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Indochina in Your eyes
Code: IND-0012

Day1: Hanoi
Arrival in Hanoi
Transfer

Visit the Old Quarter by cyclo
Discover the old quarter of Hanoi by cyclo (1 hour). It is also called 36 streets most of which are named after the crafts or merchandise traditionally sold there.
Overnight in Hanoi

Day2: Hanoi - Halong  [Breakfast / Lunch: Seafood Lunch on Boat Trip]
By vehicle from Hanoi to Halong Bay

Excursion by boat through Halong Bay including lunch (4 hours)
Cruise on a traditional wooden boat among the emerald waters and craggy limestone cliffs of Halong Bay, stopping to explore one of the many caves in this area. Sail past picturesque islands, floating villages, fishermen casting their nets and pearl fisheries and observe the rhythms of daily life on the bay. Return to Halong pier.
Overnight in Halong

Day3: Halong-Hanoi-Sapa [B/L]
By vehicle from Halong to Hanoi
Sightseeing in Hanoi

Visit the One Pillar Pagoda (Chua Mot Cot Thu Du)
CHUA MOT COT: built in 1049 by Emperor Ly Thai Tong and restored in 1922, then burned by the French in 1954 and restored in 1955. The pagoda which is a Buddhist representation of the world in the form of a lotus coming out of the water, contains a statue of Quan An, the Goddess of Mercy.
Visit Ho Chi Minh's Stilt House
HO CHI MINH'S STILT HOUSE: Near the Mausoleum is the two room stilt house where Ho Chi Minh lived from 1948 until his final days. Visitors also pass the simple three-room bungalow where Ho Chi Minh lived and worked from 1954-8, which has been preserved in the same condition and may be viewed through the windows.
Visit the Ho Chi Minh Mausoleum from the outside only
Visit the Temple of Literature
TEMPLE OF LITERATURE: a peaceful series of walled courtyards and graceful gateways, this momnument is one of the best-preserved examples of traditional Vietnamese architecture. Founded in 1070 and dedicated to Confucius, this was also the site of Vietnams first university. In one courtyard, giant stone tortoises bear stelae on their backs, listing the accomplishments of graduating scholars.
Transfer
Night train to sapa
Overnight on train

Day4: Laocai - Sa Pa [B/L]
Excursion to Ta Phin with soft trek (Red Dzao village)

Visit the handicraft village of TA PHIN, inhabited by the Red Dzao people, known for their distinctive red headscarves and skill at handicrafts.
Visit Ham Rong Mountain and San May (Cloud Yard)
Overnight in Sa Pa

Day5: Sa Pa - Local Village  [Breakfast / Lunch: Lunch during Trekking]
Trekking around Sa Pa

Depart Sa Pa in the mid-morning and begin trekking on small paths, Y Linh Ho and Lao Chai. These villages are mainly Black Hmong, noted for their distinct culture, language and deep blue indigo clothing. After breaking for lunch, continue to the Dzay village of Tavan. Although the Dzay people in this village have adapted their traditions somewhat, many women still wear the traditional shirts of purple, blue or green. Dzay houses are generally wooden with clay floor. Hike up the mountain to the Red Dzao village of Giang Ta Chai, passing a cascading waterfall on the way. The Red Dzao continue to wear their traditional, colorfully embroidered clothing and red headscarves. Many of the women have shaved eyebrows, according to a local legend. Continue along the rice fields, crossing the Muong Hoa river and trek to the village of Supan to meet the jeep and transfer back to Sa Pa. Total trekking distance for the day is 20 kilometers, over hilly terrain.
Over night in Sapa

