Indochina: Laos, Vietnam and Cambodia

Day 1/2: ROME – ABU DHABI – BANGKOK, Etihad Flight. Arrival in Bangkok. Overnight.

Day 3: BANGKOK – LUANG PRABANG. Transfer to airport for flight to Luang Prabang. Visit the ancient royal capital located in a valley on the middle course of the Mekong river. For the incomparable beauty of the environmental site and the extraordinary wealth of masterpieces of Buddhist religious architecture, the UNESCO has declared it as a World Heritage Site. There are more than thirty monastic complex from which emanates the mystical sense of spirituality that every visitor can feel ; among the many sites you cannot miss to visit the VatVisoun, the VatSenè, the VatXiengThong. Overnight.

Day 4: LUANG PRABANG. Full day dedicated to visit the Pak Ou caves and the upper course of the Mekong with slender power boats. Between the orchards and dense vegetation there is a village, where among many other traditional activities , it is also distilled the lao-lao, a strong national liquor. Where the river narrows and on a rock face, is the sacred Pak Ou caves that over the centuries the people’s faith has filled with thousands of Buddha statues. On the way back a stop on the right bank, in front of Luang Prabang, for a relaxing short trekking in the village of BanXangkong Sa, famous for its paper processing and its ancient pagodas. Return to Luang Prabang to plunge into the colorful world of the crafts market that opens at sunset on the road that runs between the PhuSi and the ancient Royal Palace. Late in the afternoon visit to Mount Phousi to enjoy the sunsets with a panoramic view. Overnight.

Day 5: LUANG PRABANG – HANOI. Wake up before dawn to go to the main street of Luang Prabang to see the long line of more than 200 monks, with their Patriarch in the front, that pass in a silent parade through the reverent local people offering them food for the day. Visit to the local market full of product of all kinds. Continue to Ban Lao Ouay, a Lao village (one of the many ethnic minorities in Laos) and then to the Kuang Si waterfalls inside a natural park, which also houses a “rescue center for bears”. The waterfall has a height of 60 meters and the water flows in different layers forming various pools of turquoise water. Returning to the city visit to the National Museum placed in the building of the Royal Palace, built in 1904 and now houses a rich collection of objects that belonged to the treasury of the royal family and, above all, the Phra Bang, the gold statue 83 cm high that according to the tradition is a symbol of the Lane Xang kingdom from the 13th century. In the afternoon, transfer to the airport to board the flight to Hanoi. Overnight.

Day 6: HANOI. Half day visit of the most classics sites in the capital of “Cultural” Vietnam. Passing the impressive Ho Chi Minh Mausoleum you enter the park of what was once the residence of the Governor General of Indochina, and here is where the President lived; not far away is the delightful “One Pillar Pagoda” built in 1049, and in front of it Dien Huu Pagoda. Van Mieu, the Confucian Temple of Literature, was the oldest Asian University and dates back to 1070. In the heart of the city there is the Lake of the Restored Sword with the islet of the temple on the Mount of Giada. In the afternoon, visit to the “Ancient” Hanoi with the traditional ‘Ciclo’ bikes. Running through the narrow and crowded streets of the old city and passing between shops of embroiderers and manufacturers of “votive objects in paper “, traditional pharmacies, candy shops, clothing shops, hats shops, wooden puppets shops, bags shops, belts and watches shops, shopping becomes a fun hunting of curious and unusual objects. Transfer to attend the Water Puppet Show. In the theater located on the shores of the Lake of the Restored Sword, the show is a world unique spectacle where the actors are wooden puppets that, accompanied by evocative music, act and dance on the water reviving the ancient stories of tradition, everyday daily life and events taken from the most popular poetic legends. Overnight.

Day 7: HANOI – HALONG CRUISE. Transfer from Hanoi to Halong Bay with a stop at a local exhibition center of silk production, ceramics and stone sculptures. HALONG BAY CRUISE: Halong Bay is considered “one of the Seven Wonders of the World.” The navigation is on a traditional Vietnamese wooden junk, well restored and made like similar to a luxury floating hotel. The navigation is through the myriad of islands, islets, rocks and reefs within which there are caves where stalactites and stalagmites draw extraordinary and amazing scenery. Overnight.

Day 8: CRUISE ALONG – DA NANG – HOI AN. Morning still dedicated to the visit of the endless attractions of Halong Bay. Returning to the port and landing. Transfer to the airport for the flight to Danang. Overnight.

Day 9: HOI AN – HUE. In the morning visit to the ancient town of Hoi An: the Hoi An Market, the old Tan Ky house, Phuc Kien Chinese temple, the Japanese Covered Bridge, the silk factory. Free time for shopping. Then visit to a silk processing factory where there are also shown wonderful lanterns of all colors. Transfer to Hue by car. Overnight.

