Artists are often the perfect cultural bridge, and this is especially true in Vietnam where many prominent artists have exhibited abroad, are fluent in English, while being astute observers and ambassadors of their culture. We're always thrilled to make introductions in Hanoi, where many of the country's leading artists are based, whom we've enjoyed long realtionships with since organizing the very first arts tours of Vietnam in 1996—a time when artists were only beginning to emerge from a long post-war slumber and struggling economy. What a difference a couple of decades makes. Since then, Vietnam's artists have claimed the world-stage and the arts scene is Hanoi is now one of the most vigorous in Asia. Enjoy an intimate exploration of this exotic landscape, meeting privately with the country's most renowned artists, glimpsing their work, while learning about unique mediums, including lacquer and embroidery painting. No visit to region is complete without visiting the two other gems of Indochina, Cambodia, where we'll enjoy exclusive access and activities at Angkor, and at trip's end, savoring sublime Luang Prabang, a small jewel on the banks of the Mekong river in northern Laos.
Join us for the ultimate arts tour of Vietnam, canvasing galleries and home studios of premier artsis, enjoying private encounters and witnessing their work hands-on in a variety of mediums from traditional to contemporary. From the stoic, bohemian capital of Hanoi, this journey encompasses not the only the significant places to experience arts in Vietnam, but also its most beautiful and enchanting landscapes, including Halong Bay, which has inspired gernerations of poets, the Imperial Capital, Hue, arguably the country's most attractive city, and charming Hoi An, a quant and ancient port town on Vietnam's central coast.
After Vietnam, enjoying an insider's exploration of the magnificent temples of Angkor, the incredible legacy of the Khmer empire, along with visits to local craftsman and artists. At trip's end, savor two days in sublime Luang Prabang, a UNESCO World Heritage site that is Asia's most pleasant small town situated on the banks of the Mekong in a lush valley, rich with French-colonial architecture and gilded temples.
Anthony Bourdain claims the Vietnamese "are a skinny people obssessed with food." During this trip, we will equally delve into Vietnam's culinary treasures, enjoying fine dining in each city as well as world-class street eats. Accommodations feature Indochina's finest luxury hotels, including the renowned Metropole in Hanoi.
Khac Quan was born and grew up near the renowned Bat Trang ceramic village. Quan's clay works have made a strong impression as well as his ability to control the intricate porcelain making technique as form of sculpture. With Quan people witness his modern style and sophistication interpreted using only simple soil and enamel.
Dinh Quan Dinh Quan is one Vietnam's premier artists, working on large lacquer and sculpture. His home gallery, in the heart of the bohemian enclave on the West Lake, is a fascinating visit and he is a gracious host who is fluent in English.
March 4 to 13, 2019
March 13 to 18 (ANGKOR & LAOS)
Hong Kong: City Stopover
Thailand: Koh Samui & Phuket
Phu Quoc Island Paradise: Phu Quoc
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$3,880 (ANGKOR & Laos)
Single Supplement $1,380
Lionel Descostes, an ex-pat French artist, has been taking on the Vietnamese embroidery "painting" technique (canvases appear to be in oil but up close are actually thread - sewn art work) but has reinvented it in his own way, moving it out of the realm of traditional craft and semi-artistic production onto the stage of contemporary art.
Tran Hieu is a painter, antique collector and dealer and out of many antique collectors in the capital, Tran Hieu stands out. Born and raised in a Noble family in Hanoi, he inherited a rich collection of antique dating back up to five generations. Hieu continues to trade and collect from inside as well as outside of Vietnam. The collection includes wood, lacquer Buddhas and exotic statues, ancient ceramic, stone, porcelain, bronze drums from the Dong Son civilization which date back from thousand years ago.
War veteran American Mark Rapoport left New York and settled in Hanoi in the 1990s. The long-time expat and his Vietnamese partner run 54 Traditions, a pioneering gallery that sells quality handicrafts produced by ethnic hill tribes from throughout Vietnam.
Artist Viet Thanh lived and taught fine art, including painting, sculpture, lacquer, woodblock print in Sweden, but moved back to Hanoi and is living and working from her White Lotus Villa near the West Lake bohemian enclave.
Mai Anh is a widely recognized painter whose works have been exhibited in Asia, Australia, Europe, Bermuda and the United States. Solo exhibitions include Santa Barbara, West Hollywood, and Carmel Valley. The paintings of Mai Anh are, according to Ian Findlay-Brown, Editor/Publisher of Asian Art News, "quietly emotional and determined. In her impressionistic/expressionistic oeuvre she goes her own way, mining her memories and her experience and observing the rituals and concerns of women around her."
