Laos, Vietnam & Cambodia: Trails of Indochina

Guided Walking Tour, Laos, Vietnam & Cambodia: Trails of IndochinaGuided Walking Tour, Laos, Vietnam & Cambodia: Trails of Indochina

Laos, Vietnam & Cambodia

Trails of Indochina

overview

Discover rich diversity as you trek through the heart of Southeast Asia. You’ll find it in the people, with their distinct indigenous cultures. You’ll see it in the architectural mix: traditional Khmer, French-colonial and Chinese style. You’ll savor it in local cuisines, which present a succulent balance of delicate and intense flavors at every meal. Fill your senses with exotic sights: Angkor Wat at sunrise, open-air markets brimming with colorful goods, jungle paths that open to cascading waterfalls. All around you are ancient temples, lost cities, and saffron-robed monks. Visit tribal villages steeped in ancient custom; meet local weavers and craftspeople; watch a magical water-puppet performance. One moment you’re in a cavernous coastal grotto, the next you’re walking through rice paddies en route to visit a rural school. From the joyful Lao Baci welcoming ceremony to the farewell celebration featuring Cambodian musicians, it’s a deeply rich lifetime experience.

 

Activity Level
Easy to moderate;
3-5 miles daily
Meet
Luang Prabang, Laos
Depart
Siem Reap, Cambodia
Daily Itinerary
Download printable
itinerary
Reading List
Recommended
pre-trip reading
Guided Walking 
11 days, 10 nights Trip Includes 

Trip Includes

  • Experienced, friendly and knowledgeable guides. On this tour there will be Laotian CW guide(s) with you on Days 1-3,
    Vietnamese CW guide(s) with you on Days 3-9 and Cambodian CW guides with you on Days 9-11.
    At Ho Chi Minh City Airport there will be a local representative to assist you during the flight transfer.
  • All meals included, except one lunch; wine and local beer included with dinner
  • All accommodations while on tour
  • Complimentary airport transfer to the first hotel on arrival in Luang Prabang and on departure in Siem Reap
  • Transportation from the meeting to the departure point
  • Entrance fees and special events as noted in the itinerary
  • Basic travel insurance coverage
  • The unbeatable and cumulative experience of the CW staff
per person double occupancy
Single supplement + $795
 

Solo surcharge + $0
 

Airfare additional + $700 (2014) $775 (2015)

2014 Single supplement + $795
2015 Single supplement + $875
Call 800.234.6900 to book this trip.

REQUEST RESERVATION
Number of Travelers
Total in your party
Price From
per person double occupancy

Airfare additional + $700 (2014) $775 (2015)

Call 800.234.6900 to book this trip.

REQUEST RESERVATION

gallery

Itinerary and Accommodations

Days
Destination
1
Luang Prabang
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2
Luang Prabang
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3
Hanoi
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4
Hanoi
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5
Halong Bay
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6
Halong Bay
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7
Hoi An
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8
Hoi An
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9
Siem Reap
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10
Siem Reap
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11
Siem Reap
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Day 1

Luang Prabang

Walking tour of Luang Prabang and Phousi Hill; 2.5 miles, easy city walking

There is no better place to begin a tour of Southeast Asia than in the Laotian town of Luang Prabang, a UNESCO World Heritage site since 1995. This ancient royal city is surrounded by mountains and was founded at the sacred confluence of the Mekong River and its tributary, the Khan River. Here in Luang Prabang, time seems to stand still. The quiet streets lined with whitewashed French colonial buildings lead to magnificent Buddhist temples with their fantastically sculpted roofs, painted in gold and vibrant colors, and their tranquil grounds. As part of the UNESCO plan, new buildings have been limited and development must be in keeping with the timelessness of these surroundings.

After meeting your guide(s), you set out for a short walk to the base of Phousi Hill, Luang Prabang’s most prominent landmark, set at the junction of the two rivers and considered a very sacred place. Climb the 328 steps leading to the summit for rewarding views over the entire town, and then continue on to Wat Visoun, a 16th-century temple housing a small museum of religious artifacts; and finally to Wat Xiengthong, another 16th-century temple, which epitomizes the elegance and grace of Luang Prabang’s Buddhist architecture. After lunch in a local restaurant, there is free time either to relax at the hotel, or to further explore this beautiful, ancient town.

