Day 1: Welcome to Bangkok
When you arrive at airport in Bangkok, you'll be smilingly met and transferred to your downtown hotel. The remainder of the day will be all yours to stroll around or simply relax. Overnight in Bangkok.
Day 2: Full Day – Highlights of Bangkok (B, L)
A visit to the Royal Grand Palace, the nation’s landmark and most praised royal monument in Thailand, with the enclosed and dazzling Wat Phra Kaew is a must. Wat Phra Kaew, also called the Temple of the Emerald Buddha, is well known for its Golden Chedi, its Pantheon of the Chakri Kings and its Eight Coloured Tower. In Thailand, it is considered by many to be a living example of a classical Siamese Court, being the former residence of the kings of Thailand.
Wat Pho is regarded as the first centre of public education and is sometimes called ‘Thailand’s first university’. Mural paintings, inscriptions, and statues found in the temple educated people on various subjects such as literature, warfare, archaeology, astronomy, geology, meditation and is considered to be home of Thai traditional massages. Here, you will enjoy a 30-minute Thai massage as an excellent break after a morning sightseeing. Experience an afternoon trip along the bustling Chao Phya River and the quiet Klong (canals) in a long tail boat, in which you can enjoy scenes of Bangkok life. We will bring you to a more traditional and serene way of living around Thonburi residential areas, away from all the skyscrapers and modern buildings of Bangkok City Centre. We will also stop by the “Temple of Dawn” (officially named Wat Arun).
Finally, a visit to the Flower and Vegetable market will round off this day. Located close to the Chao Phraya River, the place pictures a rural piece of Bangkok where a vast selection of all kinds of flowers, especially orchids and tropical flowers, can be found. Also, observe how the merchants create very special flower garlands. This Bangkok day tour ends at the Golden Mountain. Overnight in Bangkok.
Note: photography is permitted in the Royal Palace Grounds and in the compounds of the Emerald Buddha Temple, but not inside the buildings. Also, note that the chapel is a national shrine and that you will be required to wear proper attire (no bare shoulders, knees or strapless-heel shoes). Shoes must be removed before entering the temple buildings as a matter of respect.
Day 3: Full Day Ayutthaya by Coach & Cruise (B, L)
Visit the former capital of Thailand, Ayutthaya, situated approximately 75 kilometres north of Bangkok and which is one of those destinations you have to see. The mix of cultures in Ayutthaya began in the mid-16th century when ships from Ayutthaya plied the Asian seas, trading with neighbouring countries. When the Dutch showed up in the 17th century, Ayutthaya became a port city and trade routes were extended to China, Japan, Indonesia, Portugal, Holland and France and even up to the Scandinavian countries later. Although the ancient villages of foreign traders lining on the Chao Phraya riverbanks were abandoned when the city was sacked by Burmese troops in 1767, some remnants have survived and now showcase the city’s past glory. The tour will start at the Summer Palace of the late King Rama V, commonly known as “Bang Pa-In”. You will then continue to the magnificent ruins of early splendour that Ayutthaya is famous for all over the world. We will pass or visit all the most impressive ruins of this World Heritage Site. We will eventually return to Bangkok by cruising down the Chao Phraya River on a comfortable, air- conditioned cruise ship, while enjoying a sumptuous buffet lunch on board. Upon arrival at the disembarkation point in Bangkok in the late afternoon, we will transfer you back to your booked hotel.
Note: Kindly be aware that proper attire is required to enter the Summer Palace compounds; Hainam Travel staff will be pleased to advise you accordingly.
Day 4: Morning Flight to Luang Prabang & Afternoon City Tour (B, L)
Morning transfer to airport for your flight to Luang Prabang. Upon arrival, you will be picked up by another local guide who will transfer you to your hotel.
After you have had time to rest and freshen up we will head off on bicycles to see some of the highlights of Luang Prabang including a visit to the Royal Palace Museum, which hosts a range of interesting artifacts from the Royal period in Luang Prabang. Cycling on, we are seeing the city’s oldest temples, the magnificent Wat Xiengthong with its roof sweeping low to the ground, representing classical Lao architecture, the impressive stupa of Wat Visoun and the shrine of Wat Aham. Your evening to free to explore the town and night market or relax at the hotel. Overnight in Luang Prabang
Day 5: Luang Prabang – Kuang Si Waterfall - Pak Ou Caves (B)
After breakfast begin our journey to Kuang Si Waterfall with stop en-route to visit the morning Phousi Market, this where all locals of Luang Prabang come to do their daily shopping. You will find a variety of local foodstuffs and products including dried buffalo skin, local tea and saltpeter among the chickens, fish, vegetables and fruit, everything needed for daily life in Laos. On arrival at the Kuang Si Falls you will have the opportunity to cool off with a refreshing swim in the topaz pools below the falls, walk along the forest trails and visit the Bear Sanctuary. You will also enjoy a picnic lunch below the falls.
