A vibrant metropolis, SAIGON teems with energy, activity and motion. Everywhere you look, you see the meeting of traditional and modern life. The emerging modern skyline stands cheek by jowl with colonial buildings and traditional temples. Outside on the streets, young professionals zip by on motorcyles, chatting on cellphones; inside the quiet temple courtyards, worshippers pray amidst clouds of incense. Begin your tour of this exciting city with a tour of the historic center, strolling along DONG KHOI STREET, formerly known as the Rue Catinat, the main shopping thoroughfare and heart of old colonial Saigon. Pass by classic European-style landmarks such as the ornate CITY HALL (HOTEL DE VILLE), the old OPERA HOUSE (both may only be viewed from the outside), and pay a quick visit to the neo-Romanesque NOTRE DAME CATHEDRAL and the CENTRAL POST OFFICE. Afterwards dive into modern history with a tour of the REUNIFICATION PALACE. Formerly the Independence Palace of the South Vietnamese president, this 60s style uwas famously stormed by tanks on April 30, 1975 signifying the fall of South Vietnam. It has been preserved in its original state, and the original tanks remain on display near the entrance gates. Continue to the harrowing WAR REMNANTS MUSEUM, which comprehensively documents the travails of the long Vietnam- American War. Inside are detailed photographic exhibitions; outside is a collection of tanks, planes and weapons. A powerful experience, this museum is guaranteed to provoke strong emotions. Afterwards driving to the historic center to visit EMPEROR OF JADE PAGODA, one of Saigon's most interesting pagoda. In the afternoon, head out to CHOLON (CHINATOWN). Explore the highlights of this fascinating area, beginning with a brief visit to BINH TAY MARKET, the vast wholesale market selling every kind of good from dried foods to T shirts to electronics. Continue to THIEN HAU PAGODA, build by the Cantonese congregation and dedicated to the heavenly goddess. End your tour at the central BEN THANH MARKET, where vendors display a vast array of goods and handicrafts, appealing to every taste. Overnight in Saigon.
Day 3 Saigon
Excursion to Cu Chi Tunnels and Tay Ninh. From Saigon, drive to TAY NINH, the birthplace of the unique CAO DAI religion, a fusion of Buddhism, Confucianism, Taoism, Christianity, Islam and native Vietnamese spiritual beliefs. Every day at noon, worshippers garbed in colorful robes flock to the CAO DAI GREAT TEMPLE to participate in the daily prayer sessions, which visitors may respectfully observe from the upper balconies. (Note: shortly before and during the annual TET festival (Vietnamese New Year) the daily ceremony of the priests in Tay Ninh may be cancelled without prior notice).
Afterwards, continue to the CU CHI TUNNELS. Never discovered by American forces, these tunnels were an important Vietcong base during the American War. Stretching over 200 km, this incredible underground network, dug by hand out of hard laterite, connected command posts, hospitals, shelter and weapon factories. Today, you can walk through the area and learn about the day-to-day life of the VC, see the cleverly disguised entrances and elaborate booby-traps, and even venture inside the tunnels, some of which have been modified to accommodate tourists. Return to Saigon in the late afternoon. Overnight in Saigon.
Day 4 BuonMehuot
By vehicle from Saigon to BuonMeThuot.
Journey along through the provinces of Song Be and Dac Lac via Chon Thanh and Dong Xoai. Sightseeing in BuonMeThuot. The capital of Dac Lac province, BUONMETHUOT is a prosperous town in a region known for coffee plantations and diverse Montagnard population. In the morning, visit the town highlights, beginning with the ETHNOGRAPHIC MUSEUM, which provides a comprehensive insight into the many distinct ethnic groups of the province, which include the Ede and M'nong, among others. Displays feature traditional Montagnard dress, as well as agricultural implements, fishing gear and musical instruments. Continue to the KHAI DOAN PAGODA, the LAC GIAO TEMPLE and the local CATHOLIC CHURCH. Overnight in BuonMeThuot.
Day 5 Pleiku
By vehicle from BuonMeThuot to Pleiku. Overnight in Pleiku.
Day 6 Hoi An
Sightseeing in Pleiku. PLEIKU is a major market town in the western highlands, where many members of the JARAI minority reside. The Jarai are most famous for their unusual cemeteries, with carved wooden totems representing the deceased. Visit the colorful LOCAL MARKET and the GIA LAI ETHNOGRAPHY MUSEUM for an introduction to the ethnic minorities of the region. Continue outside town to to SEA LAKE (BIEN HO), a beautiful, deep mountain lake formed from a prehistoric volcanic crater, enjoying lovely views from the old crater rim. Enroute, visit villages of the JARAI and BAHNAR minorities. If time permits, a visit to MINH THANH PAGODA and a TEA PLANTATION can be included. Transfer to the airport for your flight from Pleiku to Danang. By vehicle from Danang to Hoi An. Journey south past the Marble Mountains and small villages. Overnight in Hoi An.
