Day 1 Saigon
Up on arrival in Saigon, you are met and transferred to your hotel.
The balance of the day is free at leisure.
Moderate: Triip Boutique Ben Thanh or similar
Superior: Maison De Camille Boutique Hotel or similar
Luxury: Silverland Yen or similar
Day 2 Saigon Sightseeing in Saigon (B)
A vibrant metropolis, Saigon teems with energy, activity and motion. Everywhere you look, you see the convergence of traditional and modern life. Begin the trip into modern history with a tour of the Reunification Palace. Formerly the Independence Palace of the South Vietnamese president, this 60s style building was famously stormed by tanks on April 30, 1975 signifying the fall of South Vietnam. It has been preserved in its original state, and the original tanks remain on display near the entrance gates.
Afterwards, drive to the historic centre to visit the Emperor of Jade Pagoda, one of Saigon’s most interesting pagodas. Proceed to pay a quick visit to the neo-Romanesque Notre Dame Cathedral and the Central Post Office. Pass by the classic European-style landmarks such as the ornate City Hall (Hotel De Ville), the old Opera House (both may only be viewed from the outside). Finally, end up at the central Ben Thanh Market, where vendors display a vast array of goods and handicrafts, appealing to every taste.
Day 3 Saigon – Excursion to Cu Chi Tunnels (B/D)
Never discovered by American forces, the Cu Chi Tunnels were an important Vietcong base during the American War. Stretching over 200 km, this incredible underground network, dug by hand out of hard laterite, connected command posts, hospitals, shelter and weapons factories. Today, walk through the area and learn about the day to day life of the Vietcong, bear witness to the cleverly disguised entrances and elaborate booby-traps, and even venture inside the tunnels, some of which have been modified to accommodate tourists.
Later this afternoon, you are picked up from hotel and taken to the Saigon Opera House, the city’s cultural and architectural icon, built by the French in 1898. Sit back in your seat in the oval auditorium and get ready to watch a fascinating cultural show depicting Vietnamese village life. The show is an energetic mix of contemporary dance, traditional folk music and breathtaking acrobatic acts using long bamboo poles. The performance has generated so much enthusiasm that part of the crew is currently on a tour of Europe.
After the show take a walk to a restaurant popular with the locals. Soak up the lively atmosphere as you sample some delicious Vietnamese street food. The evening ends in a hidden coffee shop where you can sit back with a drink and listen to talented local musicians perform Vietnamese and Western songs.
Day 4 Saigon – Excursion to Mekong Delta (B/L)
A journey out of town to the Mekong Delta. Visit Ben Luc and Tan An, proceed to Ben Tre to take a boat trip on the Mekong River to Vam Xep canal where local handicrafts and coconut sweets are produced. Enjoy fresh seasonal fruits, a performance of traditional songs, and observe the local life.
Take a short ride on motor cart to a typical local house to taste some homemade honey-tea. Proceed by sampan through the small canals to observe the daily life of local people along the riverbanks with some stops for a leisurely stroll.
Day 5 Saigon – Hue (B)
This morning, after breakfast, transfer to the airport for your flight to Hue.
On arrival, you are met and start sightseeing in Hue.
Hue served as the capital of Vietnam for more than 140 years. It houses ancient temples, imperial buildings and French-style edifices. It was established in the 17th century.
Visit the Imperial Tombs of Tu Duc and Khai Dinh. Venture into the countryside around Hue to the Imperial Tomb of Tu Duc. Tu Duc, the longest reigning Vietnamese emperor, designed and built this elegant tomb during his lifetime, using it as a retreat for meditation, reading and theatre performances. Take some time to soak in the tranquil atmosphere, wandering among the gracefully proportioned pavilions, courtyards and lotus ponds. Afterwards visit the Imperial Tomb of Khai Dinh, dramatically located on a hillside. The last of the monumental tombs of the Nguyen dynasty, completed in 1931, this tomb incorporates distinct European elements into traditional Vietnamese architecture.
Visit the Old Imperial City. Located in the heart of Hue is the Imperial Citadel, a vast complex built in the early 19th century and modelled after the Forbidden City of Peking. The original walls stretched for 10 km and were surrounded by a wide moat. Today, most of the buildings have been destroyed due to bombing during the Vietnam-American War, but the monuments that remain provide a fascinating glimpse into the court life of the Nguyen Dynasty. Approach the city past the striking Flag Tower, where a giant Vietnamese flag waves proudly overhead, to the imposing Ngo Mon Gate, the main entrance to the Imperial Enclosure. Enter into an area of spacious courtyards and serene lotus ponds, and visit Dien Tho Residence (Dien Tho palace) where the Queen mother lived, visit Thai Hoa Palace, the magnificently decorated reception hall, the Halls of the Mandarins, and the original Nine Dynastic Urns, among other sites, including a visit to the Hue Royal Antiquities Museum.
