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Welcome to Hanoi, perhaps the most graceful, atmospheric and exotic capital city in Asia. Airport to hotel arrival transfer. The remains of the day offer free time for you to explore the wide tree lined avenues, beautiful lakes, ancient pagoda’s and thriving, historic old city, all easily navigated on foot.
This morning a scenic drive leads us to the stunningly beautiful UNESCO World Heritage Site of Halong Bay. Boarding our traditional wooden junk boat we cruise the emerald waters soaking up the panoramic vista of the thousand or so karst limestone islands that stud the bay. Later opt for a refreshing swim in one of the many sheltered coves before taking row boats to the floating fishing village of Vong Vieng. Tonight, there's a Vietnamese cooking demonstration held on the sundeck before an impressive seafood dinner is served.
Start the day with a Tai Chi class on the sundeck or a traditional massage. After exploring a lofty grotto hidden beneath towering cliffs, we sail back to port. Arriving to Hanoi mid afternoon an hour or so is spent exploring the quixotic web of streets, Our tour of the area is undertaken by a quintessentially Vietnamese experience from aboard a cyclo (rickshaw). A little time will be given to freshen up before boarding the our train (4 berth sleeper cabin, basic standard) on he ‘Reunification Express’ railway line to Hue.
Upon arrival to Hue we embark on a guided sightseeing tour of the 19th-century Nguyen empire capital. We visit the Thien Mu Pagoda, home to the oldest monastery in the city, whose 21m high tower has become something of a symbol for Hue and the citadel. Within the citadel is the Imperial Purple Palace, an exact copy of the Forbidden City in Beijing, with its impressive ramparts, formal moats and imperial palaces, some of which lay in ruin. In the countryside lies the Royal Tombs of the Nguyen kings, here we’ll view the elaborate mausoleums of Emperors Tu Duc and Khai Dinh. As the sun sets opt for a cruise in a long boat along the gentle Perfume River, beautifully illuminated at night.
Today we take the scenic Hai Van Pass (Road of the Ocean Clouds), which offers magnificent views of beaches to one side and lush hills to the other. En route we stop for a walk along China beach, featured in Francis Ford Coppola’s movie ‘Apocalypse Now’. Perhaps enjoy a refreshing swim in the sea before continuing our journey south along the coast to Hoi An. On a short walking tour of the enchanting historical town, we’ll visit the Chua Ong Pagoda, Chinese Assembly Hall, 200-year-old Tam Ky house, former merchants’ homes and the 400 year-old Japanese Covered Bridge.
A bicycle ride into the countryside, leads us to Tra Que village. Here,we discover age old farming practices and learn about traditional medicine. It’s a hands on experience today where we’ll assist with tending the fields and gardens and cooking lunch.
A free day for you relax or further sightsee. You may wish to take a relaxing rowboat journey along the river or spend the day lazing by the beach or hotel pool. It’s also possible to take an optional excursion to the most holiest and evocative of Vietnam’s Cham sites, My Son or to Quang Ngai, the site of the My Lai massacre memorial. The massacre was a significant turning point in the Vietnam War and the story is told through photo presentation on a walk through the village.
Early morning flight to Saigon. Drive to the Mekong Delta. Often referred to as the ‘rice bowl’ of Vietnam, the fertile Mekong Delta is famous for its abundant harvests of tropical fruits, flowers and rice, as well as it fantastic views while boating along the canals. Taking our sampan from Vinh Long we’ll cruise downstream from Cai Be through the maze of waterways watching the hubbub of daily life on the river. Passing colourful trading boats, house boats and children swimming we stop to visit some of the local cottage industries that produce popcorn, coco candies and paper along the way. Lunch is served today in a traditional wooden home on Dong Hoa Hiep Island
Early today we visit the ever lively Cai Rang floating market. Watch as melons, pineapples, fresh greens, sacks of rice and children's toys get tossed from one sampan to another at great heights and speed before driving back to Saigon. Once called the Pearl of the Orient, modern Saigon is a thriving metropolis on the move. Sleek sky scrapers, gourmet restaurants, designer malls and swanky bars and spas are scattered between ancient pagodas, colonial era landmarks and lively street markets. Our walking tour of Saigon includes visits to the Notre Dame Cathedral, Old Post office and the sombering War Remnants Museum. Evening at leisure.
Today is free for you to enjoy Saigon before your departure transfer to the airport. Opt for a relaxing foot massage, shop for souvenirs at Ben Thanh Market or visit the grand Independence Palace, with its secret bunker and military command centre beneath!