A short week to embrace the customs of many ethnic
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Vietnam, Laos and Cambodia: three countries, three stories, three wonders! The trip starts with a discovery of the amazing ethnic groups of Sapa - the pearl of mountains north of Tonkin. The journey continues towards the river Nam Ou to discover the wilderness and the daily life of many ethnic groups of Laos. End your journey in Indochina with the temples of Angkor - architectural and cultural wonders of Cambodia. All in a fabulous setting.
Day 1: Hanoi arrival
Day 2: Hanoi city tour
Day 3: Hanoi – Lan Ha bay
Day 4: Lan Ha – Hanoi
Day 5: Lao Cai - Sapa - Lao Chai - Ta Van
Day 6: Ta Van – Giang Ta Chai – Lai Chau
Day 7: Lai Chau – Muong Lay
Day 8: Muong Lay – Dien Bien Phu
Day 9: Dien Bien Phu - Muang Phang - Muang Khua
Day 10: Muang Khua - Muang Ngoi
Day 11: Walk in Muang Ngoi
Day 12: Muang Ngoi - Luang Prabang
Day 13: Luang Prabang’s treasures
Day 14: Luang Prabang - Pak Ou - Kuang Si
Day 15: Luang Prabang - Pakse - Siphandone
Day 16: Siphandone
Day 17: Siphandone – Stung Treng
Day 18: Stung Treng – Kampong Thom
Day 19: Kampong Thom – Kampong Kleang - Siem Reap
Day 20: Siem Reap must-see sites
Day 21: Siem Reap - hiking on the sacred mountain of Phnom Kulen
Day 22: Siem Reap departure
Many ethnic minorities
• Black Hmong, Giay and Red Dzao of Sapa
• The White and Red Hmong of Muong Lay
• The Thai of Dien Bien Phu
• The Khmu of Muang Ngoi and Nong Khiaw
• The Khmer in Cambodia
• Confucianism and Taoism of the Viet at the Red River Delta
• Animism and shamanism of ethnic minorities
• Buddhism in Laos
• Khmer Hinduism
• Endless terraced rice fields in Sapa
• Karst peaks on Lan Ha Bay
• Tropical forests north of Tonkin and Laos
• The colonial houses of Hanoi and Luang Prabang
• The war remnants of Dien Bien Phu
• Ancient monuments of Laos
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Arrival in Noi Bai airport, you will be picked up and transferred to your hotel in the city center. The check-in will be available at 2 pm. The rest of the day is free to rest or discover the city at your own pace.
You will be picked up at the hotel at 8:00 am, starting the day trip with a visit of the Ho Chi Minh Complex, including Ho Chi Minh’s mausoleum (closed on Mondays & Fridays) and his former stilt-house residence. We will continue with the Temple of Literature constructed in 1070 to worship Confucius, which served as the first Royal National University in Vietnam. The site also honors 82 Vietnamese doctorates who passed a number of rigorous exams in the feudal ages. Their names, birthdays and birthplaces are engraved in 82 headstones perched on stone tortoises. It is widely believed that touching the heads of these tortoises will bring one luck. Its peaceful green compound and its neatly maintained lawns, gardens and lotus ponds make it a tranquil hideaway from the city’s bustle and heat. Lunch will be served at a local restaurant.
In the afternoon, we will visit the Museum of Ethnology (closed on Mondays, the alternative being the History Museum), which offers informative and well-documented displays on the country’s 54 ethnic groups cultures, including elaborate and colorful hill tribe costumes. The display continues in the museum’s garden with fascinating examples of traditional houses of numerous minority groups, from the Kinhs to the ethnic groups of the Central Highlands. Then back to the Old Quarter for a one hour and a half walking tour to give you a deeper insight of local daily life. Head to Ngoc Son Temple set on a tiny island in the middle of Hoan Kiem Lake. Ngoc Son Temple dates back to the 13th century, and the lake itself is the picturesque heart of Hanoi, frequented by tourists and locals alike. The day ends with a stroll around the HoanKiem Lake (Lake of the Restored Sword) before watching the traditional water puppet show.
