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Day 1 – Hanoi Arrival – On arrival at Hanoi Noi Bai International Airport, you will be welcomed by our airport representative who will provide the private vehicle transfer to your hotel. The remainder of the day is at leisure.
Day 2- Hanoi to Ninh Binh – Enjoy an early breakfast before you meet your guide in the hotel foyer and depart at 08:00 for the 2.5-hour drive through rural northern Vietnam to the site of Vietnam’s first capital, Hoa Lu. Today you will visit the temples dedicated to Emperor Dinh Tien Hoang of the Dinh Dynasty (968-980), and Emperor Le Dai Hanh of the Le Dynasty (980-1009). The ancient Hoa Lu Citadel, most of which has since been destroyed, once covered an area of three-square kilometres. After visiting Hoa Lu, if time and energy levels permit, choose a half-hour walk up one of the surrounding limestone karst hills. The climb is rewarded with spectacular views. In the late morning, depart for Tam Coc Town to enjoy a traditional Vietnamese lunch. Along the way you can stop to take pictures of local villages and the stunning landscape.
Once lunch is finished, visit Trang An Landscape Complex, a UNESCO World Heritage Site. Enjoy a relaxing boat ride on a peaceful river passing through a series of caves. Trang An is a spectacular landscape of limestone karst peaks permeated with valleys, some of which are submerged, and surrounded by steep, almost vertical cliffs. As the boat gently slices through the water, notice the enormous limestone karsts jutting out from the green rice fields giving rise to another name, ‘Halong on Land’. Officially designated as an ‘eco-tourism’ area, the only interruptions here are the sound of birds and the gentle paddle of the oar upon the crystal-clear river. You will now transfer to the hotel and enjoy the remainder of the afternoon at leisure. (B & L)
Day 3 – Ninh Binh to HaLong Bay – Following an early breakfast, leave Ninh Binh for a 4-hour (approximately) drive to Ha Long Bay, Vietnam’s most popular UNESCO World Heritage site! The name ‘Ha Long’ means ‘Bay of Descending Dragons’ and owes its origins to a Vietnamese myth. The towering limestone karsts represent the dragon’s back, surrounded by jade green water creating an unforgettable site. There are more than 1,600 limestone islands and islets with different shapes jutting out from the sea.
Arrive at Ha Long Bay jetty around noon and proceed with check-in formalities before boarding a boat for an unforgettable overnight cruise on Ha Long Bay. After being welcomed on board, a lunch of authentic Vietnamese food is served while cruising the bay itself. Towards the end of the day, the boat sets anchor for the night among karst formations whilst dinner is served on board, and then you can enjoy at your leisure. (B, L & D)
Day 4 – HaLong to Hanoi – Enjoy a fresh morning as the sun rises on Ha Long in the morning, and breakfast is served (brunch on some boats) while the vessels cruises slowly through the magnificent rock formations and back towards port. In the early afternoon you will disembark, meet your drive and enjoy a private vehicle transfer to returning to Hanoi.
You will arrive in Hanoi late in the afternoon, and then enjoy a leisurely one-tricycle hour tour through the streets of this fascinating city, coming face to face with the daily lives and activities of Hanoi’s streets as you pass through the congested, but delightful, Old Quarter. Ride pass the bustling streets, which still bear the names of the shops that could be found in them in the 15th to 18th centuries. Then enjoy a walking through the Hanoi’s Old Quarter, also known as the ‘36 streets. This bustling area of narrow streets and alleys is home to thousands of small businesses and shopkeepers. It’s a great place to explore with plenty of photo opportunities all around you
End the day by attending the Water Puppet show, this uniquely northern Vietnamese art form depicting scenes from rural life and episodes of national history. After enjoying the performance, you will be transferred to your hotel for an evening at leisure. (B & D)
Day 5 – Overnight train Hanoi to Lao Cai – At the completion of breakfast at the hotel, meet your guide and visit The One Pillar Pagoda, which was founded by King Ly Thai To in 1049, and this structure is one of Vietnam’s smallest but most iconic temples. Close by is the Mausoleum of the historic Father Figure of modern Vietnam, Ho Chi Minh, and the Former President’s House on stilts where he lived from 1958 to 1969. His former home illustrates the modesty of this Vietnamese revolutionary
(The Ho Chi Minh Mausoleum is closed Mondays & Fridays and from Jun-Aug, you will view from the outside).
Lunch will be served today at a local restaurant.
One of the best things about northern Vietnam is that while most provinces are rapidly modernizing, villages that boast histories spanning centuries can still be found, not only their architecture but also their ambiance is almost intact.
