Laos has been a pawn in the chess games between regional and international powers. Like Vietnam, it was heavily bombed by the US in what has become known as the ‘Secret War’. Today, Laos is something of a backwater, a sleepy laid-back place, well behind its neighbours in development terms. It is sparsely populated: only about five million people in a country the size of Britain.
Indochina Best Travel 15 Days / 14 Nights Cultural Tour
Day 1: Vientiane arrival
On arrival at Wattay Airport, you will be met and transferred to your centrally located hotel. Vientiane is a charming and fascinating capital, with an interesting mix of Lao, Thai, Chinese, Vietnamese, French, Soviet and American influences. A city tour acquaints us with the capital and after a short rest, we start visiting the major sights including: the oldest Wat Sisaket, the temple with thousands of miniature Buddha statues, and the former royal temple of Wat Prakeo, which previously housed the famous Emerald Buddha Image. Enroute to Lao’s precious national heritage, the famous and sacred structure of That Luang Stupa, you will have the opportunity to take some pictures of the imposing Patuxay Monument, which is well known as Vientiane’s own Arc de Triumph. Overnight in Vientiane.
Day 2: Vientiane – Vang Vieng (B) (by road)
We leave this wonderful town after breakfast for our journey northbound on route no. 13. We will see some breathtaking scenery enroute as we pass through spectacular countryside towards the mountainous region. We make a stop along the way at Vang Xang, a famous archeological site dating back to the 11th century. We reach our final destination in the afternoon, the small and tranquil village of Vang Vieng, which is nestled on a bend of the Nam Song River. Its stunning scenery with a mixture of quiet water and limestone outcrops remains unspoiled, despite recent developments with the advent of tourism. On arrival at Vang Vieng, we cross the Nam Song River to Tham Jang caves and then enjoy a short trek through breathtaking mountain landscape to explore the Tam None Cave and some hill villages. Today ends with a superb panorama of the sunset reflecting over the Nam Song River. Overnight in Vang Vieng.
Day 3: Vang Vieng – Xieng Khuang (B) (by road)
Today we will set off early driving up route 7TH north to Xieng Khuangg, which was devastated by American bombing between 1964 and 1973. Upon arrival, we transfer out to visit the Plain of Jars, an impressive archaeological site where hundreds of large stone jars are littered all over the plateau. We also have time, this afternoon seeing the old capital of Muang Khoun Province and the nearby villages, home to the Hmong hill tribe and Tai Dam people. They have an interesting local culture and a colorful history. Overnight in Xieng Khaung.
Day 4: Xiengkhouang – Luang Prabang (B) (by road)
Early morning, we visit the Central Market of Phonsavanh to watch the different hilltribe people barter and exchange merchandises. We then head out of this small town towards Luang Prabang, en route we stop off to see the Buddha images in Thampra, a site more than 200 years old, and various Hmong and hill tribe minority villages along the way. Really nice and friendly people welcome you to their villages. After a photo stop, we continue driving uphill, enjoying the splendid natural scenery of the mountains, the forest and landscape. After a tea or coffee break at Sala Phoukhoun, where the borders of Vientiane-Xiengkhouang-Luang Prabang meet as a T-Junction. The journey will take us over mountainous regions until we approach Luang Prabang.
The tranquility and charm of this town with its splendid natural scenery and cultural sights make it one of the most delightful places to visit in Laos. After checking into the hotel, if time permits, we visit the impressive stupa of Wat Visoun and the shrines of Wat Aham and Wat Mai; we then climb up to the top of Mount Phousi to explore the sacred, gilded stupa as well as capture a beautiful view of the city and the Mekong River at sunset. From there, we visit the Night Market, where you can browse a lovely selection of handmade textiles, made by the local people and hilltribe people surrounding Luang Prabang. Overnight at Luang Prabang.
Day 5: Luang Prabang – Pak Ou cave – Khouangsi waterfall (B)
An optional early start gives you the fantastic opportunity to participate in the daily morning rituals of saffron-clad monks collecting offerings of Alms (ubiquitous sticky rice) from the faithful residents. This tradition is very unique in Laos, being the only Buddhist nation still preserving the procession.