The works of Van Duong Thanh show European influences of Impressionism, Expressionism, and semi abstract. She has combined harmoniously between these and Asian styles. She has had over fifty exhibitions around the world, including France, the U.S., Sweden, Singapore, and Germany with over 1,500 of her works in private reputable collections and art museums.
Water Puppets Theater is a fascinating, traditional performance art unique to Vietnam. We can arrange a private, hands-on performance learning the history of the art, stagecraft, and manipulation of the puppets with Master Puppeteer Mr. Phan Thanh Liem in his Hanoi studio.
Bui Mai Hien is one of a few groundbreaking Vietnamese painters (including Dinh Quan) who has taken traditional lacquer art and moved it forward into contemporary expression.
Pham Thi Kieu Phuc is a celebrated and innovative interior designer who founded Module 7. Phuc loves the silent, discreet nature of lacquer products and her designs have many origins. Some are inspired by the objects of Vietnamese everyday life; colonial hat, fish trap, buffalo, rock and trees. Others are inspired by Japanese design principles, following the Zen philosophy ‘less is more'. She especially likes bronze handmade products, as she feels that the hammers marks left in the product reveal the artisan's emotion. "If you buy a designer product, the most interesting thing is the creativity of the person who designed it" Phuc claims. More on Phuc Pham.
National Theater Troupe. Tuong was established in the 12th century and in the 17th century it was very much in vogue. The Tuong plays consist of songs and dances which are highly stylized, conventional and imbued with symbolism similar to Peking Opera. We can arrange a private visit to the beautiful theater house in the Old Quarter to meet privately with the troupe of actors in person. For families, the troupe will organize a full production with makeup, costumes and acting on the stage, a delightful experience.
Dao Anh Khanh is a surrealist painter and controversial performance artist. He moves easily between painting canvasses, acrylic and lacquer with his very own technique. He may paint himself white and dance for hours in his own highly individual style. As a performance artist, Anh Khanh has performed all over the world including New York, Europe, and throughout Asia. Khanh is an internationally recognized leader among Asian artists who are breaking away from traditional, stylistic, and political constrains.
Musician Pham Chi Khanh is a traditional instrument maker and player who has been applying his passion in traditional music for more than 30 years. In 2010, he was in top of 100 "most special people" of 1,000th anniversary of Hanoi city. Mr. Pham's daughter is a prodigy on the bluesy instrument, the Dan Bau, and will instruct you hands on if you would like.
Vietnamese calligraphy once played an important part, but is a disappearing from Vietnamese culture. Calligraphy has had a long history in Vietnam, previously using Chinese characters along with Chu Nôm. However, most modern Vietnamese calligraphy instead uses the Roman-character based Quuc Ngu, which has proven to be very popular.
In the past, with literacy in the old character-based writing systems of Vietnam being restricted to scholars and elites, calligraphy nevertheless still played an important part in Vietnamese life. On special occasions such as the Lunar New Year, people would go to the village teacher or scholar to make them a calligraphy hanging (often poetry, folk sayings or even single words). People who could not read or write also often commissioned at temple shrines. Calligraphy is still popular for sign motifs and advertising. We can arrange a workshop with a master of the art during your visit to Hanoi.
Nguyen Duc, one of the foremost living Vietnamese writers and intellectuals. Formerly a San Francisco-based host of the public radio program Pacific Time, Duc retired to Hanoi in 2007, marking this move back home with the opening of an art gallery and designing of a mountain retreat set in the mountains, which was featured in the New York Times. Duc's books include Where the Ashes Are: The Odyssey of a Vietnamese Family and Vietnam: A Traveler's Literary Companion. Duc continues to write and runs a atmospheric café in the Old Quarter which has become a gathering place for young artists and writers, one of many projects that occupy his time in the capital.
Duc contributes to the New York Times and recent articles include Whose Vietnam War? and The New Censors of Hanoi.
"Beginning in the 1980s, Vietnamese arts reached a turning point, like a tree beginning to stretch its branches toward all horizons. Today there is great interest in a number of different approaches exemplified by both mature and young artists who are creating with increasing professionalism and independence of spirit, mainly because they have begun to perceive the possibility of a life of authentic art. Vietnam is in itself, one of the most exotic and viaullay compelling destinations in the world. Join me in witnessing the ways in which this magnificent country has inspired generations of artists working in traditional forms, through turbulent periods few people's have faced, with great courage and expression into the future.""
