Uncover the delights of Indochina on this South-East Asian adventure

Travel from Bangkok to Ho Chi Minh City, experiencing the delights of northern Thailand, the laidback river lifestyle of Laos and the cultural richness of Vietnam. From the bright lights of Bangkok to the age-old charms of Luang Prabang and the buzz of Hanoi, join us on a voyage of discovery and relaxation. Travel down the mighty Mekong and become acquainted with the tranquillity of remote villages and friendly locals along the way. Sip coffee by the lake in Hanoi, stroll the pristine shoreline around Halong Bay, take in the charming old-world ambiance of Hue and marvel at the hectic pace of life in Ho Chi Minh City. This is an adventure full of beauty and contrast that will introduce you to the delicious cuisine, friendly people, beautiful landscape and cosmopolitan cities of these fascinating countries.

Start
Bangkok, Thailand
Finish
Ho Chi Minh City, Vietnam
Countries
Laos,
Thailand,
Vietnam
Themes
Explorer
Code
TLSXC
Physical rating
Cultural rating
Ages
Min 15
Group size
Min 1 Max 16
Carbon offset
650kg pp per trip


Highlights

  • Meander down the Mekong
  • Discover the thousands of Buddha statues at the Pak Ou Caves
  • Experience colourful Vientiane

Itinerary

Sa-wat dee! Welcome to Thailand.
Your adventure begins with a welcome meeting at 6pm on Day 1.
Please look for a note in the hotel lobby or ask the hotel reception where it will take place. 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. We'll be collecting your insurance details and next of kin information at this meeting, so please ensure you have all these details to provide to your leader.
Thailand's bustling capital, Bangkok is famous for its tuk tuks, khlong boats and street vendors serving up delicious Thai food.
Bangkok has so much to offer those with time to explore - why not take a riverboat to Chinatown and explore the crowded streets, uncover the magnificent Grand Palace and the Temple of the Emerald Buddha, wander down the tourist mecca of Khao San Road, or indulge in some Thai massage?
Travel by longtail boat down the Chao Phraya River to explore the famous 'khlongs' (canals) of Bangkok (approx 1 hr). Life along these canals seems a world away from the chaotic streets of the capital.
Pay a visit to Wat Pho, home to the country's largest reclining Buddha and keeper of the magic behind Thai massage.
Head north to Chiang Mai in the evening on an overnight train journey, accommodated in air-conditioned sleeping berths (approx. 13hrs). Multi share compartments are air-conditioned, with bunk beds; sheets and pillow provided. Our baggage travels in the carriage with us. There is a food and drink service available on board.
The most vibrant city in northern Thailand, Chiang Mai has many famous temples and an interesting old city area. This 'Rose of the North' is also known for its beauty and the friendliness of the local people.
Explore the famous temple complex of Doi Suthep. Drive along a scenic, winding mountain road that ends at an impressive 300-step naga-guarded stairway (approx 45 mins). The rewards justify the climb with one of the most beautiful temples in Thailand on display, not to mention fantastic panoramic views of the city and the opportunity to listen to hypnotic evening chanting by resident Buddhist monks.
In the evening you can choose to wander through the enormous, colourful Night Bazaar, and perhaps relax at a fine restaurant along the riverfront. Make sure to sample some delicious traditional northern Thai food - the signature dish is kao soy, yellow wheat noodles in a curry broth, traditionally served with chicken or beef.
Take a journey through rural countryside to the Thai border town of Chiang Khong (approx 5.5 hrs).
Formerly known as 'Juon', peaceful riverside Chiang Khong remains an important market town for the surrounding hill tribes and trade with Laos.
Stretch your legs with a stroll around town, then enjoy a drink and dine on Thai cuisine, while Laos beckons from across the mighty Mekong.
Board our boat for the two-day journey down the mighty Mekong River to Luang Prabang. The journey is relaxed, so we can experience the slow pace of village life and the breathtaking scenery along the river.

Our river boat is basic in nature, with a toilet, covered roof, and open sides to take in the fresh air. There are seats in the front of the boat and a small open area in the back where you can have a nap on the mat, play cards, read or have lunch.

We dock at the small town of Pak Beng (after about 6 hours) to spend the night. Our guesthouse here is very basic - a standard accommodation in this small trading port.

