Indochina Insights

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Indochina Insights

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Description

A realm of endless history, sprawling waterways and ancient temples, Indochina is a wonderland for travellers and explorers alike. This 22-day adventure gives you an insight into the culture and environment that makes Thailand, Laos and Vietnam a marvel to behold as you plunge into the unique charms these regions have to offer. Start your adventure in bustling Bangkok and venture north, where the wildlife, history and local food brings one surprise after the next. Bring the pace down a notch as you cross into Laos and discover the ethnic cultures, glittering temples and incredible landscapes that make this destination such a Peregrine favourite. Finally, explore beautiful waterways and hidden labyrinths in Vietnam, rich in old world culture and untold secrets.

Trip Name
Indochina Insights
Last Updated
2019-07-24
Days
22
Capacity
12
Highlights
  • Support an important animal welfare initiative and get close to incredible creatures at the Elephant Nature Park
  • Visit the home of the infamous ‘Bridge over the River Kwai’, learn about its dark history and the construction of the railway during the war
  • Enjoy lunch on board a slow trip down the Mekong River, observing the stunning scenery and remote village life, and visiting a cave crowded with shrines - all at a relaxed pace
  • With a visit to the Hmong Hilltribe Lodge, immerse yourself in the wonders of an ancient tribal culture without compromising on creature comforts
  • Unwind in the laid-back jungle town of Luang Prabang. Watch as orange-clad monks gather offerings of rice, fruit and sweets from locals before sunrise in a daily alms giving ceremony
  • Discover the traditional arts of Vietnam with a special visit to the home of a seventh generation water puppet master
  • Take an overnight cruise on Halong Bay and discover this place of famed beauty while enjoying a candle-lit dinner on deck
  • Sail down the Thu Bon River and watch the sunset over Hoi An, a city rich in ancient and recent history
  • Included flights on this trip makes travelling easy and allows for maximum time in each destination

Itinerary

ITINERARY CHANGES: Our itineraries are updated regularly throughout the year based on customer feedback and to reflect the current situation in each destination. The information included in this Essential Trip Information may therefore differ from when you first booked your trip. It is important that you print and review a final copy prior to travel so that you have the latest updates. Due to weather, local conditions, transport schedules, public holidays or other factors, further changes may be necessary to your itinerary once in country. The order and timing of included activities in each location may also vary seasonally to ensure our travellers have the best experience. Your tour leader will keep you up to date with any changes once on tour. TRAVELLERS ON THE 20 DECEMBER 2019 DEPARTURE: This is a combination trip, consisting of Northern Thailand Adventure (PATT), Laos Highlights (PALS) and Vietnam Snapshot (PAVT). As this departure commences in December and concludes in January, the first two trips from Bangkok to Vientiane will be running on the 2019 itinerary. The third trip from Hanoi to Ho Chi Minh City will be running on the 2020 itinerary. There will be a minor change to the third trip. We will no longer be including the water puppet performance in Hanoi or the Thu Bon sunset river cruise in Hoi An. We will be adding a Hat Xam performance to day 17, in Hanoi. For full details of the third section of this departure, please view the 2020 itinerary on this page and review the Hanoi to Ho Chi Minh City days of the trip. OPTIONAL ACTIVITIES: A selection of optional activities that have been popular with past travellers are listed in the day-to-day itinerary. This isn't an exhaustive list and should be used as a guide only for some of what might be available. Prices are approximate, are for entrance only, and don’t include transport to and from the sites or local guides unless indicated. All activities are subject to availability. It may not be possible to do all the activities listed in the time available at each destination, so some pre-planning for what you are most interested in is advised. When it's recommended that travellers pre-book these activities, look for a note in the Special Information section of the day-to-day itinerary. For most, they can either be organised independently on the day, or let your leader know you are interested and they can assist. Where activities are considered medium or high risk, we work with operators whose safety and credentials we have sighted and assessed. Although it is possible that you may find the same activity cheaper with another operator on the ground, we cannot vouch for the safety or quality of that operator. Medium and high risk activities not listed above have not been assessed by us and as such our staff and leaders are unable to assist you with organising these activities. Activities that contravene our Responsible Travel policies are also not listed. Please remember that the decision to partake in any activity not listed is at your own discretion and risk.