Co-founder of Indochina Travel, Patrick lead some of the very first tours of newly-opened Vietnam in the early 1990s. He has organized the first adventure, arts and culinary trips in the region, as well as working with premier artists and chefs within the country for over twenty years.
Dates: March X to X, 2019, Angkor & Laos Extension January X to X
Group size: 10 particpants
Arrival: Noi Bai Airport, Vietnam (contact us for airline quotes and suggested routing)
January through March features the best weather overall for Indochina. Expect temperatures in the 70-80s, with minimal rainfall
View Indochina Departure Notes
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- Visas (Vietnam, Cambodia & Laos authorization)
- VIP, expedited immigration Laos, Vietnam, Cambodia (except Bangkok)
- Fully-escorted tour, with dedicated tour manager
- All transportation in itinerary
- Regional flights in economy (3)
- All meals, bottled water, and snacks
- All entry fees and activities on the Trip Itinerary
- All breakfasts, lunches, arrival and departure dinners
- Bottled water
- Comprehensive pre-tour packet
- Souvenir photo album trip book
- International Airlines (can be obtained through us)
- Laos Visa fees upon arrival (US$25-30)
- Trip Cancellation and Delay Insurance (inquire for a quote)
- Gratuties (customary)
- Alcoholic beverages, not specified
- Excess baggage fees (limit is 44 lbs.)
Note: To extend your time in Thailand, Hong Kong, or other regional destinations. Please contact us for more information.
Though it's the Vietnam War that lingers with those who know Vietnam through film, television, and personal experience, it's the French presence that strikes those who actually visit, especially in the capital city, Hanoi. There are stately French-built mansions and tree-shaded boulevards in Hanoi, art galleries in the Old Quarter selling works heavily influenced by French styles, cafés in the lake area serving French bread and drip filter coffee, and massive French villas of the embassy quarter.
The origin of some customs are French, but the interpretation is purely Vietnamese. The people still move at bicycle pace. On the streets, schoolgirls in graceful white ao dais pedal by, and women with conical hats sit on top of loads of produce, being wheeled around in bicycle-powered contraptions.
We may be biased since our headquarters has always been here, but if you can only visit one city in Vietnam, indeed Southeast Asia, it should be Hanoi. To visit Hanoi is to steep yourself in history, tradition, and legend in a capital that has been inhabited continuously for a millennium. Hanoi is cleaner, leafier, and quieter than other big cities in Vietnam — in a word, it's "cooler." There's cooler weather, more drizzle, less traffic, less hype; the streets seem quieter, with few large billboards. There's a cooler mentality here, too-prouder, more prudish. Hanoi is a magnet for intellectuals and artists, while Saigon seems to attract entrepreneurs and hustlers.
The beauty of the city's buildings is unmatched in Indochina if not Asia. Hanoi's present architecture is mainly from the 19th and 20th centuries, and the stately French-built section of town is largely intact. Hanoi street life is fascinating and in the morning, you may glimpse tai chi practitioners, martial arts exponents, badminton players, and joggers along Hoan Kiem Lake, while bicyclists wearing berets ride past with baguettes tucked into their baskets. Strolling through the old French sector, you can find a street occupied by outdoor barbers clipping their customers in front of mirrors hung off building walls. On Trang Tien Street there's a beautician at work: a woman with a flashlight mounted on her head, cleaning a customer's ears. At street corners in the Old Quarter, men with green pith helmets chat over steaming bowls of noodles. Farther along the street, women sell fresh-cut flowers from the backs of bicycles.
In 2010, Hanoi celebrated it 1,000th anniversary and there is no slowing down, the city is a lively, filled with energy that will easily catch you up in its whirl. Cars and scooters race about amid tall buildings, creating the impression that you are in the midst of a thoroughly modern capital. Then, you'll turn a corner and see a cyclo, or bicycle-powered rickshaw, resting in front of a French Colonial building next to a mule cart.
Nowhere is this juxtaposition more palpable than in the Old Quarter, in the northwest quadrant of the city off Hoan Kiem Lake. This fascinating maze of historic streets overflows with little shops selling all sorts of wares. As chaotic as it seems, there is an underlying order. In the early days, trade guilds were given control over certain streets, and only those shops dealing in affiliated goods could locate there. Thus, there is a cloth street, a bamboo street and so on. This tradition continues today, you will see in many cities a street devoted to more modern trades but still ordered by streets, including electronics and yet another to truck repair.
