Discover three amazing countries with this fantastic itinerary from leading specialist tour operator Emperor Tours and experience the wonder of Vietnam, Laos and Cambodia.
• Saigon (Ho Chi Minh City) – visit the Cu Chi Tunnels used by the Vietnamese fighters during war time, as well as the major attractions of this vibrant city including the Reunification Palace, Notre Dame Cathedral and Ban Than Market.
• Mekong Delta – take a boat trip from My Tho with stops along the way.
• Hoi An – explore this UNESCO World Heritage Site with its ancient streets and well-preserved homes with Japanese, Vietnamese and European influences.
• Hue – traveling overland to the former capital of Vietnam passing the breath-taking Pass of Ocean Clouds and scenic Lang Co beach. In Hue discover the Imperial Citadel with its palaces and temples.
• Hanoi – French colonial boulevards and outstanding attractions including memorials to former founder of Vietnam Ho Chi Minh. Learn about the country’s ethnic origins at the Museum of Ethnology and explore the Old Quarter with its labyrinth of ancient streets.
• Halong Bay – change of pace and a day and overnight stay onboard a luxurious junk taking in the beautiful scenery of Vietnam’s most spectacular natural wonder with its 3000 towering limestone islands.
• Luang Prabang – considered to be the best-preserved city in South East Asia.
• UNESCO Heritage City of Laos – three nights immersing yourself in museums, palaces, temples, monasteries, cultural centres and night markets. Discover village life, ethnic minorities and the beautiful Khouangsi Waterfall.
• Vientiane – Capital of Laos, temples, central market and Buddha Park with its large collection of buddhas.
• Phnom Penh – capital of Cambodia, French colonial inspired architecture and historical sites including the opulent Royal Palace and Silver Pagoda. Watch the sunset and riverside life on Sisowath Quay.
• Siem Reap – Iconic temples of Angkor Thom, Bayon and Ta Prohm. Spend a morning at the magnificent world-famous Angkor Wat, then on to sample remote village life in Pour Krom and a cruise on the vast Tonle Sap lake.
We begin our private Indochina adventure today with departure from London Heathrow for international economy flight to Ho Chi Minh City (Saigon).
We can also arrange departures from your local airport at no extra cost.
We’ll be greeted by our private guide and driver upon arrival in this amazing city 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 scrumptious 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.
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.
This morning after breakfast we take a 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.
Today you have the whole day free for relaxation by the pool or beach, or to further explore the many fascinating parts of Hoian on your own.
Today 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.
Our final site today is Thien Mu pagoda by the scenic Perfume River – named for the fragrance of flowers from orchards upriver.
After breakfast 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. On arrival we will be greeted by our private guide and driver and transferred to the centre of this busy city for check-in at the hotel.
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 understand the amazing life of the founder of modern Vietnam.
We 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.
Our final activity is to 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 (ancient Chinese ship) 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 prepared by our onboard chef, 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!
We 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.
On arrival we will be greeted by our private guide and driver and transfer to the hotel located in the very heart of Luang Prabang. We’ll have three nights in this wonderful city.
An early rise this morning will give you 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 with 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 us a chance to cool off in the serence 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.
The morning is free for you to relax or further explore the city independently.
In the afternoon we fly to Vientiane, the capital city of Laos. Following meeting by our guide and driver on arrival and after we have transferred to the hotel for check-in, 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, we 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.
Today we bid farewell to Laos and board a morning flight to Phnom Penh, the capital of Cambodia Kingdom. On arrival at Phnom Penh airport we will be met by our private guide and driver and transferred to our hotel in the city centre.
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 and grasshoppers, as well as other culinary delights!
To begin today 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.
We then 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 our afternoon flight to Siem Reap, we also visit the Killing Field of Choeung Ek where nearly 10,000 were executed during the 3 years of Khmer Rouge regime.
On arrival in Siem Reap we meet our guide and driver and transfer to the hotel in the centre of this unique city.
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.
Finally today hike up Phnom Bakheng to behold the magnificent sunset over the land of temples.
