Giving to
Bryn Mawr

Katharine Houghton Hepburn Center

Indochina Unveiled:

Vietnam and Laos with an Optional Extension to Cambodia

October 30 - November 14, 2009

Vietnam, Laos and Cambodia—old French Indochina—are culturally linked, yet remarkably distinct, and the amalgam offers the traveler unsurpassed richness and diversity. Each country hosts its own particular abundance of cultural treasures and natural beauty. Steeped in a history of powerful dynasties, diverse religious traditions, and political transformations, Vietnam beckons the sophisticated traveler to visit. The landscape hosts emerald green rice fields, seldom-visited hill tribes and the remnants of ancient temples. Its cities fuse French colonial architecture and ancient dynastic elements, and the cuisine is so good it's worth a trip just to try the banh khoai.

Our trip includes Laos; a country ignored by many travelers but offering so much. Laos was closed off to visitors for 20 years in the 1960s and 70s, and remains an explorer's wonderland. Its quiet ambiance and relaxed pace, its striking natural beauty, the genuine warmth of its people, and the richness of the culture tend to surprise and enchant even the most experienced traveler

In Cambodia, the vast temple ruins at Angkor evince the richness of the Khmer civilization, and constitute one of the world's greatest sights. On a par with the pyramids in Egypt or Machu Picchu in Peru as a testament to the grandeur of a continent's lost empire, they are greater than anything left to us by Greece or Rome.

Our Indochina Unveiled adventure surveys Cambodia, Vietnam and Laos' famous sights, plus its hidden jewels

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Trip Itinerary -
please click on date to see or hide details

FULL ITINERARY

Friday, Oct. 30, 2009 - Depart USA

Your Indochina journey begins with a (suggested) late evening departure from Los Angeles aboard Cathay Pacific (CX). Fly to Hong Kong, connecting to Bangkok and Luang Prabang.

Please Note: This is an early AM departure on your flight out. While this flight is scheduled to depart October 31st, it may be useful to think of it as taking off during the night of October 30th.

For frequent flyer miles and self-booking, pax will be departing Oct. 31, which is also the technical start date of the journey

Meals Provided: (Aloft)

Fly Los Angeles to Hong Kong on CX #881 (01:20 - 07:45)(+1)
NOTE: Suggested Flight Only.

Sunday, Nov. 1, 2009 - Welcome to Laos

Meals Provided: D (Aloft)
Arrive Bangkok, Thailand/Luang Prabang, Laos
Arrive Hong Kong at 7:45 AM and connect to the (suggested) Bangkok flight and Luang Prabang flight.

Fly Hong Kong to Bangkok on CX #713 (09:05 - 10:50)
Fly Bangkok to Luang Prabang on PG #945 (12:40 - 14:40)
Please Note: If you choose a different international flight which may not connect properly to Luang Prabang then Asia Transpacific can arrange overnight accommodations at the Bangkok airport hotel.

Welcome to Laos. Upon arrival, clear Immigration and Customs and meet your tour leader and/or local guide. Transfer to our group hotel for time to check into your room and lunch on your own.

The wonderful town of Luang Prabang is barely starting to wake from a long slumber after years of isolation. With its delightful mountain-encircled setting on the Mekong river, the mix of gleaming temple roofs, crumbling French provincial architecture, and multi-ethnic population the town tends to enthrall even the most jaded traveler.

This afternoon, convene for a group orientation meeting followed by a light dinner at our hotel. Then, early to bed for a well deserved sleep.

Dinner and overnight Villa Maly Luang Prabang.

Villa Maly is aptly situated in the heart of historic Luang Prabang and within walking distance from the main attractions and places of interest. The hotel itself is set amidst tranquil gardens, a true luxurious haven to unwind and relax in, with its natural surroundings.Residence of former nobility, the central building still showcases its original splendor of the 1920's, evoking a sense of the glorious French past. Having 33 exceptionally outstanding guest rooms, each is subtly created to incorporate the time-honored Laotian architecture with an essence of the Colonial past.

Monday, Nov. 2, 2009 - Luang Prabang

Meals Provided: B L D

After breakfast, explore this beautiful town on foot, visiting Wat Visounalat, known as "the Watermelon Stupa." Also visit the ornate Wat Mai, and Wat Xieng Thong, an exquisite 400 year old royal monastery complex.

