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The Leader in Small Groups on the Road Less Traveled
Never more than 10-16 travelers—guaranteed!

2017 Ancient Kingdoms: Thailand, Laos, Cambodia & Vietnam

Bangkok • Luang Prabang • Mekong River Cruise • Vientiane • Phnom Penh • Angkor Wat • Ho Chi Minh City (Saigon)

92% Traveler Excellence Rating Read reviews

20 Days from only $4495 including international airfare

©2013 The New York Times
36 Hours in Bangkok

Dive into the vibrant culture of Bangkok by experiencing its nightlife, exploring its markets, and more.

Courtesy of Janis Brod
People of South East Asia

Witness the essence of Southeast Asia, reflected through the eyes of its people, in this short film featuring locals from all walks of life.

Courtesy Dillon Seitchik-Reardon, Scruffalo
Made in Myanmar

Dive into daily life in Burma—a destination you can visit on our pre-trip extension.

Courtesy BBC.com Travel
Going Local: Bangkok

Let Bangkok locals show you around the city of temples, tuk-tuks, and temptations.

Courtesy of Epicurious
How to Make Vietnamese Pho Bo

Feed your wanderlust with this simple recipe for Vietnamese beef noodle soup, or Pho Bo. Download Recipe

FROM
$4495
20 DAYS
$225/DAY
including international airfare
18 DAYS FROM $2795 Land Adventure Only
  • 3 nights from only $695
    Single Supplement: FREE
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Find the Adventure That’s Right for You

Our Activity Level rating system ranks adventures on a scale of 1 to 5 to help you determine if a trip is right for you. See the descriptions below for more information about the physical requirements associated with each rating.

Activity Level 1:

1 2 3 4 5

Easy

Travelers should be able to climb 25 stairs consecutively, plus walk at least 1-2 miles over some uneven surfaces without difficulty. Walks typically last at least 1-2 hours at a time. Altitude can range from zero to 5,000 feet.

Activity Level 2:

1 2 3 4 5

Moderately Easy

Travelers should be able to climb 40 stairs consecutively, plus walk at least 2-3 miles over some uneven surfaces without difficulty. Walks typically last for at least 2-3 hours at a time. Altitude can range from zero to 5,000 feet.

Activity Level 3:

1 2 3 4 5

Moderate

Travelers should be able to climb 60 stairs consecutively, plus walk at least 3 miles over some steep slopes and loose or uneven surfaces without difficulty. Walks typically last for 3 or more hours at a time. Altitude can range from 5,000 to 7,000 feet.

Activity Level 4:

1 2 3 4 5

Moderately Strenuous

Travelers should be able to climb 80 stairs consecutively, plus walk at least 4 miles over some steep slopes and loose or uneven surfaces without difficulty. Walks typically last for 4 or more hours at a time. Altitude can range from 7,000 to 9,000 feet.

Activity Level 5:

1 2 3 4 5

Strenuous

Travelers should be able to climb 100 or more stairs consecutively, plus walk at least 8 miles over some steep slopes and loose or uneven surfaces without difficulty. Walks typically last for 4 or more hours at a time. Altitude can range from 10,000 feet or more.

Itinerary Overview

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.

Make It Your Adventure

Personalize your trip to meet your individual needs, from preferred flights and air routing, to “breaking away” to spend more time in a destination.

  • O.A.T’s team of Adventure Specialists makes every effort to provide you with non-stop flights and acceptable connection times to and from your destination. You also have several other options for personalizing your air itinerary, which include:

    • Choose your departure city and airline: We list the most popular gateway cities on our website, but not all of them. If you don’t see yours listed, or there’s one that better suits your needs, let us know. You can also tell us if you have an airline preference and we will try to accommodation your request.
    • Depart from one city and return from another: Just because your flight leaves from one city doesn’t mean you have to return there. Maybe you flew out of Boston and wish to visit friends in Los Angeles after your trip is over. Tell us where you want to go and we’ll do our best to get you there.
    • Fly the way you want to: We’ll gladly arrange a flight upgrade to business or premium economy class if it’s available. And when you fly economy class, we’ll do our best to see that you get your choice of seating preference or even add a special meal request if you have dietary restrictions or needs.
  • Beginning with September 2017 departures, you can break up your lengthy flight to Bangkok, Thailand, and take time to relax, refresh, and add another stamp to your passport with a visit to Hong Kong before your main adventure—or before your pre-trip extension in Burma. An O.A.T. representative will meet you at the airport in Hong Kong and assist with your transfer into the city for three nights in a centrally-located hotel—the rest is up to you!

