Tour Date: November 3-18, 2017
Tour Price: $8,000 ***INCLUDES RT AIRFARE from USA gateway city
Registration Deadline: October 1, 2017
Single supplement $1200
Guest Pro: Deborah Sandidge - www.debsandidge.com/about/
- Mekong River Cruise
- Elephant Ride excursion
- Mysterious Pak Ou Caves
- Phousi Market
- Terraced Rice Fields of Sapa
- Overnight Ha Long Bay Cruise
- Angkor Wat
- Angkor Thom
- Floating Villages of Tonle Sap
What’s Not Included
- International RT airfare from USA gateway city
- Internal airfare while in Indochina
- Local Experienced English-speaking guides
- Twin-shared rooms at 3-star hotel with good internet access.
- Meals as mentioned in the Program (B=Breakfast, L=Lunch, D=Dinner) with 2 soft drinks per person per meal.
- Land transfer by air-con vehicle, comfortable & suitable for guests in the group.
- Boat trips on Mekong River, Luang Prabang, Laos
- Boat trip on Halong bay - Vietnam
- Admission fees
- Show (Water Puppetry, Apsara dance etc.)
- Any Passport and Visa arrangements
- Early check-in, late check-out surcharge
- Additional drinks and other personal expenses (alcoholic drinks, laundry, phone calls etc.)
- Any services not specifically mentioned in the tour program
- Tips for guides or baggage handlers
- Airport Taxes
Tour Itinerary – subject to change
DAY 1: ARRIVAL LUANG PRABANG (L/D)
Welcome to Indochina!!
Upon your arrival at Luang Prabang, we’ll be picked up and transferred to our hotel. We’ll have time for lunch before heading out to begin our photography. We will start the tour from the Central Market. We then visit the impressive stupa of Wat Visoun and the shrine of Wat Aham, Wat Mai, and then we’ll climb to the top of Mount Phousi for an enjoyable exploration of the sacred, gilded stupa as well as a panoramic view of the city at sunset including views of the Mekong River. From there we will explore the Luang Prabang night Market, where you can find a lovely selection of handmade textile made by local and hilltribe people surrounding Luang Prabang. Dinner and overnight in Luang Prabang.
DAY 2: LUANG PRABANG – PAK OU - LUANG PRABANG (B/L/D)
Breakfast at the hotel. Then we’ll enjoy a short-guided tour seeing the city’s oldest temple of Wat Sene and the magnificent Wat Xiengthong with its roof sweeping low to the ground, which represents classical Laotian architecture. We then embark on a cruise upstream on the Mekong River, which also gives us a breathtaking view of the tranquil countryside. We then explore the mysterious Pak Ou Caves; two linked caves crammed with thousands of gold lacquered Buddha statues of various shapes and sizes left by pilgrims. We stop en route at the village of Ban Xanghai, where they make the local rice wine. On the way back to Luang Prabang we will take a short drive to Ban Phanom, a small village known for its hand weaving. Overnight in Luang Prabang.
DAY 3: LUANG PRABANG – ELEPHANT RIDING – HANOI (B/L/D) Flt VN 868 14:50 – 15:40
After breakfast, we’ll head to the Asian Protected Elephant Camp on Namkhane river bank where you will be introduced to giant and friendly elephants and communicate with them using some simple words during an orientation. We then ride them trough the rainforest along the bank of river about 1.5 hours, return back to Luang Prabang for lunch, and transfer to airport for a flight to Hanoi in the afternoon. Welcome in Hanoi by our local guide at airport, and transfer to Hanoi city centre. In the afternoon, we’ll shoot the sunset at West Lake before enjoying a show of Water Puppetry, a unique stage art created by the Vietnamese peasants. Overnight in Hanoi.
DAY 4: HANOI CITY TOUR – LAO CAI (B/L/D) – Train
After breakfast at the hotel we’ll start our Hanoi city tour from Ba Dinh Square – the biggest square in Hanoi where all biggest cultural, political events of the cities, especially demonstrations, take place. Visit the Complex of Ho Chi Minh located by this square. Visit Ho Chi Minh’s house-on-stilts, his fish pond and the One-Pillar Pagoda before strolling around the Old Quarter of Hanoi by pedi-cabs. In the afternoon we’ll continue to visit the city with stops at Ngoc Son Temple and the Sword Lake which is considered the centre and the soul of Hanoi. Visit the Temple of Literature, the very first High School of Vietnam, and Fine Art Museum. Overnight on AC train from Hanoi to Lao Cai.
Please note: Ho Chi Minh complex is closed on every Monday & Friday!
