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On the Heritage Trail - Indochina - 11 Days / 10 Nights
On the Heritage Trail - Indochina - 11 Days / 10 Nights

On the Heritage Trail - Indochina - 11 Days / 10 Nights

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Siem Reap - Luang Prabang - Pak Ou - Architecture Insight - Vientiane - Hanoi - Ninh Binh - Halong Bay - Hanoi


Exhilarating visits to Indochina's famed World Heritage sites, luxurious hotels and curated experiences combine for a memorable journey.  Discover the legendary sights and cities of Ayutthaya, Angkor Wat, Luang Prabang and Halong Bay.

Day 1 - Siem Reap - Arrival (D)

day_1-185

Welcome to Siem Reap in morning, the charming gateway to the famed Temples of Angkor. You will be greeted by your local English speaking guide, who will accompany you to your hotel for check in. Settle in and enjoy some time at leisure to refresh.

This afternoon you will begin your exploration of the Angkorian ruins by visiting the ancient city of Angkor Thom, the last capital of the Great Khmer Empire under the reign of Jayavarman VII. This city is surrounded by an 8m high wall, drawing a perfect square. Enter the city through the ancient South Gate, an impressive stone gate carved with Elephants and four giant faces. On each side of the entrance path a row of 54 gods or demons is holding the sacred Naga snake. Continue to the Bayon Temple in the exact center of the city. This 12th century masterpiece is a study in grandeur and is well-known for its 54 towers with enigmatic faces representing the 54 provinces of the Great Khmer Empire.

In the late afternoon enjoy a relaxing cruise in a gondola paddle boat at the moat of Angkor Thom compound while hopefully watching a spectacular sunset at Prasat Chroung temple. Cocktails, champagne, canapés and a soft drink will be available on the boat, as your boat paddles slowly along the ancient moat.

Enjoy a welcome dinner tonight at the incredible Chanrey Tree. One of the best fine dining restaurants in town, Chanrey Tree offers traditional Khmer cuisine in a lush contemporary setting. Located on the riverside in heart of Siem Reap, the Chanrey Tree combines the amazing taste of only seasonal traditional Khmer ingredients, with a relaxed but lavish environment to provide a unique Cambodian dining experience.

Overnight in Siem Reap.

Distances and journey time:

Siem Reap Airport – Siem Reap (8 km): 15 mins

Siem Reap – Temples (06 km): 10 mins

Day 2 - Siem Reap (B)

Start the day with a tour to the temples of the Small Circuit by local ‘remork’ (similar to the Thai tuk tuk). The most illustrious of these is Ta Prohm, built in the mid-12th to early 13th centuries. Ta Prohm is unique in that it has been left largely as it was found: overgrown by jungle trees and vines, with many parts of the temple crumbling to the ground. This makes the ‘Tomb Raider Temple’ one of the most picturesque and memorable of the Angkor temples. Your visit will also include Banteay Kdei, a Buddhist monastery from the late 12th Century, and Srah Srang, also known as the “pool of ablutions”.

After returning back to Siem Reap to escape the midday heat, you will have a little time at leisure.

In the afternoon, you will do a two-hour walking tour around Kompheim village, a 20-minute drive from Siem Reap, which will give you an insight into village life in Cambodia and the challenges faced by rural Cambodians. While the setting is idyllic and life seems blissfully simple in some ways, it is also incredibly difficult. You’ll learn about rice farming and see ox and buffalo as you stroll through rice paddies, and you’ll get to interact with locals you encounter in meaningful ways when visiting people’s homes, and see how they live, cook and eat, to learn firsthand about the different levels of poverty and how many struggle to put a meal on the table to feed their family each day. Half of the tour fee goes to a village enrichment fund managed by HUSK, a non-profit NGO that works with communities to improve the lives of Cambodians, and you’ll see their projects firsthand. You’ll finish the tour at the Village House where we’ll get to sip a glass of wine or local beer and snack on canapés, as you savor the sunset over the rice paddies and reflect upon your experience.

Distances and journey time:

Siem Reap – Temples (06 km): 10 mins

Day 3 - Siem Reap (B,L)

This morning, head out to the countryside to see the “gem” of the Angkor area, the pretty temple of Banteay Srei. The so-called “Citadel of the Women” remains the best preserved temple in Cambodia. It displays some of the finest examples of classical Khmer art as this small temple is noted for its truly remarkable fine bas-reliefs. Banteay Srei is unique in that it is constructed of pink sandstone, which is seen nowhere else in Angkor.

