Relish the warm embrace of Vietnam and her welcoming people, who will touch you with their humility and entrepreneurial spirit throughout your journey across this intoxicating land. Upon arrival, transfer to your hotel before meeting your Travel Director and fellow travellers for a Welcome Reception with drinks and local appetisers.
This morning is dedicated to the revolutionary leader who fanned the flames of Vietnam's independence. We begin our day with a visit to the final resting place of "Uncle Ho", the imposing Ho Chi Minh Mausoleum. A short walk from here, we'll find Ho Chi Minh's house on stilts, where we'll 'Dive Into Culture' exploring the grounds surrounding the humble abode of Vietnam's most famous son. We'll continue to the Temple of Literature, the first university for the sons of Mandarins, to gain insights into Hanoian culture. This afternoon, we'll take a cyclo tour, weaving through the lively Old Quarter past colourful shopfronts and street food vendors. Enjoy an evening at leisure or consider joining our Optional Experience to taste some delicious local flavours on a foodie tour.
We leave the busy streets of Hanoi behind, bound for the serenity of Halong Bay where we'll board a traditional-style Vietnamese Junk boat. The limestone karsts and tropical islets rising up from the emerald waters provide an ethereal backdrop for our leisurely cruise. After lunch on board, we'll take a small boat transfer to the Tien Ong Cave and Cua Van Fishing Village, whose residents still live in traditional floating houses. We return to our Junk boat for a cooking demonstration with the chef or enjoy a mesmerising sunset on the top deck before dinner and a peaceful overnight stay in this UNESCO-listed natural wonder.
The graceful practice of T'ai Chi eases you into your day as is the local custom. Join a Local Specialist on the deck of the Junk boat for a morning class in exquisite natural surrounds. You'll have time for an early morning swim at one of Halong Bay's quiet beaches and, if you're feeling energetic, a brisk walk to catch one last view of scenic Halong Bay before your drive to Hanoi Airport to catch your flight to Danang. On arrival, transfer to your hotel in Hoi An.
'Dive Into Culture' this morning, embarking on a walking tour around the ancient town of Hoi An. Embrace its charm of yesteryear - the narrow lanes, colourful marketplaces and ancient temples providing insights into the Vietnam of old. See the old merchant houses and 400-year-old Japanese Covered Bridge, before visiting Thanh Dong Organic Village where you'll spend some time helping local farmers and learning about their daily working routines. Kick back and enjoy a relaxing foot massage that will set the pace for the rest of the day and evening at leisure.
Enjoy some free time this morning to explore Hoi An further or simply relax at your hotel. Your choice of activities this afternoon could see you learn how to craft your own colourful lantern or gain insights into life as a local fisherman (subject to weather conditions). Create a work of art to bring your home luck and happiness, or cast your net wide for the catch of the day - the choice is yours.
The healthy flavours of Vietnamese cuisine take centre stage as we travel by boat to the Red Bridge Cooking School to learn about the traditional ways of preparing and cooking Vietnamese food. We'll have an opportunity to savour the dishes we've prepared for lunch before returning to Hoi An. This afternoon, our journey takes us over Hai Van Pass en route to Red Beach, where the American Marines first landed in Vietnam during the decades-long war. We continue to Danang for a visit to the Cham Museum before arriving in Hue, the former imperial capital of Vietnam, for our overnight stay.
We'll navigate the busy streets of Hue on the back of a cyclo en route to the UNESCO-listed Imperial Citadel, once home to Nguyen emperors. From here, we drive to Thien Mu Pagoda, Hue's best-preserved religious monument. Boarding a local dragon boat next, we cruise along the Perfume River to the house of the former Princess Ngoc Son where we'll 'Connect With Locals' and meet a family member for a 'Be My Guest' lunch to gain a glimpse of their life in this historic house. The afternoon is ours to enjoy at leisure or consider joining one of our Optional Experiences.
A short flight this morning brings you to Ho Chi Minh City, where you’ll enjoy some time at leisure before lunch at Blanc restaurant. Your MAKE TRAVEL MATTER® Experience visit supports a business which proudly employs a team of deaf or hearing impaired staff. You'll temporarily immerse yourself in a world of sign language interaction and communication, and tuck into tasty local dishes during this unique dining experience. Embark on a walking tour of Dong Khoi Street next, to view the Opera House, former Hotel de Ville, Notre Dame Cathedral and Central Post Office, designed by Gustave Eiffel. Gain insights into the war through the eyes of locals at the War Remnants Museum, then continue to Ben Thanh market. The iconic sights of Ho Chi Minh are revealed on a walking tour of Dong Khoi Street next. See the Opera House and the former Hotel de Ville. Then, wander up to Notre Dame Cathedral and the Central Post Office, designed by the renowned Gustave Eiffel. Continue to the War Remnants Museum where you’ll have a vivid glimpse of the war through the eyes of the locals. Your final stop today is Ben Thanh market, one of the earliest surviving structures in old Saigon, before arriving at your hotel.
