Day 1: Saigon (Ho Chi Minh City) (D)
Arrival in Saigon (Ho Chi Minh City). Transfer to the hotel. Overnight in Saigon.
Day 2: Saigon city tour (B, L)
Full day sightseeing in Saigon and Cholon (Chinatown). Saigon is the largest of Vietnamese cities, with the hustle and bustle of Vietnamese life visible everywhere. There are street markets, sidewalk cafes and sleek new bars. The city churns and bubbles. Yet within this teeming metropolis are 300 years of timeless traditions and the beauty of an ancient culture. To the west of the city is District 5, the huge Chinese neighborhood called Cholon, which means 'Big Market'. Highlights: NOTRE DAME CATHEDRAL: built between 1877 and 1883 and set in the heart of Saigon's government quarter. It has a neo-Romanesque form and two high square towers, tipped with iron spires. In front of the cathedral is a statue of the Virgin Mary. CENTRAL POST OFFICE: a French-style building with a glass canopy and iron frame, situated next to the Notre Dame Cathedral. The structure was built between 1886 and 1891 and is by far the largest post office in Vietnam. CITY HALL: completed in 1908, also known as 'œHotel de Ville', and located at the northern end of Nguyen Hue Boulevard. With its ornate gingerbread faade, it looks like the town hall of a French town. (May be viewed from the outside only). OPERA HOUSE: built around the turn of the century and first renovated in the 1940s, the building housed the lower division of the National Assembly. Today it is a Municipal Theatre and also known as the Saigon Concert Hall. (May be viewed from the outside only). JADE EMPEROR PAGODA: was a key meeting place for Chinese secret societies. It has very colorful and mysterious ambience. REUNIFICATION PALACE: this was the Independence Palace of the South Vietnamese president and was stormed by tanks on 30 April 1975, signifying the fall of South Vietnam. It has been preserved in its original state. WAR REMNANTS MUSEUM: collections of weapons and photographs from two Indochina wars are exhibited along with the original French 'Guillotine' brought here in the early 20th century. BEN THANH MARKET: the central market of Saigon, its surrounding streets make up one of the city's liveliest areas. Everything commonly eaten, worn or used by the average resident of Saigon is available here. GIAC LAM PAGODA: the oldest pagoda in Saigon, built at the end of the 17th century. Because the last reconstruction here was in 1900, the architecture, layout and ornamentation remain almost unaltered by the modernist renovations that have transformed so many other religious structures in Vietnam. Ten monks live in this pagoda, which also incorporates aspects of Taoism and Confucianism. BINH TAY MARKET: Cholon's main marketplace, much of the business conducted here is wholesale. THIEN HAU PAGODA: built by the Cantonese congregation in the early 19th century. The pagoda is one of the most active in Cholon and is dedicated to Thien Hau. It is said that she can travel over the oceans on a mat and ride the clouds to wherever she pleases. Overnight in Saigon.
Day 3: Saigon - Vinh Long - Can Tho (B, L)
By vehicle from Saigon to Vinh Long. Journey southwest to the Mekong Delta past My Tho, capital of Tien Giang Province. The economy is based on fishing and the cultivation of rice, coconuts, bananas, mangoes, longans and citrus fruit. Excursion to Mekong River Islands. There are many of these beautiful small islands in the river, totally given over to agriculture, especially the growing of tropical fruits, which are shipped to Saigon. Some of the most popular islands to visit include Binh Hoa Phuoc and An Binh Island with their 'monkey bridges', or makeshift footbridges built of uneven logs above the canals. By vehicle from Vinh Long to Can Tho. Journey southwest in Vinh Long Province and then via ferry across the Hau Giang River. Overnight in Can Tho.
Day 4: Can Tho (B, L)
Sightseeing of Can Tho, the capital of the province and the political, economic, cultural and transportation centre of the Mekong Delta. Rice-husking mills provide a major local industry. Highlights: MUNIRANGSYARM PAGODA: the ornamentation of this pagoda is typical of Khmer Hinayana Buddhist pagodas, lacking the multiple Bodhisattvas and Taoist spirits common in Vietnamese Mahayana pagodas. Built in 1946, the pagoda serves the Khmer community of Can Tho, which numbers about 2000. CANTONESE CONGREGATION PAGODA: this small Chinese pagoda was built by the Cantonese Congregation and built with funds recently donated by Overseas Chinese. The pagoda occupies a splendid location facing the Can Tho River. CENTRAL MARKET: many local farmers and wholesalers arrive here by boat to buy and sell. The fruit section is particularly notable and stays open until 10pm. HO CHI MINH MUSEUM: the only museum in the Mekong Delta devoted to Ho Chi Minh. CAI RANG FLOATING MARKET: the biggest floating market in the delta with a bridge here that serves as a great vantage point for photography. It is very interesting to reach this market by boat. Overnight in Can Tho.