After breakfast, depart to Lan Ha Bay via Hung Yen and Hai Phong city. We will arrive at Lan Ha’s tourist wharf around noon and embark on an elegant wooden junk. Lunch will be served while the boat gently cruises past numerous islands and limestone structures rising from the emerald water. A fresh seafood dinner will be prepared by an experienced chef and served on deck. A peaceful night on board in your private cabin.
|Car: 170km/3h||B, L, D||Night on boat|
Wake up early to admire the sunrise over the bay. Breakfast on board around 7:30 am. The junk continues to sail in Lan Ha bay, approaching the most beautiful peaks and rocks. Around 8:45 am, arrival at Viet Hai village, a small isolated fishing village. Bike ride to visit the village and discover its superb landscapes. Back on the junk to take a shower and free your cabins while the junk returns to Ben Beo. Lunch-brunch on board around 11am, then disembark and return to Hanoi. Transfer to the station and night train to Lao Cai.
|Car: 100km/2h||Biking: 2h||B, L||Night on the train|
We will arrive in Lao Cai around 6:00 am and continue to Sapa, situated 40km further, with a private car. This day is devoted to a beautiful hike through the breathtaking scenery of Sa Pa valley. Start your walk in the ancient and busy Cau May street in the center of Sapa Town. Admire the rice terraces playing hide and seek with the morning mist, a truly awe-inspiring sight.
Follow a small track and cross Muong Hoa River on your way to the Black Hmong village of Lao Chai. Past the colorful rice terraces, you will reach the village of Ta Van Giay. As you continue your trek along the Muong Hoa River, you will cross a small suspension bridge, roughly 2km from the settlement. Here you can discover a fascinating collection of rock carvings. These engravings depict some beautiful images of man, stilt houses and decorative patterns. Overnight at the homestay.
|Car: 40km/1h||Trekking: 4h||Up: 300m||Down: 600m||B, L, D||Homestay|
After having breakfast at your homestay, continue your walking through lush paddy fields and bamboo forests. You can admire a beautiful waterfall. Visit Giang Ta Chai village, inhabited by Red Dao and Black H’mong. Transfer to Lai Chau. In the afternoon, walk through the villages of Ban Giang and Ban Hon inhabited by the Lü (or Tai Lu) ethnic group. The Lü women wear black clothes decorated with coins and metal jewelry and have black lacquered teeth. Little girls have their teeth painted as young as 10 years old. This is a very important beauty criterion for this ethnic group. Night at the hotel.
|Car: 80km/2||Trekking: 4h||Up: 300m||Down: 370m||B||Hotel|
Located in a beautiful valley dotted with rocky peaks, Lai Chau is the meeting point of several ethnic groups. Your walk will continue at the foot of Mount Hong Thu Man to visit villages inhabited by the Red Hmong, the Black Dzao and the Giay. Dzao women wear black clothes decorated with silver coins and silver jewelry. The path will then lead you through corn fields and towards a hamlet inhabited by the red Hmong lost in the forest. After crossing small hills, you will reach villages inhabited by the Giay ethnic group. In the afternoon, transfer to Muong Lay, near the Chinese border. You will descend the gorges of the Nam Na river to its confluence with the Black river to discover wild and original landscapes. Meeting with white H’mong, Dzao and Hani. Late arrival at Muong Lay.
|Car: 80km/2h||Trekking: 3.5h||Up: 300m||Down: 370m||B||Hotel|
Departure towards Dien Bien Phu on a road hidden under the tropical forests. Discovery of the local life of the red Hmong in the village of Sa Long then of the Khmu in Muong Cha. In the early afternoon, discover the historic sites at Dien Bien Phu. Your guide will tell you the stories of the Indochina War, including the famous 56-day battle between the French and the Viet Minh. Visit of the hill Eliane 2, of the PC GONO (Command Post of the Operational Group North - West) and of the war museum of Dien Bien Phu. Installation at the hotel.
Short transfer by car to take you to the village of Muong Phang, the PC of Vietminh during the days of battle at Dien Bien Phu. In the afternoon, a short drive to Tây Trang, a new border post open to foreign tourists between Laos and Vietnam. Welcome by your local Laotian guide, then transfer by vehicle to Muong Khua. Stops along the way to visit villages. The dominant population in Muong Khua is Vietnamese, making it an important trading center. Late afternoon and free evening.
