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Cultural Treasures of Northern Vietnam & Laos

Vietnam SE Asia Tour

Summary : Enjoy a two-night cruise through the breathtaking scenery of Lan Ha Bay. Discover the secrets of Vietnamese cooking during a hands-on class in Tam Coc. Shop for high-quality textiles in scenic Sam Neua. Meet with people from the Tai Dam (White Thai) and Tai Kao (Black Thai) minority groups during a traditional homestay in culturally diverse Mai Chau. Join monks for morning prayers in Luang Prabang, the center of Laotian culture. Discover thousands of megalithic stone urns at the mysterious Plain of Jars in Laos.

Activities : Birding, Culture, Hiking, Kayaking


Groups of 8 or more people save 10% per person off the cost of the expedition.

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Day 1
Depart USA

Board your independent flight to Hanoi.

Day 2
Hanoi, Vietnam

Arrive in the late evening and transfer to the Sofitel Legend Metropole Hotel for the night.

Day 3

Millions of motorbikes zip through Vietnam’s tree-lined capital, noted for its French colonial architecture and contemporary arts scene. Explore the Old Quarter, home to Ho Chi Minh’s mausoleum and the 11th-century Temple of Literature. Ever mindful of its past, the city’s many war-themed museums include the Military History Museum complex and notorious Hoa Lo Prison, aka “Hanoi Hilton.”

Day 4
Hanoi / Haiphong / Lan Ha Bay

Halong Bay’s little sister, Lan Ha, is equally stunning, but with far fewer tourists. This morning, take a leisurely drive to Haiphong and board the luxe Orchid Cruise for a two-night journey, enjoying lunch while passing amazing karst formations. Stop at Ba Trai Dao beach to swim or kayak, then watch the sun set over the Gulf of Tonkin. Your contemporary suite with floor-to-ceiling windows and private balcony makes a stunning retreat.

Day 5
Lan Ha Bay

Greet the day with a Tai Chi session on deck as the ship cruises past some of La Ha Bay’s 400 verdant islands. Stop for a bicycle tour of Viet Hai village and a dip in cliff-enclosed Ba Ham Lake before an afternoon cooking class. In the evening, relax on deck, watch a movie, or try your hand at squid fishing.

Day 6
Lan Ha Bay / Haiphong / Tam Coc

Explore Toi (dark) and Sang (light) caves on a morning canoe excursion, then return to the ship for brunch before disembarking in Haiphong. From there, head out on an overland journey along the Red River, second only to the Mekong in its rice production. Meditate upon its lustrous rice paddy fields on the way to Tam Coc; upon arrival, check into Tam Coc Garden Hotel for dinner and overnight.

Day 7
Tam Coc

Encircled by paddy fields—which locals call “the green sea”—and dotted with dramatic karstic formations, Tam Coc (Three Caves) is the terra firma version of Halong Bay. A scenic drive takes you past rocky outcrops on the way to Van Lan, a traditional village famous for its embroidery. Get acquainted with the fresh vegetables and herbs used in Vietnamese cuisine during an afternoon cooking class.

Day 8
Tam Coc / Mai Chau

Vietnam’s rural Mai Chau district is distinguished by its unique culture that includes seven ethnic minority groups. Travel through the spectacular Mai Valley, strewn with tiny villages of stilt bamboo houses. Gain understanding into the differences among its Tai Dam (Black Thai), Tai Kao (White Thai), and other peoples during a traditional homestay.

Day 9
Mai Chau / Sam Neua, Laos

Sam Neua is the capital city of the remote Hua Phan Province. Nestled in a scenic valley surrounded by rice fields and mountains, Sam Neua is recognized for producing the region’s finest textiles. Wander amidst its red-roofed buildings before relaxing in your rustic, but gracious guesthouse.

Day 10
Sam Neua / Phonsavan

Today’s destination is the UNESCO-designated Plain of Jars, where giant megalithic stone urns lie scattered about the hills of Phonsavan. Spend the afternoon exploring this surreal archaeological site before checking into the Vansana Plain of Jars for a two-night stay.

Day 11

Thought to be 2,500 years old, little else is known of the Plain of Jars, a remote, mysterious place where thousands of massive stone urns—some reaching 10 feet in height—are randomly strewn across the undulating landscape. Some archaeologists believe the jars were associated with prehistoric burial practices.

Day 12
Phonsavan / Vientiane / Luang Prabang

Take a morning tour of Muang Khoun, ancient capital of the Xieng Khouang Province. While invaders and heavy bombardment have ravaged the once royal city, glimmers of its former glory are evidenced in the Buddha statue standing guard over the Wat Phia Wat ruins. After lunch, board your flight to Luang Prabang via Vientiane, and check into Azerai Hotel for dinner and overnight.

Day 13 – 14
Luang Prabang

Girdled by lush mountains, Luang Prabang has long been considered the heart of Laotian culture. The town received UNESCO status for its distinctive blend of traditional colonial architecture. Take a tour of the old town before an afternoon hike to the summit of Mount Phousi for sunset views. The next day, join a community of monks for morning prayers, take a Mekong River cruise, and browse the colorful stalls of the popular Night Market.

Day 15
Luang Prabang / Bangkok

After a morning at leisure, board your flight to Bangkok and transfer to Novotel Bangkok Airport Hotel for dinner and overnight.

Day 16
Bangkok / USA

Board your independent homeward flight, arriving in the USA the same day.


This itinerary is subject to change. ExpeditionTrips is not responsible for itinerary changes.


Excursions in the company of a world-class expedition leader and local guides; gratuities; accommodations and meals as per the itinerary, including selected beverages with lunch and dinner; entrance fees; arrival and departure transfers on group dates; $80 gift certificate for recommended expedition gear and reading materials; and medical expense coverage and emergency evacuation insurance*. Subject to change without notice.

Not Included:
All airfare; excess baggage charges; airport arrival and departure taxes; transfers for independent arrivals and departures; passport and/or visa fees; additional travel insurance; items of a personal nature such as laundry, alcoholic beverages (other than listed above with lunch and dinner), e-mail/fax/Internet/telephone charges.

*Emergency Medical & Evacuation Insurance:
Emergency medical coverage to a maximum benefit per paying passenger of $25,000 is included in the cost of this expedition, as well as evacuation coverage to a maximum benefit per paying passenger of $100,000. Insurance is underwritten by National Union Fire Insurance Company of Pittsburgh, PA. The policy will contain reductions, limitations, exclusions and termination provisions. All coverages may not be available in all states. Please note this coverage does not cover you against trip cancellation or for additional days of travel prior to and/or after the expedition trip dates. ExpeditionTrips strongly advises all clients to purchase travel insurance which includes trip cancellation and interruption coverage for the entire duration of your trip.

Photo Credit:
© Zegrahm Expeditions

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