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Spirit Of Vietnam (Luxury)

12 days & 11 nights, Escorted Discovery Group

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Hanoi, Halong Bay, Hoi An, Hue & Ho Chi Minh City (Saigon)

Discover the varied sights, sounds and flavors of this enchanting country, touring the fascinating cities of Hanoi and Ho Chi Minh City (Saigon), the Vietnam war-era Cu Chi tunnels, and the historic pearls of Hue and Hoi An. A cruise on the Mekong delta and the magnificent landscapes of Halong Bay, including a night on a traditional junk boat, are all included in this superb tour of Vietnam.

  • Day 1
    Arrive Hanoi

    You will be met and taken to your hotel.

    This evening, a welcome dinner will be held at Le Tonkin restaurant.

    Sofitel Legend Metropole Hanoi - 2 Nights (D)
  • Day 2

    The tour begins with a visit to the Soviet-style Ba Dinh Square where Ho Chi Minh read out the declaration of the nation's independence in 1945. Visit the museum dedicated to Ho Chi Minh before passing through the mausoleum (you will be asked to remove hats if entering, and no shorts or vests are allowed), escorted by a soldier in full regalia. As you leave, you will be able to walk through the gardens of the Presidential Palace before seeing Ho Chi Minh's house, the modest dwelling he built based on a rural Vietnamese stilt house and where 'Uncle Ho' lived for the last years of his life. Between September and December each year, Ho Chi Minh's mausoleum is closed for re-embalmment of the body and the site can only be visited from the outside. The mausoleum is also closed every Monday and Friday.

    Visit the nearby One Pillar Pagoda, which rests on a single stone pillar emerging from the water, and is shaped like a lotus on its stalk. It houses a statue of the goddess of mercy.

    Continue to the 900-year-old Temple of Literature, Vietnam's principal Confucian sanctuary and its historical center of learning. Made up of five courtyards, this is one of the few remnants of the original city. The morning ends with a visit to Ngoc Son Temple, located in the middle of Hoan Kiem Lake, the Lake of Restored Sword.

    Lunch will be taken at the Koto restaurant which provides vocational training for underprivileged youth. You will then visit the Museum of Ethnology which reveals the diverse culture of Vietnam's 54 ethnic minority groups through a collection of clothes, textiles, musical instruments and many other items from daily life.

    Note: The order of the sightseeing above is subject to change depending on local conditions. Every year, Ho Chi Minh's mausoleum is closed between October and December for re-embalmment of the body and can only be visited from outside.

    Optional excursion: Evening Water Puppet show (payable locally).
    Water Puppetry is a traditional and unique Vietnamese Art. This highly entertaining form of theater uses the water surface as stage. Standing waist-deep in the water, the master puppeteers are hidden behind a bamboo screen.

    Sofitel Legend Metropole Hanoi (B, L)
  • Day 3
    To Halong Bay

    Travel to Halong Bay by road, a journey of approximately 3.5 hours.

    Note: For your Halong Bay cruise, we recommend you pack a separate overnight bag, including any valuables, for your stay on board as this will give you more space in your cabin. Your main luggage will be stored securely for you by our local agents and returned to you after the cruise. If you prefer, you may take your full luggage on board to store in your cabin.

    The Bhaya Classic is a custom designed wooden junk, featuring 20 air-conditioned cabins and suites, all with private bathrooms. The junk has a large sun deck, elegant dining room, lounge bar, and a beauty spa and massage area. All activities arranged by the cruise are on a shared basis.

    Please be aware that access to the junk boat from the quay will be across a gang plank. The dock is often crowded and, at such times, the boat may not be able to get as close to the quayside as would be desirable. Whilst there is no handrail, the crew members will assist you at all times with your embarkation and disembarkation. However, please exercise caution when making this crossing. At times the junk boat may not be able to reach the quayside due to low tide or crowding and on these occasions you will be transferred to the junk boat by a tender.

    After boarding, enjoy a welcome drink and a quick briefing of the itinerary and safety information by the cruise manager. Afterwards a lunch buffet is available as the boat cruises towards the south-east of Halong Bay, passing by various rock formations such as Chicken Rock, Finger Islet and Frog Islet.

    Arrive at an area known as 'Dark and Bright Lagoon', and explore the area by rowboat or, if you prefer, at your own pace by kayak.

    Note: kayaks must be booked and paid for in advance at the boat reception area before you board.

    Return to the boat in the late afternoon, where there is time to relax before a Vietnamese cooking demonstration begins at 5:30pm.

    Dinner is served later in the evening.

