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*The red tour trail on the map does not represent the actual travel path.

SOUTHEAST ASIA CIRCUIT

Vietnam, Cambodia and Laos
Many Westerners expect Vietnam to be a land of darkness, deeply marked by the still-festering scars of war, but nothing can be further from the truth. For most who visit Vietnam for the first time, the big surprise is that is an exciting, spirited and remarkably beautiful place full of happy, healthy, optimistic people. There are also natural wonders like Halong Bay, where more than a thousand limestone peaks soar from crystalline emerald water — one of the natural wonders of South-East Asia.

Cambodia is home to one of Asia's oldest cultures and most important historic places. No matter where you visit, the scenery is spectacular and mostly unspoiled, and the Khmer people everywhere are genuinely friendly.

We explore the famous ruins of Angkor Wat before heading to laid-back Luang Prabang, the former royal capital of Laos and one of the most interesting places in Indochina. Here you can smell the baguettes baking and even find a decent bottle of wine, thanks to the French.
ITINERARY
Day 1 • Arrival in Bangkok
Arrive in Bangkok, Thailand.

Overnight in Bangkok (airport area).
Meal plan: Dinner
Day 2 • Bangkok, Thailand - Luang Prabang, Laos
Today we fly to Luang Prabang, Laos, a World Heritage Site.

In the 14th century, this city was established as the royal capital by Fa Ngoum, the first monarch of Lan Xang, the "Land of a Million Elephants" (a charming and evocative nickname from times gone by. Latest figures indicate that Loas's population of wild elephants is in the range of 781- 1,202). By this time, the city had already been the seat of local kingdoms for 600 years. According to legend, the site of the town was chosen by two resident hermits and was originally known as Xieng Thong --"Copper Tree City".

We have an orientation of this charming town, with its one main street lined with colonial era buildings housing shops and cafes. We have a chance to explore the town on foot and to climb to the top of Phu Si Hill. Looking directly downwards you can see that the former royal palace has a cruciform ground plan.

NOTE: The order of our sightseeing in Luang Prabang may vary depending on flight schedules that are subject to change.

Overnight in Luang Prabang.
Meal plan: Breakfast and Dinner
Day 3 • Luang Prabang Area
An early departure today takes to the Mekong River for a boat journey to visit the Pak Ou Caves. The boat is long and quite large, covered, with comfortable seat cushions, life jackets and a WC.

The Pak Ou Caves are two clefts in the side of a mountain stuffed with thousands of old Buddha images. The site has long been sacred for the Lao, even prior to Buddhism, when they worshipped spirits. The lower cave has over 4,000 images, ranging from 3 inches to 9 feet tall, stuck into nooks and crannies. The upper cave's Buddha images are placed far back into the cliff, so it's handy to have a flashlight. A real highlight of a trip to the caves is the breathtaking view of the mountains, villages, and fishermen during the 2-hour boat ride.

We return to Luang Prabang and visit the Royal Palace, a museum containing a collection of 15th-17th century Buddha statues including the significant Golden Buddha. The last member of the Lao royalty to live here was Sisavang Vong's son, Crown Prince Sisavang Vatthana. The private chapel is one of the most interesting wings of the palace. Here you will see the priceless gold Phra Bang Buddha in Abhayamudra (dispelling fear). It is made from 90% pure gold and is said to weigh 50 kg (110 lb).

We finish with a tour of the 16th-century Wat Xieng Thong with its richly decorated wooden interior. Wat Mai is another old temple of classic Luang Prabang design with gracefully curved roofs. We see many 400 year old wooden Buddha statues at Wat Wisunalat.

Overnight in Luang Prabang.
Meal plan: Breakfast and Dinner
Day 4 • Luang Prabang: Kuang Si Waterfall
Today we have an excursion to Kuang Si Waterfall, a beautiful multi-tiered falls located 30 km from Luang Prabang. There is a flight of steps which one has to climb to reach a pool half way to the top. From there, you can look down to the pool below. Many local people come to Kuang Si for picnicking. Our journey to / from the falls is scenic and interesting, passing through small villages and rice fields.

We return to Luang Prabang and have an afternoon at leisure.

Overnight in Luang Prabang.
Meal plan: Breakfast
Day 5 • Luang Prabang, Laos - Hanoi, Vietnam
Today we fly to Hanoi.

