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Welcome to Hanoi! Airport to hotel arrival transfer. Free time to explore.
Early this morning we drive to the strikingly beautiful UNESCO World Heritage Site of Halong Bay, we board our traditional wooden junk boat and cruise the emerald waters studded with a thousand or so karst limestone islands. 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 Tai Chi on the sundeck or a traditional massage. After exploring a lofty grotto hidden beneath towering cliffs we return to Hanoi. Arriving to Hanoi mid afternoon an hour or so is spent exploring the labyrinth of streets, known as the ‘36 streets of the old quarter’. Each of the narrow lanes are named after various guilds of the city’s artisan who established themselves here centuries ago. On a hair raising cyclo (rickshaw ride) we'll see the old quarter and the delightful Hoan Kiem Lake. Tonight we board the overnight ‘Reunification Express’ railway line to Hue.
Arriving to Hue enjoy a hotel breakfast before embarking on a sightseeing tour of the 19th-century Nguyen empire capital. Visit the Thien Mu Pagoda, home to the oldest monastery in the city, and the Imperial Purple Palace, an exact copy of the Forbidden City in Beijing with impressive ramparts, formal moats and imperial palaces, some of which lay in ruin. Later drive into the countryside to see the elaborate mausoleums of the Nguyen kings. As the sun sets opt for a cruise in a long boat along the gentle Perfume River or enjoy some retail therapy at the ever-lively Dong Ba Market, a minute's walk from our hotel.
Today 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. Stops are made at China Beach and the Buddhist sanctuaries of Thuy Son Mountain on the way. Arrive at Hoi An. With its cobbled streets, tiny shop houses and laid back restaurants and bars is a perfect place to relax. On a short walking tour of the enchanting historical town 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.
On a bicycle ride to the local village of Tra Que discover age old farming practices and learn about traditional medicine. It’s a hands on experience today where you’ll assist with tending the fields and gardens and cooking lunch.
Enjoy a free day in Hoi An. Relax by the beach or pool, or take a day trip to the Cham Kingdom site at My Son or My Lai where the massacre of civilians took place at the hands of Charlie Company during the Vietnam War.
Fly to Saigon and drive to the Mekong Delta. The fertile Mekong Delta is famous for its abundant harvests of tropical fruits, flowers and rice, as well as its fantastic views while boating along the canals. Taking our sampan we’ll cruise to Cai Be’s colourful floating markets and continue downstream through the maze of waterways visiting cottage industries along the way.
Early morning visit to Cai Rang floating market and drive to Saigon. On a walking tour of the city visit the Notre Dame Cathedral, Old Post office and the sombering War Remnants Museum. Evening at leisure.
Understanding the food is a great way to experience the culture of this fascinating country. Vietnamese food is healthy, simple to cook and delicious. Today enjoy a half day cooking class, which includes a hands-on lesson on how to shop for and cook authentic Vietnamese cuisine. After the market visit, transfer to “Mai Home” (Saigon Culinary Art Centre); where you will learn the secrets of Vietnamese cuisine during a cooking class. After you have completed your lesson, you can sit down and enjoy the tasty fruits of your labour. Tonight, to celebrate your birthday, you will enjoy a complimentary Bonsai Dinner on Saigon River – it is a river cruise with dinner and traditional dance and music show and lasts for 2 hours.
This morning we visit the famous Cu Chi Tunnels, a sprawling underground network of tunnels and living quarters used by the Viet Cong during the war. Then we drive to the Cambodian border (crossing at Moc Bai/Bavet) and continue on to the capital of Phnom Penh. Today the nation’s capital offers a bustling mix of Asia’s past and present, a city quickly taking its place amongst the trendy capitals of the region with superb restaurants and a number of attractions.
Today enjoy a full day sightseeing tour of Phnom Penh starting at the National Museum of Fine Arts, a graceful terracotta building of traditional design housing the world’s finest collection of Khmer sculpture. Continue with the Royal Palace and Silver Pagoda, famed for its lavish decorations – the floors are paved with silver tiles and statues of Buddha are encrusted with thousands of diamonds. Later come face to face with the horrors of the Pol Pot regime as we visit Toul Sleng (Security Prison - S21), a school that was gruesomely transformed into a torture chamber under the Khmer Rouge, and visit the Killing Fields where over 10,000 people were executed.
Hotel check out and transfer to the airport for your included flight to Siem Reap. After time to freshen up visit the last capital of the Angkorian Empire – Angkor Thom. This monumental fortified city is encircled by a 100m wide moat and famed for the huge statue heads that glare down from every angle. Continue to the monastic complex of Preah Khan before heading to the mother of all temples – Angkor Wat. This breathtaking monument of man’s devotion to his gods is believed to be the largest religious building in the world and contains thousands of wall carvings and extensive bas-reliefs. In the evening enjoy a walking tour of the old market in Siem Reap.
Early this morning opt to see Angkor Wat bathed in the spectacular golden light of sunrise. Later head out to Banteay Srei temple, considered by many to be the art gallery of Angkor with some of the finest stone carvings in the world. Cut from stone of a pinkish hue, the Hindu temple contains lavishly decorated libraries and stunning reliefs of divinities. The temple expedition continues with visits to Banteay Samre, East Mebon, Pre Rup, Preah Khan, Banteay Kdei and the atmospheric Ta Prohm. Swallowed by the jungle, vast muscular roots envelop the crumbling towers and walls whilst the trees’ foliage dapples the temple in shadow.
Today marks the end of our memorable journey. Lap up the hotel facilities this morning before hotel check out and included departure transfer to the airport.