Great Indochina Loop
- 30 Days
- 30 Days
- Prices From:
- US$ 3,484
Experience something different every day on this fascinating in-depth adventure through Thailand, Laos, Cambodia and Vietnam following the path of the mighty Mekong River.
In 30 days, really experience in depth the essence of Vietnam, Laos and Cambodia, three countries with a wealth of amazing attractions and culture plus spend time in enchanting Northern Thailand. Vietnam offers a fascinating blend of tradition and modernity, with vibrant cities, fascinating villages and a wide variety of landscapes to discover. Cambodia has emerged from a tumultuous past and has opened its doors to its many cultural and archaeological wonders. Laos is a quiet and charming country with the mighty Mekong River flowing through it and an all pervading Buddhist culture.
Starting in Bangkok, commence your Indochina itinerary with a stop in Chiang Mai, Thailand's cultural capital, a thriving city in the country's north. There is much to see and do, from visiting beautiful temples dotted throughout its old town, local markets to Doi Suthep a golden temple set on top of a mountain. Also discover colourful hilltribe communities, waterfalls and elephant camps. Afterwards, head to Laos while discovering South East Asia’s major river, the Mekong. Experience the glittering temples of magical Luang Prabang, the spectacular scenery in Vang Vieng and visit fascinating monuments in the capital, Vientiane.
Moving south into Vietnam, visit Hanoi with its French-colonial influence Explore Hanoi's atmospheric Old Quarter with its French-colonial era buildings, fabulous local eateries and traditional merchants. From here, see beautiful limestone karsts on a boat trip in stunning Halong Bay after which take an overnight train to the cities of Hue, with its ancient history and Hoi An, with its distinct charm and character. Ho Chi Minh City, formerly Saigon, will show you the major development of Vietnam’s efforts to be part of the contemporary world.
Cambodia is next. Phnom Penh, the capital is a pulsating city and home to the National Museum and Royal Palace. Perhaps the overall highlight will be the amazing Angkor Wat captivating temple complex just outside Siem Reap. The final stop is Battambang, Cambodia’s second most populous city with many nearby ancient temples, Buddhist shrines and the infamous Bamboo Railway.
Return later to Bangkok to complete your Great Indochina Loop.
- 30 Days
- 30 Days
- Prices From:
- US$ 3,484
Itinerary View Trip Map
Sa-wat dee! Welcome to Thailand. Your adventure begins with a welcome meeting at 6pm on Day 1. You can arrive at any time as there are no activities planned until this important meeting. Please look for a note in the hotel lobby or ask the hotel reception where it will take place. We'll be collecting your insurance details and next of kin information at this meeting, so please ensure you have all these details to provide to your leader. Thailand's bustling capital, Bangkok is famous for its tuk tuks, khlong boats and street vendors serving up delicious Thai food.
Bangkok has so much to offer those with time to explore - why not take a riverboat to Chinatown and explore the crowded streets, uncover the magnificent Grand Palace and the Temple of the Emerald Buddha, wander down the tourist mecca of Khao San Road, or indulge in some Thai massage?
Travel by long-tail boat down the Chao Phraya River to explore the famous 'khlongs' (canals) of Bangkok (approx 1 hr). Life along these canals seems a world away from the chaotic streets of the capital. Pay a visit to Wat Pho, home to the country's largest reclining Buddha and keeper of the magic behind Thai massage. Head north to Chiang Mai in the evening on an overnight train journey, accommodated in air-conditioned sleeping berths (approx. 13hrs). Multi share compartments are air-conditioned, with bunk beds; sheets and pillow provided. Our baggage travels in the carriage with us. There is a food and drink service available on board.
The most vibrant city in northern Thailand, Chiang Mai has many famous temples and an interesting old city area. This 'Rose of the North' is also known for its beauty and the friendliness of the local people. Explore the famous temple complex of Doi Suthep. Drive along a scenic, winding mountain road that ends at an impressive 300-step naga-guarded stairway (approx 45 mins). The rewards justify the climb with one of the most beautiful temples in Thailand on display, not to mention fantastic panoramic views of the city and the opportunity to listen to hypnotic evening chanting by resident Buddhist monks. In the evening you can choose to wander through the enormous, colourful Night Bazaar, and perhaps relax at a fine restaurant along the riverfront. Make sure to sample some delicious traditional northern Thai food - the signature dish is kao soy, yellow wheat noodles in a curry broth, traditionally served with chicken or beef.