Moderate: Rosaleen Boutique Hotel or similar
Superior: Hue Riverside Boutique Resort & Spa or similar
Luxury: Indochine Palace Hotel or similar
Day 6 Hue – Hoi An -Thuy Bieu village with Lunch at Local House (B/L)
In the morning board the boat at Toa Kham wharf for your cruise along the Perfume River. Stop to visit the iconic Thien Mu Pagoda, a hotbed of anti-government protest during the early 1960s.
Continue cruising through scenic surroundings to Thuy Bieu Village. On arrival, either walk or take a bike tour around the village. Visit a beautiful garden house and an ancient ancestral temple. Stop to chat with the locals to find out about their daily lives. Visit families making incense or joss paper and learn more about the traditions and culture of Vietnamese people. A delicious lunch of traditional Hue specialties will be served in a local house. After lunch relax while you bathe your feet in medicinal herb water, a traditional therapeutic practice; followed by a foot massage by a blind masseur.
Drive south from Hue along scenic mountain roads with spectacular views over the coastline. Highlights along the way include the dramatic Hai Van Pass, the high dividing line between the climate zones of North and South Vietnam; Lang Co, a lovely stretch of beach curving outwards between a clear blue lagoon and the East Vietnam Sea; and the large coastal city of Danang.
After arriving in Danang, visit the Cham Museum, an elegant colonial building which houses the finest collection of Cham sculpture in the world; and pass by Non Nuoc Beach, a famous spot for American soldiers during the Vietnam-American War. Continue south to Hoi An, stopping enroute to visit the Marble Mountains, five stone hillocks, once islands, that rise sharply from the surrounding rice fields. Riddled with caves and shrines, they are said to each represent one of the five elements of the universe.
Moderate: Lotus Hoian Boutique Hotel & Spa or similar
Superior: Lantana Riverside Boutique Hotel & Spa or similar
Luxury: Boutique Hoi An Resort or similar
Day 7 Hoi An (B) Sightseeing in Hoi An with a boat trip on the Thu Bon River
The exquisitely preserved merchant town of Hoi An was declared a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 1999. Its colourful shop houses and temples reflect a diverse heritage, dating back to the 16th and 17th century, when it was a major port for Western, Chinese and Japanese traders. Today it is a thriving centre of traditional crafts and a shopper’s paradise, best explored on foot.
Wander through the cobbled streets, past low tile-roofed buildings, the bustling central market and the small harbour where colourfully painted boats are moored. The walking tour will include visits to a private house, where members of the same family have lived continuously for centuries in a traditional setting; to one of the family chapels built by prominent merchants and official families as centres for ancestor worship; and to a typical Chinese-style Pagoda or assembly hall. Continue to Sa Huynh MUSEUM, located near the Japanese Covered Bridge, it contains exhibitions from the earliest period of Hoi An’s history. Visit a handicraft workshop in Hoi An where local products are being made by the industry itself. Finally, continue to the famous Japanese Covered Bridge, first constructed in 1593 by the Japanese community of Hoi An to link the town with the Chinese quarters across the stream.
In the afternoon, board a local boat and cruise down the Thu Bon River, enjoying the unspoiled countryside and stopping to visit a pottery village and a wood carving village before returning to Hoi An harbour.
Day 8 Hoi An (B)
Full day is free at leisure.
Day 9 Hoi An – Danang – Hanoi (B)
Transfer to Danang airport this morning and fly to Hanoi.
On arrival, you are met and start the tour on the rails a few meters north Hanoi’s main train station. Walk along the very narrow streets hosting the rails sometime not even a metre far from the entrance door of houses. Enjoy this original and photogenic scene walking along the street until 153 Phung Hung where you go back down to the road and follow the street’s sidewalk. Walk past a funeral home where you will see a group of people mourning and wearing the traditional white fabric around the forehead, which is the local equivalent to the western tradition of wearing black clothes. Continue walking toward Long Bien train station. From Long Bien train station start to cross the bridge and stop half way to go down the stairs onto the urban island. Have a rest and visit the orchards. Continue crossing the bridge and meet with the car which will transfer you to Gia Lam train station. Take your train ticket and jump in to cross the bridge on the other way, riding with the locals in the hard seater wagon. On week days you will stop at Long Bien, and on Saturday and Sunday you will stop at Hanoi Station. Meet your driver after disembarking and transfer back to your hotel.