After lunch at a popular restaurant, visit the National Museum, with its fascinating and unusual collection including a replica of the Prabang, a golden Buddha from Cambodia for which the town is named; lovely murals of Lao life in mosaics and in oils; as well as gifts from heads of state, including a moon rock presented in 1972 by President Richard Nixon.

At dusk, climb Phousi Hill, with its derelict anti-aircraft gun and revered shrine, to view the sunset over the Mekong and mountains beyond. Alternatively, visit the Caruso handicraft gallery for some of the finest crafts and textiles in Laos.

This evening, enjoy a traditional Baci ceremony, in which villagers tie sacred strings of friendship and good fortune around the wrists of visitors, combining Lao beliefs in Buddhism and animism (spirit worship). A classical dance performance and dinner follow the ceremony.

Overnight Villa Maly Luang Prabang.

Tuesday, Nov. 3, 2009 - Luang Prabang

Meals Provided: B L

This morning, travel up the Mekong River by motor boat to the Pak Ou Caves, a mystical pilgrimage site above the river. Through the past five centuries, kings, princes, merchants, and peasants have come here to worship, leaving behind more than 3,000 statues of the Buddha in homage!

Returning to Luang Prabang, drive through lush and hilly countryside. Visit the village of Ban Xienglek which is famous for its silk textiles and handmade mulberry paper. Lunch will be at L'Elephant Restaurant.

This afternoon, visit a tranquil hamlet inhabited by Khmu people, an ancient Mon-Khmer ethnic group whose way of life has remained largely unchanged over time. The evening is at leisure to relax, dine and explore on your own. Enjoy a stroll through the town's thriving night market which offers an excellent array of handicrafts.

Overnight Villa Maly Luang Prabang.

Wednesday, Nov. 4, 2009 - Luang Prabang/Hanoi, Vietnam

Meals Provided: B D

Early risers have the opportunity to view long lines of barefoot monks in procession through the streets at dawn.

After breakfast, reconvene for a talk on textiles and the deep rooted traditions of weaving in Laos from renowned experts at a weaving center located on the Mekong River.

Enjoy an afternoon at leisure before transferring to the airport for the flight to Hanoi.

Fly Luang Prabang to Hanoi on VN #868 (15:00 - 15:50)

Welcome to Vietnam.

Upon arrival, clear Immigration and Customs and transfer to our historic hotel in the heart of Hanoi. This evening, dinner will be at the nearby Press Club.

Overnight Sofitel Metropole Hotel.

Thursday, Nov. 5, 2009 - Hanoi, Vietnam

Meals Provided: B L D

This morning, our tour of Hanoi examines the influence of Ho Chi Minh with visits to his mausoleum and simple stilted home. Tour the Temple of Literature - a fascinating 900-year-old structure dedicated to Confucius and the site of Vietnam's first university. We also stop at the One Pillar Pagoda and the beaux-arts style Opera House.

Lunch will be at the Hoa Sua Restaurant, a training school where disadvantaged Vietnamese children and teens are educated in cooking and restaurant skills that will enable them to have successful careers in the hotel and restaurant industry.

After lunch, tour the city's Old Quarter aboard bicycle rickshaws called cyclos. In this part of town we'll find each colorful street devoted to a particular craft or ware. We'll be pedaled amongst the quaint French buildings along Shoe Street, Silk Street and Banner Street (to name just a few), ending at historic Hoan Kiem Lake, the social center of Hanoi.

The remainder of the afternoon will be open to explore the city independently. Perhaps hire a cyclo from the hotel and tour the diplomatic neighborhoods with their tree-lined avenues and grand French architecture. Wander through the maze like Old Quarter, with its variety of shops, or visit the contemporary art galleries that line nearby Hoan Kiem Lake.

Early evening, before dinner at the Indochine Restaurant, attend a water puppet performance. Water puppets are an ancient form of entertainment which enables the puppeteers to control their active marionettes by levers hidden under the water.

Overnight Sofitel Metropole Hotel - Hanoi.

Friday, Nov. 6, 2009 - Hanoi, Vietnam

Meals Provided: B L

This morning, a tour of the recently opened Ethnology Museum provides an overview of the cultural and historical heritage of Vietnam's minority ethnic groups.

Returning to the city center, tour what remains of Maison Centrale (known infamously as the 'Hanoi Hilton' by former U.S. P.O.W.s). Next, enjoy late morning tea at the gallery of an American art critic who specializes in Vietnamese contemporary art.