Chiang Mai has so much to offer that today you can choose from any number of optional activities. Sign up for a Thai cooking course or hire a bicycle tour. Or just relax with a Thai message. The day is yours to explore.
Take a journey through rural countryside to the Thai border town of Chiang Khong (approx 5.5 hrs). Formerly known as 'Juon', peaceful riverside Chiang Khong remains an important market town for the surrounding hill tribes and trade with Laos. Stretch your legs with a stroll around town, then enjoy a drink and dine on Thai cuisine, while Laos beckons from across the mighty Mekong.
Board our boat for the two-day journey down the mighty Mekong River to Luang Prabang. The journey is relaxed, so we can experience the slow pace of village life and the breathtaking scenery along the river. Our river boat is basic in nature, with a toilet, covered roof, and open sides to take in the fresh air. There are seats in the front of the boat and a small open area in the back where you can have a nap on the mat, play cards, read or have lunch. We dock at the small town of Pak Beng (after about 6 hours) to spend the night. Our guesthouse here is very basic - a standard accommodation in this small trading port.
Re-board our boat and cruise to the Pak Ou Caves, before arriving in the former royal capital of Luang Prabang (approx 8 hrs). An important religious site overlooking the river at the junction of the Mekong and Ou Rivers, the revered Pak Ou Caves contain thousands of Buddha images placed there by pilgrims over hundreds of years.
The atmospheric World Heritage-listed city of Luang Prabang is a favourite of many. Nestled in the hills of northern Laos on the confluence of the Mekong and Khan rivers, it's studded with ornate temples and French colonial architecture.
Enjoy a guided tour around the Traditional Art & Ethnology centre - a non-profit museum dedicated to the collection, preservation, and interpretation of its traditional arts and lifestyles Head out to the beautiful Kuang Si Falls, where pale turquoise waters cascade over limestone formations. The lovely pool at the base of the falls is perfect for a refreshing afternoon dip.
In your free time consider a climb to the top of Mt Phousi - providing a fantastic view over the town and its surrounds. The Dara Market sells everything and is a great spot to browse. If you'd like to experience more local culture, consider taking a long boat across the river to a traditional Laotian village.
Journey by public bus to Vang Vieng (approx 7 hrs). Situated on the Nam Song River, Vang Vieng offers limestone karst scenery, local markets and riverside walks. There is plenty to do in and around Vang Vieng. The area is renowned for its many caves, many of which are easily accessible from the town, perhaps the most famous is the cave of Tham Chang, a beautiful cavern fed by a natural spring making it a perfect spot for a refreshing swim.
Hire bicycles to explore further afield, or a tour of an Organic Mulberry Farm is also an option, or go explore on your own.
Continue by bus to the country's capital, Vientiane (approx 3.5 hrs). Possibly Asia's most laidback capital, Vientiane is a city where daily affairs are conducted at a relaxed pace. Hardly touched by the modernisation that has completely changed the face of other cities in South-East Asia, Laos still has a wealth of cultural delights to discover - on foot, or for the less energetic, by jumbo (tuk tuk). Follow dusty tracks along the river to find villages full of friendly children, dogs and chickens. Vientiane's vibrant, colourful morning market (which incidentally is open all day!) is full of local treasures. A great way to round off the day is to enjoy a spectacular sunset over the Mekong. Pay a visit to Wat Si Saket, a Buddhist temple believed to be the oldest still standing in Vientiane.
Visit COPE, an organization dedicated to assistance those who have been injured by the multitude of unexploded ordinance across the country.
Leave Laos behind as we take a flight headed for Hanoi. The capital of Vietnam is a charming city with a population of over six million. Hanoi is famous for its beautiful lakes, shaded boulevards, verdant public parks and its thriving Old Quarter, which is an architectural museum piece with blocks of ochre buildings retaining the air of a 1930s provincial French town. As Vietnam develops to compete with other South-East Asian countries, the beautiful Hoan Kiem Lake reflects the contrasts of modern office buildings, old Buddhist temples and the tangle of ancient streets in its still surface.
