|DAY||SUMMARY OF ACTIVITY||LOCATION|
|1||Arrival – Sunset cruise on the Mekong River||Phnom Penh|
|2||Full day city tour including Wat Phnom, Independence Monument, Royal Palace and Silver Pagoda, S21 Genocide Museum and Choeung Ek Killing Fields. Short domestic flight to Siem Reap||Siem Reap|
|3||Full day tour beginning with Sunrise at Angkor Wat, Angkor Thom, The Bayon and Ta Phrom (Tomb Raider Temple), Dinner and Phare Performing Arts Circus.||Siem Reap|
|4||Visit the unique stilted houses and floating villages of the Tonle Sap Lake and Beng Mealea ‘Jungle Temple’.||Siem Reap|
|5||Explore Banteay Srei ‘Lady Temple’, Understand about UXB’s at the Landmine Museum and regional flight to Hanoi||Hanoi|
|6||Full day Hanoi tour including The Old Quarter, Temple of Literature, Ho Chi Minh complex, Hoan Kiem Lake and more||Hanoi|
|7||Transfer to Halong Bay and overnight cruise on a traditional junk||Halong Bay|
|8||Continue cruising Halong Bay and late afternoon return to Hanoi||Hanoi|
|9||Morning domestic flight to Da Nang. Visit My Son Sanctuary and then to Hoi An UNESCO Old Town||Hoi An|
|10||Gentle cycle to Tra Que village and informal cooking class. Afternoon walking tour of Old Hoi An, including Japanese Bridge, Assembly Hall, Tan Ky and the local market||Hoi An|
|11||Drive via Da Nang and the stunning Hai Van Mountain Pass, to the former capital city of Hue.||Hue|
|12||Explore Hue Citadel, the Emperors Tombs, local villages and sunset cruise on the Perfume River||Hue|
|13||Morning flight to Saigon and visit to the wartime tunnels of Cu Chi.||Saigon|
|14||Full day city tour including Notre Dame, Central Post Office, Reunification Palace and War Remnants Museum||Saigon|
|15||Morning to Ben Thanh Market and then transfer to airport for your onward journey.|
ARRIVAL IN PHNOM PENH
Meet you outside of the arrival hall at Phnom Penh Airport and private transfer to your hotel.
MEKONG SUNSET CRUISE (gold ticket)
Experience the finest cruise boat in Phnom Penh and visit the mighty Mekong and see quaint floating Villages and local fishermen at work during this approximate 80 minutes cruise.
Your cruise includes a selection of appetizers and one beverage (beer, wine or soft-drink) for you to enjoy while witnessing a spectacular sunset over the Phnom Penh skyline and Royal Palace. A trip not to be missed.
Embarkation is at 5.00pm and return to port around 6.20pm.
Click here for more details
Included: transport, tour guide, bottled drinking water and fresh-up tissues, boat ticket, cruise
PHNOM PENH CITY TOUR
We explore “the hidden pearl of Asia” with a guided tour of the city stopping at sites of interest along the way, including the spectacular Royal Palace, Silver Pagoda (Emerald Buddha), the pagoda at Wat Phnom, the Independence Monument and the newly erected statue commemorating the late King Father (Sihanouk).
For an insight into Cambodian religious life, visit a pagoda. In the late morning, depending on your time of arrival at the pagoda, you may also be able to see the monks chanting, (not guaranteed) prior to their lunch.
After lunch (included), we continue our tour of Phnom Penh by taking a sobering walk through Tuol Sleng Genocide Museum (S-21). Here there are stark and moving reminders of Cambodia’s recent tragic past. Our expert guide will explain the historical, political and social context of the bleak period of Khmer history which followed the fall of Phnom Penh in April 1975.
Then continue on to Choeung Ek Memorial – one of the infamous Killing Fields, where the Khmer Rouge executed around 17,000 of the estimated 2 million Cambodians who perished under the Pol Pot regime.
Private transfer to Phnom Penh Airport for your outbound flight (details tbc).
Domestic flight from Phnom Penh (PNH) to Siem Reap (REP) taking around 45 minutes.
ARRIVAL IN SIEM REAP
Your guide will meet you just outside of the arrivals hall at Siem Reap International Airport and transfer you to your accommodation to check in.
Included: tour guide, entrance fees, lunch, bottled drinking water and fresh-up tissues, transport, domestic flight
MAGNIFICENT TEMPLES OF ANGKOR
The day begins early with an unforgettable and awe-inspiring site – Angkor Wat at dawn. Marvel as the sun rises over the spires of the largest religious structure in the world.
