Ok everybody, I have a rough draft of what the trip I and my friends at V’Explore are organizing in Feb 2011 will look like. I have put it together for my family and friends, but will still need a few of you to make it 16 people. The days prior to in Saigon, and after in Nha Trang will be guided by me, or short local tours that we can arrange. Maybe a side trip to Dalat, or Mui Ne if you so desire. This is how it will work.
I will arrange to be in Saigon 4 days prior to the actual trip start date. I will aide those that come early and help to arrange a good hotel (budget or 5 star, your choice) until the tour begins. The price is based on a group of 16 people. I can probably go as high as 24 but we will see what kind of response I get. It will be up to you to get to Saigon. A return ticket will be the highest expense of this trip. From Canada you can expect the cost to be about 1500.00.
The per person cost for the 20 day guided tour will be approximately 1100.00 USD The price includes meals where stated, hotels, admissions, and transportation. Id does not include all the air transfers that will total about 450.00 USD. Also your Visa’s are separate but we can help there. A multi entry Visa for Vietnam will be $70, fof Cambodia and Laos, $25 each.
Think about it!! A 20 day trip through 3 countries in SE Asia fully escorted and almost all inclusive, and includes two luxury cruises. One up the river, and one in Halong bay, All for $75 dollars a day…. Wow!!…. A trip of a lifetime for some. I have been to many of these places before and know what is worth visiting, and what is not. I have talked with Nghia and Hau and we are working to get the too touristy stuff excluded and the more interesting and off the beaten path attractions included. We are also eliminating the time consuming 3 hour lunch tourist traps, and electing to go a bit more local. There will be suggested places for those with sensitive stomachs to eat, or the adventurous types can follow my lead. All accommodation is based on middle of the road tastes. Not too fancy, and not too budget.
I will email to those of you all of the details when they are hammered out, but here is the plan so far……….
Day 1/ Arrival Saigon
Arrive at Tan Son Nhat Airport. Meeting with guide then transfer to the hotel. Overnight in Sai Gon.
Day 2/ Saigon easy day (B)
Accommodation with breakfast only. Check out the City, maybe go on a day trip.
Day 3/ Cai Be – Can Tho – Chau Doc/with Mekong feeling ( B,L,D)
Drive to Cai Be town where we get on board with Mekong Feeling at noontime. Check in your cabin. Departure cruise towards Cho Lach on Tien River. By 15:30 -16:00 Transfer to small boat through small canals to visit a local home. Guests have a chance to walk on the tiny lanes visiting the rice field or a small gardens and feel the true “local touch. The cruise continues downstream toward Tra On. By 19:00 have a relaxing dinner. Mekong Feeling anchors at a peaceful place for his guests spend the calming night on board near Tra On Floating market
Day 4/ Second day on board (B,L,D)
By 6:00 to 6:30 AM wake up catching the magic dawn in Mekong Delta while the Mekong Feeling cruise the TRA ON Floating market.At about 7:00 have continental or American breakfast on board. Cruise towards CAN THO.
At 08:30AM: you will transfer to a small boat to visit Cai Rang Floating-market. Enjoy your visit at an orchard before transferring back to the MEKONG FEELING, where the tropical fruit juice is awaiting you. Relax on board while the staff see off some guests then prepare to welcome other guests on board. By 16:00 you will transfer to small boat to cruise through the small canals get inland to visit the bamboo village. You have a chance to walk on the village road interacting with the nice local people. By 19:00 you will be served a relaxing dinner. The Mekong Feeling will then anchor at a peaceful place where our guests will spend a calming night on board
Day 5/ Chau Doc – Phnom Penh (B)
6:00 to 6:30 AM wake up catching the magic dawn in Mekong Delta while the
Mekong Feeling leisurely cruise. Enjoy the breakfast while our cruise continue to CHAU DOC. Enjoy the last precious minutes of tranquility on your cruise before check out at 09:00am. After saying goodbye to our captain & cabin crew on the MEKONG FEELING, you will transfer to a small boat to visit the floating fishing houses one of the main ways for earning their lives here. Our last visit is at the Cham Minority Peoples village who is a small group of Muslim people finding out about the brocade textile industry and activities features of Cham people in Chau Doc. The tour end by 10:30am then transfer to speed boat to Phnom Penh (approx 4,5 hour). Tour guide will pick up at the dock & transfer to hotel. Overnight in Phnom Penh.