Hanoi is an attractive city with lakes, fine boulevards, and flourishing parks, as well as a public centre that is an architectural museum piece. Hanoi is situated on the right bank of the Red River (Song Hong) which is spanned by two bridges, the old Long Bien Bridge and the new Chuong Duong bridge.

Flight schedules permitting, we may accomplish some Hanoi sightseeing upon arrival.

Overnight in Hanoi.
Meal plan: Breakfast and Dinner
Day 6 • Hanoi: City Tour
Today we have a full day of sightseeing, starting with the Hoa Lo Prison Museum, known to American prisoners of war as the Hanoi Hilton. This museum was a prison used by the French colonists in Vietnam for political prisoners and later by North Vietnam for prisoners of war during the American / Vietnam War.

We also see the Mausoleum of Ho Chi Minh, a site of pilgrimage (the building has been closed to visitors of late; probably an outside viewing only). The building was constructed from materials gathered from all over Vietnam. Modeled closely on Lenin's Mausoleum, Ho Chi Minh lies at rest in this Vietnamese version.

We continue to the house on stilts, where Ho Chi Minh lived and worked from 1958 to 1969. Its construction and decor illustrates the importance of simplicity and modesty to this Vietnamese revolutionary. The building is elegantly crafted with lacquered and polished wood, following the model of a traditional communal house on stilts.

We will also admire the elegance of the One Pillar Pagoda, originally built in 1049. The temple is lotus-shaped and is situated in the middle of a water-lily pond.

We continue to the new Ethnology Museum, one of Vietnam's finest. Dedicated to the ethnic minorities of Vietnam, this museum provides educational displays and descriptions and provides a real insight to peoples found primarily in the high country. Next is the Temple of Literature, the site of the first national university dating back to 1076 and one of Hanoi's best-preserved ancient sites.

Tonight we will enjoy a (+/- one hour) water puppet show. This is a fantastic art form unique to Vietnam and derives from the Red River Delta area.

Overnight in Hanoi.
Meal plan: Breakfast
Day 7 • Hanoi - Halong Bay Cruise
Early this morning we travel to Halong Bay. Upon arrival we have a 4-hour cruise on Halong Bay. We'll stop along the way to visit one of the limestone caves in the area. As we cruise our boat staff will serve you a sumptuous local seafood lunch on boat. On our leisurely cruise back to Halong, we stop to visit the floating fishing village and learn about the fishermen's daily life and legends about the bay.

Halong Bay, located in the Gulf of Tonkin, covers an area of 1500 square km. With more than a thousand limestone peaks soaring from its crystalline emerald water this area is one of the natural wonders of Vietnam and now a UNESCO World Heritage Site. The islands are dotted with innumerable white sandy beaches and grottoes created by wind and waves. The name Halong means "where the dragon descends into the sea". Legend has it that the islands of Halong Bay were created by a great dragon who lived in the mountains.

Overnight in Halong City.
Meal plan: Breakfast, Lunch and Dinner
Day 8 • Halong City - Hanoi - Da Nang - Hoi An
Today we transfer back to Hanoi airport from where we fly to Da Nang. We continue by road to Hoi An.

Da Nang is situated on a peninsula at the point where the Han River flows into the South China Sea. We pass through the nearby Marble Mountains; five limestone peaks with marble outcrops known for their beauty and their caves. At the foot of Marble Mountain, an important religious site for the Chams, you can see many artisans crafting fine marble objects. Our destination is one of the most charming towns in Vietnam -- Hoi An. The ancient town of Hoi An (formerly Faifo) lies 32 km (20 miles) south of Da Nang on the banks of the Thu Bon River.

Overnight in Hoi An.
Meal plan: Breakfast and Dinner
Day 9 • Hoi An: Walking Tour
Today we will be able to soak in the atmosphere of this small town (a World Heritage Site) on a walking tour. The unique architecture, the temples, the market will make Hoi An one of the highlights of your trip.

The Japanese Covered Bridge was built in the 16th century, perhaps even earlier. On its north side there is a pagoda, Japanese in style, which protects sailors. Its popular name reflects a long-standing belief that is was built by the Japanese, although no documentary evidence exists to support this. At the Tran Family Temple we will see the fusion between both the Chinese and Japanese styles. This temple has survived for 15 generations.

While in Hoi An, we'll also enjoy a boat trip on the river.

Overnight in Hoi An.
Meal plan: Breakfast
Day 10 • Hoi An - Hue
Today we travel by road to Hue. En route we visit the Cham Museum in Da Nang.