We’ll return you to your hotel for breakfast and then continue our discovery of the temples. After exploring Angkor Wat in all its splendor, at the quietest time of day, we take a break for a local lunch, before returning to the ancient walled city of Angkor Thom and the beguiling, smiling faces of the Bayon Temple.
Late afternoon, visit Ta Phrom, when the light is at its’ most magical. See how the massive root tentacles from the towering trees have grown through the temple, binding the ancient stones to the jungle. It’s an evocative sight.
Included: tour guide, entrance fees, transport, lunch, bottled drinking water and fresh-up tissues
FLOATING VILLAGE AND JUNGLE TEMPLE
Today we visit the remote stilted village of Kompong Khleang, on the floodplains of the Tonle Sap Lake.
During the dry season the 6-metre stilted homes tower above the low water line, exposing the various livestock of the villagers, including chicken, pigs and dogs.
The villagers are fishing folk with shrimp harvesting their primary source of income. Giant sheets covered with pink shrimp drying in the sun can be seen on the lake shore and along the main street.
In the afternoon we venture out to visit one of the larger, but further afield temples of the Angkor region, deep in the jungle at Beng Mealea. It has been described as “unquestionably one of the most beautiful Angkorian sites,’ and possibly served as the direct model for Angkor Wat itself.
DINNER AND PHARE
At around 6.00pm, we’ll meet you at your hotel and transfer you to Phare.
Your included dinner this evening is at Phare Cafe outside the big top, so that you can take in the extraordinary and enlightening performing arts of Phare, The Cambodian Circus.
The performance lasts one hour. VIP tickets ensure reserved seat with close-up and unobstructed views of the action. It mixes traditional and modern theatre, music, dance, acrobatics, juggling, contortion, balancing and tight rope walking. It is a truly remarkable experience to see these young, underprivileged, inspirational people who have become so disciplined and talented.
When the performance ends, transportation back to your hotel is provided.
Included: tour guide, entrance fees, transport, lunch, bottled drinking water and fresh-up tissues, private boat, dinner
BANTEAY SREI, LANDMINE MUSEUM AND BANTEAY SAMRE
This morning we head north from Siem Reap to visit the charming temple of goddesses, the beautiful pink sandstone temple of Banteay Srei. Then continue to the Landmine Museum.
The founder, Mr. Aki Ra, was a 2010 CNN Heroes Award recipient for his anti-mining work.
Landmines have immensely impacted the recent history and culture of modern Cambodian society. Here you will see a collection of thousands of landmines and other ordinance, the majority of which were disarmed by Aki Ra – using his own, sometimes primitive methods. This is a sobering, but highly enlightening visit.
On the back to town we can stop at Pre Rup temple before driving to the airport for your late afternoon flight to Hanoi (flight cost is included).
Regional flight from Siem Reap (REP) to Hanoi Noi Bai (HAN) taking around 100 minutes (tbc).
ARRIVAL INTO HANOI NOI BAI AIRPORT
We meet you outside of the arrivals hall and private transfer to Hanoi city, which takes around 45 minutes.
Included: tour guide, entrance fees, transport, lunch, bottled drinking water and fresh-up tissues, economy class regional flight, transport, tour guide
HANOI CITY DISCOVERY
This day will take in the highlight sites and sights including: Streets of the Old Quarter, Ho Chi Minh Mausoleum complex, One-pillar Pagoda, Temple of Literature and museums of interest.
Originally the streets of the Old Quarter teemed with many artisans manufacturing and selling their wares. The street names nowadays still reflect these specializations. We will explore this dynamic view of everyday street life on foot in the morning light – it is a photographer’s paradise… all kinds of portraiture, architecture and people at work – along with many street sellers and their wares.
The Mausoleum of Ho Chi Minh is located in the centre of Ba Dinh Square, which is the place where Ho read the Declaration of Independence on September 2, 1945, establishing the Democratic Republic of Vietnam. Ho Chi Minh’s body is preserved in the cooled, central hall of the mausoleum, which is protected by a military honour guard. (inside mausoleum open Tue – Thur only). We continue to stroll through the beautiful gardens surrounding the mausoleum which have nearly 250 different species of plants and flowers, all from different regions of Vietnam. Also visit the simple ‘stilt house’ which Ho lived in and the unique ‘One-Pillar Pagoda’.
