Essence of Indochina
Pumpkin boat on the Mekong River Vietnam

Essence of Indochina


Essence of Indochina is our best-selling vacation packages for an experience of major tourist highlights of Cambodia, Vietnam and Laos in 15 days with moderate tour pace. The tour starts in Siem Reap, home to the fabled Temples of Angkor and finishes in Luang Prabang, the Royal Capital of Laos.

The highlights of the tour include the World Heritage Sites of Angkor Temples, Hoi An Ancient Port Town, Hue Imperial Citadel, Ha Long Bay Karst Formations and Luang Prabang Traditional Town. The tour activities include culture-touring, history touring, nature touring, sea and river boat cruising, beach vacationing. The memorable activities include the boat cruise on the Mekong River with exotic lifestyle, beach vacation at Hoi An and the relaxing luxurious boat cruise on Ha Long Bay.

Available accommodations for the tour range from standard hotels to luxurious beach resorts upon the traveller’s request before booking the tour. Most of the tour, the traveler is privately guided by our local tour guide. At some places the traveler has free time at leisure to explore the place.

"Essence of Indochina is no doubt the choice for the discerning travelers who would like the experience Cambodia, Vietnam and Laos in a time-efficient way."

Day1 Arrive in Siem Reap (no meal)
Day2 Siem Reap (B)
Day3 Siem Reap - Ho Chi Minh City (VN822 : 1720 - 1820) (B)
Day4 Ho Chi Minh City - My Tho - Ben Tre - Ho Chi Minh City (B/L)
Day5 Ho Chi Minh City - Cu Chi - Ho Chi Minh City - Da Nang - Hoi An (VN 326: 1730 - 1840) (B)
Day6 Hoi An Morning Tour of the Old Town/Free Afternoon (B)
Day7 Hoi An - Hue/Hue River Cruise to Tu Duc Tomb (B)
Day8 Hue Morning Tour of the Citadel/Afternoon Tour of Khai Dinh and Minh Mang Tombs (B)
Day9 Hue - Hanoi (VN 240: 0830 - 0940) (B)
Day10 Hanoi - Ha Long Bay Junk Cruise (B/L/D)
Day11 Ha Long Bay - Hanoi (B/L)
Day12 Hanoi (B)
Day13 Ha Noi - Luang Prabang (VN 869: 0855 – 0950)/Tour of Luang Prabang (B)
Day14 Luang Prabang (B)
Day15 Depart Luang Prabang (B)

What’s included?

  • English-speaking guide
  • Transportation as on the tour itinerary
  • Economy Airlines tickets for Siem Reap – Saigon/ Saigon – Da Nang/ Hue - Hanoi – Vientiane - Luang Prabang as indicated in the program;
  • Airport taxes for the flights within Vietnam and from Vietnam;
  • Boat cruise in My Tho – Ben Tre, on the Perfume River in Hue as indicated on the itinerary
  • Private cabin on a shared junk cruise Ha Long Bay as indicated on the itinerary
  • Accommodations on twin-shared basis as indicated in the program;
  • Meals as indicated in the program: B=Breakfast, L=Lunch and D=Dinner;
  • All admission fees during guided times in the program;

What’s not included?

  • Insurance of any types;
  • International airfares rather than those mentioned in the included services above;
  • International airport taxes except for that in Vietnam;
  • Drinks or personal expenses;
  • Others not specified in the included services as above.


Day1 Arrive in Siem Reap
Arriving in Siem Reap, meet our Cambodia tour guide and we’ll drive to Rolous Town. The monuments of Roluos, which served as the capital of Indravarman I (reigned from A.D 877-89), are among the earliest permanent temples built by the Khmers and mark the beginning of Khmer classical art.

In Rolous, we’ll tour the temples of Preah Ko (erected by Indravarman I in the late 9th century and dedicated by the King to his ancestors), Bakong (the largest and most interesting of the Roluos group temples, it has an active Buddhist monastery) and Lolei (built on an islet in the center of a large reservoir by Yasovarman I, the founder of the first city at Angkor).

In late afternoon, we’ll climb the Phnom Bakheng Hill to the hilltop temple and adore the stunning sunset view over the countryside and the fabled Angkor Wat. Overnight in Siem Reap.

Day2 Siem Reap (B)
Breakfast at the hotel.
Our morning tour starts with Angkor Thom the ancient capital of Angkor Thom (12th century). See the South Gate (with its huge statues depicting the churning of the ocean of milk), Bayon Temple(unique for its 54 towers decorated with over 200 smiling faces of Avolokitesvara), the Royal Enclosure, Phimeanakas, the Elephant Terrace and the Terrace of the Leper King. Return to Siem Reap for refreshment.

