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 has 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. Cruise in a simple, comfortable, open-deck boat along the Mekong River for two days to explore riverside villages, tiny islands, hidden temples, and caves. Visit three UNESCO World Heritage Sites: the mystical ruins of Angkor Wat, 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
- Cruise along the Mekong River in a simple, comfortable open-deck boat for two days to explore riverside villages, tiny islands, caves, and hidden temple
- 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
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 : Chiang Rai
We’ll meet this morning in the hotel lobby and take the shuttle to the airport for the flight to Chiang Rai. Upon arrival, we will transfer to the hotel and have the day free to relax.
Day 3 : Mekong Cruise (Laos)
We’ll depart at 6:30 am, after breakfast, for a couple of hours’ drive to Chiang Khong in Thailand. After proceeding through departure custom formalities in Thailand, we cross the Mekong by ferry (a few minutes’ ride), and enter Laos, known as the kingdom of a “Million Elephants.” After checking in with immigration, we’ll board the cruise boat at Houey Say pier for a two-day cruise along the Mekong River. Today we will make one stop to observe rural life. Late in the afternoon we’ll arrive at Pakbeng and check in at Luangsay Lodge.
Day 4 : Mekong Cruise, Pak Ou Caves, Luang Prabang
Around 8:00 a.m., we’ll board our boat for the second part of the journey along the tranquil Mekong River. We enjoy lunch on board. We continue to the Pak Ou (“mouth of the river Ou”). The famous Pak Ou Caves are located here: ancient caves crammed full of Buddha images in the Luang Prabang style. After visiting the caves, we continue our journey to Luang Prabang. Upon arrival in Luang Prabang, we check into our hotel.
Day 5 : Luang Prabang
You have the opportunity to watch the very early morning "collection of alms" by hundreds of saffron-robed monks living in the old town's monasteries. Afterwards, we have breakfast. 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. 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. Wat Xieng Thong, Wat Mai, and numerous other historic buildings are on our morning itinerary. In the afternoon, we'll visit Ock Pop Tock. This non-profit organization seeks to preserve traditional weaving techniques, a trade which was once an important source of income for many Lao families, but is slowly fading out as modern technology has evolved. We will spend some time learning about the process of silk weaving from the initial stages of creating the dyes to the final process of loom weaving. We'll follow with a visit to the Traditional Art and Ethnology Center, which is 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. We’ll finish our day by climbing the 328 steps to the top of Mount Phousi to enjoy a panoramic view of the city and the surrounding countryside.
Day 6 : Siem Reap to Angkor Wat
Enjoy a leisurely morning. We’ll transfer to the airport for an 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 Angkor Wat 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 for check in.
Day 7 : Angkor Wat
Depart at sunrise. Today we’ll visit the most famous of all the temples on the plain of Angkor: Angkor Wat. The temple complex covers 81 hectares and is comparable in size to the Imperial Palace in Beijing. The 12th-century masterpiece is considered by art historians to be the prime example of classical Khmer art and architecture. We enter the temple from the back, almost alone.
In the afternoon, we’ll visit the ancient city of Angkor Thom, once home to nearly one million residents! Passing through the South Gate of the city, we'll cross the moat-bridge with its larger-than-life depictions of the Hindu story of the Churning of the Sea of Milk, the classic struggle of good and evil typified by a tug of war between the giants and demons. We pass under the serene face of Avolokiteshvara, the Boddhisattva of compassion, into the city. We’ll visit Bayon, situated in the center of the ancient town. This Buddhist shrine boasts 54 towers and huge portraits of the Buddha facing each of the cardinal directions. We’ll also see the Terrace of the Leper King and the Terrace of the Elephants.
Day 8 : Siem Reap to Ho Chi Minh City (Saigon)
Rise very early this morning to travel to the “gem” of the Angkor area, the wonderful temple of Banteay Srey, which is best viewed in the warm morning light. The so-called “Citadel of the Women” was built between the 11th and 13th century and remains the best preserved temple in Cambodia.
Return to the hotel for breakfast and later transfer to the airport for your early afternoon flight to Ho Chi Minh City. Upon arrival, we’ll begin our city tour of vibrant Saigon including the red-brick Catholic cathedral of Notre-Dame, and the nearby 19th century Empire-style Post Office. We walk from the town hall to the Opera House, in one of the liveliest and most colorful areas of Saigon.
Day 9 : Hue
We’ll take a morning 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.
Today we visit 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.
Day 10 : Hue
Today we visit the majestic Minh Mang mausoleum, the ruins of the Imperial Palace (the Citadel) and a pagoda, located right on the banks of the Perfume River, on which we enjoy a local dragon boat trip. Before lunch, 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. Return to the hotel in late afternoon.
Day 11 : 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: January, November - December Departures: Dec 21, 2013 - Jan 4, 2014 Feb 8 - 22, 2014 Nov 1 - 15, 2014 Dec 20, 2014 - Jan 3, 2015
$5,295 (11-15 members)
$850 internal airfare – Luang Prabang/Siem Reap/Ho Chi Minh City/Hue/Hanoi
$5,495 (11-15 members)
$1000 internal airfare – Bangkok/Chiang Rai, Luang Prabang/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.