After lunch at Wild Rice Restaurant, make an optional visit to Craft Link, an organization that works with women's groups, including various minorities, to promote and teach traditional skills and to market their products directly.

The evening is at leisure to relax, dine and explore on your own.

Overnight Sofitel Metropole Hotel - Hanoi.

Saturday, Nov. 7, 2009 - Hué, Vietnam

Meals Provided: B D

After breakfast, transfer to the airport for our flight to Central Vietnam. Fly Hanoi to Hué on VN #245 (10:10 - 11:20)

Upon arrival in Hué, transfer to our hotel for check-in and lunch on your own. Next, travel by road to visit the Royal Tombs, with their vast impeccably-tended botanical gardens, beautiful open-air pavilions and numerous shrines. These mausoleums were designed to assure the seven Nguyen Emperors noble burials and commodious after lives.Returning to Hué by boat, visit Thien Mu Pagoda, one of Vietnam's oldest andmost famous Buddhist temples. An aged pale-blue Morris automobile sits hereas a reminder of the local monk who, in 1963, drove to Saigon and immolatedhimself to protest the anti-Buddhist laws of the Ngo Dinh Diem regime.

This evening we'll dine as we receive a lecture on UNESCO restoration efforts in Hué by a renowned Hué historian at his lovely private estate (once a royal villa for the emperor Dong Khanh's princess).

Overnight La Résidence Hotel - Hué.

Sunday, Nov. 8, 2009 - Hué/Danang/Hoi An

Meals Provided: B L D

This morning, visit the ancient Citadel and the Forbidden Purple City, once the seat of Vietnam's emperors. For this tour we'll be accompanied by the Director of the Hué Restoration Committee.

Next, drive south past fishing villages and rice fields set between the rugged Annamese mountains and the Gulf of Tonkin. Stops en route include Danang's Cham Museum, to view a collection of artifacts from the former Hindu kingdom of Champa, and a short visit to China Beach, the famed R&R site for US soldiers.

Our destination, Hoi An, was a once-flourishing port that now has the feeling of a place set back in time.After a sunset boat cruise, dine at the popular Cargo Club, before a free evening for independent exploration.

Overnight Life Resort Hoi An.

Monday, Nov. 9, 2009 - My Son/Hoi An

Meals Provided: B L

After breakfast, enjoy a walking tour which includes the Japanese covered-bridge, Phuong Huong House, and the Phuoc Kien Pagoda ¬ all fine examples of the stylistic syncretism of this vibrant community.

For cooking enthusiasts, there will be a late morning Vietnamese cooking class with one of our favorite friends in Hoi An. She will provide an introduction to traditional methods and ingredients used in Vietnamese dishes. After the class join other group members at the restaurant, The White Lantern, for lunch.

After lunch lunch, visit My Son, Vietnam's most important Cham site that was used as a political and religious capital from the 4th to the 13th century - the longest period of development of any monument in Southeast Asia. The site was devastated during the Vietnam War but almost 20 monuments were spared. This remainder of the day is at leisure to relax, dine and explore on your own. Enjoy the culinary delights of Hoi An at one of the many popular restaurants.

Overnight Life Resort Hoi An.

Tuesday, Nov. 10, 2009 - Saigon

Meals Provided: B L D

This morning, transfer to the Danang airport for the flight to Ho Chi Minh City (Saigon).

Fly Danang to Saigon on VN #321 (08:15 - 09:25)

Welcome to Saigon - the economic powerhouse of this rapidly developing country. Saigon's grand boulevards, central squares and river fronts are a marked contrast to quaint Hoi An. This is one of the new Asian boomtowns and, with 3.5 million inhabitants, it is Vietnam's largest city. There is still a lot of the old Asia, but it is changing rapidly and becoming modern quite quickly.

Today, we'll view Reunification Hall, the nerve center of the epic Vietnam War, and also see Notre Dame Cathedral and the General Post Office, designed by Gustave Eiffel. There will also be a visit to the War Remnants Museum.

Before dinner at a popular restaurant, relax at the wonderful rooftop bar at our hotel, where the U.S. Military and international press held many wartime gatherings.

Overnight
Caravelle Hotel.

Wednesday, Nov. 11, 2009 - Cu Chi/Saigon

Meals Provided: B D

Following breakfast, visit the notorious Cu Chi Tunnels. This massive underground labyrinth once stretched from Saigon to the Cambodian frontier and was an important base of operations for the Viet Cong. Descending into the tunnels, discover firsthand their harsh conditions.