Upon return to Luang Prabang, board our private boat for a pleasant and scenic cruise up on the Mekong River to the mysterious Pak Ou Caves. These caves are an ancient pilgrimage site and contain thousands of gold lacquered Buddha images left there over hundreds of years. Returning to Luang Prabang, disembark and you might consider taking a short drive to Ban Phanom, a village famous for its hand weaving or returning to the hotel for free time to relax. Overnight in Luang Prabang.
Day 6: Luang Prabang – Living Land Farm (B)
This morning we head out to Living Land Farm, a working community farm aprroximately 5kms outside the town. There you will learn all about the rice growing process and have an opportunity to participate in seasonal farm activities such as identifying viable rice seeds, ploughing with a buffalo, hand planting, weeding and harvesting rice and threshing rice seed.
You may be picking vegetables form the organic garden or catching fish to cook for your all natural, organic lunch where there will be a variety of local rice products for you to sample. You will return to Luang Prabang in the late afternoon. Overnight in Luang Prabang.
Day 7: Luang Prabang – Afternoon Flight to Hanoi (B)
Free morning of leisure until you will be transferred to the airport in time for your afternoon flight to Hanoi. When you arrive at Noi Bai International airport in Hanoi, you'll be met and transferred to your downtown hotel. The remainder of the day will be your own. Overnight in Hanoi.
Day 8: Hanoi City Tour, Cyclo & Water Puppet Show (B, L)
This city tour of Hanoi takes in essential sites which will commence from your hotel lobby at 08.30 a.m. In the morning, you'll visit the Ho Chi Minh Complex including the Mausoleum, his former stilt-house residence, the Presidential Palace and the Ho Chi Minh Museum; The Temple of Literature - Vietnam’s first university dating back to 1070. After lunch at a local Vietnamese restaurant, you'll continue visiting the Museum of Ethnology, widely acknowledged as the best in the country, containing an extensive display of life-size structures dedicated to Vietnam’s 54 ethnic minority peoples; enjoy a cyclo ride for 1 hour touring through the narrow, chaotic streets of the Old Quarter - a must for any visitor to Hanoi! The day finishes with a traditional performance of the famous Vietnamese water puppets. Overnight in Hanoi.
Note: the Ho Chi Minh Mausoleum is closed all day on Monday and Fridays, as well as from 1st October to 30th November (approx.) for annual conservation. Most museums close on Mondays.
Day 9: Off to Halong Bay [Join with other travelers on the cruise] (B, L, D)
At 08.00, you will be picked up at your hotel and start the scenic 3.5 hour drive to Halong Bay, one of the most spectacular UNESCO World Heritage Areas and the world's largest marine limestone 'karst' landscape. Enjoy the landscape of the Red River Delta countryside and have a short break en-route. Meet the crew upon boarding the traditional wooden junk, then relax and enjoy lunch while the boat heads towards the secluded islands. Visit a fishing village by a rustic rowing-boat, meet the local people and pass through the floating school and pearl farms. Return to the junk refreshed and and relax on sundeck with a drink to watch the sunset. Enjoy a freshly prepared seafood dinner under the stars. Overnight in Halong Bay.
Day 10: Halong Bay - Hanoi - Flight to Danang – Transfer to Hoi An (B, L)
Enjoy an early morning swim/Taichi (if weather permits) followed by breakfast. You will visit a famous ancient limestone cave in the middle of the bay where you’ll discover magnificent stalagmites and stalactites as you walk along the lit paths on a guided tour. Enjoy a tasty brunch while cruising back to the main harbor Pier where your private car will be waiting for you and drive straight to Noi Bai airport in Hanoi for a late afternoon flight to Danang. On arrival, pick up and transfer to your hotel in the downtown.
Day 11: Hoi An's Ancient Gems - Guided Walking Tour (B, L)
At 8:30 sharp, your guide will meet you at your hotel lobby to give you a proper show-around of the old town. You'll start a walking tour with a lion's share of places of interest: the 400-year old Japanese Covered Bridge; the Phuc Kien Assembly Halls; the museum and the colorful local market. Following the narrow lanes, you'll meander through tiny streets studded by houses influenced by Chinese, Japanese, French and European architectures. After such gallavanting, your time will be your own to wander around or getting amongst some retail therapy. This afternoon is your own. If you wish to get your clothes tailored, head to a tailor in town and he will turn back to you within 24 hours at a reasonable cost. Overnight in Hoi An.
