Luang Prabang Holidays

Sample Itinerary - REF SOUTHEAST ASIA 597

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Ho Chi Minh's Notre Dame Basilica Cathedral at night

Day 1: Saigon

Xin chao! Welcome to Ho Chi Minh City, Vietnam. You will be greeted by our guide and driver at Tan Son Nhat International airport for your transfer to the hotel. Ho Chi Minh City, formerly Saigon, is the largest city of Vietnam. It is the bustling economic capital and cultural trendsetter of the country, yet holds the timeless traditions of an ancient culture. Overnight in Ho Chi Minh City at the ASIAN RUBY LUXURY HOTEL.

A street trader in Saigon

Day 2: Saigon

In the morning, visit the Reunification Palace, the home and workplace of the President of South Vietnam during the Vietnam War. The nearby Notre Dame Cathedral, built between 1877 and 1883, most materials for Saigon's Notre Dame Cathedral were imported from France. Neo-Romanesque in form, it is a major centre of Catholicism in modern Vietnam, and one of the city’s major landmarks. Next door is the Saigon Post Office, a classic French colonial structure featuring huge ceilings, a giant portrait of Uncle Ho, and many beautiful details. Next visit the War Remnant Museum, contains countless artefacts and photographs graphically representing the war and its devastating impacts. The final visit of the day is the eclectic Ben Thanh Market.

The Peoples Committee Building at night in Ho Chi Minh

Day 3: Saigon

In the morning, transfer from Saigon to the Mekong delta. Upon arrival in Ben Tre, take a boat on river. Stop at a brickwork factory to see how bricks are made traditionally. Visit coconut processing workshops located along the canal. Take a short walk to a family workshop run by women making sleep mats and enjoy some fruits and tea and the opportunity to chat with local people. Next take a motor cart or bike along a shady road, pass by rice fields and vegetable plains for a close up look at rural life in Vietnam. Have a lunch with a local family in Ben Tre before taking a rowing boat along water palm creek. Back to the pier where you will be transferred back to Saigon for overnight.

A street trader in Saigon by William Cho

Day 4: Saigon - Hoi An

After breakfast this morning you will be transferred to the airport for your flight to Danang where upon your arrival you will be met and transferred to the wonderful ancient town of Hoi An. Hotel check in and remainder of the day at leisure.

Men sitting on the street in Hoi An in conical hats

Day 5: Hoi An

Take a scenic bicycle ride today through the rice paddies to Tra Que Village just outside Hoi An. This little village is well-known for supplying the many restaurants and hotels in the area with fresh herbs and vegetables. Walk through the vegetable gardens, experience how the local farmers work the land and learn more about the history of the village and the importance of herbs in Vietnamese medicine and cuisine, before your relaxing pedal back to town. Spend the afternoon on a walking tour of Hoi An, lined with Chinese traders’ homes and wooden houses reincarnated as restaurants, cafés, and outlets for local artists, craftsmen and tailors. Explore the beautiful 16th century Japanese Bridge. Hoi An's unique fusion of Chinese, Japanese and Vietnamese architecture is well displayed here.

A bridge in Hoi An

Day 6: Hoi An - Hue

Leaving Hoi An this morning, you head out to Hue, Vietnam’s last feudal capital. En-route stop at The Museum of Cham Sculpture featuring extensive and diverse displays of Hindu-influenced Cham sculpture dating from the 7th to the 15th centuries. Keep driving to Tu Duc Tomb. Tu Duc's tomb is a sprawling compound centred around a lake and several waterways, and includes numerous separate memorials connected by pleasant walkways. Planned long before Tu Duc's death in 1883, the major portions of the tomb complex were completed from 1864-67, along with future temple buildings that served as a palatial retreat for Tu Duc and his many wives during his lifetime. Arrive Hue with hotel check in.

The Perfume River in Hue

Day 7: Hue

Today enjoy touring of Hue's Imperial Citadel. The imperial city at Hue is the best-preserved remnant of a vast citadel and royal quarters that once existed on the site. Here you can see the ravages of time and war on what was the carefully designed capital of the Nguyen Dynasty. Built in the early 19th century by armies of conscripted laborers under Emperor Gia Long, the citadel was surrounded by a 10km moat, and earthen walls formed the outer perimeter. Next we head out to Thien Mu Pagoda. This 7-storey octagonal tower is a symbol of Hue. Behind the pagoda are peaceful gardens and, somewhat incongruously, the old Austin car which transported the bonze Thich Quang Duc to Saigon in 1963 for his self-immolation.

Women trading at Dong Ba Market by Tormod Sandtorv

Day 8: Hue - Hanoi

Enjoy a leisurely morning before your transfer to the airport for your flight north to Hanoi. Upon arrival you will be met and transferred to your hotel. Remainder of day at leisure.

Women practising Tai Chi by Hoan Kiem Lake

Day 9: Hanoi - Sapa

This morning head out to Ba Dinh Square and start your day with a visit to the Presidential Palace, Ho Chi Minh’s house-on-stilt and nearby One Pillar Pagoda. Next follows a visit to the Temple of Literature – the first university of Vietnam built in the 11th century and a visit to the Museum of Ethnology, which gives an excellent overview of the country's ethnic groups, their customs and ways of life. Afterwards explore the lively Old Quarter of Hanoi. This bustling heart of Hanoi has been a commercial centre since the 11th century and skilled craftsmen have to migrated here and formed artisan guilds on the famous "36 Streets". In the evening, transfer to Ha Noi station for the night train to Lao Cai.

