Day by Day Itinerary

Small Groups: Never more than 10-16 travelers—guaranteed!

Veer off Southeast Asia’s trodden paths to uncover the glory days of lost empires—and immerse yourself in the vibrant cultures that have emerged in their wakes. As you travel through Thailand, Laos, Cambodia, and Vietnam, you’ll encounter temples and shrines devoted to Buddhist, Hindu, and animist worship; romantic remnants of French Colonial architecture; and gilded palaces where royals still reside. Along the way, you’ll meet locals in their markets and schools, and learn about traditional crafts like silk-weaving and paper-making from artisans who have practiced their trades for generations. From the grandeur of Angkor Wat’s temples to the simplicity of life along the Mekong River, it’s an Asian adventure like none other.

Bangkok Ho Chi Minh City Expand All
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    Fly overnight from the U.S. to Bangkok, losing one day en route as you cross the International Date Line over the Pacific.

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    You will be met by your OAT Trip Leader and transferred to our hotel to begin our travel in Thailand. Here, you'll be joined by travelers who took our optional Burma & the Irrawaddy River pre-trip extension.

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    Discover the Old Kingdom of Siam on a tour of Bangkok

    After breakfast at our hotel, step into the Old Kingdom of Siam at the Grand Palace of Thailand, a sprawling compound of ceremonial halls, gilded spires, and ornate buildings. The ancient city's defining landmark since 1782, the palace became the centerpiece of a new Thai capital called Krung Thep ("City of Angels"), known outside of Thailand as Bangkok. It was King Mongkut (or Rama IV) who ruled from this palace, expanded trade with the West, and was romanticized in the musical The King and I. Amid the grandeur of the palace, a surprisingly simple sculpture captures the attention of most Thai visitors: the 26-inch Emerald Buddha in the temple of Wat Phra Kaew. Carved out of jade, the figurine is so beloved by the Thais that the king himself changes its robes for each hot, rainy, and cool season.

    After lunch at a local restaurant, we'll return to our hotel and take a brief orientation walk.

    This evening, we board a traditional wooden rice barge for a memorable Welcome Dinner. We'll cruise past the Temple of the Dawn and the Grand Palace, both of which are spectacular by moonlight.

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    Explore the UNESCO World Heritage Site Ayutthaya and Ancient Siam

    After breakfast, we visit the ancient city of Ayutthaya, just outside of the city. This UNESCO World Heritage Site was home to 33 kings from many different dynasties. The capital of Siam from 1353 to 1767, the city was once a place of such fabulous wealth that early travelers described its “2,000 spires clad in gold.” A coach ride brings us to Wat Yai Chai Mongkol (wat is Thai for temple), flanked by a row of saffron-draped Buddha statues. Although its stones were laid centuries ago in 1357, the site still functions as a meditation center today. We also explore the ruins at Wat Phra Sri Sanphet, a temple complex situated within the former Royal Palace grounds which served as a model for Bangkok's Temple of the Emerald Buddha.

    After lunch at a local restaurant, we’ll then board a motorized long-tail boat—so named for its long, thin design—for an afternoon cruise, with a stop a Muslim village to learn about their lives. As we coast, we’ll see villagers going about their daily routines at temples, schools, markets, and even churches and mosques near the river banks. We return to Bangkok by mid-afternoon.

    We'll have dinner at a local restaurant this evening.

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    Enjoy a day in Bangkok for independent discoveries or join our optional Floating Market excursion, which journeys west of Bangkok to the riverside town of Ratchaburi. Here, we'll board a long-tail boat to explore the colorful Damnoen Saduak floating market. Then, we stop at a palm sugar workshop and coconut farm, followed by lunch at a local restaurant. After lunch, we journey by bus to Khlong Khon district of Samutsongkram province, where we board a fisherman's boat to explore the mangrove forest area, feed the wild monkeys, and visit a local fisherman’s home. We return to Bangkok by bus in the late afternoon.

    Dinner is on your own this evening.

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    After breakfast at our hotel, we depart for the airport for our flight to Luang Prabang, Laos. The ancient, royal capital of Laos, Luang Prabang is located on a peninsula between the Mekong and Khan rivers with green mountains all around. Recognized as a UNESCO World Heritage Site, the city is one of the quaintest towns in Southeast Asia.

    After checking into our hotel and lunch at a local restaurant, we have an orientation walk around the neighborhood. Set in spectacular scenery, Luang Prabang is famous for the more than 30 active temples and hundreds of architectural treasures that reside here. This is a working city, however, and not a museum, and we will mingle with monks and local people heading to market and going about their daily business. Notice the many 19th-century French Colonial villas mixed in with the more traditional Lao-style homes. Next, we'll hop aboard local transport to visit the royal temple Wat Xieng Thong, the oldest in the city. Originally built of wood in 1560, it was reconstructed in brick and stucco following a fire in the late 19th century. Then we head to Phousi Hill, in the center of the old town. Here you may wish to climb the 328 steps and at the top, overlook most of Luang Prabang. You'll enjoy views of the Khan and Mekong rivers, and if the weather obliges, enjoy a colorful sunset. We'll continue on to a night market, and then we'll have dinner at a local restaurant.

