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Southeast Asia

16-Day Southeast Asia Explorer: Thailand, Laos, Vietnam, Cambodia

Southeast Asia Explorer: Thailand, Laos, Vietnam, Cambodia -- Trip Photo of Southeast Asia tour  Southeast Asia map

Overview Itinerary Pricing

Itinerary

Day 1 : Bangkok arrival

Visiting: Bangkok, Thailand

Arrive Bangkok where your guide meets you and together you'll transfer to your hotel. The balance of your day is free to relax and recover from your flight.

  • Meals:
  • Standard Lodging: Nouvo city hotel, Superior room
  • Luxury Lodging: Riva Surya, Urban room

Day 2 : Bangkok exploring - best of Bangkok by boat

Visiting: Bangkok, Thailand

Meet your guide after breakfast and together head to Wat Po, one of Bangkok’s oldest and largest temples – famous for the 43 meter long reclining Buddha. Visit Lak Muang, Bangkok’s city pillar, before heading to the famous Grand Palace. See the Temple of the Emerald Buddha (Wat Pra Kaew), the most revered shrine in the Kingdom. Enjoy lunch at a riverside restaurant before boarding a longtail boat to explore the klongs, Bangkok’s maze of canals and waterways, and see parts of Thai traditional life which have disappeared from most of Bangkok. End the day with a visit to Wat Arun, the Temple of the Dawn, before returning to your hotel. Enjoy your evening at leisure.

  • Meals: B
  • Standard Lodging: Nouvo city hotel, Superior room
  • Luxury Lodging: Riva Surya, Urban room

Day 3 : Travel Bangkok to Chiang Mai

Visiting: Chiang Mai, Thailand

After breakfast, you’ll meet your guide and together transfer to Suvarnabhumi Airport to connect with your flight to Chiang Mai in northern Thailand.

*** Note: Flights are not included in the land rates, but we can book any/all internal flights that you'd need on request.

Arrival in Chiang Mai, you’ll meet your guide and drive up to what is probably Chiang Mai’s most famous landmark—Wat Prathat Doi Suthep. The temple is located at the summit of 1,676 meter-high Doi Suthep Mountain, which towers over the city. Climb the 300-step staircase, flanked by nagas (serpent-like deities), or take the cable car up. The cool air and spectacular sunset views make the trip worth the effort. As dusk falls, you'll be taken to the hotel and have the evening at your leisure.

  • Meals: B
  • Standard Lodging: Chiang Mai Gate Hotel, Deluxe room
  • Luxury Lodging: The Rim, Superior room

Day 4 : Full day with the elephants, at Patara

Visiting: Chiang Mai, Thailand

This morning you'll be picked up at 07:30 am for a full day group program. At the camp you will be briefed on the history of the domestic elephant in Thailand. Next, you'll begin your training session by hiking into the jungle to find the elephants in the bush. You start with feeding and taking care of your elephant. You’ll then unchain and walk your elephant to the river to bathe her. You'll be taught different techniques for getting on the elephant along with basic riding skills and spoken commands for elephants. In the early afternoon you'll ride to a waterfall for a picnic lunch and have a chance to cool off in the falls with your elephant. In the late afternoon, you’ll ride back to the camp for the elephants’ evening feeding, and then you'll be transferred back to your hotel.

  • Meals: BL
  • Standard Lodging: Chiang Mai Gate Hotel, Deluxe room
  • Luxury Lodging: The Rim, Superior room

Day 5 : Travel Chiang Mai to Luang Prabang

Visiting: Luang Prabang, Laos

This morning is free at leisure. Your checkout time is at 12:00 hours. We'd recommend a morning flight in order to enjoy the afternoon that we have planned for you in Laos.

Meet guide and transfer to Chiang Mai Airport to connect your flight to Luang Prabang.

Welcome to Luang Prabang! Obtain your Laos visa on-arrival if you haven't already obtained this prior to travel, then clear Immigrations and Customs. Proceed into the arrivals area and meet your private guide and transfer to your hotel.

