|Cambodia, Laos, Thailand, Vietnam|
One of our biggest and best. Log out, switch off and unplug because the only project you’ll be working on for the next few weeks is your tan. (Was Thai Indochina Loop)
Meals included: 1 breakfast
Let your local tour guide show your around their home town. Don’t miss Grand Palace, Emerald Buddha and Wat Pho. Rest up on your overnight train journey to Chiang Mai.
You’ll come for the 120 temples but you’ll stay for the Thai massage, cooking class, night bazaar and the trek to the top of Doi Suthep.
A bus, bus, then boat takes us to our first stop in Laos. Head to a nearby village for some rice whiskey and a bowl of steamy noodles.
Take it down a notch on a slow boat on the Mekong. Meet some of the colourful Hmong people from a nearby remote hilltribe. Stay the night in a cheap and cheerful hostel.
Three whole days with no travel means you might start to get feeling back in your bum, Show everyone how good your underwater handstands are when we go for a dip in Kuang Si Falls.
Set on a bend on the Nam Song River, this chilled out town is popular for its unexplored caves, kayaking and limestone cliffs.
The Lao capital lies on the banks of the Mekong with some great cafes and bars. Explore by bike or on foot.
You’re gonna see some pretty remote country today, including Ho Chi Minh’s birthplace. Then we board the Reunification Express for our overnight trip to Hanoi. Don’t get this confused with the luxurious Orient Express!
Meals included: 2 breakfasts
Strap on your walking shoes for a locally-guided tour of the city. During your free time indulge in a local feast at KOTO restaurant, which gets kids off the street and into a career in hospitality. Tell Jimmy we sent you! *image of Jimmy Pham and the kids (with arrow pointing to Jimmy saying ‘this is Jimmy’!)
Back in the saddle as we cruise the streets on local ‘shopping’ bikes (as they’re known). Check out the Forbidden Purple Palace and some royal tombs.
Meals included: 3 breakfasts
It’ll be love at first sight in this Frenchy chic port town. Hit the beach, the shops or the pavement. Handy tip: scour the fashion mags before you arrive and come armed with ideas for the local tailors to whip you up something new.
Meals included: 1 lunch
Break out the factor 40 because we’re hitting the South China Sea. The crew will catch you a fresh seafood lunch and there's plenty of time to swim and snorkel. Then it’s another night on the train to Ho Chi Minh City.
What’s not to love about Ho Chi Minh City? Pho on every corner, Ben Thanh Market bargains and the friendliest locals you’re likely to find. Who’s game to try squeezing down into the Cu Chi Tunnels?
Meals included: 1 breakfast
It ain’t the prettiest town but all is forgiven when you tuck into your first bowl of amok – Cambodia’s national dish. Take a stroll on the palm-fringed riverfront and a sobering visit to the killing fields at Choeung Ek.
Meals included: 3 breakfasts
Angkor Wat is the obvious highlight but you’ll get a real kick out of counting the faces of Bayon and the jungle of Ta Prohm. There’s a bit of temple overload here, so take some free time to haggle for souvenirs at the market or get a pedicure from thousands of tiny fish.
Meals included: 2 breakfasts
Travel day. Yawn.
Finish things off with a bang in Bangers. Catch a Ladyboy show and the view from Sky Bar at Lebua (as seen in The Hangover). It will be hard to say goodbye to your new friends but hey, that’s what Facebook is for.
• Gecko’s expert English-speaking local tour guides throughout the tour, and local site guides at some sites.
• Sightseeing (including entrance fees where relevant): Bangkok; Vientiane; Hanoi; Vinh - the birthplace of Ho Chi Minh; Hoi An’s 'Old Town'; and the Cu Chi Tunnels.
• Slow boat trip down the Mekong River with a night in a hostel in Pakbeng and a visit to the Buddha statues at Pak Ou Caves.
• Trek to Kuang Si Falls and exploration of Vang Vieng caves.
• Bike ride around Hue and boat cruise up the Perfume River.
• Day cruise on the South China Sea in Nha Trang, with a freshly-caught seafood lunch included (non-seafood options available).
• Cyclo sightseeing tour of Phnom Penh including the Royal Palace and Tuol Sleng Prison. Visit to the Killing Fields of Choeung Ek and the Russian Market.
• Day tour of the Angkor complex including the South Gate of Angkor Thom, Bayon, Elephant Terrace, Baphoun, the Royal Enclosure, Phimeanakas, Terrace of the Leper King, Ta Prohm and Angkor Wat.
• Free time to explore Bangkok, Chiang Mai, Huay Xai, Luang Prabang, Vientiane, Hanoi, Hoi An, Nha Trang, Saigon, Phnom Penh and Siem Reap.
• Reunification Express sleeper train from Vinh to Hanoi, Hanoi to Hue and Nha Trang to Saigon.
• Trains from Bangkok to Chiang Mai and Danang to Nha Trang.
