Duration 22 days
The ultimate multi country encounter with South East Asia. Take in the finest natural wonders, pretty towns, bustling cities and ancient temples the region has to offer.
Arrive Hanoi (2 Nights)
Lively, welcoming and fun, you’ll know you’ve arrived in Hanoi as soon as you see your first scooter carrying an entire family whizz by. This is a city that’s constantly on the move, heartily embracing its new era of liberation and speeding towards the future with gusto. Yet whilst the modern world has very much arrived in Hanoi, the past is never far from sight. Glimpses of unique architecture give a nod to periods of French and Chinese occupation, whilst the streets of the Old Quarter are still reminiscent of Hanoi of old. On every street corner you’re tempted by steaming bowls of pho or fragrant summer rolls, whilst the opportunity to re-caffeinate is never far away; coffee is a big deal in Hanoi, as it is in all of Vietnam. Arriving today you’ll transfer to your hotel and this evening meet up with your Travel Director to learn the lay of the land and sample your first taste of Vietnam’s cuisine at a Welcome Dinner where you’ll spend the evening getting to know your fellow travellers.
Hotel: Silk Path
Dive into Hanoi’s complex history this morning on a sightseeing tour of the city’s headliners. Starting off at Ho Chi Minh’s Mausoleum, learn about the legendary ‘Uncle Ho’, Vietnam’s revolutionary former leader who is embalmed and forever remembered here, then head on to visit his humble and traditional stilt house where he lived periodically from 1958 to 1969. Next up will be the beautiful One Pillar Pagoda, a stunning symbol of purity that has been masterfully designed to resemble a lotus blossom and is believed to hold magical healing powers. From here, you’ll then head on to Hoa Lo Prison. Once nicknamed ‘Hanoi Hilton’ by US prisoners of war, the museum paints a vivid picture of how the French built prison was used up until the mid-1950’s. Likely in need of an iced coffee after a busy morning, this afternoon will then be free to explore your way. Foodies, why not opt to join our walking tour of Hanoi’s best bites. Led by a Local Specialist, you’ll sample delights such as Pho Ga and Banh Duc whilst exploring the sights, smells and flavours of the Old Town.
Hanoi – Halong Bay (1 Night)
Swapping concrete jungles for shimmering seas, today you’ll travel to the UNESCO World Heritage site of Halong Bay. A true vision of beauty, the soaring limestone pillars, countless tiny inlets and dazzling emerald waters are arguably the biggest crowd pleasers in all of Vietnam, and for good reason. Boarding your traditional junk boat you’ll set sail for Bai Tu Long Bay, the laid back neighbour of Halong Bay that is every inch as beautiful. Dropping anchor at Thien Canh Son Cave, just one of about 59 discovered caves in the region, you’ll have time to admire the incredible stalactites that hang from the cave ceiling, then it will be back to the boat for an on-board cooking demonstration by the chef. School up on traditional Vietnamese cooking methods, then as your reward tuck into a fragrant dinner feast that will taste all the better given the back drop of the bay twinkling under the night sky.
Hotel: Huong Hai Sealife Cruise
Halong Bay – Hanoi – Danang – Hoi An (2 Nights)
Waking up to the sound of gently lapping waves, you’ll start off today with a rejuvenating on deck Tai-Chi session. Feeling entirely refreshed and after a tasty breakfast you’ll then visit the floating fishing village of Vung Vieng, one of four floating villages that lie in Halong Bay. Utterly charming, take in the beauty of the boats, the smiles of the fishermen and the quiet culture of the community who live and work on the water. From here you’ll journey back to Halong Bay and say a somewhat sad goodbye to your little junk boat home and friendly crew, before heading back to Hanoi to catch your flight to Danang. Landing here, you’ll then transfer on to your home for the next 2 nights, the very peaceful, historic and beautiful Hoi An.
Hotel: Hoi An Historic
Hoi An Sightseeing
A far cry from the hustle and bustle of Hanoi, Hoi An has a laid back, easy going vibe that’s made all the better by its prime riverside setting. In the Old Town, Japanese merchant houses, Chinese temples and tea warehouses all add to the allure, whilst the lush countryside is within easy reach. You’ll start off today with a sightseeing tour that will visit the pretty 400-year-old Japanese Covered Bridge, the Assembly Hall of the Chaozhou Chinese Congregation, and the colourful market. Here, you’ll find all manner of fragrant herbs and spices, exotic fruits, bright silks and local products tempting you to buy! With an afternoon for you to explore your way, perhaps get on two wheels and join our optional cycling tour to experience Hoi An’s delightful countryside. Travelling along inland trails, you’ll pass by quiet country villages, discover how local wooden boats are made and learn the art of weaving the traditional ‘Hoi An’ sleeping mats. Alternatively if you are keen to further perfect your Vietnamese cookery skills, you could join our optional cooking class led by a local chef, where you’ll shop for ingredients in the lively market then cook up a storm back at the school before sitting down to taste the fruits of your labour.
