Experience a country still unspoiled and quite unique in the world. Meet the cultured, attractive, and hospitable people of Vietnam in a variety of settings…from the entrepreneurial spirit of the Vietnamese in the markets of fast-moving Ho Chi Minh City, to the spirit of the past in the tranquil Temple of Literature in Hanoi. View the diverse architectural styles, a legacy of a long history of foreign invasions, in these two cities, as well as in Hue and Hoi An. Travel through highland plateaus and narrow coastal plains with stunning limestone scenery, and marvel at the beauty of Halong Bay on a luxury junk boat. Though often associated with hardship and war, today you will find Vietnam a serene and peaceful place to visit.
Moderately Active. May involve some moderate hikes in forests and nature reserves, getting in and out of vehicles and rocking boats, and walking in uneven pavement in archaeological sites, in some cases in extreme weather conditions, heat, high elevation and humidity.
Vietnam enjoys a diverse climate, but it is generally agreed that high season is November to March, and July & August. Vietnam lies in two monsoon zones – the winter monsoon from October to March when it can be damp and chilly in the north and dry and warm in the south, and from April to October when the summer monsoon brings hot, humid weather to the whole country except for those areas sheltered by mountains. Given these variables, best months to visit are April, May and October.
Board your overnight flight to Hanoi, Vietnam’s fascinating capital city of lakes, shaded boulevards and public parks with a French colonial feel, stretching along the banks of the Red River Delta. SOFITEL PLAZA HANOI. (Meals Aloft)
Begin your exploration with a tour of the home and Mausoleum of Ho Chi Minh, the founding father of modern Vietnam. Take an afternoon walking tour of the lively Old Quarter with its narrow alleys and shop houses, and view scenic Hoan Kiem Lake, containing an islet with the tiny Tortoise Pagoda. Following dinner, see a performance of the world-famous Water Puppet Theatre. Next day, enjoy a lecture on “The Culture and Educational System of Vietnam” at the Long House, a traditional setting at the Museum of Ethnology. In mid-morning, join a genuine Tai Chi master on the shore of the West Lake or in an ancestral pagoda for an initiation to Tai Chi. This art will improve internal and external balance of the body and is a way to get closer to local culture. Discover the Temple of Literature, a compound which is not only a place of worship but an expression of the Vietnamese esteem for education and literature before visiting the small pottery village of Bat Trang, founded in the 16th century and featuring over 800 family-operated and industrial kilns fired with wood and coal. SOFITEL PLAZA HANOI HOTEL. (B,D; B,L)
A most scenic drive through the countryside reveals a fast-changing agricultural and industrial region. Arrive at Halong Bay, the Emerald Bay of Vietnam, and a UNESCO World Heritage Site. This vast bay was the inspiration for generations of Vietnamese poets, and is filled with more than 3,000 limestone ‘peaks’ of karsts that jut from the deep blue water as far as the eye can see. Board a luxury traditional Vietnamese junk for an up-close look at the seascape and the daily life of Vietnamese fishermen. Traditionally built, your junk has private cabins with en suite facilities, ample public spaces, and a spacious dining room serving Vietnamese cuisine. Explore the many caves and islets as you glide by the floating villages in the bay, stopping at Titov Beach for a swim. Dinner and overnight aboard your junk. PARADISE CRUISES JUNK BOAT. (B,L,D)
Continue your cruise around the waters of the various bays, visiting Man’s Head Island, Tortoise Island, and Luon Cave. Disembark and stop at Dong Ho, a small village that preserves the tradition of Vietnamese folk art painting with completely natural materials, on your way to Hanoi Airport for your flight to Danang. Drive to Hoi Han, a picturesque riverside town and UNESCO World Heritage Site, and enjoy dinner at Brother’s Café, located next to the river. After dinner, a local master will join you to introduce ancestral games and teach you their basic rules. This could include Mah Jong, Chinese chess or other local board games, along with anecdotes and a nice cup of tea. In the morning, enjoy coffee at the Hai Scout Café and then proceed to Hoi An Market to experience the sights, smells, and action in this colorful market. At the Red Bridge Restaurant and Cooking School, enjoy a demonstration of fruit and vegetable carving and help prepare five traditional dishes for lunch. As this beautifully-preserved historic city is best seen on foot, your afternoon walking tour will include the Tran Family Chapel built more than 200 years ago, Quan Thang House, one of the town’s oldest homes, and Phung Hung House, where one family has resided for more than eight generations, and much more. ANANTARA HOI AN RESORT. (B,D; B,L)
Pay a visit to China Beach, a place of rest and recreation for US soldiers, on your way to Hue. Here, see the Imperial Citadel, a vast complex built in the early 19th century and modeled, in part, on the Forbidden City in Beijing. The next day, take a boat excursion on the Perfume River to the Thien Mu Pagoda. Continue to the Tomb of Emperor Minh Mang, considered the most beautiful of Hue’s many pagodas and tombs. In the afternoon visit the ancient house of historian and author Dr. Phan Thuan An, who wrote many books about Vietnam’s history, culture, literature and Hue’s monuments. Enjoy dinner with his family, and listen to a lecture about Hue and Nguyen dynasty with video demonstration. LA RESIDENCE HUE RESORT. (B; B,D)
A morning flight takes you to Ho Chi Minh City, which has once again become the effervescent economic center of Vietnam. Visits to Notre Dame Cathedral, Unification Palace, Opera House, City Hall, and the Central Post Office will showcase the Parisian architectural style, and the historic highlights of this fascinating and vibrant city. Also visit a Secondary School where you can meet and speak with students. The War Remnants Museum memorializes the nation’s struggles against the West and will surely be a powerful experience, guaranteed to provoke strong emotions. In the early evening, attend the circus ‘Ao Show,’ launched in 2013. For nearly an hour, a team of young acrobats will fascinate you with their rendition of the Vietnamese way of life. SOFITEL PLAZA SAIGON. (B,L)
Travel south to the Mekong Delta, a unique region where life on the water has remained unchanged for centuries. Stop by the Vinh Trang Pagoda, a beautiful temple and a sanctuary for orphans and other needy children. Then, board your boat and explore the narrow, mud brown waterways and fertile islands with fruit orchards, and cottage industry manufacturers of honey-flavored sweets. See the step by step process of the making of Vietnam’s well-known coconut candy. Return to Ho Chi Minh City in the evening and enjoy a specially arranged farewell dinner at the Blue Ginger Restaurant. SOFITEL PLAZA SAIGON. Next morning, your tour has sadly come to a close as you’re transferred to the airport for your return flights home. (B,D; B, Meals Aloft)
Explore the mysteries of the ancient temples and monuments of Siem Reap, including the largest temple in the world – Angkor Wat. Unlike other Khmer temples, it faces west and is inspired by 12th century Hinduism. Other ancient wonders include Angkor Thom with its stunning Bayon temple, Ta Prohm, known as the ‘Kingdom of Trees,’ and Banteay Srei, the citadel of women. Go boating on the largest fresh water lake in Southeast Asia, Tonle Sap Lake, among floating homes and small fish farms.
Does not include international or domestic flights. Prices are based on 10 or more travelers, and are subject to change.
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