After returning to Saigon, the afternoon is free to relax, lunch and explore Saigon independently. Perhaps take a walk around District One (our hotel location) which includes the Saigon River, the Petit Hotel d'Ville and the art and handicraft shops on Dong Khoi Street. Tonight, enjoy a wonderful dinner at one of Saigon's finest restaurants, The Mandarin.

Overnight Caravelle Hotel.

Thursday, Nov. 12, 2009 - Fly Home

Meals Provided: B (Aloft)

Following breakfast, say goodbye to group members traveling on to Cambodia and transfer to the airport for your flight to home.

Thursday, Nov. 12, 2009 - Angkor, Cambodia

Meals Provided: B L D

Siem Reap (Angkor), Cambodia

Following breakfast, say goodbye to group members traveling home today and transfer to the airport for the short flight to Cambodia. (Boxed lunches will be provided for our flight.) Fly Saigon to Siem Reap on VN #827 (11:15 - 12:40)

The temples of Angkor, built during the height of the Khmer civilization, represent one of humankind's most astonishing and enduring architectural achievements. At Angkor Thom highlights include the Bayon, with its mysterious towers and beautiful bas-reliefs, and the Terrace of the Elephants and the Leper King.

Late afternoon, visit the colossal temple of Angkor Wat, widely regarded as the crowning achievement in Classical Khmer art and architecture. A climb to the top of the central sanctuary reveals fine views of the temple and surrounding jungle.

Overnight Victoria Angkor Resort & Spa.

Friday, Nov. 13, 2009 - Siem Reap (Angkor)

Meals Provided:B D

Early morning, take an optional, sunrise visit to Angkor Wat. After breakfast, continue exploring the wonders of Angkor. The remarkably preserved relief carvings at Banteay Srei are among the most accomplished Angkor has to offer. Within the jungle-covered ruins of Ta Prohm, immense kapok trees grow through gray sandstone galleries and raucous, green parrots keep watch.

After lunch on your own, visit the temples of the Roulos group which served as the capital of the Khmer empire under Idravarman I, and are some of the oldest temples at Angkor dating from the 9th century. Nearby complexes include Neak Pean, Preah Kahn and Prasat Kravanh.

Finally, visit the workshop of Les Artisans D'Angkor. This is a network of Cambodian craftsmen and women sponsored by the Cambodian government and "REPLIC," a European program. The purpose is to educate young Cambodians in skills (woodcarving, stone carving, lacquerware and silk weaving) and provide them with a livelihood by marketing their products. This visit allows for an insight into present day Cambodia.

Return to our hotel for time to relax before dinner and a spectacle of Khmer classical dances at the Angkor Village Theater.

Overnight Victoria Angkor Resort & Spa.

Saturday, Nov. 14, 2009 - Angkor/Fly Home

Meals Provided: B (Aloft)

After breakfast, transfer to the airport for your (suggested) flight home.


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Cost and Program Inclusions

Main Program . . . . . . $6,750*
Single Supplement . . . . . . . $1,650
Extension to Cambodia . . . . . . . . $1,500
Single Supplement for Extension . . . . . . . . $270

*Land only

Main Tour & Cambodia Extension Price Includes:

  • Guidance of Bryn Mawr Study Leader, Kristen Kelly
  • Services of an Asia Transpacific Journeys tour leader and local English-speaking guides.
  • All internal flights (Luang Prabang to Hanoi, Vietnam; Hanoi to Hue; Danang to Saigon) for main program
  • Internal flights (Saigon to Siem Reap) for Cambodia extension
  • Double/Twin occupancy in some of the best accommodations available in each location.
  • All tours, transfers, special excursions, entry fees, and porter assistance.
  • Tips for all local personnel.
  • Meals as shown on the itinerary. Meals will be of the best quality with a variety of Western and Asian dishes. Vegetarians can be accommodated.
  • Tea, coffee and drinking water at all meals.
  • Bottled water in all vehicles.
  • Airport departure taxes.
  • Farewell dinner in Saigon for main tour
  • Farwell dinner in Angkor
  • Customized Sign Up Information and Pre-Departure Documentation.
  • $2,500 accident/sickness medical insurance policy, and a $75,000 emergency medical evacuation policy.
  • Visas for Laos, Vietnam and Cambodia
Make a Reservation

Rebecca Mazzaro, Asia Transpacific Journeys
1-800-642-2742, ext 233

rebecca@asiatranspacific.com

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Guest Lecturer - Kristin Kelly