The Temple of Literature was first constructed in 1070 and is dedicated to Confucius, sages and scholars. Also here is The Imperial Academy – constructed in 1076, which was the first national university of Vietnam, it has preserved its ancient architectural style of many dynasties.
Depending on time available, some museums may also be visited – notable are: Hoa Lo (Hanoi Hilton), Museum of Ethnology and the Vietnamese Women’s Museum.
This is a flexible full day of touring and you can discuss specific sites / sights and locations with your guide, depending on your own personal interests and pace.
Included: tour guide, entrance fees, bottled drinking water and fresh-up tissues, transport
HALONG BAY OVERNIGHT CRUISE
Begin departure from Hanoi. The cruise company representative will meet you at your hotel approximately 08.00 (tbc) and you join the cruise company shared shuttle transport for your transfer to Halong Bay. The drive through the Red River Delta will take approximately 3.5 hours with a refreshment stop along the way. 12: 00 Arrive to Paloma office in Halong City
Ha Noi – Bai Tu Long Bay – Vung Vieng Floating Village.
12.30 Arrive at Paloma office, Halong City. Transferred by tender to Paloma Cruise – Enjoy welcome drink. Receive cruise briefing, check in cabin and begin your cruise.
13.30 Having lunch – delicious Vietnamese set menu (Massage service is available after lunch and throughout the tour).
15:00 Head to Bai Tu Long Bay, pass the towns of Hon Gai and Cam Pha, Oan Lagoon, Monster Head and Teapot Islets and Vung Vieng fishing village.
Visit the Vung Vieng floating fishing village by bamboo sampan for an hour or kayak in to the village. Short visit to Pearl Farm to learn how natural pearls are created. Then return to Paloma Cruise for your leisure or join one of the following optional activities: Sunbathing, traditional massage, swimming etc.
18:00 Drop anchor in the calm water surrounded by islets near Hang Trong. Happy Hour (sunset party).
18:30 Vietnamese cooking demonstration on boat.
19.15 Sumptuous set-dinner onboard.
21.00 Relaxing on your cabin or join the on board activities: film entertainment, light music for dancing in the dining room (please book in advance with your tour guide), board games and playing cards are available, and massage services are available. Passengers may also try their luck at squid fishing from the boat.
Included: transport, lunch, dinner
HALONG BAY CRUISE
06.15 Starting your day with Tai Chi on the Sundeck while complimentary tea & coffee are served.
07.00 Have breakfast
08.00 Explore the Master Cave (Thay Cave).
08:15 Transfer by tender to the Master Cave. Master cave is a huge cave consisting of three chambers, which you reach via 90 steps. Among the stalactites of the first hall, scores of gnomes appear to be holding a meeting. The walls of the second chamber sparkle if bright light is shone on them.
10.00 Upon return to the boat you will have 30 minutes to freshen up and finish packing.
Please remove all of your belongings from your cabin, you may leave heavy luggage outside of the cabin (staff will transfer directly to the pier).
10:30 Enjoy Set Menu for lunch in the dining room. We will settle bills after lunch. Relaxing on the sundeck or in the dining room, enjoying the rest of Halong bay before getting back to harbor.
11.45 Arrive at Hon Gai Harbour.
After disembarkation from your cruise, your shared transportation will be ready to transfer you back to your hotel in Hanoi. Arrival in Hanoi is mid to late afternoon.
Included: brunch, transport
HANOI TO DA NANG
Private transfer to Hanoi Noi Bai Airport (flight details tbc).
Your guide will be with you for this transfer.
Domestic flight from Hanoi to Da Nang (approximately 75 minutes).
Meet you at Da Nang Airport and drive south for around 1 hour to My Son Sanctuary
My Son, located in an narrow valley in Duy Tan Commune is around 40km from Hoi An. It was an imperial city of the Cham kingdom, between the 4th and 12th century. The construction of My Son was likely to have been started in the 4th century. During many centuries, the temple complex had more buildings and stupas constructed of varying sizes and became the main cultural vestige of the Champa civilization in Vietnam.
Aside from religious celebrations, which allowed the dynastic royals to spiritually connect with the gods, My Son was also a cultural and religious centre and was the burial place of kings and religious leaders. The Sanctuary now is a large complex of religious relics that comprises more than 70 architectural works. They include temples and towers that connect to each other with complicated red brick designs.