Before dinner you are welcomed with a traditional Lao Baci (pronounced “bah-see”) ceremony, a lovely custom—both holy and joyful—to bless you and wish the group a lucky walking trip. By the end of the ceremony, as the pace of life in Laos takes hold, you will likely understand the Lao refrain “bo pen nyang,” loosely translated by the combined sentiments of “don’t worry, be happy” and “mañana.” Your traditional dinner this evening is in a wonderful local restaurant that provides a great introduction to the delicate flavors of Laotian cuisine.

Villa Maly

Luang Prabang, Laos

A charming boutique hotel, this restored home of Laotian royalty is located amidst tranquil gardens in the heart of Luang Prabang, within walking distance of the main historical attractions.

Day 2

Luang Prabang

Optional morning alms offering. Hmong Village: Ban Long Lao to Kuang Si Waterfall; 6 miles, moderate

Early risers may wish to join townspeople on the hushed streets giving morning offerings to monks en route to their temples. The orange-robed monks are participating in the Buddhist ritual of receiving alms, and locals lining the way fill their baskets with fruit, rice, and other small gifts as the monks walk past.

Later, after breakfast, from your hotel, a short drive ascends a mountain dirt road to the village of Ban Long Lao. Laos is one of Southeast Asia’s most diverse countries, with literally dozens of ethnic groups, each with their own language and customs. This small village is home to two distinct ethnic groups: Ban Long Loa 1 is Khmer—an agricultural society that also hunts, fishes, and traps. Ban Long Lao 2 is home to a Hmong community, known especially for their colorful weavings and elaborate jewelry. You walk through both centers, a low-key cultural exchange, before making your way into the countryside. Starting out along the green valley floor of open farmland, the trail then leads up a lush hillside with some steep and rocky sections. The trail levels out and you descend to the Kuangsi waterfall where you enjoy a picnic lunch and may be tempted to swim in its refreshing pools. Returning to your vehicle, you transfer back to Luang Prabang in the later afternoon.

Dinner this evening is at the hotel, and afterward you may wish to venture out on your own for a walk through the night market, a colorful and diverse Luang Prabang highlight, replete with local handicrafts.

Villa Maly

Luang Prabang, Laos

A charming boutique hotel, this restored home of Laotian royalty is located amidst tranquil gardens in the heart of Luang Prabang, within walking distance of the main historical attractions.

Day 3

Hanoi

Luang Prabang Market, Wat Chomphet, and Wat Xieng Mene; 2.5 miles, easy to moderate. Optional visit to Ock Pop Tok textile co-op or the Traditional Arts and Ethnology Center. Flight from Luang Prabang to Hanoi

After rising early and enjoying a wonderful buffet breakfast of muesli, traditional noodle soup, fresh fruits, eggs, and pastries, you walk from the hotel to the morning market, already bustling with activity as produce from the surrounding hills and small farms is set out. You continue down to the Mekong River, where you are ferried by a local boat to the opposite bank. The walk traces country paths that wind through rice paddies, villages, and up many steps to the ancient pagodas of Wat Chomphet and Wat Xieng Mene. Small children from the villages may escort you along the trail.

After this morning’s walk there are two optional activities. You have the chance to visit the wonderful textile co-op of Ock Pop Tok (Laotian for “East meets West”). This business provides sustainable employment to rural residents through the production and marketing of high-quality textiles. Meet the weavers and learn about these amazing contemporary and traditional designs. Alternatively, you can visit the Traditional Arts and Ethnology Center. This is Laos’s first exhibition space and fair-trade store dedicated to the collection, preservation, and presentation of traditional Laotian art and culture.

Later, you return to the hotel, where you may freshen up and pack for your transfer to Hanoi. Lunch is at JoMa Cafe, situated in an historical restored French building. There is an opportunity to have a guided tour of the National Museum, which is the former Royal Palace, before transferring to the airport.

Upon arrival in bustling Hanoi, you are met by private coach and driven to your sophisticated five-star hotel situated in extensive gardens and manicured grounds on Hanoi’s West Lake. Dinner at the hotel is an enticing fusion of Asian and continental cuisine.

Intercontinental Hanoi Westlake Hotel

Hanoi, Vietnam

A five-star hotel situated on lush grounds with an outdoor swimming pool, spa, and sauna facilities.