Day 7 Hue
Sightseeing in Hoi An. Hoi An is a picturesque riverside town south of Danang. Known as Faifo to early western traders, it was one of South East Asia's major international ports during the 17th, 18th and 19th centuries. Now, this beautifully preserved historic city is best seen on foot. The walking tour includes:JAPANESE COVERED BRIDGE PAGODA: the first bridge on this site was constructed in 1593 by the Japanese community of Hoi An to link the town with the Chinese quarters across the stream. The bridge was provided with a roof so it could be used as a shelter from rain and sun. SA HUYNH MUSEUM: located near the Japanese Covered Bridge, it contains exhibitions from the earliest period of Hoi An's history. TRAN FAMILY CHAPEL: this house for worshipping ancestors was built about 200 years ago with donations from family members. The Tran family traces its origins to China and moved to Vietnam around 1700. The architecture of the building reflects the influence of Chinese and Japanese styles. PHUOC KIEN ASSEMBLY HALL: Chinese pagoda built around 1690 and then restored and enlarged in 1900. It is typical of the Chinese clans that were established in the Hoi An area. The temple is dedicated to Thien Hau Thanh Mau (Goddess of the Sea and Protector of Sailors and Fishermen). LANTERN MAKING WORKSHOP: Visit one of the lantern workshop in Hoi An. The framework of lantern will be made by the industry itself and clients with opportunity of making silk cloth on the lantern.
By vehicle from Hoi An to Hue. Journey from Hoi An over scenic mountainous roads with spectacular views over the coastline. Halfway between Danang and Hue lies the dramatic HAI VAN PASS, the high dividing line between the climate zones of north and south Vietnam. Continue southwards passing LANG CO, a lovely stretch of beach curving outwards between a clear blue lagoon and the South China Sea, and the large coastal city of DANANG before arriving in Hue. Overnight in Hue.
Day 8 Hue
Excursion to Thien Mu Pagoda and Tomb of Emperor Minh Mang with boat trip. Enjoy a leisurely boat ride down the PERFUME RIVER, stopping first at the iconic THIEN MU PAGODA, an elegant seven-tiered octagonal tower which has become Hue's most widely recognizable monument. Continue cruising into the countryside to the IMPERIAL TOMB OF MINH MANG, a majestic complex of courtyards, pavilions and temples in a beautiful natural setting. Sightseeing in HueHue served as the capital of Vietnam for more than 140 years. It houses ancient temples, imperial buildings and French-style edifices. It was established in the 17th century. Visit the Old Imperial CityLocated in the heart of Hue is the IMPERIAL CITADEL, a vast complex built in the early 19th century and modelled after the Forbidden City of Peking. The original walls stretched for 10 km and were surrounded by a wide moat. Today, most of the buildings have been destroyed due to bombing during the Vietnam-American War, but the monuments that remain provide a fascinating glimpse into the court life of the Nguyen Dynasty. Approach the city past the striking FLAG TOWER, where a giant Vietnamese flag waves proudly overhead, to the imposing NGO MON GATE, the main entrance to the Imperial Enclosure. Enter into an area of spacious courtyards and serene lotus ponds, and visit DIEN THO Residence ( Dien Tho palace) is where the Queen mother lived, visit THAI HOA PALACE, the magnificently decorated reception hall, the HALLS OF THE MANDARINS, and the original NINE DYNASTIC URNS, among other sites.
Overnight in Hue.
Day 9 Savannakhet
By vehicle from Hue to Lao Bao (Vietnam / Laos border). Journey north along Highway 1 past Quang Tri and then across west on Highway 9 from Dong Ha to Khe Sanh and the Lao border. QUANG TRI: the town was once an important Citadel city. During the America War it was heavily bombed and not many of the original buildings of the time are left. KHE SANH: site of the most famous siege of the American War in Vietnam. Khe Sanh sits on a barren plateau surrounded by vegetation-covered hills often obscured by mist and fog. Arrival in Dansavanh (Laos/Vietnamese border). By vehicle from Dansavanh (Laos / Vietnamese border) to Savannakhet.Overnight in Savannakhet.
Day 10 Pakse
Sightseeing in Savannakhet. Explore the provincial capital of Savannakhet, visiting TALAAT SAVANXAY (Singapore Market) and several of the temples, including WAT SAINYAPHUM, WAT LATTANALANGSI, the CHINESE TEMPLE and SAINT THERESA CATHOLIC CHURCH. Just outside town, visit THAT ING HANG. Built in the mid-16th century, this 25 meter high stupa is the holiest site in Southern Laos after Vat Phou Champassak. By vehicle from Savannakhet to Pakse. Overnight in Pakse.
