This is an adventure to stir the imagination. From the magical and scenic Halong Bay, to the old world charm of Laos, and finally to the world renowned Angkor Wat. This is an unforgettable journey of discovery in three countries that will stay in your memory forever.
Depart London Heathrow for international economy flight to Saigon. We can also arrange departures from your local airport at no extra cost.
We’ll be greeted upon arrival and transferred to the hotel for check-in and tour briefing. We’ll take an orientation tour and a chance to acclimatise ourselves if time permits. A welcome dinner awaits us tonight.
This morning we travel to Cu Chi to explore the legendary network of underground combat tunnels. This incredible system, covering almost 250 km in length, served as communication routes, storage facilities, hospitals and living quarters for Vietnamese fighters throughout the wartime. Known as the “Iron Triangle” during the war of the 60’s, the story of Cu Chi is one of struggle, determination against all odds, and eventual victory. Now the tunnels are a major site of interest for tourists and historians, and those interested in Vietnam’s military history. Following lunch, we return to town and continue sightseeing with the best known sites in the very centre of Saigon such as the Reunification Palace, the War Museum, the Notre Dame Cathedral, the Post Office, the Opera House, Ben Thanh Market, etc.
After breakfast we leave the hustle and bustle of Saigon behind and travel into the Mekong Delta, a world that lives and works on the waters. Arriving in My Tho, 80 km from Saigon, we get on a boat trip on the Mekong River, then into a palm-shaded canal towards an island. Disembark and roam into the insular village to see production of handicrafts and candy from coconut, taste freshly picked seasonal tropical fruits, enjoy folk musical by amateurs, and ride a horse cart along the village road. Row a sampan along a side arm of the river to further experience river life. For lunch, we’ll sample some regional specialities such as Elephant Ear Fish, Rice Ball, Coconut Salad, etc. After lunch we return to Saigon for overnight. A visit to Vinh Trang pagoda in My Tho or Thien Hau pagoda in the Chinese quarter of Saigon can be arranged upon request.
We take a morning flight to Danang and continue overland along the scenic coast to the quaint town of Hoian. This afternoon, we’ll be on foot exploring the ancient quarter of Hoian, recognised by UNESCO as a World Heritage site because of its historic role in international trade, unusually well-preserved ancient streets and homes. Sites include the Japanese Bridge, a Sino-Vietnamese merchant house, a Chinese Temple, the Central Market, and the Culture Museum. There’ll be time for independent exploration and shopping opportunities.
A whole day at own leisure.
We leave Hoian and travel overland to Hue – the former capital of Vietnam, visiting the Marble Mountains and the Cham museum in Danang, climbing over the breath-taking Pass of Ocean Clouds and passing by the scenic beach of Lang Co. In Hue we’ll be exploring the former Imperial Citadel, a complex of palaces and temples built in the early 19th century and a recognised UNESCO World Cultural Heritage Site. Next site is Thien Mu pagoda by the scenic river named for the fragrance of flowers from orchards upriver.
We continue exploring Hue with a visit to a fascinating royal garden house. Next stop is the grand mausoleum of former emperor Tu Duc on a serene hill, which nicely reflects Vietnamese thinking about life after life. We also visit the nearby villages crafting incenses and conical hats. A wonderful photograph opportunity! Later, we take a flight to Hanoi, the City of the Rising Dragon and the political heart of Vietnam.
Today we’ll be touring the most outstanding attractions of Hanoi. First, we pay a visit to the complex of memorials to Ho Chi Minh to know the amazing life of the founder of modern Vietnam. Continue to the Temple of Literature to gain understanding of one of the driving forces in Vietnam culture. Our next stop is the Museum of Ethnology which exhibits a large collection of artefacts about the 54 ethnic groups in the country. Enjoy a rickshaw ride through the lively Old Quarter, a series of 36 ancient streets where peddlers still trade the way they have done for centuries. The rickshaw tour ends up at an old house on Ma May Street, an example of dwellings in the 19 century. Enjoy a performance of the water puppetry, the famed traditional art form created by village farmers around the Red River Delta region – unique but widely known.
Today we journey east to Halong Bay, the greatest natural wonder of Vietnam, through the Red River Delta, where we see daily Vietnamese village life. On arrival, we board a beautiful traditional junk and spend a full day and night cruising the bay’s 3000 magnificent limestone islets. In the evening when the boat is anchored in the middle of the stunning lagoon, we enjoy a wonderful seafood meal and later there is opportunity for an evening swim from the side of the boat. Spend the night on our luxurious boat.
