Highlights of Southeast Asia: Thailand, Cambodia, and Vietnam

A 14 day trip to Cambodia, Thailand & Vietnam 
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The marvelous histories and diverse cultures of Southeast Asia shine during your custom-tailored tour of Thailand, Cambodia, and Vietnam. Revel and the combination of ancient and modern worlds while strolling through historic temples. Witness preserved artworks depicting wrathful gods, epic heroes, and vengeful demons. View the ineffable beauty of sunrise over Angkor Wat. Explore the harmonious grounds of the Thai Royal Palace. Visit the impressive mausoleum of Ho Chi Minh. Whether traveling an arm of the Mekong River or enjoying a view to a historic pagoda from an imperial compound, your Southeast Asia tour immerses you in cultural majesty. Are you planning your once-in-a-lifetime dream vacation to Southeast Asia? Consider browsing our Thailand, Cambodia & Vietnam tours page to add essential experiences.

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General Information

Photos
Detailed Itinerary

Places Visited 

Vietnam – Hanoi, Halong Bay, Hoi An, Hue, Ho Chi Minh City, Cu Chi Tunnels

Cambodia – Siem Reap, Angkor Wat, Kampong Phluk

Thailand – Bangkok, Chiang Mai, Lampang, Lamphun

Departure Dates 

Dates are flexible and customizable for private departures.

Detailed Itinerary 

Day 1: Hanoi – Arrive in Hanoi with the Day at your Leisure

The streets of Hanoi pulse to a beat of a whole new world hosting the economic center of Vietnam’s burgeoning economy blending contemporary luxuries with traditional charms. Your flight lands at Noi Bai International Airport, where your private transfer greets you upon arrival. The historic quarter of the city fills with vendors along French cafes and vibrant modern restaurants. Scooters surge through the wide boulevards and hidden lanes beneath the glimpses of French and Chinese occupation.

After settling into the comforts of your stunning hotel, the remainder of the day is yours to enjoy the thrills and unique pace of the city. Suburbs of Vietnam wrap around the more than nine miles of shoreline bordering West Lake. The serene ambiance along the rippling water juxtaposes the chaotic streets of the Old Quarter. Locals and visitors stroll and ride bikes along the pathways circling the body of water visiting the welcoming restaurants and popping into the boutiques looking out over the lake. It is a charming and inviting introduction to Hanoi.

What’s Included: airport transfer, accommodation

Day 2: Halong Bay – Cruise the Alluring Waters and Caves of Halong Bay

In the morning, locals enjoy a breakfast noodle soup made with shrimp paste and vermicelli noodles. The bright colors freshly picked local fruits fill the market stands in the Old Quarter. The aroma of coffee permeates the air emanating from the celebrated Gian Café, hidden on a narrow street sandwiched between Western and Asian architecture. After breakfast, you venture out of Hanoi to reach Halong Bay and the limestone pillars crafting a fantastical scene amid scattered islands and grottoes shaped by millennia of blustery winds and splashing waves. The ethereal beauty draws you deeper into the bay as you sail across the turquoise water on a traditional and luxurious wooden junk weaving through the inspiring scenery.

The bay hosts approximately 1,600 limestone islands and islets within nearly 600 square miles. The karsts jut out from the water like natural statues juxtaposing the beauty of the powdery white-sand beaches. 200 species of fish and 500 species of mollusk call the waters home amid numerous species of hard and soft coral. Seals and dolphins often visit the bay basking in the sunlight or scouring the waters for a meal. You disembark the ship and enter into Sung Sot Cave on Bo Hon Island. The cave consists of more than 107,639 square feet with long passage carved between the soaring stalactites and dripping stalagmites. It feels like fantastic creatures lurk around every corner beneath the 98-foot tall ceiling.

What’s Included: accommodation, transfer, tour, breakfast

Day 3: Hanoi – Historic and Cultural Tour of Vietnam’s Capital City

The ship docks back at Halong City after breakfast, where your private transfer escorts you back to the bustling streets of Hanoi. As you near the city, the skyscrapers remind you of the karsts towering over the placed sea during your overnight cruise. Your guide greets you in the hotel lobby eager to properly introduce you to the fascinating cultural history of Vietnam’s capital city. The sunlight washes over the bright hue of the red bridge connecting shores of Hoan Kiem Lake to the small island supporting Ngoc Son Temple.

The small but fascinating structure was dedicated to a revered patron of physicians, a renowned scholar, and the fierce general known for fighting fearlessly against invading Mongols. Locals practice t’ai chi on the island every morning adding to its soulful impression on the overall city. The Temple of Literature was originally constructed in the 11th century as Vietnam’s first university. The altars remain popular with local students who visit praying for good grades. The pagodas, ponds, and gardens spread through the five courtyards create a picturesque scene embodying the egalitarian ideals of the 15th century when the university opened admissions to students from across Vietnam in accordance with the principles of Confucianism, literature, and poetry.

