Day 1: Welcome to Siem Reap
Upon arrival at Siem Reap airport, you will be welcomed and driven to hotel. The remainder of the day will be your own. Overnight in Siem Reap.
Day 2: Angkor Thom – Ta Prohm & Angkor Wat (B, L)
You’ll begin with a visit to Angkor Thom, starting with the Bayon, a bizarre structure of several architectural changes reflecting a switch from Hinduism (the foundations) to Buddhism (the superstructure). Your next visit will be to the Elephant and Leper King Terraces followed by the Baphoun Temple, which is now nearing the end of an eight-year multi-million dollar restoration programme. You’ll also see Ta Prohm monastery, strangled by massive tree roots and typical of the condition of the whole complex when it was discovered in 1860 by French naturalist Henri Mouhot.
Afternoon, you’ll explore Angkor Wat that is the most impressive Hindu temple complex and the largest religious monument in the world. Breaking from the Shaivism tradition of previous kings, Angkor Wat was instead dedicated to Vishnu. As the best-preserved temple at the site, it is the only one to have remained a significant religious centre since its foundation – first Hindu, dedicated to the god Vishnu, then Buddhist. The temple is at the top of the high classical style of Khmer architecture. It has become a symbol of Cambodia, appearing on its national flag, and it is the country's prime attraction for visitors. As dusk nears, a walk to the summit of Phnom Bakheng Hill will afford a panorama of the whole complex lit by the rays of the setting sun, weather permitting of course. Overnight in Siem Reap.
Day 3: Boat Cruise on Tonle Sap Lake – Afternoon Flight to Hanoi (B, L)
After breakfast, travel about 15km to the fishing village of Chong Kneas, where you will board a traditional boat to discover the Tonle Sap Lake and see the daily activity of people living on floating houses. “The Tonlé Sap is the largest freshwater lake in South East Asia and is an ecological hot spot that was designated as a UNESCO biosphere in 1997.” The rest of the afternoon is free until you're picked up for your flight to Hanoi. When you arrive at Noi Bai International airport in Hanoi, you'll be smilingly met and transferred to your downtown hotel. The remainder of the day will be all yours to stroll around the Old Quarter of Hanoi and its raucous streets full of traditional vendors and artisans, or if you prefer, simply relax and recover for your adventure ahead. Overnight in Hanoi.
Day 4: Hanoi - Sights, Soul and Flavors (B, L)
After a breakfast worth writing home about, you'll jump head-first into Hanoi's sights and sounds on a tour that covers all the essentials. You'll visit the Ho Chi Minh Complex, which includes the Mausoleum, Uncle Ho's former stilt-house residence, the Presidential Palace, the Ho Chi Minh Museum and The Temple of Literature, which, dating back to 1070, is Vietnam’s oldest university. After lunch, explore the enthralling Museum of Ethnology, which contains an extensive display of life-size structures dedicated to Vietnam’s 54 ethnic minorities. Next, enjoy an hour-long cyclo ride winding through the narrow, chaotic streets of the Old Quarter - a must for any visitor to Hanoi! The day finishes with a traditional performance of the famous Vietnamese water puppets. Overnight in Hanoi.
Note: the Ho Chi Minh Mausoleum is closed all day on Monday and Fridays, as well as from 1st October to 30th November (approx.) for annual conservation. Most museums close on Mondays.
Day 5: Hanoi - Halong Bay Cruising [Join with other travelers on the cruise] (B, L, D)
At 08.00, you will be picked up at your hotel and start the scenic 3.5 hour drive to Halong Bay, one of the most spectacular UNESCO World Heritage Areas and the world's largest marine limestone 'karst' landscape. Enjoy the landscape of the Red River Delta countryside and have a short break en-route. Meet the crew upon boarding the traditional wooden junk, then relax and enjoy lunch while the boat heads towards the secluded islands. Visit a fishing village by a rustic rowing-boat, meet the local people and pass through the floating school and pearl farms. Return to the junk refreshed and and relax on sundeck with a drink to watch the sunset. Enjoy a freshly prepared seafood dinner under the stars. Overnight on a traditional junk boat in Halong Bay.
Day 6: Halong Bay - Hanoi - Afternoon Flight to Danang – Transfer to Hoi An (B, L)
Enjoy an early morning swim/Taichi (if weather permits) followed by breakfast. You will visit a famous ancient limestone cave in the middle of the bay where you’ll discover magnificent stalagmites and stalactites as you walk along the lit paths on a guided tour. Enjoy a tasty brunch while cruising back to the main harbor Pier where your private car will be waiting for you and drive straight to Noi Bai airport in Hanoi for a late afternoon flight to Danang. On arrival, pick up and transfer to your hotel in the downtown. Overnight in Hoi An.
Day 7: Hoi An – Guided Walking Tour ½ Day – Free Afternoon of Leisure (B, L)
At 8:30 sharp, your guide will meet you at your hotel lobby to give you a proper show-around of the old town. You'll start a walking tour with a lion's share of places of interest: the 400-year old Japanese Covered Bridge; the Phuc Kien Assembly Halls; the museum and the colorful local market. Following the narrow lanes, you'll meander through tiny streets studded by houses influenced by Chinese, Japanese, French and European architectures. After such gallavanting, your time will be your own to wander around or getting amongst some retail therapy. This afternoon is your own. Overnight in Hoi An.
Day 8: Flight to Ho Chi Minh City & Cu Chi Tunnels Exploration (B, L)
First up, you head to Danang airport for your morning dash to Ho Chi Minh City. Upon arrival, you'll be met by another local expert who will escort you for your drive to the stupefying Cu Chi Tunnels. After a light lunch at a local restaurant [today at your own cost], visit the amazing network of underground tunnels that was used by the Viet Cong throughout the War. This huge construction was a war-time home for many villagers. With three different levels and despite its proximity to Saigon, it was never discovered by the US. Visit the fighting tunnel system with your local guide, before heading back to Ho Chi Minh City in the late afternoon. Overnight in Ho Chi Minh City.
Day 9: Sights & Sounds of the Bustling City (B, L)
Today you'll embark on a guided city tour, starting with the War Remnants Museum - a real eye-opening part of Vietnam's proud history; followed by the Reunification Palace; the former South Vietnam Presidential Palace; the Notre Dame Cathedral and Old Post Office, as you get your camera working overtime peeking into the past of Vietnam's biggest, most energetically progressive city.
After a tasty lunch at a local restaurant, continue with a Chinatown walking tour through the back streets to be part of the local daily life. Stop off for a visit to Thien Hau temple, which was built in the early 19th Century in tribute to the goddess of seafarers. Delve deeper into Chinatown by visiting the amazing Cholon and Binh Tay Market (or Ben Thanh market) for an insight into where the locals actually shop. Then you'll be back at your hotel in time to have a bit of a stroll around the city center, or simply relax. Overnight in Ho Chi Minh City.
Day 10: Returning Home (B)
Your time will be your own until being picked up to head to Ho Chi Minh City's Tan Son Nhat Airport for your onward journey or departure flight. Farewell from Vietnam!!