Day 5: Can Tho - Chau Doc (B, L)
Breakfast at hotel. Take a three hour boat trip to visit the Cai Rang floaing market. Roam into the villages to visit the rice paper mill, the rice noodles. Return to Can Tho , Deapart for Chaudoc via Long Xuyen, visit the insense stick village, the Crocodile farm. Arrival in Chaudoc , Visit the Sam Moutain, the caved pagoda. Enjoy the sunset over the Vietnamese - Cambodian Frontier. Check in on arrival. Free at leisure in the evening. Ovenight in Chau Doc.
Day 6: Chau Doc - Phnom Penh (B, L)
On board Victoria Boat from Chau Doc to Phnom Penh, Cambodia. Arrival in Phnom Penh. Transfer to the hotel. Overnight in Phnom Penh.
Day 7: Phnom Penh city tour (B, L)
Sightseeing in Phnom Penh. Cambodia's capital sits at the confluence of the Mekong, Bassac and Tonle Sap rivers. Considered the loveliest of the French-built cities of Indochina, it was founded as a small monastery in 1372 by a rich Khmer woman called Penh after she found four Buddha statues in a tree trunk on the banks of the Mekong. She set up the monastery on a nearby hill ' or ''phnom'' in Cambodian. Highlights: WAT PHNOM: a temple and location of the first pagoda on this site built in 1372 by ''Penh'' to house the four Buddha statues found on the banks of the Mekong. It is the only hill (27 meters) in the capital. WAT OUNALOM: a very important wat comprising 44 structures facing the Tonle Sap Lake and built in 1443 to house a hair of the Buddha. ROYAL PALACE AND SILVER PAGODA: the royal palace stands on the site of the former citadel, Bantey Kev (built in 1813). Visitors are not allowed in some portions of the grounds, as the palace is the official residence of King Sihanouk. The silver pagoda is often called the Pagoda of the Emerald Buddha or Wat Preah Kaeo after the statue housed there. The wooden temple was originally built by King Norodom in 1892 and inside, its floor is comprised of more than 5000 silver blocks which together weigh nearly 6 tons. NATIONAL MUSEUM: designed by a French archeologist and painter, George Groslier, in Khmer style in 1920 to exhibit works previously scattered throughout the country. It contains a collection of Khmer art including the beautiful 6th century bronze statue of Vishnu. TUOL SLENG MUSEUM (Museum of Genocide): formerly the Tuol Svay Prey High School, in 1975 it became the Khmer Rouge's main torture and interrogation center. It was known as Security Prison 21 ' or just S-21. CENTRAL MARKET: a covered market distinguished by its central dome (built in 1937). It is filled with shops selling jewelry, fabrics and all kinds of souvenirs. A great place for browsing. Overnight in Phnom Penh.
Day 8: Phnom Penh - Kampong Cham (B, L)
By vehicle from Phnom Penh to Kampong Cham. Journey north through the Mekong River basin. If time permits, visit the spider merchants at Skoun. Sightseeing in Kampong Cham , a lively port on the banks of the Mekong River with some good examples of colonial-era architecture. Highlights: PHNOM PROS and PHNOM SREI: these two hills, each with a temple, translate as ''Man hillâ€™ and ''Woman hill'' respectively. The hills offer beautiful views of this central part of Cambodia. WAT NOKOR: a Buddhist Mahayana temple, made from sandstone and laterite, that was built in the 11th century. RUBBER PLANTATION: visit a rubber plantation at Chhup. LOCAL MARKET: an interesting place to see the local produce and to meet the local people. WAT NOKOR BAYON: located 2 kilometers from the river, this is an 11th century Mahayana Buddhist shrine made of sandstone and laterite with a large reclining Buddha and numerous alcoves containing Buddha images. Overnight in Kampong Cham.
Day 9: Kampong Cham - Kratie (B, L)
Transfer by speedboat from Kampong Cham to Kratie. Journey north along the Mekong River, the 12th longest river in the world, past the river's many islands and riverside villages. Transfer to the hotel and sightseeing in Kratie. Highlights: Capital of Kratie Province, Kratie is a pleasant, small riverside town on the Mekong River. WAT PHNOM SAMBOK: situated 9 km north of Kratie, there are two peaks here named Phnom Srey and Phnom Proh. Phnom Srey has a small pagoda (built in 1938) and a beautiful view of the Mekong. Local people visit to request better health for their relatives. Phnom Proh also has a small pagoda with monks and nuns living around the pagoda. DOLPHIN OBSERVATION PARK: 14 km north of Kratie town is the Irawaddy dolphin observation park, home to about 50 dolphins. Overnight in Kratie.
