Halong Bay Holidays

Sample Itinerary - REF SOUTHEAST ASIA 314

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Women practising Tai Chi by Hoan Kiem Lake

Day 1: Saigon

Welcome to Saigon and the start of your holiday. You will be welcomed on arrival by our representative and transferred to your hotel for check in. Saigon (or Ho Chi Minh City as it is officially known) is the vibrant, cosmopolitan hub of Vietnam and the original ‘Pearl of the Orient’. In this thriving metropolis, old and new collide. Gleaming sky scrapers, expensive restaurants, bars and designer shops, stand in stark contrast to the ancient pagodas, colonial era landmarks, ramshackle markets and wandering monks. Included afternoon sightseeing to the Reunification Palace and War Remnants Museum to learn about the Vietnam War.

A street in the Old Quarter of Hanoi

Day 2: Saigon - Can Tho

Today we head out of town to visit Cao Dai Holy See Temple. Located in Tay Ninh province, the temple is an architectural wonder. Enjoy a relaxing lunch with the monks before we continue to the famous Cu Chi Tunnels. A vast underground network of tunnels and hideouts used by Viet Cong guerrilla fighters during the 1960’s. Often lead by a relative of a Viet Cong fighter in green fatigues you’ll walk the bush trails discovering grass covered trapdoors, ingenious, yet gruesome booby traps and hidden underwater entrances in rivers. There is also an opportunity to go underground and learn firsthand how the Viet Cong survived their extraordinarary underground existence. Later, we continue on to Can Tho.

A junk sailing past a limestone peak in Halong Bay

Day 3: Can Tho - Chau Doc

This morning we visit Cai Rang floating market. See the local farmers trading their product on the water as they have done for centuries. Later we visit a fruit orchard where you can sample some tropical fruits grown in the region, try some local tea and enjoy a relaxing walk through the local village of Binh Thuy. Visit the bustling local market and the Riverside Central Tourist Market. This afternoon we drive to Chau Doc.

The Perfume River in Hue

Day 4: Chau Doc - Phnom Penh

Today we transfer by speed boat to Phnom Penh. Upon arrival you will be met and transferred to the city. Enjoy a visit to the Russian Market before transferring to your hotel for check in. Enjoy the remainder of today at your leisure.

Day 5: Phnom Penh

Phnom Penh, after years of violence and terror, is a city reinventing itself. Many parts of the city are testament to its French colonial past while the recently developed riverfront area is proof of its future. This morning we visit the chilling Tuol Sleng Museum of Genocidal Crimes and the Killing Fields of Choeng Ek. Both sites are a testament to the insanity of the Pol Pot era and whilst they can be challenging places to visit, these sites give an important insight into recent Cambodian history. We also spend time at the Royal Palace and the beautiful Silver Pagoda, famous for its 5000 silver tiled floor, set within its grounds.

Women trading at Dong Ba Market by Tormod Sandtorv

Day 6: Phnom Penh - Siem Reap

Today we fly to Siem Reap. The Tonle Sap is called the 'great lake' and is one of the two main topographical features of Cambodia. Today we drive 30 minutes to the departure point at Chong Khneas village and cruise along a canal, past floating villages complete with schools, restaurants and even a hospital. See fishing nets being mended, children swimming and playing, floating pigpens and even crocodile enclosures. We continue out onto the massive lake, past local fishermen and an amazing array of boats where we will stop at a floating fish and crocodile farm. Included visit to a local school today before we return to your hotel with a stop en route to visit Victoria House. Later, included dinner and Apsara Dance Show.

Men sitting on the street in Hoi An in conical hats

Day 7: Siem Reap

We begin with a pre-dawn departure from your hotel for sunrise outside Angkor Wat. Enter the great temple in darkness (please bring a torch) from the little-visited eastern side, and creep along hoary cloistered corridors past the longest stretch of bas-relief carvings in the world. Soak up the atmosphere of dawn at Angkor, from the edge of one of the ancient library pools. We then explore the interior of the great temple, spending a thorough two hours discovering the corridors, central chambers and upper terraces of this truly great temple. Later, we continue to Angkor Thom city and visit the temple of Bayon and Preah Khan temple. Enjoy lunch and a swim before this afternoons sightseeing to Ta Prohm.

