Boat trip around stunning Halong Bay
Explore the Mekong Delta
Discover the historic trading town of Hoi An
Crawl through the Cu Chi war tunnels
Explore incomparable Angkor temple complex in Cambodia
Upon arrival in Hanoi, the rest of the day is free to recover from the flight or stroll amongst broad tree-lined avenues dating from the French period. There is a faded colonial charm where baguettes and good coffee are sold from doorways of grand buildings of a past era.
Day 2: Hanoi city tour
This morning we enjoy a sightseeing tour of the city that includes a visit to the Temple of Literature; the site of the oldest university in Vietnam with over 2000 graduates, Hoa Lo Prison & the Old Quarter of the city with its '36 Streets' where each street is home to shops selling particular products - e.g. 'silk street', 'gold street', 'paper street' and 'tourist souvenir street'.We have the afternoon free in Hanoi to wander around the Hoan Kiem lake and perhaps enjoy the view from a lakeside café.
Day 3: Halong bay
We make an early start for the approximately 4-hour journey to Halong Bay. This is one of the most stunningly beautiful sights in South East Asia with some 3000 limestone peaks rising directly from the clear emerald sea. We cruise amongst this amazing karst scenery, stopping to swim and kayak, allowing us to get to places inaccessible by boat (weather permitting), and enjoy a seafood lunch on board. There may even be the chance to try a spot of fishing from the boat too. We overnight on board in twin share cabins with en suite facilities.
Day 4: Halong – Hanoi
We continue to cruise around Halong Bay this morning before returning to port. We then drive back to Hanoi where the evening is free to explore or relax.
Day 5: Hoian
After breakfast we transfer to Hanoi Airport for a flight to Da Nang. In Da Nang, we climb Marble Mountain where we explore the large caves which were used by the Viet Cong as a hospital base during the war. From the mountain peak there are fantastic views over My Khe Beach and the surrounding countryside which leads on to Hoi An, our next destination.
Day 6: Hoian
This morning will include a walking tour of Hoi An, the original European trading port in Vietnam dating back to the mid-16th century. It is now a living museum, with attractive wooden merchant's houses and pagoda-style temples with Chinese, Japanese, Vietnamese and European architectural influences. It is also a marvellous place to wander around and enjoy the thriving riverside market and great silk clothes shopping.
The afternoon is free to enjoy a town that has become a favourite for so many travellers to Vietnam. Options include a trip to My Son, the Cham civilisation's spiritual home, where Cham kings were buried as long ago as the fourth century. Although wartime bombing has destroyed much of the site, there's a number of interesting stone towers and sanctuaries.
Day 7: Ho Chi Minh city
This morning we transfer to Da Nang Airport for the flight to Saigon, officially known as Ho Chi Minh City. This is an exciting and absorbing city where scooters pack the streets and temples stand defiantly alongside modern developments. Devastated by the Vietnam War, it is now a bustling free market city where anything goes. The Saigon River and Ben Thanh market, are within easy walking distance and are highly recommended. This afternoon a city tour will include a visit to the Notre Dame Cathedral, the Reunification Palace and the War Remnants Museum. The Museum has an interesting photographic record of the Vietnam/American War. Please be aware that some images at the museum are very graphic.
Day 8: Cu Chi tunel
Today we leave the city behind us and head north to visit the infamous Cu Chi tunnels. Used by the Viet Cong during the war, the network covers 3 levels and incorporates around 240km of tunnels. Traditionally these were very narrow but some areas have been widened to allow tourists to explore the system. Claustrophobes may prefer to stay outside in the sunshine! In the afternoon we return to Saigon and the rest of the day is free for individual exploration
Day 9: Mekong
In the morning we drive to Cai Be in the Mekong Delta (approx 2½ hours), known as the 'rice bowl' of Vietnam. This region produces most of Vietnam's fruit, sugar cane and coconuts. We take a boat trip on the mighty Mekong River, passing many orchards and friendly locals also travelling by boat. Recently, Cai Be floating market has become less crowded and smaller as fruit trading is mostly now done by trucks due to the bridge being built. However, this is still a great opportunity to see a local market and the trade being conducted traditionally on a smaller scale. We stop to see some small cottage industries such as rice paper and coconut candy, getting a chance to sample the produce along the way before enjoying the local speciality, ‘Elephant Ear Fish', for lunch. After lunch, we continue by boat to Vinh Long where our bus is waiting to take us to Can Tho.
Day 10: Cai Rang floating market – Ho Chi Minh
This morning we take a boat trip to visit Cai Rang floating market, the biggest and most lively floating market in the Delta, with great photo opportunities. It is a maze of hundreds of boats packed with fruits, vegetables and plants, where samples are hung from the tops of long poles so that buyers can see from a distance what is for sale. Later we drive back to Saigon where the remainder of the day is free.
Day 11: Ho Chi Minh – Siem Reap
Today we transfer to Saigon Airport for the flight to Siem Reap in Cambodia. On arrival in Siem Reap, we will be met by our Cambodian tour leader. Flight-time dependent we may have the opportunity to see the sunset at the temple-complex this evening. If not, we will enjoy this magnificent marvel tomorrow evening.
Day 12: Siem Reap
A full day spent exploring the Angkor complex. We will visit the incredible Angkor Wat and the many temples inside the Royal City of Angkor Thom, including the magnificent Bayon, which comprises of 54 intricately carved towers in one single temple. The Bayon certainly left an impression on an early traveller in 1925 who stated 'we stand before it stunned. It is like nothing else in the land.' We will also see other less-visited outlying temples. Particularly impressive are Banteay Srei and Ta Prohm, which is still covered in jungle as it was first found. Re-discovered in the 1870s and famously described as being 'grander than anything of Greece or Rome' by the French explorer Henri Mouchot, this World Heritage Site stands alongside Chichen Itza and Machu Picchu as one of the world's most spectacular archaeological sites. A truly magical experience and a photographer's paradise.
Day 13: Departure
Depart Siem Reap