Laos / Vietnam



Jan.15-30, 2016

The neighboring Buddhist countries, Laos, Vietnam, and Cambodia also share a wealth of ancient sites, lush locales abounding with tropical flora and fauna, national parks sheltering endangered species, stunning traditional and French Colonial architecture all packaged with Asian graciousness. In this unique blend of temples, touring, arts and crafts, you will have an experience few travelers have encountered.

Art and Cultural tour to Laos & Vietnam

Vietnam, a fascinating sliver of a nation enjoys a rich and varied history, stunning art and architecture, a justly famed cuisine and a wide-range of high-quality fabrics and crafts. Our trip is designed to expose you to the best of these elements in the comfort of elegantly designed boutique hotels and with a pace that is never harried.

Begin your trip in the bustling city of Hanoi--a hodgepodge of wide tree-lined boulevards, expansive lakes, remodeled French colonial palaces and villas, tranquil Buddhist temples and traditional Chinese-inspired architecture. We will explore the Old Quarter of Hanoi with our local guide. Each street in this area is named after the crafts that were practiced there, and to this day, still are. You will visit streets where the artisans both sell and make shoes, silk, lacquer, headstones, tin products, towels, fragrant herbs, lanterns, Buddhist statues and alters, and more. You will see a performance of the famed water puppets, visit all the most important sites and museums, and be informed by an esteemed local scholar. You will also experience the essence of Northern Vietnamese cuisine in lovely settings.

From Hanoi we travel to tranquil and placid HaLong Bay, and take off for 24 hours on the gorgeous bay of granite outcrops. We travel with one of the best quality boats on the Bay, a wooden vessel modeled on the old Vietnamese court sailing vessels. Your cozy cabin is equipped with private shower, twin beds, fans and air conditioning (which will not be needed). All our meals, usually based on fresh sea food are provided. You will motor around unbelievable land and seascapes, and hop into motor boats to see it up close. You dock for the night in a lagoon completely ringed by sheer mountains with trees eking out a living on hanker chief-sized ledges and explore wondrous caves. Magical!

Our next visit is the Imperial City of Hue, halfway down the country. Here we will visit the lavish Forbidden City of the last Emperor, visit the museum where the treasures from his palace are stored, and visit two imperial tombs from the 19th century--huge complexes with lakes, bridges, temples, sepulchers, theaters and living quarters. During our stay in Hue we will also visit some important Buddhist temples, including the monastery of the famed monk Tich Nach Han.

Our final destination is an easy drive made overland via Danang, to Hoi An in Central Vietnam,designated a World Heritage Site primarily because it somehow managed to preserve its charming old town, reminiscent of 100 years ago. A river trading post only 4 kilometers from the ocean, Hoi An was once a thriving port with a large Chinese and Japanese population. Their influences on the architecture are stunning. Most of the buildings are two-story, with wooden balconies on the second. The interiors are made with dark wood, Chinese inspired furniture, Japanese inspired interior architecture, and Vietnamese floor-plans. The latter usually means a courtyard in the center and rooms opening off, for the maximum indoor-outdoor living.

There is an elegant Japanese bridge spanning a little tributary, but the Buddhist temples are the true hearts of the community and still look as they did when they were built. We will make this charming town our base for five nights, while we enjoy performances, take a cooking class, learn about local arts and crafts, and see all the most important sites in the outlying areas, with plenty of time to wander the old town, exploring the many houses, community centers and temples that are open to the public.

Laos, the sleepy little sister of Vietnam, is a landlocked country a quarter of the size of its neighbor, but sharing much of its history. Sparsely populated and heavily forested, the northern, mountainous area hosts farming communities of hill tribes, who also maintain homes along the Mekong and Nam Than rivers. The south is flat and more industrial. A poor country who only recently opened to tourism, it has the dubious distinction of being the most heavily bombed country in the world, thanks to the US government policies during the Vietnam war. The capitol city of Vientiane, and the smaller town of Luang Prabang, host numerous beautiful old French colonial mansions and monuments, in the process of being restored. Luang Prabang, arguably the most beautiful town in SE Asia, has such an abundance of architectural treasures the entire town has been declared a world heritage site by UNESCO. A fitting locale in which to end our journey.

Luang Prabang sits in the mountains in the north, just a short fight from Vientiane. The town is framed by two rivers, and hosts thirty two temples. The number corresponds to the rather large monastic population. Every morning at 6:00 they begin a walk around town from their respective temples, alms bowls swinging open to receive sticky rice, money, and whatever the local women have cooked for them. The completely silent procession of saffron robes and women sitting on the sidewalk giving merit is breathtaking.

