Day 1: Vientiane (L or D)
Arrival in Vientiane. The capital city and seat of government sits in a bend of the Mekong River amidst fertile alluvial plains. Vientiane (pronounced 'Wieng Chan' by the locals) is a laid-back city with interesting wats and lively markets. Transfer to the hotel. Sightseeing in Vientiane with the following highlights: PHA THAT LUANG (Great Sacred Reliquary or Great Stupa): built between the 11th and 13th centuries AD, it is the most important national monument in Laos, a symbol of both the Buddhist religion and Lao sovereignty. PATUXAI: a large monument in the style of the Arc de Triomphe in Paris, the huge arch at the end of Thanon Lan Xang has a stairway that leads to the top levels of the monument, providing a good view of the city. HO PHA KEO: the former royal temple of the Lao monarchy built in 1565 by King Setthathirat and now converted into a museum containing some of the best examples of Buddhist sculptures found in Laos. WAT SI SAKET: constructed in 1818 by King Anouvong in the early Bangkok style, small niches are carved into its interior walls, containing more than 2, 000 silver and ceramic Buddha images. WAT SI MUANG: this temple is one of the most popularly used temple grounds in the city, as it contains the city pillar and acts as the home of Vientiane's guardian spirits. TALAAT SAO: the Morning Market - actually open all day - selling a wide range of fabrics, jewellery and electronic goods. Overnight in Vientiane.
Day 2: Vientiane - Luang Prabang (B, L)
Transfer to the airport. Flight from Vientiane to Luang Prabang, the ancient capital city of the Lan Xang Kingdom, is famous for its historic temples and beautiful setting surrounded by mountains. In 1995 it was designated a UNESCO World Heritage Site. Arrival transfer and sightseeing in Luang Prabang. Highlights: WAT XIENG THONG: built in 1560 and situated on the banks of the Mekong River, it is the most beautiful monastery in Luang Prabang and shows the typical Lao art style with old religious artifacts and some ancient masterpieces of Lao art. WAT WISUNALAT (Vat Visoun): built in 1513 during the reign of Chao Wisunalat, it is the oldest operating temple in Luang Prabang with a collection of gilded wooden Buddhas from the 15th and 16th centuries. WAT MAI: constructed in 1821 during the reign of King Manthatourath, it was once the residence of Phra Sangkharaj (the Patriarch of the Buddhist clergy). WAT THAT LUANG: the ashes of King Sisavang Vong are interred inside the large central stupa, which was erected in 1910. The inside of the huge sim dating back to 1820 contains a few Luang Prabang Buddhas and other artifacts. WAT SAEN: Thai style wat built in 1718 and restored in 1957. The abbot Ajannn Khamjan who was ordained here in 1940 is one of the most revered monks in Luang Prabang and perhaps in all of Laos. Overnight in Luang Prabang.
Day 3: Luang Prabang (B, L)
Excursion by boat from Luang Prabang to Pak Ou Caves. Highlights: PAK OU CAVES: this are two caves (Tham Thing - lower cave and Tham Phum) located in the steep rock cliff at the confluence of the Mekong River and Ou River. They are full of Buddha images of varying styles, ages and sizes. BAN XANG HAI: located near the Pak Ou Caves, this village was once a 'Jar-Maker Village' and nowadays the community fill the jars (which come from elsewhere) with lÃ¡o-lÃ¡o, the local rice whisky. Overnight in Luang Prabang.
Day 4: Luang Prabang - Vientiane (B, L)
Sightseeing in Luang Prabang with: NATIONAL MUSEUM: located on the banks of the Mekong River, it was constructed as Royal Palace between 1904 and 1909 and today houses the Royal throne of the Lan Xang Kingdom and many other pieces of regalia and religious treasures. PHU SI: the temples on the upper slopes of the 100m-high Phu Si were constructed recently, but it is likely that previously there were other temples on this important hill. From the top there is an excellent view of the town. Transfer to the airport. Flight from Luang Prabang to Vientiane. Transfer to the hotel and overnight in Vientian.