AM: After breakfast, we enjoy a short-guided tour seeing the city’s oldest temple of Wat Sene and the magnificent Wat Xiengthong with its roofs sweeping low to the ground, which represents classical Laotian architecture. We then board a cruise upstream on the Mekong River, which also gives us a panaromic view of the tranquil countryside as well as an interesting visit to the mysterious Pak Ou Caves, two linked caves crammed with thousands of gold lacquered Buddha statues of various shapes and sizes left by pilgrims. Along the way, we stop at the small village of Ban Xanghai, where the local rice wine is distilled. We return to Luang Prabang by late afternoon and continue to Ban Xangkhong, a village well known for silk handweaving and for traditional Saa Paper making.
PM: We continue our excursion towards Khouangsi Waterfall. En route, we visit local villages of Lao ethnic minority groups at Ban Ouay, Hmong Village, Ban Ou, Laoloum Village and Ban Thapene, Khmu Village. Then we drive to the beautiful Khouangsi Waterfall where you can splash around in the turquoise pools or walk along the forest trails. The Khouangsi Waterfall setting really illustrates paradise. We return to the city by late evening to observe the sunset at Wat Siphouthabath. Overnight in Luang Prabang.
Day 6: Luang Prabang – Hanoi (B)
After breakfast we visit The National Museum (closed Tuesday) at the former Royal Palace, which displays a lovely collection of the artefacts reflecting the richness of Lao culture dating from the days of the early kings right through the last sovereign. Also the Central Market is not to be missed. After visiting these sights in the morning, you have free time to explore the town and stroll around the shopping area. The tour ends after your transfer to the airport for departure to Hanoi. Pick up and transfer to hotel, overnight at hotel in Hanoi.
Day 7: Hanoi – Halong (B, L, D)
After breakfast depart Hanoi to Ha Long Bay by road through the rich farmlands of the Red River Delta and the scenery of rice fields (harvest time: 5th month and 10th month of Lunar New Year), water buffalos and everyday Vietnamese village life on both sides of the highway No.18.
12.00 pm: Arrive in Ha Long city, board our traditional wooden junk boat, for an overnight journey. Sip on a refreshing welcome drink upon check in before you begin your cruise through the bay. Feast on a delicious lunch as you cruise among hundreds of islets (Dinh Huong islet, Ga Choi – Fighting Cock islet, Dog islet, Finger islet, etc.) to discover unspoilt pockets of Halong Bay and visit Sung Sot cave, one of the most imposing grottos of the Bay. Swim at Soi Sim beach or Titov beach or a short trek to the top of Titov Mountain for a magnificent panorama scenery.
7.30pm: Enjoy your dinner with fresh seafood on board.
9.00pm: Squid fishing or relax and chatting with your partner, friends, family.
Overnight onboard in Ha Long Bay.
Day 8: Halong – Hanoi – Hue (B)
7.00am: For early riser’s complimentary tea, coffee, fruit and cake are served.
8.00am: Visit Luon cave on small bamboo boat paddled by our crew staff and enjoy the quiet atmosphere enclosed by high islets and mountains. Return to our Huong Hai Junk. Sail past rock formations such as Man’s Head islet, Tortoise islet, Butterfly cave, Lion islet, Bai Tho Mountain, enjoying the tranquil scenery as the boat meanders its way through the bay on the way back to Ha Long city. Arrange your luggage and do the check out onboard at around 9.00 am. Enjoy a wholesome brunch as your boat weaves through strange-shaped limestone rock formations.
11.45am: Arrive back at Ha Long city for disembarkation where your driver waits to take you back to Hanoi. Around 14:30 transfer to airport for flight to Hue. Arrival Hue, pick up and transfer to hotel. Overnight at hotel in Hue.