DAY 6/ PHNOM PENH – SIEM REAP (B)
Breakfast at hotel. Visiting Royal Palace, Silver Pagoda, Independence Monument, National Museum Then drive to Siem Reap (approx 6 hrs). Check in hotel. Overnight in Siem Reap.
Day 7/ EXPLORING ANGKORWAT (B)
Breakfast at hotel, then visit the incomparable Khmer temple complex of Angkor. From the 9th to 15th Century, Angkor was both the power base of a mighty military and political force, and the heart of a rich and sophisticated civilization. We will see massive stone monuments, wide majestic causeways, imposing gateways and towers – all in a wonderful jungle setting. Most of our afternoon is dedicated to a visit of the most famous temple – magnificent Angkor Wat. This architectural masterpiece was constructed in the 12th century and covers an area of about 210 hectares. We will enjoy exploring the many galleries with columns, libraries, pavilions, courtyards and ponds full of water reflecting the towering temple. Intricately carved bas-reliefs extend the length of the outer walls and corridors, depicting mythological scenes and day-to-day life at the time of Angkor’s construction. afternoon,
we will visit the “Great City” of Angkor Thom, which was probably more opulent than most European cities in the late 12th Century. Or so visit including the Royal City of Preah Khan which features fabulous carved stone lanterns and impressive sculptures, Neak Pean – a shrine built on a small circular island, Ta Som, East Mebon with attractive decorations on false doors and lintels, climb up to Bakheng Temple perched on top of a natural hill with spectacular views over Angkor Wat. Please note that the steep climb is richly rewarded by the views – sometimes elephants can be hired to carry you up. Optional special Dinner with Apsara dance. Overnight in Siem Reap.
Day 8/ Siem Reap – Luang Prabang (B)
Breakfast and at leisure at the hotel or explore the old market downtown are, transfer to the airport for departure flight VN 868 1250-1430 Upon arrival, you will be met and transferred to hotel. Luang Prabang is perhaps the best-preserved traditional city in Southeast Asia. TheUNESCO World Heritage town. We then visit the impressive stupa of Wat Visoun and the shrine of Wat Aham, Wat Mai. We then ascent up to the top of Mount Phousi for an enjoyable exploration of the sacred, gilded stupa as well as a beautiful sunset view of the city and the Mekong River. From there, we explore the Night Market, where you can find a lovely selection of handmade textiles made by the local and hill tribe people Overnight in Luang Prabang
tranquility and charm of this town with its splendid natural scenery and cultural sights make it one of the most delightful places to visit in Laos an
Day 9/ Luang Prabang – Pak Ou cave – Khouangsi waterfall (B)
An optional early start gives you the fantastic opportunity to participate in morning rituals of saffron-clad monks collecting offerings of Alms (ubiquitous sticky rice) from the faithful residents. This tradition is very unique in Laos, being the only Buddhist nation still preserving the procession. After breakfast, we enjoy a short-guided tour seeing the city’s oldest temple of Wat Sene and Wat Xiengthong. We then board a cruise on the Mekong River, which also gives us a panoramic view of the tranquil countryside as well as an interesting visit to the mysterious of Pak Ou Caves. Along the way, we stop at the small village of Ban Xanghai. We return to Luang Prabang in the afternoon for lunch.
We continue toward Khouangsi Waterfall, en route, we visit local villages of Lao ethnic minority groups at Ban Ouay, Hmong Village, Ban Ou, Laoloum Village and Ban Thapene, Khmu Village, then drive to the beautiful Khouangsi Waterfall. The Khouangsi Waterfall setting really illustrates paradise. We return to Luang Prabang by late afternoon and continue to Ban Xangkhong, a village well known for silk hand weaving and for traditional Saa Paper making observe . Overnight in Luang Prabang
Day 10/ Luang Prabang – Hanoi (B)
Visit the Luang Prang Bang market. At leisure or explore the town by your own. Transfer to the airport for an mid afternoon flight to Hanoi. Upon arrive at Ha Noi airport – Meeting with guide & transfer to hotel. Overnight in Hanoi.