Day 5: Vientiane - Hanoi (B, L)
Transfer to the airport. Flight from Vientiane to Hanoi. Full day sightseeing in Hanoi, a city of lakes, shaded boulevards and public parks, is the capital of Vietnam. It is a very attractive city with French style buildings and less traffic than other cities in Asia. Highlights: ONE PILLAR PAGODA: built by the Emperor Ly Thai Tong, who ruled from 1028 to 1054. Constructed of wood on a single stone pillar, it is designed to resemble a lotus blossom. TEMPLE OF LITERATURE: founded in 1070 by Emperor Ly Thanh Tong, who dedicated it to Confucius in order to honor scholars and men of literary accomplishment. HOAN KIEM LAKE: right in the heart of Hanoi, this lake contains an islet with the tiny Tortoise Pagoda, topped with a red star. HO CHI MINH MAUSOLEUM: in the tradition of Lenin and Stalin before him and Mao after him, the final resting place of Ho Chi Minh is a glass sarcophagus set deep in the bowels of a monumental edifice that has become a site of pilgrimage. (Closed Mondays and Fridays). OPERA HOUSE: a magnificent 900-seat opera house built in 1911. (May be viewed from the outside only). ST JOSEPH CATHEDRAL: a neo-Gothic cathedral finished in 1886, it is noteworthy for its square towers, elaborate altar and stained-glass windows. BAO TANG LICH: once the museum of the Ecole Francaise d'Extreme Orient, is a building constructed of reinforced concrete completed in 1930. Exhibits include artefacts from Vietnam's turbulent history including some from prehistory, proto-Vietnamese civilisations, the Dong Son culture, the Oc-Eo culture and the Khmer Kingdoms. Overnight in Hanoi.
Day 6: Hanoi - Halong Bay (B, L, D)
Pick up and travel to Ha Long city. Upon arrival, transfer to a junk for a cruise around Ha Long bay with a delicious local seafood lunch served on board. Passing Dog Island, Incense Urn Island, Ga Choi Island, Finger Island, Hoa Cuong Island, and visit Surprise Cave and short swim at Titov beach (if weather permited). Have a dinner on board. In the evening, enjoy the night fishing and later overnight on board.
Day 7: Halong Bay - Hanoi (B, L)
In the morning, cruising to Bai Tu Long, Fire Island, Bo Nau Island, fishing village. Having lunch on boat and arrive at Ha Long wharf. Return to Hanoi. Overnight in Hanoi.
Day 8: Hanoi - Hue (B, L)
Transfer to the airport. Flight from Hanoi to Hue and transfer to the hotel. Sightseeing Old Imperial City. Highlights: IMPERIAL CITY: located in the Citadel, it was built in the early 19th century and modeled after the Forbidden City in Peking. There are numerous palaces and temples within these walls, as well as towers, a library and a museum. NGO MON GATE: the principal entrance to the Imperial Enclosure, facing the Flag Tower. The central passageway with its yellow doors was reserved for use by the emperor, as was the bridge across the lotus pond. THAI HOA PALACE: built in 1803 and moved to its present site in 1833, Thai Hoa Palace is a spacious hall with an ornate roof of huge timbers supported by 80 carved and lacquered columns. HALLS OF THE MANDARINS: these buildings, in which the mandarins prepared for court ceremonies held in the Can Chanh Reception Hall, were restored in 1977. NINE DYNASTIC URNS: these were cast in 1835-36. Traditional ornamentation was then chiseled into the sides of the urns, each dedicated to a different Nguyen sovereign. FORBIDDEN PURPLE CITY: this was reserved for the personal use of the emperor. The only servants allowed into the compound were eunuchs, who would pose no threat to the royal concubines. (Today the site is in ruins). Visit Imperial Tomb of Emperor Tu Duc, once the Royal Palace of Tu Duc, who ruled Hue more than 100 years ago, this tomb consists of pavilions in a tranquil setting of forested hills and lakes. The tomb was constructed between 1864 and 1867. Tu Duc, who was the longest reigning Emperor, lived a luxurious life. Visit Dong Ba Market, a local market near the Imperial City. Overnight in Hue.
