The legendary Indochina beckons with centuries of fascinating history, interesting culture and friendly people.
On this journey to Vietnam and Cambodia, we begin in the charming Hanoi, Vietnam’s capital since 1010, and then explore the hidden serene waters of Halong Bay and its thousand limestone islets by an overnight aboard your own private cruising junk with sea kayaking. Heading along the magnificent coast of Cua Dai beach (named China Beach by Americans to refer to the beautiful 30km sweep of fine white sand that starts at Monkey Mountain and ends near Hoi An, where soldiers would be sent here for R&R from bases all over the country during Vietnam War), encounter the picturesque riverside town of Hoi An, with an option to cycle along lovely countryside lanes. After visiting the royal city of Hue, Vietnam’s ancient capital from 1802 to 1945, your grand finale is a private guided visit to Angkor Wat, a Cambodia’s ancient temple city lost in the jungle.
We offer a pre-trip extension to Sapa, the best place to see Vietnam’s hill tribes and mountain markets.
Note: Depending on your choice of airline, you must depart home one or two days early to arrive in Hanoi on Day 1. We suggest you consider arriving a day early to recover from jet lag.
Day – by – Day Itinerary
Upon your arrival in Noi Bai Airport, Hanoi, you will be met and drive to your hotel in the city center. The balance of the day is free, today’s meals on your own. This charming city set in the Red River Delta, and has been Vietnam’s capital since 1010. Its Old Quarter, heart of the city since 15th century, is a fantastic warren of ancient streets and magnificent architecture. The scenic lakes, tree-lined boulevard, and thousands of French colonial buildings make the city full of charm.
Today you will explore the hidden charms of Hanoi. After breakfast, meet your guide at your hotel and set out for a full day city tour.
Typically, a Hanoi tour begins with a visit to Ho Chi Minh complex including Ho Chi Minh Mausoleum and Presidential Palace, locating right at the center of French quarter. Nearby is the One Pillar Pagoda, resting on a single stone pillar emerging from a little lotus pond. Built in 1049 to shape like a lotus flower on its stalk, the pagoda is dedicating to the Goddess of Mercy who is said giving king Ly Nhan Tong a baby in his dream.
Followed by another site of interest, Temple of Literature, known as Vietnam’s first university. It’s a complex of Confucius temple built in 1070 and first state run Confucius school built in 1076 to educate sons of mandarins and talented people until 1779. The site is now considered as the foremost Confucian sanctuary, a symbol of Vietnam’s traditional fondness for learning.
After lunch, visit Hoa Lo prison (known as “Hanoi Hilton”), which was built by the French to keep Vietnamese political prisoners until 1954 and later used by North Vietnamese government for American prisoners of war. It now becomes a museum chronicling the use of the site by both French and North Vietnamese government.
Then drive back to the center of the city for an hour cyclo tour through narrow streets of the old quarter to enjoy the bustling local life, then cap off the day with a show at the water puppet theatre, a uniquely northern Vietnamese art form since 11th century, depicting scenes of rural life and episodes of national history. (B, L)
After breakfast, depart for a 3.5 hours journey to Halong Bay with a stopover en route at Dai Viet center to watch masons and woodcarvers at work, the best place to stretch your legs and have a coffee. Continue on your drive to Tuan Chau Island and aboard your own private junk around noon, a fresh seafood lunch is served while you set off into Halong Bay. More than 900 islets out of 1969 islets in Halong are said to has their own names, this afternoon we cruise pass the islets of Mat Quy and Am Tich, used as film locations in the famous movie – the Indochine. After cruising for 2 hours, we arrive at Vung Vieng fishing village, nestled among limestone islands, and enjoy paddling your own sea kayak to visit the village. Kayaking allows best up-close views of this natural wonderland and life of local fishermen. In the late afternoon, grab a glass of whisky and enjoy the sunset over enchanting Halong while we cruise to the night’s anchorage spot.
The next day, depending on the weather and tidal conditions, you will cruise down to the southernmost of Halong Bay to reach Ho Ba Ham (three tunnels caves) area, the shallow area covering three tranquil lagoons wrapped with limestone walls, and connected to each others and the ocean with 3 low-ceiling tunnels. The only way to see the whole area is by sea kayak, and when tide permits. Another possible visit and a beautiful anchorage is Ba Trai Dao (Three Peach) area, a wonderful spot for swimming on sandy beaches and sea kayaking. You are free to kayak as much or as little as you like, but most people enjoy kayaking two or three hours in the morning and two or three in the afternoon. Your tour guide will paddle along with you and take you to hidden places, while the sailing junk serves as your support boat for kayaking excursions to make sure you can reboard at any time. Each night, your junk anchors at a small cove.