Day 12: Hoi An –Free Day of Leisure (B)
Apart from exploring Hoi An's World Heritage architecture & colorful market on foot, you might visit Vietnam's grandest Cham ruins at My Son; attend a cooking class at a riverside restaurant; or join other travelers to get up close and personal to daily farming and fishing life. For early risers, why not capture the real Hoi An by joining a 4-hour photography tour led by a local expat expert? If you want to go below, hop on a boat to Cu Lao Cham Island for a fun and relaxing day to explore exotic coral reefs and marine life [best between March & September]. If you'd like any of these activities to be included during your free time in Hoi An, just let it be known during your enquiry, or ask one of the Travel Specialists. Overnight in Hoi An.
Day 13: Morning Flight to Ho Chi Minh City & Cu Chi Tunnels Exploration (B, L)
First up, you head to Danang airport for your morning dash to Ho Chi Minh City. Upon arrival, you'll be met by another local expert who will escort you for your drive to the stupefying Cu Chi Tunnels. After a light lunch at a local restaurant [today at your own cost], visit the amazing network of underground tunnels that was used by the Viet Cong throughout the War. This huge construction was a war-time home for many villagers. With three different levels and despite its proximity to Saigon, it was never discovered by the US. Visit the fighting tunnel system with your local guide, before heading back to Ho Chi Minh City in the late afternoon. Overnight in Ho Chi Minh City.
Day 14: Sights & Sounds of the Bustling City (B, L)
Today you'll embark on a guided city tour, starting with the War Remnants Museum - a real eye-opening part of Vietnam's proud history; followed by the Reunification Palace; the former South Vietnam Presidential Palace; the Notre Dame Cathedral and Old Post Office, as you get your camera working overtime peeking into the past of Vietnam's biggest, most energetically progressive city. After a tasty lunch at a local restaurant, continue with a Chinatown walking tour through the back streets to be part of the local daily life. Visit Ben Thanh market for an insight into where the locals actually shop.
Day 15: Introduction to the Mekong Delta (B, L)
At 8.00 AM, depart for a 2 hour drive to Ben Tre, one of the country's southern provinces, situated in the Delta of the Mekong River. Take in the highway as you leave behind the busy city. On arrival, take a boat on Ben Tre River – one of tributaries of Mekong River to witness lively activities along river such as fishing, water transferring. Stop at brickwork to see how to make bricks in traditional style by printing and baking. You will visit one of plenty of coconut processing workshops located along canal. Turn on natural scissors creeks where they look smaller and smaller to go to village. Take a walk to family workshop making sleep mats and enjoying some fruits. Later, take a motor-cart on shady village paths, passing by green rice fields and vegetable plains to be able to touch on real life and find out about tropical culture from Peasants. After lunch at a riverside restaurant, enjoy rowing-boat along water palm creek, and boat back to pier where you will be taken to Ho Chi Minh City, arriving at around 17.00
Day 16: Ho Chi Minh City – Morning Flight to Siem Reap (B, L)
Morning you will be picked up to head to Ho Chi Minh City's Tan Son Nhat Airport for your flight to Siem Reap. Afternoon you’ll explore Angkor Wat that is the most impressive Hindu temple complex and the largest religious monument in the world. Breaking from the Shaivism tradition of previous kings, Angkor Wat was instead dedicated to Vishnu. As the best-preserved temple at the site, it is the only one to have remained a significant religious centre since its foundation – first Hindu, dedicated to the god Vishnu, then Buddhist. The temple is at the top of the high classical style of Khmer architecture. It has become a symbol of Cambodia, appearing on its national flag, and it is the country's prime attraction for visitors. As dusk nears, a walk to the summit of Phnom Bakheng Hill will afford a panorama of the whole complex lit by the rays of the setting sun, weather permitting of course. Overnight in Siem Reap.
Day 17: Siem Reap - Angkor Thom - Taprohm Monastery – Boat Trip on Tonle Sap Lake (B, L)
You’ll begin with a visit to Angkor Thom, starting with the Bayon, a bizarre structure of several architectural changes reflecting a switch from Hinduism (the foundations) to Buddhism (the superstructure). Your next visit will be to the Elephant and Leper King Terraces followed by the Baphoun Temple, which is now nearing the end of an eight-year multi-million dollar restoration programme. You’ll also call in Ta Prohm monastery, strangled by massive tree roots and typical of the condition of the whole complex when it was discovered in 1860 by French naturalist Henri Mouhot. After lunch, travel about 15km to the fishing village of Chong Kneas, where you will board a traditional boat to discover the Tonle Sap Lake and see the daily activity of people living on floating houses. “The Tonlé Sap is the largest freshwater lake in South East Asia and is an ecological hot spot that was designated as a UNESCO biosphere in 1997.”
Day 18: Depart Siem Reap (B)
Your time will be your own until you're picked up for your departure flight. Farewell from Southeast Asia!