iExplore Indochina Experience

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  • Privately Guided
  • Starting Price: $4,199
  • Length: 16 days
  • Operator: iExplore Exclusive
  • 1-800-267-33479am - 5:30pm Eastern
    Destinations: South and Southeast Asia, Cambodia, Laos, Thailand, Vietnam
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Tour Description

The three jewels of Indochina - Laos, Vietnam and Cambodia - share a common cultural heritage yet possess their own unique personalities and histories as well. The French ruled this area, collectively known as Indochine, from the late 1800's through the mid-20th century. The French influence still remains in some areas, mingling with the cultural influences of China and India.

Laos is the least developed of the three former French Indochinese states and offers travelers an unparalleled glimpse of traditional Southeast Asian life. After two decades of isolation from the outside world, this landlocked, sparsely populated country is enjoying peace, stabilizing its political and economic structures, and admitting foreign visitors - albeit in limited numbers.

Most visitors to Vietnam are overwhelmed by the sublime beauty of the country's natural setting: the Red River Delta in the north, the Mekong Delta in the south and almost the entire coastal strip are a patchwork of brilliant green rice paddies tended by women in conical hats. There are some divine beaches along the coast, while inland there are soaring mountains, some of which are cloaked by dense, misty forests. Vietnam also offers an opportunity to see a country of traditional charm and rare beauty rapidly opening up to the outside world.

Cambodia has emerged from decades of war and isolation and is well and truly back on the Southeast Asian travel map. The successor-state of the mighty Khmer Empire, which ruled much of what is now Vietnam, Laos and Thailand, Cambodia boasts a rich culture, a weathered French-era capital and impressive natural scenery. The celebrated temples of Angkor are Cambodia's greatest tourist attraction.

Itinerary

Day 1 - BANGKOK

Arrive at Bangkok International Airport. Upon clearing customs and immigration, walk to the Novotel Suvarnabhumi Hotel’s shuttle, the official hotel of the airport.

Day 2 - BANKGOK-LUANG

This morning, transfer by hotel shuttle to Bangkok International Airport for your flight to Luang Prabang. Upon arrival after clearing customs and immigration, your guide will meet and escort you to your hotel. He/she will be waiting just outside the airport exit, as entry is not allowed into the arrivals hall.

After settling in, join your guide for a tour around the old city, a  UNESCO World Heritage Site. Begin your tour with a visit to Wat Visoun (Wat Wisunalat), built in 1513 and the oldest functioning temple in Luang Prabang, which contains a collection of antique wooden Buddhas. Visit the nearby Wat Aham before continuing to Wat Xieng Thong, the crown jewel of monasteries and temples in the city. Its many ornate buildings feature exquisite mosaic and gold-stenciled murals. From here, stroll down main street ("Wat Street") and, time permitting, stop at some of the many temples that line its sides, including Wat Sibounheuang, Wat Si Moungkhoun, Wat Sop and Wat Sene. Return to your hotel for the rest of the day at leisure.

Day 3 - LUANG PRABANG

After breakfast visit the National Museum (closed on Tuesdays), which was once a king's palace. Displayed inside is a lovely collection of personal artifacts from the royal family, including photos, musical instruments and many gifts received from the dignitaries of foreign countries.

This afternoon take a riverboat trip down the Mekong River with your guide to visit the sacred Pak Ou Buddha Caves. These caves, overlooking the confluence of the Mekong and Ou Rivers, are home to thousands of Buddha images that have been placed here by local people since the 16th century. Walk through the caves before returning to your boat to continue on to Ban Xang Hai. This small village was once a jar-producing village, but today the community fills the jars with láo-láo, the local rice whiskey. Return to Luang Prabang for the rest of the day at leisure.

Day 4 - LUANG PRABANG-HANOI

Enjoy a free morning in Luang Prabang. This afternoon you'll board your flight to Hanoi. Upon arrival you will be met by our representative and transferred to your hotel. Enjoy the evening at leisure.

Day 5 - HANOI-HALONG CITY

Visit the miniature One Pillar Pagoda to hear the legend of its construction, born from the love of an emperor in the 11th Century. This monument was rebuilt after being destroyed by the French in 1954. Today it stands next to the vast Ho Chi Minh Memorial Complex, a lovely park that is Ho Chi Minh’s final resting place. Silent sentries guard the monumental marble and granite mausoleum (closed on Mondays an Fridays and annually in October and November). Continue through the park to Ho Chi Minh’s stilted house, the simple two-room cottage where “Uncle Ho” lived and worked from 1948 until his final days. Preserved in the same condition as during his life, it may be viewed from the outside only.