In the afternoon, we’ll enter the legendary world of Angkor Wat. We’ll have 2 to 3 hours for a guided tour which we’ll learn about the magical works of the Khmer to build these unrivalled structures. Then we’ll have some brief moments for self-exploring the upper levels of Angkor Wat. Since the top levels are vertically steep, it’s necessary we clamber them with good care. Overnight in Siem Reap.

Angkor Wat complex covers 81 hectares. Its distinctive five towers are emblazoned on the Cambodian flag and the 12th century masterpiece is considered by art historians to be the prime example of classical Khmer arts and architecture. Angkor Wat's five towers symbolize Meru's five peaks, the enclosed wall represents the mountains at the edge of the world and the surrounding moat symbolizes the ocean beyond.

Day3 Siem Reap - Ho Chi Minh City (VN822 : 1720 - 1820) (B)
Breakfast at the hotel.
This morning we check out of the hotel and get our luggage into the vehicle. Then we travel through the countryside to visit Banteay Srei temple (10th century), regarded as the jewel in the crown of Classical Khmer Arts. Then we’ll move onto Banteay Samre, built in the third quarter of the 12th century. It consists of a central temple with four wings preceded by a hall and accompanied by two libraries, the southernmost of which is remarkably well preserved. Two concentric walls enclose the ensemble. On the way back we will also see Ta Prohm temple embraced by gigantic trees and creepers.

In the afternoon, we’ll take a trip to visit the terrace of Sras Srang, Prasat Kravan, Banteay Kdei and Takeo. Then you’ll be transferred to Siem Reap Airport for the flight to Ho Chi Minh City, also known as Saigon.

Arriving at Saigon Airport, welcomed by our Vietnam tour guide and transferred to the city. Overnight in Saigon.

Day4 Ho Chi Minh City - My Tho - Ben Tre - Ho Chi Minh City (B/L)
Breakfast at the hotel.
Today we’ll travel into the verdant Mekong Delta in southern Vietnam. Upon arrival, we’ll enjoy a boat ride through the Bao Dinh natural canal with the stilt houses and the fruit plantation along the river sides. We’ll experience the My Tho wholesale fruit market, then proceed our journey to the Tortoise Island.

Lunch is served in the canopy an orchard. After that our boat trip brings us on the Tan Thach natural canal in Ben Tre, under the shadow of the water coconut trees. We’ll visit a family where you can learn about the agricultural lifestyle; we’ll travel through the fruit plantation in Thoi Son Island and enjoy a rowing boat trip on the creeks before cruising back to My Tho where we rejoin our car and travel back to Saigon. Overnight in Saigon.

Day5 Ho Chi Minh City - Cu Chi - Ho Chi Minh City - Da Nang - Hoi An (VN 326: 1730 - 1840) (B)
Breakfast at the hotel.
We check out of the hotel and travel through the countryside to Cu Chi legendary tunnel. In Cu Chi, we’ll learn about the war as well as the life of the local people during the hard time. Here you’ll adore the human beings resilience once put to test. We arrive back at Ho Chi Minh at mid day.

After mid day refreshment, we’ll head out for a city tour of Saigon including China Town with Thien Hau Temple, Ben Thanh Market and a walking tour around the Cathedral, the GPO and L’Hotel De Ville. Then we’ll travel back to Saigon Tan Son Nhat Airport for the flight to Da Nang. Arriving at Da Nang Airport, met by our local tour guide and transferred to Hoi An Ancient Town. Overnight in Hoi An.

Cu Chi Tunnel is a system of magical tunnels connecting one village to another and was built by the locals to accommodate the VC during the War. From Cu Chi, major attacks on Saigon were launched during the war, especially those in Tet Offensive of 1968 which shocked the whole world. Creeping our way in the narrow tunnel, you can't imagine that there was no map of the tunnels at the time. Those navigating in the tunnel in the past had to know the tunnel themselves or there had to be a guide, otherwise there were all kinds of traps everywhere in the tunnel awaiting.

The tunnel at the height stretched over 250 km had rudimentary hospitals, water wells, toilets, kitchens…which allowed the local fighters to remain underground for weeks. You can’t imagine that the locals had to dig the tunnels with their bare hand and shovel; they had to camouflage the soil dug out so that they wouldn’t be uncovered by their enemy…So much work done that now facing it and thinking back, the only thing we can say about the tunnel is magic: only magic could make it happen. Magical things have happened in Vietnam for thousand of years of history anyway.

Many attempts to destroy the tunnels as well as annihilate the fighters including using tractors, toxic chemicals, bombs…but all came to failure.

Day6 Hoi An Morning Tour of the Old Town/Free Afternoon (B)
Breakfast at the hotel.
We’ll have a walking tour of Hoi An Ancient Town including the Japanese Bridge, an Old Merchant House, Phuc Kien Chinese Congregational Assembly, Hoi An market. We can recall the times when the narrow streets were busy with merchants from around the world, who exchanged in different languages; push-cart carrying loads of cargo traveling back and forth…. This afternoon and evening we’ll be on our own. Overnight in Hoi An Ancient Town.

