Day 1 Chiang Mai
Upon arrival in Chiang Mai, you will be met by an English speaking representative and start your private half day Doi Suthep and Temples tour.
On arrival in Chiang Mai, you will be met by an English speaking representative and start your private half day Doi Suthep and Temples tour. Afternoon Doi Suthep and Temples Visit the most sacred temple in the North of Thailand: Wat Phrathat Doi Suthep is the most sacred temple in Chiang Mai and contains a holy relic of the Lord Buddha. Tucked away in the mountains at an elevation of 1,056 meters (3,520 feet), the temple can be reached by the carved mythical Naga Serpent Staircase. The temple offers an exhilarating view of Chiang Mai city and its surrounding countryside. Drive back down to the city centre to visit some of the other impressive temples of Chiang Mai. Wat Suan Dok is one of them, and dates back to the 14th century when the Thai monarchy was taking leisure walks in its gardens.Nowadays, it houses several white Chedis, all containing the ashes of Chiang Mai’s former Royal family, and features one of the most famous Monk Schools in the whole locality of Chiang Mai. We will also visit Wat Jedyod, also known as The Temple of Seven Spires
Accommodation: Puripunn Baby Grand Boutique
Day 2 Chiang Mai (Breakfast/Lunch/Dinner)
Full Day Long Neck Karen Thaton and Boat Trip (with lunch)
This trip begins with a 3.5 hour ride from Chiang Mai to Thaton, but this long journey is worth every minute. We will first stop at the Hmong hill-tribe village, where we will have lunch at a local restaurant. You will then embark in a 30-minute boat trip along the Mae Kok River to Baan Mai before continuing by mini-van to visit three more hill-tribe villages: Akha, Palong and Long Neck Karen.
This last tribe is particularly fascinating as women of this tribe wear brass rings on their necks and limbs. The number of the rings increases according to their age and as a consequence, their shoulder blades are pressed lower and lower while their necks seem to be longer and longer. Upon returning to Thaton, you will visit Wat Thaton, which is situated on the top of the hill and offers beautiful panoramic views of local villages, of the river and the forests standing on the surrounding mountains. If time permits, a stop at a local market will be proposed on the return trip to the hotel.
Evening Kantoke Dinner
One of the most famous Northern traditions in Chiang Mai is the Kanthoke dinner. Diners will sit on the floor and share a succession of tasty dishes, accompanied with sticky rice. While enjoying this superb Northern Thai Dinner, all guests will be entertained by local dancers, dressed in traditional clothing, and performing Sword dances, Candle dances, Fingernail dances and the traditional Ramwong where guests are generally invited to participate. After dinner, there will be a special hill tribe show giving an excellent opportunity to see a number of tribes in rotation and to note differences in appearance and costumes.
Day 3 Chiang Mai – Luang Prabang (Breakfast)
Morning visit the Elephant at Work & Orchid Farm
Elephants are Thailand’s working pride and one of the country’s national symbols. A 30-kilometre drive away from Chiang Mai, you can admire the strength of these immense gentle animals. At a local elephant training centre in a jungle area in the North of the city, you will see elephants at work and wonder at a formidable demonstration of how these trained elephants help the local community in logging work. Before ending the tour, we will stop by an orchid farm where you can admire gorgeous species of orchids, which are another national symbol of the Land of Smiles.
Transfer to the airport for your flight to Luang Prabang. Upon arrival in Luang Prabang, private transfer will take you to the hotel and rest of the day is free at leisure.
Set between the Nam Khan and Mekong rivers, Luang Prabang is an enchanting town filled with historic temples and colonial style buildings. The entire town was declared a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 1995.
Accommodation: Vila Santi Hotel (Deluxe Room)
Day 4 Luang Prabang (Breakfast)
Start the day at Wat Visoun (Wat Wisunalat), the oldest living temple in Luang Prabang, Wat dating back to 1513 and contains a collection of antique wooden Buddhas. Visit the nearby Wat Aham before continuing to Wat Xieng Thong, the crowning jewel of all the monasteries and temples in the city. Its many ornate buildings feature exquisite mosaic and gold-stencilled murals. From there, stroll down the main street of Luang Prabang, stopping at some of the many temples that line its sides, including Wat Sibounheuang, Wat Si Moungkhoun, Wat Sop and Wat Sene.
