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ESSENTIAL VIETNAM AND LAOS
Our Essential Vietnam and Laos tour is a great way to learn about these two neighboring countries. From the charismatic city of Hanoi, you'll visit the charms of Halong Bay - priceless UNESCO Heritage Site, then work your way up South, visiting the bustle of Saigon,...

Our Essential Vietnam and Laos tour is a great way to learn about these two neighboring countries. From the charismatic city of Hanoi, you'll visit the charms of Halong Bay - priceless UNESCO Heritage Site, then work your way up South, visiting the bustle of Saigon, the famous Cu Chi Tunnels and an interesting side trip to the lush Mekong Delta, where scenes of local lifestyles can be observed with plenty of opportunity for interaction with the people.
Continue your journey with  3hr10min flight to Vientiane, Laos. The perfect introduction to the allure of Laos with it’s quaint buildings, holy temples and friendly locals. Take in one of the country’s highlights, Luang Prabang, and explore the capital city, Vientiane.
This 10 day tour can be reversed starting either from Ho Chi Minh City, Vietnam or Luang Prabang, Laos. Tour prices are subject to change depending on the flight schedule.
 
ITINERARY

DAY 1: HANOI ARRIVAL

        
Arriving in Hanoi (Noi Bai airport), you will be welcomed and transferred to your hotel for check-in (hotel rooms are available for mid-afternoon check-in). The rest of the day is at your leisure to explore the tree-lined boulevards, French Indochinese architecture and tranquil lakes of this unique city.
Stay overnight in Hanoi.

DAY 2: HANOI CITY TOUR  (B, L, -) 
 
08h30 You will be picked up from your hotel lobby and depart for the city tour with visit to the One Pillar Pagoda, founded by King Ly Thai To in 1049. This structure is one of Vietnam's most iconic temples. Close by is the mausoleum of the historic figure and father of modern Vietnam, Ho Chi Minh (viewed from outside; closed Mon and Fri and from Oct-Nov) and the former presidents house on stilts where he lived from 1958 to 1969, his former home illustrates the modesty of this Vietnamese revolutionary.
Continue your visit to the Taoist Temple (Quan Thanh Temple) which is dedicated to Tran Vu, one of the principal deities in Taoism or visit Tran Quoc Buddhist Pagoda, was built in the sixth century (means “Stabilizing the Nation”). Lunch will be had in one of the city's finest restaurants.

After lunch visit the Temple of Literature - Vietnam's first university, also referred to as Van Mieu, was established within a temple to educate Vietnam's royalty, mandarins and members of the elite. The university functioned for an incredible 700 years and its gardens and well-preserved architecture offer a fascinating glimpse into Vietnam's past.
Next we go to visit Hanoi Old Quarter also known as the '36 streets'. Take a walking tour around Hoan Kiem Lake. This bustling area of narrow streets and alleys is home to literally thousands of small businesses and shopkeepers. It's a great place to explore life-style of Hanoians, culture or architecture with plenty of photo opportunities all around you.
Return to your hotel where the full day trip ends.
Stay overnight in Hanoi.

Meals included: Breakfast at hotel and Lunch at a local restaurant.

DAY 3: HANOI - HALONG BAY, THE WORLD HERITAGE - OVERNIGHT ON BOARD (B, L, D)

Following breakfast leave Hanoi for a 3hr30min drive to Halong Bay including a 20-minutes stop on the way. Arrive at your jetty in Halong City towards noon and proceed with check-in formalities. After your welcome onboard, a lunch will be served while cruising towards the bay itself.
In the afternoon, enjoy some visits and/or activities (depending on each boat’s itinerary) or just spend some time relaxing on board. Towards the end of the day the boat sets anchor for the night among the karst formations. 
Dinner is served on board.
Stay overnight on board. 

Meals included: Breakfast at hotel, Lunch and Dinner on board.