Day 9: Hue - Da Nang (B, L)
Excursion on Huong Giang River to the Thien Mu Pagoda with boat trip. Highlights: THIEN MU PAGODA: just outside of Hue, on the bank of the Perfume River, this was a hotbed of anti-government protest during the early 1960s. Behind the main sanctuary of the pagoda is the Austin motorcar which transported the monk Thich Quang Duc to the site of his 1963 self-immolation. By vehicle from Hue to Danang. Journey south along Highway 1 past the Hai Van Pass and Lang Co. HAI VAN PASS: the pass crosses over a spur of the Truong Son Mountain Range that just into the East Sea. It is an incredible mountainous stretch of highway with spectacular views. LANG CO: a pretty, island-like stretch of palm-shaded sand with a crystal-clear lagoon on one side and many km of beachfront facing the East Sea. Sightseeing in Danang, Vietnam's fourth largest city marks the northern limits of Vietnam's tropical zone, boasting a pleasant year-round climate. Highlights: CHAM MUSEUM: founded in 1915 by the Ecole Francaise d'Extreme Orient, the open-air collection of Cham sculpture is the finest in the world. Many of the sandstone carvings are breathtaking. East Sea: made famous in the American TV series of the same name, it stretches for many kilometers north and south of the Marble Mountains. During the American War, soldiers were airlifted here for 'rest and relaxation'. MARBLE MOUNTAINS: Five stone hillocks, once islands, made of marble. Each is said to represent one of the five elements of the universe. The largest and most famous, Thuy Son, has a number of natural caves in which Buddhist sanctuaries have been built over the centuries. When the Champas ruled this area, these same caves were used as Hindu shrines. Overnight in Danang.
Day 10: Da Nang - Saigon (B, L)
Excursion to Hoi An, a picturesque riverside town south of Danang. Known as Faifo to early western traders, it was one of South East Asia's major international ports during the 17th, 18th and 19th centuries. Sightseeing is best done on foot or by cyclo, and will include at least five of the following sights. Highlights: QUAN CONG TEMPLE: founded in 1653, this Chinese temple is dedicated to Quan Cong, whose partially gilded statue is in the central altar at the back of the sanctuary. Stone plaques on the walls list contributors to the construction and repair of the temple. PHUOC KIEN PAGODA: Chinese pagoda built around 1690 and then restored and enlarged in 1900. It is typical of the Chinese 'clans' that were established in the Hoi An area. The temple is dedicated to Thien Hau Thanh Mau (Goddess of the Sea and Protector of Sailors and Fishermen). JAPANESE COVERED BRIDGE: the first bridge on this site was constructed in 1593 by the Japanese community of Hoi An to link the town with the Chinese quarters across the stream. The bridge was provided with a roof so it could be used as a shelter from rain and sun. DIEP DONG NGUYEN HOUSE: built for a Chinese merchant, an ancestor of the present inhabitants, in the late 19th century. The front room on the ground floor was once a dispensary for Thuoc Bac (Chinese medicine). TRAN FAMILY CHAPEL: this house for worshipping ancestors was built about 200 years ago with donations from family members. The Tran family traces its origins to China and moved to Vietnam around 1700. The architecture of the building reflects the influence of Chinese and Japanese styles. SA HUYNH MUSEUM: located near the Japanese Covered Bridge, it contains exhibitions from the earliest period of Hoi An's history. TRADING CERAMICS MUSEUM: a museum offering a display of old Hoi An ceramics. QUAN THANG HOUSE: one of the oldest and nicest houses in Hoi An. There are some especially fine carvings on the wooden walls of the rooms around the courtyard. PHUNG HUNG HOUSE: the same family has been living here for eight generations. The house is a combination of Vietnamese, Japanese and Chinese styles. QUANG DONG PAGODA: a small Chinese style temple with a lintel gate, a rockery courtyard and lucky animals depicted in statuary, this pagoda was open to all Chinese traders or seamen and is dedicated to Thien Hau. CHUA CHUC THANH PAGODA: founded in 1454 by Minh Hai, a Buddhist monk from China, it is the oldest pagoda in Hoi An. Among the antique ritual objects still in use are several bells, a stone gong two centuries old and a carp-shaped wooden gong said to be even older. Transfer to the airport. Flight from Danang to Saigon. Arrival transfer to the hotel. Overnight in Saigon.