In the afternoon you will enjoy a 45-minute drive from the hustle and bustle of the city to visit the 200- year-old Nom Village. The centre of this little town reveals a beautiful architectural complex consisting of a common house, an ancient well and a banyan tree. Meet with the head of the village and, explore the narrow brick roads and visit another antique house. Engage in a conversation with the host over a cup of traditional tea to learn more about local life and the traditions that define this community. The excursion ends with a visit to the holiest place in the village, Nom Pagoda,embedded in a century-old pine forest which is famous for its ancient Buddhist statues.
Dinner tonight will be served at a local restaurant. At 20:00 hrs you will be transferred to Hanoi Railway Station and enjoy an overnight train journey to Lao Cai in a superior 4-berth compartments sharing with other passengers. The train departs at approximately 21:50 hrs. (B, L & D)
Notes: The train schedule is subject to change. Train journeys are part of a great local experience. Cabins are shared with other local passengers (unless a private cabin is requested, and all berths paid for – with supplement). Restrooms at either end of the carriages complete the local experience.
2 ways private compartments on request at surcharge of US$ 190/ pax/ (1 pax in 1 private cabin), US$ 70/ pax/ (2 pax in 1 private cabin), US$ 30/ pax/ (3 pax in 1 private cabin)
Day 6 – Lao Cai to SaPa – In the early morning (approximately 06:30 hrs) you will arrive at Lao Cai, the border town to Yunnan, China. The journey starts with a 38 km drive up the winding roads through the mountains to SaPa, located approx. 1,500 m above sea level. On clear days you can see the highest mountain in Vietnam, the Fansipan. After enjoying breakfast at a local restaurant, enjoy a morning walking tour of SaPa and a visit to the local market. It is here that the Red Dao, Black H’Mong, Tay, and other ethnic minority people converge from the surrounding countryside to sell their silverware and handicrafts and to buy provisions.
In the late morning enjoy a short drive to the Cat Cat village of the Hmong people, there you should enjoy some light trekking around the village and share a rare glimpse into their culture and customs. Return to SaPa for an authentic lunch. The rest of the afternoon is free for your activities. (B & L)
Appropriate footwear must be worn on treks in Sapa. Note that if conditions are wet, programs may be diverted.
Day 7 – SaPa to Lao Cai – Enjoy a full day of trekking. This morning you will visit Suoi Ho village, full of tea plantations and cardamom gardens. Follow the buffalo trails to visit the hospitable villages of the Black Hmong minority people in Ma Tra. After passing a school and scenic views en route, a picnic lunch will be served. After lunch, continue trekking to Ta Phin village where you will meet the Red Dao people who are famous for their weaving skills. Proceed to the meeting point and transfer back to SaPa.
After a short rest (time permitting), in the late afternoon or early evening you will be transferred to Lao Cai Railway Station where you will board the overnight train to Hanoi at around 20:15 hrs (shared sleeping compartments, sharing with other passengers in 2 lower & 2 upper berths per compartment). (B & L)
Notes: The train schedule is subject to change. Private compartments on request at a surcharge. Train journeys are part of a great local experience. Cabins are shared with other local passengers (unless a private cabin is requested, and all berths paid for – with supplement). Restrooms at either end of the carriages complete the local experience.
Day 8 – Hanoi to Hue – After arriving in Hanoi early this morning, you will be picked up from the train station and transferred to a local restaurant to enjoy an authentic breakfast. After breakfast, you will enjoy a steam bath, sauna with one hour of body treatment (massage) and thereafter a bowl of noodle with a fresh fruit platter. Enjoy some free time until you meet your driver who will provide the private vehicle transfer to Noi Bai Airport for a domestic flight to Hue.
Upon arrival at Phu Bai International Airport in Hue you will meet our airport representative who will provide the private vehicle transport this afternoon. Hue is the former Imperial City of the last dynasty of Vietnam. Located in Central Vietnam, Hue is the only place in the country where many historic, cultural, architectural as well as artistic values have been preserved. Tangible cultural heritage – the system of historic monuments – and intangible cultural heritage – the Imperial court music – have their own national and international values that were acknowledged as World Cultural Heritages. Hue is also the site where the northern and southern ecosystems meet, an area of river-hills, greenery and, beautiful landscapes.
Tonight, you will enjoy a journey to the splendid history of ancient Royal time in Vietnam, you will be charmed with the Royal style decoration of the Royal Dining Room, the atmosphere of the diner that you are in as the King with royal wears. All the food served is in royal dishes symbolizing a dragon, phoenix, or peacock. The table is decorated by Hue’s colourful silk and flowers, large candle lights, a colourful lantern with a dragon pattern and spotlights … All meticulously prepared to the finest details for a sumptuous dinner that fits for royalty. You will discover how Royal life was, enjoying the “Royal meal” while listening to melodious music and experiencing a feeling of being a real King. (B & L)
Domestic airfare from Hanoi to Hue is included.