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    We start our day in a local village, Baan Xang Kong, to learn about their paper and textile-making traditions. From there, we’ll embark on an excursion along one of the longest rivers in the world. The Mekong River, or “mother of all rivers,” supports some 90 million people who produce 54,000 square miles of rice every year. Also home to more species of giant fish than any other river, this majestic waterway is said to produce balls of light along its surface, which the locals attribute to the Phaya Naga, or Mekong Dragons. Our Mekong cruise takes us to a rural village known for producing a local rice "whiskey,” and to Pak Ou Cave, filled with thousands of Buddha icons.

    Three-wheeled tuk-tuks bring us back to Luang Prabang for some leisure time. In the evening, we’ll gather for dinner at a local restaurant.

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    Discover the Buddhist temples in Luang Prabang

    Today we rise very early to participate in an ancient Buddhist tradition: alms-giving to local monks. In the quiet of early morning (around 6am), we watch as hundreds of monks parade solemnly and single-file through the streets of Luang Prabang, collecting food offerings from the citizens who, in turn, receive prayers for their families and friends. Dressed in traditional Lao orange robes, the monks provide a sense of calm and solemnity to the inhabitants of the city each morning. We'll walk to a nearby temple with the monks and have a few minutes to ask them about their way of life before they sit down to their breakfast. Next, we'll visit a nearby market where we'll have typical Laotian breakfast foods for our own morning meal. We'll also purchase ingredients to bring to our Home-Hosted Lunch.

    Then we set out to experience A Day in the Life of a local village, where we'll get to meet young students at a local elementary school, supported in part by Grand Circle Foundation—part of the World Classroom initiative. We'll then walk to a nearby village of the Hmong hill tribe, an indigenous people of Laos' northern highlands. Here, we'll be welcomed inside the home of a local shaman. After a lively discussion with village leaders, we'll enjoy a Home-Hosted Lunch which we help to prepare. We return to Luang Prabang for some free time to explore, and dinner is on your own.

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    We spend our final morning in Luang Prabang exploring the Royal Palace Museum, which was built from 1904-1909 during the reign of King Sisavang Vong and served as his palace. Today it is a museum where you can see the royal throne and other artifacts. The building itself is a fine example of the French beaux-arts style and traditional Lao artwork. The ground floor of the museum is divided into several halls and rooms displaying gifts from other countries to the Lao kings and collections of swords and Buddha images.

    Then enjoy lunch on your own before we take a short flight to Vientiane, Laos' easy-going capital. Despite its growing population, the city still retains a small-town feel: Laundry dries in the sun on French-style balconies, and street vendors spread out their wares on blankets and banana leaves. When we arrive in the capital this afternoon, we'll take a brief orientation walk, perhaps witnessing group aerobics at King Anouvong Park. We'll experience life in Vientiane this evening as the guests of a local family for a Home-Hosted Dinner.

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    Discover Vientiane's temples and statues of Buddha

    We have breakfast at our hotel and then set out to explore Vientiane. Pronounced “Vieng Chan,” the capital of Laos is a slow-paced, friendly city of some 600,000 people.

    The city was built around the twelfth century as an early center for commerce in the region. We start our explorations with a visit to the golden-domed Phra That Luang (Great Sacred Stupa), a national symbol of Laos built in the 16th century, and the imposing Patuxay Victory Gate Monument. We also visit the Haw Phra Kaew (House of the Emerald Buddha), which contains some of the best Buddhist sculptures in Laos. Nearby stands Wat Sisaket, the oldest monastery in Vientiane, which dates back to 1818. The temple contains a total of 6,840 Buddha statues in varying sizes and positions.

    We'll have lunch together at a local restaurant, and then you are free to spend the afternoon exploring Vientiane at your own pace. Dinner is on your own this evening.

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    • Meals included:
    • Accommodations:

    After breakfast at the hotel, we head to the airport for our flight to Phnom Penh, Cambodia. After lunch on our own, we'll visit the Royal Palace, home of the present King Norodom Sihamoni. The palace was opened in 1870 and now contains the Royal Residence, the Throne Hall, and the Silver Pagoda (Wat Preah Keo Morokat), which draws its name from the more than 5,000 silver tiles that cover its floor. We check in to our hotel afterwards. Later this evening, we'll have dinner at a local restaurant.

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    After breakfast, we visit the Tuol Sleng Prison Museum and the Killing Fields of Choeung Ek—both grim reminders of Cambodia's bloody past under Pol Pot and the Khmer Rouge. It is almost inconceivable to confront the nature of true evil here in this gentle land, but the Buddhist memorial at Choeung Ek commemorates the 1.7 million victims of the 1975-79 Pol Pot genocide. This execution site is one of many throughout Cambodia. After lunch at a local restaurant and some time to relax, we'll witness a dance performance by some children at the Champey Academy of Arts, an organization that preserves Khmer culture. We'll then enjoy a ride in a remok (the Cambodian version of a tuk-tuk, a three-wheeled motor rickshaw). Please note: The Champey Academy of Arts is closed Sundays and public holidays. If our visit falls on one of these days, we will visit the academy on Day 11 instead; and our visit to the Royal Palace will take place on Day 12. Dinner is on your own this evening.

