Day 1 Arrive Hanoi
Arrive to Hanoi, meet driver and head to your hotel. Settle in and rest up for the remainder of the day.
Day 2 Explore Hanoi
After breakfast, meet up with your guide and driver set out towards Hoan Kiem Lake to see Hanoi's morning rituals. Many Vietnamese, mostly women of varying ages, wake up early and start the morning with some exercise. Typically they do group Tai Chi or aerobics in the park surrounding the lake. It is very interesting to see how the local people start their busy day routine with mindful exercise. Feel free to join them!
Marvel at the French architecture of the buildings and community houses which have been carefully restored by UNESCO. Along the way, stop to taste the local cuisine, including springs rolls and other snacks common in Hanoi. To finish the morning, pay a visit to the Huu Tiep Lake, better known as ‘B-52 lake’, where US B-5 bomber wreckage can be seen.
In the afternoon, head to the Old Quarter to enjoy a local lunch and visit the Temple of Literature. Built in 1076 as Vietnam's first university, this temple was used to educate Vietnam's royalty, mandarins, and other members of the elite class. The university operated for 700 years, and now its gardens and well-preserved architecture offer a fascinating glimpse into Vietnam's past.
Finish your day with a walk along the Hanoi railway tracks, which at times are located just meters away from houses. End the day tasting local draft beers at the typical and well known Bia Hoi. Return to your hotel and enjoy a free evening on your own.
Day 3 Thanh Chuong Viet Palace
This morning set out early to visit the Thanh Chuong Viet Palace, the former residence and studio of Thanh Chuong, one of the most celebrated painters in contemporary Vietnamese art. The Palace house became part of his own personal art collection with statues, paintings, and various historical artifacts from the Dinh, Ly, and Tran dynasties. In 2002, the Palace became famous as a unique preservation resort showcasing the spiritual legacy of Vietnamese art and culture which attracts both local and foreign visitors. Here you get an interesting look at the culture and architecture of Vietnam.
Head back to Hanoi and enjoy a free afternoon and evening.
Day 4 Embark Ha Long Bay Cruise | Bai Tu Long Bay
- 1 Breakfast, 1 Lunch, 1 Dinner
After breakfast, set out for your 3.5 hour journey to Ha Long Bay, one of the most spectacular UNESCO World Heritage Areas and the world’s largest marine limestone Karst landscape. On the way, visit Yen Duc Village to enjoying water puppets show. Continue onto Ha Long Bay, and embark your cruise at Hon Gai Harbor.
After check-in, enjoy welcome drinkl, cruise briefing, and set out to the magnificent Bai Tu Long Bay. Once in the area of Cap La and Tra San, enjoy a chance to paddle around by kayaking or swim near the ship. In the evening, the ship will cruise back through the bay to its overnight anchorage in Cong Do. Relax and enjoy your evening on the bay.
Day 5 Cong Dam | Thien Canh Son Cave
- 1 Breakfast, 1 Lunch, 1 Dinner
Enjoy a buffet breakfast before boarding the day boat to Bai Tu Long Bay, with its inviting and beautiful long sandy beaches. After breakfast, start cruising to Cong Dam while discovering geological values of Bai Tu Long Bay. You'll have the chance to kayak through the hidden lagoons and geological park at Cong Dam, or swim in the crystal water.
Return to the ship for lunch and a bit of a rest. In the afternoon, arrive Hon Co Island for swimming and exploring the well-hidden Thien Canh Son cave. Have deluxe dinner at Thien Canh Son Cave.
Day 6 Disembark | Return Hanoi
After breakfast onboard the ship, visit Vung Vieng fishing village by rustic row-boat to meet the local people, pass through the floating school and fish farms.
Return to the boat for lunch on board, then it is back to Hon Gai Harbor where your shuttle bus will be waiting you to take you back to your hotel in Hanoi. The rest of the afternoon and evening is free to explore Hanoi on your own.
Day 7 Fly to Luang Prabang
Spend a leisurely morning before you transfer to the airport for your flight on to Luang Prabang in northern Laos today. Spend the rest of your day exploring your new surroundings.
