Published on November 29, 2017
Biking in Sukhothai, Thailand. Image © Tourism Authority of Thailand.
What You'll Get
Four countries, four diverse experiences: a wide-ranging 18-day, 17-night tour that takes guests through the best of Thailand, Cambodia, Laos and Viet Nam.
Buckle your seatbelts, this four-country itinerary will take you on a wild ride.
It starts in Bangkok, the capital of Thailand, where you'll spend your first full day seeing the city's highlights: the sprawling Grand Palace and the Wat Phra Kaew (housing the Emerald Buddha) within its walls; Wat Pho, the home of Thai massage and the Reclining Buddha; and Wat Arun, the "Temple of Dawn".
You'll also go by foot down the walking streets of Chinatown; and by long-tail boat down the Chao Phraya River and its klongs (canals) running through the heart of the city.
Flying to Sukhothai next, you'll come face to face with the Siamese peoples' first capital. Established in the 13th century, Sukhothai ruled over Siam's golden age. The city ruins still contain about 200 chedis, most of which can be explored by bike. Another city remnant, the Si Satchanalai Historical Park north of Sukhothai, also yields over 130 ruined monuments worthy of exploration.
Last on the Thailand trail is the northern city of Chiang Mai, whose traditional markets, long-tail river craft, and ancient ruins hearken back to traditional ways stretching back to the former Lanna Kingdom.
A short flight takes you to Laos and its former royal capital Luang Prabang. Take in a heavy helping of Lao history at the former Royal Palace, now the National Museum, before walking to a series of beautiful local temples.
The Luang Prabang stop also affords you an immersion into traditional Lao culture, courtesy of its diverse ethnic minorities, bustling markets, and delicious dishes (courtesy of a Lao cooking class).
From Luang Prabang, you'll cruise down the Mekong River to the Pak Ou caves at the confluence of the Mekong and Nam Ou Rivers, where hundreds of Buddha images reflect local devotion to Buddhism; then up to the top of Mount Phousi to enjoy a panoramic view of the city and the surrounding countryside.
Viet Nam is next: the gorgeous vistas of Ha Long Bay loom before you, seen from the deck of one of the boats chugging serenely through these waters.
Viet Nam's cities offer a look at a millennium of the Vietnamese people's history –
- Starting with the present-day capital Hanoi and its half-day tour of the Temple of Literature, Hoan Kiem Lake, and the bustling Old Quarter;
- The former imperial capital of Hue and its Nguyen Dynasty relics like the Royal Citadel and Thien Mu Pagoda;
- Hoi An, a former trading port that hosts 18th-century mansions and clan houses in its old district; and
- Ho Chi Minh City, still called "Saigon" by its residents and bustling with structures left over from French colonial times like the Old Saigon Post Office and City Hall.
Flying to Siem Reap – the gateway to the Angkor temples – you'll gain access to one of Southeast Asia's architectural marvels. The sprawling plain containing hundreds of Angkor-era temples recalls the burst of energy that came forth from generations of Khmer Kings that once ruled a vast empire from this place.
On the last few days of this wide-ranging tour, you'll explore the Angkor temples in depth: the former capital of Angkor Thom; the enigmatic Bayon temple; the small circuit encompassing Ta Prohm, Banteay Kdei and Srah Srang; and the massive marvel known to all as Angkor Wat: its silhouette tracing nothing less than Mount Meru, home of the gods.
The local lifestyle will also be on display, through a tour of the Tonle Sap lake and its water villages; the highlight of this cruise takes place on a floating house, where you'll enjoy a picnic and views of the local people as they go about their daily lives.
Japanese Bridge in Hoi An, Viet Nam. Image © Tourism Authority of Thailand.