Thai Indochina Grand Tour

Resort:Thai Indochina Grand Tour
Operator: Exodus
Destination: Asia, South East Asia, Thailand, Vietnam
Price From: £3849.00


The ultimate discovery of South East Asia

Long lines of saffron robed monks on their alms round at dawn, the luscious
green of Vietnam’s paddy fields, the shy smile of school children in Luang
Prabang: it’s the small day-to-day things that make this an unforgettable
trip. Not that the bigger things won’t wow too – Angkor Wat, Bangkok’s Grand
Palace, the stunning limestone seascape of Halong Bay or the frenetic pace of
Saigon. There’s a lot to see in South East Asia, so as they say in Thailand,
‘why hurry, why worry’?


* Explore the ancient Angkor complex in Cambodia
* Take a boat trip Vietnam’s stunning Halong Bay and discover the Mekong
* Adjust to the relaxed pace of life in Laos
* Visit Bangkok’sRoyal Palace complex and Wat Po
* In Phnom Penh visit the Killing Fields, Tuol Sleng and the Royal Palace
* Crawl through the Cu Chi war tunnels
* Visit the historic trading town of Hoi An in Vietnam


Day 1
Depart London

Depart London

Day 2
Arrive Bangkok

This evening there will be a welcome briefing with your leader followed by an
optional group dinner at a local restaurant.

*Rembrandt Hotel Bangkok or similar*

Day 3
City tour; free afternoon

This morning we travel to the Chao Praya River where we board a long tail
boat for a tour of the local canals. Please be advised there may be a
possibility of larger groups being accommodated in a bigger boat. Bangkok
was once known as the Venice of the East because of its intricate canal
network. We get a glimpse of daily life as we pass locals selling their wares
by the river.

We will visit what to this day remains the home of the Thai Royal family at
the Royal Palace complex, followed by Wat Phra Kaew, home to the Emerald
Buddha, one of Thailand’s most venerated images. Another highlight is Wat Po,
the largest temple in Bangkok, housing a 46m long, 15m high gold-plated
reclining Buddha. This afternoon is then free for personal exploration.

*Rembrandt Hotel Bangkok or similar*

Day 4
Fly to Chiang Rai; to Chiang Khong

This morning we fly to Chiang Rai and then visit the Golden Triangle, an area
so named after the fact that the opium that moved through was worth more than
gold pound for pound. We stand at a view point overlooking Burma (Myanmar),
the mighty Mekong and Laos. The area’s chequered past is covered in the Opium
Museum where we learn about the dark history of this beautiful and rich
region of Northern Thailand, and we pause to visit the impressive red brick
stupa of Wat Chedi Luang. We then transfer to the town of Chiang Khong (2
hours) where we stay overnight.

*Chiang Khong Teak Garden Resort or similar*

Day 5
Into Laos; travel by slow boat down Mekong to Pak Beng

An early morning transfer takes us to the Thai / Laos border where we pass
through immigration formalities. We say hello to our Laos Tour Leader. We
will pass through Laos Immigration, followed by a tuk tuk ride to the river
port where we board our private slow boat for the journey to Pak Beng.

*BKC Villa Pak Beng or similar*

Day 6
Visit Pak Ou Caves; to Luang Prabang; early evening visit to Mt. Phu Si Hill

Boarding our private boat again, we head further down river with Luang
Prabang as our final destination. En route we will visit the famous Tam Ting
Caves, cut out of the limestone banks which line the river at Pak Ou. These
caves are filled with thousands of Buddha images brought by the surrounding
villagers as a sign of their devotion. If there is time we will also stop at
a number of minority villages on the way but this will depend on the water
level, which affects the speed of travel on the river.

Mid to late afternoon we arrive in the enchanting town of Luang Prabang,
nestled in a narrow valley cut by the Mekong and Khan Rivers. This beautiful
town was designated a World Heritage site in 1995. In the early evening we
will visit Phu Si Hill for stunning views over the city and the Mekong River
below. The climb includes 329 steps and the path zigzags its way to the
gilded stupa at the summit past various temples.

*Sada Hotel or similar*

Day 7
Na San village visit and lunch; afternoon at Kuang Si waterfalls

This morning we journey to Na San village, a small village approximately 1.5
hours from Luang Prabang.

Our time here will provide us with an insight into village life as we learn
about everyday life but also have the chance to get involved with some of the
village activities. Dependent on the season these could include watching
traditional garment weaving, sowing or reaping rice in paddy fields or
helping plant vegetables. Well also have the opportunity to learn about
Laotian cooking and enjoy a lunch prepared by some of the villagers during
our visit.