Day 1 - Bangkok
Welcome to Thailand. One of our transfer representatives will collect you from the airport and take you to your hotel. After settling into your room, your journey begins with an important meeting at 6 pm. Please check for the Peregrine noticeboard in the reception area of the hotel. Please advise your flight details at the time of booking so we can arrange your airport transfer. With free time, acquaint yourself with this frenetic city of tuk tuks, street food and traditional khlong boats winding down the Chao Phraya River. Tonight you'll enjoy a welcome dinner at a great local restaurant.
Day 2 - Bangkok
Enjoy a day of sightseeing and activities in lively Bangkok. Visit Wat Po, a larger-than-life temple complex in the city. This is the home of the Temple of the Reclining Buddha. Wat Pho is among the six officially recognised highest calibre temples in Thailand, and it's certainly one of the most impressive. Also visit the majestic Grand Palace, which has been the official residence of the kings since the 1700s, and enjoy a boat tour of the city's khlongs (canals) to see another, more tranquil, side of Bangkok. The afternoon is free to do as you wish, perhaps visiting Jim Thompson house or enjoying a Thai massage. You’ll have a BTS day pass so you can use the Sky Train to help you get around.
Day 3 - Kanchanaburi
Travel by private transport to Kanchanaburi (approximately 3.5 hours). While the town may appear modern, it holds a dark past. Many Allied prisoners of war and conscripted Asian labourers were engaged here to help build a rail route to Myanmar (Burma), including the passage infamously known as Hellfire Pass. Visit the memorial museum of the pass to learn more about this chapter in history, and take a historical train journey along a portion of this 'death railway'.
Day 4 - Kanchanaburi
Make the short drive to the Erawan National Park and waterfall. Its radiant emerald green ponds, named after the three-headed white elephant of Hindu mythology, make for a lovely photo opportunity. On the way back to Kanchanaburi, stop in at the World War II cemetery and museum and spend some time there. This cemetery is the main resting place for the prisoners of war who laboured under Japanese rule in building the Thai-Burma Railway.
Day 5 - Uthai Thani - Nakhon Sawan
Depart Kanchanaburi in the morning and drive to Hup Pa Tat (approximately 3 hours). Spend an hour or so exploring this beautiful green area surrounded by limestone mountains. Legend has it that centuries ago this valley was a gigantic cave, until the ceiling caved in; massive chunks of limestone lying on the valley floor support the theory. Next you continue to Uthai Thani (approximately 1 hour). Enjoy lunch, while cruising on a traditional rice barge, watching village life along the riverfront stream by, as your travel through beautiful countryside. Afterwards, visit nearby Wat Tha Sung (Crystal Hall) before travelling on to Nakorn Sawan (approximately 1 hour) where you will spend the night. Perhaps head out to the local market in the evening where you can taste many different street foods from the region.
Day 6 - Sukhothai
Travel by private transport from Nakorn Sawan to Sukhothai (approximately 3 hours). In the afternoon you have the option to visit the Organic Culture Project and spend a couple of hours joining in on traditional Thai farm activities. Check out the organic vegetable garden and attend a demonstration out in the rice fields.
Day 7 - Sukhothai
Sukhothai, established in the 13th century, was one of the first ancient capitals of Siam. Famed for its World Heritage listed historical park, which captures the Golden Age of Thai civilisation, the capital's name literally means 'Dawn of Happiness'. Today we visit the historical park, which spans the ruins of the town. You will rent a bicycle and take part in a cycle tour. As you ride around, you'll learn more about the history of this former metropolis and its fascinating structures. Enjoy a home-cooked picnic lunch in the beautiful grounds of Sukhothai Park. The rest of the afternoon is free, you might want to simply read a book by the pool back at your resort.
Day 8 - Hmong Hilltribe Lodge (feature stay)
