March 3 – 15, 2024
WHAT’S IN A NAME?
The French called this part of the world “Indochine.” That name makes it sound like we’re off to experience a little of India and a little of China combined, but nothing could be further from the truth. These countries have rich cultural identities of their own and this tour provides a wonderful sampling of each.
Vietnam’s past reads like a romantic legend. It is full of heroic struggles and astounding victories. Throughout many centuries of attempted occupation by the Chinese and colonization by the French, and even a war with the United States, this small country has managed to retain its culture and sense of history while absorbing and adapting the strengths of its foes. Here traditions still carry meaning. Its ancient heroes are still venerated at colorful temple festivals, people honor their ancestors, and village elders teach the values of hard work, hospitality, and filial loyalty.
Cambodia spans low-lying plains, the Mekong Delta, mountains and Gulf of Thailand coastline. Phnom Penh, its capital, is home to the art deco Central Market, glittering Royal Palace and the National Museum's historical and archaeological exhibits. But we are drawn to the country's northwest and the glorious monuments of Angkor Wat, a massive stone temple complex built during the Khmer Empire.
Our tour ends on a spiritual high in Luang Prabang, the ancient capital city in northern Laos. Nestled in a valley at the confluence of the Mekong and Nam Khan rivers, it was the royal capital of the country until 1975. It’s known for its many Buddhist temples, including the gilded Wat Xieng Thong, dating to the 16th century, and Wat Mai, once the residence of the head of Laotian Buddhism.
Come with Toto Tours to Vietnam, Cambodia and Laos to explore their ancient history, the impact of 19th-Century French occupation, and the costly consequences of war. Experience the length and breadth of a region that has achieved the status of a cultural legend during this special adventure.
COVID-19 VACCINATION POLICY:
All plans for this tour are made considering the COVID procedures in effect at the time of publication. Entry requirements and vaccination requirements are subject to change at any time without notice. Please be sure you comply with the latest Vietnam entry requirements at the time of departure. For the safety of our groups, we encourage our tour participants to be fully vaccinated, and current with their covid vaccines (including any recommended boosters) by one month prior to departure. We ask our travelers to provide us with their vaccination records four weeks prior to departure.
Arrive in Hanoi, Vietnam
Welcome to Vietnam! You arrive in Hanoi, the cultural heart and capital of Vietnam. A city of surprising beauty, Hanoi is home to centuries-old traditional architecture that stand alongside elegant French-colonial mansions as well as traditional temples. The life of the city can be seen in the narrow streets of the Old Quarter, where small boutiques, Vietnamese coffee shops and lively street vendors create a vibrant and bustling atmosphere.
Plan your flights to arrive in Hanoi by early afternoon today. When searching for the best flight options, use the airport code HAN for the Hanoi International Airport. You will book a multi-city itinerary, returning from Luang Prabang in Laos (airport code LPQ). Let us know on your reservation form if you prefer to arrive a day early to rest up from jet lag, and we’ll book your room beginning on Saturday, March 2.
We have included “Fast-Track” services for your arrival, meaning you will be met at your gate when disembarking your flight and assisted through the process of obtaining your visa on arrival (fee included) and immigration formalities before being transported to our beautiful downtown hotel. Tonight enjoy a welcome cocktail and introductions before proceeding for our Welcome Dinner at a local restaurant. (Welcome Dinner included)
Hanoi City Tour
We get an early start after breakfast this morning, embarking on a full-day tour delving into Hanoi’s colorful history. Learn about the life and times of former President Ho Chi Minh, who played a key role in the nation’s journey towards independence. See the mausoleum where his embalmed body rests (exterior view only) and his humble stilted house, which was built in the style of an ethnic village home. Continue to the One Pillar Pagoda, a unique 11th century structure dedicated to King Ly Thai To’s son. Visit Hoa Lo Prison and discover why it became known as the “Hanoi Hilton” during the Vietnam War.
Enjoy lunch at a local restaurant before continuing to the Temple of Literature, where Vietnam’s royal family and elite society were educated for almost 700 years. Take a cyclo (bicycle rickshaw) into the Old Quarter to explore its network of narrow, 15th century streets. Each street bears a name that reflects the business once conducted there, such as Silk Street, Rice Street, Paper Street and Jeweler’s Street. Then take a stroll beside the beautiful Hoan Kiem Lake and visit the temple in the lake known as Ngoc Son.
