Travel the Thailand-Laos-Viet Nam Historic Heritage Trail and journey from Nakorn Phanom in northeast Thailand to Savannakhet, in Laos, and over lush mountains to Viet Nam’s central coast. You’ll discover ancient Buddhist monuments, Khmer ruins, French colonial buildings, UNESCO World Heritage sites, and some of the most pristine beaches in the world.
Day 1: Nakorn Phanom
A morning arrival kicks off a gem-filled day. Pay homage at Phra That Phanom stupa, first built by 12th-century Khmers and believed to contain a breastbone of Buddha. Head to the house where Ho Chi Minh once lived, and witness his simple lifestyle reflected in original furnishings and photographs. Visit Renu Phu Thai community, and sip rice alcohol, enjoy a Pha Loeng dinner, and purchase hand-woven cotton crafts. Don’t miss the French colonial St Joseph Church.
Day 2: Mukdahan
Take a short morning drive along the Mekong to Mukdahan. Climb to Phu Tham Phra’s waterfall and cave with hundreds of Buddha images. Uncover prehistoric cave drawings and examine oddly shaped boulders at Phu Pha Thoep. View the river from Ho Kaeo Mukdahan Tower with its ethnic arts and culture exhibition, and go to the Indo-China Market to shop for regional crafts and dine on local cuisine.
Day 3: Savannakhet Cross the Mekong into Laos and select a one-day Savannakhet circuit. Take a walking tour of the town that winds past Laos’ first Prime Minister Kaysone Phomvihane’s home, 16th-century Vat Xaiyaphoum, the Dinosaur Museum, and colonial-era structures. Spend a day visiting 2,000-year-old That Ing Hang Stupa believed to house relics of Buddha and inspect the ancient city ruins in Phonsim. The “Champone Circuit” leads to Hotay Pidok’s palm-leaf manuscripts, a monkey-filled forest, and Turtle Lake.
Day 4: The Road to Viet Nam
Say “Hello” to Route 9, the road to Viet Nam with a choice of curious stops. Check out dinosaur footprints at Phalanxay’s riverbed. Examine the Lao-Viet War Museum’s battle relics at Ban Dong. Enter Viet Nam at Lao Bao and move to Khe Sanh airfield and museum displaying captured US army helicopters. Then cross Hien Luong Bridge at the legendary 17th Parallel, which once divided the country. The drive ends in Hue, a UNESCO World Heritage site.
Day 5: Hue
Spend a solid day exploring 200-year-old Hue Citadel. Step through the Ngo Mon Gate, and into the capital of 13 Nguyen Dynasty kings, who ruled from 1802 to 1945. Behold the stronghold’s 6-meter-high, 21-meter-thick walls bolstered by bastions, and delve into the Forbidden Citadel, once reserved for royalty. Outside the gates, visit the tombs of nine Nguyen kings, Nam Giao Esplanade, and Hon Chen Temple, before the drive to Hoi An.
Day 6: Hoi An
Awaken in another UNESCO World Heritage site, Hoi An, a living portrait of a 19th-century port and market. Meander through narrow streets lined with pristine ancient Vietnamese, Chinese, and Japanese-style houses and temples. Meet the locals, who maintain an authentic multi-cultural identity in rapidly developing Viet Nam, while you hunt through hundreds of sites such as Chua Cau Bridge and 200-year-old Ba Le Well. Step into “Old Houses” and visit themed museums. Then, take the 30-km drive to Da Nang for some quality time at the beach.
Day 7: Da Nang
End (or start!) your journey at one of Da Nang’s postcard-perfect beaches. Soak in the sun on popular Non Nuoc Beach’s white sands and wade into the clear azure sea, while surfers can ride waves up to five meters high. Travel 5 km north to less-congested Non Nuoc Beach, paddle a kayak, and enjoy a fresh seafood dinner. Find true tranquility at less-visited Lang Co Beach north of Da Nang.