DAY 5: LAO CAI – SAPA – LAO CHAI – TA VAN - SAPA (B/L/D)
Arrive around 6.00 am at Lao Cai Station, a border city that looks over China and is closest to Sapa Hill Resort, then transfer to Sapa. The road is 40km long and very beautiful with terraced paddy fields, small waterfalls and pinewoods. We’ll have breakfast at our hotel in Sapa after checking-in and then we’ll head south to a remarkable area at Lao Chai and walk app. 3km to Tavan with short stops at the villages of the tribal people H'mong, Tay and Dzay en route. We’ll enjoy lunch in Ta Van. We then head back towards Sapa. Depending on the weather condition ( if it is clear and sunny), we will climb up the Dragon Peak to see the panorama of Sapa with pine trees, old colonial-styled villas, and numerous hill tribal people. If time permits, we’ll drive to take photos of sunset at Silver Waterfall which is about 15km from Sapa. Overnight in Sapa.
DAY 6: SAPA–VISIT THE VILLAGES–MA TRA–TA PHIN–SAPA (B/L/D)
After breakfast at our hotel, our day commences from Sapa on a trail running through the beautiful gardens and lush pine forests. We’ll then pass through the Black Hmong ethnic minority village of Matra, a very small village hidden away from civilization. The walk continues through rice paddy fields and spectacular scenery. During the day we’ll also be able to visit a local school. We’ll enjoy lunch before arriving at the Taphin village. Here we’ll learn about the cultural life of Black Hmong and Red Dao minorities, 2 of the largest ethnic groups in the area. You may recognize them by their dress. They are both very famous for their handicrafts. We’ll walk among local people and capture some excellent candid shots and portraits. The walk also offers us the opportunity to visit local village houses as well as time to explore the local caves. Overnight in Sapa.
DAY 7: SAPA – A COLOURFUL WEEKLY MARKET OF LOCAL HILL TRIBE PEOPLE – LAOCAI - HANOI (B/L/D) - Train
Today we’ll drive to a market of the hill tribal people, mainly from Flower H’Mong ethnic group. Depending on the day, we’ll either visit Can Cau, Bac Ha or Coc Ly. The drive to Bac Ha is about 110km from Sapa. With dozens of tribes living in the surrounding areas, including Flower H’Mong, Chinese, Nhang, Dzao, Nung, Phu La, Thai and King (or Viet), the market is extremely exciting in the morning. We’ll have ample opportunity to photograph hundreds of beautifully clad women from the Flower H’Mong tribe, who are famous for their wonderful crafted hand-made flowering clothes and textile fabrics, or we’ll intermingle with people from Black H’Mong, Dzay, Dzao and other ethnic groups coming to the market. After lunch, we can hike around, follow the mountain people to their villages for a visit, or take our car heading to further hamlets in Ban Pho, Trieu Cai, or Na Hoi. If we visit the Coc Ly we may take a boat trip along the Chay River while enjoying marvelous karst limestone peaks along the river and visit a village of H’Mong or Dzay people. We’ll head back to Lao Cai Station in the late afternoon for dinner and then take the night train from Lao Cai to Hanoi - Soft sleeper with AC.
DAY 8: HANOI – HALONG – OVERNIGHT ON JUNK BOAT(B/L/D)
We arrive at Hanoi Station around 5.00 am. Before having breakfast, we can join the Hanoians in their early exercises -- jogging, yoga, sword dance, fan dance, and taichi-quan. After breakfast and a short break, we’ll go on to Halong Bay via Bat Trang ceramic village. Located by the Red River, the village has gained a reputation since the 15th century of making refined porcelain in many styles such as celadon, crackle-glazed pottery, and raw terra cotta products. The pottery of Bat Trang is found everywhere from Asia to Europe and makes an excellent souvenir. Halong is one of the earliest World Heritages as designated by UNESCO for Vietnam in 1994. Check-in our boat and enjoy a lunch of fresh seafood while the boat sails between the unusual seascape with thousands of picturesque rocks and islets, beaches and hollow islands. We’ll stop to visit some karst grottoes, maybe just go swimming, or stop at a beach and shoot a sunset on the sea. We’ll enjoy dinner and overnight accommodations on the boat.
DAY 9: HALONG – HANOI (B/L/D)
The Vietnamese call the South China Sea the “Eastern Sea,” so you may guess how miraculous seeing the sunrise over the islets of the Bay is. Our boat will continue to cruise in marvelous areas, where almost each islet has its own name adopting its shape like Sail island, Fisherman’s head rock, Butterfly rock or Turtle islet, etc. We’ll enjoy another seafood lunch onboard before we head back to Halong Wharf and take our car to Hanoi. In the afternoon, we will visit Hanoi's French Quarter. Lying to the south and east of Hoan Kiem Lake, The French Quarter has grand boulevards and elegant French colonial buildings. These include the stately Opera House (based on the neo-Baroque Paris Opera) complete with gray slate tiles imported from France. One block east of the Opera House is Hanoi's Museum of History, which is an elaborate blend of Vietnamese palace and French villa, a style that came to be called Neo-Vietnamese. Trang Tien, the main artery of the French Quarter, is still a busy shopping street where you'll find bookshops and art galleries as well as cafés and hotels. We’ll also have time to enjoy the night street scenes of Hanoi and capture some fun shots tonight. Overnight in Hanoi.