We conclude our tour today by attending a traditional show at the Water Puppet Theatre, where artisans create dazzling scenes of everyday life in Vietnam, such as farmers and buffaloes ploughing rice, on a stage filled with water. After the puppet show we return to our hotel for a free evening. Overnight in Hanoi. (Breakfast / Lunch included)
Cruise on Ha Long Bay
After breakfast this morning we check out and prepare to embark on an unforgettable voyage into one of Vietnam’s most spectacular natural wonders. The UNESCO World Heritage-listed Ha Long Bay is well-known for its dramatic limestone karsts and emerald waters and the neighboring area of Lan Ha Bay is equally scenic and offers a quieter and more intimate cruise experience. The transfer from Hanoi takes about two and a half hours and at 12:15pm we transfer by tender to our cruise ship, which is anchored offshore.
Designed to reflect the style and elegance of old Indochina, this Indochine Cruise Ship delivers a comfortable and sophisticated cruising experience with premium hospitality and services. Featuring dark wood furnishings, colorful textiles and local art, each cabin creates a sense of space with floor-to-ceiling windows and private balconies offering enchanting views of the passing scenery. The lounge and bar, decorated with old-world trinkets, exude a classic, colonial character while the spa and gym offer a chance to keep fit and enjoy a little extra pampering while aboard.
The crew greet you on board with a welcome drink and a safety briefing. As the cruise departs, enjoy a buffet lunch while watching the dramatic beauty of the bay unfold around you. In the afternoon, enjoy some free time to take a dip in the plunge pool or perhaps indulge in a relaxing treatment at the spa. Later, step ashore to visit Viet Hai, a village on Cat Ba Island where you can hop on a bike or travel by electric car to explore rustic village scenes and learn about local life.
Return to the cruise ship for a cooking demonstration followed by dinner. In the evening, enjoy on-board activities such as squid fishing, playing board games, or more pampered spa time. (All Meals)
Fly to Ho Chi Minh City (Saigon)Wake up to the peaceful sounds of the bay in the morning. Early risers can head to the sundeck for an optional tai chi session. After breakfast, visit Dark and Bright Cave, a stunning limestone grotto where you can hop into a kayak or travel by bamboo sampan. We return to the ship at 9:00am and check out of our cabins so they can be prepared for the next departure. Enjoy a final brunch on board while cruising back to the pier.
Please note: Check out time is two hours prior to disembarkation. After this time, you will not be able to access your room, but you can continue enjoying the beautiful bay views from the sundeck. The above itinerary is subject to change at short notice and is dependent on weather and tide conditions. If weather conditions are deemed unsafe, the harbor master may deny departures. In that case, you will be re-accommodated with the best alternative ground services available.
We disembark at 11:15am and board our coach for the drive back to the Hanoi International Airport. Our afternoon flight takes us to Ho Chi Minh City, known even today by its former name: Saigon.
Depart: Noi Bai International Airport, Hanoi at 16:00 Vietnam Airlines Flight VN255
Arrive: Tan Son Nhat International Airport, Ho Chi Minh City at 18:15
***Economy Class***Flight time is subject to change without prior notice***
Saigon is the bustling and vibrant economic center of the south. Full of contrasts, the city is known for its cosmopolitan vibe and energetic pace which is unlike any other city in Vietnam. Old French boulevards and colonial architecture stand beside traditional temples and modern skyscrapers, revealing a city of captivating diversity and charismatic charm. On arrival we are met and transferred to our hotel for check in. The driving distance time is approximately 40 minutes. This evening, enjoy dinner at a local restaurant. Overnight in Saigon. (Breakfast / Dinner)
Saigon City Tour
Experience the trades and traditions of Chinatown, or “Cho Lon” as it is known locally. Drive past traditional Chinese medicine stores filled with dried ginger, ginseng and all manner of herbs and meet an old community of craftsmen who spend their days creating small amulets and religious statues. Chat with some of the artisans to learn about a way of life that has changed very little over the years. Explore a neighborhood market, taste traditional specialties and enjoy a Vietnamese coffee at a local café. Learn about Chinese religious rites and customs at an incense-filled temple from 1809 and light a spiral incense cone as an offering to the temple.