Hue was the capital of the old Nguyen Dynasty and traditionally one of Vietnam's cultural, religious and educational centres. Here there are splendid tombs of the emperors, several stunning pagodas and the citadel which houses the Forbidden Purple City, situated on the banks of the Perfume River.

This afternoon we tour the Citadel, a fortress surrounded by a moat that has a 10 km (6 mile) perimeter. At the Forbidden Purple City we can see the remains of the former home of the emperors. The city is built on the same principles as the Forbidden Palace in Peking (Beijing). It is enclosed by 7-10 m (23-33 foot) thick outer walls (Kinh Thanh), along with moats, canals and towers. There are ten gates which pierce the four walls of the citadel although many are in poor condition -- the city has not only been damaged by war and incessant conflict but also by natural disasters such as floods which in the mid 19th century, inundated the city to a depth of several metres. The complex has undergone partial restoration with the aid of UNESCO.

Overnight in Hue.
Meal plan: Breakfast and Dinner
Day 11 • Hue: Perfume River & Imperial Tomb - Saigon
We begin our day by motorised sampan down the Perfume River to visit the delightful Thien Mu Pagoda, considered to be the finest pagoda in Hue. It was built in 1601 after an old woman appeared to Nguyen Hoang, the governor of Hue, and said that the site had supernatural significance. Later we visit one of the nearby Imperial tombs.

Later we transfer to Hue airport for our flight to Saigon (Ho Chi Minh City).

Overnight in Saigon.
Meal plan: Breakfast and Dinner
Day 12 • Saigon: Cu Chi Tunnels & War Remnants Museum
This morning we will visit the intriguing tunnels of Cu Chi, a complex underground system that housed 10,000 people during the height of the war and contained sleeping quarters, hospitals and schools.

From here we will continue to the War Remnants Museum (formerly the War Crimes Museum). The visit here is a sobering experience with its countless photographs and exhibits. We also see the Reunification Hall, formerly the site of Norodom Palace, the residence of the French Governor-general of Indochina. On 30 April 1975, NVA tanks smashed down the first gates and took control of Saigon.

Overnight in Saigon.
Meal plan: Breakfast
Day 13 • Saigon, Vietnam - Phnom Penh, Cambodia
Today we fly to Phnom Penh and have a tour of this city on arrival.

This is the capital and largest city in Cambodia. Engineered by the French, the city was once filled with beautiful tree-lined streets and colonial mansions. Today many of the old buildings exist, although they are in a severe state of disrepair.

We visit the infamous Tuol Sleng Prison, now a museum illustrating the atrocities committed by Pol Pot during the 1970s, and the nearby Choeung Ek, aka the "Killing Fields." Later, there may be some free time to roam in the central market of Tuol Tum Pong.

Overnight in Phnom Penh.
Meal plan: Breakfast and Dinner
Day 14 • Phnom Penh - Siem Reap & Angkor Wat
Today we fly to Siem Reap, gateway for Angkor Wat / Angkor Thom. On arrival we have a tour of the South Gate of Angkor Tom, Bayon Temple, Ba Poon, the Elephant Terrace and the Leper Temple.

Overnight in Siem Reap.
Meal plan: Breakfast and Dinner
Day 15 • Angkor Wat & Banteay Srei
Today we visit some temples a little farther afield, including the exquisitely carved Banteay Srei.

Banteay Srei is something of an anomaly. It wasn't built by a king, but rather a spiritual teacher, Yajnavaraha, the Brahman of King Jayavarman V, in AD 967. At that time it was called Tribhuvana Mahesvara, and stood in a town called Isvarapura. The name Banteay Srei means the "Citadel of Women", and is one of the first temples to be restored by the French. We also visit Ta Prohm, in its natural overgrown setting.

This afternoon we visit the magnificent grounds of the splendidly preserved 12th century temple of Angkor Wat. Considered the best example of ancient Khmer architectural, it is the largest and most impressive of all Cambodian monuments and generally regarded as one of the finest religious structures in the world. The construction mirrors the concept of the ancient universe and its bas relief carvings and intricate murals tell a fascinating story of life over 800 years ago. The "Apsaras", or Heavenly Dancers, have lost none of their grace and beauty as they dance frozen in time on the walls.

PLEASE NOTE: Due to weather, flight times and other scheduling considerations, the order in which Siem Reap area sightseeing is accomplished may change at the discretion of your Tour Leader.