Continue to the National Museum (Royal Palace), a modest but graceful building which combines traditional Lao and French beaux-arts motifs. This turn-of-the century royal residence has been preserved as it was when the royal family last lived here and provides unique insights into the history of Laos. Then, visit Hor Phrabang. In the right front corner room of the Palace which opens to the outside, is a collection of the palace’s most prized art, including the Phrabang, cast of a gold, silver and bronze alloy. This Buddha stands at 83 cm tall and weighs around 50 kg. Afterwards, visit Wat Mai.Visit Mount Phousi for sunset
Climb 328 steps starting from the entrance on the opposite side of National Museum, or 410 steps on the other side of Khan River to the small temples atop Phou Si. The hill is 150m high and sits in the middle of the town, offering beautiful views over the temples and river.
Day 5 Luang Prabang (Breakfast)
Excursion by boat to Tham Pak Ou Caves. Travel up the Mekong River to the steep limestone cliffs overlooking the Mekong and Nam Ou rivers, home to the Tham Pak Ou Caves. These extraordinary caves are filled with Buddha images, of every style and material imaginable. On the way to Pak Ou Cave, stop at Ban Xang Hai Village (If time permits, open 6.00 am – 15.00 pm and closed every major Buddhist holiday), a local village famous for the production of lao lao, the local rice wine whisky.
Visit the weaving village of Ban Xang Khong, a village near Luang Prabang well known for its traditional handwoven cotton and silk, as well as production of the local sa (mulberry) paper.
Day 6 Luang Prabang – Hanoi (Breakfast)
Today’s journey start with Give alms to the monks (early morning). An 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.
Return to the hotel for breakfast and rest of morning at leisure. Check out from your hotel and take a leisure walk at the local market before transfer to the airport for your flight to Hanoi. On arrival. Transfer to the hotel for overnight.
Accommodation: Hilton Garden Inn (Standard Room)
Day 7 Hanoi (Breakfast/Dinner)
Sightseeing in Hanoi
Although it is the modern-day capital of Vietnam, Hanoi still retains the mystery and charm of past centuries. Narrow lanes and traditional shop houses invite an exciting exploration by walking, while it’s many beautiful public spaces lakes, parks, tree-lined boulevards and monuments give the city an air of elegance and harmony with nature unique among Asian capitals.
Visit the Ho Chi Minh Museum
HO CHI MINH MUSEUM: is divided into 2 sections, ‘Past’ and ‘Future’. The displays are very modern and all represent a message (eg. Peace, happiness, freedom). (Closed on Mondays)
Visit the Hanoi Hilton (Hoa Lo Prison)
Visit the Temple of Literature
TEMPLE OF LITERATURE: a peaceful series of walled courtyards and graceful gateways, this monument is one of the best-preserved examples of traditional Vietnamese architecture. Founded in 1070 and dedicated to Confucius, this was also the site of Vietnam’s first university. In one courtyard, giant stone tortoises bear stele on their backs, listing the accomplishments of graduating scholars.
Visit the Museum of Ethnology
MUSEUM OF ETHNOLOGY: This museum brings to life the astonishing ethnic diversity in Vietnam, with art and artefacts from the 54 different ethnic groups that inhabit the country. Inside the museum are detailed descriptions of minority groups, with examples of their traditional clothing and way of life. Outside are faithful reconstructions of traditional longhouses, cemeteries and other distinctive ethnic buildings.
Visit a Water Puppet Show
WATER PUPPET SHOW: a fantastic art form originating in northern Vietnam, best seen in Hanoi.
Overnight in Hanoi.
Day 8 Hanoi – Halong Cruise (Breakfast/Lunch/Dinner)
By vehicle from Hanoi to Halong Bay
Transfer to/from Tuan Chau Marina Port
Cruise aboard the Paradise Luxury Cruise through Halong Bay, Arrive at Tuan Chau Island. Transfer to cruise ship. Welcome Drink – cruise briefing, safety instructions, check-in cabins. Depart to Halong Bay – cruise and program commence. Serve Vietnamese buffet lunch. Arrive at Surprise Cave (Hang Sung Sot) – explore most famous grotto in the entire Halong bay. Transfer to cruise ship – Continue cruise through Halong Bay. Enjoy the cooking demonstration and discover Vietnamese cuisine. Visit Titop beach – Hiking 400 steps up to the peak of the island for a spectacular panoramic view or kayak and swimming in one of the most beautiful beaches in Halong bay. Five course set menu. Evening Activities – relax at leisure; enjoy Movie Night, Board Games or Beauty Spa services.
Overnight in cabin onboard Paradise Cruises
Day 9 Halong Bay – Hanoi (Breakfast)
Tai Chi session on the Sundeck. Serve tea, coffee and pastry for light breakfast. Explore Luon by local row boat or explore privately by kayak. Full Breakfast Buffet. Check-out of cabins and settle bills. Arrive at Tuan Chau Island.