Enjoy lunch at a local restaurant. Then learn more about the city’s history at the Reunification Palace, where the Fall of Saigon took place in 1975, and visit your choice of the History Museum or the War Remnants Museum. Built in 1929, the History Museum houses a collection of artefacts illustrating the evolution of Vietnamese culture since ancient times, while the War Remnants Museum displays wartime photographs and relics including an American tank, a 20th century French guillotine and a UH-1 "Huey" helicopter. Later, learn about southern Vietnamese spiritualism at a colorful Cao Dai temple, which takes influences from Buddhism, Confucianism, Taoism, Hinduism, Vietnamese spiritism, Christianity and Islam. We return to our hotel for a free evening in Saigon. (Breakfast / Lunch)
The Beautiful Mekong Delta
Explore the natural wonders of the Mekong Delta during a scenic river cruise by private sampan. After a two-hour drive, you arrive in Ben Tre, where the bustling streets of Ho Chi Minh City give way to open fields, meandering rivers and coconut farms. Take a xe loi (motorized rickshaw) for a ride around the town before exploring the scenic waterways by private sampan. Designed to easily navigate the smaller, less-traveled tributaries of the Mekong Delta, our intimate cruise boat comes complete with comfortable cushioned chairs, a private washroom and a bar.
Cruise through palm-lined canals, stopping to visit a local brick factory where blocks of solid red clay are shaped by hand in the traditional way. Cycle along meandering village paths to meet a coconut spirits maker. Then continue to a local family home to taste fresh fruits and tea in their garden and learn about their life of fishing, shrimping and fruit farming. Next, take a rowing sampan across the river and savor a five-course lunch of local specialties at a riverside restaurant.
Continue by bike to My Long where Sau Tuong, a former Viet Cong soldier who spent two years fighting the Khmer Rouge, now lives with his wife and makes rice paper. Sample their home-made crispy products while hearing more about their inspiring story. Later, transfer to our luxurious riverside resort in Can Tho for dinner and overnight. Our dinner this evening will be preceded by a cocktail and canapés. (All Meals)
Fly to Siem Reap, Cambodia
The early bird catches the worm, as they say, and mornings in the Mekong Delta start at the break of dawn. Take a boat to the Cai Rang floating market, a traditional marketplace on water, where buyers and sellers haggle over fresh fruits and vegetables from their wooden boats. Filled with fresh, locally grown crops such as oranges, pineapples, coconuts and watermelons, the floating marketplace is at its best in the early mornings. After leaving the market, taste seasonal fresh fruits at a local fruit orchard before heading back to our hotel for breakfast.
After breakfast, check-out of our hotel and begin the journey back to Ho Chi Minh City. On the way, visit the house of Binh Thuy, a French colonial mansion built in 1870 which has been featured in films such as “The Silt Ways”, “The Bac Lieu Mandarin’s Son” and “The Lover.” The drive back to Ho Chi Minh City’s International Airport takes about three and a half hours and we arrive in time for our onward flight to Siem Reap.
Depart: Tan Son Nhat International Airport, Ho Chi Minh City at 16:15 on Vietnam Airlines Flight VN813
Arrive: Siem Reap International Airport, Cambodia at 17:30
***Economy Class***Flight time is subject to change without prior notice***
A flourishing provincial town, Siem Reap is best known as the gateway to the treasures of Angkor. A collection of jungle-covered temples dating as far back as the ninth century, the Angkor Archaeological Park encompasses the UNESCO World Heritage-listed Angkor Wat, one of the most impressive examples of the lost Khmer civilization's architectural and artistic grandeur.
Fast-Track service has been arranged for our arrival at the Siem Reap airport. Upon landing, we are met by a representative who collects our passports and arrival cards. The representative then assists with our visa on arrival and immigration formalities. We collect our luggage and proceed through customs. Your passport is returned to you as you exit the terminal.