Overnight in Siem Reap.
Meal plan: Breakfast and Dinner
Day 16 • Departure
Departure from Siem Reap.

BON VOYAGE!
Meal plan: Breakfast

For detailed itinerary (PDF), click here
For hotel samples, click here
INCLUSIONS
  • Breakfast daily and most dinners (or lunch) at local restaurants and some hotels are included
  • All transport,* accommodation, sightseeing and entrance fees for sites noted as 'visited' in the detailed itinerary
  • Gratuities for drivers, restaurant staff, porters, local guides
  • Airport transfers for land & air customers arriving / departing on tour dates
  • * Please note that all internal flights are INCLUDED, which constitute a decent chunk of the overall cost
  • As this is a 'highlight' tour with tons of variety, hoping around via domestic flights makes this incredible package possible in just 2 weeks!
EXCLUSIONS
  • Tour Leader gratuities, lunches, drinks, personal items (phone, laundry, etc), domestic and international (if applicable) air taxes, visa fees, and any excursions referenced as 'optional'
  • Airport transfers for Land Only customers
  • Optional trip cancellation insurance
  • Our post-reservation trip notes offer further guidance on shopping, not included meals, visas and locally paid departure taxes
OUT FACTOR
Our relaxed, low-key brand of travel lends itself well to this region, where gay culture is not overt, with the obvious exception of Thailand. There are no exclusively gay venues in Vietnam, Laos or Cambodia, so this is not a trip for that kind of nightlife, though our local contacts and guides provide intriguing insights on this aspect of local life. Generally, most people region-wide are very friendly and easy to meet, and English is widely spoken.
PLEASE NOTE
This itinerary is correct at time of publishing. For a more detailed itinerary, download a PDF here. We reserve the right to make changes as necessary due to reasons beyond our control. For booking terms and conditions, please refer to our Booking Terms.
Call or e-mail for airfare quotes from your city.
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TRIP NOTES
Group size
10-18 plus Tour Leader
Staff & Support
Tour Leader, driver(s), and local step-on guides at various locations.
Accommodation
Hotels are modern, comfortable, well-located, air-conditioned, 3/4 star properties with en suite bath/ toilet. Laundry facilities and safe deposit boxes are available in most hotels either free or for a nominal fee. Most rooms include hairdryers and irons, mini-bar fridge, TV. Most hotels provide complimentary purified drinking water. Some hotels have swimming pools.
Transport & travel conditions
Land transport throughout will be by private air-conditioned bus. Most of the driving days are not long, usually no more than four hours, though road conditions are generally not great. Internal flights via scheduled regional carriers. The tour is not strenuous though it is busy; you must be steady on your feet and be able to endure some heat and long days. We have numerous walking tours and visit several sites that are large with steps and uneven surfaces. Porters are available at hotels but you must be able to manage with your baggage at airports.
Weather/seasonality
Our tours in Southeast Asia operate during the cooler, drier time of year, Nov-Apr. That said, however, the entire region experiences a warm-hot tropical climate with humidity and a chance of rain showers at any time. Inland regions of Vietnam and Cambodia can experience extreme heat, especially Feb-Apr, when it is also very dry and landscapes are brown. Coastal regions—ie Central Vietnam—are cooled by sea breezes. Hanoi can be downright cold and damp, especially in Nov. Overall you should prepare for warm, sticky weather with the possibility of rain and some chilly nights/mornings in a few locales.

The following is a sampling of our preferred properties in some of the locations visited on this tour and is meant to be indicative only. Hotel properties are not confirmed until 30-60 days before trip date. You can click on the hotel photo to view the official hotel website (if available). For sample hotels in other locations on this tour, please contact us.

Miracle Suvarnabhumi Hotel


Rating: 3 Star Accommodation3 Star Accommodation3 Star Accommodation
Location: Bangkok
Country: Thailand

All rooms are spacious with minimalist decor, large bathroom which is nicely equipped. The hotel also has a variety of facilities and services including all day dining at the coffee shop, sumptuous Chinese restaurant and traditional Japanese restaurant, fitness center & spa, out door rooftop swimming pool.

Click here to visit hotel website

Triple Two Silom Hotel


Rating: 3 Star Accommodation3 Star Accommodation3 Star Accommodation
Location: Bangkok
Country: Thailand

Triple Two Silom is an innovative and exclusive business class boutique hotel, providing high quality personalized service in a relaxed atmosphere for both business and leisure travelers. Choose from our 75 luxury rooms in two sizes: Deluxe Room 45 sqm. Or Junior Suite Room 60 sqm.

