DAY 1: LUANG PRABANG ARRIVAL
Upon arrival, you will be met by your guide and transferred to your hotel for check-in.
Luang Prabang is a peaceful, provincial city which serves as the spiritual capital of Laos. There is little traffic on the Luang Prabang roads and monks in orange robes scurry in all directions carrying umbrellas to shade themselves from the sun.
DAY 2: LUANG PRABANG ARCHITECTURE INSIGHTS TOUR (B/L)
Start your tour at Heritage House, a wonderful example of traditional Lao architecture. Continue to the former Royal Palace, now a National Museum, where you will learn about the history of Laos. Visit Wat Mai, a temple renowned for its golden bas-relief then continue to Wat Sensoukarahm, which features a beautiful dazzling golden façade. On the way you will pass by a noodle soup shop run by the chef of the former Royal family. Observe the beautifully restored French Colonial building which is now the UNESCO office before visiting the most revered temple in Luang Prabang, Wat Xieng Thong. Continue to a house styled in a mix of French and Traditional Lao located near My Library.
Lunch at Tamarind (include). Run by an Australian woman and her Lao husband, they have created a fresh menu of Lao dishes and are dedicated to promoting a greater understanding of the local cuisine.
Following lunch, continue your tour of enchanting Luang Prabang. Visit The Traditional Arts & Ethnology Centre, a museum dedicated to exploring the rich diversity of Laos’ ethnic minorities. Traditional costumes, tools, and artifacts are on display alongside in-depth descriptions and written histories. It is a great opportunity to gain insight into the Lao people (note: closed on Monday).
Continue to Wat Visoun, the holiest temple of the city, which was entirely rebuilt in 1887 after being destroyed by the invading Black Flags from Southern China. In the courtyard of Wat Visoun stands the Watermelon Stupa shaped like the fruit from which it takes its name. Continue past Wat Aham, which was first built in the 1500s, and on to Wat That where the ashes of King Sisavang Vong are kept inside the large central stupa. Then to the main street where you will see examples of old Chinese shop fronts and visit Ma Te Sai which is dedicated to promoting crafts and delicacies’ that are made in many remote provinces of Laos.
As the day comes to a close, climb the 328 stairs of Mount Phousi and watch the sun set over the city and surrounding hills. Visit the hilltribe evening market for some shopping. This colorful market takes place every evening at around 5pm along the main streets of town and is a great place to look for souvenirs.
DAY 3: LUANG PRABANG - CHIANG MAI BY FLIGHT (B)
For early risers, there is a very special dawn visit to watch the monks collecting the alms. As the sun begins to rise, long lines of orange-robed monks leave their pagodas and walk barefoot down the streets collecting offerings from Luang Prabang residents. It is a beautiful, serene ceremony that highlights the spiritualism of the Laos people. Return to the hotel for breakfast and relax before flight to Chiang Mai.
In the late afternoon, visit the 500-year-old Wat Palad, one of the three temples in Doi Suthep National Park and an old meditation center. Then depart to Wat Prathat Doi Suthep, the temple on the mountain, and the most sacred in Northern Thailand. The stairs lead you to its impressive chedi and beautiful murals. At this time, the tourist masses will have already left the temple grounds and dusk will give way to a very special atmosphere. End with the spectacularly romantic evening view over Chiang Mai with its millions of glittering lights.
Chiang Mai is a city that really comes alive at night! We start the evening at a local temple to join monks in their nightly chanting of prayer. Light some incense or burn a candle and experience this wonderful Buddhist event. From here it’s time to dine at the beautiful Pillars 137 colonial house. Following this we stroll (or drive) over the bridge to the lively Waroros market. This market is the hub of local life and bursting with fresh flowers and local street food stalls. Your guide will explore the market with you and sample some local Thai sweets to finish off your wonderful night.