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    Discover a local floating market in Siem Reap

    This morning, we depart to the airport for our flight to Siem Reap. We'll arrive in Siem Reap in time for an included lunch at a local restaurant. In the afternoon, we'll take a cruise on Tonle Sap ("Great Lake" in the Khmer language) and arrive at an agricultural village. Here, we'll take a ride in a water buffalo cart to learn more about the local way of life. Afterwards, we'll have some time to relax at our hotel before gathering for dinner at a local restaurant.

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    Discover one of the oldest and most preserved temple sites in Cambodia

    This morning, we'll visit the Angkor National Museum, where we will view its impressive collections relating to the history of Khmer civilization and the story behind the Angkor temples. Then we'll stroll through the Royal Independence Gardens and take an orientation walk in Siem Reap. In the afternoon, join our optional tour to visit Banteay Srei, one of the oldest and most beautifully preserved temple sites in Cambodia. Built in AD 967, Banteay Srei means “Citadel of Women,” and is recognized as a tribute to female beauty. This tour includes dinner and also offers a glimpse into the daily life of rural Cambodia, as we stop to visit basket weavers, a Khmer noodle maker, and the local fair of Angkor Pyungyu. Or enjoy free time to explore the charming shops and cafes of Siem Reap, with dinner on your own.

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    Explore Angkor Wat temples

    Today we'll venture into the heart of ancient Angkor, a holy city that took centuries to build and whose scale is still breathtaking today—it sprawls across an area of roughly 96 square miles. The Khmer Empire aristocrats who built the temples and monuments here between AD 800-1200 were motivated by their Hindu and Buddhist beliefs. We'll begin at Angkor Wat, a masterpiece of Khmer architecture. Angkor Wat is a large pyramid temple, built between 1113 and 1150, surrounded by a great moat 570 feet wide. Note the bas-relief carvings throughout the temple, and take a moment to stand in the courtyard of this temple whose towers represent Mount Meru, the
    center of all physical and spiritual universes and the home to many gods in Hindu and Buddhist mythologies. After we enjoy lunch at a local restaurant, we'll  return to the hotel to rest for a bit. In the afternoon, we pass through the South Gate of Angkor Thom, the capital city of Khmer rulers. We'll see the Bayon, and make brief stops at Baphuon and the Elephants Terrace, where amazing bas-reliefs depict the huge beasts almost life-sized. At the nearby Terrace of the Leper King, equally intricate wall carvings depict rank after rank of court attendants and mystical rulers. We conclude our explorations of Angkor's most notable features with a visit to Ta Prohm. Unlike Angkor Wat, Ta Prohm has been left the way it was found, covered by a dense jungle of trees and roots and allowing you to discover this archaeological treasure just as it was found by the French in the mid-1800s. Dinner is on your own this evening.

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    Explore Ho Chi Minh City

    After breakfast at the hotel, we head to the airport for our flight to Ho Chi Minh City, Vietnam, the country’s largest city.

    While many locals still call the city Saigon, the city was officially renamed Ho Chi Minh City in 1976. We embark on an included city tour this afternoon, passing the French Quarter and the Catholic Cathedral of Notre Dame. Dressed in beautiful stained glass, the church was completed in 1880 and is said to stand on the site of an old pagoda. We also see the architecture of the majestic Post Office, built during the same time period and featuring two enormous murals depicting maps of Vietnam as it was many decades ago. Later, we explore the landmark Ben Thanh Market, where local merchants peddle everything from carved wooden animals and coffee beans to delicately painted cookware.

    Dinner is at a local restaurant this evening.

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    See the Cu Chi Tunnels used in the Vietnam War

    After breakfast at our hotel, we visit the Cu Chi Tunnels—a 125-mile-long underground maze where thousands of fighters and villagers hid and fought during the Vietnam War, referred to by locals as the “American War.” The South Vietnamese Communists, or Viet Cong, built this vast network of tunnels in and around the district of Cu Chi and worked continually over 25 years to expand the multi-level network. The tunnels—which include mess halls, meeting rooms, an operating theater, a tiny cinema, small factories, and vast ammunition stores—allowed the Viet Cong to control large areas near Saigon. Today, the Cu Chi Tunnels provide invaluable insight into the war era.

    We return to Ho Chi Minh City in time for lunch at a traditional Vietnamese restaurant. Afterwards, we'll have a chance to explore the Vietnam History Museum, which holds excellent collections of ceramics, weaponry, and Cham sculpture.

    You can spend the balance of your day at leisure, or later this evening, you may wish to join our optional tour, which starts with a cyclo-rickshaw ride through the city, followed by a traditional puppet show and dinner at a local street kitchen.

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    After breakfast, we journey outside of Ho Chi Minh City to discover Vietnam's famous Mekong Delta. We'll drive to the picturesque province of Ben Tre, where we'll enjoy a brief walk through Ben Tre village—famous for its coconut plantations—and take a sampan ride along one of the town's scenic and peaceful canals. We'll also visit a coconut candy workshop to learn about making the sweet keo dua the region is known for, and cruise to nearby Phoenix Island, where we'll learn about the local belief started by Ong Dao Dua, known as the "Coconut Monk." Then, after lunch at a local restaurant, we'll drive back to Ho Chi Minh City, where we have some time at leisure before regrouping for a Farewell Dinner at a local restaurant this evening.

