Indochina:Vietnam, Cambodia & Laos    *alt*

16 days, from £4290
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Stories by Ken Burns
Explore the three countries, each with its own unique culture, history and traditions, that share the Indochinese Peninsula between China and India on Tauck's most comprehensive of Laos, Cambodia and Vietnam tours. The French influence is still felt in the cities while life in the countryside, a world of rice paddies, small villages and floating markets along the banks of the Mekong River, continues on much as it did before the French arrived. Multiple-night stays in Hanoi, Ho Chi Minh City and historic Hoi An - plus an overnight cruise on Ha Long Bay and explorations in the Mekong Delta - complete the portrait of Vietnam, then and now. From your arrival in Phnom Penh to days spent exploring the UNESCO World Heritage Site of Angkor and its treasures, Cambodia casts its own spell. In Laos, only welcoming tourists since the late 1990s, 49 ethnic groups put their own spin on life and living, providing a cultural richness as seen in the cuisine, the customs, the temples and the markets. These 16 days in Indochina will expand your horizons, deepen your insights and transform your view of the world.


 Day 1 Welcome to Hanoi

The newest of Tauck's Vietnam tours begins at the Sofitel Legend Metropole Hanoi at 6:30 PM. A transfer from Hanoi's Noi Bai International Airport to your historic landmark hotel is included. Please join us this evening to meet your Tauck Director and your fellow travellers at our welcome cocktail reception and dinner.

 Day 2 History in Hanoi

Begin your exploration of Hanoi in Da Ba Dinh Square, where you'll view Ho Chi Minh Mausoleum, the Presidential Palace, Ho's "house on stilts" and the One-Pillar Pagoda. Take a buggy ride through Colonial Hanoi, seeing the Opera House and other local sights. Go inside infamous Hoa Lo Prison ('Hanoi Hilton'), where Senator John McCain and Douglas 'Pete' Wilson were once imprisoned during the Vietnam War. After lunch and some free time this afternoon, enjoy a traditional Vietnamese water puppet performance, a uniquely North Vietnamese art form celebrating rural life and folklore for over 1,000 years, this evening.

 Day 3 Cruising on Ha Long Bay

Watch rural Vietnamese daily life unfold as you pass water buffalo, ancient temples and local farmers at work in the rice paddies en route to Ha Long Bay. Called the 'Bay of the Descending Dragons,' legend has it that dragons sent by the gods to help defend the land against ancient invaders spat out jewels and jade that became the many emerald-green islands and islets that dot the bay today. Board the Bhaya III, a wooden junk combining traditional oriental design and modern amenities, for an overnight cruise among the thousands of limestone islands. This experience is an unforgettable highlight of Tauck's Laos, Cambodia and Vietnam tours. After lunch onboard ship, board a bamboo boat for a cruise along a floating fishing village. Return to Bhaya III for some free time to go swimming or kayaking, followed by a cooking demonstration before dinner onboard this evening.

 Day 4 From the bay to Hoi An via Da Nang

After spending part of the morning cruising on Ha Long Bay, disembark Bhaya III and return to Hanoi to catch your flight to the city of Da Nang on the South China Sea. From there, you'll travel a short distance to the UNESCO World Heritage Site of Hoi An, where you'll spend the next two nights in Grand Deluxe rooms in your MGallery Collection hotel, the Hotel Royal Hoi An.

 Day 5 The past preserved in centuries-old Hoi An

Today, discover how the traditions of the past are treasured in the present in Hoi An on the Thu Bon River, a key international trading port between the 15th and 19th centuries - now a UNESCO World Heritage Site for its well-preserved, centuries-old streets, dwellings, temples and pagodas, including the Phung Hung House, an 18th-century Japanese-style bridge and a riverside street market. After touring Hoi An's historic highlights via cyclo, spend the rest of the day and evening exploring this living museum as you wish, or simply relaxing at your hotel.

 Day 6 Ho Chi Minh City & the Cu Chi Tunnels

Fly from Da Nang to Ho Chi Minh City; upon arrival, head to the Cu Chi Tunnels in Ben Duoc for a close-up look at the Vietnam War. Stretching out in a 120-mile underground network of meeting rooms, triage centers and kitchens, this vast complex allowed North Vietnamese combatants to evade discovery as they moved freely throughout the area, and offers a unique look at life in wartime Vietnam. Enjoy dinner tonight at an elegant French restaurant in the garden courtyard of a restored villa.

 Day 7 Once known as Saigon... Ho Chi Minh City

Today's Ho Chi Minh City - once known as Saigon - bustles with forward-looking energy in glittering skyscapes, street vendors and open-air cafes. A sightseeing tour takes in vestiges of its past, including Reunification Hall (formerly South Vietnam's presidential palace), and the ornate French colonial architecture of the Post Office and Notre Dame Cathedral. Spend the afternoon and evening exploring as you like.

 Day 8 Riverside life in the Mekong Delta

From Ho Chi Minh City, drive to the Mekong River town of Cai Be and board a motorized sampan to cruise through small villages along the banks and floating markets for an authentic look at daily life along the river and the Mekong Delta. Stop at a local rice paper workshop and a fish sauce factory to sample their wares. Lunch at a local farmer's home provides a glimpse of daily life before you return by land to your hotel in Ho Chi Minh City.