Late this afternoon, drive to a small village, 20 minutes from Luang Prabang. Here you will enjoy a traditional baci ceremony, held to celebrate a special event, such as a marriage, a homecoming, or, as in this case, an arrival. It is based on an ancient belief that the human being is a union of 32 organs and a kwan (soul) that watches over each of them. Since a wayward kwan is often the attributed cause of an illness or bad fortune, the baci ceremony calls the kwan back to the body from wherever it may be roaming and reestablishes equilibrium. The mohkwan is a village elder who will chant and call the kwan. At the end of the ceremony, the village elders wrap a white cotton thread around your wrist, while chanting an invocation to strengthen the power of the blessings. In Laos, white is the color of peace, good fortune, honesty and warmth.

  • Meals: B
  • Standard Lodging: Le Sen Boutique Hotel, Deluxe room
  • Luxury Lodging: 3 Nagas Hotel, Deluxe room

Day 6 : Explore Luang Prabang

Visiting: Luang Prabang, Laos

Meet your guide at your hotel and explore this historic and charming World Heritage Town. Transfer to begin your journey at the most popular of temples – Wat Xieng Thong. This 500 year old temple is exquisite and is the best example of the classic Luang Prabang style.

Continue wandering up the peninsula, stopping at temples and other sites as you wish. Visit the National Museum, which is the former Royal Palace. Relics from Laos’ royalist past remain here. Overlooking the palace is Phousi Mountain. It is said that those who do not climb the 328 steps up have not really made it to the city. Venture up the hill and be rewarded with remarkable views of the area.

Enjoy a delicious lunch at Khai Paen, a training restaurant powered by Friends International NGO. Here underprivileged Lao youth receive hands-on training in hospitality, food & beverages, English, and will prepare a delicious and creative lunch using local ingredients and flavors. A good way to get to know the Lao cuisine.

In the afternoon, travel south of town to the Kuang Si Waterfall. Stop along the way to visit the Living Crafts Centre, a place where you can learn about textiles and meet the weavers who help keep these traditions alive. At the falls, crystal water cascades into idyllic turquoise pools. Bring a bathing suit if you would like to swim! Also take time to visit the nearby Sunbear Refuge to learn more about the poaching of these endangered creatures.

  • Meals: BL
  • Standard Lodging: Le Sen Boutique Hotel, Deluxe room
  • Luxury Lodging: 3 Nagas Hotel, Deluxe room

Day 7 : Discover Laotian culture

Visiting: Luang Prabang, Laos

If you don't have any problems getting up at dawn, your guide will accompany you to witness the sacred ritual of monks on their alms rounds, known locally as Sai Bath. Long lines of barefoot monks go through the streets to receive their morning rice from the local villagers.

In keeping with our respectful stance regarding local cultures, please observe this sacred ritual from a respectful distance. If you take photographs, do not use a flash and try not to let this interfere with this highly revered ritual.

Afterwards, visit the lively Morning Market and be immersed in the local lifestyle, observing locals who are doing their grocery shopping. We'll return to your hotel for breakfast.

Enjoy some time to relax in your hotel before leaving for your lunch cruise and a visit to Pak Ou Caves.

Laos might not have Angkor Wat, or the beaches in Thailand, but what makes Laos such a special place is its people. Laos is probably the most authentic country in the region with the people living through their traditions and cultures. Here is a special opportunity to experience the local culture while supporting a local community through an authentic local picnic. You will start by getting transferred by our private tuktuk to the boat pier. Here you will take your own private boat down the Mekong. After about 25 minutes the boat will reach a small secluded sandbank. Upon disembarking from the boat, we make our way to the pre-prepared picnic spot – complete with comfortable rugs, cushions and traditional umbrellas to provide shade from the sun. Flanked by the stunning scenery here you will be able to experience an authentic local picnic complete with an assortment of local food. The whole picnic is sustainable with no plastic or paper napkins. Refreshments will also be provided with the option to enjoy another Lao tradition – Beer Lao. The meal is prepared beforehand by a local family restaurant from one of the communities around Luang Prabang. The picnic experience will directly benefit the family who will earn money by preparing the food while also doing so in an authentic yet sustainable fashion.