What’s Included: accommodation, transfer, tour, breakfast

Day 4: Hoi An – UNESCO World Heritage City of Historic Hoi An

You arrive in Hoi An after a brief flight from Hanoi to Danang. The historic city has reached UNESCO World Heritage status protecting the historic city’s grand architecture and enchanting riverside setting. Locals have virtually preserved the fascinating city in its entirety, forbidding the perils of modern traffic and pollution opting instead to maintain the legacy of gorgeous Chinese temples, centuries-old tea warehouses, and traditional Japanese merchant houses. The most prominent building was erected over 200 years ago by a family of Vietnamese heritage influenced by the Chinese and Japanese architecture.

The Tan Ky House reflects the appropriation of intermingling cultures during the height of trading along the Bon River. The house’s rear stored goods for traders and sales standing close to the river for easy storing or transport. The front of the home contains a remarkable collection of mother-of-pearl inlaid poems hanging from select support columns. Graceful images of birds decorate the 150-year-old panels taking flight in various positions. A small courtyard allows bright natural light to enter the home while also providing ventilation, rainwater, and drainage. Engraved grape leaves decorate the carved wooden balcony showing European design import and reflecting greatly on the far reach of trade and the unique blend of cultures in the merchant city.  

What’s Included: accommodation, transfer, tour, breakfast

Day 5: Hue – Silk Village and Drive the Scenic Hai Van Pass to Hue

Hoi An Silk Village is located less than a mile from the heart of the historic city center. In the morning, the sounds of weaving machines remark on the heritage of the merchant class and the quintessence of handmade crafts in the village captured in the museum-like quality of the living, breathing town. Displays of silk glow with vibrant colors encapsulating the spirit of Hoi An through the traditional values, history, and local culture woven into the smooth, gorgeous fabrics.

Silkworms in Hoi An make Mulberry silk, which is celebrated for contributing nearly 95 percent of the world’s silk production. Women embroider and hand-weave garments with vibrant colors, smooth textures, and charming designs. Outside of the Silk Village, you continue your journey towards the Imperial City of Hue by taking a scenic drive through the Hai Van Pass. The remarkable winding road stretches over 13 miles. The ribbon of road rides along the coastline switching back across the mountains for unfathomable views over the azure water to the east and the jade forest in the foreground.

What’s Included: accommodation, transfer, tour, breakfast

Day 6: Ho Chi Minh City – Treasured Imperial City and Perfume River

The historic citadel of Hue captures the beauty and fascinating heritage of Nguyen emperors dating back to the glittering 19th-century city on a hill overlooking the Perfume River. The tranquil and conservative city remains a concentration of culture captured in time within the preserved features of the Imperial Enclosure. The Thien Mu Pagoda was erected in 1844 approximately more than two miles southwest of the Citadel. The sensational octagonal tower reaches nearly 69 feet tall overlooking the northern bank of the Perfume River.

Legend says an old woman in red appeared nightly on the hill prophesizing the Lord would one day build something of great importance on the hilltop resulting in a pagoda acting as the unofficial symbol of the antique city. A gate with three doors leads to the tower and 12 large wooden sculptures depicting ancient guardians. You find the fragrant aroma of incense wafting through the air with monks quietly praying and offering blessings around the square.

What’s Included: accommodation, transfer, tour, breakfast

Day 7: Ho Chi Minh City – Cu Chi Tunnels and Tour the History of Saigon

After breakfast, you depart from Ho Chi Minh City and the dizzying mixture of opulence and rusticity, modernity and tradition. Alleyways fill with the elegant aroma of incense seeping out of hidden temple gardens, and chic designer malls fall in the shadows of elegant 21st-century skyscrapers. You reach the symbol of the Vietnamese freedom fighters at the Cu Chi Tunnel entrance. The network consists of more than 155 miles of shafts honeycombing the ground in the Cu Chi district alone with countless trapdoors leading to underground storage facilities, weapon factories, command centers, and field hospitals hidden from view of opposing armies. Two sections of the tunnels are open to the public displaying nine miles of the network harboring resistance activities during the Vietnam War. The site bursts with the sound of gunfire as tourists shoot AK-47s under supervision. The powerful burst punctuates the otherwise serene sky offering a modicum of finer detail during the constant battles fought for roughly 20 years.

