The South East Asia Loop circles some of South East Asia’s highlights, whether you are starting in Bangkok, Hanoi or Ho Chi Minh City, you won’t miss out on any part of the region’s beauties. One week you can taste the delicacies of the street foods of Ho Chi Minh, cycle through the rice paddies of Laos or explore the hill tribes near Chiang Mai. You will get the chance to explore the nightlife in Bangkok and get clothes fitted in Hoi An. The wonders of South East Asia will be at your fingertips and you will travel with like-minded young people to add to the party.
The first day of your tour is simply an arrival day with no pre-organised activities. In order to allow time to relax and see some of the sights you may wish to add pre-tour accommodation. The first day of your tour is simply an arrival day with no pre-organised activities. In order to allow time to relax and see some of the sights you may wish to add pre-tour accommodation. Thailand's capital, Bangkok, is a crazy and chaotic city! Known in Thai as Krung Thep Maha Nakhon pronounced or Krung Thep "city of angels" for short, Bangkok was a small trading post at the mouth of the Chao Phraya River during the Ayutthaya Kingdom. Bangkok is now the gateway to South East Asia for most travellers and international backpackers come and go and the streets are always buzzing and full of life. No visit to Bangkok is complete without a visit to Khao San Road, the famous strip filled with markets, stalls, neon lights and young backpackers. From people watching to shopping, and nightlife to food and drink, this is the place to be on a night out in Bangkok. If you're feeling adventurous you might wish to try a fried insect or two! On a more cultural note, Bangkok also boasts hundreds of Wats (temples), with Wat Arun being the main one visited by most travellers. The Grand Palace is also a popular attraction, and for something different you can cruise along the Chao Phraya River and through the canals. Bangkok once had an elaborate network of canals and was given the nickname, 'Venice of the East', and although some of them have been filled in and converted to streets, many still exist today. Travelling through these canals you will see how the locals live along the riverside - you almost forget you are in a large, bustling city. Thailand's currency is the Thai Baht (BHT).
Phnom Penh is Cambodia's bustling capital city with a turbulent past. Located on the banks of the Mekong River, Phnom Penh has been the national capital since the French colonised Cambodia during the 19th century. The city has grown from a small fishing village to what is now the industrial, commercial, cultural and historical centre of Cambodia. Take a visit to the Tuol Sleng Genocide Museum (a former torture centre) and the Choueng Ek Memorial at the site of the Killing Fields, to learn about one aspect of this country's turbulent past. Phnom Penh has many other attractions including the Russian Market and National Museum. You could also take a stroll along the river's famous Sisowath Quay and enjoy a coffee or cocktail at one of the many cafes while observing the bustling river traffic. You may wish to take a tuk-tuk ride around Phnom Penh (a tuk-tuk is a motorbike-taxi with an enclosed passenger cabin that can fit around 4 people).
We cross the border from Cambodia to Vietnam by travelling by boat down the Mekong River from Phnom Penh to Chau Doc. Chau Doc is our base to explore the extraordinary Mekong Delta, a region in southwestern Vietnam where the Mekong River approaches and empties into the sea through a network of distributaries. Life in the Mekong Delta revolves much around the river, and many of the villages are often accessible by rivers and canals rather than by road. The region produces half of the country's rice output which is more than Japan and Korea together. You will get to spend the night in a guesthouse for a real perspective of daily life in the region, before travelling by bus to Vietnam’s capital the next day.