During our five-night stay in this unique locale, we will explore the stunning local architecture, visit the old palace and museums, tour the vast array of tranquil temples, visit artists and crafts people, and view performances of traditional dance and music. You will explore the countryside, enjoying a beautiful short trek to the gorgeous Kuangsi waterfall, visit local villages, and take an excursion by boat up the Nam Ou river to the Tamting cave, housing thousands of Buddha's brought by devotees.

If shopping is your cup of tea, all our destinations are shoppers paradises, and in SE Asia, your money goes a long way. Hanoi is teeming with artists and galleries--an astonishing number of painters, as well as artisans and crafts people. Our time there will give you an overview of quality and what is available. While visiting HaLong Bay you will have an opportunity to purchase and array of beautiful pearls farmed by the locals. Hoi An is known for its speedy tailors, with uncanny ability to copy photographs of the clothes you want and also produce some pretty amazing silk. There are also some cobblers who hand-make made-to-order shoes in a variety of styles. Hue has a little bit of everything, and is a good place for last minute gifts. Laos produces the most beautiful and reasonably priced textile weaving and needlework in Asia, and is also noted for wonderful silver work: jewelry, statues and plate ware.

Laos art Culture

Referrals from Former Trip Members:

“I thought both guides were terrific; I really appreciated the depth of each of their knowledge and availability, the differences in their personalities, and their assistance at the times we needed it. I really enjoyed everywhere in Vietnam we visited and can't think of anywhere we went that I would have left off the itinerary or anything I wished we'd seen that we didn't. Highlights for me were Halong Bay, meeting with the professor in Hanoi, watching the inauguration in Hoi An, the Ho Chi Minh Mausoleum, the performance at the Citadel in Hue, etc. Thanks again for everything.”
Ruby Grad, Portland OR Laos and Vietnam

“Judy & Surya’s trips are always fun,exciting and full of personal highlights & moments. It is their personal touch make the journeys so special and memorable. Many Many happy memories thanks to you” Susan Reid, Laos and Vietnam, “I so appreciate the aesthetics and values you bring to your trip plans. further understanding permeates identification & the people & their humanity promotes compassion and is a step toward building a more cooperative world of peace. Thanks so much. You two are an inspiring combination.”
Barbara Drinka, Portland OR

“We've been home a week and are finally back to "normal". Travel is harder than one would guess.
We feel so fortunate to have been included in this trip. Our group was wonderful, including you.
We appreciated the thought and planning you obviously put into this tour. Our experience was richer than we could have imagined.
Everything you had a hand in exceeded our expectations.”
Bert & Shauna Moulton,

“Fantastic Trip! I love the choices you both made for activities, restaurants, accommodations--always comfortable and interesting. I felt well taken care of.”
Genevra Drinka, Portland OR Laos/Vietnam 2009

“I liked the variety of excursions: dances, music, boat rides, cyclo rides, puppet shows. Enjoyed the choices of accommodations and liked the variety very much--well done to get us places of character/history when possible with good locations for walking into & around town.”
Mary Schafer, McMinnville OR

“The trip to Vietnam, Laos and Cambodia was absolutely spectacular--I've told many friends and hope you'll notify me of future trips which we might be interested in. I  was so grateful you employed such knowledgeable and pleasant guides.  I asked so many questions and they were  never put off by them. I thought the tour was very well paced. Many thanks again for all your careful planning.”
Jean Jakes, Fairax VA.


Itinerary Jan. 14,-30 2016

Day 1 Thur. Jan. 14: (All meals) Depart the USA from New York, LA or San Francisco aboard Tai Pei-based Eva Airways. Cross International dateline and lose one day, which is made up on your return.

Day 2 Fri. Jan. 15: Arrival at Hanoi (D) Arriving at midday at Noi Bai airport in Hanoi, you’ll be met and driven to your hotel. You’ll have time to relax after your journey before a ‘Welcome Dinner” at a restaurant in a restored French colonial building. In the evening, you’ll have tickets for a performance of traditional Water Puppetry, an art form unique to northern Vietnam, and a good, lighthearted introduction to its rural culture. You’ll spend the night in Hanoi.

Day 3 Sat. Jan. 16: Hanoi (B)  You’ll have the entire day to explore Vietnam’s capital city. You’ll begin our day with the visit to Ho Chi Minh’s impressive Mausoleum and the creative and adventurous museum next door which documents his life. After lunch  you’ll also explore the excellent Ethnology Museum for an overview of Vietnam's 54 distinct ethnic groups.

Day 4 Sun. Jan.17: Hanoi (B)
The day begins with a visit to the  Hanoi’s  Fine Arts Museum. After lunch we tour the Old Town, visiting some traditional houses and cyclo’s through the old town to the Big Market. You’ll also visit the Temple of Literature, dating to the 11th century, and fine piece of architecture itself.