Following breakfast we spend the whole morning exploring the world-famous Angkor Wat. 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.
Sadly it has come to the end of our Indochina adventure. We have free time before our guide and driver collect us from the hotel for private 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)
Tour Prices include:
Tour Prices exclude:
FLIGHT TIMES: 12.35 hours direct from London Heathrow to Saigon (Sat-Mon-Wed only). Other airlines fly indirect every day of the week. There are no direct flights from Siem Reap to the UK.
TIME DIFFERENCE: +6 hours in summer time / +7 hours in winter time (BST).
CURRENCY: Vietnamese dong £1 = approx. 31,000 VND / Cambodian riel £1 = approx. 5,480 riels / Lao kip £1 = approx. 11,130 LAK
MONEY: Almost all goods and services are calculated and paid for in US dollars. Credit cards are accepted only at major hotels, restaurants owned by foreigners and souvenir shops. Travellers cheques and currencies other than US Dollars are accepted only by major banks. We recommend changing a small amount into local currency on arrival, for drinks and gifts etc.
TIPPING: If you are happy with the services of the driver and guide in each city then tipping is an accepted way of showing your gratitude. We recommend anything from $10 upwards for each, usually more for the guide. We advise placing any tips in separate envelopes and handing to the guide and driver at the end of their service in a particular city.
VISA: No visa is required for UK passport holders if stay is 15 days or less in Vietnam. A visa is required for both Laos and Cambodia and can be obtained on arrival at entry airport/port. Cambodian visa can also be obtained in advance through the embassy website.
LANGUAGE: The official language spoken in Vietnam is Vietnamese. The official language spoken in Cambodia is Khmer. The official language spoken in Laos is Lao.
BEST TIMES TO VISIT: From October to April are the best times to visit Indochina combined. March to April will experience least rainfall and more pleasant temperatures too.
FESTIVALS: Here are the main Indochina festivals and what you will expect to see and experience during these festivities…
Vietnamese New Year ‘Tet’ – mid to late February
Vietnamese people gather with their families to exchange best wishes and pray for prosperity over the coming year. In big cities, the streets are adorned with beautiful flower decorations. It’s a great time to see the preparations and immerse in the festive atmosphere before Tet, but travel during the festival is not recommendable.
Mid Autumn Festival (Vietnam) – 15th day of the 8th lunar month in the Chinese lunar calendar
Marked with fanciful lanterns, the festival is a favourite with children, as the occasion calls for more toys, candies, fruit, and entertainment than any other time of the year. Mid-Autumn parties serve cakes, traditional and modified. Lion dances are commonly performed by travelling troupers who go from house to house to perform for tipping.
Reunification Day (Vietnam) – 30th April yearly
Also known as Victory Day or Liberation Day, this national holiday marks the fall of the Saigon government on 30 April 1975. The communist troops captured Saigon (now Ho Chi Minh City) and brought the Vietnam war to an end. This began the process of reuniting the Democratic Republic of Vietnam in the north and the Republic of Vietnam in the south
National Independence Day (Vietnam) – 2nd September yearly
This day commemorates Vietnam’s declaration of independence from France in 1945. On that day, President Ho Chi Minh, read out the Declaration of Independence. Nowadays, national red flags are raised high everywhere. People are entitled to one day off. Public and official celebrations can be found in all cities.
Victory Day (Cambodia) – 7th January yearly
This day marks the end of the Khmer Rouge regime in 1979. During the four years of the regime, it is estimated that two million Cambodians died (almost a quarter of the population). Remembrance services are carried out to honor those who lost their lives.
Meak Bochea Day (Cambodia) – coinciding with the full moon of the 3rd month of the lunar calendar
This day commemorates the final sermon of Buddha, in which he summarised the three fundamental principles of Buddhism: avoid evil, perform good deeds and achieve purity of the mind. Buddhists celebrate Meak Bochea by joining candlelit processions within temples in their vicinity.
