VIETNAM AND LAOS NEW YEAR
April 4th – 17th
14 Days – 13 Nights
Vietnam is a country just waiting for those with a sense of adventure, exploration and discovery. Explore ancient temples, view green rice fields dotted with conical hats and hear the blaring of horns and chaos of motorbike traffic. Graceful lakes, slow river life, white sand beaches and traditional dishes will delight you.
We will be celebrating Bun Pi Mai – New Year in Laos. During the New Year, water plays a big part in the festivities – such as Lao bathe Buddha images in their local temples and pouring jasmine-scented water and flower petals on the sculptures. People also get soaked during Bun Pi Mai – people respectfully pour water on monks and elders, and on each other.
Day 1: Ho Chi Minh City
Upon arrival in Ho Chi Minh City (SGN), you will be greeted at the airport and transferred to the Saigon Prince Hotel where you will meet your host guide and the rest of the travelers. To give everyone a chance to arrive there are no activities planned for today but our local guide will be able to offer suggestions if you arrive early and join the group for an optional dinner.
Day 2: Ho Chi Minh City
Today we spend the day in Ho Chi Minh City, previously known as Saigon. Our guided tour takes us past the now-demolished wartime American Embassy on the way to the Reunification Palace, the former residence of the President. Close to the palace are some striking French colonial structures including the Notre Dame Cathedral and the Old Saigon Post Office.
We visit the Jade Emperor Pagoda, believed to be the “god of the heavens.” Then visit the War Remnants Museum opened in 1975 as “The House for Displaying War Crimes of American Imperialism and the Puppet Government [of South Vietnam].”
Let’s try Pho (rice noodle soup) and eat lunch at Pho 2000. Maybe we can even sit at the same table President Clinton ate at. After lunch, we are headed to the Cu Chi Tunnels, consisting of more than 200km of underground tunnels. The main tunnels have many branches connecting to underground hideouts, shelters, and entrances to other tunnels.
When we return to Ho Chi Minh City, relax before our Welcome Dinner Cruise on the Saigon River.
Day 3: Ho Chi Minh City – Mekong Delta
Today we travel to My Tho to take a boat ride on the Mekong River. Visit an orchard island where almost all the tropical fruits of southern Vietnam can be found and tasted, the 150 year old Vinh Trang pagoda, which combines Vietnamese, Khmer and French architectures, Dong Tam snake farm and the floating market. Lunch at a pleasant restaurant inside the garden.
Tonight we will visit and shop at the night market. Eating and drinking on the street is very popular in Vietnam, and night markets offer a great window into the life of the city.
Day 4: Ho Chi Minh City – Da Nang – Hoi An
After breakfast check out and transfer to the airport for our flight to Da Nang and then on to Hoi An. We arrive in Hoi An, the largest harbor in Southeast Asia in the 1st century. Then the town became an important trading center in the 16th and 17th centuries, where Chinese, Japanese, Dutch and Indians settled.
After checking into the wonderful Hoi An Historic Hotel, we will take a walking tour of the ancient town center to visit the former merchants’ homes, the 400 year-old Japanese Covered Bridge and the colorful market famous for its clothing tailors. You will notice the architecture and relaxed lifestyle has changed little over the years.
Day 5: Hoi An
Today is a day at leisure. Explore the ancient city of Hoi An and visit the many historical sites, museums or shops. Travelers from all over the world come to Hoi An to have clothes, boots and shoes custom made. Amazingly, everything is made, fitted and completed in one day! Need a break from city life then spend the day at the beach, it is very close by, just tale a tuk-tuk.
Day 6: Hoi An – Hue – Hanoi
After breakfast our tour continues via the Hai Van Pass and Lang Co Beach to Hue, the ancient imperial capital of the 17th century. Located in central Vietnam, it is the capital of Thua Thien province lying on the banks of Huong River (Perfume River) and looks like a massive open-air museum with hundreds of temples, pagodas, palaces and tombs. Upon arrival, we stop at the tombs of Emperors, located along the Perfume River and mostly dating from the 19th to 20th Century. The finest of these tombs are Imperial City and the Tomb of Khai Dinh.
