MTS' exclusive, comprehensive itinerary of Cambodia, Laos, Thailand & Vietnam!
The historic cities, dense jungles, steep limestone hills, lush river valleys, mysterious caves, and spectacular coastlines of Southeast Asia bring you straight to paradise. Ruins, temples, citadels, pagodas, and lost cities half-submerged in the jungles reveal a past of ancient kingdoms—yours to discover on this epic voyage through all of our favorite places in Southeast Asia: Thailand, Laos, Cambodia, and Vietnam, all in one comprehensive itinerary. It’s an MTS exclusive that you won’t find anywhere else, a truly one-of-a-kind adventure! Accompanied by our professional guide, Sylvain Curtil, whose passion and regional expertise have forged great relationships here, you’ll have opportunities for genuine, personal encounters with the local people, including visits to private homes and tribal villages in remote areas. Visit the still relatively untouched 4,000 Islands region of Southern Laos. Visit three UNESCO World Heritage Sites: the mystical ruins of Angkor Wat in Siem Reap, the ancient Lao capital of Luang Prabang, and the dragon-like peaks rising out of Halong Bay. This is as unforgettable an experience as you can have in Southeast Asia, and only with MTS!
Cultural touring, boat trips
- Explore four of Southeast Asia’s gems: Thailand, Laos, Cambodia, and Vietnam— a comprehensive itinerary and MTS exclusive
- Check out the relatively untouched 4,000 Islands region in Southern Laos and catch sight of an endangered Irrawaddy Dolphin!
- Visit three of the most famous UNESCO World Heritage Sites: the mystical ruins at Angkor Wat, the ancient Lao capital of Luang Prabang, and the dragon-like peaks rising out of Halong Bay
Duration: 15 days Start Location: Bangkok End Location: HanoiDownload Detailed Itinerary
Day 1 : Arrive in Bangkok (This entire trip is below 6,000' elevation)
Welcome to Bangkok (most flights arrive in the evening)! We encourage you to arrive a few days early in Bangkok to explore this fascinating city, or at least one day ahead of schedule to help overcome jet lag before the tour actually starts. There are many sightseeing possibilities.
After exiting customs, walk to Gate 4 in the arrival hall where you will find a Novotel staff person holding a signboard. The hotel's 24-hour complimentary shuttle parks outside Gate 4 and runs every 10-15 minutes. The hotel is also connected to the airport via an air-conditioned, underground walkway. It takes only 5 minutes to get to the hotel and starts near the train station on the basement level. Your trip leader will leave instructions around 7:00 pm at your room at the hotel, or at the reception if you are arriving later today, for our rendezvous the following day.
Day 2 : Luang Prabang
We’ll meet this morning in the hotel lobby and take the shuttle to the airport for the flight to Luang Prabang. Upon arrival, we will transfer to the hotel and have the day free to relax. Welcome dinner.
Day 3 : Luang Prabang
Capital of the first Lao kingdom, Luang Prabang is probably the most unhurried, relaxed city in Asia (population 20,000), with some of the friendliest people you could hope to meet anywhere. There are few cars and no pollution or traffic jams; it’s a perfect place to stroll leisurely through the ancient lanes and alleyways and absorb the timelessness of this still relatively undiscovered part of the world. The city is located on the Mekong River in a lovely mountain-encircled setting. It’s renowned for its historic Buddhist temples—about 32 original temples dating from the 14th century still stand. We’ll get a chance to visit some of these priceless monuments on a walking tour around the old city, now under UNESCO protection as a World Heritage Site.
After breakfast at the hotel, this morning venture to Luang Prabang’s peninsula where the Mekong and Nam Khan Rivers merge. The beautiful Wat Xieng Thong is located here and a visit to the temple unveils golden gates, ornaments, and colorful murals. After exploring the temple, walk to the nearby pier to board a private longtail boat for a scenic 2 hour ride up the Mekong River to the Pak Ou Caves.
