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Hanoi & Vientiane
3 Hours Before Flight Time
On arrival at Noibai Airport, you are met and transferred to hotel. Hanoi, Vietnam’s capital is a stylish and gracious city that retains an unique old world charm and some Asia‘s most striking colonial architecture. The are many lakes and parks for a relaxing atmosphere. If time permits we enjoy a short cyclo excursion through the bustling old quarter streets named after the specific goods once offered for sale! O/N in Hanoi.
This morning we enjoy a half-day city tour starting with the Ho Chi Minh Complex, containing the mausoleum of the nation’s founder Ho Chi Minh, the Presidential Palace and Ho Chi Minh’s house on stilts. The complex also comprises with One Pillar Pagoda whose origins date back to the foundation of Hanoi. We follow this with a trip to the Temple of Literature well known as Vietnam’s first university and the History Museum displaying an excellent collection of artifacts illustrating the Vietnamese history. The peaceful lake of Hoan Kiem and the bustling Dong Xuan Market are also visited before we depart for Halong bay truly one of Vietnam’s most impressive scenic sights. O/N in Halong.
This morning we embark on a boat for an exploration of the legendary Halong bay. This exciting five hour cruise will provide us a fantastic view of the picturesque scenery blending with the sky and some 3,000 limestone islands rising amazingly from the clear and emerald water. The limestone karts formations are littered with beaches, grottoes and beautiful caves. After a seafood lunch on board we return to Hanoi, stopping en route at Dong Trieu pottery village. We arrive Hanoi in time to see an evening performance of Hanoi’s famous water puppets. O/N in Hanoi.
After breakfast we have free time to explore Hanoi until transferring to Noibai Airport for a flight to Hue Vietnam’s last feudal capital. This small and quiet city is widely known for magnificent architectures, pagodas and royal tombs laid in many small villages and surrounding hills. We spend this afternoon to visit Hue with the massive citadel, containing the Imperial City and the Purple Forbidden City. This Royal Residence was destroyed during the 1968 Tet Offensive, however it is still fascinating to walk among the ruins. After an impressive boat trip we return to the town and enjoy a walk to the Dong Ba Market that sells a wide variety of local goods and handicrafts. O/N in Hue.
This morning we will embark for a Dragon boat to visit beautiful Thien Mu Pagoda riverside which now becomes the symbol of Hue and the elaborate royal tomb of Emperor Tu Duc. Upon leaving Hue we drive south to Hoian, which was originally a Cham seaport but has been influenced down the centuries by a myriad of traders from various cultures. The scenic road is hugging the coastline before crossing over the winding Hai Van pass. A view from the top of the pass is one of Vietnam’s most impressive panoramic scenes. We stop en route to visit the Cham Museum in Danang City, the China Beach and the Marble Mountain, whose peaks represent the five elements of the universe. O/N in Hoian.
The ancient architecture of Hoian is a fascinating combination of Vietnamese traditional characters with Chinese and Japanese influence. There are plenty to see in this delightful town, some of which are the famous Japanese Covered Bridges, Pottery Museum, 200 years old Tan Ky House, Chua Ong Pagoda and vibrant market. Today we include these on a walking tour past many low tiled houses scattered along the small streets and assembly halls, which reflect the town’s multi-cultural past. A perfect way to relax and viewing sun setting on Thu Bon river taking us to admire the spectacular countryside and explore a handicraft ceramic village and boat building yards. O/N in Hoian.
An early morning transfer to Da Nang airport for a short flight to Ho Chi Minh. The sightseeing tour of Ho Chi Minh City begins with Reunification Palace, which was the former residence of the Southern Vietnam President until end of April 1975. Close to the palace are some striking French colonial structures including the Notre Dame Cathedral and the Old Sai Gon Post Office. We also visit the Jade Emperor Pagoda, War Remnant Museum before continuing to the bustling Ben Thanh Market where handy craft, laquer ware and more on sales! O/N in SAIGON
The head quarter of Cao Dai sect is located in Tay Ninh, this religion was founded in 1923 and now numbers over 2 million members. After breakfast we travel by roads to Tay Ninh to see the ornate temple of Cao Dai attend the fantastic mid-day service when the followers fill the hall wearing colored robes, a symbol of the curious combination of the Confucianism, Taoism and Buddhism. Afterwards we continue to the famous Cu Chi Tunnels, which were an incredible underground network constructed by Vietnamese fighters during the long struggle for independence. The tunnels contained hospitals, plus accommodation and schools, and were used as a military base for the Viet Cong in the American war. O/N in SAIGON
Free time for leisure or some last minutes shopping until transferring to Saigon Airport, for your afternoon flight to Siem Reap in Cambodia, well known for the famous temple of Angkor Wat. Here your Cambodian guide will greet you and transfer you to your hotel where you havethe evening at leisure. O/Nin Siem Reap
This morning we continue to explore Angkor plain: Angkor Wat, temple complex cover 81 hectares and is comparable in size to the Imperial Palace in Beijing. Its distinctive five towers are emblazoned on the Cambodian flag and the 12th century masterpiece is considered by art historians to be the prime example of classical Khmer art and architecture. Angkor Wat’s five tower symbolize Meru’s five peaks, the enclosed wall represents the mountains at the edge of the world and the surrounding moat symbolizes the ocean beyond
Afternoon visit: Ta Prohm, one of the most beautiful temples in the area. Ta Prohm has been left relatively untouched since it was discovered and retains much of its mystery, Prasat Kravan (with its unique brick sculptures), Srah Srang (“The Royal Boths” was once used for ritual bathing), Banteay Kdei (surrounded by four concentric walls), Eastern Mebon (guarded at its corner by stone figures of harnessed elephants, some of which are still in a reasonable state of preservation) and the “Mountain Temple” of Pre Rup until sunset. O/N in Siem Reap.