Day 11 Pakse
Excursion to the Bolaven Plateau, Tad Lo and surrounding waterfalls. From Pakse, head east across the BOLAVEN PLATEAU, a fertile coffee and tea growing area. This area is rich in ethnic groups, predominently Laven. Enroute the road between Pakse and Paksong on the western edge of the plateau, visit TAD E-TU WATERFALL and TAD FANE WATERFALL, the highest in Champassak Province, and the nearby TAD YUANG WATERFALL. Afterwards head north towards SALAVAN, stopping at the minority villages. On the return to Pakse, visit TAD LO, TAD HANG and TAD PHA SUAM WATERFALLS. Overnight in Pakse.
Day 12 Don Khong
By vehicle from Pakse to Don Khong with sightseeing at Vat Phou Champassak. From Pakse, journey south along the east bank of the Mekong. Near Champasak city, cross by ferry and continue to Vat Phou Champassak meaning Mountain Temple, one of the best preserved examples of major Khmer architecture, some 200 years older than Angkor Wat itself. The core monument of this site consists of a main temple on the upper terrace, six shrines on the middle terrace, two palaces and Nandin Hall on the lower terrace. Continue back across the Mekong and southwards towards Don Khong. Overnight in Don Khong.
Day 13 Don Khong
Excursion by boat to Don Khone. From Don Khong, travel by boat to DON DET ISLAND and DON KHONE. The islands are connected by a former railway bridge (the railway stopped operating 1945). The larger island Don Det is famous throughout Laos for the cultivation of coconut, bamboo and kapok. Visit BAN KHON VILLAGE, the main village on Don Khone with several old French villas. Continue to TAAT SOMPHAMIT (LI PHI FALLS), raging set of rapids at the western end of Don Khone. Overnight in Don Khong.
Day 14 Pakse
By vehicle from Don Khong to Pakse with a visit to Khone Phapheng Waterfalls. From Don Khong, cross the Mekong by ferry and continue by vehicle to KHONE PHAPHENG, the largest waterfall in Southeast Asia and one of the most impressive sites in the area. Here, the entire Mekong with all its force cascades down curving stone outcroppings and tints the massive stones with rainbows. Continue north by vehicle to Pakse. Overnight in Pakse.
Day 15 Vientiane
Transfer for flight from Pakse to Vientiane. Transfer to your selected hotel. Sightseeing in Vientiane will depend upon your flight timings from Pakse and to Luang Prabang. Overnight in Vientiane.
Day 16 Luang Prabang
Transfer for your flight from Vientiane to Luang Prabang. Sightseeing in Luang Prabang. Set between the Nam Khan and Mekong rivers, Luang Prabang is an enchanting town filled with historic temples and colonial style buildings. The entire town was declared a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 1995. Begin your tour with WAT VISOUN (Wat Wisunalat). The oldest living temple in Luang Prabang, Wat Visoun dates back to 1513 and contains a collection of antique wooden Buddhas. Visit the nearby WAT AHAM before continuing to WAT XIENG THONG, the crowning jewel of all the monasteries and temples in the city. Its many ornate buildings feature exquisite mosaic and gold-stenciled murals. From there, stroll down the main street (Wat Street) of Luang Prabang. Time permitting, stop at some of the many temples that line its sides, including WAT SIBOUNHEUANG, WAT SI MOUNGKHOUN, WAT SOP and WAT SENE. Visit Mount Phousi for sunset. Climb the hillside stairs to the small temples atop PHOU SI, the 100m high hill which sits in the middle of the town, offering beautiful views over the temples and river. Overnight in Luang Prabang.
Day 17 Luang Prabang
Sightseeing in Luang Prabang. In the morning, visit a LOCAL MARKET to see the bustle and activity of the early morning. Continue to the NATIONAL MUSEUM (ROYAL PALACE), a modest but graceful building which combines traditional Lao and French beaux-arts motifs. This turn-of-the century royal residence has been preserved as it was when the royal family last lived here and provides unique insights into the history of Laos. (Closed on Tuesdays). Afterwards, visit WAT MAI. Excursion by boat to Tham Pak Ou Caves
Travel down the Mekong River to the steep limestone cliffs overlooking the Mekong and Nam Ou rivers, home to the THAM PAK OU CAVES. These extraordinary caves are filled with Buddha images, of every style and material imaginable. On the return journey, stop at BAN XANG HAI VILLAGE, a local village famous for the production of lao lao, the local rice wine whisky. Visit the weaving village of Ban Xang Khong. Visit BAN XANG KHONG, a village near Luang Prabang well known for its traditional handwoven cotton and silk, as well as production of the local sa (mulberry) paper. Overnight in Luang Prabang.
Day 18 Luang Prabang
Transfer to the airport for your onward flight.