Day 10: Kratie - Stung Treng (B, L)
Transfer by speedboat from Kratie to Stung Treng. Journey north along the Mekong River, the 12th longest river in the world with good views of the many islands, riverside villages and farms. Transfer to the hotel. Overnight in Stung Treng.
Day 11: Stung Treng - Veun Kham - Khon Island (B, L)
By longtail boat from Stung Treng to Veun Kham, Laos. Travel along the Mekong River through some of Cambodia's most beautiful scenery towards the Lao border. This trip will cross the border between Laos and Cambodia and on each side one must report at the Immigration's Office. A visa is necessary; not possible to get this upon arrival. VEUN KHAM: the village of Veun Kham is on the banks of the Mekong River and is in Lao territory.By vehicle to the Khon Phapheng Falls and on by boat to Khong Island. KHON PHAPHENG FALLS: south of Don Khon Island the Mekong River has a 13km stretch of powerful rapids with several sets of cascades. The largest, Khon Phapheng, flows near the eastern shore of the Mekong River near the village of Ban Thakho. Excursion to see the Irrawaddy River dolphins by boat. The boat trip on the Mekong River passes through areas with virtually no population to one of the last places where you are able to see the Irrawaddy dolphins. IRRAWADDY DOLPHINS (Orcaella brevirostris): reach around 2.5m in length and swim in small pods of two to three individuals. Their bulging foreheads make them resemble the much larger Beluga Whale. The dolphins are an endangered species that are found in this southern Mekong region. About a hundred dolphins are thought to survive and the best times of day to see them are early morning and late afternoon. Overnight in Khon Island.
Day 12: Khon Island - Khong Island (B, L)
Excursion to Khon Phapheng Waterfalls. South of Don Khong Island the Mekong River features a 13km stretch of powerful rapids with several sets of cascades. The largest, Khon Phapheng, flows close to the eastern shore of the Mekong River near the village of Ban Thakho. Overnight in Khong Island.
Day 13: Khong Island - Champasak - Pakse (B, L)
By vehicle from Khong Island to Champasak. Journey north in Champasak Province, through the Mekong River basin and through the villages of Kheo, Ban Hangdon and Ban Nongsim. CHAMPASAK DISTRICT: small district of 38,000 people on the western bank of the Mekong River. The Angkor-period ruins of Wat Phou Champasak lie 8km south of the town. WAT THONG (WAT NYUTTHITHAM): this turn of the century this wat was used by Champasak's royal family and the bone reliquaries contain the ashes of King Nyutthitham (died 1885), Chao Ratsadanai (1946) and Chao Bounome (1975). WAT MUANG KANG: this sim combines French colonial and Lao Buddhist architecture. WAT PHOU CHAMPASAK: this Khmer temple site is spread over the lower slopes of Phou Pasak and its name means 'Mountain Temple'. The surviving structures date from as early as the Chenla Kingdom (6th to 8th centuries). HAW NANG STUPA: south of Wat Phou, a pile of sandstone and laterite rubble that may have served as a 'hospital' for Angkor pilgrims. HAWNG THAAN TAO: south of Wat Phou, another rubble pile referred to as the 'Lord Turtle Room' and said to have been a Vishnu shrine built under King Jayavarman VII in the 13th century. BAN THAT VILLAGE: near the village are three Khmer stupas reminiscent of similar tripartite monuments in Thailandâ€™s towns of Lopburi and Sukhothai. Sightseeing Wat Phou Champasak, a small district of 38,000 people on the western bank of the Mekong River. The Angkor-period ruins of Wat Phou Champasak lie 8km south of the town. WAT PHOU CHAMPASAK: this Khmer temple site is spread over the lower slopes of Phou Pasak and its name means 'Mountain Temple'. The surviving structures date from as early as the Chenla Kingdom (6th to 8th centuries). By vehicle from Champasak to Pakse. Journey north through Champasak Province along the Mekong River basin. Overnight in Pakse.
Day 14: Pakse - Vientiane (B, L)
Transfer to the airport. Flight from Pakse to Vientiane. Transfer to the hotel. Sightseeing in Vientiane the capital city and seat of government sitting in a bend of the Mekong River amidst fertile alluvial plains. Vientiane (pronounced 'Wieng Chan' by the locals) is a laid-back city with interesting wats and lively markets. Highlights: PHA THAT LUANG (Great Sacred Reliquary or Great Stupa): built between the 11th and 13th centuries AD, it is the most important national monument in Laos, a symbol of both the Buddhist religion and Lao sovereignty. PATUXAI: a large monument in the style of the Arc de Triomphe in Paris, the huge arch at the end of Thanon Lan Xang has a stairway that leads to the top levels of the monument, providing a good view of the city. HO PHA KEO: the former royal temple of the Lao monarchy built in 1565 by King Setthathirat and now converted into a museum containing some of the best examples of Buddhist sculptures found in Laos. WAT SI SAKET: constructed in 1818 by King Anouvong in the early Bangkok style, small niches are carved into its interior walls, containing more than 2,000 silver and ceramic Buddha images. WAT SI MUANG: this temple is one of the most popularly used temple grounds in the city, as it contains the city pillar and acts as the home of Vientiane's guardian spirits. TALAAT SAO: the Morning Market - actually open all day '' selling a wide range of fabrics, jewellery and electronic goods. Overnight in Vientiane.