Continue north to Kbal Spean, one of the earliest Hindu pilgrimage sites in Cambodia. A short 3 km trek up the hill through dense jungle will reward you a remarkable sight of the “River of 1,000 Lingas”, with some remarkable stone carvings of Hindu gods, animals and other symbols in the river bed. During the rainy season, you can enjoy a refreshing bath in the waterfall, which is extremely popular with the local families.

On returning from your trek you will be welcomed with a succulent Khmer picnic lunch.

On the way back to Siem Reap, stop at the Landmine Museum which promotes mine awareness. Mr. Aki Ra, the museum founder, was trained as a child soldier during the Khmer Rouge regime and is working today as a de-miner. The museum serves also as a rescue centre for a number of landmine amputee children that Aki Ra has brought off Phnom Penh’s streets or from impoverished rural communities.

On arrival back in Siem Reap you will continue your exploration of the Angkorian temples. Built during the reign of King Suryavarman II in the early 12th century, Angkor Wat is constructed following the model of the temple mountain symbolizing the Mount Meru, home of the gods. The divine residence of Vishnu, the King himself was to reside here after his death. Inside the temple, the walls are covered with stone carvings and bas-reliefs depicting Hindu mythology and the wars Suryavarman II fought during his reign. Moreover, Angkor Wat is well known for the more than 2,000 Apsara dancers decorating the temple. Construction is thought to have taken around thirty years of intensive labor. Angkor Wat is figured on Cambodia's national flag as the temple symbolizes the soul of the Khmer people. Your visit will coincide with the ‘Golden Hour’ to ensure you catch the Apsaras gleaming in their best light.

Finally, the night ends with an incredible performance of ‘Phare, the Cambodian Circus’. Starting at 8pm, professional artists of Phare Ponleu Selpak (PPS) will perform an inspiring show suitable for people of all ages. Set up in Battambang in 1994 by young returnee Cambodians from the refugee camps who learned about using art as a means of coping with trauma, PPS has played an influential role in promoting and developing Khmer culture over the years after the Khmer Rouge genocide. The hour long show mixes traditional and modern theater, music, dance, acrobatics, juggling and contortion performed in a story about Cambodian lives and society. Student performances can still be seen twice weekly in Battambang but now the circus has arrived in Siem Reap!

Overnight in Siem Reap.

Distances and journey time:

Siem Reap – Banteay Srei (37 km): 45 mins

Kbal Spean – Siem Reap (50 km): 1hr 20 mins

Siem Reap – Temples (06 km): 10 mins

Day 4 - Siem Reap - Luang Prabang (B)

This morning embark on an interesting boat trip on the Tonlé Sap Lake, where you will have the opportunity to learn about life on the lake. The Tonle Sap Lake is the largest freshwater lake in Southeast Asia and officially designated as a UNESCO Biosphere Reserve, covering an area of around 250,000 hectares in the dry season. Due to a unique phenomenon, when the monsoon begins, the swollen waters of the Mekong River force the Tonle Sap River to reverse its flow northwards, feeding the Great Lake and spreading over the surrounding flood plain.

Board a local boat and visit the village of Kampong Kleang, where only few tourists venture. Embark on a boat ride through the village where the fisherman and their families live in stilted houses among the petrified mangrove forests and waterways. Enjoy the fascinating scenery of Southeast Asia’s largest freshwater lake. (Note: during the months Apr-Sep the water level may be too low for a visit by boat. However the village is still fascinating and can be visited by car. Quite dramatic to see how the stilted houses are exposed from lake when water levels are low!)

Return back to Siem Reap for an early afternoon at leisure to explore some of Siem Reap’s colourful markets before transferring to the airport for the flight to Luang Prabang.

Welcome to Luang Prabang, the spiritual capital of Laos. Upon arrival, you will be greeted by your guide and transferred to your hotel.

Enjoy the rest of the day at leisure.

Overnight in Luang Prabang

Distance and journey time:

Luang Prabang Airport – Luang Prabang (4 km): 15 min

Day 5 - Luang Prabang - Pak Ou - Luang Prabang (B,L)

day_5-185Start this morning with a visit to one of Lao’s most picturesque temples, Wat Xieng Thong. Located at the end of the peninsula, close to the Mekong River, this temple was erected in 1560 by King Setthathirat and is deeply revered by the Lao people.