There is plenty to see and do in your free time in Hanoi including a myriad of interesting museums to visit. Or perhaps learn about the past of POW's at Hanoi Hilton or explore the Temple of Literature, dedicated to Confucius.
Hanoi to Halong Bay
Travel by private minibus to the spectacular World Heritage site of Halong Bay (approx 4 hrs). Halong Bay is a breathtaking secluded harbour with 2,000 limestone islands rising from the emerald waters of Bac Bo Gulf. One of Vietnam's most scenic regions, this area of about 1,500 sq km is dotted with innumerable beaches and grottos, created over thousands of years by waves and wind.
Board our private boat and cruise among the dramatic limestone peaks. There's an opportunity to swim in the famed South China Sea (known locally as the East Sea), as well as to explore caves filled with stunning stalactites and stalagmites. Spend a peaceful night on board, beneath a night sky alive with stars. Our sailing junk has twin-share cabins that have air-conditioning and private facilities. There's also a dining room and bar where we enjoy a sumptuous lunch and dinner.
Halong Bay - Hanoi/Overnight train
Take a bus back to Hanoi (approx 3.5 hrs). Board an overnight train to Hue. Although conditions are basic, overnight trains an adventure experience and the best way to travel long distances with the locals. Sleeper trains typically have four berth compartments (occasionally six berth depending on seasonal variations), which have bench seats that convert into sleeping bunks. A sheet, pillow and blanket are provided, although some travellers prefer to bring their own sleeping sheet. On occasion, passengers of different genders will be required to share a compartment and there will be occasions where you'll be sharing with local travellers or travellers who are not part of your group. Most trains have a dining carriage serving simple food, but some travellers take the opportunity to stock up on fresh bread, cheese and fruit prior to departure.
As the former imperial capital of Vietnam, Hue holds the treasures of Vietnam's royal past and is a curious mix of bustling streets and tranquil settings.
As passengers on the back of motorbikes we start our tour of Hue with a visit to the Imperial Citadel, which includes the Forbidden Purple City. The latter was almost totally destroyed during the Vietnam War's Tet Offensive, but the foliage-covered ruins are still atmospheric and the gaping holes left by bombs give an idea of the destruction wreaked upon the country during the war. Next is a visit to Thien Mu Pagoda, considered by many to be the unofficial symbol of Hue. It's an active Buddhist monastery with its origins dating back to 1601. One of the most poignant displays is a car belonging to a former monk who in 1963 drove to Saigon and set himself alight to protest against the treatment of Buddhists by the South Vietnamese regime. We then enjoy a dragon boat cruise on the Perfume River for about 40 minutes before getting back on our motorbikes and riding to our special lunch stop in a nunnery. After lunch we visit the royal tomb of Emperor Tu Duc, with its central lake set amid a grove of frangipani and pine trees, before heading back to Hue. A car will be provided for those who do not wish to ride on the back of a motorbike.
The bustling Dong Ba Market offers a plethora of goods and foods to see and sample, and it's a good place to try some of the specialities that graced the Nguyen emperors' banquet tables, such as the banh khoai, a royal rice cake.
Enjoy time at leisure of enjoy an optional activity.
Travelling by bus, head south through coastal rice paddies before traversing the spectacularly mountainous Hai Van Pass. After a brief visit to the beautiful China Beach (known officially as My Khe Beach), arrive at Hoi An (approx. 4 hours). Recently declared a World Heritage site, Hoi An is being beautifully restored and preserved. Known as Faifo to early western traders, it was one of South-East Asia's major international ports during the 17th, 18th and 19th centuries. Today, parts of Hoi An look exactly as they did more than a century ago and it retains the feel of centuries past, making it the sort of place that grows on you the more you explore it.