Day 9: Hue City Tour (B,L)
8.00am: Local tour guide and driver will welcome and pick you up at the hotel then the tour will start. Visit the Thien Mu Pagoda, 9.15am get on dragon boat and cruise to visit Tu Duc king tomb then come back to Hue for lunch at a local restaurant. Leaving restaurant our trip continues to visit the Imperial City, which is located in the Citadel. Modeled on the Forbidden City in Beijing, the Imperial City was built in the early 19th century. Explore the Thai Hoa Palace, with its spacious hall and ornate roof of huge timbers supported by 80 carved and lacquered columns. See the Halls of the Mandarins, the Nine Dynastic Urns and the site where the Forbidden Purple City once stood and Dong Ba market. From the city centre we drive through nice, lush green countryside in the neighborhood of Hue to visit Thanh Toan Bridge. Overnight at hotel in Hue.
Day 10: Hue – Danang – Hoian (B,L)
This morning we head out on a lovely journey southbound to Hoi An via Hai Van Pass to take in the scenery. In the afternoon we visit Cham Museum in Danang, displaying some of the finest Cham artefacts, statues in sandstone, marble stone, in the world. We have a look at a craft village before arriving in Hoi An. Hoi An is a charming little township. Between the 17th and 19th centuries Hoi An was a thriving international trading port. You can spend your time walking around the historic town, exploring the many Chinese assembly halls and fascinating ancestral homes, some of which have been occupied by the same family for fifteen generations. The riverside market is always a hive of activity, especially in the early morning when the day’s catch arrives. One thing’s for sure, there is no shortage of things to do in this town! Overnight Hoi An.
Day 11: Hoi An tour & Cooking class (B,L)
In the morning attend a cookery course and study the art of Vietnamese cuisine, and after enjoy lunch. Afternoon, explore charming little township of Hoi An including old quarter, Japanese bridge and Thubon river. Walking amongst old streets and lanes to visit old houses dating back to 300 years ago. There are many things to see and do in Hoi An, so you will never feel bored during your stay in this lovely town. Overnight at hotel in Hoi An.
Day 12: Hoi An – Ho Chi Minh Cu Chi Tunnel (B, L)
Free at leisure until transfer to airport for flight to Ho Chi Minh. Transfer to hotel and time it relax.
This afternoon, we drive to visit Cu Chi tunnels. This incredible system, covering nearly 250km, was shelter to over 16,000 communist guerrillas during the war. We gain insight into the tenacity of these soldiers and have the opportunity to go inside the tunnels. Overnight at hotel in Ho Chi Minh.
Day 13: Ho Chi Minh – Mekong Delta – Le Cochinchine Cruise (B, L, D)
- 08:00 – 08:30 pick up at hotel and transfer to Mekong to check in on boat.
- 11h30 -12h.00 boarding boat. Enjoy welcome drink.
- Transfer to a local boat for an extensive visit of Cai Be: the floating market, the mazes of waterway, local pop-rice and sweets production.
- Visit of colonial buildings, old houses, delightful flower gardens and local coconut candy and rice paper manufacturers.
- Cruise continues its journey to Cochien. Lunch served on board.
- Embark on a pleasant walk or cycle on the footpaths of the countryside to discover tropical fruit orchards and the local people’s activities. Visit a cottage industry, a local farm and sample seasonal fruits.
- Leisurely cruise on the Mekong River while taking in the beautiful scenery.
- Enjoy an aperitif overlooking the sunset.
- Dinner and night on board.
Day 14: Mekong Delta – Ho Chi Minh (B)
- Breakfast on board.
- The morning bobbling commotion of Mekong river life comes to life and for another lovely day our boat sets sail to Cantho through tributaries and canals.
- Transfer to Cairang: one of the most bustling floating markets in Mekong. We go for a walk along the canals through palm-shaded creeks to see local houses and green orchards, ship building yards, rural and water activities in full swing.
- Boarding back at noon, with a welcome-back drink.
- 11 h00 Disembark in Cantho. The cruise concludes.
Chech out cruise, we will transfer you back to Ho Chi Minh, it takes about 4 hours. Overnight at hotel in Ho Chi Minh.
Day 15: Ho Chi Minh departure (B)
Breakfast at hotel, you are free at leisure until transfer to airport for flight departure. End of services.