Day 4

Hanoi

Walking tour of Hanoi’s Old Quarter; 1-2 miles, easy

Your first full day in Vietnam is devoted to exploring the capital city of Hanoi. While smaller than Ho Chi Minh City, it is a fascinating blend of centuries of Vietnamese, Chinese, and French history. In addition to numerous museums and government buildings, Hanoi also houses many of Vietnam’s universities.

Early risers may opt to transfer to Hoan Kiem Lake, regarded as the heart of the city. You will be able to see thousands of locals practicing Tai Chi and calisthenics, or playing badminton and ping pong. From here, walk to Hang Be Market, where you can see local residents shopping for their daily supplies. A transfer is provided back to the hotel in time for a delicious buffet breakfast.

The rest of the day will be spent in and around Hanoi’s Old Quarter, which showcases traditional Vietnamese and colonial architecture in narrow streets that open up into newer districts, and onto green parks surrounding small lakes.

After lunch in a building that was once a colonial home, you may opt to relax back at the hotel, walk with the guide to the B52 Lake and explore this neighborhood, or take a walk through the French Quarter.

Later this afternoon you experience the wonderful Thang Long Water Puppet Show. This amazing art form originated more than 1,000 years ago in the Red River Delta. The performers who operate the puppets spend more than an hour in the water, and the result is an intriguing show full of local tales about ancient legends, romance, farming, fishing, and children playing.

After freshening up, dinner tonight is in a restaurant famous for its delicious local specialties.

Intercontinental Hanoi Westlake Hotel

Hanoi, Vietnam

A five-star hotel situated on lush grounds with an outdoor swimming pool, spa, and sauna facilities.

Day 5

Halong Bay

Transfer to Halong Bay. Board traditional junk boat. Visit Vung Vieng Fishing Village, optional swimming and kayaking

The destination for the next two nights is fantastical Halong Bay, 600 square miles studded with almost 2,000 jutting, lushly forested limestone islands, or karsts. Halong translates as “where the dragon descends into the sea.” As legend tells it, Halong Bay was created by a great dragon who lived in the mountains. As it ran towards the coast with its tail flailing, it gouged out valleys and crevasses in the landscape. This journey provides unequaled access to the bay’s beauty. Traveling roughly four hours east of Hanoi, you arrive in the bay around noon and board a private junk. Lunch is served on board, after which you visit to the floating fishing village of Vung Vieng. You will have the chance to experience the villagers’ daily life as well as the traditional culture and customs of the fishermen. Later there are opportunities for swimming and kayaking.

This evening, enjoy your first dinner aboard the boat. The setting sun gives way to the quiet lapping of water and a night sky full of stars.

Bhaya Cruise Private Junk

Hanoi, Vietnam

This luxury wooden junk combines oriental style with contemporary design and classic beauty. There are luxury sleeping cabins, a sundeck, a lounge and bar, plus a wonderful staff who will take care of all of your needs. All cabins have panoramic windows and air conditioning.

Day 6

Halong Bay

Cat Ba National Park, Forest Trail; 6 or 10 miles, moderate

Enjoy breakfast as the junk sets sail to Cat Ba Island. Your walk starts at the entrance to Cat Ba National Park and continues on along a forest trail up to a Ranger Station, where you eat a boxed lunch of fresh, local produce. On this walk the views are hidden by the lush vegetation, but it feels good to stretch your legs after being on the junk, and at times you will also spot beautiful blossoms high in the trees.

Once you reach the Ranger Station, you may choose to either head back down to the junk, or continue walking up the trail, which ends at a small but lovely pond. Those who do not wish to walk today may enjoy more time on the junk, swimming or kayaking.

A sunset cocktail is followed by a dinner of freshly caught seafood delicately seasoned and served in the junk’s dining room. The lights from the other boats anchored in the area reflect in the calm waters and provide a unique, intimate atmosphere.

Bhaya Cruise Private Junk

Hanoi, Vietnam

This luxury wooden junk combines oriental style with contemporary design and classic beauty. There are luxury sleeping cabins, a sundeck, a lounge and bar, plus a wonderful staff who will take care of all of your needs. All cabins have panoramic windows and air conditioning.