Hoi An – Danang – Nha Trang (2 Nights)
From one idyllic setting to the next, this morning you’ll be jetting off to the golden sands, tropical islands and turquoise waters of Nha Trang. Surrounded by hills that frame the six kilometre arc of sweeping beach, this much-loved beach resort is busy enough to be constantly entertained, and big enough to find your own little patch of secluded sand. After settling in to your hotel the rest of your day will be entirely free to relax on the beach with book and towel in hand or take a stroll along the promenade. This evening, tuck into dinner at a local restaurant whilst feeling unashamedly smug at your paradisiacal beachfront location.
Hotel: Novotel Nha Trang
Nha Trang Sightseeing
Pack your suncream and your sense of adventure this morning as you’ll be heading out on a cruise to Mun Island, otherwise known as Ebony Island. This stunning island boasts a series of looming black rock formations that contrast perfectly against the turquoise ocean. But it’s not just the rocks you’re here to see; underneath the water’s surface lives Vietnam’s first Marine Protected Area where up to 1500 species of fish, sea turtles and other rare marine life can all be found. Grab a mask and snorkel from the boat crew and dive in to explore this beautiful underwater world, then cruise to a nearby island to enjoy a leisurely lunch at a local restaurant. Once back at Nha Trang, the rest of the afternoon is all yours to enjoy as you please, likely claiming a little patch of golden sand for an afternoon snooze.
Nha Trang – Ho Chi Minh City (3 Nights)
Maybe sneak in a final early morning dip this morning before catching your flight to the bright lights and big city antics of Ho Chi Minh City. Formerly Saigon, Ho Chi Minh is a place that throbs with life and gives you little option but to come along for the ride. In just one generation the city has purposefully moved on from its war torn past, emerging as a commercial capital that enthralls and delights visitors in equal measure. But as modern as Hoi Chi Minh is, you don’t have to look far for glimpses of the past. Beautiful traditional pagodas and incense infused temples pepper the city, whilst museums paint a vivid picture of past troubles. Upon arrival you’ll settle into your hotel, then this evening head out with your fellow travellers for a tasty local dinner in a traditional local restaurant.
Hotel: Saigon Prince
Ho Chi Minh City Sightseeing
Driving to the Cu Chi Tunnels this morning, you’ll be given a real-life history lesson that moves the soul as you visit just a small portion of the 250km network of underground tunnels that were built by Vietnamese fighters in 1948. Incredibly the tunnels you’ll see have been widened from their original state, a fact that will become even more remarkable as you learn about the history of Cu Chi. Heading back to the city, your sightseeing tour will then tick off some of the best loved sights including the Neo-Romanesque Notre Dame Cathedral, the striking Central Post Office built in the French style complete with gorgeous tiled interiors, and the former Presidential Palace, a feat of classic 1960’s architecture. Finishing up with a hit of caffeine and a quick language lesson to cover the basics, you’ll head back to your hotel to enjoy a free evening.
Ho Chi Minh City Free Day
Today’s your last day in Vietnam, so be sure to stock pile spring rolls and drink iced coffee whilst making the most of an entirely free day. History fans will find a visit to the War Remnants Museum utterly fascinating, where the atrocities of war and the long-lasting effects are told through stories, photos and exhibits. You could also pay a visit to the Jade Emperor Pagoda, one of the most atmospheric and beautiful temples in the city, whilst those looking to swap city scenes for lush rice paddies and sedate local life could choose to join our optional trip to the Mekong Delta. Pass by stilt houses and fish farms and taste locally made coconut candy, then hop on board a rowing sampan to slowly weave through the network of small canals. Lunch is also be included; a real feast of local specialties.
Ho Chi Minh City – Siem Reap (3 Nights)
Waving goodbye to Vietnam and hello to Cambodia, this morning you’ll catch a flight to Siem Reap, the famous gateway town to the ancient city of Angkor Wat. Many people arrive here imagining Angkor Wat will be the main attraction, and whilst that is true Siem Reap also caters to foodies, adventurers and art lovers in abundance, boasting a wealth of tasty restaurants and a lively cultural scene that will keep you entertained well after dark. After checking in to your hotel, head out to explore the lively market scene, we’ll be making a bee line for the historic Old Market. Located in the Phsar Chas that dates back to the 1920’s, browse the stalls selling textiles, paintings, carvings and sculptures, then head on over to the Made in Cambodia Market, where local artisans sell their own wares and will happily chat about their production process. This evening, enjoy your first taste of Cambodian cuisine as we tuck in to dinner at a local restaurant.