Walk to the boat pier, near the temple, to board the Nava Mekong, a beautiful wooden river boat for a join-in cruise up the Mekong to the Pak Ou Caves(depart around 10.30). The journey takes around 2 hours and along the way you will be surrounded by spectacular views, pass by small villages on the river banks and witness fishermen out for their daily catch.

Upon reaching Pak Ou, disembark to explore the caves. Here you will see thousands of gold lacquered Buddha statues crammed into two caves carved out of a towering limestone cliff. The statues range in size from a few centimeters tall to the size of a human, and the view from the mouth of the cave provides sweeping views of the Mekong and Nam Ou rivers. The caves are as well a destination for local pilgrimages, especially during the Lao New Year period of Pii Mai. 

Back onboard the Nava Mekong, you will cruise around the waters to a quiet location set amid limestone cliffs where the boat will moor for lunch. A selection of freshly prepared Lao dishes will be served before returning downstream to Luang Prabang.

This afternoon, you will have a chance to learn more about this culturally rich and history city with a guided tour. The city tour begins with a visit to the former Royal Palace, now the National Museum, where you will explore the history of Laos. Continue on foot to Wat Mai, a temple renowned for its golden bas-relief, and Wat Sensoukarahm, which features a beautiful dazzling golden façade.

OPTIONAL ACTIVITY: Evening performance at the Royal Ballet Theater

Founded in 2002 in cooperation with the Institute of Cultural Research, the Ballet aims to preserve this important aspect of Lao cultural heritage. Watching the spectacular performances of the Royal Ballet, including scenes from the Lao-Ramayana, Lao folk dances and tribal dances will provide a unique experience that you will never forget.

Show starts at 6:00pm (Monday, Wednesday, and Saturday). Please note that the Royal Ballet Theater is normally closed from June to September.

Overnight in Luang Prabang

Distance and journey time:

Luang Prabang – Pak Ou Caves by boat: 1,5 hours

Day 6 - Luang Prabang - Architecture Insight - Kuang Si (B,L)

Today, enjoy a historical and cultural insight into the rich architectural history of the majestic UNESCO World Heritage Town of Luang Prabang with an expert who lives in Laos for more than 20 years.

Your morning city tour with Francis Engelmann will include the four different types of buildings categorized by UNESCO. The first one is the traditional Lao house which is made from tropical hardwood or bamboo and built on stilts. The second is a half wood and half cement house built after the arrival of the French. The third is the traditional French colonial building that are similar to those found in Vietnam and Cambodia. The last form of architecture you will see is the old Chinese shop houses that were built to be used for both commercial and residential purposes.

Enjoy a selection of local favourites at one of the best Lao restaurants in town, Tamarind (Note: closed on Sundays).

Then you will be driven through the Luang Prabang countryside to Kuang Si Waterfalls. Along the way you will drive through beautiful landscapes of rice fields, hills, and small villages. There are also viewpoints overlooking the Mekong River.

Stop en-route to visit a small village which is home to one of the area’s many ethnic minorities. You will have an opportunity to learn about their traditions and culture, much of which has remained unchanged for centuries.

Upon reaching Kuang Si Waterfall, relax and enjoy the beautiful natural surroundings. The jungle and dense woods surrounding the falls is perfect for exploring on foot. For the adventurous, it is possible to walk to the top of the falls via a steep track where stunning views await you at the top.

These waterfalls cascade down a multilevel limestone formation creating a series of turquoise blue pools perfect for swimming in on a hot day (Note: when bathing please be respectful, wear a sarong and be careful not to show too much skin).

Before you leave you might like to visit the bear sanctuary which is next to the falls, run by Free The Bears Fund Inc. There are currently 23 Asiatic Black Bears living in the sanctuary, which has saved them from poaching. The main threat to these bears is poaching due to the use of their bile in Chinese medicine. You can read about their habits and observe their playful nature, whilst learning about the difficulties they are facing.

On the way back to Luang Prabang, you will stop at the Kuang Si Butterfly Park to visit the beautiful garden filled of hundreds of Laos’s butterflies! (Note: closed on Tuesday)

Overnight in Luang Prabang

Distance and journey time:

Luang Prabang – Kuang Si (32 km): 1 hour

Day 7 - Luang Prabang - Hanoi (B)

OPTIONAL ACTIVITY: Alms Giving

For early risers, there is a very special dawn visit to watch the monks collecting the alms.  As the sun begins to rise, long lines of orange-robed monks leave their pagodas and walk barefoot down the streets collecting offerings from Luang Prabang residents.  It is a beautiful, serene ceremony that highlights the spiritualism of the Laos people. Return to the hotel for breakfast.