Na San village is a village that Exodus has recently started visiting as part
of a process to bring rural villages more independence and self-sufficiency
through the provision of key infrastructure. You will also be introduced to
the basics of the work that is being conducted and planned for the future.

In the afternoon, from Na San village, we transfer approximately 30 minutes
to Kuang Si Waterfall, where we have the chance to swim and relax in the
pools before returning to Luang Prabang.

*Sada Hotel or similar*

Day 8
Free day in Luang Prabang

Today is free for individual sightseeing or to seize the opportunity to sit
back and relax in this pleasant town or stroll amongst the ancient red roofed
temples and French colonial architecture. There are a number of interesting
temples to visit including Wat Xieng Thong and Wat Wisunalat.

Luang Prabang is a centre for markets in the region and there are many
opportunities for the souvenir hunter to gather a few special items. For
those up at dawn there is the chance to witness the daily parade of
saffron-robed monks receiving alms! Your leader of course will also be able
to advise on the ground with suggestions on how to make the most of your free

*Sada Hotel or similar*

Day 9
To Vang Vieng

An early morning departure from Luang Prabang as we drive to the township of
Vang Vieng, passing through numerous Hmong villages. Surrounded by lime
karsts and set on the banks of the Nam Song (Song River), it is a beautiful
location. The stunning drive will take approximately 6 hours to complete on
roads that wind their way through the surrounding hills and limestone
mountains jutting sharply above the flat river valleys. Watching the sun set
on the banks of the Nam Song is ample reward for the day’s journey.

*Amari Vang Vieng Hotel or similar*

Day 10
Visit Jang Cave; afternoon free

In the morning we climb the 136 steps to the Tham Jang caves, used as a
hideout by the local community during periods of war. The rest of the day is
free to explore. Optional excursions and activities can be arranged and there
are plenty of opportunities for walks in the surrounding hills, day visits to
the numerous caves that punctuate the limestone scenery, or for kayaking down
the Song river. There are a number of Lao and minority tribe villages in the
area, which can also be easily reached on a day trip. Bicycles can also be
hired for those who wish to tour the beautiful countryside on two wheels.
Alternatively just sit back, relax and soak up the beautiful view.

*Amari Vang Vieng Hotel or similar*

Day 11
Drive to Vientiane; afternoon tour

We leave Vang Vieng in the morning and descend from the hills to the capital
Vientiane (translates as Sandalwood City) located near the banks of the
Mekong River. We take an afternoon sightseeing tour of this relaxed low-rise
city, including Wat Sisaket the oldest temple in the city, and Haw Pha Kaew,
a temple which originally housed the Emerald Bhudda now on display in
Thailand. The temples themselves are noticeably different in style and
character from those found in Thailand and there are certainly fewer

In the evening the perfect option is to retire for a refreshing beverage and
watch the sunset over the Mekong River.

*Sabaidee at Laos Hotel or similar*

Day 12
Free time in Vientiane; fly to Hanoi

Today is free to shop or explore Vientiane before we transfer to the airport
for our flight to Hanoi, the capital of Vietnam (flight times often vary at
short notice between the afternoon/evening).

*Lenid Hotel or similar*

Day 13
To Halong Bay for cruise; overnight on boat

We make an early start for the approximate 4-hour journey to Halong Bay. This
is one of the most stunningly beautiful sights in South East Asia with
roughly 3,000 limestone peaks rising directly from the clear emerald sea. We
cruise amongst this amazing karst scenery and enjoy a seafood lunch on board.
We overnight on board in twin share cabins with en suite facilities.

*Overnight Boat*

Day 14
Cruise in Halong Bay; return to Hanoi

We cruise back to port in the morning and transfer back to Hanoi where the
rest of the day is at leisure to wander around the Hoan Kiem lake and perhaps
enjoy a coffee and a baguette in a lakeside caf or stroll amongst broad
tree-lined avenues dating from the French period with its faded colonial
charm. One of the more enjoyable ways to get around is by cyclo and this can
easily be arranged on the street.

*Lenid Hotel or similar*

Day 15
City tour of Hanoi; sleeper train to Hue

We spend the morning sightseeing in Hanoi including avisit to the Temple of
Literature; the site of the oldest university in Vietnam with over 2000
graduates, Hoa Lo Prison & the Old Quarter of the city with its ’36 Streets’
where each street is home to shops selling particular products – e.g. ‘silk
street’, ‘gold street’, ‘paper street’ and ‘tourist souvenir street’.