Reaching the main Arrivals Hall of the Siem Reap Airport, we are welcomed by ladies in traditional costume who gift us with a Jasmine Bracelet. We meet our guide and transfer directly to our hotel in Siem Reap, a 30-minute drive (subject to traffic). Our welcome dinner will be served at a local restaurant. (Breakfast / Dinner)
The Temples of Angkor / Circus Performance
AAfter breakfast at our hotel, we embark on a full day of discovery amidst the magnificent Temples of Angkor. First, we explore Ta Prohm, a lost-in-the-jungle temple that was once a monastery for kings. Wander courtyards lined with stone-carved lintels that are cradled in the roots of tall trees and strangler figs. After a short drive, step off the tourist trail and take a 15-minute walk into the forest to encounter a small, rarely-seen temple called Ta Nei. Then continue on our journey towards Preah Khan, or the “Temple of the Sacred Sword.” A series of crisscrossing passages with intricate carvings at every corner, this expansive complex was once a revered monastery and center of Buddhism during the reign of King Jayavarman VII.
After enjoying lunch at a local restaurant, we continue uncovering lost-world wonders at Angkor Thom, the great walled city that was the last and most enduring vestige of the Khmer empire. Enter through the South Gate which is flanked on both sides by an army of gods and demons. Visit the Bayon, a temple in the center of the city with large stone faces that look out in each direction. Explore the grand Baphuon temple and wander through shaded parkland that leads to Preah Palilay and Phimeanakas, the private temple of King Jayavarman VII. Stroll across the Terrace of the Elephants, which was used as a ceremonial stage, and admire intricate bas reliefs at the Terrace of the Leper King.
After a break at our hotel to freshen up for the evening, we enjoy dinner at a local restaurant. After dinner, delight in an evening of theater, dance, music and acrobatics at Phare, the Cambodian Circus. Bringing together tightrope walkers, contortionists and visual artists, the troupe supports local youth talent and celebrates Khmer arts and culture in a spectacular hour-long production. The circus show is associated with the Phare Ponleu Selpak school in Battambang, a non-governmental organization that provides brighter futures for aspiring young performers. (All Meals)
Magnificent Angkor Wat
Witness the wonder of Angkor Wat, a UNESCO World Heritage Site, dating from the 12th century. Explore this crowning achievement of Khmer art and architecture, walking through the temple's concentric courtyards to view its iconic lotus towers and intricate bas reliefs depicting important historical events and complex scenes of Hindu mythology.
Enjoy lunch at a local restaurant, and then continue our explorations to visit Banteay Srei, a pre-Angkorian temple located in the quiet countryside northeast of Siem Reap. Known as the "Citadel of Women," the pink sandstone temple was built by a Brahmin priest in the 10th-century and contains some of the finest examples of classical Khmer art. This evening we bid farewell to Cambodia with dinner at a local restaurant. (All Meals)
Fly to Luang Prabang, Laos
Enjoy a morning and at leisure today, during which time you can lounge by the pool or indulge in a spa treatment. We enjoy lunch at the hotel before heading to the airport for our flight to Luang Prabang.
Depart: Siem Reap International Airport at 16:55 Vietnam Airlines Flight VN930
Arrive: Luang Prabang International Airport, Laos at 18:25
***Economy Class***Flight time is subject to change without prior notice***
A land of enchantment surrounded by lush, forested mountains, meandering rivers and an uplifting spiritual vibe, Luang Prabang is a UNESCO World Heritage Site filled with traditional temples and French-Indochinese architecture built around a sacred hill, Mount Phousi. Once the capital of the old Lan Xang kingdom, the laid-back city retains much of its royal charm and celebrates a rich artistic and cultural history.
Fast-Track services are arranged for our arrival at the airport. Upon exiting the aircraft, we are met by a representative who collects our passports and documents (two passport photos per person) and assists with our visa on arrival application and express immigration process. The representative then accompanies us through luggage collection and customs before leading you into the arrival hall, where we meet our guide and begin the transfer to our hotel. Enjoy dinner at our hotel tonight. (All Meals)
Luang Prabang Sightseeing / Sunset River Cruise
Uncover layers of history, culture, and endless charm in Luang Prabang's meandering streets and iconic temples. Start with an overview of Lao history at the Royal Palace Museum, then visit Wat Visoun, the watermelon-shaped stupa. Continue to Wat Xiengthong, an iconic temple covered in glittering mosaic art and learn about life and tradition in Laos' remote communities at the Traditional Arts and Ethnology Center, which showcases a collection of tribal textiles, tools and traditional artifacts.