It's also a shopping mecca - with much to browse and buy. Choose from original paintings, handcrafted woodwork, ceramics, embroidery, lanterns and more. Hoi An has also become famous for its tailoring, with a great variety of fabrics and tailors to choose from. Bring your favourite piece of clothing or even just a picture, and you'll be able to have it copied. On arrival, your tour leader will take you on an orientation walk around the Ancient Town, so you can get your bearings.
You have time here to explore the beautifully restored and preserved Chinese shop houses, enjoy the vibrant and busy market, visit Cua Dai Beach, cycle to the rice fields and browse the array of art galleries.
Ho Chi Minh City
Take a short flight to the economic hub of Ho Chi Minh City (approx 1 hr). Formerly known as Saigon, Ho Chi Minh City is characterised by a vast array of sights and sounds, and is a fascinating blend of old and new, East and West. The huge number of people rushing about their daily lives in Vietnam's largest city gives it a dynamic atmosphere and the French influence is evident in the excellent baguettes and coffee on offer. Much of city life takes place on the busy streets lined with shops, stalls and vendors, who have their wares spread out on the footpath and sell everything from soup to sophisticated electronics.
Experience the hustle and bustle of old Saigon on a city tour and explore some of the city's more interesting sights, including the War Remnants Museum and Reunification Palace.
Ho Chi Minh City
Head out on a day trip to explore the Mekong Delta. Board the boat to Ben Tre to see coconut candy factory and sample the local candies for which this region is famous. Take the opportunity to take a tuk-tuk around this remote village with a stop to sample tropical fruits and learn more about local rural life. Then visit a nearby restaurant in the heart of the delta, where you can sample some of the regional specialities such as the famous elephant-ear fish.
After lunch, board sampans (small rowing boats) and paddle past the many water coconut trees that populate the Mekong Delta. Boarding our main private boat, cruise through more major waterways, arriving in My Tho town. Here our bus awaits to take us back to Ho Chi Minh City.
Enjoy a group dinner with our long time friends at KOTO restaurant - a organisation that is supporting street kids with a career in the hospitality industry.
Ho Chi Minh City
As this is a combination trip, your group leader and the composition of your group may change at this location. There will be a group meeting to discuss the next stage of your itinerary and you're welcome to attend, as this is a great chance to meet your new fellow travellers.
Travel by public bus through rural Cambodia and Vietnam to Ho Chi Minh (approx 6-7 hrs). Phnom Penh, Cambodia's capital, is set on a major junction of the Mekong and Tonle Sap rivers and boasts some fine examples of French-inspired architecture.
Confront Cambodia's tragic past on a guided tour of the Tuol Sleng Genocide Museum, a former school which served as a Khmer Rouge torture centre. It's estimated that more than 20,000 people were held and tortured here.
Head out to the Choeung Ek Memorial, where a stupa made up of some 8,000 human skulls marks the site of the infamous Killing Fields. This was the execution ground for the torture victims of Tuol Sleng and standing in this peaceful setting it's almost unthinkable to imagine that to date nearly 9000 corpses have been exhumed from the area.
Learn about a brighter period in Cambodian history with a visit to the Royal Palace and Silver Pagoda.
Explore Wat Phnom, a peaceful temple situated on a hill for which the city is named. According to legend, a 14th-century woman named Penh found sacred Buddhist objects in the nearby river and placed them here on the small hill.
Check out the National Museum. Housed in a beautiful traditional building, it contains many outstanding examples of Khmer craftsmanship.
Take in the sites by cyclo! Tours generally take in the following: central market, US Embassy, Wat Phnom, Mekong river front, independence monument, finishing at the Royal Palace.
Stroll along the famous Sisowath Quay and enjoy a coffee or cocktail at one of the many cafes while observing the busy river traffic.
Travel by private bus to Siem Reap (approx 6 hrs). A great opportunity to look at the real Cambodia, we'll make several stops at points of interest along the way, including an opportunity to sample the local cuisine of deep fried spiders. We also see the cottage industry at Santuk Silk Farm, a fair trade organization, which provides a valueable source of employment in a poor rural community (Santuk is closed on some important Khmer holidays).
The small but expanding town of Siem Reap is the gateway to Angkor. It's markets are a great place to shop or to try some cheap, delicious street food.