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    • Meals included:

    We rise before daybreak for an early morning flight back to the U.S. Or, fly to Bangkok to begin our post-trip extension to Undiscovered Thailand: The River Kwai, Chiang Rai & Chiang Mai.


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Questions and Answers

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Weather & Regional

Before you travel, we encourage you to learn about the region of the world you'll discover on this trip. From weather and currency information to details on population, geography, and local history, you'll find a comprehensive introduction to your destinations below.  Visit our “What to Know” page to find information about the level of activity to expect, vaccination information resources, and visa requirements specific to this vacation.

Currency Cheat Sheet: Submit

What to Know

For more detailed information about this trip, download our Travel Handbook below. This document covers a wide range of information on specific areas of your trip, from passport, visa, and medical requirements; to the currencies of the countries you’ll visit and the types of electrical outlets you’ll encounter. This handbook is written expressly for this itinerary. For your convenience, we've highlighted our travelers' most common areas of interest on this page.

Download the Travel Handbook

What to Expect


  • 6 locations in 18 days with some early mornings

Physical Requirements

  • Not appropriate for travelers using wheelchairs, walkers, or other mobility aids
  • You must be able to walk 3 miles unassisted and participate in 5-7 hours of physical activities each day


  • Tropical, with daytime temperatures reaching 95°F with high levels of humidity, especially between March-May
  • Potential for heavy rains between July-October


  • Travel over some bumpy, unpaved roads; climb uneven stairways at ancient ruins; and walk over uneven ground


  • Travel primarily via air-conditioned 20-passenger coach (no toilet on board)
  • Other modes of transportation include: ox cart, and motorized boat on the Mekong, which will require agility to embark; and horse-drawn carriage, elephant, and bamboo raft on trip extensions
  • 4 internal flights of about 1 hour each with potential for delays

Accommodations & Facilities

  • All accommodations feature private baths and Western-style toilet facilities
  • At some destinations, only Asian-style toilets (squat-style rather than seats) may be available

Travel Documents


Your passport should meet these requirements for this itinerary:

  • It should be valid for at least 6 months after your scheduled return to the U.S.
  • It should have the recommended number of blank pages (refer to the handbook for details).
  • The blank pages must be labeled “Visas” at the top. Pages labeled “Amendments and Endorsements” are not acceptable.


U.S. citizens will need a visa (or visas) for this trip. In addition, there may be other entry requirements that also need to be met. For your convenience, we’ve included a quick reference list, organized by country:

  • Thailand (main trip and optional post-trip extension): No visa required.
  • Vietnam: Visa required.
  • Laos: Visa required.
  • Cambodia: Visa required.
  • Burma (optional pre-trip extension only): Visa required.

Travelers who are booked on this adventure will be sent a complete Visa Packet— with instructions, applications, and a list of visa fees—approximately 100 days prior to their departure. (Because many countries limit the validity of their visa from the date it is issued, or have a specific time window for when you can apply, we do not recommend applying too early.)

If you are not a U.S. citizen, do not travel with a U.S. passport, or will be traveling independently before/after this trip, then your entry requirements may be different. Please check with the appropriate embassy or a visa servicing company. To contact our recommended visa servicing company, PVS International, call toll-free at 1-800-556-9990.

Vaccinations Information

For a detailed and up-to-date list of vaccinations that are recommended for this trip, please visit the CDC’s “Traveler’s Health” website. You can also refer to the handbook for details.

Before Your Trip

Before you leave on your adventure, there are at least four health-related things you should do. Please check the handbook for specifics, but for now, here’s the short list:

Step 1: Check with the CDC for their recommendations for the countries you’ll be visiting.
Step 2: Have a medical checkup with your doctor.
Step 3: Pick up any necessary medications, both prescription and over-the-counter.
Step 4: Have a dental and/or eye checkup. (Recommended, but less important than steps 1-3.)

What to Bring

In an effort to help you bring less, we have included checklists within the handbook, which have been compiled from suggestions by Trip Leaders and former travelers. The lists are only jumping-off points—they offer recommendations based on experience, but not requirements. You might also want to refer to the climate charts in the handbook or online weather forecasts before you pack. Refer to the handbook for details.

Insider Tips


Main Trip

  • Evergreen Laurel Hotel

    Bangkok, Thailand

    The Evergreen Laurel Hotel is conveniently located along Bangkok’s main thoroughfare, Sathorn Road, not far from shops and the bustling Patpong Night Market. Amenities include an award-winning Chinese restaurant, café, lobby lounge, fitness center, and outdoor swimming pool. Each of the 160 air-conditioned rooms includes a safe, minibar, cable TV, complimentary Internet access, and private bath.

