Exhilarating visits to Indochina's famed World Heritage sites, luxurious hotels and curated experiences combine for a memorable journey. Discover the legendary sights and cities in which Ayutthaya, Angkor Wat, Luang Prabang and Halong Bay sparkle.
Arrive in Siem Reap in the morning. Our guide and driver will be picking you up then transferring you to the hotel for check in. Settle in and enjoy some time at leisure to refresh.
Begin your exploration of the Angkorian ruins by visiting the ancient city of Angkor Thom, the last capital of the Great Khmer Empire under the reign of Jayavarman VII. This city is surrounded by an 8m high wall, drawing a perfect square. Enter the city through the ancient South Gate, an impressive stone gate carved with Elephants and four giant faces. On each side of the entrance path a row of 54 gods or demons is holding the sacred Naga snake. Continue to the Bayon Temple in the exact center of the city. This 12th century masterpiece is a study in grandeur and is well-known for its 54 towers with enigmatic faces representing the 54 provinces of the Great Khmer Empire.
In the late afternoon, we board then enjoy a relaxing cruise in a gondola paddle boat at the moat of Angkor Thom compound while hopefully watching a spectacular sunset at Prasat Chroung temple. Cocktails, champagne, canapés and a soft drink will be available on the boat, as your boat paddles slowly along the ancient moat.
The welcome dinner tonight will be served at the incredible Chanrey Tree restaurant. The restaurant offers traditional Khmer cuisine in a lush contemporary setting. Located on the riverside in heart of Siem Reap, the Chanrey Tree combines the amazing taste of only seasonal traditional Khmer ingredients, with a relaxed but lavish environment to provide a unique Cambodian dining experience. Overnight in Siem Reap.
Angkor Thom Complex, Bayon Temple, watching sunset at Prasat Chroung temple
Tour starts in the morning by tuk tuk to the temples of the Small Circuit. The most illustrious of these is Ta Prohm, built in the mid-12th to early 13th centuries. Ta Prohm is unique in that it has been left largely as it was found: overgrown by jungle trees and vines, with many parts of the temple crumbling to the ground. This makes the ‘Tomb Raider Temple’ one of the most picturesque and memorable of the Angkor temples. Thereafter visit Banteay Kdei, a Buddhist monastery from the late 12th Century, and Srah Srang, also known as the “pool of ablutions”.
In the afternoon, enjoy a two-hour walking tour around Kompheim village, a 20-minute drive from Siem Reap, which will give you an insight into village life in Cambodia and the challenges faced by rural Cambodians. While the setting is idyllic and life seems blissfully simple in some ways, it is also incredibly difficult. You’ll learn about rice farming and see ox and buffalo as you stroll through rice paddies, and you’ll get to interact with locals you encounter in meaningful ways when visiting people’s homes, and see how they live, cook and eat, to learn firsthand about the different levels of poverty and how many struggle to put a meal on the table to feed their family each day. Half of the tour fee goes to a village enrichment fund managed by HUSK, a non-profit NGO that works with communities to improve the lives of Cambodians, and you’ll see their projects firsthand. You’ll finish the tour at the Village House where we’ll get to sip a glass of wine or local beer and snack on canapés, as you savor the sunset over the rice paddies and reflect upon your experience.
Ta Prohm temple, Banteay Kdei temple, walking tour around Kompheim village
- Chanrey Tree Restaurant
- Damnak Lounge Fine Dining
This morning, we venture the countryside of Siem Reap to see the “gem” of the Angkor area, the pretty temple of Banteay Srei. The so-called “Citadel of the Women” remains the best preserved temple in Cambodia. We could see some displays of the finest examples of classical Khmer art as this small temple is noted for its truly remarkable fine bas-reliefs. Banteay Srei comes unique in that it is constructed of pink sandstone, which is seen nowhere else in Angkor.