Day 10: HUE – SAIGON. Ride with rickshaws on the road along the river which reaches the Thien Mu Pagoda. Stop for a visit to a house with a Hue city typical garden built according to very precise rules of geomancy. You are surrounded by a pleasant feeling of serenity and peace. Visit the pagoda and, thereafter, by car up to the mausoleum of Minh Mang. Visit to the mausoleum. In the afternoon visit to the Imperial Citadel. Transfer to airport for the flight to Saigon. Overnight.

Day 11: SAIGON. Half day visit Cu Chi, the famous underground citadel of the Vietcong who managed to create an incredible underground network of warehouses, dormitories, armories, kitchens, infirmaries and command posts connected to each other by 250 km of tunnels and galleries. These network resisted, inviolate, for years to all bombing and the attacks by the USA troops. In the bush there are some structures made accessible to the public and suggestive mannequins of Vietcong that stand guard at strategic points. On the way to Saigon it is a must to stop in a family business house located in between rich rice fields where they produce the flat rice bread and to travel inside rich plantations of rubber trees planted by the French at the beginning of the last century. In the afternoon visit of ‘Colonial’ Saigon starting with the War Remnants Museum, that we could translate as the Museum of the memories of the war. After a stop in the square where the colonial period lives in the building of the Post Office designed by Gustave Eiffel and the neo-Gothic cathedral of Notre-Dame, visit to an elegant studios where sophisticated lacquer objects are made. Then a visit to the largest indoor Ben Thanh Market which is the very symbol of the city and it is the place where everyone can have the most amazing shopping. Overnight.

Day 12: SAIGON / CHAUDOC. Full day tour of the Mekong Delta, Cai Be. A journey to the heart of the most picturesque locations in the Mekong Delta. Then on the Mekong with small rowing boats to enter local branches of the river which lead to the picturesque floating market of Cai Be. When transferring to the West, towards Chau Doc, you will meet the typical Delta floating villages. Arrival at Chau Doc. Overnight.

Day 13: CHAUDOC – PHNOM PENH. Departure after breakfast with a fast boat that take the canal that connects the Bassac river to the Lower Mekong. Stop on the shore where there is the frontier between Vietnam and Cambodia for the visa. The navigation continues in the beautiful river landscape with crops and villages on both the shores. From here the banks and their diversity make clear the transition between two countries, two cultures, two ways of life. Arrival in Phnom Penh 5 hours after departure. In the afternoon, visit of the classical part of the Cambodian capital with a visit to the National Museum, which contains the masterpieces of the Khmer sculpture from the fifth to the thirteenth century, and to the area of the Royal Palace with the Throne Room, where even today the sovereign gives audiences, and the adjacent Silver Pagoda complex. Overnight.

Day 14: PHNOM PENH – KOMPONG THOM – SIEM REAP. Departure by private van in the direction of Kompong Thom, about 168 km away. Kompong Thom is one of the five provinces which border the lake Tonle Sap. Visit to the Skun market, also known as the market of large spiders, the Kuha Nokor temple, the Phum Prasat and the sculpture factories of stone. In the afternoon crossing several villages, visit to the pre-Angkorian temples of Sambor Prei Kuh. Sambor Prei Kuh is the ancient capital before Angkor. On the way to Siem Reap, about 147 km, through villages and rice fields, stop in Kompong Kdei to visit an old archaeological bridge of the Angkorian era. Overnight.

Day 15: SIEM REAP. Half day tour of temples out of the ordinary circuit. Banteay SAMRE is a magnificent twelfth-century sanctuary which was the subject of one of the most successful and accurate restoration made with the anastylosis method. Further north lies Banteay Srei, the ‘Citadel of the Women’; framed by a wonderful vegetation, it is a miracle of elegance and harmony with beautiful bas-reliefs representing one of the figurative Khmer peaks. On the way back stop at the quiet, surprising Krol Ko of the thirteenth century. At sunset visit the largest archaeological site in the world where archaeologists classified 276 monuments of primary importance. The undisputed masterpiece of Khmer art is still Angkor Vat with twelve hundred square meters of refined bas-reliefs that offer the spectacular testimony of the highest sophistication figurative art. Overnight.

Day 16: SIEM REAP – BANGKOK – ABU DHABI. In the morning, visit to Angkor Thom (literally ‘big city’, once capital of the reign of Jayavarman VII) beginning with the South reef and the famous temple of Bayon (twelfth-century), dedicated to Buddhism. The temple, considered a replica of the Mount Meru sacred to Hindus) has about 54 square towers depicting 216 faces of God Avalokitesvara. Then visit to the Terrace of the Elephants, an area of 350 meters to the side of the large Royal Square, before place dedicated to public ceremonies, ending with the Terrace of the Leper King, built in the twelfth century and which owes its name to the discovery of a statue that resembled the image of a leprosy patient. Transfer to the airport. Return to Italy via Bangkok and Abu Dhabi.

DAY 17: ABU DHABI – ROME. Arrival in Rome

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