In the afternoon we board the Reunification Express for the overnight journey
to Hue, 688km to the south.

*Overnight Train*

Day 16
Arrive Hue; sightseeing

Arriving mid-morning in Hue we transfer to our hotel. Hue claims to be the
cultural and historical centre of Vietnam, and there is plenty to see. The
most outstanding sight is the Imperial Citadel with walls six miles in
length. Inside are the palaces and halls of the Mandarins, and the remains of
the Forbidden Purple City, where only the emperor, his eunuchs and concubines
were allowed. The Forbidden Purple City was almost totally destroyed during
the Vietnam War’s Tet Offensive, but the foliage-covered ruins are still
atmospheric and the gaping holes left by bombs give an idea of the
destruction wreaked upon the country during the war.

This afternoon we visit the Imperial Citadel and the famous Thien Mu Pagoda.
The pagoda was a centre for anti-government protest in the early 1960’s and
it houses the Austin car that transported a monk, Thich Quang Duc, to Saigon
in 1963 where he burned himself in protest against the president. The
photograph of his self-immolation was printed in newspapers all around the

*Park View Hotel or similar*

Day 17
Visit historic Tu Duc tomb; drive across Hai Van Pass to Hoi An

This morning we continue sightseeing and visit the mausoleum of Tu Duc, one
of the most extravagant mausoleums of the great Nguyen emperors who ruled
Vietnam from Hue between 1802 and 1945.

Leaving Hue, our 130km journey drives through the beautiful peninsula of Lang
Co between the crystal waters of a lagoon and the Eastern Sea, and then
passes over the spectacular Hai Van pass (‘Pass of the Ocean Clouds’). In Da
Nang, we climb the Marble Mountain where we explore the large caves which
were used by the Viet Cong as a hospital base during the war. From the
mountain peak, there are fantastic views over My Khe Beach and the
surrounding countryside leading on to our next destination, Hoi An.

*Hoi An River Green Boutique or similar*

Day 18
Sightseeing in Hoi An

This morning will include a walking tour of Hoi An, the original European
trading port in Vietnam dating back to the mid-16th century. It is now a
living museum, with attractive wooden merchant’s houses and pagoda-style
temples with Chinese, Japanese, Vietnamese and European architectural

This afternoon is free to explore Hoi An on foot as cars are banned from this
world heritage site. It is also a marvellous place to wander around and enjoy
the thriving riverside market and great silk clothes shopping.

*Hoi An River Green Boutique or similar*

Day 19
Free day

Today is a free day to carry on enjoying this historic town.

Optionals include a trip to My Son, the Cham civilisation’s spiritual home,
where Cham kings were buried as early as the fourth century. Although wartime
bombing has destroyed much of the site, there are a number of interesting
stone towers and sanctuaries. It is also possible to visit My Lai the site of
the 1968 massacre that changed public opinion on the Vietnam War, or jump on
a bike for a ride through the countryside past local markets, schools and
villages before continuing on to Cua Dai beach (5 km).

*Hoi An River Green Boutique or similar*

Day 20
Transfer to Da Nang for flight to Saigon; afternoon city tour

Today we transfer to Da Nang for our flight to Ho Chi Minh City (Saigon),an
exciting and absorbing city where scooters pack the streets and temples stand
defiantly alongside modern developments. Devastated by the Vietnam War, it is
now a bustling free market city where anything goes. This afternoon’s walking
city tour includes a visit to the Ben Thanh Market, Reunification Palace,
Notre Dame Cathedral and War Remnants Museum. The Museum has an interesting
photographic record of the Vietnam/American War. Please be aware that some
images at the museum are very graphic.

*The Odys Boutique Hotel or similar*

Day 21
Visit Cu Chi Tunnels; free afternoon

Today we leave the city behind us and head north to visit the infamous Cu Chi
tunnels. Used by the Viet Cong during the war, the network covers 3 levels
and approximately 240km of tunnels. Traditionally these were very narrow but
some areas have been widened to allow tourists to explore the system.
Claustrophobes may prefer to stay outside in the sunshine! In the afternoon
we return to Saigon and the rest of the day is free for individual

*The Odys Boutique Hotel or similar*

Day 22
To Mekong Delta; visit riverside village and floating market

We drive to Cai Be in the Mekong Delta via a Cao Dai temple used by devotees
of this strange indigenous religion that fuses all the great religions of the
east and west. The author Graham Greene toyed with the idea of converting to
Caodism. The Mekong is locally known as the rice bowl of Vietnam and produces
much of Vietnam’s fruit, sugar cane and coconuts. En route we pass
magnificent countryside. We will board a boat in Cai Be and visit and some
small cottage industries.Recently, Cai Be floating market is becoming less
crowded and smaller as fruit trading is mostly now done by trucks due to the
bridge being built. However, this is still a great opportunity to see a local
market and the trade being conducted traditionally on a smaller scale.