Day6: Sapa - Hanoi [B/L]
Transfer to Laocai

Take Train to Hanoi
Over night on train

Day7: Hanoi - Danang [B/L]
Transfer to the Aitport

Take early flight to Danang
Sightseeing in Hoi An with a boat trip on the Thu Bon River
The exquisitely preserved merchant town of HOI AN was declared a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 1999. Its colorful shophouses and temples reflect a diverse heritage, dating back to the 16th and 17th century, when it was a major port for Western, Chinese and Japanese traders. Today it is a thriving center of traditional crafts and a shoppersÂ’ paradise, best explored on foot.
Wander through the cobbled streets, past low tile-roofed buildings, the bustling central MARKET and the small HARBOUR where colorfully painted boats are moored. The walking tour will include visits to a PRIVATE HOUSE, where members of the same family have lived continuously for centuries in a traditional setting; to one of the FAMILY CHAPELS built by prominent merchant or official families as centers for ancestor worship; and to a typical CHINESE-STYLE PAGODA or ASSEMBLY HALL. Finally, continue to the famous JAPANESE COVERED BRIDGE, first constructed in 1593 by the Japanese community of Hoi An to link the town with the Chinese quarters across the stream.
In the afternoon, board a local boat and cruise down the THU BON RIVER, enjoying the unspoiled countryside and stopping to visit a POTTERY VILLAGE and a WOODCARVING VILLAGE before returning to Hoi An harbour.
Overnight in Hoi An

Day8: Hoi An - My Son

Excursion to My Son with boat trip on the Thu Bon River
Journey to MY SON, the former religious center of the Champa Kingdom, a sophisticated civilization which held sway over the region from the 4th to the 13th centuries. Today, all that are left are five archaeological sites from different periods, in a beautifully green setting of hills and winding streams. After a brief visit to the VISITOR'S CENTER for an overview of Cham history and culture, visit each ruin in turn, walking along forested paths. On the way back to Hoi An, board a local boat and cruise down the THU BON RIVER, enjoying the unspoiled countryside and stopping to visit a POTTERY VILLAGE and a WOODCARVING VILLAGE before drawing into Hoi An harbour.
Overnight in Hoian

Day9: Hoian - Hue [B/L]
By vehicle from Hoi An to Hue
Visit Cham Museum

CHAM MUSEUM: this houses probably the best collection of Cham art to be found anywhere in the world. There are more than 300 artifacts in the museum, many dating to the 4th century. There are beautiful sculptures reflecting the 1000 year Cham period.
Sightseeing in the Old Imperial City
Located in the heart of Hue is the IMPERIAL CITADEL, a vast complex built in the early 19th century and modelled after the Forbidden City of Peking. The original walls stretched for 10 km and were surrounded by a wide moat. Today, most of the buildings have been destroyed due to bombing during the Vietnam-American War, but the monuments that remain provide a fascinating glimpse into the court life of the Nguyen Dynasty. Approach the city past the striking FLAG TOWER, where a giant Vietnamese flag waves proudly overhead, to the imposing NGO MON GATE, the main entrance to the Imperial Enclosure. Enter into an area of spacious courtyards and serene lotus ponds, and visit DIEN THO Residence ( Dien Tho palace) is where the Queen mother lived, visit THAI HOA PALACE, the magnificently decorated reception hall, the HALLS OF THE MANDARINS, and the original NINE DYNASTIC URNS, among other sites.
Overnight in Hue

Day10: Hue - Saigon [B/L]
Excursion to Thien Mu Pagoda and Tomb of Emperor Minh Mang with boat trip

Enjoy a leisurely boat ride down the PERFUME RIVER, stopping first at the iconic THIEN MU PAGODA, an elegant seven-tiered octagonal tower which has become Hue's most widely recognizable monument. Continue cruising into the countryside to the IMPERIAL TOMB OF MINH MANG, a majestic complex of courtyards, pavilions and temples in a beautiful natural setting.
Visit the Imperial Tombs of Tu Duc and Khai Dinh
Venture into the countryside around Hue to the IMPERIAL TOMB OF TU DUC. Tu Duc, the longest reigning Vietnamese emperor, designed and built this elegant tomb during his lifetime, using it as a retreat for meditation, reading and theater performances. Take some time to soak in the tranquil atmosphere, wandering among the gracefully proportioned pavilions, courtyards and lotus ponds. Afterwards visit the IMPERIAL TOMB OF KHAI DINH, dramatically located on a hillside. The last of the monumental tombs of the Nguyen dynasty, completed in 1931, this tomb incorporates distinct European elements into the traditional Vietnamese architecture.
By vehicle to the Airport
Flight from Hue to Saigon.
Transfer to Hotel
Overnight in Saigon