NOTE: Kayaks are available if specified at time of booking.
Wake up to fresh coffee then further cruising and sightseeing. En route the junk weaves through more rock formations that invite comparisons from fighting cocks to dragons and even further! Disembark after lunch and return to Hanoi for a late afternoon/early evening flight to Luang Prabang, the UNESCO Heritage city in Laos. Luang Prabang is perhaps the best-preserved traditional city in Southeast Asia. The tranquillity and charm of this town’s splendid scenery and cultural sights make it one of the most delightful places to visit in Laos. We’ll have three nights in this wonderful city.
Early rise to take the fantastic opportunity to watch or participate in the unique daily morning ritual, where hundreds of saffron-clad monks walk in procession collecting offerings of sticky rice from devout residents along the roadsides.
After breakfast we commence our exploration of the town from the National Museum, formerly the Royal Palace, which houses an eclectic collection, including statues, mosaic covered walls, French mirrors, and a piece of moon rock presented by the former U.S President Nixon. We continue on foot to Wat Mai, the temple with its unique five-tiered roof and golden bas-reliefs, and then Wat Visoun which contains a collection of antique wooden Buddha statues.
After lunch, we continue to Wat Xiengthong with the sweeping roofs, Wat Sene boasting the most dazzling facade of all Luang Prabang temples, and Wat Aham – the “Monastery of the blossomed Heart”. Later, we can opt to visit the Traditional Art & Ethnology Centre or negotiate the 328 steps to the top of Mount Phousi. The Traditional Art & Ethnology Centre is a beautiful exhibition of traditional costumes, tools, and artefacts alongside in-depth descriptions and written histories, providing a great insight in to the Lao people. Mount Phousi offers a panoramic view of the city and the beautiful surrounding countryside. Conclude the day with a leisurely walk through the iridescent Night Market to see a lovely array of handicrafts.
After breakfast we visit the villages of Ban Ouay, Ban Ou, Ban Thapene and get acquainted with the Hmong, Lowland Laotian, and Khmu ethnic minority people. We also visit the beautiful Khouangsi Waterfall that offers a chance to cool off in the turquoise pools. Alternatively, we can explore the surrounding countryside on walking trails through forest. En route back to town we call at Ban Phanom village of skilled hand-weaving women. The remainder of the day will be at own leisure.
Free in the morning to relax or further explore the city independently. Afternoon, we fly to Vientiane, the capital city of Laos. If time permits, we set out to enjoy the sunset while relaxing with a drink overlooking the Mekong River.
Today we’ll be exploring some of the highlights of Vientiane. First, visit Wat Sisaket, the oldest temple in the city, and home to thousands of miniature Buddha statues. Next, visit Wat Phra Kaew, the former royal temple that housed the famous Emerald Buddha Image, and Phra That Luang, which represents a lotus bud and is used as a symbol of the Lao nation. We will also visit Patousay, Vientiane’s very own Arc of Triumph. Get the feel of true local life with a visit to Talad Sao, the Central Market of Vientiane.
Afternoon, we visit one of Laos’s slightly stranger attractions – the Buddha Park. Built in 1958 this riverside park is the site of a large collection of Buddhist and Hindu Sculptures. En route, take a look at the impressive Friendship Bridge and the National Cultural Park.
NOTE: Instead of the Buddha Park, a visit to (1) the weaving village of Ban Nong Buathong, or (2) the forest temple Wat Sok Pa Luang can be arranged.
We bid farewell to Laos and board a morning flight to Phnom Penh, the capitol of Cambodia Kingdom. In the afternoon we’ll be walking through the opulent Royal Palace with the dazzling Silver Pagoda. Next stop is the impressive National Museum that houses a large collection of Khmer art sculptures, ceramics and bronzes. At sunset, mosey along Sisowath Quay to see lively river life as well as riverside stalls selling fried cockroaches, spiders, crickets or grasshoppers or other culinary delights.
We immerse in the vibrant local life at the Central Market housed in a distinctive domed Art Deco building, a labyrinth of stalls selling everything from CD’s and DVD’s to silks, crafts, jewellery and more. Confront the tragic history of Cambodia on a visit to the horrific Museum of Tuol Sleng, which was converted into a detention centre from a high school. En route to the airport for an afternoon flight to Siem Reap, visit the Killing Field of Choeung Ek where nearly 10,000 were executed during the 3 years of Khmer Rouge regime.