We then take a relaxing sampan cruise along quiet water coconut channels in
the afternoon before arriving at our accommodation. The evening is tranquil
as we have dinner on an island and enjoy some ‘Delta’ hospitality. We spend
the night sleeping at a simple guesthouse built in the style of a local
house. Bedding, a mosquito net and a small towel are provided.

*Mekong Homestay Guesthouse*

Day 23
To Chau Doc

After a morning walk through the village we board our boats once again and
cross the main channel to Vinh Long where we re-join our vehicle for the
drive further into the Mekong Delta and the small border town of Chau Doc.
After checking into the hotel, the evening is free to wander the town, which
is situated on the banks of the Mekong River.

*Chau Pho Hotel or similar*

Day 24
Transfer into Cambodia and on to Phnom Penh

After driving approximately 1 hour to the Tinh Bien / Phnom Den land border
we will bid farewell to Vietnam and cross into Cambodia. We continue by road
to Phnom Penh (approx 3.5 hours).

*Ohana Hotel or similar*

Day 25
City tour including the Royal Palace and the ‘Killing Fields’

Phnom Penhstill retains a frontier atmosphere and today we have a full day
of sightseeing in Cambodia’s capital city.

The day of sightseeing will include the beautiful Royal Palace and Silver
Pagoda, so named for the solid silver tiles that make up the floor.
Thankfully the complex escaped the worst excess of the Khmer Rouge rule.
Similar in style and scale to the Grand Palace in Bangkok, the Royal Palace
has significantly fewer visitors and there is plenty of time to wander among
the traditional buildings. There is also time today to shop at either the
impressive Central Market or the sprawling Russian Market, a souvenir
hunter’s paradise!

We visit Tuol Sleng museum or S21 (Museum of Genocide), which graphically
displays the horrors of the 4 years when Pol Pot systematically ordered the
murder of between 2 and 3 million Cambodians. Tuol Sleng was originally a
school but was used as a torture and interrogation centre between 1976 and
1979. It is a sobering and disturbing place to visit. Please be aware that
the images at the museum are very graphic. We complete our day with a moving
late afternoon visit to the ‘killing fields’ of Choeung Ek. A
football-field-sized area surrounded by farmland, the killing fields contain
mass graves for perhaps 20,000 Cambodians, many of whom were tortured before
being killed.

*Ohana Hotel or similar*

Day 26
To Siem Reap

Today we have a long drive to Siem Reap (approx. 7 hours). En route we stop
at the town of Skuon, famous for its local delicacy – fried spiders.

We will also stop off at Sambor Prei Kuk, Cambodia’s most impressive group of
pre-Angkorian monuments and some of the oldest structures in the country.
We’ll pause for a traditional Khmer lunch at a community restaurant before
continuing our journey to Siem Reap.

*Angkor Holiday Hotel or similar*

Day 27
First day exploring Angkor temple complex

We spend two days exploring the temple complex at Angkor. We visit the
incredible Angkor Wat, the many temples inside the Royal City of Angkor Thom,
including the magnificent Bayon, which is comprised of 54 intricately carved
towers in one single temple. The Bayon certainly left an impression on an
early traveller in 1925 who stated ‘we stand before it stunned. It is like
nothing else in the land.’

We will also see other less-visited outlying temples. Particularly impressive
are Banteay Kdei and Ta Prohm, still covered in jungle, just as it was when
it first came to light. Discovered in the 1870s and famously described as
being ‘grander than anything of Greece or Rome’ by the French explorer Henri
Mouchot, this world heritage site stands alongside the Pyramids and Machu
Picchu as one of the world’s most spectacular archaeological sites.

Angkor is a truly magical experience and a photographer’s paradise, one of
the real highlights of our trip. We will also see other less-visited outlying
temples including Banteay Srei, a temple complex devoted to Brahma. One
evening we will make our way to the temple complex and watch the sunset over
this magnificent scene.

*Angkor Holiday Hotel or similar*

Day 28
Second day exploring Angkor temple complex

Today we have a second day exploring the magnificent temples at the Angkor

*Angkor Holiday Hotel or similar*

Day 29
Depart Siem Reap

Depart Siem Reap

Day 30
Arrive London

Arrive London