Day11: Saigon city
Sightseeing in Saigon

A vibrant metropolis, SAIGON teems with energy, activity and motion. Everywhere you look, you see the meeting of traditional and modern life. The emerging modern skyline stands cheek by jowl with colonial buildings and traditional temples. Outside on the streets, young professionals zip by on motorcyles, chatting on cellphones; inside the quiet temple courtyards, worshippers pray amidst clouds of incense. Begin your tour of this exciting city with a tour of the historic center, strolling along DONG KHOI STREET, formerly known as the Rue Catinat, the main shopping thoroughfare and heart of old colonial Saigon. Pass by classic European-style landmarks such as the ornate CITY HALL (HOTEL DE VILLE), the old OPERA HOUSE (both may only be viewed from the outside), and pay a quick visit to the neo-Romanesque NOTRE DAME CATHEDRAL and the CENTRAL POST OFFICE.
Afterwards dive into modern history with a tour of the REUNIFICATION PALACE. Formerly the Independence Palace of the South Vietnamese president, this 60s style building was famously stormed by tanks on April 30, 1975 signifying the fall of South Vietnam. It has been preserved in its original state, and the original tanks remain on display near the entrance gates. Continue to the harrowing WAR REMNANTS MUSEUM, which comprehensively documents the travails of the long Vietnam- American War. Inside are detailed photographic exhibitions; outside is a collection of tanks, planes and weapons. A powerful experience, this museum is guaranteed to provoke strong emotions.
Finally, end up at the central BEN THANH MARKET, where vendors display a vast array of goods and handicrafts, appealing to every taste.
Overnight in saigon

Day12: Saigon
Excursion to Cu Chi Tunnels and Tay Ninh

From Saigon, drive to TAY NINH, the birthplace of the unique CAO DAI religion, a fusion of Buddhism, Confucianism, Taoism, Christianity, Islam and native Vietnamese spiritual beliefs. Every day at noon, worshippers garbed in colorful robes flock to the CAO DAI GREAT TEMPLE to participate in the daily prayer sessions, which visitors may respectfully observe from the upper balconies. (Note: shortly before and during the annual TET festival (Vietnamese New Year) the daily ceremony of the priests in Tay Ninh may be cancelled without prior notice).
Afterwards, continue to the CU CHI TUNNELS. Never discovered by American forces, these tunnels were an important Vietcong base during the American War. Stretching over 200 km, this incredible underground network, dug by hand out of hard laterite, connected command posts, hospitals, shelter and weapon factories. Today, you can walk through the area and learn about the day-to-day life of the VC, see the cleverly disguised entrances and elaborate booby-traps, and even venture inside the tunnels, some of which have been modified to accommodate tourists. Return to Saigon in the late afternoon.
Overnight in Saigon

Day13: Saigon - Cantho (Breakfast)
By vehicle from Saigon to Can Tho, with a boat ride from Cai Be floating market to Vinh Long

From Saigon, transfer to Cai Be and tour the colorful floating market by boat, continuing through the bywaters and canals of the Mekong Delta to Vinh Long. On the way, stop at different Mekong river islands and visit local workshops producing puffed rice, coconut candy, and other local delicacies such as visit Orchid Farm, Rice Wine,Tea and Fruit.
Overnight in Can Tho

Day14: Can Tho (Breakfast)
Excursion by boat to Cai Rang Floating Market

In the early morning, set out by boat to explore CAI RANG FLOATING MARKET, the biggest and most bustling of the Mekong Delta markets, which attracts fruit and vegetable vendors from all over the region. Buyers on smaller boats weave between the large barges selling wholesale produce. Each vendor advertises fresh samples of their wares on long poles that tower overhead above the colorful boats. Sail through the market, watching people haggle and trade, and possibly sample some of the fruit yourself. By 9 am, the activity has died down and it is time to return to the pier, after exploring some of the backwaters and canals.
Overnight in Can Tho