Chaul Chnam Thmey (Khmer New Year – Cambodia) – 13th to 15th April yearly
It marks the end of the harvest before the beginning of the rainy season. Cambodia grinds to a halt during New Year, drawing families together from all across the country into a celebration that turns wet and wild on the third day.
On the first day, people give thanks to Buddha by lighting candles and incense sticks. The second day is for charity where people donate or offer help to the poor and needy. On the third day, people wash statues of Buddha with scented water, which is symbolic of washing away sins of the past.
Pchum Ben (Ancestors’ Day – Cambodia) – celebrated on the 15th day of the 10th month of the Khmer lunar calendar
It is actually the culmination of a fifteen-day observance called Dak Ben, throughout which Khmers are encouraged to visit at least seven pagodas to make offerings to dead ancestors and light candles to guide the spirits of the dead to these offerings.
Observant Khmers will also throw a rice-sesame seed mixture onto temple grounds. This observance helps feed the spirits of the ancestors who roam the world on Pchum Ben and are consequently hungry from not having eaten all year.
National Independence Day (Cambodia) – 9th November yearly
This day marks the anniversary of Cambodia’s independence from France in 1953. The celebrations are centered around the Independence Monument at the center of Phnom Penh, where the King lights a victory fire in the presence of the country’s politicians, generals, and diplomats.
The celebrations also include cultural activities, parades down Norodom Boulevard, and fireworks in the evening.
Boun Pi Mai (Laos New Year) – mid April
The Lao new year commences in mid-April, lasting three days. The whole country shuts down to worship and celebrate – Buddha images are washed, offerings made at the temples, and votive sand stupas are made in yards all over the country. Finally, Laotians spray water gleefully upon one another.
The most picturesque celebrations of Bun Pi Mai happen in Luang Prabang. Cambodia, Burma, and Thailand celebrate this holiday as well – the Thai celebration is better known as Songkran.
Lao National Day (Laos) – 02 December yearly
The Lao People’s Democratic Republic was established on this day in 1975, after King Savang Vatthana was forced to abdicate. The event is marked with official ceremonies, speeches, parades and other festive activities throughout the country.
H’mong New Year (Laos, nationwide) – normally in the end of the 12th lunar month
The Hmong is the third largest ethnic group in Laos. Their New Year is traditionally celebrated at the end of the harvest season. Hmong families gather to give thanks to their ancestors and spirits. During this time, they dress in traditional costumes and enjoy traditional foods as well as dance, music and other forms of entertainment.
On this occasion, many Hmong Americans come back to see their relatives.
FOOD & DRINK: Light, subtle in flavour and astonishing in their variety, Vietnamese dishes are boiled or steamed rather than stir-fried, and a huge emphasis is placed on herbs and seasoning. In the south, Indian and Thai influences add curries and spices to the menu, while other regions have evolved their own array of specialities.
Buddhism introduced a vegetarian tradition to Vietnam, while much later the French brought with them bread, dairy products, pastries and the whole café culture. The quality and variety of food is generally better in the main towns than off the beaten track, where restaurants of any sort are few and far between.
Freshwater fish is the most commonly used meat in the Cambodian diet, with pork and chicken also being popular.
Laos cuisine is very similar to Vietnamese, sticky-rice (Khao Niaw) being a staple food throughout the country.
SOCIAL ETIQUETTE: People throughout Indochina are very kind and easy going. People are very relaxed with foreigners and their different habits.
Showing anger is seen as a weakness.
Respect and care should be shown when visiting temples and shoes should always be removed before entering.
HEALTH ADVICE: Although no vaccinations are officially required for entry to Indochina, they are highly encouraged. Visitors are advised to check with their GP or travel immunisation clinic regarding protection against malaria, typhoid, tetanus, hepatitis A & B. Any essential medications should be brought with you as there is no guarantee they will be available in the areas you will be visiting.
If travelling in Summer months, please bring sunscreen, mosquito repellent etc.
It is not safe to drink tap water in Indochina – please drink boiled water or bottled water only.