Take to the streets for a walking tour of the Ancient Quarter or 36 Streets District. This densely populated corner of the city was once a center of commerce where goods were sold under the street name of a particular guild. Still a thriving community of vendors, you will see street names such as Sugar Street, Tin Street and Paper Street. Homes and ancient temples are interspersed with stores in this souvenir hunter's paradise!

This afternoon travel overland (3 hrs) by private vehicle to Halong City. Upon arrival, check-in to your hotel and enjoy the evening at leisure.

Day 6 - HALONG

The morning is at leisure until you board a traditional Chinese style sailing junk (before noon), which will be your home for the next two days. Facilities include seven air-conditioned double cabins with en suite bathrooms, a large sun deck and a spacious dining room serving traditional Vietnamese cuisine. You will be greeted with champagne upon check-in and lunch.

Meander through the area whose name translates to “Where the Dragon Descends into the Sea.” Local fishermen swear that the sea monster can still be heard and it's easy to believe them in this mystical land. Cruise along Halong Bay, stopping to visit Thien Cung and Dau Go caves before continuing on to a variety of islands including Tuan Chau, Dinh Huong, Ga Choi, “Dog Island,” and “Sail Island.” Stop at Titov beach for a swim. (Order of stops subject to change). Dinner will be served on board as the sun sets. This evening, there is an opportunity to fish or simply enjoy cocktails under the moonlight.

Day 7 - HALONG-HANOI-HUE

Enjoy breakfast on board as you cruise through the waters of Halong Bay. This morning visit “Man’s Head Island,” “Tortoise Island,” Luon Cave, Bai Tu Long bay, “Toad Island,” and Bai Tho Mountain. Lunch will be served on the ship before returning to the pier before noon to disembark. Transfer to the airport for your flight to Hue. Upon arrival, transfer to your hotel for check-in.

Day 8 - HUE

Enjoy a leisurely boat ride down the Perfume River, stopping first at the iconic Thien Mu Pagoda, an elegant seven-tiered octagonal tower which has become the city's most widely recognized monument. Continue cruising into the countryside to the Imperial Tomb of Minh Mang, a majestic complex of courtyards, pavilions and temples in a beautiful, natural setting.

Then it's off to Dong Ba Market, a local market near the Imperial City, before visiting the Imperial City itself. Located in the heart of Hue, the Imperial City is a vast complex built in the early 19th century modeled after the Forbidden City in Beijing. The original walls stretched for 10 km and were surrounded by a wide moat. Today, most of the buildings have been destroyed during the Vietnam War, but the monuments that remain provide a fascinating glimpse into the court life of the Nguyen Dynasty. Enter an area of spacious courtyards and serene lotus ponds, and visit Dien Tho Palace, where the Queen Mother lived and Thai Hoa Palace, the magnificently decorated reception hall, the Halls of the Mandarins, and the original Nine Dynastic Urns, among other sites.

Day 9 - HUE-HOI AN

Today we depart by car to Hoi An with sightseeing in the large coastal city of Danang. Halfway between Danang and Hue lies the dramatic Hai Van Pass, the high dividing line between the climate zones of North and South Vietnam. As we continue south we pass Lang Co, a lovely stretch of beach curving outwards between a clear blue lagoon and the South China Sea.

Arriving in Danang, tour the Cham Museum, an elegant colonial building which now houses the finest collection of Cham sculpture in the world, with a brief stop China Beach, famous for the American soldiers during the Vietnam War. Continue south to Hoi An, stopping en route to visit the Marble Mountains, five stone hillocks that were once islands, rising sharply out of the surrounding rice fields. Riddled with caves and shrines, they are each said to represent one of the universe's five elements.

Day 10 - HOI AN

Today you'll learn the art of Vietnamese cooking. Start your day with coffee at the Hai Scout Café and head over to the Hoi An market to purchase the necessary ingredients. Chat with the local vendors and experience the sights and smells of this colorful market. Enjoy a 20-minute boat ride up the Perfume River to reach the Red Bridge Restaurant and Cooking School, where you will prepare five traditional dishes for lunch.