After your breakfast, free time at leisure. Your guide and private car will meet you at the hotel and transfer you to the airport for your departing flight.

Suggested flight:

Vientiane – Hanoi QV 102, 1430-1550, subject to change without prior notice from the airline.

Arrive in Hanoi and transfer to your hotel in town (note that hotel check-in time is 2pm).

The rest of evening is free at your own leisure.

Overnight in Hanoi.

Distance and journey time:

From Noi Bai Airport to your hotel in Hanoi city center (35km): 50mins

Luang Prabang – Luang Prabang Airport (4 km): 15 min

Day 8 - Hanoi (B,L)

day_8-185Depart the hotel to visit the Temple of Literature, or Quoc Tu Giam. Built in 1076, The Temple of Literature was Vietnam's first university and was established within a temple to educate Vietnam's royalty, mandarins and members of the elite. The university functioned for an incredible 700 years and its gardens and well-preserved architecture offer a fascinating glimpse into Vietnam’s past.

Next we visit Hanoi’s UNESCO World Heritage Site, the Thang Long Imperial Citadel. The Citadel was constructed on a Chinese fortress dating back from the 7th century and re-built in the 11th century by the Ly Viet Dynasty. The historical site and remains reflect a unique South-East Asian culture between influences from China in the north and the ancient Kingdom of Champa in the south.

We also visit The One Pillar Pagoda, which was founded by King Ly Thai To in 1049. This structure is one of Vietnam’s smallest but most iconic temples. Close by is the mausoleum of the historic father figure of modern Vietnam, Ho Chi Minh, and the former presidents house on stilts where he lived from 1958 to 1969. His former home illustrates the modesty of this Vietnamese revolutionary (Viewed from the outside; closed Mondays & Fridays and from Oct.-Nov.)

Afterwards we continue to Hanoi’s picturesque West Lake area and the sixth century Tran Quoc Buddhist Pagoda. From here transfer (or stroll along the lakeside) 700 meters to the nearby Taoist temple of Quan Thanh dedicated to Tran Vu, one of the principal deities in Taoism.

Next, visit Hanoi’s Old Quarter, also known as the ‘36 streets’ area. Take a walking tour through charming Hang Be Market and around Hoan Kiem Lake. This bustling area of narrow streets and alleys is home to literally thousands of small businesses and shopkeepers. It's a great place to explore with plenty of photo opportunities all around.

Finish the day with a Water Puppet show. This is a uniquely North Vietnamese art form depicting scenes from rural life and episodes of national history.  

Overnight in Hanoi.

Distances and journey time:

Routes can change subject to client’s interest.

Day 9 - Hanoi - Ninh Binh (B,L)

Depart your hotel this morning at 0800 for the 2.5-hour drive through rural northern Vietnam to the site of Vietnam’s first capital, Hoa Lu. Visit the temples dedicated to Emperor Dinh Tien Hoang of the Dinh Dynasty (968-80), and Emperor Le Dai Hanh of the Le Dynasty (980-1009). The ancient Hoa Lu Citadel (most of which has since been destroyed) once covered an area of three square kilometers.

After visiting Hoa Lu if time and energy levels permit, you may choose to take a half-hour walk up one of the surrounding limestone karst hills, the climb is rewarding with spectacular views.

In the late morning depart for Tam Coc Town for a Vietnamese lunch, along the way stop where you wish to take pictures of local villages and the stunning landscape.

After lunch, you will visit Trang An Landscape Complex which was listed on UNESCO World Heritage Site in June 2014. Take a relaxing boat ride on a peaceful river passing through a series of caves (one which takes 15-minutes to pass through in darkness). Trang An is a spectacular landscape of limestone karst peaks permeated with valleys, some of which are submerged, and surrounded by steep, almost vertical cliffs. As the boat gently slices through the water, notice the enormous limestone karsts jutting out from the green rice fields giving rise to other name, ‘Halong on Land’. An ‘eco-tourism’ area, the only interruptions here are the sound of birds and the gentle paddle of the oar upon the crystal clear river.