By vehicle from Halong to Hanoi (city) with sightseeing at Bac Ninh
Travel westwards from Halong, stopping enroute at Bac Ninh, the cradle of traditional Vietnamese music and theater. On arrival, proceed by buffalo-drawn cart through country lanes to visit the DINH BANG COMMUNCAL HOUSE and DO TEMPLE. Enjoy a performance of local folk songs before continuing onwards to Hanoi.
Overnight in Hanoi.
Accommodation: Hilton Garden Inn (Standard Room)
Day 10 Hanoi – Siem Reap (Breakfast)
Morning is free at leisure.
Transfer to the airport for your flight to Siem Reap.
Upon arrival, transfer to the hotel.
Accommodation: Memoire D’Angkor Boutique Hotel, Siem Reap
Day 11 Siem Reap (Breakfast)
Sightseeing in Angkor
Visit Angkor Thom
The fortified city of ANGKOR THOM covers an area of 10 square km. Enclosed by a wall and wide moats; the city includes many of Angkor’s most popular sights. Enter by the monumental SOUTH GATE over a causeway lined on either side by statues of demons and gods, each carrying a giant naga. Continue to the TERRACE OF THE ELEPHANTS and the TERRACE OF THE LEPER KINGS, former spaces for public ceremonies, both adorned with dramatic bas reliefs. Visit the ruined BAPHUON, ROYAL ENCLOSURE and PHIMEANAKAS before continuing to the mysterious BAYON TEMPLE. In this temple, one of the most popular and compelling in Angkor, explore the galleries of beautifully preserved bas reliefs and ascend narrow stairs to reach the central sanctuary, where giant stone faces smiling enigmatically down from every angle.
Visit a temple for sunset
Watch the sun set over the Cambodian countryside from the upper terraces of an ancient Angkorian temple.
Overnight in Siem Reap.
Day 12 Siem Reap (Breakfast)
Sightseeing in Angkor
Visit Angkor Wat
The crown jewel of Khmer architecture, ANGKOR WAT is the national symbol and the highlight of any visit to Cambodia. The largest, best preserved, and most religiously significant of the Angkor temples, Angkor impresses visitors both by its sheer scale and beautifully proportioned layout, as well as the delicate artistry of its carvings. To approach the temple, first cross the vast moat, continuing along a broad causeway lined with naga balustrades. Upon entering the main structure, ascend through a series of galleries and courtyard before reaching the central sanctuary, which offers beautiful views back over the causeway and across the surrounding countryside. On the way, stop to enjoy the intricate stone carvings that adorn nearly every surface of the temple, with some 1,700 Apsaras, or celestial dancers, sculpted from the walls. Along the outer gallery walls run the longest continuous bas-relief in the world, which narrates stories from Hindu mythology, including the famous Churning of the Ocean of Milk. Angkor Wat is stunning at any time of the day, but sunrise and sunset are especially beautiful times to watch the play of light on the stones.
Visit Ta Prohm
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.
Visit Banteay Srei Temple
Seemingly miniature in comparison to the other Angkor temples, BANTEAY SREI is considered to be the jewel of classical Khmer art. Built in pink sandstone, the walls are covered in exquisitely preserved carvings of unusual delicacy. Because of its small size, wondrous atmosphere and extraordinary examples of Khmer sculpture, this temple is often a favourite with visitors.
Day 13 Siem Reap – Pandaw Mekong Cruise – Kampong Cham (Breakfast/Lunch/Dinner)
Transfer to the picking up point for your Pandaw Mekong River Cruises. From there, you are transferred by coach to Kampong Cham. A packed lunch will be provided on the coach and we will stop at Kampong Thom along the way.
Day 14 Kampong Cham (Breakfast/Lunch/Dinner)
Passengers will visit the hilltop temple of Wat Hanchey in the morning.
In the afternoon, travel by bus to visit the Twin Holy mountains of Phnom Pros and Phnom Srey (Man and Woman Hill). Continuation to the ecotourism village of Choeungkok supported by the Frech-Cambodian NGO Amica.
Day 15 Tonlle River – Kampong Chhnang (Breakfast/Lunch/Dinner)
Excursion up the Tonle River to Kampong Chhnang by either coach or the ship depending on water levels. Beyond Kampong Chhnang travel by the Pandaw Explorer to discover the vast wetlands around the mouth of the river. Here many fishtraps may be seen.
