Travel into the heart and soul of Indochina

Join us as we travel into the heart and soul of Indochina. Starting off in Bangkok, get lost in the chaos of Thailand's capital city before succumbing to the slightly more relaxed pace of Chiang Mai. Cruise along the Mekong River to reach peaceful Luang Prabang, a colourful town dotted with monks, pop-up stalls and French-inspired eateries. In Vietnam, cruise through dramatic karst scenery on a boat tour of Halong Bay, travel back to the time of Vietnam’s emperors in Hue, soak up the old-world charm of Hoi An and be wowed by the endless energy of Ho Chi Minh City. Then discover Cambodia's fascinating history and culture in Phnom Penh's heaving streets and in the awe-inspiring temples of Angkor, before wrapping up the adventure back in Thailand.

Start
Bangkok, Thailand
Finish
Bangkok, Thailand
Countries
Cambodia,
Laos,
Thailand,
Vietnam
Themes
Explorer
Code
TTSVC
Physical rating
Cultural rating
Ages
Min 15
Group size
Min 1 Max 16
Carbon offset
421kg pp per trip


Highlights

  • Soak up the atmosphere of Hanoi
  • Cruise Halong Bay on a junk boat
  • Feel the pulsating energy of Thailand's capital, Bangkok
  • Relax beneath a waterfall in Luang Prabang
  • Discover a slower pace of life in the Mekong Delta
  • See the incredible temples of Angkor
  • Uncover Cambodia's tragic history in Phnom Penh

Itinerary

Set the scene for this Thai adventure by cruising down the Chao Phraya River and visiting the country’s largest reclining Buddha. Afterwards, hunt down some tasty street food (not a difficult mission) and maybe indulge in an invigorating Thai massage.
Renowned for dazzling beauty and extremely welcoming locals, the ‘Rose of the North’ will leave you spellbound. Chances are, you won’t want to leave. Climb up to one of the most beautiful temples in Thailand, discover ethereal panoramic vistas and be hypnotised by the chanting of resident Buddhist monks. In the evening, head on down to the Night Bazaar and tuck into some delicious local dishes.
Formerly known as ‘Juon’, the tranquil riverside town of Chiang Khong has long been an important marketplace for nearby hill tribes. Explore the quaint streets and hear Laos call from across the magnificent Mekong.
Feel time slow down during a cruise down the Mekong. Sit back and relax, admire lush scenery and soak up the serene atmosphere.
Visit the spiritual Pak Ou Caves, a traditional place of pilgrimage for many Buddhists en route to the World Heritage-listed city of Luang Prabang. Dotted with ornate temples and French colonial architecture, the atmospheric town is a delight to explore. Enjoy a guided tour around the Traditional Art & Ethnology centre, visit the stunning Kuang Si Falls and maybe stroll through the stalls of the delightful Dara Market. Those feeling energetic may want to make the trek up to Mt Phousi.
Join the locals on a public bus out to picturesque Vang Vieng, where there is ample opportunity to explore the local surrounds. Creep through caves, swim in natural springs, hire bikes and peddle along quiet paths or pick berries at a local organic mulberry farm.
Whether it’s by foot or by tuk-tuk, you’ll soon discover the delights of exploring Laos’s charismatic capital. Follow dusty tracks to friendly villages bustling with chickens, dogs and children, hunt for treasures at the local market, admire the oldest Buddhist temple in Vientiane and visit COPE, an Intrepid Foundation-sponsored organisation changing lives for the better.
Welcome to Vietnam. Your adventure begins with a welcome meeting at 6 pm. Please look for a note in the hotel lobby or ask reception where it will take place. We'll be collecting insurance details and next of kin information at this meeting, so please ensure you bring these details to provide to your leader.

If you arrive early into the capital of Hanoi, there’s plenty to see and do. Admire the city’s French-colonial architecture, wander the Old Quarter or head to the Temple of Literature. Relax in a park or enjoy some street food by Hoan Kiem Lake, surrounded by modern office buildings and ancient Buddhist temples.

Notes: If you can't arrange a flight that will arrive in time, you may wish to arrive a day early so you're able to attend. We'll be happy to book additional accommodation for you (subject to availability). If you're going to be late, please inform the hotel reception.
Travel by private minibus to the spectacular World Heritage site of Halong Bay in the Gulf of Tonkin (approximately four hours). The bay is dotted with sandy coves, grottos and 1,600 limestone islands, which have been formed over millennia by wind and water erosion. Board a private boat and cruise the bay, exploring island caves and even enjoying a swim in the South China Sea. To end the day, spend a peaceful night aboard the boat beneath the night sky.

The sailing junk has twin share cabins with air-conditioning and private facilities. There's also a dining room and bar to enjoy lunch, dinner and breakfast.