This afternoon enjoy sightseeing in Hoi An. This exquisitely preserved merchant town was declared a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 1999. Its colorful cobblestone streets are best explored on foot. In fact this is the only way to explore the city, as no cars are allowed. Wander past low tile-roofed buildings, the bustling central market and the small harbor where colorfully painted boats are moored. Visit a private home, where members of the same family have lived for centuries. See one of their chapels built as a center for ancestral worship. Continue on to a typical Chinese-style communal hall on the famous Japanese covered bridge.

Day 11 - HOI AN-DANANG-HO CHI MINH CITY

This morning, transfer from Hoi An to Danang airport for your flight to Ho Chi Minh City. Upon arrival, you will be met by your tour guide and transferred to your hotel.

This afternoon, tour the essential highlights of Ho Chi Minh City. Begin in the historic center strolling along Dong Khoi Street, formally the center of haute couture in Saigon when it was known as Rue Catinat. Pass by classic European-style landmarks such as the ornate City Hall (Hotel de Ville) and the old Opera House (both only 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 60’s style building was famously stoned by tanks on April 30, 1975 signifying the fall of South Vietnam. Continue to the harrowing War Remnants Museum, which comprehensively documents the travails of the long Vietnam- American War. Inside are detailed photography exhibitions, while outside is a collection of tanks, planes and weapons. A powerful experience, this museum is guaranteed to envoke strong emotions. Finally, end at the central Ben Thanh market, where vendors display a vast array of goods and handicrafts, appealing to every taste.

Day 12 - HO CHI MINH CITY

This morning, journey out of Ho Chi Minh City to the Cu Chi tunnels, where you will visit the vast underground network built first as a defense against the French, and later expanded during the American war.It was here that North Vietnam waged their guerrilla warfare. You'll see secret trapdoors, underground kitchens, living areas, and meeting rooms.

More adventurous travelers may explore the second, and even third level tunnels. For those preferring to remain above ground, there is ample opportunity to view excavated areas from above. Your guide will advise you of the length and level of difficulty of each tunnel before entering as some are easily accessible by stairs. We recommend good walking shoes and sunscreen and advise you may get a little dirty! Return to Ho Chi Minh City where the rest of the day is free to explore the city on your own.

Day 13 - HO CHI MINH CITY-PHNOM PENH

This morning, transfer to Ho Chi Minh City International airport for your flight to Phnom Penh. Upon arrival in Phnom Penh, you will be met by your tour guide and transferred to your hotel.

Start your tour with insight into Cambodia’s cultural heritage with a visit to the Royal Palace, still the official residence of King Norodom Sihamoi. Next, we'll visit the incredible Silver Pagoda. A green-crystal Buddha and a life-size Buddha made of solid gold encrusted with 9,500 diamonds sits on a floor covered with 5,000 silver tiles. It's a dazzling sight! Nearby is the National Museum, displaying the most precious statues from temples throughout Cambodia.

From here explore the modern-day city visiting one of Phnom Penh’s two great markets, the Central Market, located in a distinctive domed Art Deco building and the sprawling Russian Market, a labyrinth of stalls selling everything from CD’s and DVD’s to silks, crafts, jewelry, and more.

Day 14 - PHNOM PENH-SIEM REAP

This morning you will be transferred to the airport for your flight to Siem Reap, gateway to the ancient city of Angkor. Upon arrival you will be met and transferred to your hotel.

This afternoon, begin your tour of the ancient city of Angkor. First, visit the monumental Angkor Thom, last capital of the Khmers, with its Elephant Terrace, the Terrace of the Leper King. Visit the ruins of Baphuon, Royal Enclosure and Phimeanakas before continuing to the mysterious and stunning Bayon Temple. This 12th century masterpiece lies at the very center of Angkor Thom and is an archaeological wonder of symmetry and grandeur. The exterior gallery walls have extensive bas-reliefs but the highlight is the “faces,” more than 200 of them, silent with the famous half-smile playing on their lips. PJ de Beerski wrote, “godliness in the majesty and the size, mystery in the expression.” Watch the sun set over the Cambodian countryside from the upper terraces of an ancient Angkorian temple.

Day 15 - SIEM REAP

This morning visit the crown jewel of Khmer architecture, Angkor Wat. The largest temple in the world, it is the national symbol of Cambodia.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, you must cross a vast moat, continuing along a broad causeway lined with naga balustrades.

Continue to Ta Prohm, a temple that has been left largely in its natural state since its “re-discovery” by French explorers. Surrounded by jungle, its labyrinth of stone hallways is overgrown with the roots and limbs of massive banyan trees, which envelop the stone like tentacles. Historians have noted its mystical charm. 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, fairy-like atmosphere and extraordinary examples of Khmer sculpture, this temple is often a favorite with visitors.