Halong Bay is a fascinating geological wonderland featuring nearly three thousand picturesque limestone peaks jutting up from placid waters, creating a sublime setting. Here the calm waters are wonderfully suited for easy kayaking close up to the limestone formations that offer fantasy water landscapes of exploration. The UNESCO World Heritage Site is dotted with large caves that once served as hidden bunkers for pirates, revolutionaries, and bandits that we will may explore on foot and kayak, or simply laze on deck watching the mesmerizing scenery drift by from your comfortbale mother ship.
If you want an idea of how beautiful Halong Bay is, watch the French film Indochine. Now imagine cruising or kayaking these same placid, emerald waters through caves into hidden lakes and white-sand beach coves, your small kayak gliding beneath towering limestone peaks.
There is no other place like this in the world, a cruising experience on par with the Blue Voyage along Turkey's coast. Indeed, the romantic setting of rugged island peaks and bays dotted with sailing junks has inspired a whole genre of Vietnamese painting.
With over 2,000 karst peaks tame the South China Sea, settling it into a glassy smooth surface — perfect for beginning kayakers, swimming, and of course those who are sensitive to motion.<
During the trip we dine and overnight on a clean, comfortable replica of a traditional wooden cruiser, the finest boat on Halong Bay — the Huong Hai. Private cabins have lavatories and twin beds. Spacious areas above deck and inside provide solitude when needed.
The Halong Bay boats we charter are well maintained, comfortable, with an attentive crew. In addition to the crew, you are accompanied by an experienced guide from our Hanoi office to ensure your cruise is perfect and to provide escort by kayak.
Newer boats are launched each season, often replacing some of the charter boats below. We do not recommend the larger cruise boats, such as the 36-cabin Emeraude or Halong Ginger, being also constructed of wood can be crowded and noisy not to mention cruising a rote itinerary through the bay. All charters include an option for kayaking with our experienced guide in tandem or single kayaks. On board dining is wonderful, with an array of Vietnamese, seafood and Western dishes, and any dietary requirements can be arranged, as well as special occasions celebrations, such as birthdays or anniversaries.
Hue has largely been bypassed by the wave of development that has washed over Saigon and Hanoi, remaining a pleasant outpost on the central coast. Located roughly halfway between Hanoi and Saigon, Hue is arguably (but in our opinion) Vietnam's most picturesque and pleasant city. The landscape here-with its misty Perfume River and pagodas is inspiration for poetry and painting. While Danang, only an hour to the south, succumbs to over development of industry, resorts, shipping, and into air transport gateway, Hue remains the religious and academic heart of the country.
A highlight of visiting Hue are the imperial tombs are scattered in the countryside four to eight miles south of Hue, but we will start our visit in Hue on the south bank, passing where the old French quarter was once located. The tree-lined avenues around Le Loi Boulevard are great places to appreciate the history of the city. Along the waterfront was prime French real estate: in the north, the Customs House; between the two bridges, the Circle Sportif, official residences, and colonial villas; to the south, the French-constructed railroad bridge. The tombs themselves are relatively modern but one should visit at least the most impressive pair, Khai Dinh and Tu Duc.
Truong Be, a longtime artist and gentle presence in Hue, creates modern take on lacquer painting is modern and bold. Please ask us to arrange a visit to his gallery. More about Truong Be.
Meet with talented artist Vo Xuan Huy in his private home to learn about the process and materials used into making Vietnam’s traditional lacquer paintings, an art unique to Vietnam. Also joinng the family for dinner featuring delicious traditional Hue home cooked dishes with this charming, intellectual couple and their adorable children.
Meet with archaeologist Mr. Tran Dinh Son, a leading expert and collector of ceramic wares, cooking utensils, and other relics from the fuedual dynasties dating back from over a thousand of years including the Ly Tran kingdoms. Mr. Son’s great, great grandfather who was the most important mandarin in Vietnam, ranked only after the king and Mr. Son will explain the mandarin system which existed for hundreds of years.
New Space Arts Foundation is new organization founded by two young Vietnamese artists is an independent art space in Hue to give a long overdue boost the contemporary art scene in the city, which typically remains in the shadow of Hanoi. NSAF provides financial support to young Vietnamese and space to exhibit their work. More on New Space
Hue is home to splendid, well-preserved imperial architecture including numerous tombs scattered throughout the surrounding hills, the massive Citadel, and buildings in the Forbidden Purple City.