Note: The Mekong picnic only available in the dry season between October & April, in the rainy season we will offer lunch in a local house.

After lunch continue to the Pak Ou Caves, a mystical pilgrimage site perched high above the Mekong River 27 miles outside of Luang Prabang.

On the way to Pak Ou, you might want to stop at two villages, one of which is a wonderful silk weaving village called Ban Sang Khong. The weaving techniques employed in Ban San Khong date back many centuries and are used to create some of Asia's most highly prized textiles. Some villagers are also engaged in sa paper production. In the second village, Ban Sang Hai, locals produce Lao Lao, a rice whisky. After a brief stop, continue your tour to Ban Pak Ou, where you will board a boat to reach the Pak Ou caves.

Peering into dark corners, your eyes gradually adjust to reveal the serene faces and figures of more than 3,000 Buddha images, some inlaid with semiprecious stones. That these remain undisturbed in this remote site in one of the world's poorest countries is a testament to the devotion of the people. Return by boat to Luang Prabang, cruising along the Mekong and enjoying the lush river life along its banks while sipping a drink and tasting Lao snacks.

  • Meals: BL
  • Standard Lodging: Le Sen Boutique Hotel, Deluxe room
  • Luxury Lodging: 3 Nagas Hotel, Deluxe room

Day 8 : Travel Luang Prabang to Hanoi

Visiting: Hanoi, Vietnam

This morning you’ll be transferred to the Luang Prabang airport for your departure flight to Hanoi.

Welcome to Vietnam! Upon arrival to Hanoi Noi Bai Airport your driver and guide will meet you and they will transfer you to your hotel. Check-in and enjoy the rest of the day at leisure. We can assist you with the official entry letter that provides you with the visa on arrival for Vietnam.

Water Puppets Show: (if flight schedule allows) tonight your guide will collect you from hotel and walk to the Bong Sen Theatre where you will enjoy the Vietnamese traditional Water Puppet show (45 minutes – 1 hour). Traditional content of water puppet performance includes daily life of Vietnamese farmers (cultivating, tending buffalo, catching fishes…), communal entertainment (swimming contest, dragon dancing…), or historical legends (Le Loi returns precious sword).

  • Meals: B
  • Standard Lodging: Hanoi Boutique 1 Hotel, Deluxe room
  • Luxury Lodging: Silk Path Hotel, Premium Deluxe room

Day 9 : Experience Hanoi like a local

Visiting: Hanoi, Vietnam

This morning, meet your guide and driver around 07:00am and head towards Hoan Kiem Lake. It's a cultural thing in Vietnam to wake up very early and start the morning with some exercise. It is very interesting to see how local folks, often women of varying ages, start their busy day in the cool of the morning. Individuals and groups dot the open spaces practicing tai chi and aerobics. Be part of Vietnam and join the locals in their morning routine if you'd like!

After visiting the Ngoc Son Temple, located in the middle of the Hoan Kiem Lake, we will visit a traditional, local and charming coffee place, where you will be able to try Vietnam’s local coffee: Cà phê sữa đá (Iced coffee) and if you feel more adventurous, you can also try the ‘Egg coffee’! After our coffee, we will continue walking and we will stop in a street food place, where you will try the delicious ‘bánh mì’ – a typical baguette sandwich filled in with a variety of tasty bits.

Later, we will get deep into Hanoi’s Old Quarter and you will start a walking tour where you will be able to witness the French architecture in different Vietnamese buildings. Our first stop will be the St. Joseph Cathedral, a French Gothic building constructed in 1886. Next, we will walk just 10 minutes until we arrive to the Hoa Lo Prison, where Vietnamese as well as American and French prisoners of war were imprisoned.

To finish our morning, we will pay a visit to the Huu Tiep Lake, better known as ‘B-52 lake’, where US B-52 bomber wreckage can be seen.