We take a late evening flight to Hanoi. On arrival in Hanoi, we are met by our driver and transferred to the Silk Path Hotel.
Day 7: Hanoi
Today we continue exploring Hanoi. Visit Ho Chi Minh’s Mausoleum and his living quarters. Despite Ho Chi Minh’s request to be cremated, like communist leaders before him, he was embalmed and put on display. A visit to his mausoleum is a somber experience. Next we visit The Hanoi Hilton (The Hoax Lo Prison) used by the North Vietnamese Army to house, torture and interrogate captured servicemen, mostly American pilots shot down during bombing raids. Today it is a museum.
The highlight of the day will be our cyclo tour around Hanoi’s Old Quarter. Sit back and relax on your cyclo while the driver peddles you through the narrow streets.
Day 8: Hanoi – Ha Long Bay
In the morning we travel to Ha Long Bay, a world natural heritage site. On the way we stop at the Hong Ngoc handicraft village for shopping. Then we continue on to Ha Long port where the crew welcomes us aboard our Pelican Cruise.
Enjoy a welcome drink, check into our cabins and have lunch as the junk cruises into Ha Long Bay. Float along and view the amazing karsts: Mat Islet, But Moc Islet, Cap De Islet, Trong Cave, Trinh Nu Cave, to a floating fishing village.
We disembark at Sung Sot Cave (Cave of Surprises), the largest cave in Ha Long Bay. Many stalactites hang from the high ceiling creating numerous forms and shapes Of course there will be time for swimming and sunbathing. Enjoy a great sunset dinner and relax before retiring to the comfort of your cabin.
Day 9: Ha Long Bay – Hanoi
Enjoy the beauty of a Ha Long Bay sunrise and a morning view of the Bay’s landscapes with a cup of tea or coffee. Breakfast is served while we begin cruising the bay to visit Man’s Head Island, Tortoise Island and the Luon Cave. Continue on our cruise through Bai Tu Long Bay passing Toad Island.
We begin to head back to Ha Long wharf enjoying the scenic route while we are served with lunch. After arriving back at the wharf we drive back to Hanoi in time to relax before we enjoy our water puppet show. A tradition that dates back as far as the 11th century, the puppets are made out of wood and then lacquered and performed in a waist-deep pool. A traditional Vietnamese orchestra provides background music during the show.
Day 10: Hanoi – Laos
Today we say goodbye to Vietnam as we transfer to the airport for our flight to Luang Prabang, Laos. On arrival, we are met by our local guide and driven to the Le Sen Boutique Hotel to drop off our luggage before our afternoon tour begins.
Our sightseeing tour of Luang Prabang includes Wat Xieng Thong, a 16th century Buddhist Temple with elaborate mosaic patterns and wall carvings, Wat Visoun, the oldest temple in the city and Wat Mai, the largest and most richly decorated with an emerald Buddha statue inside the red-gold interior. Visit the Royal Palace Museum, also known as “Haw Kham” or “Golden Hall” which was once Laos’ Royal Palace and houses historical items and artifacts. Heading out of town, we take a short drive to, Ban Phanom, an artisan village, where locals practice traditional textile-making. Their woven products are made with cotton and silk materials, together with intertwined threads to produce a shimmering effect. Then we travel up to Phousi Hill for a beautiful panoramic view from the town center to the mighty Mekong River
Tonight we will visit one of the local night markets for shopping and eating.
Day 11: Luang Prabang – Pak Ou Cave – Kuang Si Waterfall
Luang Prabang is one of the best places to witness the alms giving ceremony, which is a longstanding tradition in Laos Buddhist culture and takes place daily as the sun rises. We will follow the locals as they give alms to the monks for their daily meal and then shop at the Morning Market where vendors sell everything from rice, to fresh vegetables, to steamed fish, frogs, and anything else that might be the day’s catch.