We can arrange for escorted time with Mr. Phan Thanh Hai, an architect and Director of Hue Royal Monuments Preservation and Renovation Institution. Mr. Hai will lead a visit Thieu Tri and others structures largaly unknown and off-limits to visitors, including Ho Quyen, the only colosseum in Southeast Asia and secondary royal tombs. We will learn about the materials and process used to preserve and save these ancient Royal structures.
A small jewel on the central coast, Hoi An is an ancient port town on the Thu Bon River, just three miles inland from white sand beaches fronting the South China Sea. In the past, it was one of the most important trading ports in Southeast Asia before its port silted and influence ebbed. Although it is no longer bustling with international trade nor hosting sailors and merchants from China, Japan, and Portugal, it is certainly getting a new lease on life by attracting tourists in its uniquely charming way, with chunks of its Old Quarter given over to restored hotels, cafes, restaurants, and galleries and, in 1999, Hoi An became a UNESCO World Heritage Site for its efforts.
Hoi An is the quintessential Vietnamese town of the imagination with idyllic location, traditional architecture, great cuisine and small town vibe have made it a favorite for travelers. Despite success, the town for the most part has grown its tourist trade tastefully and even rationally, closing off the central area to motorized traffic (no small feat in Asia and which you will witness in Hanoi).
Although the main industry in town is now tourism, replacing fine furniture crafting in the 90s, with chunks of its Old Quarter given over to hotels, cafes, restaurants, and souvenir shop, this should not dissuade a visit or longer stay—the unique and picturesque setting of the small town makes it typically a favorite stop for most travelers. The natural and cultural sites around the town make it a must visit and indeed the charming town is typically cited as past traveler's favorite place in the country.
Hoi An is a rare place in Vietnam where you'll find genuine Vietnamese architecture. The Old Quarter, though heavily influenced by Chinese and lined with French row houses, still has vestiges of native architecture which survived the American war untouched though aged by periodic flooding which may rise up over the first floors some years.
A focus of our touring in Hoi An will be viewing the variety of sophisticated crafts, design and fashion produced in Hoi An, visiting prominent shops, galleries, and studio, meeting with top artists, curators, and producers in the small town which has a long history of fine craftsmanship. We’ll also enjoy Hoi An’s well preserved French architecture along the Thu Bon River which fronts the town.
Vo Tan Tan in Hoi An
Vo Tan Tan is one of Hoi An's more fascinating craftsmen. An engineer, Vo is making biking even more eco-friendly making custom, hand-made bikes, mostly from bamboo. Vo's bikes are premium frames, made for European and Australian clients costing from 10-40 million dong (US$446-$1,786), with special customized ones costing over $4,500. Tan makes around 50 of his unique bikes a year. During a visit, we'll learn about Vo's special eco-friendly craft and philosophy.
Visit with the co-founder of high-end fashion shops in Hanoi, Saigon, and Hoi An (here or in Saigon by availability), Metisekois Florence’s latest project, featuring women’s clothing and homeware. Situated in the heart of the UNESCO heritage site, the brand is imbued with Hoi An’s silk traditions and Japanese, French and Chinese influences. Meiseko follows environmentally friendly manufacturing processes and utilizes only organic cottons by working with GOTS certified cotton producers, and 100% natural silk sourced from Vietnam’s highlands. Inspired by travels and Vietnamese iconic symbols, Florence and her designers merge the two by applying vibrant, colorful and chic designed prints on their fashion and home products.
During the 15th century, off the Hoi An coast of Vietnam in the South China Sea, a trading vessel filled with porcelain vanished without a trace. Five hundred years later, in 1999, archaeological excavation bought the collection back up. Altogether 244,000 artifacts were retrieved, with a miraculous 150,000 of these pieces still intact. A subsequent Butterfield auction event grossed more than $2.8 million, and represented the largest consignment from a single source ever handled by the firm’s Asian art department.
What Hoi An tailors lack in quality (compared with those Bangkok and Hong Kong), it more than makes up with drama. "Flash fashion," the ability to create or duplicate clothes just overnight, is a feature and amusing experience of the town. The quality nor textiles are not on par with that found in Hong Kong or Bangkok, but the instant gratification and ability to duplicate a favored article of clothing with charming staff is part of the show or reason to have something made here. We will visit Yaly Couture, the largest, for a private tour of their large production space.