Ho Chi Minh City was known as Saigon until the end of the Vietnam War (around 1975). Originally a small fishing village, it is now the most important economic centre in Vietnam and is the largest city in the country. Traffic in the city is fairly hectic at the best of times but getting around is suprisingly easy by taxi or motorbike taxi, although drivers may not always speak English. Bus is the only form of public transport and motorbikes rule the road; there are around 3 million motorbikes cruising around the streets of Ho Chi Minh City. If you're interested in the history of the Vietnam War make sure you visit the War Remnants Museum and the Reunification Hall. If you're less of a history buff and more in the mood to haggle for a bargain, don't miss Ho Chi Minh's largest market, the Ben Thanh Market. You can buy everything from cosmetics to live ducks here. There are also numerous food stalls at this market, and at the popular night market nearby. The food in Ho Chi Minh City is some of the best and most diverse in all of Vietnam so make sure you eat well during your stay. There are also many bars and clubs to spend your evening in. Vietnam's currency is the Vietnamese dong (VND).
After spending the morning in Ho Chi Minh City we board the overnight sleeper bus to beautiful Nha Trang
Nha Trang is a popular beachside destination for many travellers and is brimming with restaurants, bars and excellent nightlife. You enjoy a boat cruise where you can swim in the surrounding crystal clear waters - try your hand at snorkelling before relaxing on deck with a refreshing drink!
After some seaside play and a late night in the bars and clubs we board the overnight sleeper bus north to our next destination.
In Hoi An we have free time to explore the handicrafts, ceramics and fabrics that are sold at an abundance of markets. Hoi An is renowned for tailoring; pack your favourite item of clothing and get it copied here! We also enjoy a bike ride to Hoi an Beach passing lush paddy fields along the way. Once you're there you can marvel at coastal views with a local beer in hand
We depart Hoi An and travel north to Hue. The drive takes us across the Marble Mountains and via the scenic Hai van Pass. There are stunning views to take in of the surrounding coastline and rice paddies. Once the capital of Vietnam (during the Nguen Dynasty in 1802-1945), Hue is situated on the banks of the Huong Giang or Perfume River. It is a UNESCO World Heritage Site and a bustling, lively place with many things to see and do. Hue is renowned for its monuments temples, pagodas and architecture. The Imperial City, often likened to the Forbidden City in Beijing (and sometimes referred to as the Forbidden City as well), is well worth a visit. Hue also offers many Buddhist pagodas and markets to explore if you just feel like soaking up the lively atmosphere.
This evening we will board an overnight sleeper train to the bustling city of Hanoi
Hanoi is the capital of the Socialist Republic and is dominated by colonial buildings and tree-lined boulevards. The city boasts a convoluted yet elegant history which is characterised by its 'chameleon of names' - the city has changed names many times throughout history. In terms of recent history, the French withdrew their forces in 1954 and ever since foreign investment and property has developed substantially. In Hanoi, exploring on your own is relatively easy on foot or by bike. Many travellers believe the true appeal and essence of Hanoi is discovered wandering the streets, tasting local market food, observing the local way of life, and taking in the architecture and surroundings. Interested in visiting Ha Long Bay? From Hanoi you can arrange a boat tour out to the dramatic limestone karsts of the UNESCO World Heritage site. Day boat tours start from US$25-35 depending on the style of boat and the season. Overnight junk boat tours start from US$85-100. All entrance fees and meals on the boat are provided along with a guide. Drinks are additional.
We take a flight across the border to Vientiane. The capital of Laos is extremely quiet - so quiet that, before 1970, there was only one set of traffic lights in the entire city (a far cry from some other South East Asian cities!). We have time to admire this tranquil city with its many murals and markets. Many buildings you will see when you wander the streets are of religious significance. You may wish to hire a bicycle and explore the local streets and markets which are excellent here. Laos' currency is the Lao Kip (LAK).
As we make our way north from Vientiane we travel through stunning scenery to Vang Vieng. This peaceful town is situated in a plateau with stunning surroundings of limestone caves and waterfalls, and the area is inhabited by the Hmong and Yao tribes. The limestone caves are renowned in ancient mythology and have featured in the prose of many artists throughout time. Vang Vieng is an excellent place to try the local cuisine and there are markets to indulge in. Feeling energised we will take a bicycle tour off the beaten track through some of Laos' most incredible scenery and view a wonderful sunset across lush paddy fields before arriving for a swim at the Blue Lagoon.