See a Water Puppet Show, a fantastic art form originating in northern Vietnam, best seen in Hanoi.
Moderate: Silk Path Boutique Hanoi Hotel or similar
Superior: MK Premier Boutique Hotel or similar
Luxury: Hanoi La Siesta Hotel & Spa or similar
Day 10 Hanoi (B/L)
Visit the Temple of Literature. The Temple of Literature has a peaceful series of walled courtyards and graceful gateways, and this monument is one of the best-preserved examples of traditional Vietnamese architecture. Founded in 1070 and dedicated to Confucius, this was also the site of Vietnam’s first university. In one courtyard, giant stone tortoises bear stele on their backs, listing the accomplishments of graduating scholars.
Visit the Ho Chi Minh Memorial Complex. Start the exploration of the vast Ho Chi Minh Memorial Complex with a visit to the Ho Chi Minh Mausoleum which contains the embalmed body of Ho Chi Minh (closed Mondays, Fridays, and during September and October). View the outside of the Presidential Palace and then stroll through the park to the Ho Chi Minh Stilt House where Ho Chi Minh lived from 1958 until his final days in 1969. Preserved in the same condition as during his life, it may be viewed through the windows. Continue to the miniature 11th century One Pillar Pagoda which was rebuilt after being destroyed by the French in 1954 and to the Ho Chi Minh Museum where displaying more than 120,000 documents, objects and films about President Ho Chi Minh’s life and revolutionary work.
Visit the Museum of Ethnology. The Museum of Ethnology brings to life the astonishing ethnic diversity in Vietnam, with art and artefacts from the 54 different ethnic groups that inhabit the country. Inside the museum are detailed descriptions of minority groups, with examples of their traditional clothing and way of life. Outside are faithful reconstructions of traditional longhouses, cemeteries and other distinctive ethnic buildings.
Hanoi Street Eats and Market Visit. Visit the bustling Chau Long market located just off of Truc Bach Lake. Enjoy the walk through the narrow and busy passages with a crowd of vendors’ stores displaying all sorts of colourful groceries and foodstuffs. There is a good deal of chances for great photos with vibrant colors from a vegetable shop or a butcher’s store. If you are keen to see some exotic stuff, you will find a corner with kicking frogs, eels, silkworms and so forth and so on. Feel the energy in the air with the excitement from the locals who are working on the ingredients for their upcoming meals at home. Twist the way through the crowd to find some interesting street food stops. There will be the tasty rice vermicelli with grilled pork patties (bun cha) with the famous deep fried Vietnamese spring roll. Continue your culinary exploration with some creative variations of the popular “pho”. Next, go to an old cafe that has been handed down through a few generations to enjoy the aroma of the coffee made with special family brewing technique.
Day 11 Hanoi – Halong (B/L/D)
Depart from Hanoi to Halong Bay; en route take a short stop for a break. Transfer with a tender to the comfortable cruise and enjoy a welcome drink aboard. Begin the cruise through majestic Halong Bay while lunch is served. Enjoy the magical bay where thousands of sculpted limestone islands rise from the waves like dragon’s teeth. The cruise continues cruising through a fishing village on the bay and passes the spectacular limestone caves dotted around the bay. Soak up the sun on the top deck with optional on-board activities: sunbathing, and photo opportunities. In the evening the chef will prepare a splendid meal comprised of fresh seafood dishes and other traditional dishes. Overnight on-board.
Moderate: Bhaya Classic Cruise or similar
Superior: Indochina Sails Cruise or similar
Luxury: The Violet Cruise or similar
Day 12 Halong – Hanoi – Luang Prabang (B)
Greet the day with a morning Tai Chi exercise that offer a perfect opportunity to view the sunrise over the bay. After breakfast, visit a beautiful limestone grotto then back to the boat for a final glimpse of the Halong Bay while cruising back to the dock. Check out luggage and bid tidings to beautiful Halong Bay.
By vehicle from Halong to Hanoi airport and fly to Luang Prabang
On arrival, transfer to the hotel.
Moderate: Sanakeo Boutique and Spa or similar
Superior: e Sen Boutique Hotel or similar
Luxury: Villa Maly Boutique Hotel or similar
Le Sen Boutique Hotel / Confirmation 2068079584
Deluxe Room with double or twin beds.