"Here then are those temples which for so long seemed like visions... Here are the foundations, the plinths, the galleries, the extraordinary domes resembling multi-ringed tiaras" —Claude Farrere, L'illustration, 1931
If you've come this far to the region, you will certainly not want to miss the "Prize of Southeast Asia" — the Temples of Angkor — short one-hour flight from Danang or Bangkok or ninety minutes from Hanoi or Luang Prabang. Angkor what? Many people have heard of the main temple Angkor Wat, but Angkor consists of over 70 discovered ruins spread over 200 square kilometers. Angkor Wat itself is a kilometer-wide and the greatest Buddhist monument ever constructed. There are astounding structures of equal impact surrounding it. This density of ruins is unparalleled anywhere else in the world, and has been aptly called the "Nile Valley of Asia."
No longer is a visit to Siem Reap limited to simply a place to stay while visiting nearby Angkor—the small town has come unto its own and is now one of the most delightful small-town destinations in Asia. Gone are the seedy casinos, brothels, and characters out of a John le Carre novel, replaced by chic boutiques, outstanding expat-chef founded restaurants, street shopping, and a local vibe that is upbeat and friendly. Expats have discovered the charms and along with overseas Cambodians are buying property, seeting up businesses and retiring there.
With a delightful collection of the country's best cafes and restaurants, the busy and restless nature of its inhabitants, or the abundance of great shopping, Siem Reap is an invigorating and intoxicating place. It is no surprise that Siem Reap, exudes a youthful, inventive energy — after all, most of its dwellers are younger than 35.
A dynamic spirit shines through in quirky cafes, innovative and rising cuisine, and boutiques selling homegrown fashion. And when you need a breather from all that’s new and fabulous, it is easy to steal quiet moments in rustic colonial hotels, contemplative art spaces, and pleasant cafes.
As for the temples, although the crowds have grown exponentially in recent years, we have adjusted our trips to access the temples that you may enjoy them during blissfully tranquil times with few, if any, others around.
For more than 20 years well-known artist Lim Muy Theam ("Theam") has sought to revive the Cambodian fine arts and craft sector, including founding of a art cooperative which provides for apprentices internships in art. Learn of Theam’s vision as he shares his deep artistic and technical knowledge of Khmer art and local culture, and about Cambodia's artistic legacy. We will visit Theam’s house gallery to experience and view his art pieces firsthand, including paintings, sculptures, or lacquer ware.
"Through the scratched window he could see the sun reflecting golden from half a dozen temple stupas, two rivers converging around the town, and a white shrine, like a delicious merangue, sitting on top of a hill overlooking the old royal palace." The Thirty Three Teeth by Colin Cotterill
Our favorite small town in all of Asia, Luang Prabang is the splendid ancient capital of Laos, situated in the remote north, featuring a cluster of shimmering royal temples and well-preserved French architecture—remnants of the faded grandeur of the Lao monarchy and colonial era that followed. Luang Prabang is tiny and compact with a bucolic setting on a tongue of land at a strategic junction of the Mekong and Khan Rivers encircled by peaks and camouflaged by palm trees and dense tropical foliage... from a distance, only golden-spired stupas can be seen—flashes of gold rising above the greenery.
There can be few, if any, more enchanting places on earth than Luang Prabang. Sitting at the confluence of the Mekong and Nam Khan Rivers, surrounded by flame trees and a profusion of tropical palms. As the Mekong curves east around the entrance to the Pak Ou Caves, the limestone cliffs give way to gender hills. Canoes dart across the surface of the water powered by longtail engines or occasionally propelled by oars. A few small fishing villages cling to the banks of the river. Finally, rounding the last corner one catches catch an astonishing glimpse of the golden spires of Luang Prabang.
Situated a day's drive from the modern Lao capital Vientiane, Luang Prabang's temples, its gilded reliefs and cool promenades provide travellers with the ultimate retreat from the pressures of the modern world. In the shadow of perfumed forests, you can literally soothe your senses, lulled by the tinkling of bells and the chanting of monks. To see Luang Prabang at its most magical, get up at dawn and wander down the narrow backstreets, where lines of monks on their daily alms round receive offerings of rice and fruit from the Buddhist faithful. Momentarily, the town is filled with languid, swaying figures clad in saffron robes. Then almost as suddenly as they have appeared, they stride off into the distance, returning to their Buddhist retreats in leafy compounds dotted around the city. Elsewhere on this sleepy peninsula, home to the Royal Palace and the revered Prabang Buddha image, history mingles with religion, providing a reminder of the days when this region was known as Lan Xang: Land of a Million Elephants and the White Parasol.
Indochina Notes: A rustic French-Colonial property this hotel is a fine, four-star property but stands out for its excellent location, in a quiet end of town yet within walking distance. Note to families - the pool is a pond, adequate for wading only.