Day 15: Vientiane - Vang Vieng (B, L)
By vehicle from Vientiane to Vang Vieng. Journey north in Vientiane Province on Route 13 passing through Thalat and Phonhong. Sightseeing in Vang Vieng including Tham Chang and Tham Xang Caves. This small town north of Vientiane is nestled in a scenic bend in the Nam Song River. The west bank of the river is lined with tunnels and caverns and the limestone cliffs are beautiful. THAM CHANG CAVE: used as a bunker against marauding Chinese in the early 19th century. Tham means cave and Chang is steadfast. THAM XANG CAVE: also called Elephant Cave, it contains a few Buddha images and a Buddha footprint plus the elephant shaped stalactites which give the cave its name. Overnight in Vang Vieng.
Day 16: Vang Vieng - Luang Prabang (B, L)
By vehicle from Vang Vieng to Luang Prabang. Journey north passing through Ban Phatang and Muang Kasi. Overnight in Luang Prabang.
Day 17: Luang Prabang tour (B, L)
Sightseeing in Luang Prabang, the ancient capital city of the Lan Xang Kingdom, famous for its historic temples and beautiful setting surrounded by mountains. In 1995 it was designated a UNESCO World Heritage Site. Highlights: WAT XIENG THONG: built in 1560 and situated on the banks of the Mekong River, it is the most beautiful monastery in Luang Prabang and shows the typical Lao art style with old religious artifacts and some ancient masterpieces of Lao art. WAT WISUNALAT (Vat Visoun): built in 1513 during the reign of Chao Wisunalat, it is the oldest operating temple in Luang Prabang with a collection of gilded wooden Buddhas from the 15th and 16th centuries. WAT MAI: constructed in 1821 during the reign of King Manthatourath, it was once the residence of Phra Sangkharaj (the Patriarch of the Buddhist clergy). WAT THAT LUANG: the ashes of King Sisavang Vong are interred inside the large central stupa, which was erected in 1910. The inside of the huge sim dating back to 1820 contains a few Luang Prabang Buddhas and other artifacts. WAT SAEN: Thai style wat built in 1718 and restored in 1957. The abbot Ajannn Khamjan who was ordained here in 1940 is one of the most revered monks in Luang Prabang and perhaps in all of Laos. Overnight in Luang Prabang.
Day 18: Luang Prabang - Pakbeng (B, L)
Transfer on board one of the Pak Ou boats with stop at the Pak Ou Caves from Luang Prabang to Pakbeng. The Pak Ou boats are the perfect slow boat for leisurely river travel. With 18 and 34 metre steel hulls they have a capacity of 36 comfortable seats each, with an open air view, a fully stocked bar and cooler and toilet facilities. The boat leaves in the morning for the first leg of the cruise to Pak Beng. A stop at Pak Ou village at the mouth of the Nam Ou River to visit the Tham Ting Caves of a Thousand Buddha's. Stop off at a village for a lesson in how rice wine is made. Lunch on board then visit a fishing village before arriving in Pakbeng in the late afternoon. Highlights: PAK OU CAVES: two caves (Tham Thing ''lower cave and Tham Phum) full of Buddha images of varying styles, ages and sizes located in the steep rock cliff at the confluence of the Mekong River and Ou River. BAN XANG HAI: located near the Pak Ou Caves, this village was once a 'Jar-Maker Village' and nowadays the community fill the jars (which come from elsewhere) with lÃ¡o-lÃ¡o, the local rice whisky.
Day 19: Pakbeng - Huay Xai (B, L)
On board one of the Pak Ou boats from Pakbeng to Huay Xai. First thing in the morning the Pak Ou boat leaves the pier for a leisurely cruise up the Mekong towards Huay Xai (Lao-Thai border). Several stops along the way offer the opportunity to sample rural life first-hand and marvel at just how little has changed over the centuries. Arrival in Huay Xai is in the late afternoon. Transfer to the hotel. Overnight in Huay Xai.
Day 20: Huay Xai / Depart (B, L)
Free time for shopping or optional visit before transfer to airport for flight back home. End of services. Our staff will give you the warmest goodbye and hope to see you again