  • The Grand Luang Prabang

    Luang Prabang, Laos

    Situated on the grounds of the Xiengkeo Palace, the Grand Luang Prabang offers a tranquil setting with views of the Mekong River and surrounding mountains. All 80 rooms feature traditional colonial décor, air-conditioning, cable TV, and private bath. During your stay, enjoy the on-site bar and two restaurants, manicured gardens, and a large outdoor swimming pool.

  • Sabaidee@Lao Hotel

    Vientiane, Laos

    Centrally located in Vientiane, this 80-room hotel is a short walk to Nam Phu Fountain, Mekong River, and many shops and restaurants. Within the clean and modern hotel, you’ll find a restaurant and outdoor beer garden. The air-conditioned rooms feature satellite TV, high-speed wireless Internet, and en suite bathroom with shower and hair dryer.

  • Almond Hotel

    Phnom Penh, Cambodia

    The Almond Hotel is located near many of Phnom Penh’s most captivating sites and landmarks, including the Royal Palace. Each of the hotel’s 54 Khmer-styled rooms feature air-conditioning, cable TV, Internet access, and coffee- and tea-making facilities. Two restaurants offer travelers a wide range of Asian and Western cuisines.

  • Angkor Paradise Hotel

    Siem Reap, Cambodia

    The Angkor Paradise Hotel is located in the heart of Siem Reap, just a short distance from Angkor Archaeological Park. Each air-conditioned guest room features a spacious bathroom, TV, minibar, coffee- and tea-making facilities, and safe. There is a swimming pool, fitness center, and spa on the premises, and the on-site restaurant serves Khmer, Asian, and Western cuisine. 

  • Hotel Continental

    Ho Chi Minh City, Vietnam

    The colonial-style Hotel Continental is conveniently situated on Dong Khoi Street close to Ho Chi Minh City’s Opera House. Amenities at the historic hotel include two restaurants, a bar/lounge, and health club. There are 80 air-conditioned rooms at the Hotel Continental, each with minibar, satellite TV, and private bath with robe and slippers.


  • PARKROYAL Yangon Hotel

    Rangoon, Burma

    The PARKROYAL Yangon is a convenient base of exploration for your discoveries in Rangoon, including Shwedagon Pagoda and the city center. The hotel features an outdoor swimming pool, gym, spa, three on-site restaurants, and a lobby bar. Each air-conditioned rooms includes TV, a minibar, coffee- and tea-making facilities, and private bath with hair dryer.

  • Myanmar Treasure Resort

    Bagan, Burma (Myanmar)

    Situated inside the Bagan Archaeological Preservation Zone, the Myanmar Treasure Resort is within easy reach of the surrounding temples. Resort amenities include landscaped gardens, restaurant, coffee shop, terrace bar, and swimming pool. There are 94 air-conditioned rooms, each with mini bar, safe, satellite TV, and private bath with hairdryer.

  • Mandalay Hill Resort

    Mandalay, Burma

    Located at the foot of Mandalay Hill, the First-Class Mandalay Hill Resort offers views of the nearby pagodas, iconic Royal Palace, and Irrawaddy River. Hotel amenities include a lounge, café, and restaurant. Each air-conditioned room features a TV, safe, coffee- and tea-making facilities, and private bath with hair dryer.

  • Evergreen Laurel Hotel

    Bangkok, Thailand

    The Evergreen Laurel Hotel is conveniently located along Bangkok’s main thoroughfare, Sathorn Road, not far from shops and the bustling Patpong Night Market. Amenities include an award-winning Chinese restaurant, café, lobby lounge, fitness center, and outdoor swimming pool. Each of the 160 air-conditioned rooms includes a safe, minibar, cable TV, complimentary Internet access, and private bath.

  • Hin Tok River Camp

    Kanchanaburi, Thailand

    Perched on the peak of Hintok Mountain, with inspiring views of the River Kwai and the lush local flora, the Hin Tok River Camp in Thailand features an on-site open-air restaurant and a swimming pool fed by a natural spring. The 32 tented, air-conditioned rooms feature a minibar, refrigerator, and private bath.

  • Golden Pine Resort & Spa

    Chiang Rai, Thailand

    Golden Pine Resort & Spa in Thailand is in the heart of pineapple country, far from the busy city streets, surrounded by fields and rice paddies. The 90-room resort features an outdoor pool, restaurant, bar, and spa. Rooms are broken into individual, air-conditioned cottages and include TV, minibar, shower, and tub.

  • The Grand Napat

    Chiang Mai, Thailand

    The Grand Napat is nestled in the center of Chiang Mai, away from the bustling city streets. It’s within walking distance of many of Chiang Mai’s main attractions, including JJ market—one of the main shopping areas in the city. Hotel amenities include a swimming pool, exercise room, and on-site restaurant. Each air-conditioned room features a private balcony, TV, Internet access, safe, hair dryer, refrigerator, and private bath.

