Best of Indochina
A 20 Days/ 19 Nights representative tour visiting all the major cities and famous sites of Vietnam and Cambodia. This itinerary can be used as a starting point and altered or extended to suite your requirements.
Itinerary in Brief:
Day 1 : Hanoi
Day 2 : Hanoi and ancient ceramic village Bat Trang
Day 3 : Hanoi – Ninh Binh – Hanoi – Lao Cai (O/N On The Train)
Day 4 : Lao Cai – Bac Ha – Sapa
Day 5 : Sapa
Day 6 : Sapa – Lao Cai – Hanoi (O/N On The Train)
Day 7 : Hanoi – Halong (O/N On Boat)
Day 8 : Halong – Hanoi Airport – Hue
Day 9: Hue
Day 10 : Hue – Hoian
Day 11: Hoian – Danang Airport – Saigon
Day 12 : Saigon – Cu Chi – Saigon
Day 13 : Saigon – Ben Tre – Can Tho
Day 14 : Can Tho – Chau Doc
Day 15 : Chau Doc – Phnompenh (By Boat)
Day 16 : Phnompenh – Siem Reap (By Air)
Day 17 : Siem Reap
Day 18 : Siem Reap
Day 19 : Siem Reap
Day 20 : Departure
DAY 1: ARRIVAL IN HA NOI
Arrive in Hanoi, the capital of unified Vietnam, one of the most charming cities in South East Asia with its authenticity, large shady avenues, numerous lakes, manicured gardens and well-preserved architecture. Meet your guide & driver, then transfer to your hotel. Free time for a stroll around the city. Dinner on your own. Overnight at hotel in Hanoi.
DAY 2 : HANOI AND ANCIENT CERAMIC VILLAGE BAT TRANG [B/L/-]
Breakfast. 08:00 Departure to the ancient ceramic village Bat Trang, about 12 km to the north-west from Hanoi, on the edge of Red river, renowned for centuries for its products in traditional porcelain with blue decoration.
Arrive at Bat Trang at around 08:45. Visit a local market where you can shop to make offerings to the temple (flowers, fruits, incense sticks, votive papers, betel …) or to buy the ingredients to make nem ( rice papers, transparent vermicelli, black mushrooms, fragrant mushrooms …). You will also have the opportunity to get to know the Vietnamese language by meeting the locals at the market.
Then you will visit a ceramics factory specialized for antique reproduction where you can learn the ceramic production process and know the life and work of young workers.
Continue discovering the ancient village of Bat Trang by traveling through narrow lanes, with many workshops and family temples. Visit the temple dedicated to the Mother Protector of the village where you can practice offerings and burn votive paper as the Vietnamese do. Stop in a small workshop of young painters who decorate vases by hand and meet a family that produces small paintings on ceramics. You will also go to greet a family where you will have the opportunity to admire a beautiful courtyard decorated with original way by the broken ceramics gathered in the village. Then visit the old town hall dedicated to the Genius Protector of the village and the centennial oven “Lo Bau”. At last, you can watch the demonstration of a craftsman who can turn a piece of clay into many different products with his very capable hands. You can, if you wish, try crafting something of your very own.
You will be welcomed by one familly for lunch in their old house in the village.
Return to the center of Hanoi. The afternoon is dedicated to the discovery of the cultural capital of Vietnam, visiting the mausoleum of Ho Chi Minh, imposing marble and granite monument which takes the form of a stylized lotus, built from 1973 to 1975 thanks to the voluntary work of young pioneers (the tour takes place outside the mausoleum). Orientation tour to West lake. Then continue to visit the temple of Literature dedicated to Confucius, built in 1070 and soon after became the seat of the first Vietnamese university. Stroll in the old authentic area of the “36 old streets” in the late afternoon.
In the evening you can attend a performance of your choice which depends on their schedules (Water puppet, Golden Bell, Ionah, Four Palaces). Dinner on your own. Overnight at hotel.
DAY 3: HANOI – NINH BINH – HANOI – LAO CAI (B/L/-)
Breakfast at hotel.