Being only 25 kilometers from Bangkok International Airport, you can take the airport limousine, airport shuttle bus, or even a public metered taxi, while the Hotel’s taxi also provides 24 hour service for your convenience and security.

Hua Lumphong Railway Station is 3 kilometers away and can be reached within a few minutes.

A Skytrain Station is 1 kilometer away and can be reached within 10 minutes.

Expressway entrances are just 1 kilometer from the hotel.

Click here to visit hotel website

Mouang Luang Hotel


Rating: 3 Star Accommodation3 Star Accommodation3 Star Accommodation
Location: Luang Prabang
Country: Laos

A 10-minute walk from town on a quiet street, the Mouang Loung is adorned with traditional Lao temple-style roofs. The rooms are clean, with parquet floors and marble-tiled bathrooms (all with tubs). Street-side rooms have balconies. There's an open-air Lao restaurant in the back, and just above it is an enormous balcony reserved for Baci ceremonies. Mouang Luang has the distinction of being one of the only hotels in town with a pool.

Click here to visit hotel website

Hotel Mercure La Gare


Rating: 3 Star Accommodation3 Star Accommodation3 Star Accommodation
Location: Ha Noi
Country: Vietnam

Located opposite Hanoi Central Railway Station, Mercure Hanoi La Gare is an inviting oasis in the heart of the bustling city centre. Situated close to the Old Quarter, this hotel features modern design and facilities, a French brasserie, internal courtyard and gym.

Click here to visit hotel website

Hoi An Hotel


Rating: 4 Star Accommodation4 Star Accommodation4 Star Accommodation4 Star Accommodation
Location: Hoi An
Country: Vietnam

The Hoi An Hotel offers 160 international-standard rooms, restaurant, bar, garden café, outdoor swimming pool, fitness center, jacuzzi pool, sauna, steam bath, beauty salon, laundry service, mail services, money exchange, souvenir shop and art gallery. All rooms feature: telephone, air-conditioning, bathroom with bathtub and shower, mini bar, satellite TV, hair dryer, bathroom amenities, in room safety box.

Click here to visit hotel website

Glory Hotel


Rating: 3 Star Accommodation3 Star Accommodation3 Star Accommodation
Location: Hoi An
Country: Vietnam

Glory Hotel is ideally located about 500m from the heart of Hoi An, by one side the main road of Cua Dai from the little town to the white sand beach.

Click here to visit hotel website

Festival Hue Hotel



Location: Hue
Country: Vietnam

Festival Hotel is rightly situated in the very heart of of Hue city, in close reach to to the relics of the Old Charming citadel with easy access to the Royal Citadel, Antique museum, and other beautiful landscapes and tourist attractions.

Click here to visit hotel website

Duxton Hotel


Rating: 4 Star Accommodation4 Star Accommodation4 Star Accommodation4 Star Accommodation
Location: Saigon
Country: Vietnam

Located right in the heart of vibrant Ho Chi Minh City, the Duxton Saigon is a luxury 4* boutique hotel offering a refined and relaxing environment. As well as a range of deluxe rooms, executive rooms and suites, the hotel also has a restaurant, bar, gaming centre, gymnasium, swimming pool, spa and business centre.

Click here to visit hotel website

Holiday Villa Hotel


Rating: 3 Star Accommodation3 Star Accommodation3 Star Accommodation
Location: Phnom Penh
Country: Cambodia

Holiday Villa Hotel is a 3-star international hotel, built to reflect the best of French colonial design and style. The hotel has 74 well-appointed guestrooms and suites. Holiday Villa is strategically located on the main business street, within the vicinity of shopping area and just minutes’ walk to famous Central Market (Psah Thmei). Phnom Penh International Airport can be reached within fifteen minutes drive.

Click here to visit hotel website

Somadevi Angkor Hotel


Rating: 4 Star Accommodation4 Star Accommodation4 Star Accommodation4 Star Accommodation
Location: Siem Reap
Country: Cambodia

This Siem Reap Hotel has 150 elegantly designed and well-furnished guest rooms, each with balcony, provide an atmosphere of tranquil elegance. You will enjoy the panoramic view of Siem Reap City.

Click here to visit hotel website