Great wonders of the world formed by both nature and lost empires grace Indochina’s unique diversity of geography – mighty rivers spill down into bright-green delta flood plains and feed dense jungles. This comprehensive fly-tour showcases everything from the towering sun-drenched pillars of Ha Long Bay to the mist-shrouded temples of Angkor and Vietnam’s 15th-century port towns on overnight cruises, cyclo rides, trips in traditional boats and even cooking courses and lantern making workshops. You’ll also take in its world-famous cities; there’s Hanoi’s twisting colonialism, Ho Chi Minh City’s skyscraping enthusiasm and palatial Phnom Penh’s gilded sights. Along the way, guided tours will bring it all to life as you stay in some of the region’s finest accommodation, from ultra-luxury beach-side villas to colonial estates where entire countries were ruled over.
Begin in style with a private chauffeur transfer to the airport and premium-lounge access before your overnight flight.
With its myriad of gilded temples and serene riverside setting, Luang Prabang is an idyllic start. Staying in the French-colonial buildings that formed the old governor’s residence, you’ll be welcomed with a traditional Baci ceremony and introduced to the region’s fragrant flavours on an included dinner and lunch. In between, you’ll explore its golden, hilltop temples, tour bright-green rice paddies and visit the Kuang Si Falls where perfectly turquoise waters tumble in dramatic tiers and a sanctuary hosts Asiatic black bears.
Stay: Sofitel Luang Prabang
On your last day in Luang Prabang, you’ll wake at dawn to witness the city’s famous Tak Bat ritual, where hundreds of saffron-robed monks move silently through the streets to collect alms. Then, after a market visit, cruise along the Mekong passing riverside villages, local fishermen and mountains thick with forests to reach Pak Ou – a collection of waterside caves filled with Buddhas. On your return, you’ll gain an insight into rural Laotian life with a visit to a weaving village before capping your stay with a sunset cocktail on the Mekong’s banks.
Stay: Sofitel Luang Prabang
Your first flight hop will bring you east to the Vietnamese capital. You’ll stay in its historic French Quarter, the luxury of your neoclassic hotel exemplifying the best of the city’s colonial architecture. Discover the foundations of modern Vietnam with a visit to Ho Chi Minh’s stilted house, his mausoleum and the ornate Presidential Palace before an indulgent local lunch and trip to the garden-lined Temple of Literature, a Confucianist temple once Vietnam’s first university. You’ll then experience a different side to the city’s past in the ‘Hanoi Hilton’ – a prison, now museum, which housed downed American pilots. It’s an eerie contrast to the city centre’s tranquil lakes and the fading colonial charm of the Old Quarter’s vibrant, twisting alleyways, explored on a cyclo ride.
Drive out to Halong Bay – Vietnam’s greatest natural wonder where cerulean waters are peppered with forested limestone islands. Boarding your boutique ship, you’ll be treated to marble bathrooms, Jacuzzis and private balconies – a luxurious contrast to the teak wood of its traditional junk ship aesthetic. You’ll cruise between floating villages and secluded bays, sailing in and out of hidden caves on skiffs and bamboo boats. Along the way, you’ll enjoy top-deck fine dining as you take in the spectacular scenery with welcome drinks.
Begin your day with a Tai Chi session on the sundeck before arriving at Soi Sim Island for some beach relaxation or a hike into its jungle-clad interior. Then, flying via Hanoi and Danang, you’ll head south to Hoi An, an ancient port town where Chinese temples, Japanese merchant houses and a beautiful riverside position evidence a rich trading history. Its diverse influences are perhaps best experienced with its cuisine, which you’ll sample on an included lunch and cooking course. A walking tour will then bring you through its narrow streets, discovering centuries-old residences, covered bridges and historic craft workshops. You’ll even try your hand at making the traditional paper lanterns that cast a multi-coloured glow throughout the town. Throughout, you’ll stay at the Four Seasons resort, whose beachside position hosts ultra-luxury villas and preserved temples alike.
Fly south to Vietnam’s largest city to discover old Saigon in its beautiful French-colonial architecture – your hotel is a luxurious example. You’ll then experience its more recent past in the imposing former US embassy, the chilling War Remnants Museum and the Reunification Palace whose control-centre basement and grand, Art Deco rooms tell a country-defining history. On your second day here, turn out into the city’s rural surrounds. Fed by the Mekong’s delta, lush rice paddies and fertile fruit farms characterise your wooden boat rides and cycle trips down narrow village lanes. Taste your way through orchards, stop at cottage industries, enjoy a home-hosted lunch and be paddled down tropical canals in a traditional sampan boat.
Take a speedboat to dip down into the jungle-cloaked Cu Chi Tunnels – a mazing network that extends across three levels and 250km. It’s a chance to step back in time to the Vietnam War’s bloody Tet Offensive. Your next flight will bring you to the Cambodian capital – Phnom Penh – where a pair of dinners and the Art Deco elegance of your hotel will introduce you to the city’s contrasting influences. The next day, take in the skyward curves of its golden Royal Palace and Silver Pagoda along with the superb National Museum before turning to the country’s more chequered past. Pol Pot’s murderous regime is brought to life by an excellent guided tour of the Killing Fields and Tuol Sleng – a high school turned executioner’s prison.
Your last flight hop will bring you to Siem Reap and your luxurious accommodation, the contemporary Park Hyatt – sited at the town’s most prestigious address. It’s also the gateway to the Cambodia’s Angkor Wat world wonder. Hidden among the country’s northern jungles, it’s a complex of giant temple colossi that form the remnants of a forgotten civilisation. You’ll start with a tour of its eponymous centre, with your guide leading you down twisting corridors and hidden chambers lined with bas-reliefs to reach a spectacular sunset viewpoint. You’ll return the next day for a sunrise breakfast with a view before taking in outlying temples, some overrun with tree roots, others watched over by giant, smiling faces and all enveloped in thick, misty forests.
Transfer to the airport for your overnight flight home, where a private chauffeur will be waiting to see you to your door.
"This itinerary includes the best sights of each country and if you're planning one trip to Indochina then this is it. You’ll see a great deal, have time to explore and all in a way which means you get a true feel for the history and culture of the places you visit. Whether it’s rising at dawn to hand alms to saffron-clad monks in the charming city of Luang Prabang, exploring the atmospheric streets of Hanoi’s Old Quarter by cyclo or standing amongst the crumbling, ancient temples of Angkor Wat as the sun rises, it's all here."
Low Season from: £5,900 pp
High Season from: £6,900 pp
Return UK airport chauffeur service, return flights with Vietnam Airlines, domestic flights, private transfers, 14 nights accommodation, 1 night cruise, touring and meals as indicated
Upgrade to Premium Economy from: £600 pp
Upgrade to Business Class from: £1,200 pp