Flight Information

Your Flight Options

Whether you choose to take just a base trip or add an optional pre- and post-trip extension, you have many options when it comes to personalizing your air—and creating the OAT adventure that’s right for you:

Purchase Flights with OAT

  • Work with our expert Air Travel Consultants to select the airline and routing you prefer
  • Upgrade to business or premium economy class
  • Customize your trip by staying overnight in a connecting city, arriving at your destination a few days early, or spending additional time in a nearby city on your own
  • Combine your choice of OAT adventures to maximize your value

Make Your Own Arrangements

  • Make your own international flight arrangements directly with the airline
  • Purchase optional airport transfers to and from your hotel
  • Extend your Land Tour-only Travel Protection Plan coverage and protect the air arrangements you make on your own—including your frequent flyer miles

OR, leave your air routing up to us and your airfare (as well as airport transfers) will be included in your final trip cost.

Estimated Flight Times

We understand that international travel has unique challenges including fewer airline choices and limited flight schedules. The chart below provides estimated travel times and the typical number of connections from popular departure cities to help you plan for your trip.

Please note that traveling to Bangkok, and from Saigon, will require multiple connections, and these flight rigors should be taken into consideration.

Partner since: 2012
Total donated: $50,603

Making a difference in Laos

Simply by traveling with OAT, you support the work of the nonprofit Grand Circle Foundation. Alan and Harriet Lewis created the Foundation with the mission of changing people's lives through travel—which includes both the travelers who journey with OAT, and the local people who welcome us so warmly into their homelands.

Learn more about our work in Laos, and what you'll experience during your itinerary:

A Day in the Life of Tin Keo Village

Each Day in the Life is specially tailored to showcase daily life in your destination—in this case, the village of Tin Keo. You’ll get to know the local people through conversation and sharing a meal together, gaining an authentic glimpse of what life is really like here—and not just the typical tourist’s version.

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A Day in the Life of Tin Keo Village

Each Day in the Life is specially tailored to showcase daily life in your destination—in this case, the village of Tin Keo. You’ll get to know the local people through conversation and sharing a meal together, gaining an authentic glimpse of what life is really like here—and not just the typical tourist’s version.

Meet the People of Tin Keo Village

During your Day in the Life experience, you’ll visit the village of Tin Keo—situated in the North Luang Prabang Valley of Laos. This small community makes its humble living by farming rice, corn, and bananas, tending livestock, and weaving.

You’ll begin your day with an orientation walk around the village, passing by vegetable gardens and villagers creating textiles and handcrafts, to learn what daily life is like. If your visit falls on a weekday, you’ll then visit Tin Keo School—the local elementary school—to meet with its young students who will eagerly share what they’ve been learning with you. Perhaps you’ll even join them as they entertain you with song and dance.

Upon your departure from the Tin Keo School, you’ll participate in a roundtable discussion with local community leaders. Next, you’ll enjoy a lunch that you’ll help to prepare in the home of some of the villagers.

You’ll then walk to a nearby Hmong community, where you’ll be welcomed inside the home of a local shaman and witness a traditional musical performance.

By the end of your Day in the Life experience, we hope you’ll come away with a true sense of what life is like in a small village in Laos—and of the warm and welcoming spirit of the people who call Tin Keo home.

Grand Circle Foundation

Supporting a World Classroom: Laos

By funding improvements in local schools, the Foundation’s World Classroom initiative is focused on supporting society’s most precious resources: its children. In Laos, you’ll meet young students local schools, supported in part by Grand Circle Foundation. 

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Supporting a World Classroom: Laos

By funding improvements in local schools, the Foundation’s World Classroom initiative is focused on supporting society’s most precious resources: its children. In Laos, you’ll meet young students local schools, supported in part by Grand Circle Foundation. 

"I enjoyed visiting the school in Laos that Grand Circle sponsors. We were each paired off with a five- or six-year-old child. They were very motivated and high-spirited. The improvements Grand Circle made for the school were appreciated and much needed. It made us appreciate what we have."

Stephen Snitzer, 1-time traveler
St. Louis, Missouri

Tin Keo School

Partner since: 2012 • Total donated: $30,400

Just outside the Tin Keo Village—which hosts OAT travelers for their Day in the Life experience in Laos—Tin Keo School is a new partner of Grand Circle Foundation. Although the school building has three classrooms, only one is used for the 36 elementary students it serves, because there is only one teacher. The students are a mix of Lao-Loom (or lowland Lao) people from Tin Keo Village and Hmong hill tribe members from a neighboring village, and most of their parents are rice, banana, or corn farmers or weavers.

Foundation support is initially focusing on the physical needs of the school. In the first half of 2012, Foundation provided funds to install power and fans in the classrooms, and OAT associates pitched in to help repaint the school during a day of community service. Next, we’ll build two toilets for the school and another two for Tin Keo Village.

Because Tin Keo School receives limited financial assistance from the Lao government, the Foundation looks forward to lending much-needed support to its students in our new partnership.

School in session:

Tin Keo Village school is open January 2-May 25 and September 1-December 24.

Gifts to bring if you're visiting:

  • Notebooks
  • Coloring books
  • English-language books for early readers
  • Pencils and erasers
  • Pens
  • Colored pencils or markers
  • Maps
Grand Circle Foundation

Solo Traveler Stories

Why Travel Solo on Ancient Kingdoms

We're proud to offer the best value for solo travelers in the industry, guaranteed, with FREE Single Supplements on your base trip and all extensions. Travel with the leader in solo-friendly travel on Ancient Kingdomsand save up to $1895 per person versus the competition.