Day 9 – Hue to Hoi An via DaNang – This morning you will meet with our guide at the hotel lobby and commence the day by enjoying a scenic boat trip on the Perfume River to Thien Mu Pagoda, one of the oldest ancient architectural structures for religious worship in Hue. Afterward you will explore the Imperial City of Hue. The Hue Citadel is situated on the Northern bank of the Perfume River and built by Emperor Gia Long, it was designed for the exclusive use of the Emperor and his household. The Citadel is a square 2 km wall encompassing 3 walled enclosures, they are the Citadel, Kinh Thanh Hue, the Yellow Imperial city, Hoang Thanh and in the centre the Forbidden Purple city Tu Cam Thanh where the Emperor lived. The Hue royal complex has been officially recognized by the UNESCO as a World Heritage Site. Hue’s environment is famous for its tombs of past emperors of the Nguyen Dynasty. Most of the tombs have courtyards, a temple for worship, statues of elephants and figures and a pond, but the layout of each is different reflecting differing king’s personality and style. Visit Khai Dinh Royal Tomb, considered as one of the most beautiful mausolea in Hue. Khai Dinh Tomb – Emperor of Vietnam from 1916 to 1925. The tomb represents a fusion of traditional Vietnamese style and modern influence. The construction of the tomb began in 1920 and lasted 11 years. On the way back to your hotel you stop at a village that is well-known for its production of typical Vietnamese conical hats. Lunch today will be served at a local restaurant.
In the afternoon enjoy the spectacular drive over the Hai Van Pass to DaNang with a whole view of the Pacific Ocean and the famous Lang Co fishing village. Continuing to the charming historic city of Hoi An which lies on the banks of the Thu Bon River. Hoi An was one of the major trading centres of Southeast Asia in the 16th century and was declared a World Cultural Heritage Site by UNESCO in 1999. En-route, you will visit the Cham Museum – The world’s foremost collection of the sculpture of the ancient Kingdom of Champa, and the Marble Mountain, whose peaks represent the five elements of the universe. Continuing to the charming historic city of Hoi An which lies on the banks of the Thu Bon River. Hoi An was one of the major trading centres of Southeast Asia in the 16th century and was declared a World Cultural Heritage Site by UNESCO in 1999. (B & L)
Day 10 – Hoi An Cooking class – After breakfast at the hotel, you will be transferred to the meeting point where chefs will highlight some of the daily produce sold, such fruits, vegetables, meat, silkworms, etc. surely, this market visit will provide you with endless photo opportunities. You will start with a visit to Hoi An’s colourful main market and experience its amazing sights, sounds and aromas. Here you will have the opportunity to interact with the local sellers, to see and taste the wonderful variety of foods on display.The tour continues to board the Red Bridge boat for a leisurely cruise (25 minutes) along the Hoi An River to the Red Bridge Cooking School and this is a chance to view the local river life, so make sure your camera is handy.
At the Red Bridge Cooking school, the chefs will explain how to prepare some of Hoi An’s and Vietnam’s best-known dishes. The cooking lesson runs for about 2 hours – each dish is first demonstrated by the Red Bridge chefs, before you prepare the same dish yourself, and finally you will enjoy the meal you have prepared.
Included in the class is a brief introduction to Vietnamese food carving (plate decoration).
In the afternoon you will discover Hoi An – known to early Western merchants, Hoi An was one of the major trading centres of Southeast Asia in the 16th century. Hoi An has a mixed Chinese- Vietnamese atmosphere with low, tile-roof houses and narrow streets. Having been through many ups and downs in the past, the original structures however, are still virtually intact. That was one of the reasons to persuade UNESCO to recognize Hoi An as a World Heritage in 1999. Besides, the surroundings of Hoi An, especially the countryside, is one of the most outstanding highlights that visitors should experience during their stay. One of the best ways to discover Hoi An and its surroundings is by a walking tour. During your leisurely walk you will visit some of the historic merchant and community houses, places of worship and famous Japanese Covered Bridge, and view the daily life of the local people, in addition to green paddy fields, vegetable gardens, markets, temples, historic houses, fishermen and stunning countryside scenes.