A lady from one of the hill tribes near Sapa

Day 10: Sapa

Arriving into Lao Cai this morning you will be met and transferred to Sapa. After breakfast in a local restaurant, we start our trekking tour to Lao Chai, where we embark on a lovely hike that will take us along buffalo paths and trails through the valleys between mountains, enjoying the vistas of the village amongst the terraces. This is an absolutely spectacular walk through stunning scenery, inhabited by some of the friendliest people you can meet. Enjoy a picnic lunch before continuing to Ta Van Village to visit the Dzay people. Development has meant that some of their old customs have been lost, but many women still wear traditional shirts with a purple, blue or green colour. The Dzay houses are built of wood and bamboo with a clay floor. Back to Sapa at the end of the day.

A local child in Sapa

Day 11: Sapa - Hanoi

A day in the mountains awaits you. Starting from Sapa at 9:30, transfer to Hang Da where you start trekking towards Hau Thao village to observe the daily life of the Black Hmong minority living here. The trek continues downhill from Ham Rong mountainside, through tranquil landscapes before the path leads along the mountain slope through picturesque limestone formations. Picnic lunch will be served on the way to Su Phan. While walking, you will be rewarded by a constant view over Muong Hoa Valley, with endless rice terraces, small minority villages and stunning landscape. Arrive in Su Phan, a village of the Hmong, you will have time to stroll around the village before your driver awaits you to accompany you back to Sapa. Transfer to Lao Cai station for the night train back to Hanoi.

A street in the Old Quarter of Hanoi

Day 12: Hanoi - Halong Bay

This morning a scenic drive leads us to the stunningly beautiful UNESCO World Heritage Site of Halong Bay. Here, embark our traditional wooden junk boat we cruise the emerald waters soaking up the panoramic vista of the thousand or so karst limestone islands that stud the bay. Later opt for a refreshing swim in one of the many sheltered coves before taking row boats to the floating fishing village of Vong Vieng. Tonight, there's a Vietnamese cooking demonstration held on the sun deck before an impressive seafood dinner is served.

A junk sailing past a limestone peak in Halong Bay

Day 13: Halong Bay - Hanoi

Start the day with calming Tai Chi, often accompanied by an amazing sunrise and the quiet breath-taking beauty of the bay’s landscape. Cruise through the Bay passing beautiful spots like Trong (Drum), Trinh Nu (Virgin) and Me Cung Caves, Coc Ngoi (Toad) Islet, etc. Explore Sung Sot (Surprise) Cave. Return to the boat for your buffet brunch. The vessel cruises leisurely back to harbor. At 11:00 you will disembark and transfer back to Hanoi.

The Huc Bridge

Day 14: Hanoi - Luang Prabang

Transfer to the airport for your Flight to Luang Prabang in Laos where our local rep awaits you to transfer you to your hotel. In the afternoon visit Wat Xieng Thong, the largest and most splendid temple of Luang Prabang best known for its impressive Tree of Life mural depicting the Buddhist story. Then head out to the impressive stupa of Wat Visoun, a peaceful temple, featuring the much-photographed Watermelon Stupa and the shrine of Wat Aham. Step up Mount Phousi for spectacular 360 degree views, a popular place to watch the sun set. The Night Market here is a great place for wandering, offering a lovely variety of handmade textiles crafted by local and hill-tribe people, along with street food, knick-knacks and friendly banter. Enjoy a dinner around the lively night market.

Day 15: Luang Prabang

Today you have the option for an early wake-up call to join the locals giving food to hundreds of Buddhist monks returning from morning prayers. Take a stroll through Ban Pakham morning market and take part in this everyday ritual. This morning you will visit The National Museum, housed in the former Royal Palace, which showcases many treasures of Laos' royal past and features the Prabang, the sacred Buddha image for which Luang Prabang was named. A short drive out of Luang Prabang will take you to Khuang Si Waterfall - the multilayer falls drop several hundred feet into a series of pools. You can climb up and view the falls from above. Bring a swimsuit if you'd like to swim. Return back to Luang Prabang.

Day 16: Luang Prabang - Vientiane

Breakfast at the hotel or join the locals for a bowl of delicious noodle soup after the alms giving ritual. Later this morning you will go by boat to Pak Ou Caves. Enjoy splendid natural scenery along the way and observe local fishermen and daily activities along the river. The Pak Ou Caves, locally called Tam Ting, are filled with thousands of gold lacquered Buddha statues. The caves are noted for their miniature Buddha sculptures. Hundreds of wooden Buddhist figures take many different positions, including meditation, teaching, peace, rain, and reclining (nirvana). Afterwards transfer to Luang Prabang airport for your flight to Vientiane. Upon arrival transfer to your hotel.

Day 17: Vientiane

After breakfast drive to the outskirts of the city to visit Buddha Park, an enchanting collection of Buddhist and Hindu sculptures scattered in a meadow along the Mekong River near the Friendship Bridge. The park's signature piece is a large but very flat reclining Buddha. In the afternoon visit the city's oldest temple, Wat Sisaket. Dating back to 1818, Sisaket is the most important heritage temple in terms of philology, epigraphs, iconography, historiography and architecture now standing in Laos. En route to Lao’s national icon, That Luang Stupa, stop at the Patuxay Monument, known as Vientiane’s own Arc de Triumph. Then head to the riverside for a sundowner drink overlooking the Mekong River.

Day 18: Vientiane

Today marks the end of your incredible journey with On the Go Tours. After breakfast and hotel check out we will transfer you to the airport in time of your onward departure flight.