Day15: Cantho - Chaudoc (Breakfast)
By vehicle from Can Tho to Chau Doc
Sightseeing in Chau Doc with boat trip

Embark on a boat to explore the bustling river life around Chau Doc, visiting the FLOATING VILLAGES, whose inhabitants live and work all their lives on the river. Stop at one of the typical houses, and see how they raise fish in nets directly under the house itself. Continue to the distinctive CHAM VILLAGE, on the other side of the river, with its thriving Muslim community. After returning to the town, continue by vehicle to SAM MOUNTAIN, which rises sharply from the surrounding rice paddies. Considered one of the most important pilgrimage sites in Vietnam, the mountain is dotted with pagodes and temples, many of them inside caves. Visit LADY CHUA XU PAGODA at the base and continue up shallow stairways along the mountain, visiting other pagodes as you ascend. Visit SAM MOUNTAIN where there are dozens of pagodas and temples. The Chinese influence is obvious, and Sam Mountain is a favorite spot for ethnic-Chinese, both as pilgrims from Saigon and tourists from Taiwan. The views from the top of the mountain are spectacular and one can easily look out over Cambodia. At the mountain's peak, enjoy panoramic views over the surrounding countryside, stretching all the way to the Cambodian border.
Overnight in Chau Doc

Day16: Chaudoc
7h00: Transfer to Tra Su
Take boat trip cruising through the little canal is fully with birds, big fruit bats hanging along the tree. Trasu forest occupies 845 hectare special - purpose forest surrounded by a 654 hectare buffer zone. Scientists estimate that it is home to over 70-80 bird species, inc luding two very rare species of Indian stork - Mycteria leucocephala The flora is equally abundant and splendid with 140 species, which represents the after the Xeo Quit Cajuput Forest in Dong Thap Province.
Back Chaudoc
Free afternoon
Overnight in Chaudoc.


Day17: Chau Doc - Phnom Penh (Breakfast)
On board the  Speedboat from Chau Doc to Phnom Penh.

Arrival in Phnom Penh
Transfer to Hotel
Overnight in Phnom Penh

Day18: Phnom Penh (Breakfast)
Sightseeing in Phnom Penh

Explore PHNOM PENH, a chaotic, energetic and always fascinating city. Graceful tree-lined boulevards and riverfront promenades are reminders of bygone eras; today they teem with life and activity, as motorcycles weave in and out of traffic, vendor hawk their wares, and pedestrians go about their business. Start your tour at WAT PHNOM, the birthplace of the capital; according to legend the city began here when a woman named Penh found four Buddha statues and built the temple to house them. Afterwards, see the splendor of Cambodia's royal heritage by visiting the ROYAL PALACE, still the official residence of King Norodom Sihamoni, the adjacent SILVER PAGODA, also known as the Pagoda of the Emerald Buddha, and the elegant NATIONAL MUSEUM, which contains a comprehensive collection of Khmer art.
In the afternoon, learn about a chapter from Cambodia's more recent, tragic, past at the TUOL SLENG MUSEUM (Museum of Genocide). Formerly the Tuol Svay Prey High School, in 1975, this became the interrogation and torture facility for the Khmer Rouge regime - at that time known as Security Prison 21, or simply S-21. Kept largely unchanged, this prison now showcases photographs and exhibits about the thousands of victims that passed through these doors - only seven of whom came out alive.
Finally, explore the modern-day city, visiting one of Phnom Penh's two great markets, the CENTRAL MARKET, located in a distinctive domed Art Deco building, and the sprawling RUSSIAN MARKET, a labyrinth of stalls selling everything from CDs and DVDs to silks, crafts, jewelry and more.
Overnight in Phnom Penh

Day19: Phnom Penh - Kampong Cham (Breakfast)
By vehicle from Phnom Penh to Kampong Cham
Sightseeing in Kampong Cham