DAY 4: CHIANG MAI (B)
Today, we will make your day a very special one. You will experience a typical day in the life of a Thai person- no tourists, no sightseeing, just real life home cooking in a real Thai neighborhood.
Join Mr. Prapat in his family car and transfer 20 minutes to Hang Dong to spend the day with your ‘Thai family’. In true Thai style, slip into a pair of local ‘fisherman’s pants’ and discover the architecture of a traditional Thai house and rice barn. Your Thai family will also demonstrate their basket weaving skills, a tradition that has been in Thailand for centuries. Stroll around the small, family orchid and select fresh ingredients to add to the days cooking extravaganza. You will learn to cook traditional home cooked recipes with authentic Northern Thai flavors that are different from standard dishes offered in commercial cooking classes. Best of all you will have the opportunity to get to know a real Thai family and be their house guest for the day. Enjoy a delicious home cooked lunch with your family (cooked together). In the afternoon, go for a stroll around the neighborhood to see some cottage industry goods being made before returning to Chiang Mai.
Overnight in Chiang Mai.
DAY 5: CHIANG MAI - BANGKOK (B)
Take a flight to Bangkok and upon arrival at Suvarnabhumi Airport, you’re met and transferred to your hotel. After checking in to the hotel you will be free to explore.
Overnight in Bangkok.
DAY 6: BANGKOK (B)
Breakfast at the hotel and then time to explore Bangkok by boat. A cruise tour along the Chao Phraya reveals scenes at odds with the bustling, modern inner city. Visitors get a glimpse of the serene and simple lifestyle of the riverbank dwellers. En route, stop at the Royal Barges Museum and Wat Arun (Temple of Dawn). Almost opposite Wat Arun is the Grand Palace, one of the most beautiful examples of an ancient Siamese court. It used to be the residence of the Kings of Bangkok. Here you will see palaces which were used for different occasions: the Funeral Palace, the Reception Palace, the Throne Hall, the Coronation Hall, the Royal Guest House, and Wat Phra Keo, the beautiful Emerald Buddha Temple. (Note: The Grand Palace is closed during special royal ceremonies and during visiting heads of state). Lunch will be served at a local restaurant.
Overnight in Bangkok.
DAY 7: BANGKOK – SIEM REAP BY FLIGHT (B/L)
Leave in the morning for a flight to Siem Reap, Cambodia.
Cambodia’s rich religious history means that it is home to some of the most beautiful temples in Southeast Asia. Built as early as the first millennium, a vast number still exist, waiting to be explored. While some have been left untouched and are now engulfed in jungle, others are lovingly preserved as magnificent spectacles of Cambodia’s past. Dating back to 967 AD, Banteay Srei is a magnificent spectacle that has been preserved in near perfect condition.
Upon arrival at Siem Reap port or airport, you are met and transferred for Angkor complex exploration.
- Banteay Srei: the favorite site of many tourists, the special charm of this temple lies in its compact size, remarkable state of preservation, and the excellence of it decorative carvings.
- Banteay Samre: Its rose-colored sandstone walls are decorated with carvings and bas-reliefs, which are among the most accomplished Angkor has to offer.
- We continue to visit the fabulous Ta Prohm embraced by the roots of enormous fig trees and gigantic creepers.
- Prasat Kravan - with its unique brick sculptures.
- Srah Srang - the Royal Baths were once used for ritual bathing.
- Banteay Kdei (surrounded by four concentric walls).
Enjoy a welcome dinner with a traditional Apsara Show. Overnight in Siem Reap.
DAY 8: SIEM REAP (B/L)
In the morning, transfer to visit the South Gate of Angkor Thom: Bayon, Baphoun, Terrace of Elephant, Terrace of Leper King and Phimean Akas. This morning you will experience elephant riding from South Gate Angkor Thom to the center of Angkor Thom.
In the afternoon, visit the World Heritage "Angkor Wat" then continue to visit the Bakheng Hill temple to view the sunset from the top of the hill. Overnight in Siem Reap.