Day 11/ City tour Hanoi – night train to Sa Pa (B)
The bustling capital of Vietnam, a fusion of Asian and French influences, and the seat of the Vietnamese. Government. The city tour in Hanoi comprises: Ho Chi Minh Mausoleum, Temple of Literature (Van Mieu)– Quoc Tu Giam, a famous historical and cultural relic consisting of the Temple of Literature and Vietnam’s first university. – Hoan Kiem Lake, which as considered as the most beautiful lake in the city, with Ngoc Son Temple, which was built in the 19th century, dedicated to the god of literature, which is linked with the bank by a beautiful curved bridge called The Huc (morning sunshine). One-Pillared Pagoda (Mot Cot Pagoda), built in 1049 in the shape of a lotus flower. According to a legend, King Ly Thai To, who had no male offspring, once saw in a dream the goddess of compassion (Avalokitesvara) sitting on alotus who handed a boy to him. The King later married a young peasant woman he had met by chance and a son was born to them. As a token of gratitude, he had the pagoda built and dedicated it to the goddess. Transfer to Ha Noi Rail station for the night train to Sa Pa. Overnight on board.
Lao Cai –
The train arrives at the Lao Cai train station at approximately 06:00. There will be a vehicle waiting to transfer us to Sapa. Driving to Sapa is only 38 km but it takes around one hour to make our way up the mountains. Once at Sapa, we will check into the hotel. After freshening up and having breakfast we are ready to explore Sapa town. We embark on a lovely walking tour to the hill tribe village of Cat Cat, home ofthe H’Mong hill tribe minority people. As we walk to the villages nestled in the valley below Sapa we will meet some of the local minority people on their way to and from Sapa. Here we have the opportunity to share cultural experiences with families that live in the area. O/N in Hotel in Sapa.
Day 13/ Sapa–Lao Chai-Ta Van-Sapa – Lao Cai (B,L,D)
Breakfast in the hotel we then, embark on a lovely trek that will take us along buffalo paths and trails and through several hills tribe villagesLao Chai & Ta Van, home to Black H’mong, and Dzay people. This is an absolutely spectacular walk through stunning scenery inhabited by some of the friendliest people you can meet. Once on the valley floor you can really appreciate the wonderful scenery that surrounds you. The walls of the valley are covered with multi-layered rice terraced fields and scattered villages. Return to Sapa and then to Lao Cai railway station by car where you will have a shower in a hotel then dinner at hotel restaurant before boarding the night train back to Hanoi. Overnight on board. Trekking distance 10 km
Day 14/ Ha Noi – Ha Long (B,L,D)
The train arrives Ha Noi Station early in the morning- Meeting with guide & come
to hotel where you will have Breakfast & refreshment before driving to Halong Bay (170 km from Hanoi 3,5 hours drive) 12.00 – 12.30 Embark on Oriental Sails followed by cruise briefing
13.00 – 15.30 Savor a delectable lunch as Oriental Sails cruise further along the limestone islands of Fighting Cock, Dog Rock and Incense Burner, to name a few
15.30 – 17.30Visit Amazing Cave and kayak along the hidden parts of the bay
17.30 – 19.00Go swimming, snap photos or just relax as the sun starts to set
19.00 Dinner is served. Socialize with other guests or just laze around. Overnight on board.
Day 15/ Halong Bay – Hanoi (Brunch)
06.00 – 07:00 Start your day with swimming, exercise or photo hunt07.00 – 11.00
Have breakfast at sunrise. Cruise through Drum Cave Island, Man’s Head Islet, Van Gia
Fishing Village and then head back to the HarborDisembark Oriental Sails at around
11h00Transfer back to Hanoi and trip finishes at the hotel around 16h30. Overnight in Ha Noi
Day 16/ Ha Noi – Hue (B,L)
Breakfast at hotel. Transfer to the airport for flight to Hue (driver only) via
VN 245 Dep 11:00/12:10. Upon arrive Hue meeting with guide & transfer to hotel. Afternoon : Take the boat trip over Perfume river to visit Thien Mu Pagoda (Heavenly Lady Pagoda), its name came from a legend when the Lord Nguyen Hoang first settled in Hue, built the pagoda in 1601. Then visit to the Dong Ba Market, famous for its best conical hats in Vietnam. Overnight in Hue.