Day 13 Luang Prabang (B)
Set between the Nam Khan and Mekong rivers, Luang Prabang is an enchanting town filled with historic temples and colonial style buildings. The entire town was declared a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 1995. Start the day at Wat Visoun (Wat Wisunalat), the oldest living temple in Luang Prabang, Wat dating back to 1513 and contains a collection of antique wooden Buddhas. Visit the nearby Wat Aham before continuing to Wat Xieng Thong, the crowning jewel of all the monasteries and temples in the city. Its many ornate buildings feature exquisite mosaic and gold-stencilled murals. From there, stroll down the main street of Luang Prabang, stopping at some of the many temples that line its sides, including Wat Sibounheuang, Wat Si Moungkhoun, Wat Sop and Wat Sene.
Continue to the National Museum(Royal Palace), a modest but graceful building which combines traditional Lao and French beaux-arts motifs. This turn-of-the century royal residence has been preserved as it was when the royal family last lived here and provides unique insights into the history of Laos. Then, visit Hor Phrabang. In the right front corner room of the Palace which opens to the outside, is a collection of the palace’s most prized art, including the Phrabang, cast of a gold, silver and bronze alloy. This Buddha stands at 83 cm tall and weighs around 50 kg. Afterwards, visit Wat Mai.
Visit Mount Phousi for sunset. Climb 328 steps starting from the entrance on the opposite side of National Museum, or 410 steps on the other side of Khan River to the small temples atop Phou Si. The hill is 150m high and sits in the middle of the town, offering beautiful views over the temples and river.
Day 14 Luang Prabang (B)
From Luang Prabang, travel by vehicle to to Kuang Si Waterfall. This waterfall is located in a perfect natural setting near Luang Prabang, this multi-tiered waterfall tumbles over limestone formations into a series of turquoise pools. Enjoy swimming in the clear water or just relaxing in the natural environment. Visit a local village (Ban Ou or Ban Na Ouane) on the way, before returning to Luang Prabang by vehicle.
Day 15 Luang Prabang – Siem Reap (B/D)
Today’s journey start with Give alms to the monks (early morning)
An early start gives you the fantastic opportunity to participate in the daily morning rituals of saffron-clad monks collecting offerings of Alms (ubiquitous sticky rice) from the faithful residents. This tradition is very unique in Laos, being the only Buddhist nation still preserving the procession.
Transfer to the airport for flight to Siem Reap
Arrival in Siem Reap and transfer to the hotel.
Moderate: Angkor Museum Boutique Hotel and Spa or similar
Superior: Golden Temple Retreat or similar
Luxury: Montra Nivesha Angkor Boutique Residence or similar
Tonight, enjoy a Dinner and Show at Phare the Cambodian Circus. Phare the Cambodian Circus, blends contortion, juggling, acrobatics, balancing and aerial arts with theatre, music and modern dance to tell uniquely Cambodian stories. The young Cambodian artistes come from some of the most difficult social and economic backgrounds imaginable, but through Phare have successfully transformed their lives. Before the performance tuck into a delicious dinner, then sit back and enjoy the unique circus show. The energy, enthusiasm and lust for life of the performers make this an inspiring experience for both adults and children.
Day 16 Siem Reap (B)
After breakfast, visit Angkor Thom. The fortified city of Angkor Thom covers an area of 10 square km. Enclosed by a wall and wide moats; the city includes many of Angkor’s most popular sights. Enter by the monumental South Gate over a causeway lined on either side by statues of demons and gods, each carrying a giant naga. Continue to the Terrace of the Elephants and the Terrace of the Leper Kings, former spaces for public ceremonies, both adorned with dramatic bas reliefs. Visit the ruined Baphuon, Royal Enclosure and Phimeanakas before continuing to the mysterious Bayon Temple. In this temple, one of the most popular and compelling in Angkor, explore the galleries of beautifully preserved bas reliefs and ascend narrow stairs to reach the central sanctuary, where giant stone faces smiling enigmatically down from every angle.
Visit Ta Prohm temple. Ta Prohm is one of the most popular attractions of Angkor as much of the jungle has not been cleared and it looks very much as most of the Angkor monuments would have appeared when European explorers first stumbled across them.
Visit Preah Khan. Preah Khan is a temple built by King Jayavarman VII with towering enclosures and shoulder-hugging corridors in a jungle setting. Preah Khan covers a very large area but the temple itself is enclosed within a rectangular wall of around 700 by 800 metres.
Visit a temple for sunset. Watch the sun set over the Cambodian countryside from the upper terraces of an ancient Angkorian temple.
