HANOI - DRIVE HALIONG
HALONG BAY - DRIVE TO HAIPHONG - FLY TO SAIGON
FLY SAIGON - SIEMREAP (CAMBODIA)
SIEMREAP (ANGKOR WAT)
SIEMREAP - PHNOM PENH
WELCOME IN VIETNAM
THE OLD QUARTER AND THE MODERN CAPITAL, TEMPLES AND GALLERIES
ENJOY CYCLO RIDE, TOUR OF ANCIENT QUARTER, TEMPLE OF LITERATURE, MUSEUM AND PUPPET SHOW
VISIT THE FLOATING VILLAGES, ENJOY SWIMMING, KAYAKING AND OVERNIGHT ON A JUNK BOAT
TRANSFER TO SAIGON (HO CHI MINH CITY)
EXPLORE VIBRANT SAIGON
FLY TO SIEM REAP, KHMER ARCHITECTURE
FLY OVERLAND TO PHNOM PENH
DISCOVER PHNOM PENH BY TUK-TUK, VISITING WAT PHNOM AND THE ROYAL PALACE COMPLEX
EXPLORE VIETNAM & CAMBODIA
Hanoi and Ho Chi Minh City (Saigon) reflect Vietnam's two contrasting poles. With its mist-shrouded lakes, faded colonial façades and numerous cafés, Hanoi is the moody, reflective older brother, harbouring a rich intellectual and artistic life. Ho Chi Minh City (Saigon) is the brash younger sibling: faster, newer, moving and modernizing at breakneck speed. We’re endlessly entranced by the variety of this country, its sublime landscapes and the generosity of its people. Take your time here to indulge in deluxe resorts, enjoy world class cuisine and take in the traditional charm.
Angkor Wat is on every intrepid traveller’s ‘must see’ list and for good reason. One of humanity’s greatest architectural achievements, it remains a magnificent and evocative sight. There are vast, millennial stone faces watching you at Angkor, the Bayon Temple and Banteay Srei. And there are many more temples cocooned in the jungle; sites covered by moss and the wandering tendrils of thick vines.
ITINERARY IN DETAIL
Day 1 Arrive Vietnam (Hanoi)
On arrival at Hanoi’s Noi Bai Airport you will be met by our National guide, and drive to downtown (40km - 50 minutes). On arrival check-in at your hotel.
Remaining of the day is at your leisure.
Day 2 Hanoi
In this morning you will visit Ba Dinh Square where silent sentries guard the marble and granite mausoleum where Ho Chi Minh lies in state. (Subject to opening times the interior of the mausoleum can be visited). See the simple cottage where Uncle Ho lived and worked, Nearby, visit the Ho Chi Minh Museum, an extraordinary tribute in abstract form to the life of the 'father of the country' and the evolution of Vietnamese independence. French architecture is a feature of Hanoi, and the nearby former Governor's Residence is a fine example. See also the One Pillar Pagoda, and hear the legend of its construction, born from the love of an emperor in the 11th Century.
Visit to Hoa Lo Prison, nicknamed the “Hanoi Hilton” by American POWs (mostly downed pilots) held captive there, was notorious for its harsh conditions. Today we see what little remains of the original complex built by the French in 1896.
Lunch is at an old Colonial House converted into a restaurant nearby.
This afternoon depart to travel around West Lake. The tour will take guests from the busy streets of Hanoi to the largest lake in Hanoi and is a popular place for recreation with many surrounding gardens, hotels and villas. The lake is bordered by many significant historical places in Hanoi’s history. Visit to Tran Quoc Pagoda - the oldest pagoda in Vietnam. Built in the 6th century and located on a small island in the middle of the lake – this is an amazing pagoda. Also visit the Quan Thanh Temple - one of the Four Sacred Temples of ancient Hanoi. While walking around you will have opportunity to see people jogging, fishing and doing exercise. Evening group dinner at local restaurant.
Day 3 Hanoi
This morning enjoy cyclo ride around the tree-lined streets of Hanoi, resplendent with French colonial architecture, including the recently restored Opera House. Pass by Hoan Kiem Lake, also known as Lake of the Restored Sword from the legend that surrounds it. Then continue for a tour of the Ancient Quarter (or 36 Streets District). This densely populated corner of the city was once a centre of commerce where goods were sold under the street name of a particular guild. Still a thriving community of sellers today, you will see street names such as Sugar Street, Tin Street and Paper Street. Ancient homes and temples are interspersed with stores in this souvenir hunter's paradise!
Continue to the Temple of Literature, built in 1070 and then dedicated to Confucius, it is a serene retreat from the busy streets outside, and later became Vietnam's first university.
