Museums, markets and monuments — this tour covers a lot of ground! See the best of Southeast Asia in a compact yet insightful holiday. Take in the modern metropolises of Bangkok and Ho Chi Minh City and all the quiet places in between where nature and history beckon the curious traveller.
Travel through four countries in just 18 days, taking in the cultural, historical and natural highlights of each.
Explore vibrant morning markets, bike through charming small towns, cook with local farmers and witness traditional performances.
See modern capitals, Bangkok and Hanoi, as well as historic royal capitals including Chiang Mai and Luang Prabang.
Southeast Asia Discovery - 18 Days / 17 Nights
Arrive in Bangkok and transfer to hotel. Spend the rest of the day at leisure.
Overnight in Bangkok.
After breakfast at the hotel, go on a day of sightseeing in Bangkok. First stop at the Royal Grand Palace the nation’s landmark and the most revered royal monument. See palaces that were used for different occasions – the Funeral Palace, the Reception Palace, the Throne Hall, the Coronation Hall, the Royal Guest House, and the mysterious Emerald Buddha which is the most revered Buddha image in Thailand. Appropriate dress is required (or can be rented on site). Continue the visit to Wat Pho, the home of Thai massage and the Reclining Buddha.
This afternoon stroll through Chinatown and visit interesting shops, tea shop, markets and temples to get a first-hand feel for old Bangkok. Continue to The Bangkok Folk Museum**, a seventy-year-old Thai house converted into a small but fascinating museum. Then hop on a long tail boat for a ride along the bustling Chao Phraya River and the quiet klongs (canals) of Thonburi and see how Thai people have lived next to the water for centuries. Last stop is the magnificent Wat Arun or Temple of Dawn. (**Note: Bangkok Folk Museum is closed on Mondays & Tuesdays.)
Overnight in Bangkok.
After breakfast, transfer to the airport for the flight to Sukhothai. Upon arrival, be met by the guide at the airport and transferred for a tour of Sukhothai Historical Park which was once a walled city surrounded by a moat.
Lunch can be included with surcharge if one morning arrival.
Sukhothai, a name meaning dawn of happiness, was founded in the 13th century and became the kingdom's first capital, overseeing a period known as the golden age of Thai history. The park contains almost 200 ruined chedis in remarkable condition. See the main sites of Wat Mahathat, Wat Si Chum, Wat Sri Sawai and War Sra Sri and Wat Trapang Ngoen and Ramkamhaeng Museum before checking into the hotel. Bike ride is possible in supplement in the historical park. A nice and easy way to get around the ruins!
Overnight in Sukhothai.
After breakfast, drive north to Si Satchanalai Historical Park on the bank of the Yom River north of Sukhothai. The ancient town, formerly called ''Muang Chaliang,'' was named ''Si Satchanalai'' during the reign of Phra Ruang and 134 ruined monuments have been discovered within the park. Visit the main sites of Wat Phra Si Rattana Mahathat, Wat Khao Suwan Khiri, Wat Chang Lom, Wat Chedi Chet Thaeo, Wat Suan Kaeo Utthayan Yai, Wat Nang Phaya, Wat Suan Kaeo Utthayan Noi and Celadon Kiln Site Study and Conservation Center at Ban Ko Noi, some 4 kilometres to the north of Si Satchanalai. Drive to Chiang Mai via Lampang, with a stop to visit Wat Phra That Lampang Luang, and arrive in Chiang Mai in the late afternoon.
Overnight in Chiang Mai.
Travel thirty minutes by vehicle north of Chiang Mai city to a long-tail boat dock and be taken on a leisurely stroll around the grounds with an herbal garden. Then board a long-tail boat and enjoy a 30-minute cruise along the rural Mae Ping River. Along the river banks, see traditional wooden houses and modern residences. Arrive at a boat landing and walk for about 10 minutes from the landing to Waroros fresh food market for a visit, experiencing the Northern Thai way of life. From the market, take a trishaw ride along Tapae Road past City Walls and along Ratchadamnoen Road to Wat Phra Singh.
In the afternoon, explore ancient Chiang Mai, including its old city walls, gates, moat and markets. After visiting Wat Suan Dok, where the ashes of Chiang Mai’s royal family are interred, continue to Wat Phra That Doi Suthep, the temple on the mountain and the most sacred in Northern Thailand. The experienced guide will explain the story of the temple, the white elephant and explain its impressive chedi and show its beautiful murals. In the late afternoon, the tourist masses have already left the temple grounds and dusk will give a very special atmosphere. After a private blessing ceremony, witness the magical evening chanting of the monks. End with the spectacularly romantic evening view over Chiang Mai with its millions of glittering lights.
Overnight in Chiang Mai.