It can be quite cool from November to February so make sure you have some warm gear packed for this period. Due to dam construction upstream, water levels aren't as reliable as in previous years, and when the river is at its lowest from February to April, part of the journey may occasionally need to be made by land.
Reboard our boat and cruise to the Pak Ou Caves, before arriving in the former royal capital of Luang Prabang (approx 7 hrs).
An important religious site overlooking the river at the junction of the Mekong and Ou Rivers, the revered Pak Ou Caves contain thousands of Buddha images placed there by pilgrims over hundreds of years.
The atmospheric World Heritage-listed city of Luang Prabang is a favourite of many. Nestled in the hills of northern Laos on the confluence of the Mekong and Khan rivers, it's studded with ornate temples and French colonial architecture.
Enjoy a guided tour around the Traditional Art & Ethnology centre - a non-profit museum dedicated to the collection, preservation, and interpretation of its traditional arts and lifestyles
Head out to the beautiful Kuang Si Falls, where pale turquoise waters cascade over limestone formations. The lovely pool at the base of the falls is perfect for a refreshing afternoon dip.
In your free time consider a climb to the top of Mt Phousi - providing a fantastic view over the town and its surrounds. The Dara Market sells everything and is a great spot to browse. If you'd like to experience more local culture, consider taking a long boat across the river to a traditional Laotian village.
Journey by private bus to Vang Vieng (approx 7 hrs).
Situated on the Nam Song River, Vang Vieng offers limestone karst scenery, local markets and riverside walks.
There is plenty to do in and around Vang Vieng. The area is renowned for its many caves, many of which are easily accessible from the town, perhaps the most famous is the cave of Tham Chang, a beautiful cavern fed by a natural spring making it a perfect spot for a refreshing swim. Hire bicycles to explore further afield, or a tour of an Organic Mulberry Farm is also an option.
Continue by bus to the country's capital, Vientiane (approx 3.5 hrs).
Possibly Asia's most laidback capital, Vientiane is a city where daily affairs are conducted at a relaxed pace. Hardly touched by the modernisation that has completely changed the face of other cities in South-East Asia, Laos still has a wealth of cultural delights to discover - on foot, or for the less energetic, by jumbo (tuk tuk).
Follow dusty tracks along the river to find villages full of friendly children, dogs and chickens. Vientiane's vibrant, colourful morning market (which incidentally is open all day!) is full of local treasures. A great way to round off the day is to enjoy a spectacular sunset over the Mekong.
Pay a visit to Wat Si Saket, a Buddhist temple believed to be the oldest still standing in Vientiane.
Visit COPE, an Intrepid Foundation-sponsored organisation dedicated to assistance those who have been injured by the multitude of unexploded ordinance across the country.
We fly from Vientiane to Hanoi (approx 1 hour) Please note you will be unaccompanied on this flight. In the arrivals hall of Hanoi Airport you will be met by an Intrepid representative, who will take you to your Hanoi hotel. The flight usually arrives into Hanoi in the late afternoon.
As this is a combination trip, your group leader and the composition of your group may change at this location. There will be a group meeting to discuss the next stage of your itinerary and you're welcome to attend, as this is a great chance to meet your new fellow travellers.
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: For those who do not wish to ride on the back of a motorbike, please let you leader know and they will arrange a car.
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.
Your trip ends after breakfast today. There are no activities included and you’re free to depart your accommodation at any time. For those who are staying on and want to explore Ho Chi Minh City further, check out our Urban Adventure day trips.
View trip notes to read full itinerary

Inclusions

Meals
12 breakfasts, 3 lunches, 2 dinners
Transport
Overnight sleeper train, Private vehicle, Plane, Private minibus, Boat, Taxi
Accommodation
Guesthouse (4 nights), Hotel (14 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
  • Mekong River - 2 day boat trip
  • Luang Prabang - Pak Ou Cave
  • Luang Prabang - Traditional Arts and Ethnology Museum
  • Luang Prabang - Kuang Si Waterfalls
  • Vientiane - Wat Sri Saket
  • Vientiane - COPE visit
  • Halong Bay - Overnight boat cruise
  • Hue - Imperial citadel
  • Hue - Perfume river cruise and Thien Mu Pagoda
  • Hue - Royal tomb
  • Hue - Motorbike trip including lunch
  • Hoi An - Ancient town guided walk and entrance ticket
  • Ho Chi Minh City - War Remnants Museum
  • HCMC - City tour
  • HCMC - Mekong Delta day trip including Coconut Candy Factory and Village Tuk Tuk tour
  • HCMC - KOTO dinner

Dates

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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 Indochina Uncovered trips score an average of 4.67 out of 5 based on 3 reviews in the last year.

Indochina Uncovered , January 2016

Indochina Uncovered , June 2015

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