Indochina Traverse

tours / Adventure

Indochina Traverse information and booking

from
$3220
  • Duration
    21 days
    Days
  • Group size
    6-16
    Persons
  • Difficulty
    Adventure touring
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Schedule Details

Summary
  • 21 day trip
  • 18 nights hotel/lodge/guesthouse
  • 1 night train
  • 1 night luxury cruise
Equipment Required
Specialist gear required include walking boots and day pack (a comprehensive gear list is provided in the pre-departure information provided on booking).

Highlights

  • Enjoy the World Heritage town of Luang Prabang
  • Experiencing the wonder of the Mekong River
  • Get amongst the bustle of Vietnam’s capital, Hanoi
  • Sail amongst the beauty of Halong Bay
  • Relax in the charming town of Hoi An with its markets, beaches and tailor shops
  • Travel by boat along the small tributaries of the Mekong Delta and into Cambodia
  • Visit the cultural highlights of Phnom Penh

Tour description provided by World Expeditions

This remarkable journey through Laos, Vietnam and Cambodia will appeal to the discerning traveller keen to appreciate the 'great sites', whilst also experiencing the underlying cultural fabric of this fascinating part of Southeast Asia. We begin in World Heritage listed Luang Prabang, and journey up the Mekong River to the Pak Ou Caves and the exquisite Kamu Lodge retreat. Our overland journey meanders through the remote and spectacular mountains of Northern Laos into Vietnam. After a night in the beautiful valley of Mai Chau with its many ethnic minority villages we continue to the teeming markets of Hanoi before relaxing amongst the 3000 stunning limestone islets onboard a luxury traditional cruise boat in Halong Bay. In Hoi An, we savour the rich history of this former trading port before heading to Ho Chi Minh City and the vast Mekong Delta with its unique floating markets and trading villages. A fitting conclusion to this remarkable journey is the time spent in Phnom Penh and the archaeological wonders of Angkor Wat.

What's included

  • 20 breakfasts, 10 lunches and 7 dinners
  • Internal flight danang/ho chi minh city valued at us$85
  • Airport transfers on day 1 and day 21
  • Expert bilingual guides
  • Medical kit
  • Comfortable well located hotels/lodges/guesthouses on twin share basis
  • Comfortable train travel in 4 berth sleeper carriages
  • Private air conditioned vehicles
  • Bhaya luxury cruise on halong bay
  • Sightseeing and entry fees as listed in itinerary

