Indochina Cultural Experience (21n/22d)

Farmers alongside the Red River Delta

Farmers alongside the Red River Delta

Day 1: Welcome to Vientiane (-/-/D)
Warm welcome upon your  arrival in Luang Prabang. Your guide and driver will meet you at the airport for a transfer to your hotel located in the downtown.  Your guide’s welcome speech will give you  overall information about the city of Vientiane. After check in you will have free time to relax, then your guide will see you again for a welcome dinner at a local restaurant. You stay overnight in Vientiane.

Day 2: Vientiane (B/L/-)
Today you have a whole day to explore all the places of interest Vientiane has to offer 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, the famous That Luang Stupa and the Patuxay Monument. You also have an orientation tour  of the capital through the most historical sites and some of the French colonial architecture and enjoy the sunset by the Mekong River  or visit the night market before back to hotel for overnight stay.

Day 3: Fly Luang Prabang (B/-/D)
In the morning you have a free time until your guide meet and transfer you to airport for a short flight to Luang Prabang. Transfer to your hotel located in the downtown.  Luang Prabang is considered  the best-preserved traditional city the  Southeast Asia.  The tranquility and charm of this town with its splendid natural scenery and cultural sights make it one of the most delightful places to visit in Laos. After a short rest you will have a tour to visit the impressive stupa of Wat Visoun and the shrine of Wat Aham, Wat Mai.  You then climb up to the top of Mount Phousi for a panorama view of Luang Prabang and enjoy the sunset on the Mekong River. Dinner at a local restaurant then you can have a visit to the night market before back to hotel for overnight stay.

Day 4: Luang Prabang (B/L/-)
An optional early start will give you the fantastic opportunity to participate in the daily morning rituals of saffron-clad monks collecting offerings of Alms (often in the form of sticky rice) from the faithful residents. This tradition is very unique to Laos, it being the only Buddhist nation still preserving the ritual.  You will take a boat trip upstream the Mekong River to visit the mysterious Pak Ou Caves, two linked caves crammed with thousands of gold lacquered Buddha statues of various shapes and sizes left by devoted pilgrims.  Along the way, you will stop at the village of Ban Xanghai, where the local rice wine is produced.  The village Ban Phanom-well known for its hand weaving is your last stop today before back to your hotel.  Stay overnight in Luang Prabang.

Day 5: Khouangsi water fall (B/-/-)
Today you drive to the beautiful Khouangsi Waterfall where you can cool off with a refreshing swim in the turquoise pools or walk along the forest trails.  Return  to the town by late afternoon, you  continue to visit the Ban Xangkhong, a village well known for its silk weavings and for its Saa (jute) Papermaking.  Again you back to the city to enjoy the sunset at the Wat Siphouthabath. Overnight stay in Luang Prabang.

Day 6: Fly Hanoi/ Vietnam (B/-/D)
In the morning you will take a flight to Hanoi. Your guide and driver will meet you at the airport for a transfer to your hotel located in the Hanoi downtown.  After check in you will have free time to relax, then your guide will see you again for a dinner at a local restaurant. Your first day will be completed by a water puppet show – a unique art performance in Vietnam – before you return to your hotel for overnight stay in Hanoi.

Day 7: Hanoi (B/L/-)
This full day tour takes you around Hanoi’s most interesting sights, including the Ho Chi Minh Complex and Mausoleum, House-on-Stilts, the Presidential Palace and the One Pillar Pagoda.  After that you will visit the Quan Thanh Temple and the Tran Quoc pagoda, the oldest pagoda originally constructed in the sixth century. For lunch you have two options:  enjoy a Hanoi special dish “Cha Ca” at Cha Ca La Vong restaurant, one of the most unique (over a hundred years old) restaurants located in the Hanoi Old Quarter.  Or you can taste a “Pho”, another worldwide famous dish from Hanoi. Afternoon you can choose to visit one of the city’s Museums:  Vietnam History Museum, Vietnam Ethnology Museum, Vietnam Military History Museum, and the Temple of Literature, before having a walk around the Lake of the Restored Sword, visit the Ngoc Son Temple and enjoy a cup of Vietnamese coffee at a street-pub. Overnight stay in Hanoi.

Day 8: Red River Delta (B/L/-)
In the morning you leave Hanoi for Ninh Binh to visit Hoa Lu Ancient Capital and the Tam Coc caves located in the Red River Delta. Upon arrival you will spend one hour visiting the king Dinh temple and king Le temple. These two temples are constructed by local residents near the center of the old capital in order to honor Dinh Bo Linh, the first emperor of Vietnam and Le Dai Han who founded the Le Dynasty in the 10th and 11th centuries. Lunch with Vietnamese rural cuisines at local restaurant followed by a sampan ride to explore the Tam Coc caves. Rejoin your car back to Hanoi for stay overnight.