Day 17 / Hue (B,L)
Breakfast at hotel, Today we visit the Imperial Citadel, built in 1804 on a site chosen in accordance with the principles of geomancy. and King Khai Dinh (ruled 1916 -1925) then the tombs of King Tu Duc (ruled 1848 – 1883). The monuments, designed by the kings themselves, were also used as holiday retreats during their lifetime. Overnight in Hue.
Day 18 /
Hue – Danang – Hoi an (B,L)
After breakfast leave for Danang – With a stop at Lang Co Lagoon for taking pictures- Da Nang was one of the biggest American military base in the 1960s with the famous China beach via Hai Van Pass, which offers stupendous views of the surrounding countryside, to Danang, a seaport of endless stretches of unspoiled sandy beach midway between Hanoi to the North and Ho Chi Minh City to the South. Arrival in Da Nang. Visit Cham Museum. Located in the central of Danang, this museum houses appealing stone sculptures (from the 4th-14th centuries) of Vishnu, Shiva, and other Gods of the Cham Empire. Marble Mountain. Transfer to Hoi An. Overnight in Hoian
Day 19 / Hoi An half day tour (B)
Breakfast at hotel . Depart for Hoi An Old Town, which lies on the banks of the Thu Bon River. Occupied by early Western
traders, Hoi An was one of the major trading centers of Southeast Asia in the 16th century. Hoi An emerged when Japanese and Chinese traders built a commercial district there in the 16th century. Hoi An still has a distinct Chinese atmosphere with low, tile-roofed houses and narrow streets; the original structure of some of these streets still remains almost intact. The houses were made of rare wood, decorated with lacquered boards and panels engraved with Chinese characters. Pillars were also carved with ornamental designs.
Walking tour through old Hoi An, visit:
– Phung Hung Ancient House, which used to be a shop-house of the formers merchants, a city house of special value built in the middle of the 19th century
– Museum of Hoi An, also the pagoda of Quan Yin, a religious construction built in 1653, contains photographs and many precious artifacts such as maps, statues, porcelain, ceramic, scales, anchor, jar burials, family records, etc. It is the very place one should visit first in old Hoian
– Kwan Kung Temple
, was built in the middle of the 17th century to worship Kwan Kung, the most famous general of the “ Three States” time (in Chinese history) who is the resplendent symbol of morality: faith, loyalty, frankness, righteousness.
– Japanese Covered Bridge, which was built in the 16th century, with a Japanese pagoda to protect the sailors on the northern side, the statues of two dogs at the western end, and two monkeys at the eastern end;
– Hoi An Market, and Workshop of Traditional Handicrafts
Afternoon time is a Special Hand-made Tour. Hoi An is not only famous for the charm of an ancient town and the mixing culture of Vietnam, China, and Japan, but also for handy-made products. Free in the afternoon. Overnight in Hoi An
Day 20/ Da Nang – Nha Trang (B)After breakfast t. Transfer to the airport for morning flight to Nha Trang. Upon arrival at Cam Ranh airport- Driver will pick up & transfer to hotel. End of services.
Remember….. this is a first draft. I am thinking maybe another night in Hoi An, Phnom Penh, and In Laos and having an optional side trip for Halong bay. If there are things you feel could be left out or added, please comment or send me an email. I have been to almost all of these places before, so it does not matter to me….. Majority rules
Danny and Dave…. Get your butts over here with your beautiful wives. To my co-worker friends. C’mon over… the water is warm.. To my family members and close buddies…. Well…… I guess nothing…… you are already coming!! J
I am thinking Starting Feb 21 2011