After lunch, transfer to the Mekong Riverside to embark on a relaxing half-day cruise on the Mekong River to see the Pak Ou Caves. They are a group of two caves on the west side of the Mekong river, about two hours upstream from the centre of Luang Prabang. The caves are noted for their miniature Buddha sculptures. Hundreds of very small wooden Buddhist figures are laid out over the wall shelves. They take many different positions, including meditation, teaching, walking, naga, peace, rain, and reclining. On the return cruise to Luang Prabang, enjoy a glass of prosecco & some local snacks and take in the breathtaking scenery while the sun sets behind the hills. Dinner tonight will be at a local restaurant in Luang Prabang. (All Meals)
Luang Prabang Sightseeing
Visit a working organic rice farm to learn all about the journey of rice, from seed to restaurant. This community enterprise, organized by local Lao farmers, grows eco-friendly vegetables, salad greens, herbs and rice and supplies them to leading restaurants and hotels in Luang Prabang. Learn about the traditional tools used on the farm and take part in the various stages of the rice journey, from plowing to planting and harvesting. Continue to Ock Pop Tock, a social enterprise that supports traditional textiles makers. Have lunch on the terrace beside the Mekong River and learn about the traditional Lao silk weaving process.
In the afternoon, explore some of the scenic natural wonders that lie beyond the town. We visit some small villages on the way, where we learn about the lifestyles and traditions of ethnic communities such as the Khmu, Hmong and Lao Loum. Arriving at Kuang Si Waterfall, a scenic landscape of turquoise lagoons backed by lush, green vegetation, we can take a quick dip in the crystal-clear pools or explore the forest trails.
After our excursion, return to Luang Prabang for one final overnight. This evening we celebrate the conclusion of our adventure with a Farewell Dinner at Gaspard Restaurant. (All Meals)
Experience a quintessential Lao morning, starting with a spiritual tak bat, or almsgiving ritual. Each morning, locals line the streets to make offerings and receive blessings from monks who walk through the town in single file. Join them in giving alms and taking part in this timeless tradition. After the ceremony, visit the morning market where locals pick up their daily supply of fresh fruits and vegetables. Return to your hotel for breakfast. Enjoy leisure time until it is necessary to depart the hotel and transfer to the airport for your onward flight. (Breakfast)
EASY TO MODERATE WALKING
This Toto Tours Cultural and Scenic Expedition is accessible and suitable to all those with good health and who are able to walk 2-3 hours without much carrying. This tour is based on moderate city walking for several hours daily. Walks in villages and ancient temples will be more active with some stair climbing and possible uneven surfaces. We recommend you commence a daily walking and stair-climbing regimen well in advance of this tour to boost your endurance and enhance your ability to enjoy this adventure to the fullest extent.
Entry Requirements - For citizens of the United States and Canada, visitors must have both a passport (valid for 6 months from entering the country) and a separate visa for each of the three countries visited on this tour. We have made the process of obtaining visas super easy by incorporating in your tour price “Fast-Track” services upon entering each country, including the costs of obtaining your visas upon arrival. There will be a representative with you from the moment you disembark from the plane through the entire immigration process. You’ll just need to carry a few additional passport-sized photos with you. We’ll provide invitation letters and help you complete any other required documents on the spot.
Immunizations & Health - Please consult your personal physician or a travel clinic, and refer to the following guidelines from the Centers for Disease Control for travelers to these countries using the following links:
You should only drink boiled or bottled water throughout the duration of this tour. Complimentary bottled mineral water will be available on our motorcoach at all times.Exit Requirements - Departure taxes will be included in the cost of your airline tickets.
WHAT TO BRING
It is difficult to specify “good” or “bad” seasons when it comes to visiting this vast region of Indochina. When one area is wet and cold or steamy and hot, there is always somewhere else that is sunny and pleasant. Temperatures will be warmest in Ho Chi Minh City and Siem Reap, varying roughly from 77 to 95 degrees F. Luang Prabang should range between 65 to 90, while Hanoi and Ha Long Bay will be our coolest stops at between 62 and 75 degrees.
Suggested Packing List:
- Proof of citizenship. Passport required.
- Comfy walking shoes for day tours and walks.
- Sandals for the boat and beach.
- Polo shirts / T-shirts (8 - 10).
