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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 offers 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 is free to relax. In the afternoon take a fascinating Cyclo ride to explore the bustling Old Quarter and the 36 “Guild streets”. Ending the day with a performance of a traditional theater art unique to Vietnam, Water Puppetry.
After breakfast we embark on an exciting city tour of Vietnam's capital. Kicking off with a visit to Uncle Ho himself (if open, closed Oct-Nov) before heading across the road to the beautiful Presidential Palace, Ho Chi Minh's iconic House on Stilts and the nearby One Pillar Pagoda. Later on we continue to the Ethnology Museum where we learn about Vietnam's many diverse ethnic groups. This afternoon we visit the Temple of Literature, Vietnam's first 11th century university. Next we head to the oldest pagoda in Vietnam, Tran Quoc Pagoda before driving to the centre of Hanoi. We finish the day with a stroll across the red bridge over Sword Lake to the beautiful Ngoc Son Temple.
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 Vientnamese 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 you will be transferred to the airport for your flight to Hue. On arrival, you will be met at the airport for the transfer to your hotel.
In the morning, take a boat ride along the romantic Perfume River. Stop off at the Thien Mu Pagoda on the banks of the river to see the 7-storey Stupa. The pagoda is also home to the old Austin car driven to Saigon by the Venerable Thich Quang Duc in 1963 for his self-immolation. Continue on to visit the mausoleum of Emperor Minh Mang (1791-1841), built between 1841 and 1843. The Emperor’s mausoleum complex consists of 40 constructions (palaces, temples, pavilions etc.) designed on a symmetrical axis. Lunch is a special vegetarian meal with the nuns of Dong Thuyen Pagoda. In the afternoon, visit the Imperial Citadel and Forbidden City, created in the 19th century for the Emperors of the Nguyen Dynasty. Enjoy some “retail therapy” at Dong Ba Market before transferring back to the hotel.
After breakfast at the hotel, visit the mausoleums of the Emperors Tu Duc (1829-1883) and Khai Dinh (1885-1925). On the way down to Danang, stop off for a refreshment break at Lang Co beach, one of the World’s most beautiful bays. Continue on to Danang to visit the Cham Museum. Afterwards, head to the World Cultural Heritage Site of Hoi An Ancient Town. Check-in to your hotel. Enjoy some free time on a walking tour through the narrow lanes of the town, lined with century-old buildings and illuminated at night by hundreds of colorful lanterns. Discover the traditional shop-houses and temples, and the iconic Japanese Covered Bridge.
The next two days are free days 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.
Travelling by minivan (10 min) to Tra Que Organic Village, and walk through the market gardens. We pick fresh saw-tooth coriander and Vietnamese mint for our cooking lesson later, before trying a special herbal drink at a local home. To the local village market and with shopping list in hand we purchase a range of local ingredients. At Red Bridge Cooking School we have a chance to freshen up before beginning our class. Working together with our Red Bridge Chef we learn the traditional ways of preparing and cooking Vietnamese food from scratch. Using the freshest ingredients and traditional Vietnamese utensils we cook 4 dishes, including ‘Pho’. After the class we sit down and a chance to savour the dishes we have prepared. Leisurely cruise (25 minutes) along the Hoi An River back to central Hoi An.
Early morning flight to Saigon. Upon arrival, being picked up and transferred to the lush Mekong delta. Enjoy local vehicle ride to the villages and sampan boat ride along coconut trees. Visit local orchards, rice noodle factory and local home making crispy rice paper. A softly cycling trip may interest you also. After that we head to Can Tho, the largest city in the Mekong delta.
After breakfast, cruise some of the narrow and picturesque canals and waterways by small boat. Visit the Cai Rang floating market with its hordes of small vendor boats. Take in the sultry scenery and witness the daily activities of the locals who live along these Mekong canals. After lunch, drive back to Saigon for the short flight to Siem Reap, Cambodia. On arrival, transfer to the hotel for check-in. The rest of the day is free. Overnight City River Hotel or similar.
This morning we visit the famous Cu Chi Tunnels used by the Viet-Cong in their struggle to keep control of the region during the 1960’s. After a short video presentation we take an exciting walk around the many bush trails and see trapdoors, booby traps, living areas, weapon factories and kitchens that were used and lived in during the war. We can also safely crawl through sections of the tunnels, that have been widened for the tourists and stand in the middle of bomb craters that are still just as defined as the day they were created. At the end of the visit you can opt to fire weapons of the era (including the M16 ‘s and AK47) on the firing range.
Today we head out to explore sizzling Saigon. Starting off with the Reunification Palace - former residence of the President of South Vietnam until the fall of Saigon on April 30th 1975. The building is now a museum and a popular wedding venue. We’ll take a look in the famous ‘War Room’ where the North Vietnamese army took control in 1975. Next we explore Giac Lam Pagoda, Saigon’s oldest and one of it’s most beautiful temples. Later on we take a journey through Vietnam’s medical history at the FITO Museum. This is Vietnam’s first traditional medicine museum with an amazing collection of over 3000 items. Our last stop of the day is Ben Thanh Market, where you can shop till you drop and master the art of haggling for just about anything!
Morning transfer by road approx. 4.5 hours from your hotel in Saigon to Mui Ne in Phan Thiet. After hotel check in you’re free to explore the area and simply relax. Overnight Dynasty resort or similar.
Spend three blissful days at leisure. Sunbathe on the beautiful beach, swim in the emerald water or perhaps enjoy some of the activities on offer in the area such as golfing, fishing or even sand-sledding on Phan Thiet’s famous red and white sand dunes. Overnight Dynasty resort or similar.
After breakfast travel back to Saigon for your onward flight home (please book flight after 4pm).