We continue up north to Kbal Spean, one of the earliest Hindu pilgrimage sites in Cambodia. A short 3 km trek up the hill through dense jungle will get you a remarkable sight of the “River of 1,000 Lingas”, with some remarkable stone carvings of Hindu gods, animals and other symbols in the river bed. During the rainy season, you can enjoy a refreshing bath in the waterfall, which is extremely popular with the local families.
After having picnic lunch, we return to Siem Reap, en route stop at the Landmine Museum which promotes mine awareness. Mr. Aki Ra, the museum founder, was trained as a child soldier during the Khmer Rouge regime and is working today as a de-miner. The museum functions also as a rescue centre for a number of landmine amputee children that Aki Ra has brought off Phnom Penh’s streets or from impoverished rural communities.
The highlight of this day is Angkor Wat, which is built during the reign of King Suryavarman II in the early 12th century, constructed following the model of the temple mountain symbolizing the Mount Meru, home of the gods. The divine residence of Vishnu, the King himself was to reside here after his death. Inside the temple, the walls are covered with stone carvings and bas-reliefs depicting Hindu mythology and the wars Suryavarman II fought during his reign. Construction is thought to have taken around thirty years of intensive labor. Your visit will coincide with the ‘Golden Hour’ to ensure you catch the Apsaras gleaming in their best light.
Finally, the night ends with an incredible performance of ‘Phare, the Cambodian Circus’. The show starts at 8pm, with professional artists of Phare Ponleu Selpak (PPS) performing an inspiring show suitable for people of all ages. PPS was set up in Battambang in 1994 by young returnee Cambodians from the refugee camps who learned about using art as a means of coping with trauma, and has played an influential role in promoting and developing Khmer culture over the years after the Khmer Rouge genocide. Overnight in Siem Reap.
Banteay Srei temple, Kbal Spean temple, Landmine Museum in Siem Reap...
Today we board a boat trip to Tonlé Sap Lake, where you will have the opportunity to learn about life of the local people on the lake. Being the largest freshwater lake in Southeast Asia, The Tonle Sap Lake is officially designated as a UNESCO Biosphere Reserve, covering an area of around 250,000 hectares in the dry season. Due to a unique and interesting phenomenon, when the monsoon comes, the swollen waters of the Mekong River force the Tonle Sap River to reverse its flow northwards, feeding the Great Lake and spreading over the surrounding flood plain.
Continue to visit the village of Kampong Kleang on another local boat, where only few tourists venture. When the boat rides through the village, we can see the fisherman and their families live in stilted houses among the petrified mangrove forests and waterways. Enjoy the fascinating scenery of Southeast Asia’s largest freshwater lake. During the period from Apr to Sep the water level may be too low for a visit by boat. However the village is still fascinating and can be visited by car. Quite dramatic to see how the stilted houses are exposed from lake when water levels are low!
Return back to Siem Reap then spend time to explore some of Siem Reap’s colourful markets before heading to the airport for the flight to Luang Prabang. Overnight in Luang Prabang.
- Maison Souvannaphoum Hotel
- Burasari Heritage Resort
River cruise on Tonle Sap Lake, visiting floating villages, discover local market
Luang Prabang is no doubt one of the most charming cities of South East Asia. Start this morning with a visit to one of Lao’s most picturesque temples, Wat Xieng Thong which is located at the end of the peninsula, close to the Mekong River, and erected in 1560 by King Setthathirat and is deeply revered by the Lao people.
Embark on the Nava Mekong, a beautiful wooden river boat for a join-in cruise up the Mekong to the Pak Ou Caves (depart around 10.30). The journey takes you around 2 hours and along the way you will be rewarded by spectacular views, pass by small villages on the river banks and witness fishermen out for their daily catch. Pak Ou Caves are dotted with thousands of gold lacquered Buddha statues crammed into two caves carved out of a towering limestone cliff. The statues range in size from a few centimeters tall to the size of a human, and sweeping views of the Mekong and Nam Ou rivers the caves have to offer are simply stunning. The caves are as well a popular destination for local pilgrimages, especially during the Lunar Lao New Year period of Pii Mai. Have lunch on board.