DAY 4: HA LONG BAY - HANOI - FLIGHT TO HO CHI MINH CITY  (B, L, -) 
        
Rising to the sound of lapping bay waters, we have time for an early morning dip followed by breakfast. Sitting on the upper deck, you can relax while taking in the breath-taking beauty of the rocky islands rising from the emerald water of the bay.
On your return to Halong City enjoy a wholesome brunch as your boat wends through strange-shaped limestone rock formations. Upon disembarkation your driver will meet you for the transfer back to Hanoi. At leisure for shopping until your transfer to Hanoi's Noi Bai Airport for the two hour flight to dynamic Ho Chi Minh City, still called Saigon by the locals.
Upon arrival to Ho Chi Minh City (Tan Son Nhat International Airport) you will be picked up and transferred through the city to your hotel for check-in. The buzzing southern city is a tantalizing mix of old and new. Free and easy.
Stay overnight in Ho Chi Minh City.

Meals included: Breakfast and Lunch on board.

DAY 5: CU CHI TUNNELS AND HO CHI MINH CITY TOUR (B, L, -) 
 
  
You will be picked up from your hotel lobby and depart Ho Chi Minh City at 08h00 in the morning for the drive to Cu Chi district. Leaving the city behind, the scenery changes to views of rice paddies, villagers drying noodles by the side of the road and other scenes typical to southern Vietnam.
Arrive and start the visit of the famous Cu Chi Tunnels which consist of an incredible underground tunnel network constructed by Vietnamese resistance fighters (Viet Cong) during both the French and American wars. Start the visit with the Ben Dinh or Ben Duoc sections of the tunnel. Here you can imagine what it was like to be a guerrilla complete with Russian Carbine rifles and AK 47's on display.
Journey back to Ho Chi Minh City around noon and have lunch at a local restaurant. 
After lunch embark on a half day tour of vibrant Ho Chi Minh City. Your program includes the Reunification Hall, formerly known as the Presidential Palace it was towards this modern building that North Vietnamese tanks seized on the morning of April 30 1975, as Saigon fell. This fascinating building is filled with history still fresh in the minds of many. From there stroll (your vehicle will be available at all times) to the major sights of colonial Ho Chi Minh City: the Old Saigon Post Office, Dong Khoi Street (formerly Rue Catinat), Continental Hotel, Opera House and City Hall. After this historical visit continue to the War Remnants Museum where exhibition halls display imagery of both the French and 'American' wars.
Finish the day with visit to Ben Thanh Market where an incredible display of fresh produce is offered. Simply stroll through the market seeing and enjoying the variety of goods for sale. Return to your hotel where the full day explorer ends. You will have dinner on your own. 
Stay overnight in Ho Chi Minh City.

Meals included: Breakfast at hotel and Lunch at local restaurant.
 
DAY 6: HO CHI MINH CITY - MEKONG DELTA, CAI BE FLOATING MARKET (B, L, -) 
        
This morning, leave bustling Ho Chi Minh for the 2 hour drive to the delta town of Cai Be. The local traditional wooden boats, vast emerald rice fields and lush back waterways; these are the things that make Cai Be such a desired destination. 
On arrival board your boat for a cruise of Cai Be floating market. Traders work the river and some have been living on these waters for generations. Produce at the market are hung on a pole in front of boats to attract customers and make it easier for people to see from afar what is on offer.  Immerse yourself in a world of lush vegetation from the Mekong Delta as you pick through the fascinating and lively market, watching buyers bargaining for produce.
After visiting the market continue to a cottage factory where ‘pop-rice’, rice paper and coconut candies are made. Return to the boat for the cruise to Tan Phong Island. Next, take a rowing boat along the maze of shady canals. Head for a local orchard to enjoy the local tropical fruits, and visit artisan workshops to see the handicraft producers of the village at work.
Break for lunch at an orchard garden. Lunch will be local Mekong style serving specialties of the area. Afterwards, you will ride bicycles to villages, sightseeing and soaking up the rural ambiance or enjoy cooking class. If you prefer to relax, you can laze in a hammock.
Following your cruise drive back to Ho Chi Minh City.
Arrive at your hotel around 17h30.
Stay overnight in Ho Chi Minh City.

Meals included: Breakfast at hotel and Lunch at local restaurant.
  
DAY 7: HO CHI MINH CITY - FLIGHT TO VIENTIANE, LAOS  (B, -) 
         
Have this morning at leisure for last minute shopping or sighseeing on your own until transfer to Tan Son Nhat Airport for 3hr10min flight to Vientiane, Laos.
On arrival you will be met and transferred to your centrally located hotel. Vientiene is a fascinating capital, with a fusion of Lao, Thai, Chinese, Vietnamese, French, and American influences. This charming and easygoing city will provide a smooth introduction to Laos. 
Stay overnight in Vientiane.
 