- Long sleeved shirts (3-4) for sun protection.
- Shorts (1 or 2 pairs).
- Lightweight long pants for dinners.
- Jacket, sweater, or sweatshirt for cool evenings.
- Sunscreen / lip balm / sunglasses / sun hat.
- Mosquito repellent, with Deet.
- Personal toiletries.
- Electrical adapters. Click the country name to see photos of the types of outlets you will encounter in each: Vietnam ~ Cambodia ~ Laos
- A good book for the long flights.
MONEY MATTERSVietnam: The currency unit is the Dong (VND). Major credit cards are now more widely accepted throughout the country at most hotels and restaurants, but you will need cash at local shops. On June 16, 2023, the exchange rate was 23,500 VND to the US Dollar.
Cambodia: The official currency is the riel (KHR), but the US Dollar is the currency favored by the locals. On June 16, 2023, the exchange rate was 4,050 KHR to the US Dollar.
Laos: The official currency is the Lao kip (LAK), although Thai bhat and US dollars are often welcome. On June 16, 2023, the exchange rate was 18,120 LAK to the US Dollar.
Current Exchange Rates: Click here to see up-to-date exchange rates for the currencies in all three countries.
Tipping: Tipping makes a huge difference in the lives of those who work for us here, as the local wages are minimal at best. We will make group tips where appropriate, and guidelines will be provided prior to departure with a suggested contribution to a group tipping fund.
THE TOTO SPIRITToto Tours provides Adventure Travel Experiences as differentiated from tours in the traditional sense. Adventure Travel allows (even encourages) you to be an active participant. Adventurers can be identified by certain traits. They are:
- fun-loving optimists who have a sense of humor and accentuate the positive;
- good natured realists who are willing to accept situations as they exist;
- undaunted by the unexpected, like occasional delays or bad weather;
- willing to forego some of the amenities we normally take for granted;
- eager to try new things & test limits;
- not whiners!
Travel InsuranceWe recommend you purchase travel insurance with Travel Guard to cover for unforeseen events prior to and during your trip. Please click on the image or link below or call us for more information.
(tour prices per person)Price: $8,200 in double occupancy hotel accommodations.
Single Supplement: $2,150 additional, for a total tour price of $10,350.
(Due at time of registration for the tour. May be paid with a credit card.)
Remaining Balance : $7,200 double / $9,350 single
Remaining Balance Due: December 15, 2023 (80 days prior to departure)
(Full payment required with reservation form if enrolling after this date.)
Note: The tour price does not include bank service charges for processing credit card payments and assumes that the balance of the tour price will be paid by check or bank transfer. If you would like to pay the final balance with a credit card, a 4% service charge will be applied. Let us know if you wish to pay by credit card, and we will adjust your invoice accordingly.
Included: Airport transfers at the beginning and the end of the tour; “Fast Track” service upon arrival in each country, including visa on arrival; visa fees; eleven nights hotel accommodations and one night cruise cabin; hotel breakfasts daily plus Welcome & Farewell Dinners and other meals as specified in the itinerary; one domestic flight from Hanoi to Saigon plus two international flights (from Saigon to Siem Reap, and Siem Reap to Luang Prabang); ground transportation in air conditioned vehicles; sightseeing activities and entrances as listed in the itinerary. This is a fully guided and escorted tour.
Not Included: International airfare to Hanoi (HAN) and returning from Luang Prabang (LPQ); ground transportation for sightseeing on your own (taxis, local guides, etc.); meals and optional activities not specifically listed in the itinerary; camera fees; alcoholic beverages; insurance; laundry; telephone calls; faxes; or any other expenses of a personal nature. Tips to our drivers and guides are not included; we will provide suggested group tipping guidelines prior to departure.
Click hotel name to read description
- Hanoi (2 nights): Hotel de l’Opera (Deluxe Room)
- Lan Ha Bay (1 night): Indochine Cruise Ship (Junior Suite)
- Saigon (2 nights): Hotel des Arts (Grand Deluxe Room)
- Can Tho (1 night): Azerai Can Tho (River Room)
- Siem Reap (3 nights): Park Hyatt Siem Reap (Garden View Room)
- Luang Prabang (3 nights): Sofitel Luang Prabang (Garden Suite Room)