Visit the Chantiers Ecoles (Aritsans d Angkor) vocational center, which trains 650 apprentices each year including 160 in arts and crafts trades united in the “Artisans d’Angkor” production network. You’ll have a chance to watch the artists work as you take a guided tour through the different workshops such as stone sculpture, woodcarving and polychrome.

Day 16 - SIEM REAP-BANGKOK

After breakfast at your hotel, the morning is at leisure until you are transferred to Siem Reap airport for the flight to Bangkok for your connection home. Bon Voyage!

Departures

Depart any day! Contact an iExplore Adventure Consultant for details.

Pricing Information

January- April 2013
 

1 passenger 2 pax 3-4 pax single supplement
Hotel Option 1 7325 1871 4444 1740
Hotel Option 2 9885 5999 5700 2999

May- September 2013
 

1 passenger 2 pax 3-4 pax single supplement
Hotel Option 1 7202 4444 4199 1499
Hotel Option 2 9554 5728 5484 2828
Hotel Option 1 Option 2
Day 1-2 (1 night, Bangkok) Novotel Suvarabhami Airport 4* Superior Novotel Suvarabhami Airport 4* Superior
Day 2-4 (2 nights, Luang Prabang) Maison Souvannaphoum Hotel 4* Garden Wing (no extra bed) La Residence Pho Vau 5* Mountain View Junior Suites
Day 4-5 (1 Night, Hanoi) Movenpick Hotel Hanoi 4* Superior Deluxe Hilton Hanoi Opera 5* Hilton Deluxe Room
Day 5-6 (1 Night, Halong) Novotel Ha Long Bay 4* Superior Bay Room Novotel Ha Long Bay 4* Superior Bay Room
Day 6-7 (1 Night, Cabin/Onboard, Vietnam) Bhaya Classic Deluxe/2D1N/Without Kayak (no extra bed) Paradise Luxury Cruise (F. Paradise Cruise) Deluxe/2D1N/Without Kayak (no extra bed)
Day 7-9 (2 Nights, Hue) Saigon Morin Hotel 4* Colonial Deluxe La Residence Hotel & Spa 5* Superior/New Wing (no extra bed)
Day 9-11 (2 Nights, Hoi An) Victoria Hoi An Beach Resort & Spa 4* Standard Victoria Hoi An Beach Resort & Spa 4* Standard
Day 11-13 (2 Nights, Ho Chi Minh City) Caravelle Hotel 5* Deluxe Park Hyatt Saigon 5* Park Room (no extra bed)
Day 13-14 (1 Night, Phnom Penh) Intercontinental Phnom Penh Hotel 5* Deluxe Raffles Hotel Le Royal 5* State Room (no extra bed)
Day 14-16 (2 Nights, Siep Reap) Victoria Angkor Resort & Spa 5* Superior Raffles Grand Hotel d Angkor 5* State Garden View (no extra bed)

INCLUSIONS:

  • Accommodations as specified in the itinerary with breakfast daily (breakfast box provided for early morning flights)
  • Sightseeing by local English-speaking guides
  • Boat Ticket(s) as Stated
  • Airfare in economy class: Bangkok to Luang Prabang, Luang Prabang to Hanoi, Hanoi to Danang, Danang to Saigon, Saigon to Phnom Penh, Phnom Penh to Siem Reap
  • Boat tickets as per the program
  • Ground transportation by private A/C vehicle
  • Sightseeing and admission fees according to the itinerary
  • International and domestic airport taxes in Vietnam, Laos and Cambodia (already in ticket price)

EXCLUSIONS:

  • International and domestic airfare and airport departure taxes other than specified
  • Holiday surcharges
  • Meals other than those indicated
  • Drinks at meal times
  • Items of a personal nature (e.g. laundry, telephone, mini bar etc.)
  • Gratuities for guides and drivers
  • Travel Insurance
  • Visa fees for Laos, Vietnam, Cambodia and Thailand
  • Vietnam Letter of Invitation fee

All prices are in US dollars and do not include international airfare, unless otherwise noted.

Prices displayed are based on the lowest season base price and assume double occupancy. Prices are shown in U.S. dollars and may or may not include administrative fees, taxes, meals, airfare (where applicable) and Single Supplements. Cancellation penalties, blackout dates and other restrictions may apply.

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