08.00: depart Hanoi for Ninh Binh province and enjoy the drive through the luxurious vegetation of the Red River Delta. Continue on to Tam Coc and take a cruise up the river through hills and rice fields on a traditional boat, a photographer’s paradise. It is also referred to as ‘Halong Bay on land’, for its beauty surpasses that of it’s coastal rival. Enjoy lunch at a local restaurant.
Continue your tour with a journey through bustling villages, rice paddies and beautiful limestone rock formations. We arrive at Hoa Lu, the capital of Vietnam for 41 years under the Dinh and Le dynasties (between 968 and 980), to discover beautiful shrines dedicated to the Emperor Le Dinh, the first ruler to unify the country. Aside from this important historical site, this region is also worth a visit for its rolling hills and picturesque rocky landscapes.
Return to Hanoi for your next destination by train to Lao Cai . Dinner on your own. Overnight on the train (air-conditioned sleeper car, compartment 4 people to share).
Note: In place of Tam Coc, you can opt to visit either Trang An or Thung Nham.
DAY 4: LAO CAI – BAC HA (Sunday) – SAPA (B/L/-)
At around 05.30, arrive in Lao Cai, a small border town by the Red river. My guide will meet you at the exit gate, and take you to a local restaurant in Lao Cai for breakfast. Then you will leave for Bac Ha (70 km) via a winding road with breath-taking mountain views. Visit Bac Ha fair (on Sunday only), considered the liveliest and crowded in the region. It attracts a large number of Flower H’mong and other hill-tribe groups (Nung, Phu La, Tay). It is no doubt one of the most attractive places for photo hunters in Vietnam. Lunch at local restaurant. Then, back to Lao Cai and continue an interesting trip to Sapa (38 km). Nestling on Fansipan mount, Sapa offers spectacular scenery and is home to different hill-tribes. Dinner on your own. Night at hotel in Sapa.
Note: Bac Ha market is open on Sunday only, the following markets may replace Bac Ha market according to your arrival date:
– Can Cau market on Saturday morning.
– Coc Ly market on Tuesday morning
– Cao Son market on Wednesday morning.
DAY 5: SAPA (B/L/-)
Breakfast at hotel. 08.00 you start the tour from Sapa. Take a short road transfer along the motor way southwards for 4 km with a stop along the way for stunning scenery of Fansipan mountain and Muong Hoa valley. Trekking uphill along a large and rocky path for 2 hours to Hang Da village of the Black H’mong which hides itself under lush trees on high elevation of the Den Thang Mountain. Explore the village, paying visiting to local families. Lunch break in the village.
After lunch, continue trekking along the same trail which goes on the high mountain side for about an hour which offers a great view of Muong Hoa valley until arriving at Thao Hong Den, another village of the Black H’mong to pay a visit to several local families. To continue, you will go downhill for another hour along a dirt track to Pho village at the center of Hau Thao commune. You will be picked up and transfer by road back to Sapa. Dinner on your own. Overnight in hotel in Sapa
Note:The program of trek can be adjusted depending on the weather conditions, your age and your healthy status:
– Option 1: Lao chai / Ta Van (5 km, soft trek, very touristy)
– Option 2: Cat Cat / Y Linh Ho / Lao Chai / Tavan (14 km, medium trek)
– Option 3: Xau Chau / Xa Xeng / Hau Thao / Giang Ta Chai (14 km, medium trek, off the beaten tracky)
DAY 6: SAPA – LAO CAI – HANOI (B/-/D)
Breakfast at hotel. Free in the morning. 14.00 Start a short walk (3 km) downhill through beautiful orchid gardens and pine forests. You will reach the village of Suoi Ho, home to H’mong minorities from where you can enjoy views over endless rice paddies. Continue our trek on a trail through rice paddy fields toward Ma Tra village, another village of H’mong minorities. Their house is normally built of land and has no windows because of the cold in the winter. It is possible to stop by a primary school (close at weekend and summer time) for a quick visit. Then transfer by car to Lao Cai station for the night train back to Hanoi. Dinner at a local restaurant in Lao Cai. Overnight on the train.