Day 9: Hanoi – Halong Bay (B/L/D)
You leave Hanoi for Halong Bay (a World Natural Heritage site) via the Red River Delta. Upon arrival you will have a short break at the Café Lounge. Welcome on board. You will set out on a junk cruise on the bay while seafood lunch is served. After lunch, you will take a short trek to a nearby summit for a panoramic view of the bay, swimming on a quiet beach or sunbathing on the sundeck. In the late afternoon, you will take a take a bamboo row boat to visit an interesting fishing village with an opportunity to interact with fishermen who have been living in the bay for almost three generations. You also take a kayak to discover a water tunnel with many coral reefs in a scenic lagoon. Back on board to enjoy watching the peaceful sunset, joining a Vietnamese cooking demonstration and later unwind at a restaurant. Tonight you stay overnight onboard.

Day 10: Halong  Bay – Hanoi – Night train to Lao Cai (Brunch/D)
Early birds will have a chance to join in the Tai Chi lesson on the sundeck and view the sunrise over the bay with a cup of coffee or tea.  After brunch you will take a tender to visit one of the most beautiful limestone grottos – Sung Sot cave. Your junk sets sail to cruise back to the dock while you enjoy a final glimpse of Halong Bay. On the journey back to Hanoi you will have a stop at the Phu Lang ceramic village – one of the most famous ceramic brands dated from 17th – 19th century in the North of Vietnam. Rejoin your car back to Hanoi for dinner at one of the French-built restaurants located in the Hanoi Old Quarter. Transfer to Hanoi station for a night train to Lao Cai – a Vietnam-China border city. You will stay overnight on train.

Day 11: Lao Cai – Sapa (B/-/D)
Your train will early arrive in Lao Cai station at around 6:00. You local driver will wait to transfer you to your hotel located in Sapa town. This 40-minute journey offers you the first impression of the North Vietnam mountainous area with its winding road, terrace rice fields and minority ethnic villages. Your breakfast will be at the hotel. Time for relaxation or explore the mountainous town on your own (early check-in is subject to availability). In the afternoon you will have a short walking tour to visit the Cat Cat village – home of the H’Mong ethnic people located in the beautiful valley. Meet local people and visit their houses to learn about their unique customs and practices. Stop at the Cat Cat waterfall for some photo shots before returning to hotel for a break then enjoy dinner at local restaurant. You will stay overnight in Sapa.

Day 12: Sapa – Lao Cai – Night train to Hanoi (B/-/D)
Following breakfast you embark on a soft trek along buffalo paths through several hill tribe villages of the H’Mong and the Day ethnic peoples, through stunning scenery inhabited by some of the friendliest people you can meet. Lunch at local restaurant. In the afternoon your driver will pick up you from the village and transfer you back to Sapa for a short break then to Lao Cai for night train to Hanoi – departure at around 21:15. You will stay overnight on train.

Day 13: Fly Danang – Hoi An (B/-/D)
Early arrive Hanoi in the morning, your driver will meet you at the station and offer you a drive to watch local people do morning exercise at the lakes or join in the morning flowers market before having a breakfast and a cup of coffee.  Transfer to airport for a short flight to Danang.  Pick up and transfer to your hotel in Hoi An.  After check in you will have free time to relax, then your guide will see you again for a welcome dinner at a local restaurant.  You stay overnight in Hoi An.

Day 14: Hoi An & My Son Ruins (B/L/-)
Morning you will take a trip to discover another World Heritage site My Son – the former capital of the ancient Cham civilization that ruled Central Vietnam from the second to the thirteenth century and is considered to be one of the best-preserved Cham areas in Vietnam. The complex is comprised of seventy Hindu-like towers and temples dating from the second century. This site is a must-see for those people who are interested in architecture and ancient civilizations and is now one of five UNESCO World Heritage sites in Vietnam. Back to the town. After lunch  you will have a walking tour to explore the old houses, narrow streets, moss-grown walls, lantern makers. You will stop to visit some of the most interesting sights of the town including Japanese Covered Bridge, House of Tụy Tiên Đường, Quan Công Temple, Old houses, Chinese Assembly Halls and handicraft workshop and traditional arts performance.

Day 15: Hoi An – Hue citadel (B/L/-)
In the morning you drive to Hue and visit the Thien Mu pagoda-built in 1601 and, one of the oldest and prettiest religious buildings in the country followed by the Nguyen Dynasty king Tu Duc’s tomb. Lunch is at a local restaurant then you will explore the Hue Citadel. It is a huge complex covering an area of 520ha and comprising three circles of ramparts, Hue Capital Citadel, Royal Citadel and Forbidden Citadel. You may have  time to visit the local Dong Ba market built in 1899 on a bank of the Perfume river – a paradise for snapshots of daily activities before transfer to Hue hotel for an overnight.