Day 7

Hoi An

Visit to Sung Sot Grotto. Transfer to Hanoi, flight to Danang

After a light breakfast on board, the junk makes its way to Sung Sot Cave, or “the Cave of Surprises,” the largest grotto in Halong Bay. It consists of two chambers, one being similar to a wide theater hall, where many stalactites hang from the high ceiling, and a second chamber that is so immense it could hold thousands of people at one time. At the deepest point of the grotto, a “royal garden” appears, with a clear pond and a fascinating landscape of mountains. Many birds and plants (benjamin figs, cycads, and centenary banyan trees) live here. After this visit, head back to the junk and enjoy a delicious brunch. After disembarking at Halong Pier, transfer back to Hanoi, where you board your flight to Danang. From here, drive to Hoi An, where you have a chance to check in at the hotel and freshen up before enjoying dinner at Morning Glory, a local restaurant where you can experience the delights of Vietnamese cuisine.

Anantara Hoi An Resort

Hoi An, Vietnam

Located along the scenic Thu Bon River, this wonderful resort is a short stroll from the bustling ancient town of Hoi An. The distinct ambience and atmosphere of this accommodation has French, Dutch, Chinese, and Japanese influences.

Day 8

Hoi An

Cam Thanh and Cam Chau villages and countryside; 5 miles, easy to moderate. Guided tour of Hoi An; 2 miles, easy

Begin your day with a winding walk through the villages of Cam Thanh and Cam Chau, where there may be a chance to stop at a local school and visit with the children. Continue on to the wonderful old part of Hoi An, where your guide shares amazing insights into the history of this area.

Hoi An was an international trading center from the 17th to the 19th century, frequented by merchants from China, Japan, India, and Holland. The winding narrow streets and old Chinese-style buildings of its historical center are remarkably intact and have earned it the status of a UNESCO World Heritage site. Particularly fascinating is the Japanese covered bridge, built by the 17th-century Japanese colonists and unique, with its Buddhist temple on one side. Go inside a former merchant’s house as well as shops, courtyards, and temples, eventually reaching Hoi An’s colorful central market, its stalls brimming over with tropical produce. Nearby visit the cloth market, where fabric can be purchased and made into a garment in one day.

Later, gather for a delicious dinner at Brother’s Café overlooking the Hoi An River.

Anantara Hoi An Resort

Hoi An, Vietnam

Located along the scenic Thu Bon River, this wonderful resort is a short stroll from the bustling ancient town of Hoi An. The distinct ambience and atmosphere of this accommodation has French, Dutch, Chinese, and Japanese influences.

Day 9

Siem Reap

Transfer to Siem Reap, via Ho Chi Minh City. Afternoon visit to Angkor Thom; 1 mile, easy

An early morning departure from Danang takes you to Siem Reap, Cambodia, the “Great Gate to Angkor.” On arrival in Siem Reap, you will be met at the airport by your local Cambodian guide and then transferred to your hotel. After time to check in and freshen up, enjoy lunch at the hotel’s poolside restaurant.

After lunch take a tuk-tuk to the gate at Bayon, where you begin your walk to explore the mysterious royal city of Angkor Thom. Stroll along the trail to the Terrace of the Elephants and the Terrace of the Leper King. Wander through the narrow alleyways and see its awe-inspiring 50-tower temple. The enormous stone sculptures reveal enigmatic faces from a remote era. Continue on to Takeo Temple, a towering but plainly decorated structure dedicated to Shiva. Known in its time as the “mountain with golden peaks,” it was the first temple to be constructed wholly of sandstone. Dinner tonight is in a local restaurant, your first chance to enjoy Cambodia’s delicious cuisine.

Victoria Angkor Resort & Spa

Siem Reap, Cambodia

This upscale, colonial-style property features tastefully appointed rooms, beautiful Khmer artwork throughout, and a pool surrounded by peaceful gardens.

Day 10

Siem Reap

K’Bal Spean Trail; 3 miles, easy to moderate. Afternoon visit to Ta Prohm

This morning, you depart early from the hotel and transfer to K’bal Spean, which is situated on the southwestern slopes of the Kulen Hills and within Phnom Kulen National Park. It was here, in 802 AD, that King Jayavarman declared himself the god-king and broke away from the Java kingdom. This is the birthplace of the Angkor kingdom and modern Cambodia. You follow a trail through a pretty forest, where at the top you find the K’bal Spean site and riverbed, which is covered with sculptures of lingas, the symbol of the god Shiva’s supreme essence. This amazing Hindu site, referred to as the “River of a Thousand Linguas,” predates Angkor Wat by roughly 200 years, making it one of the most ancient sites in the region. Along your route, you will find a lovely waterfall and great views of the valley below.

