Arrive Hanoi, Vietnam
Tour begins: Sofitel Legend Metropole Hanoi at 6:00 PM. A transfer is included from Noi Bai Int'l Airport to Sofitel Legend Metropole Hanoi. A Hanoi landmark since the turn of the last century, this elegant hotel is set in the heart of the city. Join us tonight for a welcome reception and dinner at Le Beaulieu.
A Day in Hanoi, French Heritage - Asian Traditions
Hanoi's Da Ba Dinh Square in the city center is an intriguing first stop, where you'll find a mix of French colonial architecture, like the Presidential Palace once used by the Governor General of Indochina, side by side with the preserved simple home of Ho Chi Minh (the founding father of modern Vietnam) and his Soviet-style mausoleum. You'll see more of the city's French heritage, including the Opera House, on a buggy ride through the colonial district. Next up is a visit to Hoa Lo Prison, referred to tongue-in-cheek by Americans as the "Hanoi Hilton" during the Vietnam War. The day concludes with a traditional Vietnamese water puppet show, an art unique to Vietnam and popular since the 18th century, when rural villagers would sit on the edge of a pond to watch the show.
Vietnam's Ancient Capital - Hué, a World Heritage Site
After your flight to Da Nang, continue on to Hué, Vietnam's most beautiful city, and now a UNESCO World Heritage Site. Upon arrival, visit the tomb of 19th-century emperor Tu Duc. After lunch, ride your private, pedal-powered cyclo to explore Hué's Citadel - which housed the Imperial City for the emperor's official functions, and the Forbidden Purple City for his personal time - then settle in to your riverfront accommodations along the Perfume River.
Hué & Da Nang's Modern "China Beach"
This morning, explore Hué's tranquil setting as you admire Thien Mu ("Heavenly Lady") Pagoda, a seven-story octagonal tower built in 1844, and cruise along the Perfume River; view the boats that continue to serve as complete family homes for many residents of Hué. Then take in the scenery along the Vietnamese coast and Hai Van Mountain during a drive to Da Nang and the 18-mile-long "China Beach" - made famous by the 1980s TV show of the same name and now a popular Vietnam travel destination. You'll spend the next two nights at one of the most prestigious beachfront resorts in Vietnam, the Furama Resort Da Nang, set right on the shores of the South China Sea.
The Historic Port City of Hoi An
After visiting a local kindergarten, head south from Da Nang to Hoi An on the banks of the Thu Bon River. A busy international trading port from the 15th to 19th centuries, 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.
Ho Chi Minh City & the Cu Chi Tunnels
Take a morning flight to Ho Chi Minh City (formerly known as Saigon), Vietnam's second-largest city; set off to the battlefield memorial site of Ben Duoc, northwest of the city, where you'll explore an underground world of tunnels and chambers three stories deep at Cu Chi Tunnels with your local guides. Used during the Vietnam War, the 120-mile tunnel network housed kitchens, dormitories, munitions factories, hospitals, and schoolrooms. Sample Vietnam's diverse culinary heritage tonight with an elegant dinner at a local restaurant offering French, Vietnamese, and international specialties within a sumptuously restored villa setting.
Discovering Ho Chi Minh (formerly Saigon)
In the former Presidential Palace of South Vietnam, you'll learn from a local expert about its role in the country's history; it was renamed "Reunification Hall" after negotiations rejoined North and South in 1975. Next get an overview of the city's key sights, including the U.S. Consulate, the former U.S. Embassy in Saigon which saw some of the crucial events of 1975; the grand Central Post Office designed by Paris' Gustave Eiffel, and Notre Dame Cathedral, built by the French in the late 1800s. Enjoy the afternoon and evening as you please.
Cambodia's Archaeological Heritage
Fly to Siem Reap, Cambodia, for a two-night stay near the UNESCO World Heritage Centre of Angkor. This complex of ancient temples, built by the Khmer civilization from the 9th to 15th centuries, includes the remains of more than 100 stone temples, wooden palaces, public buildings and homes. The temple remains are astonishing architectural and artistic tributes to the Khmer people. Today's visit will focus on Angkor Wat, an enormous temple consisting of five nested walls and moats, precisely oriented along the Earth's north-south axis.
Ancient Khmer Temples, City & Terrace
Your visit continues at Ta Prohm Temple, preserved within a stranglehold of centuries-old trees to give a sense of what the ruins might look like in the absence of modern conservation efforts; the ruins of the ancient city of Angkor Thom, including its Terrace of the Elephants, once a royal viewing platform; and the Buddhist Bayon Temple, hallmarked by more than 200 carved images of eerily smiling faces. Later, take an optional cruise among the floating villages of Tonle Sap Lake.
North to Chiang Mai & Doi Suthep
Fly to Bangkok this morning and on to Chiang Mai, Thailand's "Rose of the North," a modern city with an ancient artistic and cultural heritage. Your accommodations at the Four Seasons Resort Chiang Mai feature a Lanna-style pavilion overlooking gardens, rice paddies and mountains. A scenic drive into Doi Suthep Nat'l Park includes a visit to the Buddhist temple, Wat Phrathat Doi Suthep, overlooking Chiang Mai.
Thailand's elephants at work & play
Elephants - Thailand's national animal - are an integral part of Chiang Mai's economy and culture. Visit an elephant camp today to see how these marvelous animals are trained to work in a teak forest; you'll have a chance to feed them bananas and sugar cane, see them demonstrate various skills, and see baby elephants in the nursery before you return to your Mae Rim Valley resort where the remainder of the day is spent as you please.
Visiting the Hill Tribe Villages
The scenic hills of Chiang Mai in northern Thailand are home to tribal peoples who live peacefully there as small farmers, observing and honoring their traditional ways of life. You'll have an opportunity today to visit some of these colorful villages, meeting people from the Padong, Palong and "long-necked" Karen tribes.
Fly to Bangkok, Thailand's Capital
A morning flight takes you to bustling Bangkok in time for lunch at a local restaurant and some time spent exploring on your own in Thailand's capital - kicking off a three-night stay at the Shangri-La Hotel, Bangkok, with accommodations in the deluxe Krungthep Wing. Enjoy dinner tonight at your choice of restaurants at your hotel.
The Grand Palace & Reclining Buddha
Depart your hotel by boat for a morning of Bangkok sightseeing. You'll walk to the dazzling Grand Palace, where Thai kings resided until the turn of the 20th century, visit the Emerald Buddha and Wat Pho, home to the golden Reclining Buddha, before motorboating back to your hotel for an afternoon and evening spent as you please in Bangkok.
Klongs & The Jim Thompson House
Get a close-up look at daily life along the Chao Phraya River and Bangkok's canals or klongs. Stop to visit Wat Arun (Temple of Dawn) and the Jim Thompson House Museum, home of the American architect and entrepreneur who revitalized the Thai silk industry. Tonight, your travels end with a farewell dinner.
Tour ends: Bangkok. A transfer is included from Shangri-La Hotel, Bangkok to Bangkok International Airport; please allow a minimum of 3 hours for flight check-in at the airport.