Meals included: Breakfast at hotel.
 
DAY 8: VIENTIANE - FLIGHT TO LUANG PRABANG (B, L-) 

After breakfast, we start to visit the major sights of the capital; including the oldest Wat Sisaket with thousands of miniature Buddha statues and the former royal temple of Wat Prakeo, which previously housed the famous Emerald Buddha Image. Then, continue your tour with a visit to the Patuxay Monument, Laos’ version of the Arc de Triomphe, where you can climb the stairs to the roof for sweeping panoramic views of the city. Next, your tour takes you to That Luang, the holiest site in Laos. Constructed by King Setthethirat in the 16th century, the temple is resplendent as the sun is shines upon its towering golden spire. If time permits we visit the central or ‘Morning Market’ which is a great place for browsing antiques, handmade textiles and gifts.
We then board our short flight to the UNESCO World Cultural Heritage City of Luang Prabang, which is perhaps the best - preserved traditional city in Southeast Asia. The tranquility and charm of this town with its splendid natural scenery and cultural sights make it one of the most delightful places to visit in Asia. Upon arrival, you will be greeted by your guide and transferred to your hotel for check-in.
After a short rest, climb the 328 steps to the top of Mount Phousi to enjoy a panoramic view of the city and the surrounding countryside and get back to your hotel by the evening hilltribe market where you may find plenty of local souvenirs to buy such as handicraft, textile.
Stay overnight in Luang Prabang.

Meals included: Breakfast at hotel and Lunch at local restaurant.

DAY 9: LUANG PRABANG - PAK OU CAVES - LUANG PRABANG (B, L-) 

After breakfast, we enjoy a short-guided tour seeing the city’s oldest temple of impressive stupa of Wat Visoun and the shrines of Wat Aham and Wat Mai, Wat Sene and the magnificent Wat Xiengthong with its roofs sweeping low to the ground, which represents classical Laotian architecture. This temple was erected in 1560 by King Setthathirat and is deeply revered by the Lao people. 
Walk to the boat pier, near the temple, to board the Nava Mekong, a beautiful wooden river boat for a cruise up the Mekong to the Pak Ou Caves (depart around 10h30). The journey takes around 2 hours and along the way you will be surrounded by spectacular views, pass by small villages on the river banks and witness fishermen out for their daily catch. 
Upon reaching Pak Ou, disembark to explore the caves. Here you will see thousands of gold lacquered Buddha statues crammed into two caves carved out of a towering limestone cliff. The statues range in size from a few centimetres tall to the size of a human, and the view from the mouth of the cave provides sweeping views of the Mekong and Nam Ou rivers. The caves are as well a destination for local pilgrimages, especially during the Lao New Year period of Pii Mai.
On our way back, we pass the local villages at Ban Xiengmene and Ban Chan then continue to see the royal temple at Wat Longkhoun and Ban Phanom, a village well known for its hand weaving.
Stay overnight in Luang Prabang.

Meals included: Breakfast at hotel and Lunch at local restaurant.
 
DAY 10: LUANG PRABANG DEPARTURE (B, -) 

An optional early start gives you the fantastic opportunity to participate in the daily morning rituals of saffron-clad monks collecting offerings of Alms (often in the form of sticky rice) from the faithful residents. This tradition is very unique in Laos, being the only Buddhist nation still preserving the ritual. Later, we visit the former Royal Palace, now the National Museum (close on Tuesdays), where you will explore the history of Laos. It displays a collection of artefacts reflecting the richness of Lao culture dating from the days of the early kings right through to the last sovereign. There will also be time for us to look around the Central Market. After visiting these sights in the morning, there may be free time (depending on your flight) to venture into town and stroll around the shopping area. The tour ends with a transfer to the airport for your onward flight.

Meals included: Breakfast at hotel.

The tour ends.