In the late afternoon you will enjoy “the TOP world-best show” and “A feast for the eyes” – Hoi An Memories Show. The setting is sprawling and magnificent, grandly depicting the nearby mountains, the sodden river flood plains that typify Vietnam and the old port of Hoi An. The music is exquisite, the lighting hi-tech and the choreography superb. The traditional performing art is not simply a tale that balances legend with history, tradition with progress, and peace with turbulence but also a way to help enrich the community of which they’re a part of. It acts as a door to the larger world of performing arts by staging high-quality productions and attracting anyone who loves the arts. It is both a must-see cultural spectacle and mind-blowing entertainment. After the show, you will be transferred back to your hotel. (B & L)
Day 11 – Hoi An – Today is at your leisure. (B)
Day 12 – Hoi An – Today is at your leisure. (B)
Day 13 – Hoi An to Ho Chi Minh City – Enjoy the morning free at your own leisure until proceeding with your driver to DaNang International Airport for your domestic flight to Ho Chi Minh. Upon arrival at Tan Son Nhat International Airport, you will be warmly welcomed by our local guide who will provide the private vehicle transfer to enjoy the lunch at a local restaurant.
In the afternoon you will explore the city with your guide to visit Independence Palace (Reunification Palace), War Remnants Museum. Afterward, stroll through the major sights of colonial Ho Chi Minh City such as the Old Saigon Post Office, Notre Dame Cathedral inaugurated in 1880 became the spiritual and cultural crucible of the French presence in the Orient as was the Post office designed by Gustav Eiffel and resembling a grand railway station. Continue to Dong Khoi Street (formerly Rue Catinat), Continental Hotel, The Opera House and Ho Chi Minh City People’s Committee (formerly Hotel de Ville) which is one of the most photographed buildings in Vietnam – notable for its gardens, ornate facade and elegant interior lit with crystal chandeliers. In the late afternoon you will transfer to your hotel for check-in and enjoy the evening at your leisure. (B & L)
Domestic airfare from Danang to Ho Chi Minh is included.
Day 14 – Ho Chi Minh City to Mekong Delta – This morning meet your guide in the lobby of your hotel and embark on a drive to My Tho the heart of the Mekong delta, famous for its vast rice fields and most beautiful landscapes. Here you will visit the Vinh Trang Pagoda en-route and stop by the bank of Tien Giang river. Enjoy boat trip on the Mekong River to Phoenix Island where local handicrafts and sweets from coconut are being produced. Sample fresh seasonal fruits and traditional live music and a songs performance. Take a short ride on a horse carriage to a typical local house to taste some homemade honey-tea. Proceed by small sampan boats through the small canals and side arms of the river to observe the daily life along the riverbanks with a stop and short leisurely walk at the Turtle Island. Lunch will be served at a local restaurant before driving back to your hotel in Ho Chi Minh City. (B & L)
Day 15 – Ho Chi Minh City to Cu Chi Tunnels – Enjoy an early morning and embark on the journey of 75 km from Saigon to the Cu Chi Tunnels – a complex of an incredible underground tunnel network constructed by Vietnamese resistance fighters (Viet Cong) during both the French and American wars. There is more than 200 km of mapped tunnels, comprising a main axis system with many branches connecting to underground hideouts, shelters and other tunnels. You have the chance to crawl through this amazing system of tunnels. For a more “thrilling” experience, you can even test your shooting skills on original AK47s and other guns from past war times (subject to a surcharge).
Lunch will be served at a local restaurant. In the afternoon you will be transferred to your hotel to enjoy the afternoon and evening at your leisure.
This evening you will enjoy the Buffet dinner (included food and 01 welcome drink, excluded waters soft drinks, alcohols) on the floating restaurant, the Bonsai Cruise which offers a Vietnamese dining experience with a difference and the perfect way to soak up the atmosphere along the Saigon River. Upon arrival the captain will welcome you aboard with a welcome drink, an introduction will then be given on the European and Asian cuisine on offer which has made this Ho Chi Minh City dinner cruise a must-do culinary experience. Relax on the decks and enjoy the panoramic view during the 90-minute journey cruise on the Saigon River. The food, organic and fresh is presented and prepared on interactive buffet stations and a live band is on board to entertain. (B, L & D)
Note: The cruise is operated on a join-in basis with two decks seating up to 200 guests with the central buffet areas offering modern moorish cuisine inspired by flavors, species and tastes that can be found in the Indochinese region. Live entertainment will be performed throughout the cruise journey.
After the cruise you will return to the pier where your driver is waiting to take you back to your hotel.
Day 16 – Ho Chi Minh City departure – Enjoy your last few hours in Ho Chi Minh before you meet your driver in the hotel foyer who will provide the private vehicle transfer to Tan Son Nhat International Airport for your onward flight. (B)
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