    Bhaya Classic - non-exclusive cruise - 1 Night (B, L, D)
  • Day 4
    Fly to Hoi An

    Early this morning there is an optional tai chi class on the sun deck, an opportunity to see the sun rising over the bay. Tea and coffee is available afterwards.

    A light breakfast is served at 7am, followed by a visit to 'Surprise Cave', one of the largest caves in Halong Bay with beautiful stalactites and stalagmites.

    Return to the boat to pack up your cabin, then enjoy a brunch buffet as the boat sails back to the harbor. Arrive and disembark at approximately 10:30am, and begin onward arrangements.

    Drive from Halong Bay to Hanoi airport, a journey of approximately 116 miles and taking up to 3.5 hours. Board your flight to Danang.

    Upon arrival, drive from Danang airport to Hoi An, a distance of approximately 15 miles and journey time of approximately 30 minutes.

    Hotel Royal Hoi An - 3 Nights (B, L)
  • Day 5
    Hoi An

    Today you will visit My Son, located 43 miles southwest of Danang, which was an imperial city during the Cham dynasty, between the 4th and 12th centuries. My Son Sanctuary is a large complex of religious sites that comprises more than 70 architectural works. They include temples and towers that connect to each other with complicated red brick designs. The main component of the Cham architectural design is the tower, built to reflect the divinity of the king.

    Lunch today is at the Streets International restaurant, a social enterprise initiative with the purpose to develop and operate sustainable programs for street children.

    In the afternoon enjoy a walking tour of Hoi An. Explore the twisting lanes of Hoi An, passing by 200-year-old wooden merchant houses where Vietnamese, Chinese and Japanese architectural styles and intricate woodcarvings combine to create some beautiful houses. Begin with a visit to the Fujian Assembly Hall (Phuc Kien), established as a meeting place by Chinese merchants fleeing the Manchu conquest of China. The hall is dedicated to the goddess of the sea, Thien Hau, and the merchants' ancestors, and is adorned with ornate carvings and statues. Continue to the 400-year old Japanese covered bridge in Hoi An, and then to the vibrant riverside market nearby.

    Hotel Royal Hoi An (B, L)
  • Day 6
    Hoi An

    Optional Excursion: Morning cookery class at Red Bridge Restaurant & Cooking School (payable locally).

    This morning you will be taken to Red Bridge Restaurant & Cooking School from where you will set off on a guided tour of Hoi An's colorful central market. You will have the opportunity to interact with the local sellers and learn about all the ingredients to be used in the cooking lesson later. You will then board the Red Bridge boat for a leisurely cruise (25 minutes) along the Hoi An river back to the school.

    On arrival back at the cooking school, you will explore its herb garden before learning about some of Hoi An's and Vietnam's well-known dishes. The cooking lesson takes approximately 2 hours and you will also be given a brief introduction to Vietnamese food carving. After your lesson, you will be able to enjoy your cooked meal.

    Note: This excursion is payable locally.

    Hotel Royal Hoi An (B)
  • Day 7
    To Hue

    You will be driven north from Hoi An along Highway 1 to Hue, over the spectacular Hai Van Pass (weather permitting). This is a journey of approximately 3 hours.

    Soon, the highway meets the Hai Van Pass (meaning Pass of the Ocean Clouds). Here the Truong Son mountain range cuts across the narrow center of the country. This creates a barrier to the cold airstreams from the north and so results in thick cloudbanks over the peaks. The pass has been a strategic military focal point during Vietnam's turbulent history and from the top there are views of the curve of Danang Bay.

    On the way, a visit will be made to the Cham Museum, which houses a collection of Champa sculpture dating back to the seventh century. A range of exhibits are on display, including altars, statues and carvings collected from Buddhist and Hindu temples, which demonstrate how Champa sculpture evolved over the centuries.

    Continue to the Tomb of Khai Dinh, hidden in Chau Chu mountain. Built for the Nguyen emperor Khai Dinh between 1920-31, it is an impressive structure combining western and eastern architecture, guarded by statues of soldiers and animals.

    Afternoon tour to the Royal Mausoleums. The final resting places of the Nguyen emperors are dotted around the hills surrounding the south bank of the Perfume river. They were also designed for recreation - somewhere the emperor could fish, hunt and enjoy the company of his concubines in his twilight years. Each tomb is individual, but usually features a pavilion detailing the lifetime accomplishments of the dead emperor, a temple for worship to the emperor, a sepulchre, where the emperor's remains are enclosed, a decorative courtyard and a lotus pond. The tombs of Tu Duc and of Khai Dinh are two of the best examples and you will be shown around these during the tour.