The afternoon is spent for a guided city tour, when you will have a chance to learn more about this culturally rich and historical city. The first place we visit is the former Royal Palace, now the National Museum, where you will explore the history of Laos. Thereafter is Wat Mai, a temple well-known for its golden bas-relief, and Wat Sensoukarahm, which features a beautiful dazzling golden façade. Overnight in Luang Prabang.
River cruise to Pak Ou Caves, Royal Palace, Wat Mai and Wat Sensoukarahm...
- Nava Mekong Dining Cruise
- Tamarind Restaurant
Your tour today focuses on a historical and cultural insight into the rich architectural history of the majestic UNESCO World Heritage Town of Luang Prabang with a local expert. You are to see four different types of buildings categorized by UNESCO. The first one is the traditional Lao house which is made from tropical hardwood or bamboo and built on stilts. The second is a half wood and half cement house constructed after the arrival of the French. The third is the traditional French colonial building that are quite similar to those found in Vietnam and Cambodia. The last form of architecture you will discover is the old Chinese shop houses that were built to be used for both commercial and residential purposes.
In the afternoon, you will be driven through countryside of Luang Prabang to Kuang Si Waterfalls, stop en-route to visit a small village which is home to one of the area’s many ethnic minorities. You will have a chance to learn about their traditions and culture, much of which has stayed unchanged for centuries. Upon arrival at the Kuang Si Waterfall, lay back and enjoy the beautiful natural surroundings. The jungle and dense woods surrounding the falls is ideal for exploring on foot. For the adventurous activities, it is possible to walk to the top of the falls via a steep track where stunning views are awaiting you at the top.
Before returning back to Luang Prabang, you may like to visit the bear sanctuary nearby the falls, run by Free The Bears Fund Inc. There are currently 23 Asiatic Black Bears living in the sanctuary, which has saved them from poaching. The main threat to these bears is poaching, coming from the use of their bile in Chinese medicine. You can read about their habits and observe their playful nature, whilst learning about the difficulties they are encountering.
We suggest a stop at the Kuang Si Butterfly Park to visit the beautiful garden filled of hundreds of Laos’s butterflies on the way back to Luang Prabang! (Note: closed on Tuesday).
Main Hanoi Attraction(s): Kuang Si Waterfalls, Bear sanctuary nearby the falls and Kuang Si Butterfly Park
Get up early to watch the monks collecting the alms. As the sun begins to rise, long lines of orange-robed monks leave their pagodas and walk barefoot down the streets collecting offerings from Luang Prabang residents. It is a beautiful, serene ceremony that highlights the spiritualism of the Laos people. Return to the hotel for breakfast. Have time to relax until our guide and driver transfer you to the airport for the flight to Hanoi. Arrive in Hanoi then the rest of evening is free at your own leisure.
Our first place to visit today is the Temple of Literature, or Quoc Tu Giam. The Temple of Literature was built in 1076, marking Vietnam's first university and was established within a temple to educate Vietnam's royalty, mandarins and members of the elite. The university functioned for an incredible 700 years and its gardens and well-preserved architecture provides you with a fascinating glimpse into Vietnam’s past.
After that, we visit the Thang Long Imperial Citadel. The Citadel is Hanoi’s UNESCO World Heritage Site, constructed on a Chinese fortress dating back from the 7th century and re-built in the 11th century by the Ly Viet Dynasty. The historical site and relics reflect and blend a unique South-East Asian culture between influences from China in the north and the ancient Kingdom of Champa in the south.
The One Pillar Pagoda is also worth a visit. This structure was founded by King Ly Thai To in 1049 and is one of Vietnam’s smallest but most iconic temples. Nearby is the Ho Chi Minh Mausoleum and the former presidents house on stilts where the famous figure of Vietnam lived from 1958 to 1969. His former house illustrates the modesty of this Vietnamese revolutionary.
