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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.
In the morning, enjoy a guided city tour of Hanoi. Having celebrated its 1000 year anniversary in 2010, the city has a rich and fascinating history. Sightseeing includes Hoan Kiem Lake which is the very heart of the city, the One Pillar Pagoda, the Temple of Literature - Vietnam’s first university dating back to 1070 and more depending on your interest. Later an hour or so is spent exploring the quixotic web of streets, known as the ‘36 streets of the old quarter’ by cyclo.
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. Here, meet our driver who will take you to Ninh Binh or Hanoi to catch the SE5 train to Hue - Sit back and enjoy the fantastic scenery. Arriving into Hue at around 22:19 we will take you to your hotel.
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. We will arrive into Hoi An and enjoy 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. We then head off to Danang Airport for your late PM flight to Saigon.
In the morning travel north west of the city to visit the historic Cu Chi Tunnels which were a key battleground in the Vietnam War. The vast expanse of underground tunnels were used by Viet Cong guerrillas, as a communication and supply route into Saigon, they also served as living quarters for the fighters. Upon arrival watch a short introductory video on the construction of the tunnels before spending an hour exploring the maze of tunnels, accompanied by a guide. Returning to Saigon City early afternoon and enjoy lunch before embarking on a city tour. Major attractions include the Reunification Palace, Notre Dame Cathedral and the War Remnants Museum.
This morning we fly to Phnom Penh. Welcome to the Cambodia! Upon arrival, you will be met by your tour guide and driver before being transfered to your hotel. A sight seeing tour of the city will take in the Royal Palace, the incredible solid silver-floored Silver Pagoda and the National Museum, a treasure chest of Angkorian and pre-Angkorian artifacts before ending our city tour with a visit to Wat Phnom pagoda and shopping at the Russian market.
After breakfast we travel southwest of Phnom Penh to Choeung Ek. The memorial just outside Phnom Penh was an orchard and a Chinese cemetery prior to 1975. During the Khmer Rouge regime, it became one of the killing fields, the site of the brutal executions of more than 17,000 individuals, most of who first suffered through torture and deprivation in Toul Sleng Prison. Choeung Ek is now a group of mass graves and a memorial stupa containing thousands of skulls. This evening, enjoy a boat cruise on the Mekong River and take in the local night life.
After breakfast we leave Phnom Penh and travel to Kompong Thom province. The province is large in size with some 13,814 km2 making it the second biggest province of Cambodia. It is one of the most popular historical and cultural sites to explore due to its pre Angkorian temples. Later visit Sambor Prei Kuk, the most impressive group of pre-Angkorian monuments in Cambodia.
Today we continue to Siem Reap to visit the Angkor Wat Temple. This architectural master piece was built in the 12th century, took 30 years to complete and represents the Khmer civilization at its grandest. Covering 81 hectares, it is one of the largest religious monuments ever built. Angkor Wat (the biggest Hindu temple in the world and one of the largest religious monuments in the world, was built between the 9th – 13th century. In the early evening climb to Bakheng Hill to enjoy the superb view as the sun sets over Angkor Wat.
Today is spent further exploring the Angkor Wat complex, entering the South Gate of Angkor Thom Temple marvel at the wonders of the eerie Bayon, the terrace of Elephants and the terrace of the Leper King. Afterwards, we continue to visit Ta Prohm temple, shrouded in jungle and left just it was founded by French explorers in 1850s. After lunch visit Beng Mealea Temple, a spectacular jungle temple around 60 Kms drive to the north east of Siem Reap. It is one of the "new" highlights of Cambodia; having only been cleared of mines at the end of 2003.
Today travel to Banteay Srey, one of the most unusual temples of Angkor, Cambodia. Later visit Banteay Samre, built in the third quarter of the 12th century. The Srah Srang a royal bathing Palace, located east of Banteay Kdei is our next destination. Then visit the Banteay Kdei Temple, a massive Buddhist monastery from the latter part of the 12th century and is surrounded by for concentric walls. Later take in Ta Keo, an incomplete temple in the Khleang style built as the state temple of Jayavarman V. Finally we finish with Thommanon Temple, one of a pair of Hindu temples built in the end of the 11th century.
This morning you fly direct to Yangon. Welcome to Burma, ‘quite unlike any place you know about’. Arrive Yangon with included airport transfer to your hotel where later in the day a Welcome Meeting will be held. Later this evening we visit the most revered Buddhist temple in Burma, the magnificent Shwedagon Pagoda, where locals gather to make offerings and prayers. Standing at 90 metres tall, the gold leaf central stupa dominates the city’s skyline and turns vivid hues of yellow, orange and red when the sun begins to set.
We begin the day at the waterfront, the heart of the city and home to many impressive traditional and colonial buildings including the Sule Pagoda, Maha Bandoola Park with Independence Monument, the City Hall and the High Court. We also visit the gold, hollow Botahtaung Pagoda, originally built over 2500 years ago, and the giant 70 metre-long reclining Buddha of Chaukhtagyi Paya whose serene features are topped by a crown encrusted in diamonds and other precious stones. We then head to the airport for the 16:00 flight to Mandalay. Arriving here, meet our driver who takes you onto your hotel.
This morning we head to the jetty for a pleasant boat ride upriver to Mingun to visit the remains of what could have been the world’s largest pagoda. We also visit the huge Mingun Bell and the beautiful white Myatheindan pagoda nearby. Returning by boat to Mandalay the afternoon is spent exploring the Royal Palace, the teak carvings of the historic Shwenandaw Monastery and the world’s largest book at the Kuthodaw Pagoda. Our day concludes with Mandalay Hill and depending on the time, a spectacular sunset with vistas across the city.
Transferring to the jetty this morning we board a boat for a scenic cruise on the Ayeyarwaddy River taking us to Bagan. Sit back and relax as the vessel plies its course past rolling fields of green. Arriving into Bagan later this evening we transfer to our hotel.
Nothing can quite prepare you for the spectacular sight of stupa-upon-stupa that fills the green, dusty plains of Bagan. Over 2000 temples and pagodas dating back some 800 years create one of the most impressive skylines to be seen in Southeast Asia. Over today and tomorrow you will explore many of the fascinating temples and pagodas that dot the landscape.
This morning we return by flight to Yangon, then catch your connecting flight to Bangkok where you will catch your onward connecting flight back home.