Day 8 Khmu Village Trekking
- 1 Breakfast, 1 Lunch, 1 Dinner
Spend your first day in the area on a day long trek to a Khmu Village. Trek two hours through rice paddies and steep slopes to a Khmu village where families and curious young children greet you. Spend time connecting with the people before ascending another hour along ridges and limestone grottos to arrive to a Hmong village. Stop and enjoy the views of the mountains and valleys in this area and learn from your guide about the flora and fauna in the area. Approach another Khmu village for an overnight stay in a family guesthouse
Hiking Time: 6-7 hours
Day 9 Baci Ceremony at Ban Khomkhuang
Enjoy breakfast in the village this morning before setting out for the two hour trek along a river bed. Arrive to another Khmu village where you board a boat for a ride along the Nam Khan river. Take a dip in the river's waters, if you like, before returning to Luang Prabang before noon today.
This afternoon you have the opportunity to witness a private Baci ceremony at a small village called Ban Khomkhuang. These peaceful villagers are led by their Nai Ban (village chief) who offer visitors tidings of good luck and fortune for their life and travels. The people gently tie cotton cords around your wrists which symbolize luck, friendship, and good health.
Day 10 Luang Prabang & Pak Ou Caves
Rise early this morning to the sound of the monastery bells at dawn. Respectfully wander the streets to witness this sacred ritual as long lines of barefoot monks weave through the streets on their alms rounds. We request that you observe this from a respectful distance and discourage photographs that interfere with the ritual. Visit the Morning Market to see an array of meats, vegetables, and spices for sale by local vendors before returning to your hotel for breakfast.
Meet your guide and set out to explore this historic World Heritage city. Start with the most popular and classic Luang Prabang temple, the 500 year old Wat Xieng Thong. Wander up the peninsula further and visit the National Museum (or former Royal Palace). Climb the 328 steps to get the best view of the city and breathtaking views of the entire landscape.
This afternoon set out through Laos' scenic countryside to the Pak Ou Caves, a mystical pilgrimage site high above the Mekong River. Board the boat that ferries you out across the river to the entrance of the caves.
Next cruise along the Mekong River on your way back to the city, stopping at two riverside villages along the way. Visit Ban Xang Khong to see the weaving of prized Lao textiles. Some villagers here also engage in mulberry paper production. The villagers of the next stop in Ban Xang Hai produce a well known rice whiskey. Try a bit of this potent drink before continuing back to Luang Prabang.
Day 11 Elephant Conservation Center
Today drive three hours to the town of Sayaboury and the Elephant Conservation Center. Your guide at the center takes you on an introductory tour of the facilities to show you some of the ongoing projects taking place here. Meet the team of veterinarians and biologists, and of course, the elephants! Mahouts share some of their knowledge about how to interact with these giant animals, and then you may get the opportunity to ride one of the elephants bareback. Get a sense for this magnificent creature while you hold on getting used to the sway of their steps.
Next join the elephants' daily bath and learn more about each elephants' personality and character. Elephants are surprisingly good swimmers and love to be in the water. Later at sunset time, board a boat for a calm cruise on Nam Tien Lake. Enjoy drinks and snacks, go for a swim, or just take in the amazing secondary forest backdrop.
Day 12 Elephant Conservation Center | Return to Luang Prabang
Enjoy a short boat trip on the lake this morning before getting the chance to meet the center's new baby elephant Noy. You may also get the chance to feed the baby and his mom from the boat. The center staff introduce you to their research and field work today, including a visit to the Elephant Hospital in Laos. Learn about various conservation efforts being made by the Center as well as the NGO ElefantAsia. You also can visit the Elephant Museum or choose to watch a movie about the elephants today, or simply sit and observe the live elephants from the viewing platform!
After lunch leave the Center by boat to meet up with your guide and driver for the drive back to Luang Prabang this afternoon.
Day 13 Return Home
Return home or connect your trip with another extension option in neighboring Thailand or Cambodia.