Ancient Kingdoms of South East Asia

Tour Highlights

• Vietnam  • Laos  • Cambodia
Southeast  Asia is a colourful area of great contrasts, from rural villages and French Colonial cities to modern skylines. On this active tour we will see spectacular scenery, magnificent temples and ancient monuments in a variety of architectural styles. In all of the countries we visit, open-air markets and villages with their unique culture and traditions thrive along the rivers, surrounded by incredibly lush vegetation. 

Vietnam stretches from the misty mountains on the Chinese border to the lush tropical Mekong Delta. One of the most beautiful countries in Asia, the land remains relatively unspoiled and the people are extremely friendly, especially to visitors. The scenery, cuisine and history all make this country a fascinating and delightful destination.

Cambodia is another recently opened country of wondrous beauty.  Not yet as advanced as Thailand or Vietnam, Cambodia does offer several architectural wonders of its own, the most famous being the many temples in and around the 12th century Angkor Wat.  Once a huge city and the capital of Khmer Empire, it is now one of the “Wonders of the Ancient World”.

Laos is a mountainous and landlocked country that has long been isolated from the outside world, and because it remains untouched by the stress of modern demands you will experience here a laid-back, simpler way of life.  Laos offers pristine landscapes, century-old traditions and a rich cultural heritage. Much of its beauty lies in the peacefulness and warmth of the people who have lived much the same way for hundreds of years.

*** Those joining any of our tours to Asia must be able to walk fairly long distances and climb stairs easily.

Tentative Itinerary

We depart for Vietnam via Hong Kong.
We arrive in Ho Chi Minh City and transfer to our hotel. This evening is our Welcome Dinner.
Our city tour will take in the historic center, the main shopping areas and the heart of old colonial Saigon. We will visit the Reunification Palace, former palace of the South Vietnamese president which was stormed by tanks in 1975 signifying the fall of South Vietnam. We continue to the War Remnants Museum, which documents the long Vietnam War. Later we go to Cholon (Chinatown) for a cyclo tour of the riverfront, and a stop at the Ben Thanh market.
This morning we visit the famous Cu Chi Tunnels. We will explore and learn about this incredible underground military base (dug out by hand by the Viet Cong for the Vietnam War). Later we fly to Hanoi - capital of Vietnam.
Vietnam’s capital still retains the mystery and charm of past centuries. You will especially enjoy strolling in Hanoi’s Old Town. Our tour begins at the Temple of Literature - a great example of traditional Vietnamese architecture. We continue to the miniature One Pillar Pagoda and Stilt House. Later we see Hoan Kiem Lake, Ngoc Son Temple and the tiny Tortoise Pagoda. Tonight we attend a traditional Water Puppet Show followed by a home-hosted dinner at a Vietnamese home.
We travel by coach to Halong Bay where we embark a traditional wooden junk to spend the day cruising through beautiful islands, granite towers and rock formations with names such as Stone Dog, Incense Burner and Fighting Cock. We also see two wonderful caves and enjoy lunch on board. Dinner and overnight at Halong Bay.
We return to Hanoi and fly to Vientiane - capital city of Laos. The rest of the day is at leisure.
Vientiane has a relaxed charm - beautiful temples, tree-lined boulevards and colourful markets. Our city tour includes That Luang - a golden stupa which is Laos’ most important national monument, the formal royal temple - now a museum with fine Buddhist sculptures, and the "morning market".
We drive through the scenic province of Vang Vieng. En route we visit the Fish Market in Huay Mor and enjoy a boat trip on Nam Ngum Lake. Before reaching Vang Vieng we stop at a farm that teaches organic methods to the local community.
We travel by coach to Luang Prabang, stopping en route at local villages. We visit Elephant Cave which contains Buddha images and elephant shaped stalactites.
Luang Prabang is an enchanting town filled with historic temples and colonial style buildings. The entire town is a UNESCO World Heritage Site and boasts the oldest living temple dating back to 1513 and housing a collection of antique wooden Buddhas. We visit the most important monasteries and temples in the city as well as the National Museum (the former royal residence). Later we visit Wat Mai, a collection of small temples atop a hill offering beautiful views over the city, temples, river and countryside.
We travel up the Mekong River to the steep limestone cliffs which house the Tham Pak Ou Caves. These extraordinary caves are filled with Buddha images of every style and material imaginable. On the return journey we stop at a local village for a glimpse of daily village life.
Today we enjoy a scenic drive through the Laotian countryside, spotting rice paddies and small villages along the way, to Kuang Si Falls. These beautiful waterfalls cascade over many calcified tiers down several hundred feet into a series of cool, turquoise pools. After exploring the falls on the walkways and bridges, we will have a picnic lunch and chance to take a refreshing dip. En route back to Luang Prabang we will stop at a Sa Paper making village to witness this ancient artistry.
We fly to Siem Reap. Upon arrival we proceed to Ton Le Sap Lake for a lake cruise among the floating homes and small fish farms to observe daily life on the lake. This evening enjoy a cultural dance show.
This morning we start with a visit of the fortified city of Angkor Thom which includes many of Angkor's most popular sights. We will see the Terrace of the Elephants and Leper Kings, and the mysterious Bayon Temple with its giant smiling stone faces smiling down at you from all angles. Our next stop is Ta Prohm - embedded in the jungle it is one of the most popular attractions of Angkor. After lunch we proceed to Angkor Wat - Cambodia’s national symbol and the highlight of any visit to this fascinating country. We will thoroughly explore this temple which impresses with its sheer scale, graceful proportions and artistry of its carvings.
We drive to Cambodia’s capital, visiting important pre-Angkorian temples enroute.
Today we explore Phnom Penh, a fascinating city of graceful tree-lined boulevards and riverfront promenades. We begin at the Royal Palace with its Silver Pagoda, and then the National Museum which contains a collection of Khmer art. This afternoon (for those interested) we have included a tour to the Museum of Genocide - the interrogation and torture facility for the Khmer Rouge. Kept largely unchanged, this prison showcases photographs and exhibits about the thousands of victims. Those who wish may also visit the Killing Fields of Choeung Ek, a peaceful rural setting where thousands of people were killed in the late 1970’s and buried in mass graves.
We fly home via Hong Kong.

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