Hotel: Somadevi Angkor Resort & Spa
Siem Reap Sightseeing
Today’s the day! Few travel experiences on earth can match the first time you lay eyes on the UNESCO World Heritage listed Angkor Wat. A true expression of Khmer mastery, this inspired creation represents the very heart and soul of Cambodia and is one of the most important religious monuments in the world. Built in the first half of the 12th Century by King Suryavarman II using techniques that will have you scratching your head in amazement, you’ll learn about the great Khmer Empire as you explore the intricately carved hallways and admire the impeccably preserved carvings, then head on to the walled city of Angkor Thom to explore the Bayon Temple, the Terrace of the Elephants and the Terrace of the Leper King. This afternoon movie fans will then be in for a treat as you have the chance to join our optional visit to Ta Prohm Temple, the UNESCO listed site that is perhaps best known as the filming location of Angelina Jolie’s ‘Tomb Raider’. Very much emulating the feeling of a lost city, many of the temples here are literally being swallowed by the surrounding jungle and are a real sight to see. Alternatively, with the afternoon all yours, a relaxing afternoon by the hotel pool could be on the cards after a truly memorable morning.
Siem Reap Free Day
With the day yours to explore your way stretching ahead of you and your last in Cambodia, be sure to make the most of it! Perhaps head back to the markets for some last-minute gift shopping, sample the delicious street food offerings on pretty much every corner, or get to know Siem Reap’s artistic side on an optional tour of the town’s best workshops and galleries including a visit to Artisans d’Angkor, where training and job opportunities are offered to disadvantaged young people who specialise in preserving traditional Khmer skills including silk making, wood carving and painting. Those looking to explore beyond Siem Reap could join our trip to Tonle Sap Lake, where you’ll board a traditional wooden boat and cruise past floating villages, keeping an eye out for wildlife along the way. However you choose to explore today, tonight celebrate your final night with our optional dinner and Apsara dance show. Enjoy a tasty dinner whilst watching this beautiful 7th Century dance bring to life the ancient Khmer culture before your eyes.
Siem Reap – Bangkok (3 Nights)
Another day and another new country! Transfer to Siem Reap International Airport this morning and say ‘Sawadee ka’ to Thailand as you land in buzzy Bangkok, a cosmopolitan delight boasting glistening malls and soaring skyscrapers, albeit with a distinctly exotic Thai flourish. Here in this 24-hour city, golden temples and neon clad nightclubs co-exist peacefully side by side, whilst monks stroll the streets with smart phones in hand.
Hotel: Rembrandt Bangkok
Today’s sightseeing tour will reveal Bangkok’s finest cultural and spiritual delights. Starting off at Bangkok’s most ancient temple, Wat Pho, you’ll visit the hugely impressive Reclining Buddha, the largest in Thailand, before continuing on to the Grand Palace. A former royal residence, the dazzling, vibrant and intricate architecture of this sprawling complex never ceases to amaze, the centre piece of which is the Temple of the Emerald Buddha. Stopping for lunch at a local restaurant to re-fuel, this afternoon you’ll then take to the maze of canals (klongs) that zig zag across the city on a private boat, enjoying the ride as you pass by traditional family homes on stilts and take in the simple river lifestyle of those who work and live on the water. Later today, you’ll also have the chance to join our visit to Jim Thompson’s House, which houses an astounding collection of Southeast Asian art and is also an exquisite example of traditional Thai residential architecture.
Bangkok Free Day
Bangkok, your exploring options today are enticingly limitless and the day is yours to tailor your way. If its markets you’re seeking, the exotic and colourful Pak Kong Talad (Bangkok flower market) will offer up flower species of every shape, colour and origin, whilst the tiny lanes of Chinatown are the perfect place to get purposefully lost as you nibble street food and shop for jade in Bangkok’s busiest neighbourhood. Architecture aficionados will perhaps choose to join our optional trip to the ancient city of Ayutthaya, Thailand’s former capital city. Stopping on the way at the gorgeous Bang Pa Summer Palace, Ayutthaya is an archeological hotbed of temples, monasteries and statues that offer a glimpse into the former glory of this ancient land. Heading back to Bangkok on a cruise, enjoy a buffet lunch as you take in local life along the banks of the Chao Phraya River.