Day 5 Mon. Jan. 18: Hanoi/Ha Long (B, L, D)  After an early breakfast, you’ll leave for Ha Long Bay, one of the most spectacular UNESCO World Heritage Areas and the world’s largest marine limestone ‘karst’ landscape. There you’ll board your boat, a wooden junk built from the model of the old Vietnamese court vessels with sails, a wide transom and rectangular superstructure, that will take you first to the busy World Heritage area and then to some of the less well-known grottoes and a spectacular Sung Sot cave. Weather permitting, you’ll be able to swim, fish, climb a hill (not a mountain!) for an overview of the Bay’s remarkable seascape. All your meals will be provided on board, usually based on fresh seafood, and you’ll sleep in a twin cabin with an private toilet and shower.

Day 6 Tues. Jan. 19: Hue (B, L)  You’ll spend the morning cruising Ha Long Bay, and venture into some of the sea level caves in a small sampan. Enjoy lunch just before docking around noon. Back in Hanoi we have free time before going to Hanoi Airport for our  flight to Hue, where we are met by our local guide for central Vietnam, and check into our hotel for the evening.

Day 7 Wed. Jan. 20: Hue (B)
After breakfast, an all day tour of Hue. First you’ll visit the Imperial Citadel of Hue, where we will enjoy a performance of dance, music and theatre followed by a visit to the nearby Antiquity Museum. In the afternoon we visit Thien Mu, a tranquil pagoda in the banks of the Perfume River Pagoda, and then visit Emperor Tu Duc’s elaborate Tomb and also Minh Mang (1841). Our final stop is a visit to the monastery of Vietnams most famous living icon, the Buddhist monk Thich Nhat Han.

Day 8 Thur. Jan. 21: Hoi An (B, L)   After breakfast, you’ll be met by our guide and driven to Hoi An via the Hai Van Pass. In Danang we stop for lunch, and also tour the Champa museum there, where statues from My Song are housed. After a stop at a local coffee shop for a taste of “Weasel Coffee,” travel on to Hoi An, a world Heritage site and An ancient trading port, once the largest in Indochina. Hoi An was a meeting point for many cultures that left their mark in the different architectural features of its wooden buildings.
 The original traditional street pattern still exists, as does the quay that once welcomed ships from all over East Asia and beyond. Many remained there for months at a time, waiting for favorable trade winds to carry them home. You’ll have a guided walking tour of Old Hoi An, including homes, temples, market, neighborhood associations and workshops.

Day 9 Fri. Jan. 22: Hoi An (B, L) This morning you will enjoy a half-day gourmet cooking class, beginning with purchasing ingredients at  the local market,  culminating in a 5 course lunch. After lunch you have a class in making traditional silk lanterns.

Day 10  Sat. Jan. 23: Hoi An (B)
  Early morning visit to the Ancient House for which our hotel is named, and the noodle production kitchen that supplies most of the towns kitchens.  After breakfast,  our day begins with a concert by  the local dance and music company  in Hoi An. Afternoon  free to shop or continue to explore the ancient pagodas, temples and houses of Hoi An.

Day 11 Mon.  Jan. 24:  Hoi An//My Son/Hoi An (B)
  Early morning departure to visit the World Heritage My Son Sanctuary, once the  spiritual capital of the Cham Kingdom that dominated SE Asia for nearly a thousand years. Its remarkable brick towers were badly bombed, but are still impressive, as is its remote valley setting in a quiet, richly forested area, bisected by a clear stream. Onsite performance by Champa ethnic dancers. You’ll be free in the afternoon.

Day 12 Tues. Jan. 25:  Hoi An/ Danang/Hanoi/Luang Prabang (B)
Check out and proceed to the airport for our connecting  flight to  Luang Prabang, Laos, a  beautiful French-Colonial style World Heritage town registered by UNESCO. Check into our hotel in the ancient capital of the Lao kingdom, beautifully situated between two rivers, and surrounded by forest enshrined hills. Here time appears to have stood still, giving the visitor an vision of the old Asia. Evening meal at one of Luang Prabang’s famed restaurants

Day 13  Wed. Jan. 26: (B) Luang Prabang Breakfast and then we scale the Phousi mountain, climbing 238 steps, and providing an overview of Luang Prabang town. On our decent, visit the the National Museum housed in the former Royal Palace next door. The collection of  sovereign artifacts and treasures reflect the richness of the Lao throne from the early Kings to last sovereign. After lunch, we visit a silversmith, then travel a short distance to a ethnic Hunan village of weavers. Evening performance of dance and music at the Royal Palace.

