The best of Vietnam and Laos 12Days/11Nights
Day 1: Arrival Ho Chi Minh City, Vietnam Today you’ll land in Ho Chi Minh City (Tan Son Nhat International Airport). Warmly welcome by Tour Guide & Car Driver at airport then transfer to hotel for check in. Overnight in Ho Chi Minh City.
Day 2: Full day to Mekong Delta/River Boat Trip. (B, L) Today takes you to My Tho, the capital of Tien Giang Province. Situated on the Mekong River, 75 kilometers southeast of Ho Chi Minh City, the city is surrounded by orchards and rice fields, which produce grain for the entire country. Visit one or two of the islands that produce traditional handcrafts, coconut candy and bee farms. Visit the Vinh Trang Pagoda, the oldest one in the delta on your boat trip on the Mekong River. Return to Ho Chi Minh City. Check in hotel & stay overnight in Ho Chi Minh City.
Day 3: Ho Chi Minh City Tour - Cu Chi Tunnels (B, L) Today you will visit the largest Vietnamese city. There are street markets, sidewalk cafes and sleek new bars. This teeming metropolis offers 300 years of timeless traditions and the beauty of an ancient culture. To the west of the city is the huge Chinese neighborhood called Cho lon, which means "Big Market." Notre Dame Cathedral, in the heart of Saigon's government quarter, is of neo- Romanesque architecture with two high square tower and iron spires. The Central Post Office is French-style and City Hall, known as "Hotel de Ville," is typical of the French architecture that would be seen in any village in France. Visit the War Remnants Museum, featuring collections of weapons and photographs from the two Indochina wars. Leave Saigon for Cu Chi Tunnels to learn about Vietnam history & Vietnam War. After Cu Chi Tunnels you will take flight to Hanoi by Vietnam Airlines. Arrive Hanoi in the evening. Transfer to hotel for check in. Stay overnight in Hanoi.
Day 4: Full day sightseeing Hanoi City Tour (B, L) Hanoi, a city of lakes, shaded boulevards and public parks, is the capital of Vietnam. It is a very attractive city with French-style architecture. You have a full day of sightseeing ahead, including a visit to One Pillar Pagoda, which was built by Ly Thai Tong and the Temple of Literature, founded by Emperor Ly Thanh Tong. Stop in the heart of Hanoi at Hoan Kiem Lake, which contains an islet with a tiny Tortoise Pagoda. After lunch at a local restaurant, visit Ho Chi Minh Mausoleum, the Opera House and St. Joseph Cathedral. Conclude with a visit to Bao Tang Lich, once the museum of l'Ecole Francaise d'Extreme Orient, which includes artifacts from Vietnam's turbulent history. Water Puppet Show, Cyclo visiting Old Quarter. Overnight in Hanoi.
Day 5: Hanoi - Halong Bay Cruise stay overnight on Board (B, L, D) Early this morning, we’ll drive from Hanoi to one of the most magnificent scenic environments in the world, Halong Bay. Covering 577 square miles, this vast bay is filled with more than 3,000 limestone “peaks” or karsts that jut from the deep blue water as far as the eye can see. We’ll spend a day and a half, including an overnight with dinner and breakfast onboard, exploring this overwhelming seascape from the decks of a traditional Vietnamese boat. Comfortable and intimate, your boat features hand-crafted wooden interiors including a dining room and pleasant air-conditioned cabins with private baths. Since we’re overnight on the water, we’ll be able to explore Ha Long Bay’s most beautiful spots with time to swim and even visit some of the largest rock formations and caves. This promises to be one of your most memorable travel experiences in Asia. Stay overnight on Boat.
Day 6: Halong Bay Cruise - Hanoi. (B, L) Rising to the sound of lapping bay waters, we have time for an early morning dip followed by breakfast. Sitting on the upper deck, you can relax while taking in the breath-taking beauty of the rocky islands rising from the emerald water of the bay.
After breakfast, explore Sung Sot cave, swim and relax. Cruises back to the jetty while brunch is served while you are cruising through the bay, along the way seeing more of the fascinating formations. Cruise check-out. Rejoin car drive back to Hanoi for overnight. Arrive Hanoi at 3:00pm. Check in hotel & free time to go sightseeing in the Old Quarter. Overnight in Hanoi.
Day 7: Hanoi Conclude/ Departure. Arrival Vientiane. (B,L) On arrival at Wattay Airport, you will be met and transferred to your centrally located hotel. Vientiane is a charming and fascinating capital, with an interesting mix of Lao, Thai, Chinese, Vietnamese, French, Soviet and American influences. A city tour acquaints us with the capital and after a short rest, we start visiting the major sights; including the oldest Wat Sisaket, the temple with thousands of miniature Buddha statues and the former royal temple of Wat Prakeo, which previously housed the famous Emerald Buddha Image. Enroute to Lao’s national precious heritage, the famous and sacred structure of That Luang Stupa, you will have the opportunity to take some pictures of the imposing Patuxay Monument, which is well known as Vientiane’s own Arc de Triumph.