Located upstream of Luang Prabang, Pak Ou Caves, locally called Tam Ting, contains thousands of gold-lacquered Buddha statues crammed into two caves carved out of a towering limestone cliff. The statues range in size from a few centimeters tall to the size of a human, and the view from the mouth of the cave provides sweeping views of the Mekong and Nam Ou Rivers. The caves are as well a destination for local pilgrimages, especially during the Lao New Year period of Pi Mai.
In the afternoon your city tour begins at the former Royal Palace, now the National Museum. From there, continue on foot to visit Wat Mai, with its unique 5 tiered roof and golden bas-reliefs. During Pimai, the Lao New Year, the small Buddha statue called Pra Bang normally housed in the Royal Palace Museum is brought and put on public display in this temple. Then visit Wat Sene with its beautiful golden façade.
We finish the day by climbing the 328 steps to the top of Mount Phousi to enjoy a panoramic view of the city and the surrounding countryside. Stop at the evening hill tribe market.
Day 4 : Luang Prabang - Champasak
After breakfast, we'll transfer to the airport for our flight to Pakse, in Southern Laos. Upon arrival in Pakse, we will drive to Champasak and check into the River Resort before setting off on a visit to Wat Phou. Wat Phou, a UNESCO World Heritage Site, boasts pre-Angkorian temples. When the temple was erected, it was the most important economic and political center in the region.
Day 5 : Champasak - Khong Island
After breakfast, we drive to Khong Island. Upon arrival, take a local boat (~ 2 hours) to the peaceful islands of Done Det and Done Khong, sites of the only railway ever built in Laos at the end of the 19th century. Don Det and Don Khong are two very laid back islands, without any cars and situated on the border of Strung Treng Province in Cambodia. All is very quiet and electricity is only provided in the evening. The northern part of Don Det, close to the pier, has been developed as a backpacker spot, but the southern part and Don Khong have kept their local flavor with the culture of coconut, kapok and bamboo. The islands played an important role by linking Laos to Cambodia and Southern Vietnam during the French period. To cross over the falls, they built a railway and a bridge which give a unique atmosphere to the place. Later visit Lippi Waterfalls. Impressive is the perfect word to describe these stunning falls wedged between Cambodia, rocks and Don Khong. Tad Somphamit (Lippi Waterfalls), are sacred for locals because the name means “trap spirit” and they say that the falls act as traps for bad spirits. After a stroll through the palm-fringed villages,continue to the southernmost part of Laos and the imposing Khong Papheng Waterfalls, close to the Cambodian border. We then take an excursion by boat to see the Irrawaddy dolphins before returning to Champasak in the evening.
Day 6 : Champasak - Siem Reap
Enjoy a leisurely morning before transferring to the airport for an early afternoon flight to Siem Reap, the former capital of the Khmer empire, which ruled vast areas of Indochina between the ninth and thirteenth centuries. One of the overwhelming sites in the world is the Angkor temple complex, the architectural triumph of the Khmer period. Nothing prepares you for the experience of seeing Angkor Wat for the first time. No less spectacular is Angkor Thom, once a city of a million inhabitants. In the center is the temple of Bayon with its 49 towers, each with multiple images of Avalokiteçvara serenely smiling in what is surely one of the most mystical archaeological sites in the world.
We’ll leave our luggage and drive to visit the temple of Prasat Kravan with its unique brick sculptures. We’ll also visit Ta Prohm, one of the area’s most beautiful temples. Ta Prohm has been relatively untouched since it was discovered and retains much of its original mystery. Its appeal lies in the fact that, unlike the other monuments of Angkor, it was abandoned and swallowed by the jungle, looking very much the way most of the Angkor temples appeared when European explorers first stumbled upon them. Return to the hotel.
Day 7 : Angkor Wat
After breakfast at hotel, this morning, visit the ancient city of Angkor Thom. Angkor Thom was the last capital of the Great Khmer Empire under the reign of Jayavarman VII. This city is surrounded by an 8 meter high wall, with each side of the city 4 km long, drawing a perfect square. Enter the city through the ancient South Gate, an impressive stone gate carved with elephants and four giant faces. On each side of the entrance path a row of 54 gods or demons is holding the sacred Naga snake.