Day 14  Thur. Jan. 27:  Luang Prabang (B) Morning we start early--a predawn walk in the temple district to participate in the daily ceremony to earn merit by giving rice to  the monks who file down the street with their begging bowls. Return to the hotel for breakfast,  followed by a visit to the morning market to discover what the locals are buying. Then a tour of the architectural charms of the  Old Town with our guide to discover why this charming town has been declared a “living museum.” Then a visit to Wat Xieng Thong, built by the local king in 1560, and considered the most beautiful in Laos. Our tour concludes with lunch overlooking the Mekong River. Afternoon free to explore Luang Prabang.

Day 15  Fri. Jan. 28:  Luang Prabang (B)
Morning excursion by boat up the Nam Ou river, one of the most beautiful in Laos. At its juncture at the Mekong river we’ll visit the Tamting holy cave, housing thousands of Buddha's brought by devotees. Following this, we continue on to Ban Shanghai distillation village, where they produce alcohol from sticky rice. Return to Luang Prabang for lunch by the Mekong River and a free afternoon.

Day 17 Sat. Jan. 30:  Transit (B)
Depart Luang Prabang  for our connecting flight to Bangkok and your home It is also possible to add on a 5 day, four night excursion to neighboring Cambodia to view the splendors of Angkor Wat.

  •  RT Air from LAX or SFO on Eva  Air. Ground Only deduct $1400.00
  • One way domestic flight tickets in Vietnam: Hanoi/ /Hue/Danang/
    Hanoi and OW International Air Hanoi/Luang Prabang/ Bangkok
  • 1 night upscale Boat cruise on Ha Long Bay.
  • Where necessary, entry fees for all visits as mentioned in the program.
  • Private transportation by mini bus, long boat, taxis.
  • Accommodation in twin share room, with full buffet breakfast at all  3,4 & 5 star hotels.
  • 7 performances of music,dance and puppetry.
  • All programs mentioned in the itineraries, and all entrance fees and village donations. 
  • Local English speaking guide in both Laos and Vietnam, with Made Surya and Judy Slattum supplementing
  • Breakfast and other meals where mentioned.
  • Pre-departure information
  • Music workshop, cooking, lantern making, class fees

Not Included
  • Visa Fees for Vietnam and Laos
  • Meals except as specified above.
  • Drinks, gratuities and personal expenses.
  • Insurance.

Cost: $4976.00 based on two people sharing a twin or double-bedded room in three, four, & five star hotels. Single supplement $578. Final payments are due 60 days prior  to departure. A rise in fuel costs may cause airfare price to increase.
Deposits/ Penalties: A $500.00 refundable deposit reserves trip space. A penalty fee of $75.00 will be charged for all cancellations received in writing. After tickets have been issued airline penalties will occur. 50% cancellation fee 60 days prior to departure. No refunds will be made for cancellations received one month before departure. Trip cancellation insurance is strongly recommended.recommended.

Trip leaders:
Judy Slattum MFA
has been organizing and leading study tours to Bali, SE Asia,  Italy and Greece for 3 decades. She has written extensively on Balinese culture. Her book, Masks of Bali: Spirits of an Ancient Drama, is the definitive work on this topic, was featured in Time  magazine, and has sold over 17,000 copies and has recently been reprinted by Periplus Editions.
Madé Surya BS. While a graduate student in Economics at Udayana University in Bali, founded the Mountain Climbing Club, now boasting about 200 members. He has been organizing and leading study tours for 19 years and has assisted scholars and film crews in Exploring Indonesia, Cambodia, Laos, Vietnam, Greece and Italy. He has previously led many active tours, and remains a favorite guide and friend to former clients.

Airline Options: Participants may depart and return at any time. Participants are urged to sign up early and make plans regarding dates, as we are traveling during High Season. You  may wish to opt. for an upgrade to Eva Airlines “Evergreen Class.” The cabin is small and quiet, situated in the nose of the plane. The seats have a long pitch and recline with  footrest and private armrests. You get priority check-in, and a pass for the VIP lounge in Tai Pei. These seats are limited and should be reserved ASAP. Current price (1/2012) for upgrade (which may change) is  $557.00.  Contact our travel agent, Linda Schwedlock at Pacific Harbor Travel, Santa Cruz (local calls: 427-5002, or 1-800  435-9463) for further details.

Terms and Conditions: In case of unexpected situations, the tour leader reserves the right to cancel or postpone any event. Festivals and special events will be incorporated into the itinerary as optional excursions. Any one who leaves the tour at any time FOR ANY REASON is on their own. There will be no refunds for missed tour activities and no substitutions.

Accommodations: are based on double occupancy. We stay in  the best 3 and 4 star clean, comfortable locally-owned hotels with private baths, cable T-V, mini fridge, and large buffet breakfasts, some with swimming pools.

Additional Options: We are also offering a four night visit to Angkor Wat in neighboring Cambodia  which can be enjoyed at the beginning or ending of this trip. Contact us for further information.

Call toll free 888-476-0543 or email for further information.
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