Then we will enjoy a boat trip along the Mekong River to visit Ban Xang Hai village, to learn about rice wine making and then onto Pak Ou Cave. Pak Ou Cave has over 4,000 Buddha icons and are set in a dramatic limestone cliff at the point where the Mekong joins the Nam Ou River. There are 2 caves to visit: a lower cave called Tham Ting and an upper cave called Tham Theung. Both serve as shrines to the river spirit and Lord Buddha. On our drive back to the town we stop at Ban Xang Khong to see textile and Sa paper making in the traditional way.
This afternoon we get to admire the vibrant blue waters of the Kuang Si Waterfall as it flows down through a series of pools. After ages of flowing over rocks, the falls have etched deep lines into the stone creating a beautiful travertine pattern. The pools are smaller near the top of the falls, but tend to widen out nearer the bottom eventually becoming big enough to swim in should the tropical heat inspire a few of us to jump in.
Day 12: Luang Prabang – Elephant Experience – Vientiane
After breakfast we check-out of the hotel and drive to the Elephant Village Camp, where rescued elephants are given a safe, secure home free from abusive work. We will have the opportunity to get to know these very special animals, observe them and spend some time with them. After a short briefing about elephants, get up close and personal with elephants, including one baby elephant. Explore the Elephant Village and visit the elephant hospital, museum, photo gallery and dung paper making area. Enjoy the impressive experience of a half mile plus walk with the elephants – one person per elephant! Then relax on a traditional Lao long boat ride to the Tad Sae Waterfall where you can relax or swim in the clear water.
After lunch at the Elephant Camp restaurant we transfer to the airport for our flight to Vientiane. Upon arrival in Vientiane, we are met by our guide and driven to the Green Park Boutique Hotel. Tonight we will check out one of the many local night markets.
Day 13: Vientiane City Tour
Today our exploration of Vientiane begins with the oldest temple of Wat Sisaket, featuring over 10,000 Buddha sculptures of varying sizes and styles. Nearby is the former royal temple of Haw Phra Kaew, also a former Buddhist shrine dating back to 1565 – today, it serves as a museum of religious arts. Upon leaving this site we drive towards Patuxai, a war monument that’s like Paris’ Arc de Triomphe. The following stop is the Pha That Luang or Great Stupa, the most important Buddhist monument in Laos. This large golden stupa is believed to enshrine a breast bone of the Buddha.
Our sightseeing tour continues to the vibrant Morning Market, which is crammed with shopping malls selling everything from medicinal herbs, electronics equipment, silver jewellery, handmade silks to everyday sundries. Its outdoor section has narrow walkways lined with market-style souvenir stalls, while the mall spans 5 floors, housing shops, banks, and currency exchange services. Head to the 4th floor to find a large food court, where we can enjoy a wide range of local and international dishes for lunch.
Traveling out of the town, we make our way to see the impressive Buddha Park, an open-air sculpture park with giant sculptures of Buddha and Hindu deities. The Buddhist and Hindu sculptures were created by a mystical monk on park land near the Mekong River. The park houses over 200 sculptures, several Hindu Gods, demons and mythological creatures like a three headed elephant are pretty weathered, giving them an impression of being old.
Tonight we enjoy our farewell dinner at a local Laotian restaurant.
Day 14: Depart Vientiane
Our Vietnam and Laos adventure has come to an end. Transfer to the airport according to your flight schedule and have a safe flight home.
Vietnam and Laos New Year
Double Occupancy: $2850.00
Single Supplement: $995.00
Balance Due: February 4th
13 Nights Accommodations
Breakfast Daily – 6 Lunches – 5 Dinners
Flights Within Vietnam
Flight from Vietnam to Laos
Guided Tours per Itinerary
English-Speaking Tour Guide and Leader
Airport/Hotel Transfers on Tour Dates
All Taxes and Surcharges