Ancient Kingdoms of South East Asia

Tour Highlights

• Vietnam  • Laos  • Cambodia
Southeast Asia is an exciting region of great contrasts, from rural villages and French colonial cities to modern skylines. Spectacular scenery abounds with lush tropical vegetation, misty mountains, terraced rice paddies, magnificent temples, open-air markets and traditional villages.  Much of the beauty of this region lies in the peacefulness and warmth of the people who have lived much the same way for hundreds of years.

  • Delightful Vietnam stretches from the Chinese border to the tropical Mekong Delta, offering unspoiled nature, beautiful islands, bustling cities, fantastic cuisine and friendly people.  Cambodia is a country of wondrous beauty and, as the successor to the Khmer Empire, home to Angkor Wat and the other incredible temples of 12th century Angkor - a collection of monuments unrivalled in grandeur in all of Southeast Asia.  Laos is a mountainous country long isolated from the outside world, where many of the traditions that have disappeared elsewhere remain. Rural life here is timeless, with stilt houses, paddy fields and saffron-robed monks. 

Tour Highlights:

  • Ho Chi Minh City, a buzz of commerce and culture
  • Charming temples and pagodas of Hanoi
  • The magical islands of Halong Bay
  • Vientiane, the elegant French colonial capital of Laos 
  • Vang Vieng’s fish market and Nam Ngum Lake
  • Luang Prabang - a UNESCO World Heritage Site
  • Boat trip on the Mekong Delta
  • Incredible Angkor Wat - Cambodia’s national symbol
  • Le Sap Lake’s floating villages (Siem Reap) 
  • The architectural wonders of Phnom Penh

*** 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 begins with a walk in the historic centre - the heart of old colonial Saigon, followed by a visit of the Reunification Palace - former residence 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. In the afternoon we explore Chinatown and Ben Thanh market.
This morning we visit the famous Cu Chi Tunnels - the incredible underground military base dug out by hand by the Viet Cong for the Vietnam War. Later we fly to Hanoi.
Vietnam’s capital still retains the mystery and charm of past centuries with narrow laneways and traditional shops. We will visit the Temple of Literature - a perfect example of traditional Vietnamese architecture, followed by the miniature One Pillar Pagoda and the Stilt House. Later we visit Hoan Kiem Lake, Ngoc Son Temple and the tiny Tortoise Pagoda. Tonight we attend a traditional Water Puppet Show and traditional dinner at a Vietnamese home.
We travel by coach to Halong Bay, and board 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. Many islets have wonderful caves and grottos.
We return to Hanoi and visit the Ethnology Museum before we fly to Vientiane - capital of Laos.
Vientiane has a relaxed charm, with 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" - the best place to buy traditional Lao fabrics.
We enjoy a scenic drive to Van Vieng. En route we’ll visit the Fish Market in Huay Mor, enjoy a boat trip on serene Nam Ngum Lake and visit a farm that teaches organic farming methods to the local community.
We continue our drive to Luang Prabang, stopping en route at a local village and Elephant Cave with its Buddha images and elephant shaped stalactites.
This enchanting town is a UNESCO World Heritage Site filled with historic temples and colonial style buildings. We’ll visit the most important monasteries and temples, including the oldest living temple dating back to 1513, and 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, river and countryside.
We travel by boat up the Mekong River to the steep limestone cliffs and 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.
We drive through the Laotian countryside, with its rice paddies and small villages, to Kuang Si Falls. These beautiful waterfalls cascade over calcified tiers down several hundred feet into cool, turquoise pools. After exploring the falls on the walkways and bridges we’ll enjoy a picnic lunch. On our way back to Luang Prabang we’ll stop at a paper making village to learn about this ancient artistry.
We fly to Siem Reap, and on arrival proceed to Ton Le Sap Lake for a cruise among the floating homes and small fish farms to observe daily life on the lake. This evening we enjoy a cultural dance show.
We first explore the fortified city of Angkor Thom, which includes many of Angkor's most famous sights - the Terrace of the Elephants and Leper Kings, and the mysterious Bayon Temple with its giant smiling stone faces. Next is Ta Prohm - embedded in the jungle it is one of the most popular attractions of Angkor. We finish at the extraordinary 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 artistic carvings.
A scenic drive takes us across ancient laterite bridges, to visit an important grouping of pre-Angkorian monuments en route to Phnom Penh.
Cambodia’s capital is a fascinating city of graceful tree-lined boulevards and riverfront promenades. We begin at the Royal Palace with its Silver Pagoda, followed by the National Museum which contains an interesting collection of Khmer art. This afternoon, those interested can visit 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 - a peaceful rural setting where thousands of people were killed in the 1970’s and buried in mass graves.
We fly home via Hong Kong.

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