Sabaidee! Welcome to Vientiane, Laos! Upon arrival at the airport, you will be met and transferred to your hotel. Please look for the WORLD EXPEDITIONS welcome sign in the arrivals hall.
The rest of the day, free at your leisure for a stroll around this beautiful city. There will be a trip briefing in the hotel foyer at a time indicated in your final documents.
Enjoy a warmth welcome dinner at a cozy restaurant.
Overnight in Vientiane
Today we take in some of the must-see sights of the capital by minivan, starting with the visitor centre of COPE, a local non-profit organisation that provides prosthetic limbs and disability services to the many local people affected by UXOs ('Unexploded ordnance', or unexploded military explosives including grenades, cluster bombs and land mines). The centre contains an excellent museum exhibit about the impact of the Vietnam War and Laos' Secret War, offering a harrowing account of the plight of the many Laotians affected by UXOs, and an inspiring look at COPE's work in the community. From here we'll continue on to the surreal Buddha Park (Xiang Khouan), a lush green park filled with hundreds of unusual Buddhist and Hindu sculptures definitely not your everyday temple visit.In the afternoon, we'll take a tour of the city's oldest surviving temple, Wat Sisaket; as well as the city's former royal temple, Wat Prakeo; the Patuxai Victory Monument (Vientiane's own Arc de Triomphe); and the iconic golden Buddhist stupa of Pha That Luang.
Overnight in Vientiane.
This morning we leave Vientiane and begin our scenic journey northward, heading towards the huge Nam Ngum Dam, stopping along the way to visit some local villages where salt and rice wine are produced. Nam Ngum Dam is a huge hydrlectric reservoir created by the damning of the Nam Ngum River, one of the major tributaries of the Mekong River. Once at Nam Ngum we'll take a longboat ride through the beautiful reservoir, chatting to local fisherman about their culture and daily life. From here we continue our drive to the scenic town of Vang Vieng, nestled among limestone karst outcrops on a bend in the Nam Song River. Here in Vang Vieng, we'll cross the river to the Tham Jang caves and take a short walk through stunning mountain scenery and hill tribe villages to the Tam None cave. We complete our day with a view of sunset over the Nam Song River, from our riverfront hotel.
Overnight in Vang Vieng.
Today we spend a half-day at a local organic farm where we'll meet local farmers raising dairy goats, growing tea and producing wine. From here we continue our scenic drive through the beautiful landscapes of northern Laos towards Xieng Khouang, our base for explori8ng the Plain of Jars.
Overnight in Phonsavan.
This morning we explore the Plain of Jars, a fascinating ancient archaeological site comprised of thousands of giant jars carved from solid stone, littering a hilly area of 100 sq km (37 sq mi). The surreal sight of the giant megaliths dotted throughout the landscape is matched by the mystery surrounding their creation there's no solid evidence who created the jars and why, but they are estimated to be from the Southeast Asian iron age, between 500 BC and 200AD. From here our drive to Luang Prabang takes us through stunning landscapes of hill tribe villages, mountains and steep terraced fields. Upon arrival in the tranquil mountain-flanked river city of Luang Prabang, the afternoon will be free at leisure to settle in or start exploring. Luang Prabang will immediately charm your senses: its heady mix of saffron-robed monks, golden temples, lush green-fringed rivers and colourful markets keeps visitors coming back time and time again. It won't take you long to see why Luang Prabang has earned itself a spot on the UNESCO World Heritage List! Tonight you might like to head to the city's bustling night market.
Overnight in Luang Prabang.
Optional early wake-up call possible to join the locals giving food to hundreds of Buddhist monks returning from morning prayers. Take a stroll through Ban Pakham morning market and take part in this everyday ritual. Breakfast at the hotel or join the locals for a bowl of delicious noodle soup after the alms giving ritual.