This evening, enjoy dinner with entertainment from Apsara dancers. Free time afterwards allows an exciting walk to see the lively Pub Street and the lucky Night Market.
Today we start exploring the wonders left by a highly complex civilisation that controlled the greater part of Southeast Asia for four centuries. First, visit Angkor Thom – the last capital of the great Khmer Empire, taking in the sprawling Terraces of Elephant and the Leper King and the enchanting Bayon. This 12th century masterpiece lies at the very centre of Angkor Thom and is an archaeological wonder of symmetry and grandeur.
Following lunch, we continue with the fascinating jungle-clad temple of Ta Prohm, Banteay Kdei as the Citadel of Chambers, the mountain temple of Takeo, the elegant Hindu temple of Thommanon, the badly ruined temple of Chau Say Thevoda, and the Royal Bath of Sras Srang. Hike up Phnom Bakheng to behold the magnificent sunset over the land of temples.
We spend the whole morning exploring Angkor Wat, a vast rambling complex of diverse temple structures dating from the 9th to the 13th centuries. Many are adorned with exquisite carvings and bas-reliefs; some are so entwined with trees and vines that they almost returned to the jungle. Angkor Wat is the apogee of classical Khmer architecture and has become a symbol of Cambodia, appearing on the national flag, and stands on par with such other monumental achievements as Machu Picchu and the Great Pyramid.
Afternoon, we travel to Pour Krom and walk through this lovely village to see rural Khmer life. Next, embark on a cruise to see floating villages and get a taste of life ruled by monsoonal rains and water-based agriculture on Tonle Sap Lake. One of the most productive bodies of fresh water in the world, Tonle Sap was classified as a Biosphere Reserve by UNESCO in 1997. We also pay a visit to Les Artisan D’angkor, the Rebirth of Khmer Arts, back in town.
Free before transfer to the airport for departure flight.
Saigon – 5* Fusion Suite (for more information click here)
Hoi An – 5* Palm Garden Resort (for information click here)
Hue – 5* Imperial Hotel (for information click here)
Hanoi – 5* Sheraton Hotel (for information click here)
Halong Bay – 5* Victory Star (for information click here)
Luang Prabang – 5* Kiridara (for information click here)
Vientiane – 5* Dhavara Boutique Hotel (for information click here)
Phnom Penh – 5* Sokha Hotel (for information click here)
Siem Reap – 5* Sokha Angkor Resort (for information click here)
Saigon – 4* Grand Silverland Hotel (for more information click here)
Hoi An – 4* Hoian Trails Resort (for information click here)
Hue – 4* Eldora Hotel (for information click here)
Hanoi – 4* The Ann Hotel (for information click here)
Halong Bay – 4* Syrena Cruise (for information click here)
Luang Prabang – 4* Villa Santi Hotel (for information click here)
Vientiane – 4* Salana Boutqie Hotel (for information click here)
Phnom Penh – 4* Frangipani Royal Palace Hotel (for information click here)
Siem Reap – 4* Tara Angkor Hotel (for information click here)
Saigon – 3* Lavender Boutique Hotel (for more information click here)
Hoi An – 3* Lotus Hotel (for information click here)
Hue – 3* Cherish Hotel (for information click here)
Hanoi – 3* Church Hang Gai (for information click here)
Halong Bay – 3* V’Spirit Cruise
Luang Prabang – 3* Villa Chitdara (for information click here)
Vientiane – 3* Mandala Boutique Hotel (for information click here)
Phnom Penh – 3* Ohana Hotel (for information click here)
Siem Reap – 3* Frangipani Villa (for information click here)
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We used Emperor for a group trip to India. they were fantastic with their choice of hotels (some truly incredible) their tour guide, the whole programme and their choice of airlines for the trip. We made things quite tough for them with different members of the group travelling for different periods and arriving in and out of different airports. We specifically had some issues with one of the airlines on the return leg of our trip, through no fault of Emperor, but they did their utmost to put things right and made the journey home as pleasant as possible by meeting the cost of a lounge at the airport for us do to the shortcomings of one of the airlines checking in procedures. The pre holiday package of information was very comprehensive and we were presented with very durable luggage tags. We would have no hesitation in recommending Richard and his team in tailoring a package for a trip to India. We had an amazing culturally stimulating trip and will certainly go back to India in the future.