DAY 7 : HANOI – HALONG (B/L/D)
The train arrives at station at about 05:00. Transfer by yourself to hotel for breakfast and free at your own time.
08:00 Depart Hanoi for the world famous Halong Bay, ‘the descending dragon’, a journey of approximately 3.5 hours. Listed as a World Heritage site by UNESCO, Ha Long Bay is a stunning limestone archipelago stretching over some 1500 square kilometers and comprising nearly 2000 islets. You will board our junk for a memorable cruise through the ‘eighth wonder of the world’ gliding gently past fishing communities and hidden cave systems. Lunch.
During our time on board , you will visit the ‘Cave of Surprises’, where you can marvel at strangely formed stalactites and stalagmites. After anchoring at a nearby beach you can go for a swim or climb to the top of Titop Island to get a panoramic view of the bay and surrounding islands. Dinner will be served with delicious local seafood onboard, with other options available. Overnight on the junk.
Note: Cruise itinerary and schedule are subject to change due to weather and operating conditions.
DAY 8: HALONG – HANOI AIRPORT – HUE (B/BRUNCH/-)
Breakfast on board.
After breakfast, continue your journey cruise through the breathtaking scenery of Bai Tu Long Bay. Bunch. After disembarking, transfer to Noi Bai airport for the flight to Hue. On arrival in Hue, transfer to hotel and check in. Dinner on your own. Overnight at hotel in Hue.
DAY 9 : HUE (B/L/-)
Breakfast at hotel. 08.00 You will spend a full day to visit Hue, former capital of Vietnam from 1802 to 1945 during the reign of the Nguyen dynasty emperors, declared a world heritage site by UNESCO in 1993. Cruise in a sampan on the Perfume river to Thien Mu pagoda, or pagoda of the Heavenly Lady, a Buddhist shrine dated from the mid-seventeenth century. Located on the banks of the Perfume River, it is easily recognizable by its octagonal tower.
Continue your tour with a visit to the Citadel, the seat of the Nguyen Dynasty emperors. The construction began in 1804 under the orders of the first Emperor Gia Long after the carefully selected using principles of geomancy (Feng Shui). The citadel was inspired by Vauban fortifications and is composed of three sections; the Capital city, the Imperial city and the Forbidden City. Lunch at a local restaurant.
In the afternoon, visit the Tu Duc’ tomb, which is one of the most impressive of the royal mausoleums. Emperor Tu Duc designed it himself, for use both before and after his death. Finish your day with a visit to Minh Mang’s tomb, located on the left bank of the Perfume River, which represents the perfect harmony between nature and architecture. Dinner on your own. Overnight at hotel in Hue
–You can replace the Tu Duc’s tomb by the Khai Dinh’s tomb
–Option 1 (extra cost): Royal performance of ancient dancing and music, a world intangible heritage recognized by UNESCO in 2003, is presented in the citadel.
–Option 2 (extra cost, minimum group size: 10 persons): A typical royal dinner with a presentation of ancient music is arranged
DAY 10: HUE – HOIAN (B/L/-)
Breakfast at hotel. 08:00 Transfer to Hoi An along Highway 1 which links Hanoi to Sai Gon. This drive is reputedly the most beautiful in all Vietnam, taking you past coastal fishing settlements, most notably Lang Co with its stunning lagoon backdrop. The drive also takes you over Hai Van Pass (or ‘pass of the ocean clouds’). Lunch at a local restaurant in Hoian.
The afternoon is spent strolling through the narrow streets of this atmospheric old town. This former port, a UNESCO World Heritage site, is full of architectural gems that show a range of influences. Around the seventeenth century Hoi An was one of the busiest ports in South East Asia. Enriched by the proceeds of this trade many merchants constructed beautiful homes. You should start by visiting Japanese bridge, Quan Cong temple, Fujian temple, one of the old houses and the local market. Then , take a boat trip on Thu Bon river. Dinner on your own. Overnight at hotel in Hoi An.
DAY 11: HOI AN – DA NANG AIRPORT – SAIGON (B/L/-)
Breakfast at hotel.