Day 11: Saigon city tour (B, L)
Full day sightseeing in Saigon and Cholon (Chinatown). Saigon is the largest of Vietnamese cities, with the hustle and bustle of Vietnamese life visible everywhere. There are street markets, sidewalk cafes and sleek new bars. The city churns and bubbles. Yet within this teeming metropolis are 300 years of timeless traditions and the beauty of an ancient culture. To the west of the city is District 5, the huge Chinese neighborhood called Cholon, which means 'Big Market'. Highlights: NOTRE DAME CATHEDRAL: built between 1877 and 1883 and set in the heart of Saigon's government quarter. It has a neo-Romanesque form and two high square towers, tipped with iron spires. In front of the cathedral is a statue of the Virgin Mary. CENTRAL POST OFFICE: a French-style building with a glass canopy and iron frame, situated next to the Notre Dame Cathedral. The structure was built between 1886 and 1891 and is by far the largest post office in Vietnam. CITY HALL: completed in 1908, also known as ''œHotel de Ville'', and located at the northern end of Nguyen Hue Boulevard. With its ornate gingerbread faÃ§ade, it looks like the town hall of a French town. (May be viewed from the outside only). OPERA HOUSE: built around the turn of the century and first renovated in the 1940s, the building housed the lower division of the National Assembly. Today it is a Municipal Theatre and also known as the Saigon Concert Hall. (May be viewed from the outside only). JADE EMPEROR PAGODA: was a key meeting place for Chinese secret societies. It has very colorful and mysterious ambience. REUNIFICATION PALACE: this was the Independence Palace of the South Vietnamese president and was stormed by tanks on 30 April 1975, signifying the fall of South Vietnam. It has been preserved in its original state. WAR REMNANTS MUSEUM: collections of weapons and photographs from two Indochina wars are exhibited along with the original French 'Guillotine' brought here in the early 20th century. BEN THANH MARKET: the central market of Saigon, its surrounding streets make up one of the city's liveliest areas. Everything commonly eaten, worn or used by the average resident of Saigon is available here. GIAC LAM PAGODA: the oldest pagoda in Saigon, built at the end of the 17th century. Because the last reconstruction here was in 1900, the architecture, layout and ornamentation remain almost unaltered by the modernist renovations that have transformed so many other religious structures in Vietnam. Ten monks live in this pagoda, which also incorporates aspects of Taoism and Confucianism. BINH TAY MARKET: Cholon's main marketplace, much of the business conducted here is wholesale. THIEN HAU PAGODA: built by the Cantonese congregation in the early 19th century. The pagoda is one of the most active in Cholon and is dedicated to Thien Hau. It is said that she can travel over the oceans on a mat and ride the clouds to wherever she pleases. Overnight in Saigon.
Day 12: Saigon - Phnom Penh (B, L)
Transfer to the airport. Flight from Saigon to Phnom Penh. Arrival in Phnom Penh and transfer to the hotel. Sightseeing in Phnom Penh, Cambodiaâ€™s capital sitting at the confluence of the Mekong, Bassac and Tonle Sap rivers. Considered the loveliest of the French-built cities of Indochina, it was founded as a small monastery in 1372 by a rich Khmer woman called Penh after she found four Buddha statues in a tree trunk on the banks of the Mekong. She set up the monastery on a nearby hill ' or ''phnom'' in Cambodian. Highlights: WAT PHNOM: a temple and location of the first pagoda on this site built in 1372 by ''Penh'' to house the four Buddha statues found on the banks of the Mekong. It is the only hill (27 meters) in the capital. WAT OUNALOM: a very important wat comprising 44 structures facing the Tonle Sap Lake and built in 1443 to house a hair of the Buddha. ROYAL PALACE AND SILVER PAGODA: the royal palace stands on the site of the former citadel, Bantey Kev (built in 1813). Visitors are not allowed in some portions of the grounds, as the palace is the official residence of King Sihanouk. The silver pagoda is often called the Pagoda of the Emerald Buddha or Wat Preah Kaeo after the statue housed there. The wooden temple was originally built by King Norodom in 1892 and inside, its floor is comprised of more than 5000 silver blocks which together weigh nearly 6 tons. NATIONAL MUSEUM: designed by a French archeologist and painter, George Groslier, in Khmer style in 1920 to exhibit works previously scattered throughout the country. It contains a collection of Khmer art including the beautiful 6th century bronze statue of Vishnu. TUOL SLENG MUSEUM (Museum of Genocide): formerly the Tuol Svay Prey High School, in 1975 it became the Khmer Rouge's main torture and interrogation center. It was known as Security Prison 21 ' or just S-21. CENTRAL MARKET: a covered market distinguished by its central dome (built in 1937). It is filled with shops selling jewelry, fabrics and all kinds of souvenirs. A great place for browsing. Overnight in Phnom Penh.
