and keep your handiwork as a souvenir of this beautiful Hoi An.
The afternoon is free at leisure. You may like to hire a bicycle and explore the country side of Hoi An or relax on An Bang beach.
Overnight in Hoi An.
Take a boat ride in Huong River to Thien Mu Pagoda. This 7-storey octagonal tower on the bank of the Perfume River is a symbol of Hue. Behind the pagoda are peaceful gardens and, somewhat incongruously, the old Austin car which transported the bonze Thich Quang Duc to Saigon in 1963 for his self-immolation. A photograph of this act was highly publicized and credited for drawing public attention to the situation in Vietnam. The Imperial City at Hue is the best-preserved remnant of a vast citadel and royal quarters that once existed on the site. Here you can see the ravages of time and war on what was the carefully designed capital of the Nguyen Dynasty. Built in the early 19th century by armies of conscripted labourers under Emperor Gia Long, the citadel was surrounded by a ten kilometer moat, and earthen walls formed the outer perimeter.
In the afternoon you continue by road south to Hoi An. The scenery is remarkable, as the route hugs the coastline of the East Sea before winding up the spectacular Hai Van Pass. Here you can stop to admire the stunning views: north over Lang Co Beach and south over Da Nang. The Museum of Cham Sculpture in Da Nang features extensive and diverse displays of Hindu-influenced Cham sculpture dating from the 7th to the 15th centuries. Designed in 1915 by two French architects, Delaval and Auclair, your visit here will introduce you to the most common features of Cham towers and temples from Overnight in Hoi An.
After breakfast take the drive to the DMZ. The Vinh Moc Tunnels were constructed by residents of Vinh Moc and served as an underground village during the Vietnam War. The underground network consists of three levels and served all the community's needs, with a school, hospital, etc. Hien Luong Bridge crosses the Ben Hai River at the middle of the DMZ, marking the former border between North and South Vietnam. From 1954 to 1972, when the North Vietnamese Army pushed the border farther south, the bridge was painted with the two different colours. While peaceful and bucolic today, this historical sight is, for many, profoundly evocative. A simple monument stands on the north side of the bridge. Stop by the Mine Action Visitor Center in Dong Ha which belongs to Project RENEW - an NGO project, for an overview of how devastating the war was and how the remaining explosives left large swaths of land unusable even to the present day. Housing exhibits, images and constantly updated documents, and professional tour guides, the Center provides visitors with information about the devastation of the Vietnam War, its consequences and the people's recovery from loss, pain and poverty, as well as efforts of the government, people, and international organizations to respond to this challenge. Continue to Hue.
After an early breakfast, you will be driven to the Kulen Mountain Range, approximately 60 km from Siem Reap. Phnom Kulen is considered by Khmers to be the most sacred mountain in Cambodia, and is a popular place of pilgrimage during weekends and festivals. Visit Angkor Centre for Conservation of Biodiversity was the first nature conservation and endangered wildlife rescue and breeding centre in Cambodia. On your tour you will see a variety of animals and learn firsthand about efforts to save Cambodia's wildlife. Start from the River of 1,000 Lingas. You then follow the trail into the natural jungle setting while seeing big rocks, which might be the hidden remains of the Khmer Empire. A small wat at the summit of the mountain houses a large reclining Buddha carved into the very sandstone boulder on which the structure is built. Arriving on the top, you will move on by foot on trails leading to the area's villages hidden. Enjoy the natural jungle setting while exploring hidden remains of the Khmer Empire, such as life size elephant statues. Back from the jungle, you can visit a waterfall and take a refreshing dip in its pool.
Join hands with an effort to support reforestation progress in Cambodia by planting a tree in Preah Dak Village. It may be a jackfruit or mango tree, which will later help both carbon offsetting and directly benefiting the local community.
Hiking distance: approx. 11 km
Overnight in Siem Reap.
Transfer to Da Nang Airport for the afternoon flight to Ho Chi Minh City. Formerly known as Saigon, Ho Chi Minh City is the largest city of Vietnam. It is the bustling and dynamic economic capital and the cultural trendsetter of the country, yet within the teeming metropolis you will find the timeless traditions and beauty of an ancient culture.
Visit Reunification Palace, the former residence of the President of South Vietnam. You can visit the "War Room" from where the South Vietnamese forces were controlled, and the room where the North Vietnamese army finally took control in the Fall of Saigon on April 30, 1975. Built between 1877 and 1883, most materials for Saigon's Notre Dame Cathedral were imported from France. Neo-Romanesque in form, it is a major centre of Catholicism in modern Vietnam, and one of the city's major landmarks. The Saigon Post Office, a classic French colonial structure, is still a functioning post office today and features huge ceilings, a giant portrait of Uncle Ho, and many beautiful details.
Overnight in Ho Chi Minh City.
The day is free at your leisure until transfer to Siem Reap International Airport for your departure flight. We wish you a pleasant flight.