Itinerary

Day 1 Join Luang Prabang
Upon arrival at the airport, you will be met and transferred to the group hotel. Please look for the WORLD EXPEDITIONS welcome sign in the arrivals hall. Luang Prabang, has been claimed by UNESCO to be ‘the best preserved city in South East Asia’. The tranquility and charm of this town with its splendid natural scenery and cultural sights make it one of the most delightful places to visit in Laos. The remainder of the day is at leisure to explore this beautiful city. Overnight Luang Prabang
Day 2 Luang Prabang
An optional early start provides a fantastic opportunity to participate in the daily morning rituals of saffron-clad monks collecting offerings of Alms (food & water) from the faithful residents. This tranquil Buddhist tradition experienced amongst the morning mist is well worth the early rise. Today we enjoy a short-guided tour seeing the city’s oldest temple of Wat Sene and the magnificent Wat Xiengthong with its low sweeping roofs which represent classic Laotian architecture. During our time here, we visit the impressive stupa of Wat Visoun and the shrine of Wat Aham, Wat Mai. In the afternoon we'll visit local villages of Lao ethnic minority groups and then drive to the beautiful Khouangsi Waterfall where you can cool off with refreshing swim in the turquoise pools or walk along the forest trails. We then return to the city where we climb to the top of Mount Phousi for an exploration of the sacred, gilded stupa as well as a panoramic view of the city and the Mekong River at sunset. From there we explore the night market, where you can find a lovely selection of handmade textiles made by the local and hill tribe people surrounding Luang Prabang. Overnight Luang Prabang
Day 3 Boat on Mekong River to Kamu Lodge
At 8:30am, after breakfast, we transfer to the Kamu Lodge Pier. We depart from the pier at 9:30am and cruise upstream before stopping at the sacred Pak Ou caves. In Pak Ou thousands of gold lacquered Buddha statues are crammed into two caves carved out of a towering limestone cliff. They range in size from a few cm's to the size of a human. We then continue upstream to reach Kamu Lodge where we enjoy a welcome drink and lunch. In the afternoon you may choose to participate in a range of activities such as rice planting/harvesting, gold panning in the Mekong (Jan-Jun only), jungle walks in search of medicinal plants (Oct-May is best), a 2 hr trek and boat ride through the forest to a cave (Oct-May is best), learn traditional fishing techniques, local village visit, or an archery contest. Overnight Kamu Lodge
Day 4 Trek from Kamu Lodge (approx 6 hours)
After breakfast, we commence our trek. We cross the forest where you'll have the chance to discover wildlife and rice plantations inhabited by the Kamu people. We arrive at Ban Phanor-Gnai, a small mountain village before continuing on to Ban Phanor-Noi. We enjoy the view from the top and observe the lifestyle of the Kamu. After a taking some time to relax, we continue along the top of the mountain before stopping for lunch. We then head back down the mountain visiting a hill tribe village and making a stop at a waterfall before heading back to the lodge. Today you'll need to bring your daypack with rainjacket, water bottle, camera gear, and personal items such as sunscreen, lip-eze etc. Overnight Kamu Lodge
Day 5 Boat and drive to Nong Khiaw (approx 128km)
After breakfast, we take a boat back to Pak Ou Cave. Our guide and driver will then pick you up from here for the drive to Nong Khiaw. We'll arrive into Nong Khiaw late afternoon. Overnight Nong Khiaw
Day 6 To Sam Neua (approx 332km)
After breakfast we continue on our journey to Sam Neua. Today we travel through Phou Loei National Biodiversity Conservation Area where the forest is thick and lush. Overnight Sam Neua.
Day 7 To Mai Chau (approx 230km)
This morning we explore the quaint morning market along the Xam river in this mountainous town. We then drive (approx 30km) to Vieng Say, the cave city which was home to the Laos People's Revolutionary Party. We marvel at the amazing karst landscape in the middle of town and visit the information center to learn more about the interesting historical significance of this area during the Indochina War. With help of a local guide, we then travel to some nearby caves to see how the Laos People's Revolutionary Party lived during the war. In the afternoon we continue to Nameo (Laos-Vietnam border). Upon arrival at the border we bid farewell to our Laoation guide and driver and meet our Vietnamese guide and driver who will then transfer us to Mai Chau (approx 150km). We'll arrive into Mai Chau late this evening. Overnight: homestay
Day 8 Mai Chau, drive to Hanoi
Mai Chau is located in a beautiful valley with a patchwork quilt of rice paddies, farms and stilt-houses. In the spring Mai Chau displays a riot of colours with blooming flowers and peach blossoms. Only 60km southwest of Hoa Binh is it home to the White Thai and H'mong hill-tribe people. In the morning we'll take a leisurely walk to visit the Poom Cong and Lac Villages. Here we'll learn about their culture and daily life. There will also be a chance to purchase handmade items from these Ethnic Thai minority people. After enjoying lunch at a local house we drive to Hanoi (approx 3 hrs) where we check into our hotel. Overnight Hanoi.