Bangkok – Chiang Rai (2 Nights)
Enjoy a late start this morning before you head to Bangkok Airport to catch a flight bound for the diverse, delightful city of Chiang Rai. Despite its small size Chiang Rai is rich in historical and spiritual offerings, whilst its relaxed atmosphere and eclectic foodie scene both ensure this little city is a big crowd pleaser. Your city tour later today will tick off the headliners including Wat Phra Kaew temple, the original home of the famous Emerald Buddha now residing in Bangkok’s Royal Palace, plus the golden and glistening clock tower, an icon of Chiang Rai that was designed by a local Thai artist and unveiled in 2008 to honour his Majesty the King. Dinner tonight will offer a chance to sample Chiang Rai’s culinary delights at a local restaurant.
Hotel: Laluna Resort
Golden Triangle Sightseeing
Venturing into the heart of the Golden Triangle this morning, your first stop will be the fascinating and self-proclaimed ‘edutainment’ Hall of Opium. Spanning an astounding 5000 years of history, the museum boasts state of the art exhibitions, harrowing stories and even a tiny opium plantation that paint a vivid picture of the conflicts, rituals and abuse that have all stemmed from opium, a trade that has been prevalent in the Golden Triangle for the past century. Stopping for lunch at a local restaurant, you’ll then hop on board a boat that will take you down the mighty Mekong River to the exact spot where the borders of Thailand, Burma and Laos collide. Stepping onto dry land in Laos you’ll have time to peruse the handicrafts on offer at the Don Sao Island Markets, the only part of Laos that can be visited without a visa, before heading back to your hotel in Chiang Rai.
Chiang Rai – Chiang Mai (3 Nights)
Heading out of Chiang Mai this morning, your first stop for the day will be Wat Kong Khun, or the ‘White Temple’. Instantly recognisable, you might be surprised that unlike many of Thailand’s other temples that date back centuries, Wat Kong Khun is just over 20 years old, constructed by a notable Thai painter turned architect in 1997. Take your time exploring here before heading on for a quick refresher at the Mae Kajaen Hot Springs, dipping your toes in the warm mineral waters as is local tradition. Lunch will be another local affair at a nearby restaurant, then this afternoon you’ll put your bartering skills to the test with a visit to San Kamphaeng Road. Shop for traditional local handicrafts before making the short drive to laid back, low key Chiang Mai. This evening, head out with the rest of your group to explore the legendary Chiang Mai Night Market. A regular crowd pleaser for visitors and locals alike, here you can pick up souvenirs and local knick knacks, dine on delicious street food and soak up the energy of this lively city coming to life by night.
Hotel: Holiday Inn Chiang Mai
Chiang Mai Sightseeing
Enjoy a later start this morning, then hop on board a samlor (rickshaw) to explore the bustling centre of Chiang Mai. Stopping by the city’s most revered temple, Wat Phra Singh, take in the lavish buildings and immaculate grounds before heading to the main attraction here, the famous Buddha known as Phra Singh. Housed in the ornate Gilded Assembly Hall, the building itself is remarkable as a shining example of Northern Thai architecture that boasts restored murals depicted local Lanna life throughout the 19th Century. Lunch today will be a local treat of Chiang Mai khao soi, a delicious, fragrant and spicy rice noodle soup. This afternoon enjoy some down time before heading to Wat Doi Suthep, which is tucked away in the mountains. Dating back to 1383, it’s here that legend states a piece of bone from the shoulder of Lord Buddha is enshrined. Staying until sunset to watch as the monks chant and offers prayers, you’ll then head back to your hotel after another no doubt magical day.
Chiang Mai Free Day
Your day your way is what today is all about, and with today being your last day, be sure to make the most of it. For those looking to get out of the city and into the tropical lush greenery that surrounds Chiang Mai on all sides, opt to join our visit to Baan Tong Luang Village, located north of the city in a beautiful valley. This ecological Paguang village is home to the Long Neck Karen hill tribe of Myanmar, so you’ll have the chance to learn about the costumes, traditions and rituals of this ancient community. Foodies, we’ve got a real treat for you in the form of a Thai cooking class. Set within a beautiful garden on an organic farm, you’ll learn from the masters the secrets to perfecting Thai cookery by preparing your very own feast using fresh, local ingredients, which you’ll shop for yourself accompanied by your instructor at a local market.
Depart Chiang Mai
And just like that, your Vietnam, Cambodia and Thailand journey will come to an end. You’ve explored countless temples, experienced the thrill of some of South East Asia’s most exhilarating cities and eaten an abundance of delicious cuisine and we are sure that you’ll be leaving with lots of happy memories. Transferring to Chiang Mai International Airport, you’ll catch your onward flight to your next destination.
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