Escorted small-group tour highlighting the best of Vietnam, Cambodia and Bangkok.
Hanoi – Ha Long Bay – Hoi An – Da Nang – Ho Chi Minh City – Phnom Penh – Siem Reap – Bangkok
Discover the heart and soul of Vietnam, explore the ancient glory of Cambodia, and witness the old traditions and modernity of Thailand co-existing in perfect harmony.
The itinerary strings together some of Southeast Asia’s best travel destinations including the splendid UNESCO World heritage Sites of Ha Long Bay, the Old Town of Hoi An and Angkor Wat. This is an active cultural journey designed to broaden your horizons and deepen your insight into a dynamic region that is going through rapid transformation.
- Small group (20 max).
- Experienced local guides hand-picked by the owners of Laurus Travel.
- Gratuities for all local guides and drivers included.
- Centrally located premium hotels.
- No forced shopping stops.
- No annoying long list of “options” to sell.
- Authentic local cuisine
- Daily breakfast, most lunches and dinners.
- Overnight cruise on Ha Long Bay aboard a luxury junk.
- Unlimited supply of bottled water.
- Free Wi-Fi in all hotels.
- Water puppet show in Hanoi.
- Cooking class in Hoi An.
- Village visit in Siem Reap.
- Canal cruise in Bangkok.
Nights per location:
- Hanoi: 3
- Halong Bay cruise: 1
- Hoi An: 2
- Ho Chi Minh City: 3
- Phnom Penh: 2
- Siem Reap: 3
- Bangkok: 2
Meal Code: B = breakfast / L = lunch / D = dinner
Scroll down for dates, prices, hotel list and visa requirements.
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Day 1/Thu: Departing Home City
The journey begins with your transpacific flight departing from a city of your choice. You’ll lose a day upon crossing the International Date Line.
Day 2/Fri: Arrival in Hanoi
Welcome to Hanoi! Meet your guide on arrival and transfer to the hotel. The balance of the day is at leisure. Airport transfer for guests arriving ahead of tour schedule is not included and taxi fare is about $15 US.
Day 3/Sat: Hanoi (B/L/D)
Hanoi is the capital and the second largest city of Vietnam with a population currently estimated at close to 3 million. The ancient city has had many names throughout history, all of them of Sino-Vietnamese origin. Hanoi received its current name from Emperor Minh Mang in 1831. Ha and Noi mean “river” and “in between” respectively, to reflect the fact that the city sits between Red River and To Lich River. Hanoi was the most important political centre of Vietnam between 1010 and 1802. It was eclipsed by Hue during the Nguyen Dynasty (1802–1945). The city served as capital of French Indochina from 1902 to 1954. After the French were driven out in 1954, Hanoi became the capital of North Vietnam and subsequently capital of the unified Socialist Republic of Vietnam since 1975.
Our city tour following orientation in the hotel takes in the Presidential Palace, Ho Chi Minh Mausoleum, Temple of Literature, the Old Quarter and traditional water puppet show.
The Presidential Palace was built between 1900 and 1906 to house the French Governor-General of Indochina. When Vietnam achieved independence in 1954, Ho Chi Minh (1890-1969) declined to live in the grand structure for symbolic reasons. Instead, a traditional Vietnamese stilt house was built for him in the same complex and he lived in it until he passed away. The palace is used for government functions, not open to public. The Ho Chi Minh Mausoleum is located nearby the palace.
The Old Quarter near Hoan Kiem Lake has the original street layout and architecture of old Hanoi. At the beginning of the 20th century the city consisted of only about 36 streets, most of which are now part of the old quarter. A night market (near Dong Xuan Market) in the heart of the district opens for business on weekends offering a variety of clothing, souvenirs and food.
We attend a traditional water puppet show later in the day. The show is performed in a waist-deep pool with the surface of water as stage. The puppets are made out of wood and then lacquered. The puppeteers standing behind a split-bamboo screen control the puppets using long bamboo rods and string mechanism hidden beneath the water surface. The themes are rural with strong reference to Vietnamese folklore. Stories of harvesting, fishing and festivals are highlighted, often with a humorous twist. Legends and national history are also told through short skits.