After breakfast, spend the rest of the day at leisure before the transfer to Chiang Mai Airport for the flight to Luang Prabang.
On arrival in Luang Prabang, transfer to hotel.
Free time this afternoon at leisure.
Overnight in Luang Prabang
After breakfast, be picked up by the guide at the hotel.
The city tour begins with a visit to the former Royal Palace, now the National Museum. Explore the history of Laos. Continue on foot to Wat Mai, a temple known for its golden bas-relief, and Wat Sensoukarahm, which features a beautiful dazzling golden façade. Finish this morning with a visit to the beautiful Wat Xieng Thong, one of the most important temples in Laos.
Then transfer back to the hotel or a restaurant depending on preferences for lunch. (Lunch is not included)
At 14:00 this afternoon, be picked up by the guide and fitted with bikes.
The first stop of this afternoon’s bike ride is the Traditional Arts & Ethnology Centre, a museum dedicated to exploring the rich diversity of Laos’ ethnic minorities. Traditional costumes, tools, and artifacts are on display alongside in-depth descriptions and written histories. It is a great opportunity to gain insight in to the Lao people (Note: closed on Mondays).
Continue riding to the Phousi Market, and join the locals and support vendors by buying fresh products or fruits. The guide will be here to encourage some tasting of the exotic flavours of the local fruits, help to identify new items not found in the grocery store back home!
Return to the hotel by bike.
Lao cuisine relies heavily on the freshest produce and incorporates a range of intriguing flavors, many unfamiliar to the western palate. A cooking class at Tamarind Restaurant starts with an introduction to these main ingredients and how they are used in Lao cuisine. Then, start preparing and cooking an assortment of dishes under supervision - a cheerful chef who will teach all the traditional techniques as well as information about Lao culture. A cooking class is an ideal way to experience a culture from inside as Lao people take pride in sharing their love for their cuisine with some introduction to distinctive Lao dishes in a relaxed atmosphere.
Recipes are provided to take back home.
Overnight in Luang Prabang.
For early risers, there is a very special dawn visit to watch the monks collecting 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.
Then board a traditional wooden boat, Nava Mekong, for a relaxing cruise on the mighty Mekong River. Enjoy stunning mountain scenery and witness the simple rural lifestyles which rely on the river while cruising upstream for 1.5 – 2 hours. Reach Pak Ou caves at the confluence of the Mekong and Nam Ou Rivers. In these 2 caves are displayed hundreds of sacred centuries-old Buddha images which are the object of pilgrimages during the Lao New Year festivities around mid April. The boat then keeps cruising in the vicinity of the caves and will moor during lunch time at the foot of beautiful limestone cliffs. A selection of typical Lao dishes will be served onboard. Cruise back to Luang Prabang and return in the early afternoon.
This afternoon have a chance to participate in a unique, traditional Lao ceremony. The Baci is performed in celebration of an important event such as weddings, births, or for welcoming guests and is a means of expressing good will and good luck to others. During the Baci, special flower trays and food treats are prepared which are then touch by the participants while a Buddhist mantra is chanted. After the chanting is completed, cotton threads are tied around the participants’ wrist whilst they receive an individual blessing.
Continue to climb the 328 steps to the top of Mount Phousi to enjoy a panoramic view of the city and the surrounding countryside. Stop at the evening hill tribe market.
Enjoy a delicious Lao set menu at the 3 Nagas Hotel.
Overnight in Luang Prabang.
After breakfast, free time at leisure before transferring to the airport.
Arrive in Hanoi and be met by the guide and transferred to the hotel.
Overnight in Hanoi.
Following breakfast leave Hanoi for a 2.5 hrs drive to Halong Bay including a 20-minutes stop on the way. Arrive at the jetty in Halong City towards noon and proceed with check-in formalities. After a welcome onboard, 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 Halong Bay.
Enjoy a fresh morning in the middle of the bay, the sun rises on Halong in the morning and breakfast is served (brunch on some boats) while the vessels cruise slowly through the magnificent rock formations and back towards port. Disembark and transfer back to Hanoi.
Arrive in Hanoi late in the afternoon, join a half-day city tour to discover charming and historic capital city of Vietnam. Hanoi is a unique city with more than 1000-year of rich culture and fascinating history. The tree-lined boulevards, French colonial architecture, peaceful lakes and oriental temples. The city tour includes a visit to the Temple of Literature, Hoan Kiem Lake and a walking tour of the Old Quarter.
Overnight in Hanoi.
This morning after breakfast, depart from the hotel to Noi Bai Airport for the Hue bound flight. Arrive in Hue and check-in to the hotel.