Our small group size and expert, resident Trip Leaders help solo travelers make personal connections and ensure peace of mind. Here are some thoughts from solo travelers about why this adventure was right for them.

"I traveled solo, for those of you who contemplate it, and could not have been more pleased with the 11 others who I now consider friends. Our ages ranged from 48 to 'old,' but all had unflagging energy … Be prepared to swim in waterfalls, go for long pleasant boat rides, see many temples, and meet lots of people."

Nancy Baltz, 5-time traveler
Burlingame, California

Expecting the Unexpected in Southeast Asia

Jane Hansen, 4-time traveler, Groveland, California

I started traveling on my own after my husband died. I have a single friend who likes to travel, so sometimes we travel together; sometimes we travel separately. Destinations just pop up for me. I don’t go someplace just so I can say I’ve been there—I travel because I want to see new places, so I try to go to places that I haven’t been.

Most recently, I took OAT’s Ancient Kingdoms: Thailand, Laos, Vietnam & Cambodia adventure. It was one of the best trips I’ve ever been on! My Trip Leader, Ron Chomdee, was just an absolutely terrific person. Really exceptional! He led us through all four countries, and everything worked well, because he was very efficient. And the people in my group were very pleasant.

Angkor Wat was a real highlight of the trip. It’s one of the few remaining ancient wonders of the world, and it was everything I had hoped it would be. In fact, I was able to do just about everything on this adventure, except that, physically, I didn’t want to go into the Cu Chi Tunnels on my hands and knees in the dark—but then, I wouldn’t have wanted to do that 20 years ago, either!

Did I mention that I’m about to turn 91?

You see, I don’t consider travel difficult. What I like to do is spend several weeks with a small group, because I really feel as though I get a sense of the destination. Small groups are much more manageable. In 2002, I went to China with a different company. There were two buses of people, and we spent a lot of time waiting to get on and off the bus. With OAT, you get to stay in different kinds of accommodations, too, that are too small for larger groups. It’s just a different kind of trip.

Some people, when they travel, just want to be entertained. They want everything to be exactly the same as it is at home. But when I travel, I know things are going to be different, and I just ignore the things I don’t care for. You make up for it in what you learn about the culture. That’s why I don’t take a lot of pictures or keep a journal. I like to see what’s there while I can.

The fact is, I refuse to look and act my age. I know that I got lucky with the genes I inherited. But more than that, in travel, a lot of your enjoyment depends on your attitude. You see, I’m an optimist. I always expect my trip to be good, and it always is. You can’t be fearful that something’s going to happen. It doesn’t matter if you’re traveling solo or not. Anyone who’s in good health can enjoy travel. Just drink bottled water, take your pills, and have fun!

Private Adventures—New for 2015

How do you arrange a Private Adventure?

It’s simple: You choose the people you travel with. You choose the departure date. You choose the size of your group. OAT does the rest.

Your lifelong memories are only a phone call away: Call us toll-free at

Group Size Additional Cost
4-6 $1400 per person
7-9 $650 per person

Now you can reserve an EXCLUSIVE departure of Ancient Kingdoms: Thailand, Laos, Vietnam & Cambodia with just 8 travelers. Enjoy a truly special adventure—starting from only $650 per person more than our published trip price.

The benefits of your Private Adventure …

  • Travel in an exclusive group of friends or family members
  • Work with your Trip Leader to create unique experiences and special memories
  • Tailor the pacing of activities—spending more time doing what interests your group most at the speed that fits your comfort level
  • Enjoy the security of knowing we have regional offices nearby

This program is available on new reservations in 2015 only, and cannot be combined with any offer within 60 days to departure or with our Group Travel program. The additional cost of a Private Departure is per person, on top of the departure price and varies by trip. Private Departures do not include any changes or additions to our standard itineraries. Age restrictions may apply to some itineraries and must be at least 13 years old to travel with Overseas Adventure Travel. Ask your Group Sales Team for details. Additional taxes and fees will apply. Standard Terms & Conditions apply. Every effort has been made to present this information accurately. We reserve the right to correct errors.

New Itinerary

Based on feedback from our travelers, we’ve made major changes to our Ancient Kingdoms: Thailand, Laos, Cambodia & Vietnam adventure to enhance your travel experience. This new itinerary features many additional cultural discoveries and a more relaxed traveling pace for your journey through four fascinating Southeast Asian countries. This new itinerary begins with August 2014 departures.

More days, less travel time

By adding an extra day in both Bangkok and Ho Chi Minh City, you’ll now have more opportunities to delve deeper into Bangkok’s ancient splendor and glittering temples and to explore Saigon’s colonial past.

We’ve also eliminated a taxing 8-hour overland drive. Now you’ll be better rested so you can immerse yourself completely in Southeast Asia’s fascinating blend of natural beauty and diverse cultures.

More discoveries

We’ve added several more included features to our itinerary, including a visit to Ayutthaya, a fascinating temple complex that served as the ancient capital of Siam.

And our extra day in Ho Chi Minh City allows more in depth discoveries in Old Saigon. You’ll also now get to experience traditional ways of life in Vietnam with a new included visit to a small village and floating market along the Mekong Delta.