After, we’ll drive to the beautifully preserved UNESCO Old Town of Hao An and check into your hotel.
Included: transport, tour guide, economy class domestic flight, entrance fees, bottled drinking water and fresh-up tissues
IN AND AROUND HOI AN
Start after breakfast for a 30 minutes gentle bicycle ride through the flat country lanes to Tra Que, which is a charming little village located just a few kilometres northeast of Hoi An. The village is famous for growing many kinds of vegetables and herbs including: lettuce, salad, houttuynia, flagrant knoutwed, basil and coriander.
We will learn about the planting and growing of vegetables and herbs. Enjoy a herbal foot massage before taking a short informal cooking class with a local family, to learn how to make (and then eat) some local delicacies.
HOI AN WALKING TOUR
Located on the banks of the poetic Thu Bon River, Hoi An ancient town is an Eastern oriental classic captivation. Between the 17th and 19th centuries, Hoi An was a prosperous trading port, with a number of foreign occupations. These included the Japanese and Chinese, and and also western (Dutch and Spanish) during the 16th and 17th centuries.
Today, this UNESCO World Heritage listed ancient town is home to well-preserved buildings, pedestrianized streets, a quaint riverside and unique cuisines. The narrow lanes are ideal for a 3 hours walking tour to give you a glimpse of an ancient town with its illustrious past. You will visit the Japanese Bridge, the Assembly Hall of Chinese, an old merchant’s house – Tan Ky and have a visit to the colorful local market.
Included: tour guide, entrance fees, lunch, bottled drinking water and fresh-up tissues, transport
TAKING THE MOUNTAIN PASS
Following National Highway 1 to Hue City is around 4 hours drive. We’ll stop at Da Nang Beach, followed by a scenic drive over the stunning Hai Van Mountain Pass. This is the highest pass in Vietnam (500m above sea level). The rugged pass is the final section of the Truong Son Range stretching to the sea.
Hai Van is translated “Sea Clouds”, since the peak of the mountain is in the clouds while its foot is close to the sea. The views over Lang Co Bay are stunning. We’ll make stops along the way for photos and refreshments as required.
Included: tour guide, bottled drinking water and fresh-up tissues, transport
THE HISTORY AND CULTURE OF HUE
We begin with a discovery of Minh Mang tomb, which is 12km from Hue, on the west bank of the Perfume River. Begun in 1840, construction was not complete when Minh Mang died. His successor, Emperor Thieu Tri continued this task according to his father’s plans.
It took ten thousand soldiers and artisans to finish the project. Fully completed in 1843, the tomb comprises of about 40 monuments of various sizes which was designed on an symmetric axis running from Dai Hon gate to the foot of La Thanh (Surrounding Wall) behind the tomb.
Returning to the city, we’ll visit the private gallery and workshop of Mr Do Huu Triet to discover the ancient art of Phap Lam, an art-form that uses ceramic enamel to cover laminated copper.
Enter the ancient Hue Citadel and the Forbidden City.
The poetic and beautiful Hue of Vietnam was chosen to be the capital of the Southern Kingdom under Nguyen Lords’ Dynasty, and officially became the nation’s capital under Tay Son Dynasty, King Quang Trung. The citadel palace complex is located on the North bank of Huong River (Perfume River), inside Hue city.
It is a huge complex covering an area of 520ha and comprising three circles of ramparts, Kinh Thanh Hue (Hue Capital Citadel), Hoang Thanh (Royal Citadel) and Tu Cam Thanh (Forbidden Citadel). The rule of the last Vietnamese Emperor lasted until the mid-1900s. At the time, the Purple Forbidden City had many buildings and hundreds of rooms. It suffered from termite and cyclone damage, but was still very impressive. Many bullet holes left over from the war can also be observed on the stone walls.
Conclude this splendid day with a visit to Thien Mu Pagoda, which overlooks the Perfume River and is the official symbol of the city of Hue. Thien Mu means “elderly celestial woman”, and refers to an old legend about the founding of the pagoda. From here, cruise back to Hue centre on the legendary Perfume River. The views on both sides of the river with the citadel, town, gardens, pagodas, towers and temples, provide good photo opportunities while enjoying this short 45 minutes cruise.
Included: tour guide, entrance fees, bottled drinking water and fresh-up tissues
HUE TO SAIGON
After breakfast, check our and private car transfer to Hue Airport for your morning domestic flight to Saigon
Scheduled domestic fight from Hue Phu Bai (HUI) to Saigon Tan Son Nhat airport (SGN) taking approximately 90 minutes.