 Day 9 Ho Chi Minh City to Phnom Penh

Take a morning flight from Ho Chi Minh City to Cambodia's capital, Phnom Penh, arriving in time for lunch. This afternoon, visit the Apsara Arts Association, dedicated to the preservation of traditional Cambodian dance and culture. Dine in style this evening at one of the city's top restaurants for fine French cuisine. Your home for the next two nights is the landmark Raffles Hotel Le Royal, where French colonial ambiance has been welcoming royalty, celebrities and jetsetters for over eighty years.

 Day 10 Many faces of Phnom Penh

Explore Phnom Penh's Royal Palace complex this morning, where you'll find solid silver tiles on the floor of the Silver Pagoda, which today serves as a repository for religious and cultural treasures; the architecture of the various buildings in the complex is extraordinary. Visit the National Museum, housing the world's premier collection of Khmer art, including bronzes, ceramics and sculpture, and chronicling Cambodia's history and culture. After lunch, join us for a poignant, optional trip to the infamous 'Killing Fields' of Choeung Ek and the Tuol Sleng Museum, memorializing the victims of the infamous 'S-21' prison operated at the site.

 Day 11 On to amazing Angkor

Take a short flight from Phnom Penh to Siem Reap and the UNESCO World Heritage Site of Angkor. More than 1,000 archeological sites have been identified at what were the ancient Khmer metropolitan areas. Begin exploring some of them today on a guided visit to Angkor Wat, said to be the largest temple ruins in the world; the bas-reliefs that adorn the massive temple are among the finest examples of 12th-century Khmer art. Dine a la carte at your hotel, Raffles Grand Hotel d'Angkor, this evening.

 Day 12 Khmer monuments of Angkor

Unlike other temples at Angkor, Ta Prohm has been left much as it was found, surrounded by jungle with silk-cotton trees growing out of the walls and covering them with roots; the temple's stele records indicate that over 12,000 people once lived at the site. Explore Angkor Thom, the last capital city of the Khmer Empire, home to the incomparable Bayon Temple and the Elephant Terrace, a huge platform adorned with carvings of elephants and used as a reviewing stand for grand public ceremonies long ago. After lunch at a popular local restaurant, the rest of the day is free to spend as you please.

 Day 13 Discover Luang Prabang in Laos

After a morning at leisure in Siem Reap, take an afternoon flight from Cambodia to Laos. The colours may be what you notice first when you arrive in Luang Prabang: the flowers, saffron-clad monks, and gold or ruby wats: but the city, a UNESCO World Heritage Centre, is best known for its temples, French provincial architecture and friendly, multiethnic people. Enjoy dinner at your luxurious hotel after settling in for a three-night stay.

 Day 14 Alms in Luang Prabang & local rural life

Shortly after dawn in Luang Prabang, a gong announces the end of morning prayers and the beginning of a procession of monks emerging from the temples to seek alms; rise early this morning to experience this extraordinary ritual. After breakfast, explore the National Museum, preserved from its days as a royal residence at the turn of the 20th century and depicting day-to-day life for the rich and royal; visit the Wat Mai temple; and take an orientation tour of the city. Then, a scenic drive through the countryside leads to the multi-tiered cascades of the Tad Kouang Si waterfalls, tumbling over limestone formations to create turquoise-colored pools; the wildlife-rich jungle surrounding the falls entices with natural footpaths perfect for hiking. Return to your hotel in Luang Prabang for an evening spent at as you please.

 Day 15 Life in the Laotian countryside

Spend the morning on a community based living rice farm situated in the idyllic countryside, surrounded by mountains and rice paddies. You'll have an opportunity to experience the life of local rice farmers and try your hand at some of their daily activities, or view them from the comfort of a traditional Lao rice house balcony, surrounded by rice terraces and an organic vegetable farm. There will also be time to visit local handicraft workshops featuring crafts including bamboo weaving, blacksmithing, and sugar cane processing, and a tour of an organic garden offers insights on how natural herbs are used in traditional medicine. Return to the hotel for an afternoon at leisure; join us for a farewell dinner that is highlighted by a special Lao welcome and a traditional Lao Baci well-wishing ceremony, complete with music and dance.

 Day 16 Laotian temples, then homeward bound

This newest of Tauck's Vietnam tours ends in Hanoi. Begin the final day of your tour with a morning visit to Luang Prabang's most beautiful temple, Vat Xiang Thong. Once a royal temple where Laotian kings were crowned, it is still home to the royal funeral chapel with the 12-meter-high funeral chariot and funeral urns for each member of the royal family. Remodeled in the 1960s, the temple features a gilded entrance, walls covered in black lacquer and decorated with gold figures and symbols and the impressive 'tree of life' mosaic of stained glass, which is one of the best-known images in Laos. After some free time and lunch, take an afternoon flight back to Hanoi's Noi Bai International Airport to connect with your onward flight home. Allow 3 hours for check-in. We wish you a safe and pleasant journey.