More authentic cuisine

We’ve increased the number of your included meals, with all lunches and dinners now at local restaurants. Travelers will now get to enjoy more authentic dining experiences—ones that better reflect the regional cuisine—and have more opportunities to experience local culture.

Making Merit

How the meaning of karma influences Buddhists in Southeast Asia

by Lyette Mercier

To Buddhists, gifts can garner merit. For example, textbooks given to children may ensure intelligence in your next life.

 If you do good you will receive good; if you do evil you will receive evil.

— Thai proverb

Making merit—doing good—is a vital part of Buddhist life in Southeast Asia, and the proverb above elegantly illustrates why. In Buddhist teaching, you accumulate merit throughout your life to bring future happiness, strength, and peace—and to carry it into your next life.

Making merit, giving alms

In Thailand, Laos, and Cambodia, where the majority of the population is Buddhist, the most common form of merit-making is giving alms to Buddhist monks, who take to the streets each morning in their bright saffron robes holding “begging bowls” into which people can place goods. The most common gift is food, but flowers, money, soap, and other goods useful to the monastery are also accepted. The amount of merit a giver receives is determined by many variables. First, the giver must have pure intentions, a clear mind, and not give anything that is not theirs to give. The quality of the gift also contributes to the merit received. Home-cooked foods are more merit-worthy than ones bought pre-prepared, and giving your leftovers to the monks is considered both rude and unworthy of merit. Finally, the more observant the monk being given alms (with the most observant perfectly obeying all 227 precepts of Buddhism), the more merit granted the giver.

In daily life, people can also gain merit through honoring others, offering help and service, involving others in good deeds, and being thankful for others’ good deeds. This focus on aiding and appreciating the people around you shows in the friendliness and spirit of fellowship among the people of Southeast Asia. After all, when you can bring a bit of good into your current or future life simply by smiling at a stranger or acknowledging a kindness, why not make a habit of it?

Candles for good eyesight

Of course, Buddhists understand that they may not see the results of their merit in this life and generally do not expect immediate results from their good deeds. But certain types of gifts are sometimes thought to accumulate specific kinds of merit for a giver’s next life. For example, giving textbooks to children is said to ensure that you will be intelligent in your next life, and offering candles or lights will give you bright eyes and good eyesight. Merit can also be “transferred” to the person of the giver’s choosing (often a deceased loved one) to lessen that person’s suffering in their next life.

Holidays and festivals provide opportunities for celebratory merit-making. The birthday of Thailand’s king, for example, is celebrated annually with ceremonies in which citizens give alms to monks on behalf of the king, donating the accumulated merit to the monarch as a birthday gift. Another common form of birthday merit-making is to release fish. The tradition stems from saving creatures stranded in rice paddies by receding floods. In the coastal province of Samut Prakan, one million shrimp were released into the river for the king’s birthday in 2011.


The practice of gaining merit stems from the Buddhist concept of karma, which means “doing.” Everything a person does, says, and thinks is a karma, and the accumulation of good and bad karma influences both this life and the next. Two stories from the Buddha’s life form the basis of the tradition. In the first tale, two merchants came upon the newly-enlightened Buddha and were so impressed by his virtue that they spontaneously gave him their provisions. The second story tells of the Buddha carrying a begging bowl as he traveled, with those who passed giving him food and goods so that he could continue to spread his teachings.

Almost 2,500 years later, the Buddha’s lessons of kindness, giving, and gaining merit continue to have a profound influence on the actions and culture of people throughout Southeast Asia.

Photos From Our Travelers

On location in Asia

Here’s how OAT travelers have captured moments of discovery, beauty, friendship, and fun on previous departures of our Ancient Kingdoms: Thailand, Laos, Vietnam & Cambodia adventure. We hope these will evoke special travel memories and inspire you to submit your own favorite OAT trip photos.


A mother poles her floating convenience store on Lake Tonle Sap, near Siem Reap, Cambodia, while keeping watch on her daughter. Cyril Harvey, a 22-time traveler from Greensboro, North Carolina, captured the moment.

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How to submit your photos:

Please submit individual photos in jpeg format to:

Please be sure to include the name of your OAT adventure, along with the travel dates. Tell us where you took the photo and, if you’d like, tell us why. And don’t forget to include your name and contact information.

Please note: By submitting a photo, you (i) represent and warrant that the photo is your original work created solely by yourself and does not infringe the intellectual property rights of any party; (ii) grant to Grand Circle LLC and its affiliates a worldwide, royalty-free, perpetual, transferable, irrevocable, non-exclusive and fully sublicensable right and license to use, in any and all related media whether now known or hereafter devised, in perpetuity, anywhere in the world, with the right to make any and all commercial or other uses thereof, including without limitation, reproducing, editing, modifying, adapting, publishing, displaying publicly, creating derivative works from, incorporating into other works or modifying the photo and (iii) hereby release and discharge Grand Circle LLC and its affiliates, officers and employees from and against any and all claims, liabilities, costs, damages and expenses of any kind arising out of or relating to the use by Grand Circle LLC of any photo submitted.