Travel from Sukhothai to Hmong Hilltribe Lodge, which will take approximately six hours in a private minivan. The Hmong are an ethnic minority in Thailand who originated in the south of China. Today they comprise the second largest hilltribe group in Thailand. After a barbecue dinner in the lodge's open-air dining area, the day concludes with a Hmong cultural performance. You'll gain an insight into the traditional lifestyle of the tribe, with a wedding ceremony enactment, shamanic ritual and makong (cotton ball) throwing.
Day 9 - Chiang Mai
Travel from Hmong Hilltribe Lodge to the Elephant Nature Park, approximately 1.5 hours by minivan. Spend time at this important institution, learning about the various projects dedicated to rehabilitating and protecting elephants and other animals. There are many viewing platforms around the park that will get you up close with these wonderful creatures and you can even help out with feeding them. Speaking of food, a banquet-style lunch will also be included with the visit. Spend most of the day at the park then travel to Chiang Mai, freshen up at the hotel then head out for a street food tour in the evening. Hidden down the back alleys of the city’s old town district you will sample dishes like khao man gai and khao kha moo from many local shops unknown to the tourist eye. Chat with street food vendors who have been serving the same dishes for more than 20 years and understand the influences that Isan and Shan cultures have had on the Northern Thailand’s culinary scene. Your local guide will also suggest many other places you can eat during your time in Chiang Mai.
Day 10 - Chiang Mai
This morning you’ll have a very unique opportunity to chat with some monks from Mahachulalongkornrajavidyalaya University, a university specifically for Buddhist monks. Learn the basics of Buddhism and find out more about their schooling, lifestyle and world view. Enjoy a free afternoon afterwards to explore Chiang Mai further, perhaps getting out into the lush countryside or checking out more Buddhist temples. In the evening, a final night’s dinner at a nice restaurant in town is included for you to say farewell to your group.
Day 11 - Luang Prabang
You will be transferred to the airport, where you will say goodbye to your Thai tour leader and fly to Luang Prabang, Laos. Please note: you will be unescorted on this flight. When you arrive in Luang Prabang you will be transferred to your hotel. A welcome meeting will be held in the evening. Please check for a welcome notice on the Peregrine notice board located in the reception area of the hotel. This will provide you with your leader's name and the exact time and location of your Welcome Meeting. Keep in mind that you will need to again bring your travel insurance details with you to the meeting. After meeting the new travellers joining your group, take part in a Baci ceremony to welcome you to Laos, and balance your soul according to Lao tradition. The ceremony is based on an ancient belief that the body is made up of 32 different spirits – all inhabiting different organs. The ritual is intended to call back spirits that may have strayed from the body, bringing a sense of balance and health.
Day 12 - Luang Prabang
Wake early to participate in the alms giving ceremony, one of the most sacred Buddhist traditions in Laos, where locals offer food to monks in order to seek spiritual blessing. Alms giving takes place daily as the sun rises, beginning on the main street of Luang Prabang before spreading out to side streets. Follow the locals as they kneel down, ready to give offerings of rice, fruit and sweet snacks to the monks. Later that morning, spend time learning about Laos’ diverse ethnic groups at the Traditional Arts & Ethnology Centre. Afterwards, enjoy an essential activity in Luang Prabang – a boat ride on the Mekong River. It's a great chance to see the riverside from a different angle, with all its stately French villas, trees, and slow-paced two-wheeled traffic. Further along the stream, outside of town, you visit the Pak Ou Caves, located at the confluence of the rivers Mekong and Ou. Enjoy lunch on the boat along the way.
Day 13 - Luang Prabang