Navigation on the Nam Ou is the shortest way to reach Luang Prabang and the mountains of northern Laos. Embarking on dugouts of about ten meters, equipped with a powerful engine which allows them to cross the rapids on the rise as on the descent. Winding course full of pitfalls: rocks on the surface of the water, tree trunks and rapids. The boatmen show remarkable mastery, leaving you the leisure to enjoy this beautiful sailing. Stop to visit fishing villages: Sop Chem and Hatsa. Arrival in Muang Ngoi in the afternoon. Installation at hostel. Free time to explore the village at your leisure.
|Car: 4h||B||Guest house|
After breakfast, take the boats for a few minutes downstream. In the village of Sopkhan, hike in karst scenery to reach a H'mong village. Lunch break. Resume the hike to discover a Khmu ethnic village. Cross the Nam Ou River and return to Muang Ngoi.
|Trekking: 4h||Up: 200m||Down: 200m||B, L||Guest house|
After breakfast, continue your boat trip to Nong Khiew, a village on the Nam Ou River banks, then drive to Luang Prabang. Stop several times along the way to explore villages. Then head to the Pak Ou Caves, located along the Mekong River. Pak Ou sanctuaries consist of two large caves and thousands of Buddha representations ranging from a few centimeters to two meters in height. Stop at Ban Xang Hai village to learn about the local distillery of sticky rice alcohol. Arrival in Luang Prabang, transfer and overnight at the hotel.
|Car: 140km/3h||Sampan: 1h||B||Hotel|
This day is dedicated to the most important sites of Luang Prabang: venture into Wat Visoun, a temple from the 16th century rehabilitated into a small religious museum, then into Wat Aham, a temple from the early 19th century. Two guardians, laid at the foot of the staircase, represent two characters from the Ramayana (Hanuman, the monkey god and the ferocious Yaksa). Next, Wat Xiengthong, the most important temple of the city dating from the 16th century and embodying the elegance and grace of Luang Prabang architecture. Climb up the 328 steps of Mount Phousi leading to the top of the sacred hill. This shady Mount dominates the sky of Luang Prabang and offers a splendid 360° panorama of the surrounding villages and the Mekong. At the end of the day, enjoy some free time to wander through the wide night market, where you can find a collection of beautiful textiles handmade by local tribes. Overnight at the hotel.
In the morning, embark on a narrow, fast local boat, for an excursion on the Mekong River to Pak Ou. Many wonders await you on this journey: lush landscapes, typical villages and authentic local life. Pak Ou sanctuaries consist of two large caves and thousands of Buddha representations ranging from a few centimeters to two meters in height. Typical Laotian villages in the area are barely visible behind this thick screen of foliage. You will pass by slender canoes sailing near the shore, floats and bamboo poles marking the location of nets and fish traps. Take a break in Ban Muang Keo, a village well known for distilling traditionally Lao Lao whiskey rice. A short drive along the Mekong will take you south to Kuang Si Waterfalls located in a protected national park. These famous low waterfalls offer a spectacular and beautiful sight in their green setting. You will have enough time on site to relax and take a dip in the cool water, before returning to Luang Prabang by late afternoon. Night at the hotel.
|Car: 60km/2h||Walking: 1h||B||Hotel|
Flight to Pakse. Upon arrival, a small detour will allow you to discover ethnic minorities in authentic villages. Continue your journey to Wat Phu in the vicinity of Pakse. Wat Phu is a unique site in Laos where there are Khmer remains dating from the 9th to the 12th century. A 2-hour tour will take you to explore these Khmer ruins on top of a green hill, a World Heritage Site recognized by UNESCO in 2001. Get back on the road to Siphandone, where the Mekong stretches more than 14 km wide. The river flows through many uncharted islands, creating waterfalls and rapids. Transfer by local sampan to Khong Island, the largest of 4000 islands. Enjoy some free time to discover the daily life of the village.
|Flight: 1h30||Car: 120m/2h||Sampan: 1h||B||Hotel|
After breakfast, cruise in a huge area named "the four thousand islands", famous for its biodiversity and its picturesque karst peaks. Discover the falls of Lippi, whose name, "spirit trapper" in Lao, refers to the local beliefs that currents act as a trap for evil spirits. Stop to explore an old railway, built in 1897 by the French to bypass the powerful rapids preventing navigation. Return to Ban Nakasang and head south to visit Khone Phapheng, the largest waterfall in Southeast Asia. Overnight at Khone Island.