Day 17 Siem Reap (B)
Visit Angkor Wat. The crown jewel of Khmer architecture, Angkor Wat is the national symbol and the highlight of any visit to Cambodia. The largest, best preserved, and most religiously significant of the Angkor temples, Angkor impresses visitors both by its sheer scale and beautifully proportioned layout, as well as the delicate artistry of its carvings. To approach the temple, first cross the vast moat, continuing along a broad causeway lined with naga balustrades. Upon entering the main structure, ascend through a series of galleries and courtyard before reaching the central sanctuary, which offers beautiful views back over the causeway and across the surrounding countryside. On the way, stop to enjoy the intricate stone carvings that adorn nearly every surface of the temple, with some 1,700 Apsaras, or celestial dancers, sculpted from the walls. Along the outer gallery walls run the longest continuous bas-relief in the world, which narrates stories from Hindu mythology, including the famous Churning of the Ocean of Milk. Angkor Wat is stunning at any time of the day, but sunrise and sunset are especially beautiful times to watch the play of light on the stones.
Visit Banteay Samre. Banteay Samre is a mid-12th century temple dedicated to the god Vishnu.
Visit Banteay Srei Temple. Seemingly miniature in comparison to the other Angkor temples, Banteay Srei is considered to be the jewel of classical Khmer art. Built in pink sandstone, the walls are covered in exquisitely preserved carvings of unusual delicacy. Because of its small size, wondrous atmosphere and extraordinary examples of Khmer sculpture, this temple is often a favourite with visitors.
Day 18 Siem Reap – Phnom Penh (B)
This morning, take an excursion by boat to Chong Kneas floating village and visit Phsar Chah (Old Market) to view the scenery and day to day life of the communities living around the lake. Visit Psah Chah Market, originally destroyed by the Khmer Rouge in 1975 and reopened in 1996. It has many interesting food stalls and souvenir shops.
Today, transfer to the airport for your flight to Phnom Penh
On arrival, transfer to the hotel.
Tonight, enjoy a traditional Dance Performance at National Museum. Cambodian Living Arts on Stage is a non-profit organization based in Cambodia that focuses on Cambodian arts. The troupe, featuring live singers and musicians, present eight Classical and folk dances on the stage in the beautiful grounds of the National Museum. This vibrant show presents an array of dances from Khmer and different ethnic minorities that reside in Cambodia, ranging from the traditional elegance of Apsara to the folkloric romance of Nesat (the fishing dance). The performances will captivate you through their beauty and poise, enhanced with outstanding costumes and color with the most enjoyable pieces set in the splendid gardens of the National Museum.
Moderate: Villa Langka Boutique Hotel or similar or similar
Superior: La Rose Boutique Hotel & Spa or Similar
Luxury: Raffles Hotel Le Royal or similar
Day 19 Phnom Penh (B)
Explore Phnom Penh, a chaotic, energetic and always fascinating city. Graceful tree-lined boulevards and riverfront promenades are reminders of bygone eras; today they teem with life and activity, as motorcycles weave in and out of traffic, vendors hawk their wares, and pedestrians go about their business. Start the tour with an insight into Cambodia’s cultural heritage with a visit to the Royal Palace, still the official residence of King Norodom Sihamoi and the adjacent Silver Pagoda, also known as the Pagoda of the Emerald Buddha. Continue to the elegant National Museum, which contains a comprehensive collection of Khmer Art. Finally, explore the modern-day city, visiting one of Phnom Penh’s two great markets, the Central Market, located in a distinctive domed Art Deco building or the sprawling Russian Market, a labyrinth of stalls selling everything from CDs and DVDs to silks, crafts, jewellery and more.
This afternoon, if you are interested, visit Tuol Sleng (S-21). Learn about a chapter from Cambodia’s more recent, tragic, past at the Tuol Sleng Museum (Museum of Genocide). Formerly the Tuol Svay Prey High School, in 1975, this became the interrogation and torture facility for the Khmer Rouge regime at that time known as Security Prison 21, or simply S-21. Kept largely unchanged, this prison now showcases photographs and exhibits about the thousands of victims that passed through these doors only seven of whom came out alive.
Excursion to the Killing Fields, Just outside Phnom Penh, in a peaceful rural setting, the Killing Fields of Choeung Ek provide a stark reminder of the atrocities under the Pol Pot regime. Thousands of people were killed here between the years of 1975 and 1978 and buried in mass graves.
Day 20 Phnom Penh – Home (B)
Morning is free at leisure.
After check out, transfer to the airport for your flight home.