Day 9 In Hanoi
Today we have a full day of sightseeing where we visit the Mausoleum of Ho Chi Minh, the father of modern Vietnam. We walk through the grounds of the magnificent Presidential Palace, visiting the humble wooden cottage of Ho Chi Minh, the Pillar Pagoda and a museum dedicated to the life of Vietnam's first President. This is followed by a visit to the impressive Temple of Literature, Vietnam's first University built in 1017. Following lunch, we visit the Ngoc Son Temple and the Lake of the Restored Sword. We'll also take a cyclo ride through the ancient quarter of Hanoi, providing us the opportunity to delve into a myriad of streets for which this section of the city is renowned. This evening we'll attend a performance at Hanoi's famous water puppet theatre. Overnight Hanoi NB: Ho Chi Minh's Mausoleum & Museum are closed Mondays & Fridays as well as the whole of Oct & Nov. His house is closed Mondays.
Day 10 Transfer to Halong Bay, commence luxury cruise
We leave Hanoi for the 4 hours drive east to the stunning beauty of Halong Bay where literally thousands of limestone cliffs and islands jut out of the emerald green waters of the Gulf of Tonkin, covering an area of 1500 km. We will spend the rest of the day cruising in sheer luxury aboard the Bhaya traditional ‘Junk’ boat around the myriad of tiny islands and exploring the many grottoes created by the wind and the waves. While on board we will have a fresh seafood lunch followed by a swim and some time to explore the limestone caves in this area. We will spend the night on board the boat in our own cabins.
Day 11 Return to Hanoi, overnight train to Hue
This morning we continue cruising before returning to Hanoi where in the afternoon we transfer to the train station for our 12 hour train journey on the famous "Reunification Express" southwards to Hue. The overnight accommodation aboard the train is in soft sleeper, four berth cabins.
Day 12 In Hue
After an early morning arrival in Hue we will be met by private vehicles and transferred to our hotel for breakfast. Today we will spend the whole day exploring some of the elegant temples and pagodas dotted along the Perfume River that makes this former capital of Vietnam so fascinating. Today's exploration will reveal much about Hue's history and discover why and how Hue became home to the last Imperial Dynasty (the Nguyen Dynasty) that ruled the country. We will visit the Imperial Citadel and Thien Mu Pagoda. Later in the afternoon we visit the impressive tombs of former Emperors Tu Duc and Khai Dinh. Overnight Hue.
Day 13 To Hoi An via Hai Van Pass
This morning we leave Hue and continue our journey south to the old trading town of Hoi An. Along the way we must drive over the Hai Van pass where we stop at the top to take in the stunning views over Lang Co beach and Danang city. Continuing on our way we reach Danang where, during the Vietnam (American) War, the city was used as a GI R&R location. We continue to the Marble Mountains, five small hills, and as the name suggests, made of marble. This is a popular pilgrimage site for the Vietnamese at various auspicious times throughout the year. We can wander about the stone paths and steps that lead to various caves and Buddhist and Confucian shrines. It is a short drive from here on to Hoi An where your guide will lead you on a walking tour of the ancient town of Hoi An. The remainder of the afternoon is free for shopping and personal exploration. Overnight Hoi An.
Day 14 At leisure in Hoi An
Today is a free day for you to explore Hoi An. This charming, small town can easily be explored on foot. Between the 17th and 19th centuries it was a thriving international trading port with a large Chinese and Japanese population. More than any other place in Vietnam, Hoi An retains the feeling of centuries past and is a favourite with all travellers. You can spend your time walking around the historic town soaking up the atmosphere, exploring the many Chinese assembly halls and fascinating ancestral homes, some of which have been occupied by the same family for fifteen generations. The unofficial emblem of the town is the Japanese Covered Bridge, which is over 400 years old. The town is also famous for its shops, in particular, its large number of tailors. If you wanted, you could have a whole new wardrobe made for you here! The riverside market is always a hive of activity, especially in the early morning when the day's catch arrives. Overnight Hoi An.
Day 15 Transfer to Danang, fly to Ho Chi Minh City
After breakfast we transfer to Danang airport for the one hour flight to Ho Chi Minh City. Formally known as Saigon, this city is an enticing place filled with a whole range of sights left by its former settlers. Following an early lunch we embark on a tour of the city which will include a visit to Cholon, Saigon’s Chinatown and home to Vietnam’s biggest market. We will also visit the Reunification Palace and the War Remnants Museum (known also as the War Crimes Museum). Overnight Ho Chi Minh City
Day 16 To Mekong Delta