DAY 9: SIEM REAP – HOI AN VIA DANANG (B)
We will start the day by contemplating the sunrise over Angkor Wat Temple and listening to singing birds over the ancient land of Angkor. At 6:45am we walk to a nearby pagoda and offer food to monks. After the monks have finished their breakfast, we’ll enjoy our own meal in the pagoda with jasmine tea.
Transfer to the Tonlé Sap for a cruise on the lake with a visit to a floating village to explore the life of a fisherman. Then visit Chantier Ecole-Artisant d’Angkor.
Free time for shopping until departure for Hoi An via Da Nang, Vietnam.
Upon arrival in Danang airport, you are escorted by our tour guide to your hotel in Hoi An city for overnight.
DAY 10: HOI AN (B/L)
In the morning, take a half day excursion to Tra Que Vegetable Village, walk around the vegetable garden and join the farmers in preparing the land, fertilizing it with seaweed from the local lake, raking, sowing, watering greens, picking greens and many more gardening activities. After gardening activities you can relax with a foot massage using many different herbs and remedies. Then spend the rest time to learn how to prepare ‘Tam Huu' spring roll & banh xeo with your host.
In the afternoon you will visit Hoi An ancient town. The visit includes the Japanese covered bridge, some Chinese Assembly Halls, and some typical Vietnamese houses of the 18th century. Free time then for shopping or relaxing at a café. Overnight in Hoi An.
DAY 11: HOI AN (B)
Leisure day on the beach or further explore the old town.
DAY 12: HOI AN – HANOI BY FLIGHT (B/D)
You are arriving in Hanoi capital, a city of over a thousand years. Greeting you at Noi Bai International Airport, Aurora Travel’s guide will escort you to your hotel for check-in. Welcome dinner at one of the city’s most highly regarded culinary artisan restaurants with Madam Anh Tuyet.
Overnight in Hanoi.
DAY 13: HANOI INSIGHT CITY TOUR (B/L)
For early risers: Join in with the locals who gather for Tai Chi every morning around Hoan Kiem lake or West lake. It is a magnificent city sight to witness and an even more magical experience to participate in this graceful practice. Back to your hotel for breakfast or taste a steaming bowl of “Pho”- the traditional Hanoi breakfast menu.
After breakfast stroll down to a fresh and wet market where a huge variety of fresh products are sold and still an important part of Vietnamese culture. Next, we will visit the Vietnam Museum of Ethnology which successfully presents the recognition of Vietnam as a multi-ethnic country and promotes socio-cultural diversity. Continue to the Temple of Literature, constructed in 1070 under Ly Thanh Tong’s dynasty, first to honor Confucius and now to celebrate the doctorates and high rank scholars of Vietnam. Lunch at KOTO (refers to Know One Teach One) to support street and disadvantaged youth in Vietnam.
In the afternoon, take a walk on the historic Long Bien bridge while our guide explains why it is considered with such pride by Hanoians and is a symbol of our courageous capital after the many years of war. Then it is time for “café sua da”, iced coffee with condensed milk, and to take a street food tasting tour. Exploring some more markets to get an overview of Vietnamese food, talk with food artisans, street vendors and eat tasty local food and drink. This tour is a great way to see the parts of Hanoi that most tourists don’t.
Back to your hotel in the late afternoon and overnight in Hanoi.
DAY 14: HANOI – HA LONG CITY – BAI TU LONG BAY (B/L/D)
The two day one night cruise to untouched Bai Tu Long bay is ideal to discover the natural beauty and local life. The trip will take you deep into this natural wonder which is best seen while kayaking through the rock limestone to explore the daily life of a floating fishing village.
Overnight on board.
DAY 15: HA LONG – HANOI DEPARTURE (Brunch)
Breakfast is served and then leisure time while cruising back Ha Long city. Transfer directly to Noi Bai airport for flight home.