You return to the fascinating luster of Ho Chi Minh City, which locals continue to refer to lovingly as Saigon. The vitality of the city winds alongside the Saigon River. Your guide leads you to the Jade Emperor Pagoda where you immediately soak up the atmosphere of Ho Chi Minh City. Statues of remarkable divinities and heroes with fantastical expressions decorate the courtyard amid pungent incense smoky enough to obscure numerous woodcarvings. Elaborate tile adorns the siding of the temple erected in 1909 alongside statues depicting tales from Buddhist and Taoist folklore. A statue over 13 feet tall stands to the right of the altar and depicts a mythical general who famously fought and defeated the Green Dragon lain under his foot. The majesty of the pagoda shows the different layers at the heart of Ho Chi Minh City.

What’s Included: accommodation, tour, breakfast  

Day 8: Siem Reap – Siem Reap and the Angkor National Museum

The French influence and modern affection for coffee seep into the flavors of Ho Chi Minh City when the morning fills with the aroma of freshly made coffee. Locals venture to the hidden oasis of I.D. Café for the cozy couches, dim lighting, and elegant lush profile of traditional Vietnamese coffee. After breakfast, your private transfer takes you to Ho Chi Minh City Airport for your flight to Siem Reap, Cambodia. Upon arrival, your guide greets you and escorts you to the comforts of a luxury hotel inside the city known as a gateway to ancient life. The greater city of Siem Reap has become the epicenter of Cambodian chic with world-class spas, dining, and wines amid fantastic shopping excursions and remarkable adventures, as well as the country’s leading circus. Before diving into the elaborate and extensive Angkor Wat complex, you first visit the lesser-visited Angkor National Museum. The state-of-the-art exhibit regards the Khmer civilization with galleries revolving around themes of religion and royalty. The Gallery of 1,000 Buddhas feels like a sophisticated temple offering visitors a space in which to center themselves. You find a late 12th to early 13th century Buddha sits sheltered beneath a guarding naga, a mythical hybrid creature of part human and part cobra descent. 

What’s Included: accommodation, transfer, tour, breakfast

Day 9: Siem Reap – Private Discovery of the Angkor Wat Complex

Your morning starts before sunrise when you meet your guide in the lobby of the hotel and travel the short distance into Angkor National Park. The heart and soul of Cambodian history begin with the national symbol known as Angkor Wat, the epicenter of the Khmer civilization and the dramatic architecture of the main temple and the surrounding complex encompassing nearly 155 square miles. Jayavarman II conceived of the complex in the 9th century AD resulting in a capital city with unique embellishments blending spirituality, devotion, and architectural symmetry. 

The main temple was erected in the 12th century AD under King Suryavarman II and encompasses 400 acres surrounded by a moat over 600 feet wide. Even in the darkness before dawn, the silhouette of magnificent structure resembles the ancient description of the universe according to Hindu Khmer tradition. The forecourt before the temple offers a terrific view of the main towers. The various turrets symbolize Brahma, Vishnu, the moon and the king.

The sunlight rises over temple and monks dressed in robes the color of burnt sage appear out of the trees chanting, carrying incense, and chiming bells. The atmosphere becomes electric as the sunlight illuminates a stoic reflection of the temple façade across the surface of the small pond. Inside the temple, your guide shows you a bas-relief entitled “Battle of the Gods and the Demons.” The artwork depicts 21 gods taken from the Brahmanic pantheon in the battle against various demons shown with traditional folkloric attributes. Vishnu is shown with four arms and seated on a fighting garuda.

What’s Included: accommodation, tour, breakfast

Day 10: Bangkok – Kampong Phluk Floating Village before Flying to Bangkok 

The former French occupation of Cambodia reveals itself in the quiet cafes filling with the scent of coffee and the morning vendors offering baguettes with spreadable cheese. Before traveling to Bangkok, you set out to the floating village of Kampong Phluk located on the Tonlé Sap Lake. You board a mini Tara boat and head up the river passing long reeds and interested fishermen waving hello. Kampong Phluk has approximately 6,000 residents clinging to the traditions of the fishing and using their surroundings for survival in methods unchanged for centuries.

The village is built on stilts to account for the varying levels of water between dry and monsoon season. The river thins between November and April allowing locals to farm along the edges of the floodplains for extra sustenance. The colorful railings and bright boats stand out from the muddy green of the churning lake. When the water level drops, instead of floating, the village looks as though it’s balancing high above the water revealing schools and temple composed on thick wooden trunks. You return to Siem Reap for your brief flight to the combination of bustling streets, traditional temples, and celebrated opulence in Bangkok.

What’s Included: accommodation, transfer, tour, breakfast

Day 11: Bangkok – Immersive Tour of Bangkok’s Rich Cultural Heritage

Bangkok is a city of color and excitement showcasing ancient wisdom and luxury contemporary shopping malls, kitschy restaurants and fast-paced development. The mighty metropolis of Thailand represents the broader culture of the country mixed with an endless view of the future. Vendors fill the alleys with an endless stream from noodle carts, and megamalls overlook quiet, unassuming 200-year-old home once part of a village on the capital’s outskirts. You have an immersive exploration of Bangkok’s indelible culture beginning with the Royal Grand Palace. The marvelous compound was erected in the 18th century as the residence for the king.

