Mekong Empire: From Vietnam to Laos
Highlights of tour:
This journey brings you amongst the natural surroundings, off-the-beaten-path tourists’. From Lodges to Lodges, stunning limestone scenery, wonderful cave system, and smiling local people will impress you. You will take one of the most famous historic roads named “Ho Chi Minh” for its impressive limestone peak roads. Unique experience in minority meeting, you will be so close within an area and network of about 150 caves in central Vietnam, near the Laos border. Spend the land border: serenity, charm and harmony are the symbol of the country washed by the waters of the mythic Mekong. Terminate this amazing trip by a 3-days cruise on the “Mother Rivers” of 5 countries in South Est Asia.
Day 1: Arrival in Hanoi (D)
Welcome to Vietnam, arrival at Hanoi airport, after immigration and customs formalities, you’ll meet your personal guide and driver, and then transfer into the city. Upon arrival, check-in to hotel. You will visit a complex of the Hoan Kiem Lake, Ngoc Son Temple (Jade mountain Temple), But Tower (Pen – shaped tower), Dai Nghien (Ink Stand), and the Red – painted wooden The Huc Bridge…. A cyclo (rickshaw) trip around with 36 streets of Hanoi ancient town gives you a chance to explore the different local way of life. Enjoy the Water Puppet Show in the evening. Welcome dinner with one of the specialties of Hanoi and overnight at the hotel.
Day 2: Hanoi city tour (B,L,D)
Full day city tour in Hanoi with highlight sites: Ho Chi Minh mausoleum and his museum; President Palace and One Pillar Pagoda. We will stroll on the bank of West Lake and discover “Quan Thanh” Temple and “Tran Quoc” Pagoda. After lunch at local restaurant, we have sightseeing at Hanoi Literature temple and Vietnam museum of Ethnography where you’ll have a panoramic view about 54 ethnic groups of Vietnam. Have dinner and stay overnight in Hanoi.
Day 3: Hanoi – Ha Long (B,L,D)
After breakfast, you’ll be driven to famous and magnificent Ha Long Bay. Here you’ll board a charming Junk, having lunch while cruising in the magnificent “Bai Tu Long” Bay, admiring the fascinating rock formations in the bay. Explore the secluded “Thien Canh Son” Cave and sail to Hon Co Island where you can do sunbathe, relax, kayaking or swim. Have dinner and stay overnight on board.
Note: The cabins on board are comfortable, clean, air-conditioned, and outfitted with their own and hot shower. This is a join-in cruise (possibility to book a private junk).
Day 4: Halong – Ninh Binh (B,L,D)
Enjoy the fresh air and gentle breezes of the bay in the morning while having breakfast on board. After that we will visit “Vung Vieng” Fishing Village by a rustic rowing boat, meat the local people and pass through the lagoons. Cruise towards the harbor while an “a la carte” lunch is served. Upon disembark, you will meet again your driver and guide for your departure to Ninh Binh, called “Ha Long on the rice paddies”. Have dinner and stay overnight in Ninh Binh.
Day 5: Ninh Binh – Cuc Phuong (B,L,D)
After breakfast, we will visit “Trang An” eco site by a rowing boat and we explore the magical caves, natural and rural beauty. Then we drive to “Cuc Phuong” national park, first established in Vietnam. With a total 22,200 ha, this park has a unique value of geological history, landscape and scientific significance of the flora and fauna. Upon arrival, we will visit the Visitor Center, the Endangered Primate Rescue Center and Turtle Conservation Center. We will trek into the forest to visit the Cave of Prehistoric Man, a place where stone tools and skeletons were found dated to some 7.500 years old and a secular tree dated more than 1000 years. Stay overnight at a guesthouse in the park.
Day 6: Cuc Phuong – Ban Hieu (B,L,D)
After breakfast, we take another short walk with bird watching before cycling back to the park headquarters for lunch. Afternoon, we will drive toward “Ban Hieu” village, located in the heart of Pu Luong nature reserve. You will begin to discover unique and wonderful nature we spotted for you. You will get access to our Eco-Lodge by foot around 5km (1h/1h30) or by Xe Om (motorbike taxi) at your convenience. Now it is time for relaxing next to the waterfalls! Stay overnight in our lodge.