In the morning, visit Ock Pop Tok, an inspiring fair trade social enterprise that provides a sustainable source of income for female artisans in Luang Prabang. Their dedicated team shows women how to make a better living from their skills. The organisation then employs women to design, make and sell beautiful textiles and handicrafts at three shops across the city. Later take a short ride out of town to visit Kuang Si Waterfall. Its glorious blue-green cascades make for one of Laos' most photogenic attractions, and the pool at its base is great for swimming in. There is time to visit the nearby Bear Rescue Centre as well. In the evening, sit down to dinner at Khaiphaen, a Friends-International enterprise dedicated to improving the welfare of disadvantaged youth through skills-training.
Day 14 - Vientiane
Fly to Vientiane, the capital of Laos, in the early morning. Though not as visually impressive as Luang Prabang, this city is renowned for its food and has some must see sights. Its main streets are awash with a variety of high-calibre restaurants that serve a remarkably diverse span of cuisines from across the globe. Embark on a guided sightseeing tour of the city, stopping in at Wat Si Saket, Hor Prakeo, Patuxai (Victory Gate) and That Luang along the way. You’ll also visit the Cooperative Orthotic and Prosthetic Enterprise (COPE), a remarkable not-for-profit organisation that makes rehabilitative devices and medical equipment accessible to people with physical disabilities in Laos.
Day 15 - Hanoi
You will be transferred to the airport, where you will say goodbye to your Laos tour leader and fly to Hanoi, Vietnam. Please note: you will be unescorted on this flight. Please ensure you’ve checked your visa requirements for Vietnam prior to departing your home country. Further details about visas can be found in the Essential Trip Information. When you arrive in Hanoi you will be transferred to a comfortable and centrally located hotel. A Vietnam trip sector briefing will be held in the evening. Please check for a welcome notice on the Peregrine notice board located in the reception area of the hotel. This will provide you with your tour leader's name and the exact time and location of your Welcome Meeting. Keep in mind that you will need to again bring your travel insurance details with you to the meeting. If you have free time in the afternoon, perhaps stroll the streets of Hanoi and explore this wonderful city.
Day 16 - Halong Bay
Today you will leave Hanoi and drive north (approximately 4 hours) to famous Halong Bay. You can leave your luggage behind at the Hanoi hotel and pack an overnight bag for staying on the boat. Halong Bay is listed as a World Heritage site and is one of Vietnam’s most spectacular natural wonders. The views of sailing junks navigating past thousands of limestone islands with rocky outcrops are nothing short of spectacular. You will travel to Tuan Chau Port (Halong City West) where you will board a boat for an exploration of the bay, enjoying a seafood lunch and dinner (non-seafood also available), as well as spending a night on board. We visit a cave in the area and, in the warmer months, you can enjoy a swim from Ti Top Island Beach or explore by kayak (optional and extra cost involved). A night on the boat under the stars is very special, but another highlight of this evening is a delicious candlelit dinner out on deck (weather permitting). This is the perfect way to enjoy the beautiful surroundings, dining on a seafood feast.
Day 17 - Hanoi
After breakfast at Halong Bay, return by bus to Hanoi (approximately 3.5 hours). Late this afternoon, you will enjoy a unique Peregrine experience when you sit down to a water-puppet performance hosted by a local puppet master. Artist Phan Thanh Liem’s father and grandfather were important figures in this Vietnamese folk art, and the tradition of water puppet performance goes back six generations in the family. You will visit his home, which is like a small-scale theatre and also a museum on the history of puppetry and the background of the artists. There’s also a workshop that shows how the puppets are made. You’ll have a chance to speak with Liem about the history, development and meaning of this traditional art. Later, why not stop for a bia hoi (freshly brewed draught beer) at one of the microbars in the Old Quarter, relax at a cafe or explore the wealth of street food options.