We travel from Vang Vieng on the scenic route 4 to the sleepy town of Luang Prabang. Many say this is the most memorable town in all of Laos. Renowned for a fascinating history, some of the friendliest people and possibly the best nightlight in South East Asia, Luang Prabang refers to the holy Pra Bang, Laos' most sacred image of the Buddha given to Fa Ngoum. We have two days to enjoy this peaceful town, which is located 300 metres above sea level on the upper Mekong. We have the opportunity to watch the local monks collect alms early in the morning, a truly humbling expeience. As you explore you will see that Luang Prabang is dominated by Phousi - the marvellous hill-top temple that sits in the middle of the town. You'll notice a combination of Lao, French and Lao-French colonial influence as you admire the city's buildings and architectural highlights - all of which you can see discovering the town on foot. There are many temples to visit in Luang Prabang - over 30 in fact, which is a large number for this small town. Along the way you may encounter some young monks eager to practice their English skills as well.
From Luang Prabang, we begin a two-leg journey that will take us towards northern Thailand entirely by boat along the mighty Mekong River. We stop overnight midway at the small riverside village of Pakbeng, where the pace of life really slows down and you can relax and enjoy a nice, cold, award-winning Beer Laos. The next day we are back on the river and continue our boat adventure to Huay Xai where the Mekong River is the only divide between Thailand and Laos. We stay in Huay Xai overnight and enjoy our last experience of Laos hospitality before crossing the river the next morning into northern Thailand and the infamous Golden Triangle.
Our journey today culminates in Chiang Mai but the destination is only a part of the experience. After crossing the Mekong River by longboat and clearing Thai customs at the roadside “customs hut” we continue in private, air-conditioned minivans to discover the Golden Triangle, the infamous centre of Asia's illicit opium production, where Laos, Thailand and Burma meet at a single point close to the Chinese border. You can visit the old Opium Museum, the giant Golden Buddha sitting on a boat by the riverside and the stone elephants there to protect him. From the history of the Golden Triangle we make our way west towards Chiang Rai where you can see the incredible Wat Rong Khun, or White Temple, designed unlike any religious entity you have ever seen. While we don't want to spoil the surprise, the outside of the building although spectacular is not the end of the story. Explore both inside and outside to discover the hidden secrets of this modern day wonder. An amazing day ends with our arrival into Chiang Mai, the 'Rose of the North', where you can enjoy a Thai cooking course, relaxing massage, take in a night-time Thai kick-boxing bout (Muay Thai) or haggle the night away at Chiang Mai’s famous evening street bizarre. You can take an optional excursion out to the beautiful caves of Chiang Dao, with its amazing limestone stalactites and stalagmites, and beautiful white marble Buddhist statues from Burma.
Before we board our overnight bus to Bangkok you will have some final free time to relax and enjoy Chiang Mai.
We are back in Bangkok in the early morning where we will spend another couple of free days in this great city. It's a chance to indulge in even more shopping and nightlife, or perhaps take it easy and visit some of the popular Wats in the area. A great market to visit, if not for the best bargain, but for its sheer size, is the 35 acre Chatuchak Weekend Market which has reached a landmark status as a must-visit place in Bangkok. Get there easily by skytrain to Mo Chit station.
Your adventure of a lifetime comes to an end today. If you have a late flight or have lengthened your stay by adding post tour accommodation you will have more time to explore the sights. Your adventure of a lifetime comes to an end today. If you have a late flight or have lengthened your stay by adding post tour accommodation you will have more time to explore the sights.
-English speaking guides
-Ground transport with air-conditioned vehicle as required
-All entrance fees to tour sites
-Meal as indicated
-Visa and visa fees
-Personal expenses, such as laundry, camera, telephone, etc….
-Tips and gratuities
-Compulsory dinner for Christmas and New Years Eve
-All other expenses Not mentioned in the above inclusions
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