|Sampan: 1h||Walking: 1h||B||Hotel|
After breakfast, hop on a boat in Ban Nakasung to cross the Mekong River.Head towards the Cambodian border and drive on a departmental road to reach the capital of Stung Treng province. This friendly rural town located at the confluence of the Se San and Mekong River will offer you peace and quiet and a pleasant local life. Upon arrival, check out the local market before settling in your hotel room.
|Car: 80km/2h||Walking: 1h||B||Hotel|
After breakfast, let’s head to Kampong Thom, a pleasant stage on one’s journey. This area is not yet touristy but still welcomes a steady number of visitors. There, hundreds of hectares stretch as far as the eye can see, covered by deep green rubber trees, pepper crops and several kinds of vegetables. This extremely fertile region holds an important place for agriculture and for the country's economy. Continue your journey by car for about one hour to reach Sambo Preikuk, former capital of the ChenLa Empire. This city has a rich architectural heritage, thanks to its shrines from different eras scattered in a lush scenery. Night at a hotel.
Take the road to Siem Reap. Stop at Kampong Kleang after three hours of transfer. Take a short break to enjoy local tea before boarding a traditional wooden boat. Cruise gently on the river and the great Tonle Sap Lake, discover the lakeside Khmer life: everybody’s fishing, 70-year-old women and 6-year-olds included! After lunch at a homestay, continue your journey to Siem Reap.
|Car: 200km/5h||Sampan: 2h|
Today, venture into the three main most emblematic temples of Angkor Complex: Angkor Wat, Angkor Thom and Banteay Srei. In the morning, In the morning, visit the Banteay Srei temple known as the "Citadel of Women" built entirely in pink sandstone and laterite. Then head to the temple of Angkor Thom (Great City). Entering the southern gate, admire the famous Bayon dating from the 12th and 13th centuries, and the 11th century Baphuon, dedicated to Brahmanism (ancient Hinduism). Continue your visit with the Elephant Terrace or the Leper King Terrace. Your journey goes on through the great hours of the Cambodian Empire with the marvelous temple of Angkor Wat, a UNESCO World Heritage Site, and will come to a breathtaking end with Phnom Bakheng (the mountain temple) where you shouldn’t miss out on the beautiful sunset. Return and overnight at the hotel.
After breakfast, short transfer via the foot of Mount Phnom Kulen (lychee tree mountain). There, like Khmer pilgrims, climb the staircase and follow a lush path to reach the summit of this sacred mountain. At the top, explore the River of a Thousand Lingas, the main pagoda and its huge stone statue . Seize the opportunity to swim in the river next to a beautiful waterfall. On the way back, explore Banteay Srei temple (Citadel of Women), dedicated to Shiva, whose architecture and pink sandstone sculptures are a Khmer masterpiece. The temple turns a beautiful shade at sunset.
|Car: 100km/2h||Walking: 2h||Up: 200m||Down: 100m||B||Hotel|
Free time then transfer to the airport. End of our services
This trip is privately organized by iLOTUS TOURS. The price of the trip varies according to the size of the group, the level of services, the season and your reservation deadlines. The price published above is applied for a group of 6 participants, based on double/twin rooms in hotels. Click "Personalize this trip" to get the exact price for your group.
THE PRICE INCLUDES:
• Accommodation and breakfasts in hotels on the accommodation list
• Meals clearly mentioned in the program: B = breakfast; L = lunch; D = dinner
• The entrance fee to the sites
• Competent English-speaking guides throughout the trip except the free days when it is mentioned clearly: without a guide
• Private air-conditioned car for all land transport except free days when it is mentioned clearly: without driver
• One litre of drinking water per person per day
• All logistic services necessary of the program.
THE PRICE DOES NOT INCLUDE:
• International flights and airport taxes from/to your country
• Visa fees
• Means of transport not mentioned in the program
• Meals not mentioned in the program
• Tipping for services: local guides, crew member, drivers, porters…
• Drink, telephone, linen or all personal expenses not mentioned in the "price includes" section.
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