Siem Reap/Angkor Temples
Temple-hop with our local guide to make the most of our visit to the world-famous Angkor complex. These temples were built between the 9th and 13th centuries when the Khmer empire was the pre-eminent influence in South-East Asia. The temples were believed to represent the cosmic world and were set in perfect balance, symmetry and composition. The intricately carved bas-reliefs and architectural designs are mind-blowing and there are spectacular photographic opportunities at any time of day - watching a sunrise or sunset is a must. The ruins are scattered over an area of some 160 sq km, but the main cluster of temples is close to Siem Reap so we'll have plenty of time to fully appreciate the great archaeological sites of Angkor Wat, the Bayon and the jungle-covered Ta Prohm.
Take a boat trip on Tonle Sap lake and visit one of its floating villages. If you feel like some adventure you could do the optional flight of the Gibbon which is a ziplining course which gives you a birds eye view of the rainforest with an adrenalin rush thrown in.
Travel by private minibus to Battambang (approx 4 hours). Cambodia's second-largest city, Battambang, (pronounced Battambong) is an attractive riverside town with traces of French elegance, friendly Khmer people and well-preserved colonial architecture. Consider a guided tour of the countryside to discover the local rural way of life stopping off at small cottage industries producing sticky rice, noodles & fish paste making. Join the locals for a ride on their famous bamboo train transferring goods such as rice - a great local interaction opportunity! Consider a mouth-watering cooking class and learn the secrets of local dishes such as: amok, Khmer curry & fried spicy chicken.
It's a long drive from Battambang to Bangkok (approx 8-9 hrs including border crossing and lunch) Thailand's bustling capital, Bangkok is famous for its tuk tuks, khlong boats and street vendors serving up delicious Thai food.
Bangkok has so much to offer those with time to explore - why not take a riverboat to Chinatown and explore the crowded streets; wander down the tourist mecca of Khao San Road; pay a visit to Wat Pho, home to the country's largest reclining Buddha and keeper of the magic behind Thai massage; explore the magnificent Grand Palace and the Temple of the Emerald Buddha; or travel by longtail boat down the Chao Phraya River to explore the famous 'khlongs' (canals) of Bangkok. Life along these canals seems a world away from the chaotic streets of the capital.
There are no activities planned for the final day and you are able to depart the accommodation at any time.
|January||4, 11, 18, 21, 25||July||5, 12, 19, 26|
|February||1, 4, 8, 11, 15, 22||August||9, 23, 30|
|March||1, 8, 15, 29||September||6, 20, 27|
|April||1, 5, 12, 19, 26||October||4, 11, 18, 21, 25|
|May||3, 10, 24||November||1, 4, 8, 11, 15, 18, 22, 29|
|June||7, 21, 28||December||2, 6, 9|
Freedom Hotel or similar (3 nights), Family Inn Saigon Hotel or similar (3 nights), Sunway Hotel or similar (3 nights), Mondulkiri Hotel or similar (2 nights), Overnight sleeper train (2 nights), Khamphone Hotel or similar (2 nights), People Place 2 Hotel or similar (2 nights), Gold 1 Hotel or similar (2 nights), Thuy Duong 3 Hotel or similar (2 nights), Asia Hotel or similar (1 night), Baan Rim Naam Guest House or similar (1 night), Family Hotel or similar (1 night), Hong Ngoc Cochinchine Hotel or similar (1 night), Overnight boat (1 night), Phonemany Guest House or similar (1 night), Royal Princess Larn Luang Hotel or similar (1 night), Hotel Novotel Bangkok Silom or similar (1 night), small group guided touring (max 12), 16 breakfasts, 1 lunch, 3 dinners, transport using Boat, Bus, Cyclo, Longboat, Overnight sleeper train, Plane, Tuk-Tuk
Travel insurance, gratuities, items of a personal nature and drinks.
TWIN SHARE / MULTI SHARE BASIS:
Accommodation on this trip is on a twin/multishare basis. Please note there may be times where facilities will be shared rather than ensuite.
TERMS AND CONDITIONS
Prices are "from", per person, based on twin share in low season. Subject to availability.
9 Dec 2017