Continue to Hanoi’s picturesque West Lake area and the significant 6th century Tran Quoc Buddhist Pagoda and the nearby Taoist temple of Quan Thanh dedicated to Tran Vu, one of the principal deities in Taoism.
Our next stop is the Hanoi’s Old Quarter, also well-known as the ‘36 streets’ area. Walk through charming Hang Be Market and around Hoan Kiem Lake. This bustling area of narrow streets and alleys is home to literally thousands of small businesses and shopkeepers. It's a great place that rewards you with plenty of photo opportunities all around.
End the day with a Water Puppet show. The show is a uniquely North Vietnamese art form depicting scenes from rural life and episodes of national history, performed within 1 hour. Overnight in Hanoi.
- Crystal Jade Palace
- Home Vietnamese Restaurant
Enjoy the 2.5-hour drive through rural areas of Vietnam to the site of Vietnam’s first capital, Hoa Lu. Pay a visit to the temples dedicated to Emperor Dinh Tien Hoang of the Dinh Dynasty (968-980), and Emperor Le Dai Hanh of the Le Dynasty (980-1009). After that, if time allows, you can choose to take a half-hour walk up one of the surrounding limestone karst hills, the climb is rewarding with spectacular views. In the late morning, we depart for Tam Coc Town then break for lunch.
After lunch, we continue the tour with a visit to Trang An Landscape Complex which was recognized as UNESCO World Heritage Site in June 2014. When riding on a peaceful river passing through a series of caves (one which takes 15-minutes to pass through in darkness), Trang An unfolds a spectacular landscape of limestone karst peaks permeated with valleys, some of which are submerged, and surrounded by steep, almost vertical cliffs. As the boat gently cruises through the water, notice the enormous limestone karsts jutting out from the green rice fields giving rise to other name, ‘Halong on Land’. As an ‘eco-tourism’ area, the only interruptions here you can see are the sound of birds and the gentle paddle of the oar upon the crystal clear river.
If you prefer adventurous activities, climb up to Bich Dong Pagoda on nearby Ngu Nhac Mountain, dating back to 1428 and comprising three structures: Ha, Trung, and Thuong Pagodas, in ascending order. Overnight in Ninh Binh.
- Emeralda Ninh Binh Resort & Spa
Dinh & Le King Temple, Trang An Landscape Complex, Bich Dong Pagoda
After breakfast, depart Ninh Binh for a 4-hour (approximately) drive to Halong Bay! The name ‘Ha Long’ could be literally translated into the dragon descending into the sea and owes its origins to a Vietnamese myth. The towering limestone karsts refer to the dragon’s back, surrounded by jade green water creating an unforgettable site. There are currently more than 1600 limestones of islands and islets with different kinds and shapes jutting out from the sea. Most of them remain intact from human activities thanks to their uninhabited and uncultivated characters.
Arrive at the Halong Bay jetty around noon. A lunch will be served while cruising towards the bay itself. In the afternoon, enjoy some visits and/or activities (depending on each boat’s itinerary) or just spend time relaxing on board. Towards the end of the day the boat drops anchor for the night among the karst formations. Dinner is served on board.
For early risers, complimentary tea, coffee and pastries are served in the restaurant followed by-if you so desire – a Tai Chi Class on the Sundeck (07:00 am). A great morning activity to feel one with this natural wonder.
Then it is time for an early morning swim – in the Bay. By tender boat we bring the guests to a natural white sandy stretch. Sporty ones can also climb up to a hill top to have a last view from above over Halong Bay before we return to the boat and cruise slowly back to Halong City, passing magnificent rock formations and picturesque areas. The crew will bid you farewell and you disembark with our tender boat to the jetty.
Driving back to Hanoi and then straightly transfer to the airport to to board your flight to your next destination.
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