Day 16 Phnom Penh (Breakfast/Lunch/Dinner)
We will visit Phnom Penh and will be provided with their own private cyclo*. The Cyclo Centre Phnom Penh which provides the cyclos is a charity that provides basic welfare and medical services to cyclo drivers (www.cyclo.org.uk). In the afternoon, optional excursion (by coach) to the Killing Fields and the Khmer Rouge’s grim Tuol Sleng or S21 detention centre. (This tour is included in the cost of your cruise but must be requested at the time of booking).
Day 17 Cruising the Mekong / Border Crossing (Breakfast/Lunch/Dinner)
We spend the day cruising in the main Mekong channel, an international shipping route for the Vietnamese border for the usual formalities.
Day 18 Chau Doc (Breakfast/Lunch/Dinner)
Visit a Cham tribal village and a cat fish farm in Chau Doc.
Day 19 Sa Dec / Cai Be (Breakfast/Lunch/Dinner)
In the morning, passengers will take an exciting Sampan boat excursion to Sa Dec via Vinh Long along canals and backwaters.
Passengers will visit Sa Dec and see the local market and the ancient house of Mr, Huyn Thuy Le, the ‘lover’ of Marguerite Duras, a famous French novelist. At Cai Be, we will cruise through its colourful floating market which takes place daily in front of the catholic church.
Day 20 My Tho / Saigon (Breakfast)
Early morning sail from Cai Be for My Tho, where we disembark in the early morning for a coach transfer to Saigon.
Arrive at the hotel late morning.
Arrive Saigon via Pandaw Cruises and transfer from drop off point to your hotel for check in.
Balance of the day is free at leisure.
Accommodation: Majestic Saigon Colonial River (Deluxe Room)
Day 21 Saigon (Breakfast)
This morning, enjoy a city tour.
A vibrant metropolis, SAIGON teems with energy, activity and motion. Everywhere you look, you see the meeting of traditional and modern life. The emerging modern skyline stands cheek by jowl with colonial buildings and traditional temples. Outside on the streets, young professionals zip by on motorbikes, chatting on cell phones; inside the quiet temple courtyards, worshippers pray amidst clouds of incense. Begin the tour of this exciting city with a tour of the historic centre, strolling along DONG KHOI STREET, formerly known as the Rue Catinat, the main shopping thoroughfare and heart of old colonial Saigon. Pass by classic European-style landmarks such as the ornate CITY HALL (HOTEL DE VILLE), the old OPERA HOUSE (both may only be viewed from the outside), and pay a quick visit to the neo-Romanesque NOTRE DAME CATHEDRAL and the CENTRAL POST OFFICE. Afterwards dive into modern history with a tour of the REUNIFICATION PALACE. Formerly the Independence Palace of the South Vietnamese president, this 60s style was famously stormed by tanks on April 30, 1975 signifying the fall of South Vietnam. It has been preserved in its original state, and the original tanks remain on display near the entrance gates. Continue to the harrowing WAR REMNANTS MUSEUM, which comprehensively documents the travails of the long Vietnam- American War. Inside are detailed photographic exhibitions; outside is a collection of tanks, planes and weapons. A powerful experience, this museum is guaranteed to provoke strong emotions. Afterwards driving to the historic center to visit EMPEROR OF JADE PAGODA, one of Saigon’s most interesting pagodas.
In the afternoon, take an excursion to Cu Chi Tunnels.
Never discovered by American forces, the CU CHI TUNNELS were an important Vietcong base during the American War. Stretching over 200 km, this incredible underground network, dug by hand out of hard laterite, connected command posts, hospitals, shelter and weapons factories. Today, walk through the area and learn about the day to day life of the Vietcong, bear witness to the cleverly disguised entrances and elaborate booby-traps, and even venture inside the tunnels, some of which have been modified to accommodate tourists.
Day 22 Saigon (Breakfast/Dinner)
Morning is free at leisure.
This afternoon, enjoy a Cooking class with Mrs. Doan Cam Van in Binh Duong.
The highlight of the trip today is the person whom you will learn history & culture of Vietnamese cuisine from – Mrs. Dzoan Cam Van. So far Cam Van has published nearly 40 culinary books, and been invited to introduce Vietnamese cuisine to many countries around the world. Enjoy an authentic hands-on cooking class in the peaceful setting. Learning to cook is great fun but enjoying the food that you cook is even better. Chance to share her interesting stories for travelling several times around different States of the US to present Vietnamese cuisine.
Day 23 Saigon – Home (Breakfast)
This morning, you are transferred to the airport for your flight home.