Hoi An was a famous trading port back to the 16 – 19th centuries. Hoi An was visited by merchants from China, Japan, Persia, Europe….at the times. Hoi An residents are composed of Vietnamese, Chinese. Hoi An’s architecture is the perfect combination of Vietnamese, Chinese and Japanese styles. Hoi An nowadays still retains the ambience of the old town dated back to the heyday which never fails to charm the visitors.

Apart from the cozy ancient town, Hoi An also offers the pristine white sand Cua Dai Beach which claimed one of the most charming beaches in the world. Hoi An has always been unforgettable memory for our dear travelers.

Day7 Hoi An - Hue/Hue River Cruise to Tu Duc Tomb (B)
Breakfast at the hotel.
Our journey today brings us through the scenic country side of the Central Region with white sand on one side and green mountains on the other. We’ll stop at the top of Hai Van Pass (the Pass of Sea Cloud) to get the panoramic view of the mountains and the sea. Our destination is Hue, the capital city of Vietnam from 1802 - 1945.

This afternoon, we’ll have a cruise on the Perfume River to the Thien Mu Pagoda, then we’ll explore by road the royal tombs of King Tu Duc Overnight in Hue.

Hue is a charming imperial city with combination of the new and the old. The Perfume River bisects the city into the northern and southern parts. To the north is the ancient citadel surrounded by moats which were home to the royal court of Vietnam in the 19th century. Visiting the ancient citadel you can visit the Palace where the king lived, the quarter for the royal family and concubines, the royal library….Lots of damages during the war are still found here though. To the south is where hotels and fine dining restaurants are located.

Hue is no doubt the city of harmony with the encircling green mountains, the meandering rivers; the architecture nestled in trees….Everything of Hue seems to be just in the right place and in perfect harmony. To the western side is where the royal tombs are found. The Vietnamese kings thought that the west is the direction of sunset and permanent rest. That was why they built different royal tombs in the western part of Hue city. Here the kings would rest permanently in complete peace and tranquility.

Each of the royal tombs was designed by the king himself and the architecture of each tomb shows a lot about the king and the context of Vietnam at the time. Many tombs were constructed, completed and used by the king when they were still in reign. The royal tombs of Hue are for sure the fine pieces of arts.

Day8 Hue Morning Tour of the Citadel/Afternoon Tour of Khai Dinh and Minh Mang Tombs (B)
Breakfast at the hotel
We start with a tour the Ancient Citadel and the exotic Dong Ba Market on the Perfume riverside. Then we'll continue onto the tombs of King Khai Dinh, Kinh Minh Mang and the tranquil Tu Hieu Pagoda. Overnight in Hue.

Day9 Hue - Hanoi (VN 240: 0830 - 0940) (B)
Breakfast at the hotel.
We’ll transfer you to Phu Bai Airport for the flight to Ha Noi, the charming capital city of Vietnam. Arriving at Noi Bai Airport, we’ll be welcomed by our tour guide and transferred to the city.

We’ll start city tour with the Temple of Literature (Knowledge) – The First University of Vietnam. The king ordered the construction of the Temple since we wanted the people to appreciate knowledge and encouraged the study of Confucianism. After that the First University was built just to the back of the Temple of Literature to educate the talented students of the kingdom. The kings of Vietnam that time would choose the bests that passed the royal exams to serve the kingdom. Those passed the royal exams would be called PhD. This noble title for sure was not awarded easily: conscientious study combined with talent was required. Visiting the Temple of Literature you’ll adore the learning tradition of Vietnam started by their visionary kings thousands of years ago. The Old Quarter of Hanoi shaped up from around the 11th – 13th century. This was the business quarter of ancient Hanoi. Nowadays the Old Quarter of Hanoi still offers traffic, hustling and bustling atmosphere like no others. We’ll weave the Old Quarter of the city by push-rickshaw.

In late afternoon, we’ll visit Ngoc Son Temple and the West Lake area. In late afternoon, we’ll sample the unique water puppetry which dated back to the 11th century in Vietnam.

Hanoi was chosen to be the capital city of Vietnam from the 1010 A.D. The ruling king Ly Cong Uan that time knew that choosing the capital site would be vital to the kingdom’s prosperity. After coming into power he patrolled the kingdom looking for a suitable site for building the capital city. It’s sa that he arrived at the bank of the Red River a five-colored dragon appeared soaring into the sky. He researched the whole area and found out that it was perfect in terms of Feng Shui. The construction of the capital city was started right after that. That time it was called Thang Long which in Vietnamese means the “City of Ascending Dragons”. With the arrival of the French in the 19th century, new colonial styled architecture was added to the charming traditional architecture of Hanoi.