Meet your guide at the arrivals hall and continue to Cu Chi.
Cu Chi is about 40 km northwest and around one hour drive. The Cu Chi Tunnels are an elaborate underground community made up of about 250 km of tunnels and chambers below the city. The tunnels were dug with simple tools and bare hands during the French occupation in the 1940s, and further expanded during the Vietnam War in the 1960s to provide refuge and a defensive advantage over the American soldiers.
Despite all the bombings in their town, the Cu Chi people were able to continue day-to-day living beneath the soil, where they slept, ate, planned attacks, healed their sick, and taught their young. Some even wed and gave birth underground, but over 10,000 lost their lives here.
Return to Saigon by late afternoon.
Included: transport, tour guide, bottled drinking water and fresh-up tissues, economy class domestic flight, entrance fees
SAIGON NOW AND THEN
We’ll begin with a short orientation tour (walking / driving) of Old Saigon Streets and Iconic Buildings. Appreciate the splendidly restored exteriors of the Opera House and the former Hotel de Ville which are still two of the finest buildings in Saigon.
Wander up to the Notre Dame Cathedral, a red brick edifice with twin spires based on the original construction from Paris. Then head across the square to the Central Post office, designed by the French architect, Gustav Eiffel before he had risen to fame for the Eiffel Tower.
Drive a short way to Cholon (China town). Nowhere epitomizes Cholon’s vibrant commercialism like Binh Tay Market. Cho Lon translates as “big market” and this is the areas biggest, covering a huge 17,000 square meters. Exteriors display one of the finest examples of early 20th-century Chinese-French architecture: multitier roofs adorned with dragons, mixed with mustard-hued halls and a central clock tower.
Around 2,300 stalls are piled high with a goods ranging from ironmongery and ceramics to wet noodles and live chickens. One section is devoted to incense, another to traditional medicine ingredients and there are basic food stalls serving dishes such as Cantonese roast pork.
Walk along to Thien Hau Pagoda. Cantonese founders dedicated this temple-pagoda in 1760 to Thien Hau, Goddess Protector of Seafarers, thanking her for safe passage across the South China Sea. One of Cholon’s most important pagodas, Thien Hau is also known as Women’s Pagoda because the Goddesses of Fertility and Mothers are worshipped here. It’s noteworthy, too, for its fine friezes, murals and glazed ceramic rooftop figurines.
Originally a Chinese satellite city of Saigon, the main city has now engulfed its little sister. Still, Cholon has a distinctive character and its people have played an outsized role in Saigon’s economy and history since the enclave was created.
We begin this story with a visit to The Reunification Palace (former Presidential Palace), the headquarters of the Saigon Government during the American war and reveals the history of Saigon during its turbulent recent past. This is the location where the two North Vietnamese army tanks crushed the gates of the palace on 30th April 1975 and signaled the end of the conflict, by taking the surrender from Duong Van Minh, who had been president of South Vietnam for only three days.
We’ll continue to visit the site of the wartime offices of the US Information Service (USIS). This is now The War Remnants Museum (formerly known as the Museum of American War Crimes). This museum is a disturbing experience. It graphically recounts the Vietnam War from the perspective of the victors. The Requiem gallery, depicting the images taken by many international War Photographers during the conflict, is especially graphic and moving.
Included: tour guide, entrance fees, bottled drinking water and fresh-up tissues, transport
Ben Thanh Market has been the focus of the city’s commercial life since it was completed under French rule nearly a century ago. It has outgrown the main structure and now spills over into the adjacent streets.
It’s a great place to start an education in local cuisine – very local. It’s all there for you to see and sample for next to nothing. Pho, Bun – the full collection of tasty southern Vietnamese soups are on sale and much more. You could easily return to the market’s food court more than once for good quality inexpensive local cuisine. By night, the street food just outside the market is also very tasty and excellent value.
It’s a great place to stock up on souvenirs, T shirts, bags, coffee and other local products that sell at higher prices in the city’s more upmarket shops. But even if you’re not on a shopping mission, Ben Thanh Market is a must see.
At a time to suit you, check out from your hotel and private transfer to Ho Chi Minh – Tan Son Nhat Airport.
Your guide will be with you for this transfer.
Included: tour guide, entrance fees, bottled drinking water and fresh-up tissues, transport
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