We wrap up the day with a delicious welcome dinner.
Day 4/Sun: Hanoi (B)
Today is set aside for you to recover from jet lag or explore on your own. Please feel free to ask your local guide for recommendations.
Day 5/Mon: Hanoi – Ha Long Bay (B/L/D)
Our morning drive to Ha Long Bay takes about three and half hours. Board the luxurious junk on arrival. Our overnight cruise on Ha Long Bay includes visits to a sandy beach and a limestone cave full of stalactites and stalagmites.
Inscribed in 1994 by the UNESCO as a World Heritage Site, Ha Long Bay, located in the Gulf of Tonkin and 165 kilometres from Hanoi, covers an area of 43,400 hectares and includes over 1,600 islands and islets. The exceptional scenic beauty of the limestone pillars complemented by biological interest is an ideal model of a mature Karst landscape developed during a warm and wet tropical climate. The outstanding value of Ha Long Bay is centered around the drowned limestone karst landforms, displaying spectacular pillars with a variety of coastal erosional features such as arches and caves which form a majestic natural scenery.
Day 6/Tue: Ha Long Bay – Hoi An (B/L/D)
After a leisurely breakfast, we disembark the boat and drive back to Hanoi for late afternoon flight to Da Nang, a major port city in Central Vietnam 30km north of Hoi An.
The early history of Hoi An is that of the Cham people, who created the Champa Empire which occupied much of what is now central and lower Vietnam, from Hue to beyond Nha Trang. Europeans first reached Hoi An in early 16th century when it was still known as Hai Fo. In the 18th century, Hoi An was considered by Chinese and Japanese merchants to be among the best destinations for trading in all of Southeast Asia. But its importance waned sharply at the end of the 18th century as a result of domestic turmoil and rise of Da Nang after the Vietnamese imperial court granted the French exclusive trade rights to Da Nang.
Day 7/Wed: Hoi An (B/L)
Our tour of the food market in the town centre is followed by a cooking class. We then spend the rest of the day exploring the ancient town of Hoi An, a UNESCO inscribed World Heritage Site. Our walking tour of the Old Town takes in the 400-year-old Japanese Covered Bridge Pagoda, Sa Huynh Museum, Tran Family Chapel, Phuoc Kien Assembly Hall, and a lantern making workshop.
Day 8/Thu: Hoi An – Da Nang – Ho Chi Minh City (B/L/D)
Free morning to explore on your own. Many guests probably would like to spend some time in the hotel’s lovely outdoor swimming pool. The local guide would be on hand to help you rent a bicycle and pedal into the countryside with you.
After lunch, we drive 30km back to Da Nang and visit the Museum of Cham Sculpture – a highlight of the city, prior to our late afternoon flight for Ho Chi Minh.
Day 9/Fri: Ho Chi Minh City (B/L)
Ho Chi Minh City is the largest city in Vietnam, with a population of 9 million. Formerly named Saigon, it lies 1,160km (720 miles) south of Hanoi and 605km (375 miles) southwest of Da Nang.
Ho Chi Minh City began as a small fishing village called Prey Nokor inhabited by Khmer people, who lived here for centuries before the arrival of the Vietnamese. Beginning in the early 17th century, colonization of the area by Vietnamese settlers gradually isolated the Khmers of the Mekong Delta from their brethren in Cambodia proper and resulted in their becoming a minority in the delta. Increasing waves of Vietnamese settlers, which the Cambodian kingdom could not impede because it was weakened by war with Thailand, slowly Vietnamized the area. In time, Prey Nokor became known as Saigon. Prey Nokor was the most important commercial seaport to the Khmers and the loss of the city and the rest of the Mekong Delta cut off Cambodia’s access to the East Sea. Subsequently, the only remaining Khmers’ sea access was southwesterly at the Gulf of Thailand.
Under the name Saigon, the city served as capital of the French colony of Cochinchina from 1862 to 1954 and later of the independent republic of South Vietnam from 1955 to 1975. Saigon was officially renamed Ho Chí Minh City on July 2, 1976.