Notes: Due to recent unforeseen changes by local authorities in Halong Bay, a large proportion of boats are no longer permitted to stay in the bay overnight, resulting in a shortage of boats. To ensure all Intrepid travellers can enjoy the experience of a night on the water, we’re occasionally using a larger boat (with approximately 12 cabins) or splitting groups across different vessels. An Intrepid group leader will be present on each boat, and the route taken and inclusions on board will remain the same.
This morning take a bus back to Hanoi, and use free time in the afternoon to shop, explore the sights or just relax. At 11 pm board an overnight train to Hue. Sleeper trains typically have four-berth compartments (occasionally six berths depending on the season), which have bench seats that convert into sleeping bunks. A sheet, pillow and blanket are provided (although some travellers prefer to bring their own sleeping sheet). Most trains have a dining carriage serving simple food, but you may like to stock up on some food supplies before departure.
Arrive into Hue at approximately 11 am and transfer to the hotel. Once the imperial capital of Vietnam, Hue holds the treasures of the country’s royal past. You’ll have free time in the morning to rest or explore. The bustling Dong Ba Market is a great place to sample some of the foods that once graced the Nguyen emperors' tables, such as banh khoai (royal rice cake). After lunch, reunite with the group to visit the war-damaged ruins of the Hue Imperial Citadel complex, which once contained temples, state houses and the emperor’s palace.
Today, tour the sights of Hue on the back of a motorbike driven by a local guide. Explore the ruins of the Forbidden Purple City, once reserved for the personal use of the Emperor and his concubines, but almost totally destroyed during the Vietnam/American War. Visit the 17th-century active Buddhist monastery of Thien Mu Pagoda. During the visit you’ll see the car of a former monk who drove to Saigon in 1963 to set himself alight to protest the poor treatment of Buddhists by the South Vietnamese regime.

Enjoy a short boat cruise down the Perfume River before eating lunch inside a nunnery. Finally, visit the lakeside royal tomb of Emperor Tu Duc before heading back to Hue.

Notes: Please note that a car will be provided for those who don’t wish to ride on a motorbike. Also, boats for the Perfume River trip may not be available if you’re travelling during festival periods. During these times you’ll travel by land to reach the activities instead.
This morning travel by bus through coastal rice paddies and the spectacular Hai Van Pass. After a brief visit to My Khe Beach (China Beach), arrive into Hoi An. Recently declared a World Heritage site, Hoi An was a major international trading port during the 17th, 18th and 19th centuries. Today, parts of the beautifully preserved town retain the feel of centuries past. It's also a shopping mecca, famous for its plethora of tailors. On arrival your leader will take you on an orientation walk, and you’ll be given a sightseeing pass so you can visit the city's major attractions at your leisure.
Today is a free day to explore Hoi An. Browse the town’s cobbled streets and art galleries, or hire a bike and cycle through rice paddies out to Cua Dai Beach. Shop for paintings, ceramics and colourful cloth lanterns in the town’s markets and preserved Chinese shop houses. Perhaps visit one of the hundreds of tailors in the city to get something special made. Hoi An is also known for its delicious regional food, so be sure to enjoy a meal at a riverside restaurant or perhaps partake in a cooking class.
Today take a short early morning flight to Ho Chi Minh City. Formerly known as Saigon, Ho Chi Minh City has a fascinating history and is arguably Vietnam’s capital of commerce and culture. After landing, check in to your hotel and then take a sightseeing bus tour around the city. Pass the Reunification Palace, Notre Dame Cathedral and the Opera House, stopping in at the War Remnants Museum to discover some of the sobering stories of the Vietnam/American War.

You also have the option today to take an Urban Adventures tour to the Cu Chi tunnels outside the city. This underground tunnel network in the middle of the jungle was used by the Viet Cong during the war.
This morning head out on a day trip to explore the Mekong Delta. Board a boat to Ben Tre to visit a coconut candy factory and sample their sweet products. On a tuk-tuk tour around the remote village, learn about local rural life and stop to sample tropical fruits. Eat lunch at a restaurant in the heart of the delta, sampling regional specialties such as the famous Elephant Ear fish. Afterwards, paddle in sampans (small rowing boats) past water coconut trees along the Mekong, and then board a private boat to cruise the delta’s major waterways to My Tho. After the cruise return via bus to Ho Chi Minh City.

Enjoy a final group dinner at KOTO restaurant, an organisation dedicated to developing the hospitality careers of street kids.
Xin chao! Welcome to Vietnam. Your adventure begins with a welcome meeting at 6 pm on Day 1. Please look for a note in the hotel lobby or ask the hotel reception where it will take place. If you have free time, get out and discover the city's blend of old and new, East and West. Visiting Reunification Palace and the War Remnants Museum are recommended optional activities.
Travel by public bus through rural Vietnam and Cambodia to Phnom Penh (approximately 6–7 hours). You will cross the border, exiting Vietnam at Moc Bai and entering Cambodia at Ba Vet. Your leader will assist you with border crossing procedures.
Confront Cambodia's tragic past on a guided tour of the Tuol Sleng Genocide Museum, a former school which served as a Khmer Rouge torture centre. It's estimated that more than 20,000 people were held and tortured here. You will also head out to the Choeung Ek Memorial, where a stupa made up of some 8,000 human skulls marks the site of the infamous Killing Fields, the execution ground for the torture victims of Tuol Sleng. You can learn about a brighter period in Cambodian history by visiting the Royal Palace and Silver Pagoda (optional). Wat Phnom, shrouded in myth, is equally worth a visit, as is the National Museum with its excellent Khmer collection. Cyclo tours around the city are a great alternative to walking and generally include the central market, US Embassy, Wat Phnom, Mekong river front, independence monument and Royal Palace. Keen shoppers can hit the art-deco Psar Thmei (Central Market).
Travel by private bus to Siem Reap (approximately 7 hours). Along the way you'll make several stops which are great opportunities to see the real Cambodia. You'll visit the cottage industry of Santuk Silk Farm, a fair-trade organisation that provides a valuable source of employment in a poor rural community. You'll even have a the rare chance to sample a deep-fried spider. Arrive in Siem Reap in the evening and relax as you prepare for your much-anticipated visit to Angkor tomorrow. Perhaps hit the markets for some delicious street food.