The mighty Mekong beckons today, as we take a day trip to My Tho, a nearby Delta market town. We'll transfer to a small sampan boat and navigate the maze of small canals before stopping for a lunch of delicious Mekong Delta specialities. After a short walk along village roads, we'll visit the house of a former soldier, a 'Local Specialist' who survived fighting the Khmer Rouge. Indulge in the family's colourful stories and learn how they make a living crafting rice paper, before returning to Ho Chi Minh City for an evening at leisure.
We'll delve into Vietnam's turbulent history from the previous century with a visit to the Cu Chi Tunnels, an immense network of connecting underground tunnels built to protect the Viet Cong guerrillas from the French air and ground sweeps. We'll explore the underground compounds with a VC veteran and gain an understanding of the history of the tunnels, which once served as living quarters and housed hospitals, food and weapons caches. Returning to Ho Chi Minh City by private speedboat, we'll enjoy some free time this afternoon. Later, we'll 'Dive Into Culture' during a visit to the home of the former American Ambassador to South Vietnam in the 1960s, Mr. Henry Cabot Lodge, followed by a Farewell Dinner to say goodbye to your Vietnam Travel Director and those guests not continuing on to Cambodia.
Transfer to the airport for the short international flight to Siem Reap, Cambodia. On arrival meet your Cambodia Travel Director and check in to your hotel.
Today, we venture deep into the Cambodian jungle, through a pyramid-shaped gateway into an ancient world. Serene stone faces watch over us as we cross the causeway suspended over a moat into the spiritual heart of the ancient lost city of Angkor. A Local Specialist and renowned Khmer scholar brings to life the stories behind the intricate carvings and murals of celestial nymphs and mythical serpents along the abandoned hallways of Angkor Wat. Our next stop are the terracotta-hued walls of Banteay Srei Temple – the “Citadel of Women” dedicated to the Hindu God Shiva. We’ll have time to admire the 10thcentury carvings of women, said to have been too delicate to have been carved by a man, hence its name. We’ll return to Siem Reap for some free time and this afternoon embark on a walking tour of the Old Town. We'll witness the revival of Khmer arts and crafts and help support the lives of rural youths during our visit to Artisans d'Angkor; a MAKE TRAVEL MATTER® Experience. Later we’ll visit Wat Damnak and participate in a private blessing ceremony during which a sacred thread will be tied around our wrists to protect against evil spirits. Our final stop today is to the labyrinthine Old Market, where the locals spend their early mornings shopping for fresh fruit, vegetables and spices. Wander past the busy stalls and smell freshly baked baguettes, a remnant of the country's French heritage.
Our intimate encounter with a lost empire continues today, as we uncover other iconic sites of the ancient abandoned city of Angkor that have been devoured by the Cambodian jungle. We explore its ancient ruins in the company of saffron-clad monks and monkeys that clamber up and over the roots of centuries-old trees that have carved their way deep into the Great City's walls. Our first stop today is a visit to the fortified Angkor Thom, where we'll see such iconic sites as the Terrace of Elephants, the Royal Enclosure and the Temple of Bayon with its giant smiling faces of Buddha. We venture underneath the dense tree canopy to the crumbling, moss-covered ruins of the Buddhist temple of Ta Prohm, which featured as the location for the film 'Tomb Raider', exploring its towers courtyards and corridors to uncover the intricate stone reliefs that are shielded by the surrounding foliage. Enjoy an afternoon at leisure or consider joining an Optional Experience to learn the secrets of Khmer cuisine.
We begin the day in the company of local Khmer villagers with a MAKE TRAVEL MATTER® Experience visit to their local school and opportunity to chat to some of the children, who will join us on our walk through the village to see how they spend their day-to-day lives. We’ll Dive Into Culture, gaining insights into their time-honoured craft traditions, such as weaving Cambodia's national hats made from palm leaves, or folding Lotus flowers into delicate works of art. After the rest of the day at leisure, this evening to say farewell to those not continuing on to Phnom Penh tomorrow, we’ll join our Travel Director and fellow expeditioners for a Farewell Dinner with Apsara dance show.
This morning we fly to Phnom Penh, once known as the 'Pearl of Asia' it is one of the loveliest French built cities in Indochina. Later we'll embark on a cyclo tour, exploring the city, which boasts a rich blend of Khmer and French colonial architecture. We'll discover the history and catch glimpses of churches and Chinese temples hidden down narrow alleyways.
Indulge in the exotic flavours of Phnom Penh this morning, joining a 'Local Specialist' for an in-depth city tour. Our first stop is Wat Phnom temple where we'll delve into the legend of Lady Penh who discovered the four statues of Buddha deposited on this tree-covered hill. We'll continue to the Royal Palace and Silver Pagoda before visiting the National Museum showcasing centuries-old Khmer art and sculptures. Delving deep into the turbulent, terrifying history of the Khmer Rouge years, we'll travel along a dusty road to the outskirts of the city to visit the former school turned torture, interrogation and execution centre of Tuol Sleng. The history of that time is depicted in the thousands of S-21 portraits of victims that are on display at the Museum of Genocide, providing insights into the horrors of Cambodia under Pol Pot's rule. Finally, we'll take a journey back in time to the Cheung Ek Killing Fields, a memorial built to commemorate the 17,000 victims who died under the reign of the Khmer Rouge. The rest of the evening is spent at leisure.
Transfer to the airport for your onward flight