Our sightseeing today begins with a stroll along Dong Khoi Street, formerly known as the Catinat Street, the main shopping district and the heart of the old colonial Saigon. Highlights include such classic European-style landmarks as Hotel De Ville, the old Opera House, Notre Dame Cathedral and the Central Post Office.
We then proceed to the Reunification Palace, formerly the presidential palace of the South Vietnamese government, which was stormed by Viet Cong troops on April 30, 1975, signifying the fall of the Republic of Vietnam commonly known as South Vietnam. The War Remnants Museum is the last on our schedule.
Day 10/Sat: Ho Chi Minh City (B/L/D)
After breakfast we embark on an excursion to Cu Chi Tunnels. Stretching over 200km, this incredible underground network was an important Viet Cong base during the Vietnam War. The tunnels were used by Viet Cong soldiers as hiding spots during combat as well as communication and supply routes, hospitals, food and weapon caches and living quarters. The tunnels were also Viet Cong’s base of operations for the Tet Offensive in 1968.
We then visit Cao Dai Temple in Tây Ninh and take in the midday service. The religion practiced here is known as Caodaism, a monotheistic religion officially established in the city of Tây Ninh in 1926.
We return to the city after lunch at a local restaurant near the temple.
Day 11/Sun: Ho Chi Minh City – Phnom Penh (B/L/D)
Depending on the type of aircraft in use, our early morning flight to Phnom Penh can take anywhere between 30 to 45 minutes.
Located at the confluence of three rivers (Tonlé Sap, Mekong and Bassac), Phnom Penh is the wealthiest and most populous (1.6 million) city in Cambodia. The Phnom Penh metropolitan area is home to about 2.2 million of Cambodia’s entire population of 15.5 million.
Phnom Penh first became the capital of Cambodia after Ponhea Yat, king of the Khmer Empire, moved the capital from Angkor Thom after it was captured and destroyed by Siam (Thailand) a few years earlier. Phnom Penh remained the royal capital for 73 years—from 1432 to 1505 before it was abandoned for 360 years (1505 – 1865) by subsequent kings due to internal fighting between the royal pretenders. Later kings moved the capital several times and established their royal capitals at various locations in Tuol Basan (Srey Santhor), Pursat, Longvek, Lavear Em and Udong. It was not until 1866, under the reign of King Norodom I (1860–1904), the eldest son of King Ang Duong, who ruled on behalf of Siam, that Phnom Penh became the permanent seat of government and capital of Cambodia again.
Beginning in 1870, the French colonialists built this riverside village into a city with hotels, hospitals, schools, prisons, barracks, banks, public works offices, telegraph offices, law courts and so on. In 1872, the first glimpse of a modern city took shape when the colonial administration employed the services of a French contractor Le Faucheur to construct the first 300 concrete houses for sale and rental to the Chinese traders. By the 1920s, Phnom Penh was known as the Pearl of Asia, and over the next four decades the city continued to experience rapid growth with the building of railways to Sihanoukville and Pochentong International Airport (now Phnom Penh International Airport).
During the Vietnam War, Cambodia was used as a base by the Viet Cong’s North Vietnamese Army. Thousands of refugees from across the country flooded the capital to escape the fighting between the various factions, thus increasing the population of Phnom Penh to reportedly 3 million. The Khmer Rouge captured the city on April 17, 1975 and started to forcibly evacuate the entire city soon after. All of its residents, including the wealthy and educated, were forced into the countryside to do manual labour so that they could become “new people” according to the Khmer Rouge. Tuol Sleng High School was turned into a prison camp known as S-21, where people were detained and tortured. Pol Pot sought a return to an agrarian economy and therefore killed many people perceived as lazy or political enemies. The Khmer Rouge was driven out of Phnom Penh by the Vietnamese in 1979, and people began to return to the city. Vietnam is historically a state with which Cambodia has had many conflicts, therefore this liberation was and is viewed with mixed feelings by the Cambodians. A period of reconstruction began, spurred by the continuing stability of government, new foreign investment and international aid.
Our sightseeing today includes the Royal Palace Complex and the National Museum.