    From perusing alleyway temples and charming teahouses, to relaxing in the turquoise waters and secluded beaches of Hong Kong’s lush “back garden,” you’ll enjoy the vast spectrum of adventure and tradition that make this city iconic among world travelers. This Hong Kong Stopover includes three nights at the OZO Wesley Hotel (or similar), daily breakfasts, and roundtrip airport transfers. Single Supplements is FREE.

    Suggested Activities in Hong Kong

    • Witness sparkling views of Hong Kong’s iconic skyline from the water on the ferry ride to Kowloon Island, then peruse the old teahouses of Kowloon’s Shanghai Street, one of the city’s most charming thoroughfares
    • Go back in time with the most powerful of Hong Kong’s Five Clans, the Tangs, during a stroll on the Ping Shan Heritage Trail, where you’ll explore their magnificent ancestral hall and the city’s oldest pagoda
    • See Hong Kong from above at the Po Lin Monastery and its giant Tian Tan Buddha, perched on a rugged mountaintop across the harbor and reached by a stunning cable-car ride
    • Experience Macau, just an hour from Hong Kong by boat, where you can explore cobbled streets and colonial mansions, ancient Chinese temples, and some of the world’s largest casinos for a change of pace
    • Gaze on the world’s oldest teapot at Flagstaff House, a former British colonial residence, then enjoy an authentic Cantonese tea service among the genteel décor of a traditional tea house next door
  • You can extend your time abroad and "break away" anywhere you'd like to do more exploring on your own. Stay for a day, a week, or even a month in a favorite locale. Or consider arriving a few days early in Bangkok, Thailand for a fresh start. Our Adventure Specialists can provide you with information on the accommodations we will use at the beginning of your trip so that you can make your own arrangements. That way, you'll know that you will be exactly where you need to be to meet your group.

  • Many of our travelers choose to take another trip directly after their first one ends. Think about it: If you’re already overseas, why not see more of the region and avoid the expense and length of another international flight? Many of our travelers have taken two or three consecutive trips before returning home. One of the most common adventures combined with Ancient Kingdoms: Thailand, Laos, Vietnam & Cambodia is Burma: Land of Golden Temples & Floating Gardens. And now you’ll save an additional $250-$350 per person when you reserve two trips right after one another.

  • Many O.A.T. travelers simply don’t want their trips to end. With an array of pre- and post-trip extensions to choose from, you have the chance to experience more of the places you’ve traveled so far to see. For example, the extensions on this trip are Burma & the Irrawaddy River and Undiscovered Thailand: The River Kwai, Chiang Rai & Chiang Mai. Plus, you lower your average per-day costs because you’re taking advantage of your already included international airfare.

Day-to-Day Itinerary

  • 3 nights from only $695

    Break up your lengthy flight to Bangkok, Thailand, with a 3-night Stopover in Hong Kong before your main adventure or before your pre-trip extension to Burma. An O.A.T. representative will meet you at the airport and assist with your included transfer into the city for three nights in a centrally-located hotel—the rest is up to you! Take advantage of this opportunity to relax, refresh, and explore the vibrant, sparkling skyline, mountainous nature reserves, and legendary varied cuisine of Hong Kong. Breakfasts and roundtrip airport transfer are also included. Single Supplement is FREE.

    Looking for ways to fill your free time in Hong Kong? Check out some of our suggestions.

    Learn More
  • 7 nights from only $1995

    Burma, currently known as Myanmar, is a forest-clad country of mountain ranges and river systems, with an abundance of golden pagodas. After a period of isolation, it has again opened itself to visitors, while remaining one of the least Western-influenced countries in Southeast Asia. Travel to Burma to experience Asia as it once was.

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

  • You will be met by your O.A.T. 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.

  • Discover the Old Kingdom of Siam on a tour of Bangkok

    After breakfast, we visit the ancient city of Ayutthaya, located about 50 miles north of Bangkok. 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 Chaiwatthanaram, a crumbling monastery from the seventeenth century. We’ll have lunch at a local restaurant before continuing 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 return to Bangkok by late-afternoon and have dinner at a local restaurant this evening.