Should you feel adventurous climb up to Bich Dong Pagoda on nearby Ngu Nhac Mountain, dating back to 1428 and comprising three structures: Ha, Trung, and Thuong Pagodas, in ascending order.  After that, you will take a boat trip back by sampan to Tam Coc town.

Transfer to your hotel and the rest of the afternoon is at your leisure.

Overnight in Ninh Binh.

Distances and journey time

Hanoi to Hoa Lu (100km): 2.5hrs.

Day 10 - Ninh Binh - Halong Bay (B,L,D)

day_10-185Following an early breakfast leave Ninh Binh for a 4-hour (approximately) drive to Halong Bay, perhaps Vietnam’s most popular UNESCO World Heritage site! The name ‘Ha Long’ means the dragon descending into the sea and owes its origins to a Vietnamese myth. The towering limestone karsts represent the dragon’s back, surrounded by jade green water creating an unforgettable site. There are more than 1600 limestones of islands and islets with different shapes jutting out from the sea.. Most of them are still intact from human activities thanks to their uninhabited and uncultivated characters.

Arrive at the Halong Bay jetty around noon and proceed with check-in formalities before boarding a boat for your unforgettable overnight cruise on Halong bay. After your welcome onboard, a lunch will be served while cruising towards the bay itself. In the afternoon, enjoy some visits and/or activities (depending on each boat’s itinerary) or just spend some time relaxing on board. Towards the end of the day the boat sets anchor for the night among the karst formations. Dinner is served on board.

Overnight on board the boat in Halong Bay (private cabin on-board the join-in boat cruise).

Distances and journey time:

Ninh Binh to Halong Bay (200km): 4.5hrs

Day 11 - Halong Bay - Hanoi Departure (B)

Enjoy the morning in the middle of Halong Bay as the sun rises on Halong and breakfast is served (brunch on some boats) while the vessel cruises slowly through the magnificent rock formations and back towards the port. Mid-morning the boat will return to shore. Disembark and transfer to Hanoi Noi Bai International Airport to board your flight to your next destination.

Distances and journey time:

Halong Bay to Hanoi departure (180km): 4hours

Tour Duration: 11 Days / 10 Nights
Tour Operates: Year Round / On Demand
Tour Price: Available Upon Request

Rates vary frequently. Please contact us to get the best possible price based upon your travel period and specific touring needs.


Our Services Include:

  • Hotel accommodation in shared twin/double room.
  • Meals as mentioned in the itinerary (B = Breakfast, L = Lunch, D = Dinner).
  • Tours and transfers by private air-conditioned vehicles.
  • English speaking local guide (for other languages supplements apply) and French speaking local guide for Vietnam Part.
  • All entrance fees as indicated in itinerary.
  • Boat trip as mentioned in the itinerary

Our Services do not Include:

  • International and domestic flights (quoted separately).
  • Meals other than mentioned above.
  • Camera/video entrance fees.
  • Personal expenses
  • Travel insurance, tips, visa
  • Other services not clearly indicated in the package inclusions above.

 

MPORTANT NOTES:

  • We strongly recommend the purchase of travel insurance (covering emergency medical evacuation) for trips to Vietnam.
  • Prices are valid 30 days from date of offer. Past this date price and conditions may be readjusted.
  • The cost of air tickets is subject to change without prior notice by the airlines.
  • Reservations during peak times (Christmas, New Year, Vietnamese Lunar New Year, National Holidays) may be subject to supplementary charges.
  • Rooms at hotels are available only from 1400 on arrival day till 1200 on departure date. A supplement will be added if early check-in or late check-out is desired.
  • Please note that all the above services & tours have yet to be booked, they are proposed for your information only and we will not make any reservations before we receive your confirmation to do so.
  • If one or some proposed service(s) is (are) not available at the moment of booking, we will try to find other possibilities/options or other similar service(s) in order to avoid changes to the program.
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Creating Unique Touring Experiences

All the touring itineraries on this website have been carefully crafted by our in-country management teams and represent a series of experiences we can certainly recommend. However, we understand that every travel experience should be as unique and individual as each traveler. Our consultants are waiting to hear from you so that we can tailor or custom design a Multi Countries Tour to your individual specifications.


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icon-quote-l  Thank you for all the choices and arrangements you made to make our visit to Cambodia & Vietnam so successful  icon-quote-r

Adrian & Gill Risso-Gill

Exo Foundation

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