DAY 10: HANOI – SAIGON CITY (B/L/D) FLT VN 1119 11:00 13:00
After breakfast at the hotel we’ll transfer to the airport to take the flight to Saigon. We’ll be warmly greeted at the Tan Son Nhat airport and transferred to our city center hotel. We’ll start our day here from the Notre Dame Cathedral, built between 1877 and 1883. Opposite this famous site is a remarkable building -- The Reunification Palace that once was the Presidential Palace of South Vietnam and is now a Museum and a grand hall for receptions. From there we’ll drop by the Thien Hau Pagoda, one of the most famous temples in this district. Tonight will be a fun time to explore some night markets and continue our street photography. Overnight in Saigon.
DAY 11: SAIGON - TAY NINH HOLY SEE– SAIGON – SIEM REAP (B/L/D) – FLT VN 829 16:30 17:30
After an early breakfast at the hotel we’ll go to Tay Ninh Holy See, the centre of Caodaism which is a local sect of Buddhism founded by Vietnamese peasants in the early 20th century. Arriving before noon we’ll have the chance to wander the Temple before joining/photographing the daily solemn ceremony at Noon. We’ll head back to Saigon for lunch before transferring to the airport for the flight to Siem Reap, Cambodia. We’ll be met at the airport and transfer to our hotel. We’ll have time to wander Siem Reap to get a lay of the land and continue to work our street photography and prepare for the highlights to come! Overnight in Siem Reap.
DAY 12: SIEM REAP – ANGKOR THOM (B/L/D)
Our day begins with a visit the ancient city of Angkor Thom, which is 7km from Siem Reap. We’ll visit the Bayon temple, the Baphuan, the Elephant Terrace and the Terrace of the Leper King. In the afternoon we’ll photograph Angkor Wat before viewing the sunset over the Angkor complex from the top of Phnom Bakheng mountain. Tonight, along with dinner we’ll enjoy a traditional Apsara dance show. Overnight in Siem Reap.
DAY 13: ANGKOR WAT AND OTHER FAMOUS TEMPLES – SIEM REAP (B/L/D)
After an early breakfast we’ll visit and photograph the Ta Prohm temple which is a wonderful combination of human construction genius and natural beauty of giant trees, which have grown here for centuries. Then on to visit Ta keo, dedicated to the Hindu God Shiva which was built at the end of the 10th century. We’ll also visit and photograph the Thommanon, Chau Say temples and the natural lake of Sra Srang before enjoying lunch. Then we head back to Angkor Wat. Founded by Suryavarman II who reigned Cambodia from 1113 to 1152 and who built the five towers in the 12th century and dedicated them to the Hindu God Vishnu. We’ll wander the complex to find many photographic delights and enjoy the ancient masterpiece of architectural design and construction. Tonight’s sunset is Angkor Wat! Overnight in Siem Reap.
DAY 14: SIEM REAP - BANTEAY SREI – SIEM REAP DEPARTURE(B)
Hotel list (depending on availability):
We’ll head out early for a sunrise shoot at Banteay Srei (one of the jewels of Angkor), and the Banteay Srei Temple which means "Citadel of Women". This temple is made of pink sandstone and presents the most graceful carvings in stone we might ever see in our life. Back to Siem Reap for a quick lunch and then we‘ll visit the floating villages on Tonle Sap Lake. This is always a trip highlight. After the floating villages we’ll have some free time before we transfer to the airport for the beginning of our journey home.
This trip is: Moderate
Easy = less than 2 miles walking/day and little climbing; Moderate = up to 5 miles walking per day with some climbing; Strenuous = more than 5 miles/day of walking and several climbing/hills/rough terrain expected. You should know your health and ability to carry your gear in hot, cold, humid, and dry conditions and be able to walk 5 miles or more per day and make climbs in elevation of up to 1000 feet in gain and be OK climbing many steps or steep terrain.
GUESTS SHOULD PACK LIGHT. YOU MAY BE EXPECTED TO CARRY, ROLL, SCHLEP, AND/OR OTHERWISE TRANSPORT YOUR OWN BAGS AT ALL TIMES AND IN ALL PLACES ON THIS TRIP. LAUNDRY SERVICES ARE ALWAYS AVAILABLE. M&M RULE OF THUMB IS ONE BAG FOR CAMERA GEAR AND ONE 20-22"" ROLLER FOR YOUR CLOTHES AND TOILETRIES. INVEST IN A TRAVEL TRIPOD - BENRO (http://www.benrousa.com/products/travel-angel-ii/) HAS MANY OPTIONS AVAILABLE. MEDICAL DEVICES SUCH AS CPAP MACHINES ARE EXCLUDED FROM THIS RECOMMENDATION. PACKING LIGHT WILL MAKE YOUR TRIP MUCH MORE ENJOYABLE.