Transfer to the Danang airport for your flight to Sai Gon. Arrive in Saigon, transfer to your hotel.
Saigon is not only the most important economic centre in Vietnam, it also has some very imposing colonial architecture which was the center of attention in our fascinating past. Almost a hundred years of French rulers bestowed upon the city with some pearls of colonial architecture. Begin your exploration of this frantic city with lunch at a local restaurant.
In the afternoon, visit the central post office, designed by Gustave Eiffel, and the Notre Dame Cathedral, inspired by its counterpart in Paris. Continue your city tour with a visit to District 5, formerly known as Cho Lon or Chinatown. Cho Lon, or ‘big market’, with its congested streets is where most of the city’s ethnic Chinese population lives. The district lives up to its name in the form of Binh Tay wholesale markets. Founded in 1778 the market sells a stunning array of goods and produce, ranging from fish to incense. We will finish our city tour with a stop at the Thien Hau temple, otherwise known as ‘The Temple of the Heavenly Lady’, to marvel at its intricate friezes and coils of incense. Dinner on your own. Overnight at hotel in Saigon.
DAY 12: SAIGON – CU CHI TUNNEL – SAIGON (B/L/-)
Breakfast at hotel. 08.00 You will be picked up at your hotel. Leave busy Saigon for the tunnels of Cu Chi, where are an immense network of connecting underground tunnels that are located in the Cu Chi district of Saigon, and are part of a much larger network of tunnels that underline much of the country. On our way there we drive through pleasant countryside; rubber plantations and rice paddies. At the Cu Chi tunnels, you will see a short introductory video showing how they were constructed, followed by an exploration of the maze of tunnels, some of which have been widened to allow tourist access. Also on display are various mantraps and the remains of an American tank as well as numerous bomb craters made by 500lb bombs dropped by B52 bombers. After that transfer back to Saigon for lunch.
In the afternoon, visit the moved War Remnants museum which presents a partial, but riveting, view of the American war, as it is known in Vietnam and Ben Thanh market for shopping. Dinner on your own. Overnight at hotel in Sai Gon.
DAY 13: SAIGON – BEN TRE – CAN THO (B/L/-)
Breakfast at hotel. 08.00 Transfer to Ben Tre. Arrive at Ben Tre town at about 10:00 . Take a boat trip on Mekong river, sight-seeing local activities on river. You will stop on the way to see how people make bricks, salts, coconut candies in their workshops. Boat will go pass Cai Son and Nhon Th?nh creeks to see local families making mats. You’ll continue by taking the pull cart (xe loi) to pass rice fields and vegetable plains. Stop at Mr. Hai Ho ‘s house to learn how to cook local food. Enjoy lunch at a house in the village.
In the afternoon, you will take the rowing boat along the water palm creek back to Ben Tre City to head to Can Tho. Dinner on your own. Overnight at hotel in Can Tho.
DAY 14: CAN THO – CHAU DOC (B/L/-)
Early breakfast at hotel. 07.00 You will cruise along the small and picturesque tributaries by motorboat to visit the Cai Rang floating market (the nicest one with heaps of rowing boats). You will stop at another village to visit a rice husking mill, and walk around the village to see the beautiful scenery and daily activities of the locals.
Transfer to Chau Doc. Have lunch on the way. Dinner on your own. Overnight at hotel in Chau Doc.
DAY 15: CHAU DOC – PHNOMPENH (B/L/-)
Breakfast at hotel.
07:00: Take speed boat from Chau Doc to Phnompenh. On arrival meet by local guide then transfer to hotel. After lunch. Visit the Royal Palace compound, the most conspicuous feature and also one of impressive colorful khmer-style palaces. Then visit the Silver Pagoda (the Emerald Buddha temple), display plenty of Buddha status that were decorated and made by diamond, emerald, gold and silver. Continue to visit the Independence monument and National museum, the distinctive red building with a beautiful Khmer architecture was build since 1917 and contains more than 5000 art objects made of sandstone, bronze, silver, copper, wood and others. Dinner on your own. Overnight at hotel in Pnompenh.