Day 7: Ban Hieu Lodges (B,L,D)
Many activities are possible all around « Les Bains de Hieu » as swimming in Waterfalls, walking, biking, trekking, fishing. Two horses are also available for your own pleasure to explore the surrounding of this enchanting place. Overnight in our lodge.
Day 8: Ban Hieu – Ben En national park (B,L,D)
After breakfast, we leave our Eco-lodges from “Ban Hieu” village and drive to “Ben En” national park, Thanh Hoa province. Upon arrival, we take a motorboat for a leisurely cruise on the lake (3.500 ha). Stop at one of its 21 island and discover the rare plants and animals of the reserve. You have the chance to meet and talk with hill tribe people: H’mong, Tho… Stay overnight in a guesthouse on the island.
Day 9: Ben En – Cua Lo (B,L,D)
This morning, we drive down to the South toward “Cua Lo”, one of the best beaches of Vietnamese people for the summer holiday. Upon arrival, we will visit a seafood market and a ship maker village “Trung Kien”. Free at own leisure at Cua Hoi beach, well known for its tranquility and picturesque beauty. Late afternoon, we take a boat to go to “Ru Coc” island and enjoy the sunset and a magnificent view over “Cua Lo” beach.Dinner and stay overnight in “Cua Lo”.
Day 10: Cua Lo – Dong Hoi (B,L,D)
Breakfast at your hotel then we will drive to Dong Hoi (220 kms 4hrs). Stopover for lunch you will arrive at the beginning of the afternoon. Upon arrival, we go to the core zone of “Phong Nha – Ke Bang National Park”. Arrival in “Nuoc Mooc” Eco-trail, enjoy swimming or kayaking then check in at “Chay Lap” Home stay. Have dinner after a cooking class with the host and stay overnight in Chay Lap.
Day 11: Chay Lap – Phong Nha Ke Bang national park (B,L,D)
Star trekking for reaching to “Thien Duong” cave (record by BCA). You have picnic lunch this day. Out of jungle then back to Chay Lap. Kayaking on beautiful Chay river to discovery Dark cave (Hang Toi) or biking. Overnight in Chay Lap. Then as now, our team continues to discover the caves such as “Phong Nha” and “Thien Duong” completely hidden by the jungle. These caves are located in the province of Quang Binh, in Bo Trach district, north of Dong Hoi, near the National Park “Phong Nha-Ke Bang.
Day 12: Chay Lap – Cha Lo – Thakhet (B,L,D)
After breakfast, say goodbye Chay Lap, we drive down to “Cha Lo”, border post with Laos (110kms). After the immigration procedure, you will meet our Lao guide and transfer to “Thaket”. 1st stop will be at “Nakhang Xang” village where you will have a trek through secondary forest. The trail passes through a cave that exits into a striking valley surrounded by towering cliffs and forest. The trail follows the shoreline of “Nong Thao” Lake, where you can see local fishermen at work. Upon arrival, you will discover Tham Nong Paseum Cave, a 400-metre-long cavern with dramatic stalactites and stalagmites. Back in daylight, the trip continues to Khammouane’s; famous Buddha Cave for a traditional Lao lunch of Mekong fish, sticky rice and spicy papaya salad. Then we will explore Buddha cave. Discovered in 2004, this cave content 229 bronze Buddha status dated more than 300 years. Dinner and stay overnight in Thakhet.
Day 13: Thakhet – Sala Hin Boun – “Kong Lor cave (B,L,D)
Breakfast at your hotel then we drive up to Sala Hin Boun. Upon arrival, we take a boat and transfer to “Kong Lor” village. Then we catch another small boat for the 7.5 km ride through the cave to the valley beyond. The main cavern reaches up to 90 meters wide and 100 meters high in places, and the boat stops along the way to observe stalactites and other limestone formations. Lunch in a tribe hill village and transfer back to Thaket before sunset. Stay overnight in Sala Hin Boun.