Halong Bay, or Bay of Descending Dragons, is so uniquely beautiful that it has been deemed a UNESCO World Heritage site twice. The bay is truly a magical setting of thousands of sheer limestone islands jutting out of jade-green seawater. Local legend has it that, Jade of Emperor sent a family of dragons down to help Vietnamese keep their land from invaders, when those dragons spat out thousands of jades they became these islands to protect people from invasions by sea. Indeed, the islands do create a natural barrier to the windswept waters of the Gulf of Tonkin and make this a fantastic destination for sea kayaking, sea grottoes explorations, hidden lagoons, and coves with white sandy beaches.
Sailing junks have been around in Vietnam for thousands of years in all shapes and sizes, and are known for their seaworthiness. Your junk is constructed to resemble the centuries-ancient Vietnamese style, with its flat bottom and high stern. It was built completely of teak and bassia wood from center Vietnam, following traditional style. The boat has 3 crews and a private chef. Cabins have out-facing windows, twin beds, fans, air-conditioning, and private bath. The dinning room on the deck is spacious, with picture windows on both sides. Multiple course meals are served, with mostly seafood-base cuisine (please kindly let us you if your preference differs). On the spacious rooftop deck, there are wooden lounge chairs for relaxing and sun bathing. Meals and overnights on board. (B, L, D)
Early rise for some Taichi with your crews on the deck should be a great experience, thing you don’t want to miss before leaving this serene bay. After breakfast, options this morning include sightseeing at Sung Sot Grotto, hiking up and swimming at Titop Island (named after a Soviet hero by Ho Chi Minh when they swam there in 1962), and enjoy a rowing boat to a nearby lagoon.
Follow brunch, your junk hit back the harbor, bid farewell to the crew and return to Hanoi, with a break en route. Arrive in Hanoi around 4 p.m. Dinner on your own and overnight at hotel. (B)
After breakfast at your hotel, your guide will take you to the airport for your flight to Danang, and then take a 15-mile drive along the magnificent coast of Cua Dai beach to Hoi An. Visit the Cham Museum en route, housing an exquisite display of Champa sculpture (2nd to 15th centuries), view the Marble Mountains, five hills representing the five elements of the universe according to an ancient philosophy (metal, wood, water, fire, and earth), and the historic Cua Dai (China Beach) beach.
Overnight in Hoi An, an ancient major international trading port of Vietnam from 15th to 19th centuries, a picturesque riverside town. This small and enchanting town is full of mansions built by former prosperous Chinese, Japanese, and European merchants hundreds years ago. Dinner today is on your own, overnight at the Anantara Hoi An Resort in Hoi An’s French quarter, where it has a spa and acres of gardens along the river. (B)
This morning, you cycle a 15-mile route along the quiet backcountry road to My Son Sanctuary, Vietnam’s most evocative Cham archaeological site, a cluster of abandoned and partially ruined Hindu temples constructed between the 4th and the 14th century AD by the kings of Champa. It’s now a UNESCO World Heritage Site with majestic settings.
After visiting the site, return to Hoi An by car, or keep cycling another 15-mile loop before returning to Hoi An. In the afternoon, walk around the downtown of Hoi An, visit an old merchants’ house with Japanese, Chinese, and Vietnamese influenced architectures, walk through the famous 400-year-old Japanese covered bridge, see the Assemble Hall of the Chaozhow Chinese Congregation, noted for its outstanding wood carvings, and the colorful market with stalls brimming with tropical specialties. Overnight at Anantara Hoi An Resort. (B)
This morning, a beautiful drive along the central coast brings you to Hue, Vietnam’s ancient capital. The scenic route takes you over the well-known Hai Van (‘Sea Cloud’) Pass, where has spectacular views if the central coastline.
Hue is a small city, but it was the seat of Nguyen Dynasty emperors and Vietnam’s capital from 1802-1945. Major attraction is its vast, 19th century Citadel, surrounded by a moat and thick stonewalls. It encompasses the Imperial City, with palaces and shrines, the Forbidden Purple City, once the emperor’s home, and a replica of the Royal Theater.
Like other cities, Hue was also influenced by French culture. The French section of Hue stands between the meandering Perfume River and the Phu Cam Canal. Enjoy cycling alongside the fresh water Tam Giang Lagoon between Hue and East Sea (you can visit Tam Giang Lagoon by vehicle instead of cycling). Overnight at your hotel. (B)
After breakfast, we’ll cycle to the Royal Tombs of kings Minh Mang, Tu Duc and Khai Dinh to learn the history of this city. The ideal cycling roads leading to the tombs guiding you through scenic areas of forest and rice paddies with very little traffic, making it a great venue for an interesting cycling trip. At the end, you will be taken back to your hotel by car.