We then take a short 15-20 minute drive into the suburbs of to arguably Vietnam’s finest museum, the Museum of Ethnology. The Vietnam Museum of Ethnology is both a research centre and a public dedicated to the cultural history and intricacies of Vietnam’s 54 different ethnic groups, with a strong focus on the mountainous groups of the far north. Opened in 1997, the mission of the Museum is scientific research, collection, documentation, conservation, exhibition and preserving the cultural and historic patrimony of the nation’s different ethnic groups. The museum also serves to guide the research, conservation, and technology that are specific to the work of an ethnographic museum
This afternoon is your time to visit the typical local markets in Hanoi with your guide and have the opportunity to interact with the local sellers with plenty of photo opportunities.
Return to your hotel for some free time at your leisure before transfer to the theatre where the ancient and unique artform of water puppetry is enacted. The 'stage' is a pool of water in which the hidden puppeteer must stand (waist deep!) to skilfully manoeuvre dancing puppets attached to bamboo poles on its surface. Each short skit in the performance relates to the daily life of the people, and featured are scenes such as 'Returning from School after Graduation' and 'Rearing Ducks and Chasing Foxes'.
DAY 04 Hanoi- drive to halong
Breakfast at your hotel. Departing Hanoi we head to fantastical Halong Bay, 600-square-miles studded with almost 2,000 jutting, lushly forested limestone islands, or karsts. Arrive in Halong around noon and board the junk boat then start the cruise around Halong bay. Lunch is served on board.
After lunch, visit Vung Vieng Fishing floating village and option for swimming or kayaking to visit the water tunnel and a hidden lagoon. Dinner and overnight on board.
DAY 05 Halong - drive to haiphong - fly to saigon
Check out after breakfast at your Junk Boat then heading to Haiphong airport for afternoon flight to Saigon. On arrival you will be met by our local guide, and drive to downtown (6km - 20 minutes) and check-in at your hotel.
Rest of day is at your leisure.
Day 6 Saigon
This morning enjoy some city sightseeing with your local guide, to visit some of the ‘essential sights’ of this city. Take a visit the Reunification Palace, once known as the Presidential Palace. It was toward this building that the first Communist tanks rolled into Saigon on the morning of 30 April, 1975. After crashing through the gate, a soldier ran into the building and famously unfurled a VC flag from the fourth-floor balcony. Also stop at the picturesque colonial General Post Office, and Notre Dame Cathedral - closed by the Communist regime after the 1975 takeover, but now flourishing again. Continue to the Art Museum which is also known as the Fine Arts Museum, was established on September 5th, 1987, following the decision made by the HCMC People’s Committee. It is recognized as a first class national museum by the Vietnam’s Ministry of Culture.
This afternoon take a guided tour of the best markets in Saigon. Still as bustling, vibrant and fascinating as ever, these markets continue to play a major role in most ‘ordinary’ people’s daily lives. Saigon’s markets are highly organized, the produce local and fresh, and the sheer volume and variety of produce for sale is remarkable. In downtown District 1 you’d be forgiven for thinking that the traditional Vietnamese market no longer exists; replaced by generic, high-end shopping malls. But, with the exception of Ben Thanh Market – which we consider more of a tourist market than a real one – local markets outside the city centre continue to thrive.
Like so many of Saigon’s markets, from the outside Xóm Chieu is an eyesore: a horrible concrete egg carton of a building; grey, grim and bleak. But such is the buzz of people and produce around the perimeter of the market square, you quickly forget about the shortcomings of its façade. There’s lots of gossip and laughter – especially at the sight of a foreigner – but no one hassles you to buy from them as they do in Ben Thanh Market. You’re free to walk among the produce, soaking up the colours and smells in the cool air and hushed atmosphere: there’s something very churchlike about it.
Finish the morning walking around Binh Tay market. There’s an incense and votive offering section beside the canteen where candles, paper money and printed prayers are bought to be burned as offerings to the ancestors. Right in front of this is a great butchers section with raw and roasted meats hanging on hooks, then there are herbs, pickled vegetables, dried mushrooms and medicinal leaves, until you hit the fruit and vegetable stalls that line the perimeter of the market building.
DAY 07 Saigon - fly to siem reap (cambodia)
Breakfast at your hotel. Transfer to the Saigon Airport and take the morning flight to Siem Reap. Upon your arrival in Siem Reap, you will be welcomed by a local English speaking guide and transferred to your hotel for check-in. Siem Reap is the base for exploring the fabled temples of Angkor, the ancient capital of the Khmer empire.