It remains in use for important ceremonies but often remains uninhabited. The centuries have preserved the fine architecture, extensive murals, and fantastical pieces of royal history. Two imposing demon figures guard the elegant traditional temple of Wat Phra Kaeo, or the Temple of the Emerald Buddha. Once past the demons, you find a cycle of incredible murals depicting the epic of Ramakien, the national epic of Thailand taken from the Hindu Ramayana. The small but fascinating statue of Buddha sits on a plinth resting beneath a canopy with nine tiers. The statue is approximately three feet tall and carved from Pataliputra from India in the 15th century. 

What’s Included: accommodation, tour, breakfast

Day 12: Chiang Mai – View Temples at Lampang and Lamphun

In the morning, the sunlight glints against the soaring figure of Wat Aarun, the Temple of dawn. After breakfast, you have a brief flight from Bangkok Airport to Thailand’s Second City, Chiang Mai, located in the north. Journey away from the airport to the small town of Lampang, known for its riverside charm, growing cafes, and trendy restaurants set amid antique buildings and a fantastic marketplace. People around northern Thailand have settled along the Wang River basin for over 1,000 years found in archeological evidence and depicted in the preserved grandeur of the various temples around town.

Wat Lai Hin was originally constructed in the 17th century as the Monastery of the Standing Elephant with the Stone Shoulder. While small, the temple contains and stunning Lanna design and stucco archway. Legend states an elephant chose the destination for the temple en route from India when carrying a Buddhist relic. The city of Lamphun exemplifies Thailand’s former glory dating back to the 8th century AD. As one of Thailand’s oldest cities, Lamphun has preserved the fortress wall and ancient temples less than 17miles outside of Chiang Mai. The fascinating temple of Wat Umong was erected in the 13th century amid the woods, a small lake, and ancient tunnels. Practicing monks feed fish, and turtles, as well as tend to the grounds and grottos decorated with elaborate Buddhist images.

What’s Included: accommodation, transfer, tour, breakfast

Day 13: Chiang Mai – Stunning Chiang Mai and Visit an Elephant Camp

The sensational city of Chiang Mai is Thailand’s second-largest metropolis but feels like preserved historic town hidden in the country’s northern woods. Chedis burst from the canopy like hidden towers revealing the former prestige of the seat of the Lanna kingdom in a relaxed ambiance surrounded by nature. The revered temple of Wat Phra Singh contains a splendid mosaic dominating the interior sanctuary. The temple was erected in the 14th century when the king wanted a holy space to hold his father’s ashes before the statue of Phra Buddha Singh arrived giving the complex its current name.

The remarkable murals inside the sanctuary depict two separate events. The left-hand mural shows the history of the popular folktale of Sangthong and the right-hand mural tells the legend of Suwanna Hongse. You make your way to an elephant sanctuary on the outskirts of Chiang Mai known for respecting the elephants and allowing them the freedom to move around, as well as particular care in the form of medical treatment. Many of the elephants have been rescued from less ethical encampments or tours found in Myanmar and Thailand.

The elephants are given a new life in the comforts of the open space with joyful and engaging handlers providing visitors with important information about the local culture, the heritage of elephants in Thailand, and philosophy underpinning the ethical practices of the sanctuary. You get to know the elephants on the compound by feeding them bananas. They try to take the entire banana from your hand by wrapping their trunk around your fingers. You take a walk into the forest alongside the gentle giants that can grow up to 13 feet tall at the shoulders.

What’s Included: accommodation, tour, breakfast

Day 14: Chiang Mai – Depart for Home

The soul of Chiang Mai emanates from Talat Warorot, the oldest public market in the city. Vendors offer souvenirs or ordinary household items, watches to delicious snacks like Thai-style sausages. The colonial structure of the former Provincial Court houses the Lanna Folklife Museum, where an imaginative recreation of village life is shown in a series of dioramas and mystical interpretations of symbolic art. The scent of noodles fills Talat Warorot, and the aroma of coffee emanates from the trend contemporary cafes scattered around the city blending tradition with contemporary trends. Your private transfer greets you at the hotel after breakfast and escorts you to Chiang Mai Airport where you board your flight home.

What’s Included: airport transfer, breakfast

Price

Starting Price 

$2,725
This trip is customizable for your private travel.

What's Included 

  • Accommodations
  • In-country transportation
  • Some or all guided tours and activities (dependent on season)
  • Expert trip planning
  • 24x7 support during your trip
The starting price is based on travel during the low season for a minimum of two travelers staying in shared 3-star accommodations. Please inquire for a custom trip quote based on your travel preferences and travel dates.