Day 12/Mon: Phnom Penh (B/L)
Today we visit Tuol Sleng Genocide Museum and Choeung Ek Killing Fields.These sites may be too much for the visitor to stomach but they embody an important period in the country’s history no matter how repugnant that period is in our common memory.
Tuol Sleng Genocide Museum is on the same site of the high school turned prison known as S-21. Inside, Khmer Rouge’s torture devices and photos of their victims are on display. If you have read about Tuol Sleng and feel the gruesome scenes may be too disturbing, you may instead opt for a walk through the neighbourhood outside the former high school.
Choeung Ek (The Killing Fields) is 15 kilometers from the city centre. It was one of the mass grave sites of the victims of the Khmer Rouge regime.
Day 13/Tue: Phnom Penh – Siem Reap (B/L/D)
The morning flight to Siem Reap takes 40 minutes. After a light lunch, we visit the Angkor National Museum and Angkor Wat.
The archaeological museum is dedicated to the collection, preservation and presentation of Angkorian artifacts, also to provide information and education about art and culture of Khmer civilization, with collections mainly dated from Khmer Empire’s Angkor period circa 9th to 14th-century. Most of the artifacts are discovered in and around the Angkor archaeological sites nearby. Opened on November 12, 2007, the Angkor National Museum covers the golden era of the Khmer Empire in eight galleries. The museum visit at the beginning of the stay in Siem Reap is designed to better prepare tour participants for what to see next.
Angkor Wat, the modern name for the temple complex, means “Temple City” or “City of Temples” in Khmer. Angkor, meaning “city” or “capital city”, is a vernacular form of the word nokor, which comes from the Sanskrit word nagara. Wat is the Khmer word for “temple grounds”. Angkor Wat was a Hindu temple complex that was later used for Buddhism. It is the largest religious monument in the world. The temple was built by the Khmer King Suryavarman II in the early 12th century in Yaśodharapura (present-day Angkor), the capital of the Khmer Empire, as his state temple and eventual mausoleum. Breaking from the Shaiva 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 center since its foundation. The temple is at the top of the high classical style of Khmer architecture and has become a symbol of Cambodia, appearing on its national flag.
Angkor Wat combines two basic plans of Khmer temple architecture: the temple-mountain and the later galleried temple, based on early Dravidian architecture, with key features such as the Jagati. It is designed to represent Mount Meru, home of the devas in Hindu mythology: within a moat and an outer wall of 3.6 kilometres long are three rectangular galleries, each raised above the next. At the centre of the temple stands a quincunx of towers. Unlike most Angkorian temples, Angkor Wat is oriented to the west; scholars are divided as to the significance of this. The temple is admired for the grandeur and harmony of the architecture, its extensive bas-reliefs, and for the numerous devatas adorning its walls.
Day 14/Wed: Siem Reap (B/L)
Visit Angkor Thom and Ta Prohm in the morning.
Angkor Thom (literally: great city) was established in the late 12th century by King Jayavarman VII as the capital of the Khmer Empire. It covers an area of 9km² and includes several monuments from earlier eras as well as those established by Jayavarman and his successors. One inscription found in the city refers to Jayavarman as the groom and the city as his bride. Angkor Thom was the last and most enduring capital city of the Khmer empire. At the centre of the city is Jayavarman’s state temple, the Bayon, with the other major sites clustered around the Victory Square immediately to the north.
Ta Prohm is the modern name of the temple built in the Bayon style largely in the late 12th and early 13th centuries and originally called Rajavihara. Located approximately one kilometre east of Angkor Thom and on the southern edge of the East Baray, it was founded by the Khmer King Jayavarman VII as a Mahayana Buddhist monastery and university. Unlike most Angkorian temples, Ta Prohm has been left in much the same condition in which it was found: the photogenic and atmospheric combination of trees growing out of the ruins and the jungle surroundings has made it one of Angkor’s most popular temples with visitors.
Day 15/Thu: Siem Reap (B/L)
After breakfast, we drive 25km to Banteay Srei (Citadel of Women), a 10th-century temple dedicated to the Hindu god Shiva. The buildings themselves are miniature in scale but the stone carvings are magnificent. On the way back to the hotel, we stop by a village and a school in it to gain a deeper insight into the local rural life.