International flights, arrival and departure transfers, departure and airport taxes, visas, all other meals, all optional tours or activities during free time, transfers outside of the tour program, travel insurance, tips and items of a personal nature.
When you are taking a tour that covers 3 different countries, you will be tempted at times to draw comparisons between them. However, you will get the most of your travel experience if you try to understand and respect each culture and the people living there, regardless of whether you preferred the destination you were in previously.
There are some cultural elements that do cross over between countries in South East Asia:
· Patting someone on their head is considered extremely rude and insulting.
· Public displays of affection are not acceptable, especially kissing.
· Losing your temper or showing anger and shouting or yelling will lose respect immediately,
to remain cool, calm and collected at all times is an admired quality
· When visiting temples ensure your shoulders and knees are covered. They are places of
worship please treat them as such.
· The monarchy is held in high esteem in Thailand & Cambodia, please treat them with respect
At some of the tourist sites and in the cities it is possible you will come across beggars. This can prove an uncomfortable encounter especially for inexperienced travellers. There are many genuine beggars, however there are also those who find the lifestyle easier than working and these people often see tourists as easy prey. As a general rule, if you feel the impulse to give, you should be discreet in the giving. Never make a show of it, as you will attract a crowd, which brings with it its own set of problems. There are often charities that take care of the needy and it may be wise to give to them rather than to individuals begging.
In places you should dress conservatively to avoid attracting unwanted attention and so as not to offend the local population. This is especially applicable to women travellers. Dress rules also apply at many of the religious sites.
Local Tour Guides
By employing and training local site guides to lead our group holidays, there is a two-fold benefit. Firstly, we provide employment opportunities for the local community. Just as importantly is the benefit to you, the traveller. Your tour guide’s friendship, humour, passion and intimate knowledge of the region will be key factors in making your holiday a success.
Tipping has become an accepted part of tourism in South East Asia. Your tour guide will be able to advise you in this area; however, as a guideline we would recommend tipping 10% of the total bill in restaurants and a small tip to hotel bellboys for carrying your bags.
At you pre-tour briefing your tour guide will discuss with you the idea of running a tipping kitty, whereby everybody contributes an equal amount and then the tour guide pays the tips and keeps a record of all monies spent (except restaurant tips). The record can be checked at any time and any money remaining at the end of the tour is returned to group members. This is often the easiest way to avoid the hassles of needing small change and knowing what is an appropriate amount to tip.
It is customary to tip your tour guide, at the end of the trip, if you are happy with the service. A minimum tip of US$2 per day, from each member of the group, is the usual amount expected.
Please note that any travellers of certain nationalities (ie. Australians, Americans, Canadians, British and New Zealanders) do not normally require a visa for Thailand if flying in and staying up to 30 days. However, travellers will only get 15 days of stay if arriving without a visa at a land border checkpoint from a neighbouring country. Travellers arriving in Thailand this way and planning to stay in the country longer than 15 days should obtain a Thai visa before they leave home. On this particular tour (Gecko's 'Thai-Indochina Loop'), travellers staying on in Thailand longer than 15 days after returning to Thailand from Cambodia will need to obtain a double entry visa to Thailand, as any single entry visa will be considered 'used' upon initial entry to Thailand.
All other nationalities should check for visa requirements with their travel agents. Please note that those nationalities requiring a visa may need to acquire one before they arrive Thailand, as a visa on arrival is not available at certain land borders.
Tet Holiday Period
Please note that Vietnam is a developing country whose infrastructure may differ from what you expect in your homeland. Be prepared for some inconveniences due to such things as restaurants or tourist sites being closed and our regular transport services not always being available, especially so during the Tet holiday period (Vietnamese New Year).
Tet (Vietnamese New Year) Is a time where most businesses will be closed as Vietnamese people usually spend this period returning to their homes and celebrating with their families. This will involve a major burden on all forms of transport, and despite booking in advance, tickets for planes and trains especially are extremely difficult to obtain. Even if bookings are obtained, transport services during this period will be overcrowded and heavy delays are to be expected, so you will need to make sure that you pack your sense of humour. In order to facilitate your travels during the Tet period, we may need to substitute your train/plane journey with a private bus trip, if required. Please check with your booking agent when Tet is this year.
Some side notes to keep in mind
This is an 'adventure' trip and we hope to expose you to all aspects of the local cultures. Please be open-minded.
For some departures the overnight train will either depart late in the afternoon or arrive into cities very early in the morning. On these occasions we will have the opportunity to store our luggage and freshen up in multi share day rooms before either we depart for the early evening overnight train journey or checking into our evening accommodation later in the day respectively. Please note if you have booked a single supplement whilst on tour, it will not apply to these day rooms.
The information provided here is given in good faith and has been compiled with all reasonable care. However, things change and some of the information may become out of date. Please ensure that you have the most up-to-date information for your trip. We recommend that you check the trip notes for your tour around one month before departure. If you have any queries, please contact your travel agent or our staff in Australia. We are here to help you!
15 November 2013