From here, continue to Bayon Temple in the exact center of the city. This monument is unique in that it has 54 towers with four faces representing the 54 provinces of the then Great Khmer Empire. The Terrace of the Elephants and the Terrace of the Leper King are also must-visits as they are both known for their intricate bas-reliefs.Here, in a small contemporary pagoda in the vicinity of these famous monuments, Buddhist monks will celebrate a private blessing ceremony for you, wishing you health and a safe journey – a very special experience! We’ll also visit Baphuon.
This afternoon travel to the “gem” of the Angkor area, the pretty temple of BanteaySrey. The so-called “Citadel of the Women” was built between the 11th and 13th centuries and remains the best preserved temple in Cambodia. It displays some of the finest examples of classical Khmer art as this small temple is noted for its truly remarkable fine bas-reliefs, depicting Hindu god Shiva. Banteay Srey is unique in that it is constructed of pink sandstone, which is seen nowhere else in Angkor.
Day 8 : Siem Reap to Ho Chi Minh City (Saigon)
Get up early for one of the highlights of your tour through Cambodia: Visit Angkor Wat by sunrise. Watching the first sunbeams glow over the largest religious edifice in the world will not leave you untouched. Return to the hotel for breakfast before you visit the temple in depth. Built during the reign of King Suryavarman II in the early 12th century, Angkor Wat is constructed following the model of the temple mountain symbolizing the Mount Meru, home of the gods. The divine residence of Vishnu, the King himself was to reside here after his death. Inside the temple, the walls are covered with stone carvings and bas-reliefs depicting Hindu mythology and the wars Suryavarman II fought during his reign. In addition, Angkor Wat is well known for the more than 2,000 Apsara dancers decorating the temple. Construction is thought to have taken around thirty years of intensive labor. Angkor Wat is figured on Cambodia’s national flag as the temple symbolizes the soul of the Khmer people.
Transfer to the airport for your early afternoon flight to Ho Chi Minh City. Upon arrival, transfer to the hotel.
Day 9 : Saigon - Hue
After breakfast, start your half day city tour of vibrant Saigon including the landmark Reunification Hall, formerly known as the Presidential Palace. This fascinating building is filled with history still fresh in the minds of many. Your tour also includes the red-brick Catholic cathedral of Notre-Dame, the nearby 19th century Empire-style Post Office. You’ll also visit the Ben Thanh market — the central market for the city and one of its liveliest and most colorful areas.
Then transfer to the airport for flight to the ancient imperial capital of Hue, situated along the Perfume River. As Kyoto is to Japan, Hue is to Vietnam: an intellectual center with twelve educational academies and home to the fascinating 19th century Imperial ruins. Many of these remain damaged and serve as reminders of the Tet Offensive of 1968. Along the banks of the famed Perfume River we find magnificent Nguyen architecture: citadels, palaces, royal tombs, pagodas, and temples. The old moss and rust-stained buildings give the city an atmosphere that seems frozen in time.
Upon arrival in Hue, transfer to the hotel for check in.
Day 10 : Hue
Today we visit the the ruins of the Imperial Palace (the Citadel) and a pagoda, located right on the banks of the Perfume River, the unusual Royal tombs of Emperors Tu Duc and Khai Dinh, monarchs during the last dynasty of Vietnam, the Nguyen. You'll also explore the town's market and view colonial architecture.
After lunch, we’ll drive on a winding road until we reach the graceful Thien Mu pagoda on the banks of the Perfume River. Here, we take a local dragon boat trip to visit the majestic Minh Mang Mausoleum. In the evening, we transfer to a typical garden house in Hue city where we discover the culinary art of Hue. The chef and her assistants will invite you to make some traditional dishes. The class takes approximately 2 hours. You’ll have the chance to test what you have created and to sample additional dishes prepared by the chef.
Day 11 : Hue - Hanoi
This morning, we transfer back to Hue Airport for the flight to Hanoi. Upon arrival, we'll be immersed in this great governmental center of almost three million people. Founded in 1010 A.D. as Thang Long, Hanoi's narrow tree-shaded streets are filled with lovely examples of French colonial architecture. We’ll spend some time exploring the old town on foot, visiting streets that specialize in hardware, funerary items, carpentry, and textiles. If you wish, a folk performance of traditional water puppets is available.