At noon, we will return to the Old Quarter. Vietnam is very well known for its food, so we will stop at a ‘Bún Chả’ restaurant, where you will try Hanoi’s specialty. After our super local lunch, we will visit the Temple of Literature, built in 1076. Vietnam’s first university was established within this temple to educate Vietnam's royalty, mandarins and members of the elite. The university functioned for 700 years and its gardens and well-preserved architecture offer a fascinating glimpse into Vietnam’s past.

Our last part of the day will be touring Hanoi railway tracks. This is something very particular from this city as the railway tracks are sometimes located meters away from entrance door of houses! Together with our guide, you will walk along the railway tracks and take some of the most beautiful pictures of the city.

After a long day, we will finish with evening beers at the typical and well known Bia Hoi, where you will taste local draft beer; finishing the day as a local!

Along the tour you will be trying different street specialties, therefore we recommend avoiding breakfast at the hotel this day!

  • Meals: BL
  • Standard Lodging: Hanoi Boutique 1 Hotel, Deluxe room
  • Luxury Lodging: Silk Path Hotel, Premium Deluxe room

Day 10 : Explore Halong Bay

Visiting: Halong Bay

This morning, you will depart from your hotel to Ha Long Bay, one of the most spectacular UNESCO World Heritage Areas and the world’s largest marine limestone ‘karst’ landscape. Note that the shuttle transfer takes approximately 4 hours, each way.

On arrival you will board your boat, a wooden junk built on the model of the old Vietnamese court vessels. This typical boat, with sails, wide stern and a rectangular superstructure will take you to the World Heritage area, where you can enjoy some activities if weather permits. All meals will be provided on board.

  • Meals: BLD
  • Standard Lodging: V’spirit Cruise, Deluxe cabin
  • Luxury Lodging: Bhaya Classic Cruise, Premium Balcony cabin

Day 11 : Travel Halong – Hanoi – Danang – Hoi An

Visiting: Hoi An, Vietnam

Enjoy the views of the bay and surrounding islands. Your cruise will continue around the bay while brunch is served. The vessel will cruise at a slow pace back to the harbor for disembarkation. In the afternoon, you will be transferred to Hanoi. Transfer shuttle operated by cruise.

Our guide & driver will pick you up at hotel and transfer to airport to catch the flight to Danang.

Upon arrival in airport, you will meet your guide and driver, and they will transfer you to your resort. Checkout and rest of the night is at your leisure. Be sure to stroll the old quarter with the thousands of soft, colorful lights overhead swinging win the breeze - it's magic!

  • Meals: B
  • Standard Lodging: Thuy Duong 3 Hostel, Deluxe room
  • Luxury Lodging: Vinh Hung Riverside Resort, Deluxe River view room

Day 12 : Explore the Hoi An countryside or enjoy a free day on the beach

Visiting: Hoi An, Vietnam

This morning spend some time with a close-up and intimate experience in both the traditional local farming and fishing communities.

Accompanied by your tour guide, start the day cycling slowly along country roads and witnessing local Vietnamese rural life first hand. Discover many unique photo opportunities along the way. Then visit a beautiful organic vegetable village, where you have the option to help water and plant vegetables, hoeing the soil with a local farmer on a rice paddy field. The farmers are gracious while travelers and locals alike enjoy a good laugh! Later board our eco-tour boat for a river cruise to meet and engage with local fishermen and enjoy a hands-on experience of traditional net fishing. You will also experience paddling the unique Vietnamese bamboo basket boat along the waterways of a palm-fringed paradise. This tour provides you with an outstanding cultural window into the ways of life of both Vietnamese farming and fishing communities. When the tour finishes, you will be taken back to the hotel where you will have free time at leisure.

Beach time -- optional -- for travelers not interested in the cultural component today, just let us know, and we can let this day be free at your leisure, to enjoy the beach on your own. Hoi An has a nice beach zone with restaurants and bars within reasonably easy bicycling or taxi distance from the hotel.

  • Meals: BL
  • Standard Lodging: Thuy Duong 3 Hostel, Deluxe room
  • Luxury Lodging: Vinh Hung Riverside Resort, Deluxe River view room

Day 13 : Travel Hoi An – Danang – Siem Reap

Visiting: Siem Reap, Cambodia

Today you will have the day free at your leisure until your guide and driver pick you up 3 hours before your departure time and transfer you to the airport for your flight to Siem Reap.