A bridge in Hoi An

Day 8: Siem Reap - Hanoi

This morning you will enjoy a walk and talk guided tour of our vibrant local market where we explore a wonderful variety of Cambodian produce. Return to The River Garden for a refreshing lime juice, before you stir and chop your way through our entertaining, hands-on class where you cook your own lunch in typical Khmer style amidst our jungle garden. Late afternoon you will be transferred to Siem Reap airport for your onward flight to Hanoi. Upon arrival into Hanoi you will be met and transferred to your accommodation for check in and this evening is at leisure (opt to visit Hanoi night market, only opens on weekends).

Ho Chi Minh's Notre Dame Basilica Cathedral at night

Day 9: Hanoi - Halong Bay

We take the scenic drive from Hanoi to Halong Bay to embark on your cruise. Savour a delicious Vietnamese buffet lunch as you cruise towards Bai Tu Long Bay passing Vung Dai, Cay Tao and Cat Ba Islands. Visit the Sung Sot Cave and enjoy a swim at Titop or Soi Sim Beach. We anchor overnight near Ho Dong Tien and tonight a sumptuous set-menu seafood dinner is served.

A woman rowing a boat to Can Tho floating markets

Day 10: Halong Bay - Sapa

Start your day with a light breakfast as we weigh anchor and cruise to Luon Cave passing beutiful spots like Dau Nguoi and Con Rua (Tortoise) Islets. We explore Luon Cave before leisurely cruising back to harbour. Brunch will be served on board before we disembark and drive back to Hanoi. Later this evening we board an overnight express sleeper train to the border town of Lao Cai.

Halong Bay at sunset

Day 11: Sapa

On arrival at Lao Cai train station you will be met for the 35 km drive up to Sapa, passing spectacular mountain scenery to finally reach this charming town, set amongst the highest and most beautiful mountains in Vietnam. After breakfast on arrival, we drive south towards the Muong Hoa Valley, and then descend by foot through the largest terraced rice paddy area in the Sapa region. Our walk takes us through the village of Lao Chai, home to the Black Hmong minority, then onto the village of Ta Van village, inhabited by the Giay minority. We have a great opportunity to observe the daily life and traditional hospitality of these people before returning to Sapa in time for lunch. Free afternoon to enjoy at your leisure.

Day 12: Sapa - Hanoi

After a leisurely start we drive out of Sapa to the Red Dzao village of Taphin. One of the area's best known and most colourful minorities, Red Dzao women shave their heads and eyebrows and wear bright scarlet turbans. The Dzao are also well known for their intricate embroideries and occasional overzealous sales techniques! You have the option of visiting a local school today, please advise your guide if you would like to do this. Return to Sapa for lunch followed by free time to relax at the hotel or further explore the town, its market, and the mountain views. At 5:30pm you will be transferred from your hotel to Lao Cai station for your overnight train to Hanoi.

Day 13: Hanoi - Hoi An

Upon arrival into Hanoi this morning transfer to the airport for your flight to Danang. On arrival, you will be met and transferred to your hotel in Hoi An. Hoi An was once Vietnam's most active trading centre over many centuries and the Old Town has been largely preserved. The architecture of the city reflects the influence of Chinese, Japanese, Portuguese, French and British traders. Today you will be guided on a walking tour through the quite streets of enchanting Hoi An. You will visit a traditional ancient house, the Hoi An Museum, a Chinese Assembly Hall and the Japanese Covered Bridge before returning to your hotel where the tour ends.

Day 14: Hoi An

We start today with a bicycle ride to a local farm in the village of Tra Que. Enjoy a brief introduction to the history of the village, the cultivation of local vegetables and their use in traditional Vietnamese medicine. Take a tour of the farm and join the farmers in preparing the land and fertilizing it with seaweed from the local lake. Try your hand at sowing, watering or picking vegetables before enjoying lunch with a local family. Say goodbye to your host family after lunch when we return on our bikes back to Hoi An stopping en route to visit Nhat Tomb and Ba Le Well. The remainder of today is free to enjoy at your leisure.

Day 15: Hoi An

We bid you farewell today and transfer you to Danang airport in time for your departure flight.