International Expeditions (IE) introduces a new 15-day program in 2010 exploring the history, culture and landscape of Southeast Asia. Like all of IE's small-group journeys, the January and February Laos and Vietnam departures will only house 12 guests and be led by an experienced expedition leader and native experts throughout the trip.
The journey begins with three nights at a boutique hotel in Luang Prabang. Here participants will visit the Royal Palace Museum and Phu Si Hill, participate in a traditional Lao Baci welcome ceremony and visit an ethnic minority village where they have the opportunity to distribute school supplies purchased through IE’s local partnership with Big Brother Mouse, an organization that strives to bring the fun of reading to the children by publishing books in their own language.
The group will then fly south to explore Wat Phou Champasak, a UNESCO World Heritage Site. From here guests will have the chance to go on an elephant ride to the ancient temple ruins of Pho Asa Mountain, tour coffee and tea plantations and stay in bungalows at the Kingfisher Ecolodge.
Next the group travels to Vientiane, the capital city of Laos to see the oldest monastery in the city and the city's victory gate. The expedition next reaches Hanoi, Vietnam for a visit of Hoa Lo Prison, the notorious “Hanoi Hilton,” which held American POWs during the Vietnam War. A stop is also made at the Ho Chi Minh Mausoleum, the One Pillar Pagoda, one of Vietnam’s most iconic Buddhist temples, and the Temple of Literature, the most prominent temple of Confucius in the country.
A cruise will take guests to Halong Bay, stopping at the Cave of Surprises for swimming in the lagoon waters. On day 13, the group flies to Ho Chi Ming City, still called Saigon by the locals, to explore the Notre Dame Cathedral and the Presidential Palace. The final day of the journey features a drive through the fertile countryside of the Mekong Delta, and a cruise through the waterways around the Mekong Islands.
The Laos & Vietnam tour is offered January 17 & 31 and February 14 & 28, 2010. Prices start at $3,898, per person, double occupancy, and include all accommodations, most meals, local transportation, guides and group transfers. International and in-country airfare is not included, though flights can be arranged through International Expeditions.
Guests can also add a three-day extension to Siem Reap, Cambodia featuring Angkor Wat and other UNESCO temples, starting at $798 per person, double occupancy.