Welcome to Cambodia. Upon arrival in Siem Reap obtain your Cambodian visa, if you haven't already. Clear Immigrations and Customs and proceed into the arrival area. You will meet your private guide and driver transfer you to hotel.

  • Meals: B
  • Standard Lodging: La Niche Boutique, deluxe room
  • Luxury Lodging: Shinta Mani Resort, pool view room

Day 14 : Explore Angkor Wat and Angkor Thom

Visiting: Siem Reap, Cambodia

This morning before sunrise, depart the hotel for Angkor Wat, the largest and most breathtaking monument at Angkor. Built as the funerary temple for Suryavarman II, who ruled from 1112 to 1152, Angkor never fails to reward the first time or repeat visitor with its grand scale, surreal bas reliefs and unbelievable attention to detail. Here, you will spend the morning exploring one of man's most magnificent creations before returning to the hotel for a late breakfast.

After breakfast you will start your full day visit to the South Gate of Angkor Thom and the temples of Bayon, Baphoun, Phimean Akas, The Royal Enclosure, Terrace of Elephants and Leper King. You will ride one elephant from South gate of Angkor Thom to Bayon temple. Enjoy your lunch at Nest restaurant.

Continue to Visit Preah Khan with its labyrinth of grey, decaying stone courtyards that are slowly being reclaimed by the jungle. Large kapok trees extend limbs and roots throughout the carved stone work; while raucous parrots screech and monkeys keep watch to complete a surreal picture.

Today finish your day tour with the sunset on the top of Bakheng Hill, where you can see the view of the temple of Angkor Wat and whole site of Angkor Heritage.

  • Meals: BL
  • Standard Lodging: La Niche Boutique, deluxe room
  • Luxury Lodging: Shinta Mani Resort, pool view room

Day 15 : Discover the Roluos Group & Tonle Sap

Visiting: Siem Reap, Cambodia

After breakfast, visit the famed Roluos Group Temples, the remains of the first major capital of the Angkorian-era Empire. including Lolei, Preah Ko and Bakong. Lolei Temple was built on an islet by Yasovarman I, the founder of the first city of Angkor. The intricate sandstone carvings in the niches of the temples are notable as are the Sanskrit inscriptions on the doorposts. Preah Ko was erected by Indravarman I in the late 9th century in dedication to his deified ancestors in 880. There are inscriptions in Sanskrit on the doorsteps of each temple. The Bakong temple was built and dedicated to Shiva by Indravarman I. This is the largest and most interesting of the Roluos Group of temples and still has an active Buddhist monastery.

After lunch we'll drive to Kampong Kleang village. Imagine wooden houses on 10 meter tall stilts, surrounded by water in the wet season and on the flood plains of the lake in the dry season. As you drive on the dirt road to the village along the way, you'll see many wooden houses and traditional fishing equipment as well as small children who will wave their hands and say hello to you. Upon arrival at the host family's stilt house, the family welcomes you with some tea and coffee before you start walking around the village. This community of Kampong Kleang knows many inventive ways to catch fish. We learn about the village life while visiting a local school, see the smoking of catfish, and speaking to fishermen. In the late afternoon, take a boat trip to see the sunset on Tonle Sap Lake. You'll be back at your hotel in Siem Reap by early evening. Enjoy the evening at your leisure.

Important note: Travelers have the option to depart Siem Reap late tonight - many flights fit that description - saving this evening's hotel cost, plus arriving back home a little earlier. Alternatively, you could fly out 'tonight' but add a free day somewhere else, such as in Chiang Mai, and keep this a 16-day trip.

  • Meals: BL
  • Standard Lodging: La Niche Boutique, deluxe room
  • Luxury Lodging: Shinta Mani Resort, pool view room

Day 16 : Depart

Visiting: Siem Reap

Relax at the hotel until check-out time is at hand, then meet your driver for transferring to the airport for your departure. Hotel check out at 12pm.

  • Meals: B

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