Notes: Santuk Silk Farm is closed on some important Khmer holidays.
Temple-hop with your local guide and make the most of your visit to the world-famous Angkor complex. The temples, dating back as far as the 9th century, were believed to represent the cosmic world and were set in perfect balance, symmetry and composition. The intricately carved bas-reliefs and architectural designs are mind-blowing and there are spectacular photo opportunities at any time of day. Watching a sunrise or sunset is a must. The ruins are scattered over an area of some 160 square kilometres, but the main cluster of temples is close to Siem Reap, so there will be plenty of time to fully appreciate the great archaeological sites of Angkor Wat, the Bayon and the jungle-covered Ta Prohm.
Continue your explorations of the Angkor complex. You may like to spend just the morning making further discoveries here, and save your afternoon for an optional activity elsewhere. Perhaps enjoy a boat trip along the Tonle Sap (freshwater lake), visiting one of its floating villages. Keen adventurers can take the 'Flight of the Gibbon' zip-line adventure which gives an amazing birds-eye view of the rainforest, not to mention an adrenaline rush.
Travel by private minibus to Battambang (approximately 3 hours). Cambodia's second-largest city, Battambang (pronounced Battambong), is a pretty riverside town of French elegance, friendly Khmer people and beautifully preserved colonial architecture. Consider a guided tour of the countryside to discover the local rural way of life – it stops off at small cottage industries that produce sticky rice, noodles & fish paste. Or perhaps take a ride on the famous bamboo train, a great chance to interact with locals. There's also an optional cooking class to learn the secrets of local dishes such as amok, Khmer curry & fried spicy chicken.
It's a long drive from Battambang to Bangkok (approximately 8–9 hours by private bus, including the border crossing and lunch). You will exit Cambodia at Poipet and enter Thailand at Aranyaprathet. Your leader will be on hand to assist with border crossing procedures. Arrive in Thailand's bustling capital and take in this exciting world of tuk tuks, khlong boats, and street vendors serving up delicious Thai food.
Your trip comes to an end after breakfast, with no further activities planned.
View trip notes to read full itinerary

Inclusions

Meals
19 breakfasts, 4 lunches, 2 dinners
Transport
Boat, Longtail boat, Overnight sleeper train, Plane, Private Bus, Private minibus, Private vehicle, Taxi, Van
Accommodation
Guesthouse (4 nights), Hotel (22 nights), Overnight boat (1 night), Overnight sleeper train (2 nights)
Included activities
  • Bangkok - Khlong boat (canal) tour
  • Bangkok - Wat Pho Temple
  • Chiang Mai - Doi Suthep temple
  • Halong Bay - Overnight boat cruise
  • HCMC - KOTO dinner
  • HCMC - Mekong Delta day trip including Coconut Candy Factory and Village Tuk Tuk tour
  • HCMC - War Remnants Museum
  • Hoi An - Ancient town orientation walk and entrance
  • Hue - Imperial citadel
  • Hue - Motorbike trip including lunch
  • Hue - Perfume river cruise and Thien Mu Pagoda
  • Hue - Royal tomb
  • Luang Prabang - Kuang Si Waterfalls
  • Luang Prabang - Pak Ou Cave
  • Luang Prabang - Traditional Arts and Ethnology Museum
  • Phnom Penh - Entrance to Tuol Sleng Genocide Museum (S21) / Choeung Ek
  • Phnom Penh - Guided Tour of Choeung Ek
  • Siem Reap - Angkor Temples Guided Tour
  • Siem Reap - Three Day Angkor Pass
  • Siem Reap - Tonle Sap Lake boat trip
  • Vientiane - COPE visit
  • Vientiane - Wat Sri Saket

Dates

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Important notes

A single supplement is available on this trip.

Trip notes

Want an in-depth insight into this trip? Your trip notes provide a detailed itinerary, visa info, how to get to your hotel, what’s included - pretty much everything you need to know about this adventure and more.

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Reviews

Our Great Indochina Loop trips score an average of 4.83 out of 5 based on 23 reviews in the last year.

Great Indochina Loop , November 2015

Great Indochina Loop , October 2015