Day 16: Fly Saigon (B/-/D)
Again you take a one-hour flight to Saigon or HCM City. Unlike most cities you have visited, Saigon is the most dynamic. Everyone seems busy riding, buying, selling, studying, and building.  However, the city’s core is still adorned with wide elegant boulevards and historic French colonial buildings. In the afternoon you will have a private tour visiting some of its famous attractions such as the Reunification Palace, the Municipal Theatre, the City Post Office, the Notre-Dame Cathedral and the War Remnants Museum. You can also have a walk through the city’s main shopping boulevard with fashionable boutiques and hill tribe crafts, high quality linens and house-wares and end up at the Ben Thanh market, one of the city biggest markets. Enjoy dinner on the Bonsai cruises on the Saigon river.  You stay overnight in Saigon.

Day 17: Cu Chi tunnels (B/-/-)
In the morning you drive to visit the Cu Chi Tunnels. Very famous in the wartime with its smart and complicated system including underground meeting room, kitchen, food, weapon caches, hospital. This underground complex played a major role in the Vietnamese winning the war and is a must-see when you are in Saigon. You are invited to crawl around in the safer parts of the tunnel system or try a shooting range where you can fire a number of assault rifles, such as the M16 rifle or AK-47, as well as a light machine gun like the M60. Back to Saigon and enjoy your free time in the afternoon. You stay overnight in Saigon.

Day 18: Saigon – Can Tho/Mekong Delta (B/-/D)
Today you will drive out toward the South-Western Vietnam to Mekong Delta or “Nine Dragon River Delta”. Surrounded by thousands of crisscrossed canals, life in the Mekong Delta revolves much around the river, most of villages are often accessible by rivers and canals rather than by road. After two-hour drive you will arrive My Tho. Upon arrival you will take a sampan motor-boat on the Tien river to the Thoi Son ( Unicorn) islet, one of the four famous islets ( Dragon, Unicorn, Tortoise, Phoenix). From here you follow a village path passing local houses, visiting some family-run coconut candy mill, take a horse-cart from village to village or enjoy a sampan rowing along small canals. Lunch with local dishes will be served right in the garden restaurant. You also have a chance to experience “Southern Vietnamese folk music “, a common art activity in the Mekong Delta performed by local people. Rejoin your car continue to Can Tho, the heart of Mekong Delta. Hotel check in and enjoy your leisure. Dinner will be at local restaurant. You stay overnight in Can Tho.

Day 19: Floating market – Delta biking – Saigon (B/L/-)
An early wake up today and ready to join in the Mekong Delta floating market, one of the most exciting activities you should do when you are in this area. You can start the motorized boat to visit the Cai Rang floating market, experience how people exchange goods, fruit and many other commodities on their vessels. You easily find the wholesaler big boats which hang the goods she buys/sells on the pole – a mark for reseller small boats knowing where they have to go from a certain distance. You also find floating restaurants, floating bars, floating gas stations, and many other floating shops. After sampling some local fruits at the market, you will be back to the shore and take a bike cycling from village to village on path, over monkey bridges, get in touch with local people. Lunch is at local restaurant before driving back to Saigon for stay overnight.

Day 20: Fly Siem Reap – Angkor tour (B/-/D)
You leave Saigon and fly to Siem Reap in the morning. Warm welcome upon your  arrival in Siem Reap. Your guide and driver will meet you at the airport for a transfer to your hotel.  Start your visit the  South Gate of Angkor Thom, the famous Bayon, Baphoun, the Terrace of Temple, Elephants and Terrace of the Leper King. It is time to visit one of the great wonders of the world, symbol of the heart and soul of the Cambodia, Angkor Wat  then enjoy the wonderful sunset from the top of Phnom Bakheng Hills followed by a dinner with Khmer Apsara dance show before you return to your hotel for overnight stay  in Siem Reap.

Day 21: Angkor  tour (B/L/-)
Today you continue to visit the fabulous Ta Prohm embraced by the roots of enormous fig trees and gigantic creepers, Pre Rup, East Mebon, and Neak Poan.. You also visit the Krovan, Royal Bath of Srah Srang and Banteay Kdei temples. Return to your hotel for overnight stay  in Siem Reap.

Day 22: Departure (B/-/-)
In the morning you will drive to visit the floating village of Chong Khneas, located 10km South of Siem Reap and take a traditional wooden boat on the Tonle Sap Lake and visit the Les Artisan D’ Angkor. If time permit, you also can visit the local markets or shopping until transfer to Siem Reap airport for departure.

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