Kampong Cham is a lively port on the banks of the Mekong River with some good examples of colonial-era architecture. After visting the LOCAL MARKET and exploring the town, travel in to the countryside to PHNOM PROS (Man Hill) and PHNOM SREI (Woman Hill). According to local tradition, two teams of men and women competed to build a stupa on the summit of each hill before dawn. After being tricked into thinking that daybreak had already come, the men lost the competition and, as a result, forever after had to be the ones to approach the women for their hands in marriage. Continue to WAT NOKOR BAYON, a thriving modern-day monstery founded on a 11th century Mahayana Buddhist shrine.
Overnight in Kampong Cham

Day20: Kampong Cham - Kratie (Breakfast)
By vehicle from Kampong Cham to Kratie
Sightseeing in Kratie

The provincial capital of KRATIE is a pleasant, small riverside town on the banks of the Mekong River. Visit the DOLPHIN OBSERVATION PARK located just north of town and enjoy an hour-long boat trip past peaceful rural scenery as you watch out for a rare sighting of one of the 50 endangered Irrawaddy freshwater dolphins that inhabit this strech of the river. On the way back, stop at WAT PHNOM SAMBOK.
Overnight in Kratie

Day21: Kratie - Dong Kalaw - Don Khone (Breakfast)
By vehicle from Kratie to Dong Kralor (Lao/Cambodian border)

By vehicle and boat from Dong Kalaw (Lao/Cambodian border) to Don Khone with sightseeing at Khone Phapeng
The largest waterfall in South East Asia, KHONE PHAPHENG, is one of the most impressive sites in the area. Here, the entire Mekong with all its force cascades down curving stone outcroppings and tints the massive stones with rainbows.
Overnight in Don Khone

Day22: Don Khone - Don Khong (Breakfast)
Sightseeing in Don Khone

Explore DON DET ISLAND and DON KHONE. The islands are connected by a former railway bridge (the railway stopped operating 1945). The larger island Don Det is famous throughout Laos for the cultivation of coconut, bamboo and kapok. Visit BAN KHON VILLAGE, the main village on Don Khone with several old French villas, Wat Mahanthanaram Temple and Visit Rusting Locomotive. Continue to TAD LI PHI WATERFALLS, a raging set of rapids at the western end of Don Khone.
By boat from Don Khone to Don Khong.
Sightseeing in Don Khong
Explore DON KHONG, or Khong Island, a scenic island set in the middle of the Mekong River, with small villages and rice paddies. Visit the largest village, MUANG KHONG, and visit the local temples, WAT HUA KHONG PA YAI, WAT PHUANGKEOARUOTHAI, WAT XIENG WANG and WAT PHOU KHAU KAEW.
Overnight in Don Khong

Day23: Don Khong - Pakse (Breakfast)
By vehicle from Don Khong to Pakse with sightseeing at Vat Phou Champasak

From Don Khong, travel north along the east bank of the Mekong. Near Champasak city, cross by ferry and continue to Vat Phou Champasak (meaning Mountain Temple), one of the best preserved examples of major Khmer architecture, some 200 years older than Angkor Wat itself. The core monument of this site consists of a main temple on the upper terrace, six shrines on the middle terrace, two palaces and Nandin Hall on the lower terrace. Continue by vehicle north to Pakse.
Overnight in Pakse

Day24: Pakse - Vientiane (Breakfast)
Transfer

Flight from Pakse to Vientiane.
Transfer
Sightseeing in Vientiane
The capital city of Laos, Vientiane still feels like a sleepy city with relaxed charm, tree-lined boulevards, interesting wats and colorful markets. Tour the different highlights of the city, including PHA THAT LUANG, a gleaming golden stupa which is perhaps most important national monument in Laos; HO PHA KEO, the formal royal temple, now a museum with beautiful examples of Buddhist sculpture; WAT SI SAKET; and PATUXAI, a monumental arch inspired by the Arc de Triomphe, but executed with Lao motifs.
Overnight in Vientiane

Day25: Vientiane - Vang Vieng (Breakfast)
By vehicle from Vientiane to Vang Vieng