Day 16/Fri: Siem Reap – Bangkok (B/L)
Our morning flight to Bangkok takes 50 minutes.
Located in Chao Phraya River delta, Bangkok is the capital and the most populous city of Thailand, with a population of 8 million within the city proper or nearly 13% of the country’s total. The city is known in Thai as Krung Thep Maha Nakhon.
Bangkok traces its roots to a small trading post during the Ayutthaya Kingdom in the 15th century, which eventually grew in size and became the site of two capital cities: Thonburi in 1768 and Rattanakosin in 1782. Bangkok was at the heart of Siam’s (as Thailand used to be known) modernization during the later 19th century, as the country faced pressures from the West. The city was the centre stage of Thailand’s political struggles throughout the 20th century, as the country abolished absolute monarchy, adopted constitutional rule and underwent numerous coups and uprisings. The city grew rapidly during the 1960s through the 1980s.
The Asian investment boom in the 1980s and 1990s led many multinational corporations to locate their regional headquarters in Bangkok. The city is now a major regional force in finance and business. It is an international hub for transport and health care, and is emerging as a regional centre for the arts, fashion and entertainment. The city is known for its vibrant street life and cultural landmarks, as well as its notorious red-light districts. The historic Grand Palace and Buddhist temples including Wat Arun and Wat Pho stand in contrast with other tourist attractions such as the nightlife scenes of Khaosan Road and Patpong. Bangkok is among the world’s top tourist destinations.
Bangkok’s rapid growth amidst little urban planning and regulation has resulted in a haphazard cityscape and inadequate infrastructure systems. Limited roads, despite an extensive expressway network, together with substantial private car usage, have resulted in chronic and crippling traffic congestion. This in turn caused severe air pollution in the 1990s. The city has since turned to public transport in an attempt to solve this major problem. Four rapid transit lines are now in operation, with more systems under construction or planned by the national government and the Bangkok Metropolitan Administration.
We begin our afternoon sightseeing at Wat Arun – a Buddhist temple that is among the best known of Thailand’s landmarks..The temple derives its name from the Hindu god Aruna, often personified as the radiations of the rising sun.
We then enjoy a relaxing cruise aboard a long tail boat that plies Chao Phraya River and the canals of Thonburi. This is a perfect way to watch the skyline of Bangkok and to observe the local life.
Day 17/Sat: Bangkok (B/L/D)
Our morning sightseeing begins at the royal Grand Palace. Established in 1782, the palace was dramatically expanded throughout successive reigns. The king and his royal government were based on the grounds of the palace until 1925. The present monarch, King Bhumibol Adulyadej (Rama IX), resides at Chitralada Palace, but the Grand Palace is still used for official events.
We then proceed to the National Museum, which is the largest museum in Southeast Asia and features exhibits of Thai art and history.
After lunch we spend the rest of the day exploring on our own.
Day 18/Sun: Bangkok – Home City (B)
The tour ends today. Transfer to the airport for return home flight. If you are staying behind, taxi fare to get to the airport should cost around US$12. Transfer to the airport by Airport Rail Link is much cheaper – $2 per person. Arrive home the same day after re-crossing the International Date Line.
|Ha Long cruise||1||Paradise Cruises||luxury|
|Hoi An||2||Hotel Royal Hoi An||luxury|
|Ho Chi Minh City||3||Renaissance Riverside||luxury|
|Phnom Penh||2||La Rose Suites||luxury|
|Siem Reap||3||Victoria Angkor Resort||luxury|
Departure Dates and Prices
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See Terms & Conditions for more information.
A passport with at least three (3) blank visa pages and six (6) months validity at the end of the tour is required.
You’ll need two photos of passport type (2×2 inches) for this trip but please bring four (4), just in case.
