Arrive in Hanoi
Tour begins: Sofitel Legend Metropole Hanoi at 6:30 PM. Transfers are included from Hanoi Int'l Airport to Sofitel Legend Metropole Hanoi. Join us for a welcome reception and dinner.
Highlights of Hanoi, Old and New
Leave your preconceived images behind as you become acquainted with gracious Hanoi, ranking among the world's most attractive and interesting cities. Walk and take a buggy ride through Colonial Hanoi, seeing the Opera House and other local sights. Go inside infamous Hoa Lo Prison ("Hanoi Hilton"), where Senator John McCain and Douglas "Pete" Wilson were once imprisoned, and continue on to Da Ba Dinh Square to view Ho Chi Minh Mausoleum, the Presidential Palace and the One-Pillar Pagoda. Attend a traditional water puppet performance this evening before dinner on your own. Please note: the Ho Chi Minh Mausoleum complex is closed each year for annual renovations from September to December; Ho Chi Minh's stilt house and the One-Pillar Pagoda are still open for viewing.
An overnight Cruise on Ha Long Bay
Head north to Ha Long Bay for an extraordinary glimpse of rural life by land and sea. See villagers working in rice paddies, water buffaloes grazing in the open and ancient temples standing as testaments to history. Limestone islets, some 3,000 of them, line Ha Long Bay on the emerald waters of the Gulf of Tonkin and lead the way to our "junk" for an overnight cruise aboard Bhaya III, designed to replicate an ancient Chinese sailboat. After lunch onboard ship, board a bamboo boat for a cruise along a floating fishing village. Return to Bhaya III for some free time to go swimming or kayaking, followed by a cooking demonstration before dinner onboard this evening.
From the bay to Hoi An via Da Nang
After spending part of the morning cruising on Ha Long Bay, disembark Bhaya III and return to Hanoi to catch your flight to the city of Da Nang on the South China Sea. From there, you'll travel a short distance to the UNESCO World Heritage Site of Hoi An, where you'll spend the next two nights in Grand Deluxe rooms in your newly built MGallery Collection hotel, the Hotel Royal Hoi An.
Exploring Hoi An, a World Heritage Site
A busy international trading port from the 15th to 19th centuries on the banks of the Thu Bon River, Hoi An is known for having preserved the traditional streets, temples and housing that reflect its multicultural heritage. Highlights include an 18th-century Japanese-style bridge with its own pagoda, the Phung Hung House and a riverside street market. After touring Hoi An's historic highlights via cyclo, spend the rest of the day and evening exploring this living museum as you wish, or simply relaxing at your hotel.
To Ho Chi Minh City & Cu Chi Tunnels
Fly to Ho Chi Minh City this morning; upon arrival, head to the Cu Chi Tunnels in Ben Duoc for a close-up look at the Vietnam War. Stretching out in a 120-mile underground network of meeting rooms, triage centers and kitchens, Cu Chi offers a unique look at the wartime life of Viet Cong guerillas and peasant soldiers. Enjoy dinner tonight at an elegant French restaurant in the garden courtyard of a restored villa.
Discovering Ho Chi Minh City
You may remember this former French colonial city as Saigon; today, Ho Chi Minh City bustles with forward-looking energy in glittering skyscapes, street vendors and open-air cafés. See vestiges of its past on a sightseeing tour that includes Reunification Hall, formerly the presidential palace of South Vietnam, the Post Office and the Cathedral. After lunch, spend the rest of the afternoon and evening exploring as you please in Ho Chi Minh City.
Life in the Mekong Delta
From Ho Chi Minh City, drive to the Mekong River town of Cai Be and board a motorized sampan to cruise through small villages along the banks and floating markets for an authentic look at daily life along the river and the Mekong Delta. Stop at a local rice paper workshop and a fish sauce factory to sample their wares. Lunch at a local farmer's home provides a look at daily life before you return by land to your hotel in Ho Chi Minh City.
Fly to Phnom Penh
Take a morning flight from Ho Chi Minh City to Cambodia's capital, Phnom Penh, arriving in time for lunch. This afternoon, visit the Apsara Arts Association, dedicated to the preservation of traditional Cambodian dance and culture. Dine in style this evening at one of the city's top restaurants for fine French cuisine. Your home for the next two nights is the landmark Raffles Hotel Le Royal, where French colonial ambiance has been welcoming royalty, celebrities and jetsetters for over eighty years.
The Many Faces of Phnom Penh
Explore Phnom Penh's Royal Palace complex this morning, where you'll find solid silver tiles on the floor of the Silver Pagoda, which today serves as a repository for religious and cultural treasures; the architecture of the various buildings in the complex is extraordinary. Visit the National Museum, housing the world's premier collection of Khmer art, including bronzes, ceramics and sculpture, and chronicling Cambodia's history and culture. After lunch, join us for a poignant, optional trip to the infamous "Killing Fields" of Choeung Ek and the Tuol Sleng Museum, memorializing the victims of the infamous "S-21" prison operated at the site.
Fly to Siem Reap & visit Angkor Wat
A short flight brings you to Siem Reap, where Angkor Wat reigns in unrivaled splendor. See the Temples of Angkor on a guided visit and enjoy dinner à la carte at your hotel.
Ancient Temples of Angkor
View amazing sculpted monuments celebrating the ancient Khmer Empire on a guided tour that takes you to the root-shrouded Temple of Ta Prohm, imperial Angkor Thom, elaborate Elephant Terrace and the incomparable Bayon Temple. After lunch at a popular local restaurant, the rest of the day is free to spend as you please.
Fly to Colorful Luang Prabang in Laos
The beguiling Laotian city of Luang Prabang captivates with gold-leafed monasteries, French architecture, fragrant flowers and flavorful spices. Enjoy dinner at your luxurious hotel after settling in for a three-night stay.
Alms in Luang Prabang & local rural life
Shortly after dawn in Luang Prabang, a gong announces the end of morning prayers and the beginning of a procession of monks emerging from the temples to seek alms; rise early this morning to experience this extraordinary ritual. After breakfast, explore the National Museum, preserved from its days as a royal residence at the turn of the 20th century and depicting day-to-day life for the rich and royal; visit the Wat Mai temple; and take an orientation tour of the city. Then, a scenic drive through the countryside leads to the multi-tiered cascades of the Tad Kouang Si waterfalls, tumbling over limestone formations to create turquoise-colored pools; the wildlife-rich jungle surrounding the falls entices with natural footpaths perfect for hiking. Return to your hotel in Luang Prabang for an evening spent at as you please.
Life in the Laotian countryside
Spend the morning on a community based living rice farm situated in the idyllic countryside, surrounded by mountains and rice paddies. You'll have an opportunity to experience the life of local rice farmers and try your hand at some of their daily activities, or view them from the comfort of a traditional Lao rice house balcony, surrounded by rice terraces and an organic vegetable farm. There will also be time to visit local handicraft workshops featuring crafts including bamboo weaving, blacksmithing, and sugar cane processing. And a tour of an organic garden offers insights on how natural herbs are used in traditional medicine. Return to the hotel for an afternoon at leisure; join us for a farewell dinner that is highlighted by a special Lao welcome and a traditional Lao Baci well-wishing ceremony, complete with music and dance.
Tour ends: Hanoi. This morning, visit Luang Prabang's most beautiful temple, Vat Xiang Thong, where Laotian kings were crowned, adorned with a gilded entrance, black lacquer walls and an iconic "tree of life" mosaic. After lunch, fly back to Hanoi's Noi Bai Int'l Airport this afternoon for your connecting flight home. Allow 3 hours for flight check-in.