Travel from Vientiane to Vang Vieng, stop for a visit to Vang Xang, 11th century Buddhist archaeological site where primitive Buddha images are carved on the cliff. Continue to visit Talat Fish Market in Huay Mor.
Visit Vang Xang
VANG XANG: 11th century Buddhist archaeological site, where primitive Buddha images are carved on the cliff.
Visit Talat fish market in Huay Mor
Visit Tham Chang Cave
THAM CHANG CAVE: used as a bunker against marauding Chinese in the early 19th century. Tham means cave and Chang is steadfast.
Overnight in Vang Vieng

Day26: Vang Vieng - Luang Prabang (Breakfast)
Visit Tham Pha Thao Cave

THAM PHA THAO CAVE: Enjoy a short trek through rice paddies with a stop at a Hmong village in Ban Pha Thao and continue to visit the cave of Tham Pha Thao.
Visit Tham Xang Cave
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.
By vehicle from Vang Vieng to Luang Prabang
Journey north passing through Ban Phatang and Muang Kasi. Enjoy visiting local villages on the way.
Overnight in Luang Prabang

Day27: Luang Prabang (Breakfast)
Sightseeing in Luang Prabang [# alert National Museum is closed on Tuesday]

Set between the Nam Khan and Mekong rivers, Luang Prabang is an enchanting town filled with historic temples and colonial style buildings. The entire town was declared a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 1995. Start the day at WAT VISOUN (Wat Wisunalat). The oldest living temple in Luang Prabang, Wat Visoun dates back to 1513 and contains a collection of antique wooden Buddhas. Visit the nearby WAT AHAM before continuing to WAT XIENG THONG, the crowning jewel of all the monasteries and temples in the city. Its many ornate buildings feature exquisite mosaic and gold-stenciled murals. From there, stroll down the main street of Luang Prabang, stopping at some of the many temples that line its sides, including WAT SIBOUNHEUANG, WAT SI MOUNGKHOUN, WAT SOP and WAT SENE. Continue to the NATIONAL MUSEUM (ROYAL PALACE), a modest but graceful building which combines traditional Lao and French beaux-arts motifs. This turn-of-the century royal residence has been preserved as it was when the royal family last lived here and provides unique insights into the history of Laos. (Closed on Tuesdays). Afterwards, visit WAT MAI.
Visit Mount Phousi for sunset
Climb the hillside stairs to the small temples atop PHOU SI, the 100m high hill which sits in the middle of the town, offering beautiful views over the temples and river.
Overnight in Luang Prabang

Day28: Luang Prabang - Pakbeng (Breakfast / Lunch: Meal on board Luangsay Cruise / Dinner: Luangsay Cruise Lodge/Restaurant)

Transfer
Aboard the Luangsay Cruise from Luang Prabang to Pakbeng (Upstream), day 1 of 2 [# alert
does not operate in Jun, incl. continential breakfast from 20 Oct 08
31 Mar 09, see CHF for departure time] (No local guide)
Embark on the Luangsay boat, a traditional style wooden boat with open decks and beautiful views. Cruise upstream towards Pakbeng stopping at BAN BAW to observe the making of traditional Lao rice wine and whisky. Continue to the famous THAM PAK OU caves, natural shrines which have been filled over the centuries with hundreds of Buddha images in every style and material. Lunch is served on board, followed by a visit to a fishing village before arriving in Pakbeng in the late afternoon.
Note. In high season (Oct-Apr) boat will depart from pier 7.00 AM and Low season (May-Sep) will depart 7.30 AM. Clients have to check in 30 minutes before departure.
Overnight in Pakbeng

Day29:Pakbeng - Huay Xai (Breakfast / Lunch: Meal on board Luangsay Cruise)

* No local guide Aboard the Luangsay Cruise from Pakbeng to Huay Xai (Upstream), day 2 of 2 (No local guide)
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 (No local guide)
Overnight in Huay Xai

Day30: Huay Xai (Breakfast)
* No local guide *
Transfer (No local guide)


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