Start with a visit to the magnificent Wat Xieng Thong with its roofs sweeping low to the ground, which represents classical Laotian architecture. You then board a cruise upstream on the Mekong River, which also gives you a panoramic view of the tranquil countryside as well as an interesting visit to the mysterious of Pak Ou Caves, two links caves crammed with thousands of gold lacquered Buddha statues of various shapes and sizes left by pilgrims. On the way back to Luang Prabang, pay a visit to Ban Xieng Lek and Ban Xang Khong, the villages of handmade jute paper making and hand-weaving textiles
Continue your discovery through temples from various centuries: Wat Visoun, Wat Aham, Visit the National Museum (close Tuesday) at the former Royal Palace, which displays a lovely collection of artifacts, which reflect the richness of Lao culture dating from the days of the early kings right through the last sovereign. Climb the 328 steps leading to Phousi Hill for the finest panoramic view of Luang Prabang, and the Nam Kan River joining the Mekong. As it's light up, explore the Night Market, where you can find a lovely selection of handmade textile made by local and hill tribe people surrounding Luang Prabang.
After the sunset there's the optional to enjoy a well-deserved and relaxing Traditional Lao Massage and Sauna at the Lao Garden Massage & Sauna Centre.
Overnight in Luang Prabang.
This morning, you start at Tamarind Cafe where your chef joins us for an introduction to real Lao cuisine. Drive to market where you'll buy your ingredients for the cooking class. The chef shares his knowledge with you on this market tour and then takes you to his lakeside classroom outside of town where you will learn to prepare some local favourites such as mok pa (herbed fish steamed in banana leaves), jeow (dipping sauces), and laarb (spicy Laotian salad). Afterwards, you have lunch and evaluate your creations.
Continue your drive to Kuang Si Waterfalls. En-route stop at a small village which is home to one of the area's many ethnic minorities. Take your opportunity to learn about their traditions and culture, much of which has remained unchanged for centuries. Continue your way to the Khuang Si Waterfalls, and spend your time splashing around in the pools or walking along the forest paths in the upper part of this fall.
Arrive Luang Prabang in late afternoon
Overnight in Luang Prabang.
Free at leisure until the time transfer to the airport for flight to Hanoi. Upon arrival, you will be met at the airport and transfer to your hotel.
The rest of time is free at leisure.
Overnight in Hanoi
After breakfast, visit the Temple of Literature the first university of Vietnam built in 11th century. 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.
After that, you will visit the impressive Museum of Ethnology, the finest museum in Vietnam. This museum is dedicated to Vietnam's 54 ethnic minorities. You then will have time on cyclo tour around Hanoi's vibrant Old Quarter and Hoan Kiem Lake, the focal point of the city. The Old Quarter, with its bustling streets, is home to hundreds of small thriving businesses,.
Close your day by attending a performance of Hanoi's famous water puppet show.
Overnight in Hanoi
Note: Ho Chi Minh's Mausoleum opens in the morning only and closes on Mondays & Fridays and the whole months of September & October for anual maintenance. Ho Chi Minh's house-on-stilts is closed on Monday & Friday afternoon. 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.
This morning we drive towards the coast where we'll board the traditional 'junk' boat that will be taking us through Halong Bay. Our overnight cruise through this magnificent natural environment will surely be a highlight of the trip. While onboard our junk boat today we'll be cruising through this labyrinth of emerald waters studded with towering limestone islands, eating a fresh seafood lunch and spending the afternoon swimming, kayaking and exploring some of the secluded beaches, caves and grotts in the area. After coming back onboard for dinner we'll spend the night aboard in our own private cabins.
Overnight aboard boat.
Today you continue to cruise to visit more sightseeing and spots in Ha Long Bay. You will reach the pier around noontime. Transfer you back to Hanoi, stopping en route at Bac Ninh to visit Dinh Bang Communal House. Considered the most beautiful communal house in the north of Vietnam, its construction started in 1700 and ended in 1736. You will learn about the important role of communal houses in the local spiritual life, and have a chance to admire its beautiful carvings and architecture. & the rest of time is free at leisure.
Overnight in Hanoi.
The morning is free in Hanoi where our journey will come to a close. If you are flying home today you will be transferred to the airport in time for your departure.