Lunch today is in a local restaurant at the foot of K’Bal Spean, which features great views over the area. Later this afternoon, you visit Ta Prohm, a site nearly lost due to the deep jungle growing around it. The overgrown vegetation combined with the remains provides a somewhat haunted and exotic landscape. Enormous tree roots, pushing between the stone blocks of the temple in a sort of embrace, emphasize the legend of a “lost city.” Intentionally left partially unrestored, the towers and alleyways are overgrown with massive fig and silk-cotton trees, offering ample photo opportunities of temple ruins juxtaposed with lush vegetation. Time permitting, you visit a center for local artisans to learn about how traditional practices are being passed on to the next generation. Dinner tonight is at the hotel, which serves some of the best Cambodian food in the area. Later, spectacular surroundings provide the backdrop for a performance by traditional musicians, dancers, and singers, who bring ancient Khmer culture to life before your eyes.

Victoria Angkor Resort & Spa

Siem Reap, Cambodia

This upscale, colonial-style property features tastefully appointed rooms, beautiful Khmer artwork throughout, and a pool surrounded by peaceful gardens.

Day 11

Siem Reap

Visit of Angkor Wat; 1 mile, easy. Departure from Siem Reap

This morning you rise very early in order to beat the crowds for an exploration of Angkor Wat—the enormous and intricately carved Khmer ruins—one of the world’s architectural wonders. A product of the Khmer civilization, the temple was constructed between the 9th and 13th centuries. Strolling its extensive alleys and courtyards, you see many small shrines still in use by the local residents living near the ancient site. Housed in the main temple are hundreds of fine carvings of Apsaras, depicted from Hindu mythology.

After this remarkable visit to Angkor Wat, you bid farewell to your newfound friends after a final lunch at the Paul De Brule Tourism School, which trains future chefs. A complimentary transfer to the airport is included for your onward travel.

Itinerary Disclaimer

Bear in mind that this is a typical itinerary, and the actual activities, sites, and accommodations may vary due to season, special events, weather, or transportation schedules. We reserve the right to alter the itinerary since tour arrangements are made up to a year in advance, and unforeseen circumstances that mandate change may arise. Itinerary changes are made to improve the tour and your experience. If you are currently booked on a CW adventure, an itinerary has been sent to you for your exact departure date. Please call CW at 800.464.9255 if you have any questions about the exact itinerary or hotels selected for any of our tours.

Guides

Pakasith Phommavanh

A native of Luang Prabang, Pakasith Phommavanh enjoys sharing his love of this incredible city and the surrounding area with guests. He has a broad knowledge of the culture, history, flora, and fauna in this region. He has been an English speaking guide for the almost 10 years, and in the past has also worked as an airline ticketing agent and as a front office receptionist in a local hotel.

Nguyen Duy Hung

Since graduating from Hanoi National University, Nguyen Duy Hung has spent over 12 years guiding guests around his beloved Hanoi, where he has the opportunity to share his extensive knowledge of Vietnam’s history culture, and traditions with our guests. When not guiding, he enjoys landscape and nature photography and being active—especially swimming and jogging.

Dang Si Hiep

Dang Si Hiep has a Bachelor of Arts degree in English from the Hanoi University of Foreign Languages and has been a guide in Vietnam for over 12 years. Since he was a child he has been interested in the history and culture of his country and learned much from his father (a Professor of Linguistics) and his grandmother (a Buddhist nun). He is excited to share this knowledge as you travel throughout Vietnam.

Hem Khet

Born in Cambodia and growing up in the countryside outside Siem Reap, Hem Khet first started in the tourism industry working in hotels and steadily moved up the ranks becoming a fully licensed guide in 1998. Having lived through the Pol Pot regime, his experiences have instilled a very personal touch on his intimate knowledge of Cambodia’s history and culture.

Pum Roath

Pum Roath began his career as a teacher but eventually shifted gears to become a tour guide both for foreign tourists as well as television personnel shooting video at the many archaeological sites throughout Cambodia. When not guiding and teaching about the fascinating Khmer culture and history, you will most likely find Pum enjoying a challenging game of chess.

Guest Comments

E. Robinson, California

I think me having taken 10 trips with CW pretty much says it all!

J. Cantor, Maryland

This was a remarkable trip for many reasons. Chief among them were a review of the recent history of these three countries and the opportunity to learn about their different cultures. The guides were excellent and our group was extraordinarily congenial.

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