Vietnam Tourist Visa on Arrival – $25 USD
Although you may apply for your visa prior to arrival through the Vietnamese embassy, we advise against it because visa on arrival (VOA) is simple and more cost-effective. We will send you a Visa on Arrival Approval Letter prior to the trip. The fee for a single entry visa valid up to 30 days is $25 USD, payable on arrival and in US dollars cash only – no other currency or form of payment is accepted. Cost associated with your Approval Letter is included in the tour price.
If you need assistance with your visa application on arrival, a surcharge of $20 in cash payable to the handler on arrival would apply.
Cambodia Tourist Visa on Arrival – $35 USD
No letter of invitation is needed. Just bring $40 USD cash and a photo of passport type. The visa fee is $35 but they may charge a $5 service fee on weekends and public holidays.
Thailand Tourist Visa
Visa is not required of nationals from Canada, the United States, Australia, the United Kingdom and a host of other Western countries if the stay is within 30 days.
Health & Immunization
You are not required of any inoculation certificate to enter any of the above countries. However, we do suggest you visit your family physician or a travel medicine clinic to determine what precautions you should take. We recommend inoculation shots for hepatitis A and suggest that you check out advice provided by the US CDC and Health Canada.
Tap water is not safe to drink. Ask for bottled or boiled water when eating in restaurants. When buying bottled water from street vendors, especially at tourist sites, make sure the cap is properly sealed because some vendors may be selling tap water in recycled bottles.
Try to avoid uncooked food. Even the food you eat is clean, you may still experience stomach upsets or diarrhea due to ingredients your stomach is not used to.
Always carry a roll of toilet paper and a bottle of hand sanitizer containing more than 60% of alcohol, no matter where you go.
Vietnam: Vietnamese Dông (VND)
Cambodia: Cambodian Riel (KHR)
Thailand: Thai Baht (THB)
Major credit cards are widely accepted throughout the above countries and can be used for major purchases. U.S. dollars are widely accepted in Vietnam and Cambodia, particularly so in Cambodia, but it is still better to use VND while in Vietnam. Merchants in Thailand generally decline any currency other than their own.
I think I am over my jet lag and will make an attempt to give you some feedback about our trip.
Will begin with the very small negatives. For us, there may have been a bit too many visits with Buddha in museums and temples. We realize Buddha is a very important part of the culture but after awhile our brains just shut down unless we were seeing something extraordinary (i.e. Emerald Buddha for one). My husband chose to sit out on 2 museums – one I wished I had joined him but the other one, I think he missed out on (the one that included seeing the Thai King’s funeral chariot – quite amazing!). The only other comment is meant only to save Laurus some money. On one of our short domestic flights, we were served a pre-ordered meal which turned out to be too spicy to eat. We probably wouldn’t have bothered mentioning it except that one of the ladies brought it to Jacobs attention and we certainly didn’t want to seem ungrateful.
Now for the good part!! This second tour with Laurus proved that we had not made a mistake by booking with your company for a second time. The accommodations, buses, vans, night on the boat in Halong Bay and restaurants were wonderful. Someone asked me for a highlight of the trip and I told them there were so many I couldn’t just choose one! So here are a few that stand out: boat tour of Halong Bay, Lantern making factory (such fun!), Red Bridge cooking class (what a hilarious chef), War Remnants Museum (so very sad,but interesting), Chi Cu tunnels (amazing), Killing Fields and Genocide Museum (stunningly sad), Angkor Wat & other ruined temples (fabulous), the one room school (eye opening – such sweet children), and lots and lots in-between 🙂
Now for Jacob, our fearless leader!! What a gem you have in him as a tour leader and guide. We began to think he could read our minds!! All we had to do was wonder out loud about something and the next thing we knew, he would have found out for us if he didn’t already know. He is very professional and made sure everything was as perfect as it could be for us. And, he was such a good sport as we dragged him around Bangkok after dark in search of adventures. I hope we didn’t give him too many grey hairs! After we had him as our local guide in Beijing we assumed that we’d never meet him again so were delighted to see him in Hanoi. He was part of so many wonderful memories for us. Definitely a 5-star tour guide working for a 5-star tour company…!! We have in the past and will again in the future not hesitate to recommend Laurus Travel to all our family and friends.
Thank you again for a wonderful trip!!
Lee & Denise F
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