Day 8: Vientiane - Vang Vieng (B/L/…) We leave this wonderful town after breakfast for our journey northbound on route no. 13. We will see some breathtaking scenery enroute as we pass through spectacular countryside towards the mountainous region. We make a stop along the way at Vang Xang, a famous archeological site dating back to the 11th century. We reach our final destination in the afternoon, the small and tranquil village of Vang Vieng, which is nestled on a bend of the Nam Song River. Its stunning scenery with a mixture of quiet water and limestone outcrops remains unspoiled, despite recent developments with the advent of tourism. On arrival at Vang Vieng, we cross the Nam Song River to Tham Jang caves and then enjoy a short trek through breathtaking mountain landscape to explore the Tam None Cave and some hill villages. Today ends with a superb panorama of the sunset reflecting over the Nam Song River.
Overnight in Vang Vieng
Day 9: Vang Vieng - Xiengkhouang (B/L/…) Today we will set off early driving up route 13TH north to Xiengkhouang, an area once devastated by American bombings between 1964 and 1973. These back roads are a great way to explore the real Laos. We see very few other travelers, mostly rural dwellers who are just as interested in finding out about our lives as we are of theirs. The drive is very long, but we can make many stops at our pleasure, to stretch our legs and take some wonderful photographs. We arrive in the afternoon, we then visit the “Plan of Jars” is an impressive archaeological site where hundreds of large stone jars are scattered all over a plateau. These huge jars are supposedly over 2,000 years old, but most of archaeologists still question their purpose. We have time today to explore the site and some nearby villages, populated by the Hmong hill tribe and Tai Dam people; they are very poor but possess a vibrant local culture and an interesting history.
Overnight in Xiengkhuang
Day 10: Xiengkhouang - Lung Prabang (B/L/…) After breakfast at hotel, we drive to Luang Prabang, which is perhaps the best-preserved traditional city in Southeast Asia. The roads are well paved along the way for a smooth journey; we pass some stunning landscape scenery with a mixture of steep terraced fields and hill villages, we take a few photo stops at some small hill tribe village enroute. Each hill tribe village in Laos has a different feel, some are more prosperous than others but all have plenty of life. The Muang Xieng Nguen village is our next stop and we spend a short amount of time observing the local lifestyle prior to reaching Luang Prabang. On arrival in Luang Prabang, we have enough time to explore some landmarks, including the impressive stupa of Wat Visoun, the shrine of Wat Aham, the city's oldest temple of Wat Sene and the Wat Mai with five tiered roofs. A visit to Luang Prabang would be incomplete with ascending 329 steps to the top of Phousi Hill for a beautiful sunset view of the city and its glowing reflection on the Mekong River. The zigzag path crosses over various temples to the sacred, gilded stupa of Wat Phou, another World Heritage Site, recognized by UNESCO in 2002. In the evening, we explore the Night Market, where you can find a lovely selection of souvenirs and handmade textile made by local and hill tribe people surrounding Luang Prabang.
Day 11: Luang Prabang - Pak Ou Cave- Khouangsi Waterfall - Luang Prabang (B/L/…) Breakfast at hotel, today, we visit the magnificent Wat Xieng Thong where you can see the impressive “tree of life” mosaic pattern set in coloured glass. Its exterior architecture is remarkable with its roofs sweeping low to the ground, representing classical Laotian architecture. We then embark on a cruise upstream on the Mekong River, giving us a beautiful view of the tranquil countryside. We take an interesting visit to the mysterious Pak Ou Caves, which are two linked caves crammed with thousands of gold lacquered Buddha statues of various shapes and sizes left by pilgrims. Along the way, we stop at the village of Ban Xang Hai.
In the afternoon, you will visit local villages of Lao ethnic minority groups at Ban Ouay, Hmong Hill tribe, Ban Ou, Lowland Lao and Ban Thapene of Khmu village. After we head towards the beautiful Khouangsi Waterfall where you can take a dip in the large turquoise pools or walk along the forest paths. We return to Luang Prabang by late evening for observing the sunset at Wat Siphouthabath.
Overnight in Luang Prabang
Day 12: Luang Prabang - Departure (B/…/…) 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. This is a real highlight of the tour prior to saying goodbye to this charming city.
Following breakfast, we visit The National Museum (close Tuesday) at the former Royal Palace, which displays a lovely collection of the artifacts reflecting the richness of Lao culture dating from the days of the early kings right through to the last sovereign. After we visit the silver smith’s and Fine Arts School and the Central Market, which is not to be missed. We then say farewell and depart this ancient city.