TOUR PRICES:
Hotel Category     2013 Price per person in US$ in party of:
02   03  04-06 07-10    11-15
Standard Class 972 US$  872 US$ 842 US$ 740 US$ 695 US$
Superior Class 1130 US$ 1031 US$  1002 US$   902 US$ 857 US$
Deluxe Class  1312 US$ 1216 US$ 1188 US$ 1088 US$ 1045 US$
Luxury Class 1452 US$ 1357 US$  1329 US$ 1231 US$ 1188 US$

INCLUDES:
- Full transportation by private air conditioned vehicle as tour program indicated (shared bus of 2 day Halong tour).
- Entrance fees to indicated sights.
- Boat trips as stated in above sights (shared boat of 2 day Halong tour).
- All excursion trips and activities as tour program indicated.
- Local English-speaking guides (for other languages supplements apply).
- Meals as stated in the program (B=Breakfast, L=Lunch, D=Dinner).
- Accommodation in shared twin or double bedded room with air-conditioner and private bathroom.
- Mineral water and chilled tissue served on trip.
- Approval letter for landing visa to Vietnam (1 month single entry).

EXCLUDES:
- Visa stamping fee on arrival (in Vietnam: 45 US$ per person; in Laos: 25 US$ per person).
- All air tickets not mentioned in the program and above quotation.
- Optional tours.
- Surcharges for other language guides.
- Personal travel insurance.
- Personal expenditure, such as drinks, souvenirs, laundry, camera fees, communications, postage, gratuities etc…
- Meals and services other than mentioned in the program.
- Drinks with meals.
- Early check-in and late check-out at hotels, if not mentioned in the program.

HOTELS IN USE:
The following listed Hotels will be used according to the confirmed travel plan. When the confirmed hotels are not available, Viet Highlights Travel can replace the hotels with the same standard upon your agreement.
 
Hotel Category  Standard Class   Superior Class Deluxe Class   Luxury Class
HANOI   Hanoi View Hotel Church Boutique Hotel Flower Garden Hotel or Silk Path Hotel Sheraton Hotel or Melia Hotel
HALONG  V'Spirit Cruise Phoenix Cruise  Victory Cruise Bhaya Cruise
HO CHI MINH  Beautiful Saigon Hotel  Blue Diamond Hotel or Bong Sen Hotel  Grand Hotel or Royal Hotel Saigon  New World Hotel or Majestic Hotel
VIENTIANE Inter Hotel Novotel Hotel  Lao Plaza Hotel Green Park Hotel
LUANG PRABANG Manoluck Hotel Villa Santi Resort The Grand Luang Prabang Villa Maly
           
NOTE:
- Prices may vary according to your travel time and are higher in the high season, e.g. Christmas period (Dec 24-26), New Year period (Dec 31-Jan 02). 
- For additional hotel night cost to the packages, please contact us for the rates.
- The prices above are based on two persons sharing one room. If you prefer a single room on your own, please pay single room supplement as follows:
 
Hotel Category   Price per person in US dollars for 9 night stay
Standard Class    190 US$
Superior Class  330 US$
Deluxe Class   498 US$
Luxury Class  655 US$

- Flights of Hanoi - Ho Chi Minh, Ho Chi Minh - Vientiane, Vientiane - Luang Prabang at extra cost US$ per person/ 3 routes on request (subject to availability at the time of final confirmation).
- This tour package can be fully customizable to fit your travel plan. You can also disregard full package tours and choose whatever travel items you need or a mix of private and group tours to minimize the cost. We can quote the tours you really want. Usually travel insurance is not covered in our quotations.
- Keep your luggage and money by yourself.
- Inform in advance if you are vegetarian.
- Take original passports, good and comfortable trekking shoes, insect repellent, torches, sun scream, towels, rain gear and extra warm clothes. All customers must obey the order of your guide for your safety.

NOTE:
- Child definition: from age of 3 to 9 Years (usually enjoying 10%-20% discount. Contact us for the actual discount for your case). 10 Years old and above will be charged as Adult Price.
- All tours & transfers are all based in English Speaking local guides. For other languages, please contact us for new quotations. 
- Itinerary Change to the confirmed itinerary may happen because of traffic, weather, or any other conditions not under our control such as war, strike, fire, acts of government, riot, etc. We will do our best to make sure that all the travel will be similar. Viet HighlightsTravel can substitute the itinerary upon your agreement.
- Transportation and Restaurants: The cars, vans or coaches for the land transportation should be in good shape with air conditioner. All restaurants should be tidy and clean.