In the afternoon, start the Hue discovery tour at the Imperial Citadel where the Nguyen Dynasty ruled between 1802 and 1945. The ancient citadel reflects the pomp and ceremony of the dynastic rulers as well as the scars of many years of turmoil, both ancient and modern (the Royal Citadel was badly damaged in the latter stages of the war) but retains a sense of grace and majesty even today.
Continue to visit Thien Mu (Celestial Lady) Pagoda overlooking the Perfume River. Constructed in 1601, the 21-meter tall tower is the centerpiece of the pagoda and represents seven reincarnations of Buddha. In the grounds of the pagoda is the Austin car made famous in 1963, when a resident monk drove the vehicle to what was then Saigon to protest against the southern regime, the photo of his self immortalization was captured and is one of the most well known images of the war.
Journey on to Khai Dinh’s Tomb which is traditional Vietnamese in design with a European touch making it unique from the other tombs in Hue.
Overnight in Hue.
Leave Hue for Hoi An, a major Asian trading port in the 17th and 18th centuries whose architecture and relaxed lifestyle has changed little over the years. The scenic route passes through the wonderfully photogenic fishing village of Lang Co before climbing over the Pass of Ocean Clouds. Drive through Danang and visit the Cham Museum, which contains the finest collection of Cham sculptures in the world. In the afternoon take a walking tour of the ancient town centre to visit the former merchants’ homes, the 400 year-old Japanese Covered Bridge and the colourful market.
Overnight in Hoi An.
Spend the day at leisure. As a suggestion head down to Hoi An’s Cua Dai Beach with its stunning stretch of long white sands, crystal clear waters and island views.
Overnight in Hoi An
Transfer to Danang Airport after breakfast for the short flight to dynamic Ho Chi Minh City, still called Saigon by the locals.
On arrival take a tour of vibrant Ho Chi Minh City. The program includes the Reunification Hall, formerly known as the Presidential Palace it was towards this modern building that North Vietnamese tanks seized on the morning of April 30 1975, as Saigon fell. This fascinating building is filled with history still fresh in the minds of many.
From there stroll to the major sights of colonial Ho Chi Minh City: the Old Saigon Post Office, Dong Khoi Street (formerly Rue Catinat), Continental Hotel, Opera House and City Hall. (Please note: The vehicle will be available at all times.)
After this historical visit continue to the War Remnants Museum where exhibition halls display imagery of both the French and ‘American’ wars.
Continue to the Jade Emperor Pagoda located on the fringes of district 1. Dating from 1909 and built by Cantonese Buddhists this quiet oasis was designed using feng shui principles showcasing ornate statues and effigies. Following the tour head back to the hotel.
Overnight in Ho Chi Minh City.
This morning is free at leisure for last minute shopping or sightseeing before transferring to the airport for the flight to Siem Reap.
Arrive in Siem Reap by the morning flight and transfer to hotel. Siem Reap is the base for exploring the fabled temples of Angkor, the ancient capital of the Khmer empire.
This afternoon, visit the ancient city of Angkor Thom. This is the last capital of the Great Khmer Empire under the reign of Jayavarman VII and the city is surrounded by an 8m high wall, drawing a perfect square. Enter through the ancient South Gate, an impressive stone gate carved with Elephants and four giant faces.
From here, continue to 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. The Terrace of the Elephants and the Terrace of the Leper King are also must-visits as they are both known for their intricate bas-reliefs.
Overnight in Siem Reap.
Embark on an interesting boat trip on the Tonlé Sap Lake and have the opportunity to learn about life on the lake. Tonlé Sap is South East Asia’s largest freshwater lake with its size varying greatly depending on the season, as it is swelling to about four times it size during the wet season. Board a local boat and visit Kampong Phluck, a village where there are still houses on stilts that are submerged when Tonlé Sap Lake extends. On the way, pass by floating houses and impressive flooded forests, portraying life on the water.
Take a break by disembarking for a tasty picnic packed lunch served in a floating house and enjoy the views as the local community goes about its daily life (Note: Due to low water levels during the dry season, the boat trip is only possible from June to March. However an alternative floating village at Chong Kneas can be arranged instead).
Return to Siem Reap for some time at leisure during the hottest time of the day.
Later today, hop on a local ramork (similar to the Thai tuktuk) and be taken to a special sightseeing tour of the famous Angkor Wat. 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 Mount Meru, the home of the gods. 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. 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. Today, Angkor Wat is figured on Cambodia's national flag as the temple symbolizes the soul of the Khmer people. Arrive at sunset when Angkor Wat is less visited and the Apsaras will shine in the most beautiful light.
Overnight in Siem Reap.
Today, explore the temples of the Small Circuit. 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. The visit will also include Banteay Kdei, a Buddhist monastery from the late 12th Century, and Srah Srang, also known as the ‘pool of ablutions’.
Enjoy some time at leisure until it is time for the transfer to the airport for onward departure flight.
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