Day 13: Phnom Penh - Siem Reap (B, L)
Transfer to the airport. Flight from Phnom Penh to Siem Reap. arrival transfer and sightseeing of Angkor. Visit Angkor Wat, a temple dedicated to the Hindu god Vishnu by King Suryavarman II, who reigned between 1131 and 1150. It was constructed over a period of 30 years and is world famous for its beauty and splendor. Angkor Wat features the longest continuous bas-relief in the world, which runs along the outer gallery walls and narrates stories from Hindu mythology. In 1992 the UNESCO declared the monument and the whole city of Angkor a World Heritage Site. Visit Angkor Thom, a fortified Royal City (10 square kilometers) built by King Jayavarman VII, who ruled from 1181 to 1201. The city has five monumental gates and is encircled by a moat 100 meters wide. In the center of the walled city are the city's most important monuments including Bayon, Baphuon, the Terrace of Elephants, the Terrace of the Leper King and Phimeanakas with Royal Enclosure. Other highlights: BAYON: Jayavarman VII's temple mountain that stands at the center of Angkor Thom. It is one of the most popular of Angkor's monuments and a place of narrow corridors, steep flights of stairs and an amazing collection of towers decorated with over 200 smiling faces. BAPHUON: the pyramid shape represents the mythical Mount Meru and marks the center of the city that was here before Angkor Thom. PHIMEANAKAS: near the center of what was once the royal palace within Angkor Thom. Phimeanakas means ''Celestial Palace'', though today there is not much left to indicate its former splendour. FORMER ROYAL PALACE: nothing remains today except two pools that were used by royalty for washing. TERRACE OF ELEPHANTS: this terrace was used for viewing public ceremonies and was a base for the King's grand audience hall. The famous lines of elephants are at either end of the retaining walls. TERRACE OF THE LEPER KING: North of the Terrace of Elephants is a platform named 'Terrace of the Leper King'. On the platform is a nude statue '' one of Angkor''s mysteries. Overnight in Siem Reap.
Day 14: Siem Reap city tour (B, L)
Continue the sightseeing Angkor with a visit to Banteay Srei Temple, built in the late 10th century, it is a Hindu temple dedicated to Shiva. The temple is square with entrances on the east and west. Of main interest are the three central towers which are decorated with male and female divinities and beautiful filigree relief work. Visit Banteay Samre, built in the middle of the 12th century under Suryavarman II, and dedicated to the god Vishnu.Visit Prasat Kravan, Banteay Kdei, Ta Prohm, Ta Keo, Thommanon and Chau Say Tevoda. Other highlights: PRASAT KRAVAN: the five brick towers were built for Hindu worship in 921 and are notable for the bas-reliefs cut into the bricks on the interior walls. BANTEAY KDEI: a massive Buddhist temple dating from the second half of the 12th century. It is surrounded by four concentric walls, the outer walls measuring 500 by 700 metres. TA PROHM: one of the most popular attractions of Angkor as much of the jungle has not been cleared and it looks very much as most of the Angkor monuments would have appeared when European explorers first stumbled across them. TA KEO: built by Jayavarman V (ruled 968 to 1001), it was the first Angkorian monument built entirely of sandstone and was dedicated to Shiva. The summit of the central tower is 50 metres high and is surrounded by four lower towers. THOMMANON: temple which mirrors Chau Say Tevoda (just to the north), as it was built around the same time and has a similar plan. It is also dedicated to Shiva and Vishnu. CHAU SAY TEVODA: built during the second quarter of the 12th century on the east side of Angkor Wat, it was dedicated to Shiva and Vishnu. Overnight in Siem Reap.
Day 15: Siem Reap/ Depart (B)
Free time for shopping or optional visit before transfer to airport for flight back home. End of services. Our staff will give you the warmest goodbye and hope to see you again