Our journey south takes us through the Mekong Delta, the rice bowl of Vietnam where there are a maze of waterways and canals interspersed with rice paddies, alive with busy trading villages – a great place to explore for a different perspective on the country’s rural life. We visit a local factory making rice paper and popcorn, or pop rice. We spend time at the Cai Be floating market, following which we board a private boat (normally a traditional sampan) for a cruise along the winding waterways and canals to Vinh Long. We’ll visit a Bonsai nursery and enjoy a home-style lunch before continuing our exploration of the waterways. Our boat will take us to the wharf at Vinh Long from where we will join our vehicle for a 3 hour drive to our overnight destination of Chau Doc.
Day 17 Transfer to Phnom Penh, Cambodia
Chau Doc is an important trading town and full of wonderful markets surrounded by lovely countryside. We have a short time in the morning to spend our remaining dong (Vietnamese money) before transferring to the dock for a 5 hour speed boat journey. Our boat trip is a wonderful insight into the life of the Vietnamese fishing communities that line the river banks. We pass floating communities and Cham minority groups on our way to Cambodia’s capital, Phnom Penh. Overnight Phnom Penh.
Day 18 In Phnom Penh
Today we have a full day's sightseeing in Phnom Penh, the capital of Cambodia. The city is regarded by many as the most beautiful of all the French-built cities in Indochina. Its location is also important as it sits where the Mekong, Bassac and Tonle Sap rivers converge. At one time it was a bustling commercial hub during the French occupation and today has re-established itself as the political and financial center of the country. Its rich historical past can be traced to the Khmer and French influence evident in the ornate Khmer-style temples and the grand colonial buildings. On today's tour we visit the most important sites in the city. The Royal Palace and the adjoining Silver Pagoda are very impressive. The Silver Pagoda, also known as the Pagoda of the Emerald Buddha, named after the statue housed there was created by King Norodom in the 1892. The floor is comprised of more than 5000 silver blocks weighing a total of 6 tones. The National Museum, built in the Khmer style in the 1920's has an extensive collection of Khmer art. The highlight of the exhibit is a 6th century bronze figure of the Hindu god Vishnu. The Tuol Sleng Museum, or Museum of Genocide is testament to a more recent and bloody past. Originally this building used to be a high school, until 1975, it became the Khmer Rouge's main torture and interrogation centre, gaining the acronym "S-21". From here the victims were taken out and executed in what is now known as the Killing Fields. Overnight Phnom Penh.
Day 19 Transfer to Siem Reap (8 hours)
After breakfast we will transfer by road to Siem Reap. On arrival we check into our hotel which will be our base for the next 3 nights. Late in the afternoon we begin our visit to the Angkor complex. The itinerary has been designed to ensure you visit many of the Angkor sites in the historic order in which they were built during the Golden Age of Angkor – from 800AD to 1250 AD. The Golden Age tour starts with a visit east of Siem Reap to the site of the ancient capital of Rolous. We visit Preah Ko, Bakong and Lolei. Here we learn about the Angkor history from 800 AD to 900 AD. Overnight Siem Reap.
Day 20 Angkor Wat Temples
Our program this morning takes in the return of Angkor as Capital – 950 to 1000 AD. We begin with Preah Rup, then East Mebon, which is reached en route to the exquisite Banteay Srei, after a short drive through the countryside. All were constructed between 950 and 1000 AD. From the road our guide can point out in the far distance the Kulen Mountains where the sandstone was quarried hundreds of years ago. Returning to Siem Reap in the heat of the day is essential – time to relax, have lunch and absorb the sights seen in the morning. After lunch we visit the vast West Baray and drive out to Angkor Wat for the remainder of the afternoon to take in the "Flowering of Angkor Civilisation – 1000 to 1150 AD". The 2–3 hr guided tour will take in the vast shaded Angkor Wat galleries. There will also be free time to explore the upper levels of the temple. In the evening, we cross to Phnom Bakheng to enjoy a truly magnificent sunset overlooking the amazing Angkor Wat temple and the Tonle Sap. We return to the hotel after dusk to freshen up before heading out to enjoy dinner at a local restaurant in Siem Reap. Overnight Siem Reap.
Day 21 Siem Reap, trip concludes
We continue our chronological visit to the temple complexes this morning with "Angkor Civilisation under threat – 1150 to 1200 AD". Following a stop at the visitors center to learn of the recent reconstruction and preservation projects, our sightseeing takes in one of the regions most fascinating ruins – Ta Prohm. This is a ruin that was once totally enshrouded by jungle, and still stands in the shade of tall jungle cover. After Ta Prohm we explore Banteay Kdei and the neighbouring lake of Sras Srang – 'the Kings bath'. We take in the final component of our program - the Angkor Civilisation – 1200 to 1250 AD. We begin at the distant Ta Som and Neak Pean, before entering the walls of Angkor Thom from the northern gate to visit Bayon and the Terrace of the Elephant. A number of other sites will also be visited in Angkor Thom from earlier periods in Angkor history, such as Baphuon (1060 AD) and Phimeanakas (950 – 1050 AD). The trip concludes this afternoon in Siem Reap with a transfer to the airport for your departing flight.