    La Residence - 2 Nights (B, L)
  • Day 8

    This morning, enjoy a tour of Hue. Take a one-hour escorted ride through the streets of Hue, travelling by bicycle for a view of the city from street level, which is a regular means of transport for the people of Vietnam. Visit the Imperial Citadel and the Forbidden Purple City, which was modeled on the Forbidden City in Beijing by the Nguyen emperors in the early 19th century. The city was badly damaged during the Vietnam war, but the imposing city walls surrounded by a large moat afford good views of Hue. The palace retains a feeling of its past scale and importance with its detailed stonework and pavilions. End the bicycle river tour on the banks of Perfume river, named after the tree resins and blossoms it carries on its way to the Pacific. Board a riverboat and cruise to the Thien Mu pagoda. Situated on the riverbank outside the city, this octagonal seven-tier stupa has long been regarded as the symbol of Hue and was founded in 1601. It is still a site of Buddhist worship and its huge bell is said to be audible from the city. There may also be the chance to meet the monks who reside here.

    After lunch at a local restaurant, visit the Dong Ba market.

    Later, experience a short Royal Martial Arts Performance. You will be taken to see a short and exciting performance of martial arts. The performance includes a number of different techniques that date back to the Nguyen dynasty.

    This evening, dinner will be taken at the restored royal home of the Nguyen dynasty.

    La Residence (B, L, D)
  • Day 9
    Fly to Ho Chi Minh City

    This morning, you will be collected at your hotel and taken to the airport. Board your flight to Ho Chi Minh City.

    On arrival, you will be met and taken to your hotel.

    This afternoon, enjoy a tour of Ho Chi Minh City (Saigon). The tour starts at the Presidential Palace, also known as the Reunification Palace. It was here in April 1975 that a tank belonging to the Northern Army breached the gates, signifying the fall of Saigon and the south. In 1976, Saigon merged with the surrounding Gia Dinh Province and was renamed Ho Chi Minh City. The building has remained largely untouched since, with 1960s style furnishings and a collection of military vehicles, including a helicopter, on display. In the basement is the command center for the south, complete with military charts from the time of the war.

    Continue to the Notre Dame Cathedral, which dates from the late 19th century and is built of red brick with two distinctive spires. The area around Notre Dame is a great place for watching local life, with women dressed in their best ao dais (traditional Vietnamese tunics). There is a pleasant park situated in front of the cathedral and the beautiful post office is located just opposite.

    The tour ends at the nearby War Remnants Museum, which displays a number of exhibits relating to the war with the U.S. and battles with occupying French forces.

    Note: The order of the sightseeing above is subject to change depending on local conditions.

    The Caravelle Hotel - 3 Nights (B)
  • Day 10
    Mekong delta

    This morning, you will be met at your hotel in Ho Chi Minh City and driven to Cai Be on the Mekong delta.

    The Mekong delta is Vietnam's rice bowl: a fertile region of flat farmland interlaced with the thousands of waterways and tributaries of the Mekong. Known locally as Cuu Long, or the River of Nine Dragons, the delta's waters are interspersed with rice fields, colorful floating markets and isolated villages accessed only by boat. The region remains home to descendants of the former Khmer empire and is scattered with a collection of working temples and resident Buddhists that continue to use Khmer as their mother tongue.

    The drive to Cai Be takes approximately 2.5 hours. Arrive at the waterfront pier and embark on a motorized sampan (traditional flat-bottomed wooden boat) for a journey across the upper reaches of the Mekong delta. See how local people make their living by trading agricultural products from their boats. Enjoy lunch on board while cruising through the canals, then disembark at the village of Cai Thia. Take a 1.2 mile walk along the village road to visit a workshop that produces rice paper. Afterwards, return to the boat for the trip back to the pier, before returning to Ho Chi Minh City in the mid-afternoon.

    The Caravelle Hotel (B, L)
  • Day 11
    Cu Chi tunnels

    Travel out of the city to the Cu Chi tunnels. This vast network of tunnels, stretching for more than 93 miles, was built by the Viet Cong during the battles for south Vietnam. The tunnels are an insight into the dedication of the Viet Cong who virtually lived in the narrow and claustrophobic tunnels while the war raged above. Nearby is a chilling demonstration into the traps and weapons that were used against the American forces.

    The Cu Chi tunnels have been widened in places for visitors; however they can still be dark, hot and claustrophobic so please bear this in mind if you do not like enclosed spaces.

    A farewell dinner will be held this evening at a local restaurant.

    The Caravelle Hotel (B, D)
  • Day 12
    Depart Ho Chi Minh City

    Morning at leisure. Please note that late check-out is not included.

    You will be collected at your hotel and taken to the airport.


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