Day 12 : Hanoi
This morning we continue touring Hanoi, visiting Ho Chi Minh's tomb and the One Pillar Pagoda, symbol of Hanoi. We’ll also see the Lake of the Restored Sword and the "Hanoi Hilton" Prison. We continue to the Temple of Literature and the Fine Arts Museum, where we can see displays of classical temple sculptures and statues of Vietnam, plus some modern art paintings.
Day 13 : Halong Bay
After the breakfast, you drive (3 hours) to Halong bay. Check into a shared wooden boat for a cruise among the 3,000 spectacular limestone islands through the magnificent UNESCO World Heritage Site. Enjoy an Asian buffet lunch on board while the captain heads out for the horizon.
We’ll take a short hike to a nearby summit or a panoramic view of the bay dotted with deluxe golden sails, go swimming on a quiet beach or sunbathing on the sundeck. Late in the afternoon, we’ll visit a fishing village and experience the daily life of local people. In the evening, there is time to enjoy the spa services or relax at leisure.
Day 14 : Halong Bay to Hanoi
Greet the day with a morning tai ji exercise and an opportunity to view the sunrise over the bay. After breakfast, visit a beautiful limestone grotto, then back to the boat for a final glimpse of Halong Bay while cruising back to the dock. Return to Hanoi. Enjoy a farewell dinner with the group!
Day 15 : Depart for home
Transfer to airport for departure on homeward-bound flight.
DATES: Best time to go: February, November - December Departures: Nov 1 - 15, 2014 Dec 20, 2014 - Jan 3, 2015 Feb 28, 2015 - Mar 14, 2015 Nov 7 - 21, 2015 Dec 19, 2015 - Jan 2, 2016
$5,095 (11-15 members)
$1175 internal airfare – Bangkok/Luang Prabang/Pakse/Siem Reap/Ho Chi Minh City/Hue/Hanoi
$5,495 (11-15 members)
$5,895 (7-10 members)
$6,495 (5-6 members)
$1250 internal airfare – Bangkok/Luang Prabang/Pakse/Siem Reap/Ho Chi Minh City/Hue/Hanoi
Novotel Suvarnabhumi Airport HotelBangkok
The Novotel Suvarnabhumi Airport is a 4 star hotel located 10 min walk from Suvarnabhumi International Airport in Bangkok. Boasting 612 comfortable and contemporary rooms, the hotel also offers 2 bars and 4 restaurants. With a 24 hr airport shuttle every 10 min from Gate 4 Level 2 and parking available, there is no better place to stay.
Properties shown are representative of the accommodations we use on this trip, may not be inclusive of all accommodations we use, and are subject to change.
Expert leadership is the key to an exciting, unforgettable experience. Our trips feature gifted leaders for whom leading trips is a true vocation. Besides showing you wonders you’d never find on your own, they make sure everything runs smoothly and safely without a hitch. They are knowledgeable about all aspects of your trip, and take great pleasure in sharing their insights with you. More than just guides, they positively elevate your experience by being teachers, companions, and the best of friends. You’ll be in good hands with them every step of the way.
Sylvain is a French national but lives in Thailand. He had his first contact with Asia at the age of 17, when the first refugees from Laos, Cambodia and Vietnam arrived in France in 1976. Trying to teach them French, he was soon “adopted” by a Lao family, living with them during his studies at Lyon University, and ended up learning the language and customs. He has worked and led tours in South East Asia including Vietnam, Cambodia and Indonesia, but also in his favorite “Area”: India, and the Himalayan countries (Ladakh, Nepal, Bhutan, and Tibet) where he has his dearest friends, and throughout the years enriched his self-taught knowledge of Aisa’s arts and customs, Hinduism and Buddhism. He has more than a liking for Buddhism and it’s pieces of Art. He lends his first hand experience of Asian art, history, Hinduism and Buddhism to all the groups he has the pleasure of leading.. He was one of the very first foreigners to visit the newly re-opened Laos from north to south. Sylvain speaks French, English, Thai, Lao, Spanish and Brazilian Portuguese.