Nowadays the travelers to Hanoi know the city as 3 main areas: The Former Citadel Area, the Old Quarter and the French Quarter. Of course the city has more areas to the north, to the south and to the west of central Hanoi now where high-rise buildings are found to accommodate the growing economy. With much development going on in the fast growing economy of Vietnam, the old areas of Hanoi are specially protected by the authority and still Hanoi retains the charm like no others.

Day10 Hanoi - Ha Long Bay (B/L/D)
Breakfast at the hotel.
We start at 9.00 A.M for the 3 hour drive (170 km) through the Red River Delta, which offers plenty of chances for taking photos of Vietnamese farmers tilling the vast green paddy fields. At half way, we'll have a visit to a handicraft workshop with fine clothes, embroidered paintings, stone statuettes and all kinds of gems mined in Vietnam such as star rubies or sapphires... Our destination is the World Heritage Site of Ha Long Bay. The bay offers some 3000 mountain islands and islets towering in the Gulf of Tonkin in the East Vietnam Sea.

Upon arrival, you'll be welcomed on board our luxury junk and treated with wine and fresh local seafood. As our junk gliding further into the tranquility of Ha Long Bay amid the towering mountain cliffs and on the emerald green water, you'll have relaxing time combining the fine tastes of the wine and the freshness of Ha Long Bay. During the cruise, we'll stop some times for visiting the amazing Sung Sot cave and the Ti Top white sand beach before anchoring for the night. Overnight on board the junk in the wild of Halong Bay.

Day11 Ha Long Bay - Hanoi (B/L)
After breakfast, we'll take a little sampan to visit a secret lagoon of Ha Long Bay while the surrounding mountains are just waking up. After that our cruise takes us further into the Bay of Bai Tu Long traveling past the Human Head Island, the Turtle Island, and the Duck Islet... to the studio site where the famous Indochine film was shot.

After the last feast on board for lunch, our junk travels back to the harbor for disembarkation at 12.00 A.M. We rejoin our bus and make our way through the rice paddies back to Hanoi. Overnight in Hanoi.

Day12 Hanoi/Fee afternoon (B)
Breakfast at the hotel.
Our tour today is relaxing. We start the morning with Ho Chi Minh Mausoleum, the Presidential Palace; this whole area reminds you some parts of the Vietnamese history and the most revered man of the nation. We then have free time at leisure for the rest of the day. Overnight in Hanoi.

Day13 Ha Noi - Luang Prabang (VN 869: 0855 – 0950)/Tour of Luang Prabang (B)
Breakfast at the hotel.
This morning, you’ll be transferred back to Noi Bai Airport for your flight to Luang Prabang. Arriving at Luang Prabang, we'll visit the former Royal Palace, now the National Museum, Vat Xieng Thong, Vat Sen, Vat Visun and Mount Phousi with the panoramic view of this countryside city.
Free at leisure.
Overnight in Luang Prabang.

Day14 Luang Prabang (B)
Breakfast at the hotel.
Today you enjoy full day free at leisure. Only accommodation with breakfast is provided by Private Vietnam Tours. Overnight in Luang Prabang.

Day15 Depart Luang Prabang (B)
Breakfast at the hotel.
You have free time until our tour guide and driver come and escort you back to the airport for your departure. It’s time to bid farewell to the charming Royal Capital with the friendly people. We trust you had a wonderful vacation in Vietnam, Cambodia and Laos with Private Vietnam Tours.

Trip Photos

Angkor Wat Siem Reap Cambodia
Commencing our discovery tour of Indochina at Siem Reap Cambodia, home to the fabled temples of Angkor

Saigon Ben Thanh Market
Travel further to Saigon Vietnam and sample the vibrant atmosphere of the biggest city of Vietnam
Ben Tre Vietnam
Have a full day to explore thoroughly the countryside of the land of coconuts of Vietnam - Ben Tre
Cu Chi Tunnel Vietnam
Have half a day to travel back in time of the war with a visit of the famous Cu Chi Tunnel Vietnam
Hoi An Vietnam
Have an opportunity to visit the Old Town of Hoi An, once known to merchant worldwide as the trading port of Faifo
Hue Vietnam
Travel northwards from Hoi An to the once capital city of Vietnam - Hue to learn about the royal family, to adore the architecture and to taste the mouth-watering cuisine...
Hanoi Vietnam
Have a chance to get lost in the sleepy charm of Hanoi - the capital city of Vietnam
Halong Bay Vietnam
Get pampered in luxury with a cruise in the wild of Halong Bay
Luang Prabang Laos
Before concluding our holidays to Indochina, have some relaxing time at the laid back countryside city of Luang Prabang and take in the pure Buddhist atmosphere