Kristin Kelly - photo by Dennis Keeley
- photo by Dennis Keeley
Accompanying and instructing your group will be Kristin Kelly. Kristin Kelly left the J. Paul Getty Trust in 2008 after eighteen years—nine at the J. Paul Getty Museum as the Manager of Administration, and nine at the Getty Conservation Institute (GCI) in various positions responsible for public education about the conservation of cultural heritage, including serving as co-curator for Stories in Stone, a major international loan exhibition of mosaics from Tunisia. She graduated from Bryn Mawr College in 1974, and earned a Ph.D. in art history and archaeology from Columbia University. She is the author of The Extraordinary Museums of Southeast Asia (Harry N. Abrams, 2001) and has traveled to Southeast Asia to research its art, archaeology, and culture more times that she can count.

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Hotel Information

Luang Prabang, Laos - Villa Maly

Villa Maly is aptly situated in the heart of historic Luang Prabang and within walking distance from the main attractions and places of interest. The hotel itself is set amidst tranquil gardens, a true luxurious haven to unwind and relax in, with its natural surroundings. Residence of former nobility, the central building still showcases its original splendor of the 1920's, evoking a sense of the glorious French past. Having 33 exceptionally outstanding guest rooms, each is subtly created to incorporate the time-honored Laotian architecture with an essence of the Colonial past.

Hanoi, Vietnam - Sofitel Metropole Hotel

Vietnam's first five-star property, The Metropole Hanoi is an award-winning French colonial hotel in the heart of Hanoi, near Hoan Kiem Lake and the magnificent Opera House. Boasting a classical white façade, green shutters, original wrought iron detail, and a lush courtyard, the hotel is one of the region's few remaining hotels of its era. Built at the turn of the century by two private French investors, the hotel quickly became the rendezvous for colonial society in the first half of the century. Following Vietnamese independence in the 1950s, the new national government opted to maintain it as the official hotel for visiting VIPs, and during and after the war years it became a base for press and diplomats.

Hue, Vietnam - La Résidence Hotel

Ideally located opposite the Imperial Palace along the quiet banks of the Perfume River, La Résidence Hotel is built around the renovated 1910 Art Deco ŒRésidence Supérieure de L'annam', the central administrative representation of French rule in central Vietnam during the colonial era. It offers 122 rooms and suites with private balconies, air conditioning, and a full range of amenities, as well as an art gallery, the riverside RestaurantLe Parfum, the lobby bar Le Gouverneur, an outdoor swimming pool, a fitness center, and spa (with a complete range of international and Vietnamese health treatments).

Hoi An - Overnight Life Resort Hoi An

The Life Resort is a new 4-star resort in the French colonial quarter of the UNESCO world heritage town of Hoi An. The tranquil property with landscaped gardens is situated right on the river, just five minutes walking distance from the bustling market. All rooms offer a bedroom, living area and a private porch. There is also a multifunction room as well as a wellness area with a Traditional Chinese Medicine pavilion as well as a reflexology massage pavilion.

Saigon - Overnight Caravelle Hotel

The Caravelle Hotel, one of Saigon's premier hotels, is composed of two buildings, the original 10-floor Caravelle Hotel and a new 24-floor tower added in 1998. Centrally located in District One, opposite the Metropolitan Opera House, the Caravelle is right in the heart of the commercial, shopping and entertainment areas of this bustling and vibrant city. Overlooking Lam Son Square and the Opera House, the hotel's lounge is the ideal place to watch the world go by. Each room has style, function and comfort with all the modern amenities that you expect from an international hotel. The popular rooftop bar, Saigon Saigon, is one of the leading night spots in the city, offering live music and some great views of the city. This was also a popular rendezvous for the wartime press. Historical note: This hotel was once owned by the Catholic Diocese of Saigon.

Angkor, Cambodia - Victoria Angkor Resort & Spa

Within the five star Victoria Angkor Resort & Spa enjoy the comfort, elegance and superb refinement of the French Art de Vivre in the heart of Siem Reap. The building's graceful colonial architecture of the 1930's provides a sense of peaceful tranquility. The Hotel has been designed to be in total harmony with its natural surroundings and is enchantingly situated in the heart of Siem Reap, opposite the Royal Park. The Hotel is located within close proximity to World Heritage listed Angkor Temples, the quaint old market town of Siem Reap and the airport.

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