Morning we drive to Kbal Spean. Walk 45 minutes through the forest to the top of the hill to reach Kbal Spean, the “Thousand Linga River.” Discover the 10th-12th century sculptures chiseled into the rocky riverbed, the Royal Bath and the waterfall. Continue to the enchanting temple of the Banteay Srei, nearly everyone’s favorite site. The special charm of this temple lies in its compact size, remarkable state of preservation, and the excellence of it decorative carvings
In the afternoon, visit Banteay Samre, one of the most complete complexes at Angkor due to the “anastylosis” restoration method being used. The name Samre refers to an ethnic group of mountain people that inhabited the region at the base of Phnom Kulen and were probably related to the Khmers. No inscriptions have been found at this temple, but the style of most of the architecture is of the classic art of the middle period, similar to Angkor Wat. The proportions of Banteay Samre are splendid. A unique feature is an interior moat with laterite paving, which when filled with water must have given an ethereal atmosphere to the temple. O/N in Siem Reap.
Before leaving Siem Reap our group will visit a floating village of the Chong Khneas, located 10 kilometers south of Siem Reap. Take a traditional wooden boat for a ride on the Tonle Sap, the “Great Lake” of Cambodia and the largest in Asia. Our next destination is Laos – Vientiane after a short flight. On arrival in Vientiane Capital, you will be met and transferred to your centrally located hotel. After a short rest, we see the major sights of the capital; 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. On the way to Lao’s national icon, the famous and sacred structure of That Luang Stupa, we stop enroute to take some pictures of the imposing Patuxay Monument, which is well known as Vientiane’s own Arc de Triumph The Mekong river side is the perfect place to end the day and admire the sunset. O/N in Vientiane.
Today, we transfer to the airport for the short flight to Luang Prabang, which is perhaps the best-preserved traditional city in Southeast Asia. After checking into your hotel, we visit the impressive stupa of Wat Visoun and the shrines of Wat Aham and Wat Mai, we then climb up to the top of Mount Phousi to explore the sacred, gilded stupa as well as have a beautiful view of the city and the Mekong River at sunset. From there, we explore the Night Market, where you can browse a lovely selection of handmade textiles made by the local people and hill tribes surrounding Luang Prabang. O/N in Luang Prabang
Today, we enjoy a short-guided tour seeing the city’s oldest temples of Wat Sene and the magnificent Wat Xiengthong with its roofs sweeping low to the ground, which represents classical Laotian architecture. We then embark on a cruise upstream on the Mekong River, which also gives us a breathtaking view of the tranquil countryside as well as exploring 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, we will stop at the village of Ban Xanghai, where the local rice wine is produced. On return, we take a short drive to another small village Ban Phanom, which is famous for its hand weaving. O/N in Luang Prabang.
An optional early start gives 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 in Laos, being the only Buddhist nation still preserving the ritual.
After breakfast, we visit the National Museum (closed Tuesdays) at the former Royal Palace. It displays a collection of arte facts reflecting the richness of Lao culture dating from the days of the early kings right through to the last sovereign. There will also be time for us to look around the Central Market. After visiting these sights in the morning, you catch your flight back to Vientiane. After checking into your hotel, we transfer out to see the Buddha Park, an enchanting collection of Buddhist and Hindu sculptures on the Mekong Riverside meadow, near the Friendship Bridge. There are approximately 200 religious images dating back over 500 years, which were created by a mysterious monk spreading his philosophy on life and to reveal his ideas about the universe. A spectacular view of over the Mekong River at sunset is a perfect way to finish the day. O/N in Vientiane.
After breakfast, we visit the Morning Market and the weaving village of Ban Nong Bouathong (if time permits). The tour ends after your transfer to Wattay airport for departure.
We contacted Hein at Vietnam Guiding Tours about a private tour that would include Vietnam, Cambodia, and Laos for three weeks in September and October of this year. Hein quickly responded with an itinerary for the trip highlighting what we had told him we were interest in. We worked through a couple of minor changes and made our flight arrangements in and out of Hanoi. The trip was the trip of a lifetime for us. All the drivers and guides were extraordinary and very well versed on the city or area we were in. It was great to have a guide that was from each area, spoke excellent English, and was open and willing to share their country and lives with us. During the trip, we rain into a weather issue at Halong Bay that disrupted our schedule. Like everything else Hein and his team made/adjusted all the arrangements (including flights and hotels) overnight! I can’t say enough about Hein and his team. We HIGHLY recommend!