After a short relax break, explore the highlights of the Small Circuit. Start your tour with a visit to Ta Prohm temple, built in the mid 12th to early 13th centuries. Ta Prohm is unique in that it has been left largely as it was found: overgrown by jungle trees and vines, with many parts of the temple crumbling to the ground. This makes Ta Prohm one of the most picturesque and memorable of the Angkor temples. Your visit will also include Banteay Kdei, a Buddhist monastery from the late 12th Century, and Srah Srang, also known as the “pool of ablutions”. From here, it is only a short hop to the most beautiful temples of the Grand Circuit, like the overgrown Preah Khan Temple and Neak Pean with its artificial lakes. Return to your hotel. Dinner at Asian Square restaurant.
Day 8 Siem reap tour
This morning, you will visit the famous Angkor Wat. Built during the reign of King Suryavarman II in the early 12th century, it is constructed following the model of the temple mountain symbolizing the Mount Meru, home of the gods. Inside the temple, the walls are covered with stone carvings and bas-reliefs depicting Hindu mythology and the wars Suryavarman II fought during his reign. Moreover, Angkor Wat is well known for the more than 2,000 Apsara dancers decorating the temple. Construction is thought to have taken around thirty years of intensive labor. Today, Angkor Wat is figured on Cambodia's national flag as the temple symbolizes the soul of the Khmer people.
Afternoon enjoy a khmer cooking class followed by lunch.
Later visit the ancient city of Angkor Thom by local tuk tuk. Angkor Thom was the last capital of the Great Khmer Empire under the reign of Jayavarman VII. This city is surrounded by an 8 m high wall, drawing a perfect square. Enter the city through the ancient South Gate, an impressive stone gate carved with Elephants and four giant faces.
From here, continue to Bayon Temple in the exact center of the city. This 12th century masterpiece is a study in grandeur and is well-known for its 54 towers with enigmatic faces representing the 54 provinces of the Great Khmer Empire. The Terrace of the Elephants and the Terrace of the Leper King are also must-visits as they are both known for their intricate bas-reliefs. Dinner at Viroth’s Restaurant.
Day 9 Siem reap - phnom penh
After breakfast, check out and transfer to Siem Reap Airport for your domestic flight to Phnom Penh. Upon arrival in Phnom Penh, you will be met and transfer to your hotel for check in.
Phnom Penh was once considered as one of the most beautiful cities in the Orient, and despite its recent turbulent history, it still retains a colonial charm. Cambodia’s capital is a bustling city, majestically located at the confluence of the mighty rivers of the Mekong and Tonlé Sap. Wide tree-lined boulevards and many colonial-era buildings reflect the glorious days and add to the allure of the city, where Asian and Western traditions meet in a fascinating way.
Spend the rest of your day on a city tour in a typical cyclo. First, visit Wat Phnom, which is situated near the northern boundary of the city. The original temple was built in 1372 by a rich Khmer lady named Penh, who found a collection of statues of the Buddha washed up on the river bank and decided to house them on a nearby hill ("Phnom"). The site contains some good examples of Khmer architecture and statues.
Late this afternoon, it’s a good time for enjoy an atmospheric sunset cruise on the Mekong River. The cruise might take one hour and the best time to start for the trip should be from 4.30pm or 5pm in the late afternoon. The boat leaves its pier slowly to the places where you can watch how Phnom Penh’s popular riverfront awakens to life while taking pleasure in a welcome cocktail and snacks.
Day 10 Phnom penh visit
Today you will visit the most remarkable sights Phnom Penh has to offer. First, you will head to the National Museum which was designed by George Groslier and the Ecole des Arts Cambodgiens. The museum was built in traditional Khmer style in 1917 and was inaugurated in 1920 by King Sisowath. It houses the world's foremost collection of ancient Khmer archaeological, religious, and artistic artefacts from the 4th to the 13th centuries. Over 5,000 pieces are on display, constituting the repository of the Kingdom's cultural wealth.
Continue on foot to the Royal Palace. This palace dates back to 1866 and was the last palace built during the French colonial period. The same complex houses the Silver Pagoda, named for the over 5,000 heavy silver tiles that cover its floors. Its original name is Wat Prakeo, meaning Temple of the Emerald Buddha. In this temple you will view a collection of Buddhas in gold, silver, crystal, and bronze.
Lunch at local restaurant.
This afternoon insight into Cambodia’s recent dark history on a visit to the remarkable Tuol Sleng Genocide Museum, housed in the former school that was taken over by the Khmer Rouge and used as its main detention and torture center named ‘S-21’. Further visit the Killing Fields of Choeung Ek. The audio headset guide provided is available in 15 different languages and gives some harrowing but informative stories from survivors and liberators of the camp. A grim, but important visit that will allow you to dig below the surface and understand Cambodia better. Enjoy farwell dinner at your hotel.
Day 11 Phnom penh departure
Breakfast at the hotel we will transfer you to the airport for flight back home.