DAY 16: PHNOMPENH – SIEM REAP (B/L/-)
Breakfast at hotel.
08:00: Travel outskirt of city (30 minutes drive) to visit the Tuol Sleng prison (Genocide Museum), the most secret organ of the Khmer Rouge regime, S-21 stands for “Security Office 21.”, Angkar’s premier security institution, specifically designed for the interrogation and extermination of anti Angkar elements. Continue to visit the Choeung Ek museum, between 1975 and 1978 about 17,000 men, women, children and infants detained and tortured at S-21 prison were transported to the extermination camp of Choeung Ek. Continue to visit Wat Phnom, the only one hill in town with sacred sites. Lunch at a local restaurant.
Afternoon take flight to SiemReap. On arrival meet by local driver then transfer to hotel. Dinner on your own. Overnight at hotel in Siem Reap.
DAY 17: SIEM REAP (B/L/-)
Breakfast at hotel. 08:00: Depart from your hotel to visit the Roluos Group. The monuments of Roluos, which served as the capital of Indravarman I. Preah Ko erected by Indravarman I in the late 9th century. Bakong the largest and most interesting of the Roluos group temples. Lolei built on an islet in the center of a large reservoir (now rice fields) by Yasovarman I, the founder to the first city at Angkor. Lunch at a local restaurant.
In the afternoon, explore the highlights of the Grand Circuit, including Neak Poan, and Preah Khan. Enjoy sunset at Pre Rup. Dinner on your own. Overnight at hotel in Siem Reap.
DAY 18: SIEM REAP (B/L/-)
Breakfast at hotel. 8:00: Depart from your hotel to discover the Angkor temples in the small circuit. First, visit Banteay Kdei. The temple was constructed by Jayavarman VII during the 12th and 13th centuries ( Citadel of the Cells) and used to be a religious monastery. Next, visit Ta Prohm, a monastery built by Jayavarman VII as a residence for his mother. It has been largely overgrown by the jungle and as you climb through the dilapidated stone structures you see many giant banyan trees growing out of the top of the temple itself. Complete the small circuit in the morning with a visit to Takeo, one of the first to be build out of sandstone. Lunch at a local restaurant.
Afternoon, you continue to visit the South Gate, Angkor Thom. This Royal city was first built under the reign of Udayadityavarman II in the 11th century. Next, you will move on to the famous Bayon Temple in the centre of the city of Angkor Thom. The temple built Jayavarman VII is a three-tiered pyramid with its entrance facing east. The central shrine is surrounded by 54 towers all crowned by gigantic faces, representing okiteshvara but with the features of Jayavarman VII. You will then visit Baphuon. This temple, built by Udayadityarvarman II, was the most poorly constructed of all the temples in Angkor. Conclude the day tour with Phimean Akas – the temple constructed late 10th – early 11thcentury by Jayavarman V and Elephants and Leper King Terraces. The first Terrace owes its name to the outstanding depiction of elephants, while the second gets its name from the magnificent sculpture of King Yasovarman, popularly known as the Leper King. Dinner on your own. Overnight at hotel in Siem Reap.
DAY 19: SIEM REAP (B/L/-)
Breakfast at hotel. 8:00: Visit one of 7 wonders of the world “Angkor Wat”. The temple is one of the largest monuments to religion ever built and is truly one the wonders of the world. Believed to have been constructed as a temple and mausoleum for King Suryavarman II at the peak of the Khmer empire in the first half of the 12th century, Angkor Wat is probably the best-preserved of the Angkorean temples. Lunch at a local restaurant.
Afternoon, excursions on Tonle Sap lake. Visit the floating village, mangrove forest, fresh fish exhibition and the activities of people’s daily lives.
In the evening, enjoy a Cambodia circus of Phare, an amazing blend of traditional and modern theater, music, dance, acrobatics, juggling and contortion, all beautifully choreographed and performed. Dinner on your own. Overnight at hotel in Siem Reap.
DAY 20: SIEM REAP – DEPARTURE (B)
Breakfast at hotel. Free time for last minute shopping or a last stroll through the tranquil streets. Transfer to the airport for your departure.