Day 14: Sala Hin Boun – Prabaht Ponsan – Vientiane (B,L,D)
This morning, drive north in destination of Vientiane along route 13 through the mountainous area. Stop over at “Prabaht Ponsan” where we visit an Ancient LPQ stupa dating back to the 15th Century. It is also home to the Ancient LPQ Budhhas footprint, discovered in 1933, and now an important religious site in Laos. Enjoy some stunning limestone karts scenery on road, as well as a number of villages with smiling waving children. Arrival in Vientiane late afternoon. Stay overnight at hotel.
Day 15: Vientiane (B,L,D)
Breakfast at your hotel then your full day city tour enables us to see the major temples of Vientiane including the oldest, Wat Sisaket, a temple of thousands of miniature Buddha statues, and the former royal temple of Wat Prakeo, which previously housed the famous Emerald Buddha Image; “Haw Pha Kaew” museum, a former ancient royal temple. After lunch in a local restaurant, we will explore Lao national icon, That Luang temple, and stop to take some pictures of the imposing Patuxay Monument, which is Vientiane’s own monument of Triumph. Overnight in Vientiane.
Day 16: Vientiane – Vang Vieng (B,L,D)
This day, we continue to drive north toward Vang Vieng. Upon arrival, transfert to Khmu village “ Vieng Samay”. Explore the Namsong River by kayak, it’s a great way to see the local countryside of karsts rock formations and riverside shacks. Stop on way and explore “Tham Nam Thaem”, a flooded cave system. We visit also an organic farmer and see the local people making mulberry tea and fruity wine. The last stop will be at “Tham Non” cave, one of the biggest in the region. Return to Vang Vieng at the end of the day. Stay overnight at the hotel.
Day 17: Vang Vieng – Luang Prabang (B,L,D)
After strolling in a local market and visit “Tham Jang” cave, we drive north again toward Luang Prabang through a stunning mountainous region. Upon arrival, we then enjoy a short-guided tour seeing the city’s oldest temple of Wat Sene and the magnificent Wat Xiengthong with its roofs sweeping low to the ground, which represents classical Laotian architecture. We also visit the impressive temple of Wat Visoun and the shrine of Wat Aham, Wat Mai. Dinner and stay overnight in Luang Prabang.
Day 18: Luang Prabang – Pak Ou – Kamu village (B,L,D)
After breakfast, transfer to the jetty and catch the boat for cruising up the Mekong River to Kamu village. The boat first stops opposite the mouth of the “Nam Ou” River to visit “Pak Ou” caves where there are two caves ‘Tham Ting’ and ‘Tham Phoum’ and thousands of Buddha images are found. Then, the boat arrives at the Lodge so you will be able to check in and have lunch at the opened air restaurant. In the afternoon, you can participate in different activities; visiting Kamu village, archery contest, rice planting and harvesting, traditional fishing and gold panning (January to June). A set menu dinner is served and you stay an overnight at our Lodge.
Day 19: Kamu village – Pakbeng (B,L,D)
Breakfast at the lodge and relaxing yourself until our boat picks you up for cruising up again to “Pakbeng”. A buffet lunch is served on board and the next stop is at Ban Baw to observe the processing of the traditional rice alcohol. The boat arrives at our Lodge before sunset for an overnight stay and a dinner is served at terrace overlooking the Mekong River. Stay overnight in Pakbeng.
Day 20: Pakbeng – Houei xay (B,L,D)
This morning the boat leaves its pier early and navigates toward “Houeixay”. One stop is made en route to observe a rural life along the Mekong River at “Ban Houy Phalam”; one of minorities’ Kamu village. A buffet lunch is served on board. The boat arrives at slow boat pier in Houei Sai later afternoon. Meet our driver and transfer to your hotel in Houeixay. Stay overnight in your hotel.
Day 21: Houei xay – Vientiane Departure (B)
Free at leisure until transfer to the airport for your international flight via Vientiane.