Day 18 - Hoi An
This morning take a half-day tour of Hanoi with your leader. Enchanting Hanoi stands in contrast to its southern counterpart, relaxed rather than frantic, full of lakes and parks to escape to. The tour will take in the major sites, including the Temple of Literature, One Pillar Pagoda, and the former residence of Vietnam’s most famous revolutionary, Ho Chi Minh. The tour will also include lunch at the KOTO café, an amazing project aimed at providing vocational training and experience in the hospitality industry for underprivileged young people. This afternoon you will leave Hanoi and fly (approximately 1 hour) south to Danang. You will have the chance to enjoy some spectacular scenery on the drive to Hoi An (approximately 1 hour). Arrive in Hoi An late this afternoon and check into your accommodation.
Day 19 - Hoi An
This morning you will take a tour of the unique town of Hoi An, influenced over the years by myriad traders from various cultures. Originally a busy Cham Port, the town also has Chinese influences scattered about, with pagodas and assembly halls found down the streets. For a small town it has a liveliness alongside its charm and serenity. The tour will take you down the streets of low tiled buildings, taking in a historic house (formerly home to a prominent trader), the Japanese Covered Bridge, a Chinese assembly hall and a museum. There is some free time this afternoon to further explore the Old Town or surrounds at your own pace. Later this afternoon, take a boat trip out on the Thu Bon River. There are few better ways to soak up the atmosphere of this wonderful town than with sunset drinks as you float down river.
Day 20 - Ho Chi Minh City
The morning is free for you to enjoy more of delightful Hoi An and the surrounding area. Perhaps browse the market for silk and other materials or collect any garments that you might have had crafted by the efficient tailors, or hire a bicycle and ride along the lanes and out to a nice nearby beach. Transfer to Danang and fly to Ho Chi Minh City. Check into your hotel and enjoy a free evening - perhaps explore the food stalls at Cho Ben Thanh market.
Day 21 - Ho Chi Minh City
This morning you will head out of the city to the nearby Cu Chi Tunnels. Cu Chi is the name of the district that covers the extensive network (approximately 200 kilometres) of underground tunnels dug by the Viet Minh and later expanded by the Viet Cong. The tunnels contained hospitals, accommodation and schools, and were used for refuge, storage and as a military base for the Viet Cong close to Ho Chi Minh City. A section of the tunnels has been widened to allow visitors to enter and get a feel for what the life underground must have been like (please note that this will be hot, sweaty, and claustrophobic for some). You will then return to Ho Chi Minh City for an afternoon tour of the city, where daily life plays out on the streets and the dynamic atmosphere is a fascinating blend of old and new, East and West. Your leader will take you to the Reunification Palace, formally the Presidential Palace and the site of South Vietnam’s surrender in 1975, before visiting the War Remnants Museum. This illuminating museum features equipment and vehicles from the Vietnam War, and here you can gain a deeper understanding of the how the Vietnamese view the war. This evening perhaps go for dinner with your group before your travels in Vietnam draw to a close.
Day 22 - Ho Chi Minh City
Your tour ends after breakfast this morning.

Trip Dates

StartEndPrice FromRoom Type
04-10-201925-10-2019AUD $ 7,070-
18-10-201908-11-2019AUD $ 7,070-
06-12-201927-12-2019AUD $ 7,186-
20-12-201910-01-2020AUD $ 7,186-
17-01-202007-02-2020AUD $ 7,052-
21-02-202013-03-2020AUD $ 7,052-
20-03-202010-04-2020AUD $ 6,885-
10-04-202001-05-2020AUD $ 6,885-
19-06-202010-07-2020AUD $ 6,885-
04-09-202025-09-2020AUD $ 6,885-
02-10-202023-10-2020AUD $ 6,885-
23-10-202013-11-2020AUD $ 6,885-
20-11-202011-12-2020AUD $ 7,006-
04-12-202025-12-2020AUD $ 7,006-

Accommodation

Hotel (17 nights),Lodge (1 night),Resort (2 nights),Overnight Boat (1 night)

Transport

Plane,Train,Tuk-Tuk,Private minibus,Boat

Map