For lunch today, enjoy Imperial Hue cuisines at an Ancient traditional house of Hue. This royal home brings you a wonderful retreat right under the shade of the trees. In the afternoon, drive to Thien Mu pagoda, built in 1601, the most reversed religious monument in Hue. Your day ends with a walk through the Imperial Citadel, built in early 19th century. Overnight at your hotel. (B, L)
This morning, you will be transferred to Phu Bai airport and fly to Saigon. Upon arrival, you are met by your tour guide then drive to your hotel to drop your luggage. Continue on your city tour. Ho Chi Minh City, more commonly known as Saigon, its pre-1975 name, is now a big and effervescent city perched on the west side of Saigon River.
Thirty years after doi moi (economic reforms implemented in 1986), the city has seen a tremendous economic revival, and it’s now considered to be the most dynamically economic city in Vietnam. The frenzy of new construction includes office towers, glamorous shops, cosmopolitan bars, fine hotels, French villas, along with the attending mopeds, rickshaws, bikes, and increasing numbers of jeeps and cars. Tours around Saigon typically include the Old Saigon Post Office, with its Art Deco architecture, the French Notre Dame Cathedra, the Presidential Palace, and the War Museum, which chronicles the ‘American war’ from 1954 to 1975.
A short drive brings you to Thien Hau Temple, a Chinese temple built by the Cantonese congregation in the early 19th century and stay busy with worshipers from the nearly Chinese community. This well-known temple is dedicating to the goddess of the sea and protector of fishermen. Its interior courtyard has beautiful ceramic figurines and antiques shrouded in incense smoke. Overnight at your hotel. (B)
This morning, you will flight to Siem Reap, Cambodia. After breakfast, transfer to the airport for your flight to Sieam Reap, and transfer to your hotel. Angkor Wat is a long lasting monument to the glory of a bygone Khmer civilization. This vast city of temples covered with intricate bas-reliefs is one of the wonders of the modern world.
Built between the 9th and 13th centuries to glorify a succession of Khmer kings, those temples are massive and majestic, with wide causeways, imposing gateways and towers, huge moats, and colossal sculptured Buddha images, all in a wonderful tropical setting. Many temples are vast representations of the cosmic plan of the Hindu-Buddhist universe, with all tis attendant symbolism.
Most of the Angkor was abandoned in the 15th century and temples became cloaked by jungle. The site became the source of scholarly interest in the late 19th century, and efforts were made to clear away the jungle vegetation that threatened to destroy the monuments. The restoration under UNESCO and various national projects continues today.
After lunch on your own, enjoy a guided afternoon walking tour to legendary temple of Angkor, including Angkor’s grandest and most inspiring temple complex, the temple of Angkor Wat itself. This architectural masterpiece was constructed in the 12th century and covers an area of around 500 acres. When going along, you will soon explore many galleries with columns, libraries, pavilions, courtyards, and ponds full of water reflecting the temple. Intricately carved bas-reliefs extend the length of the outer walls and corridors, depicting mythological scenes of Hindu epics and day-to-day life at the time of Angkor’s construction.
Your day ends at Phnom Bakheng, the first major temple to be constructed in the Angkor area, which has the hilltop setting making it a popular location for sunset panoramas. Overnight at your hotel. (B)
Rise early this morning, around 5:30 am, to enjoy a sunrise reflection of Angkor Wat at the pond in front of it. After breakfast at your hotel, your full day tour will include the enchanting Ta Prohm Temple, which remains in its original state, wrapped by roots of enormous fig trees, and the famous Bayon Temple, noted for its gigantic Bodhisattva sculptures.
Other temples of interest include Ta Keo, Chau Sa Tevoda, Thammanon, Bantay Kdei, and Sra Srang. In the afternoon, visit Angkor Thom, the royal city itself, which covers four square miles. Its 50-tower temple is an awesome sight. Further visits include the Terrace of Elephants, and the Terrace of the Leper King. Overnight at your hotel. (B)
After breakfast at your hotel, transfer to the airport for your departing flights. (B)
Price per person: $3000
Holiday surcharge: non
All costs are per person, based on a private guide and car.
Trip cost includes:
Trip cost DOSE NOT include:
PAYMENT AND CANCELLATION FEE SCHEDULES
As you are not confirmed on the trip until deposit has been received by our office, please do not make non-refundable air arrangements prior to us confirming your booking. Our payment schedules:
Note: If booked less than 45 days from arrival, full payment is required immediately
If it becomes necessary for you to cancel your trip, the following fees will apply, computed as of the date of receipt of written cancellation notice, which can be sent by email.
Arrival & Departure Information
You are responsible for your own transportation to the arrival and from the departure cities listed below. For more detailed information, including transfers, please kindly contact us for a detailed itinerary.
Please do not purchase your tickets until you are confirmed on the trip. Once your tickets have been purchased, please send us a copy of your airline schedule.
Spring 2017 – Spring 2018 Departures
Arrival: Hanoi, Vietnam
Departure: Siem Reap, Cambodia