  • Explore the UNESCO World Heritage Site Ayutthaya and Ancient Siam

    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.

    Later this morning, we’ll ride a boat down the iconic Chaophraya River and Bangkok Noi Canal.  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.

  • Enjoy a day in Bangkok for independent discoveries or join our optional Floating Market & Mangrove Adventure excursion, which begins in Ratchaburi at the colorful Damnoen Saduak floating market, where we enjoy a paddle-boat ride along the canal and a walking tour of the 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.

  • 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, this is one of the quaintest towns in Southeast Asia.

    Upon arrival in Luang Prabang, we'll take a short bus ride and since large coaches aren't allowed in the inner city, we'll then use tuk-tuks, the local mode of transport, and  enjoy an included lunch along the peaceful banks of the Khan River.  After lunch, we'll check into our hotel and 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. It will be like a journey into the distant past as we 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 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.

  • A Day in the Life

    Get a window into the lives of members of a Hmong community in their village.

    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 community-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 community-hosted lunch which we help to prepare.

    We return to Luang Prabang, where you may spend the rest of the day at leisure. Dinner is on your own this evening.

  • We start our day 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, where we'll visit royal temple Wat Xieng Thong, the city's oldest. Dinner will be at a local restaurant this evening.

  • 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.

  • See the Cu Chi Tunnels used in the Vietnam War

    We have breakfast at our hotel and then set out to explore some of the famous city landmarks of Vientiane. Pronounced “Vieng Chan,” the capital of Laos is a slow-paced, friendly city of some 600,000 people. First, we'll visit 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'll have lunch together at a local restaurant, and then you are free to spend the afternoon exploring Vientiane at your own pace. Late this afternoon, we'll gather to meet a local monk and learn how to meditate.

    Dinner is on your own this evening.

    • 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.

    • Meals included:
    • Accommodations:

    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.

  • 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 around midday, stroll around the Royal Garden, and then have lunch at a local restaurant. This afternoon, we'll delve into the region's rich and fascinating past at the Angkor National Museum. Afterwards, we'll have some time to relax at our hotel before gathering for a walk around town and dinner at a local restaurant.

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

    This morning, we'll leave the hustle and bustle of Siem Reap behind as we head to Tonle Sap Lake, an enormous freshwater lake that grows and shrinks from season to season. We'll ride along the lakeside on a buffalo-drawn cart, and then get into boats to cruise among the lake's floating villages. We'll have lunch at a nearby restaurant, and then return to 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 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.

  • 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.

  • My City: Ho Chi Minh City

    Get a local’s perspective on Ho Chi Minh City, the "powerhouse" of Vietnam.

    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.

  • See the Cu Chi Tunnels used in the Vietnam War

    This morning we'll set off on a tour of Ho Chi Minh City, getting the chance to explore sites like the Presidential Palace, the former office and residence of South Vietnam's president during the Vietnam War.

    After lunch at a local restaurant, you can spend the balance of your day at leisure. Or you may wish to join our optional tour, which starts with a traditional puppet show and is followed by a cyclo-rickshaw ride through the city, drinks at a beer garden, and dinner at a local street kitchen.

  • 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. Dinner is on your own this evening.

  • 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. The remainder of the afternoon will be yours to make your own discoveries.

    Tonight, we'll gather for a Farewell Dinner at a local restaurant.

    • 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.

  • POST-TRIP EXTENSION:
    Undiscovered Thailand: The River Kwai, Chiang Rai & Chiang Mai

    8 nights from only $1295

    Discover the World War II legacy of the infamous Bridge on the River Kwai before exploring the lush, temple-strewn hills of northern Thailand, home to some of Southeast Asia’s most colorful and fascinating cultures. In Chiang Rai, we’ll set out into the mountains and meet local hill tribes that have called the forests home for generations. In canal-laced Chiang Mai, explore temples as old as the city itself and venture outside the city on unforgettable elephant and raft excursions.

    View Extension Itinerary

Click below to read our Travel Planning Guide on Ancient Kingdoms: Thailand, Laos, Cambodia & Vietnam

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