President’s Pick: Incredible Indochina

“I first visited Indochina with my family in 1998, and remembered thinking how much potential this region had if the infrastructure could just be improved. Fast forward to today and the conversation has changed completely to ‘how do we keep these areas authentic?’ This itinerary answers that question. Noted chef and author Daniel Hoyer introduces you to Hanoi's street foods, and you will visit the studio of celebrated artist Helene Kling in Ho Chi Minh City, who has lived in Vietnam since 1996. You even spend a night on a floating luxury hotel on the famous River Kwai. From world-class accommodations to sailing the Mekong River, this exceptional journey takes you to the cutting edge.”

President’s Pick: Incredible Indochina President’s Picks

(Countries Visited)

Vietnam

,

Thailand

,

Cambodia & Laos


(Interest Type(s))

Adventure Travel


(Tour Length)

29 Days


Tour Highlights

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  • PP FINAL web smExplore Southeast Asian cuisine during culinary experience at a Thai kitchen in Chiang Mai and glimpse Hanoi through the street foods and markets in the company of noted chef and author Daniel Hoyer
  • Explore Chaing Mai, including an early morning visit to a monastery to offer alms to the Buddhist monks, and Chaing Rai, which features an exploration of the world of the Asia elephant
  • Engage with Cambodia’s astounding Angkor Wat temple complex near Siem Reap, and travel off track to less seen sites of Koh Ker, once capital for King Jayavarman IV, and Beng Mealea, a 12th-century temple the size of Angkor
  • Savor a three-night sailing on the Mekong River aboard Aqua Mekong sailing from Cambodia into Vietnam; and enjoy an overnight cruise on the spectacular Vietnam’s Halong Bay
  • Enjoy unusual excursion that include in Hanoi, a walk on the rails – walk along the very narrow streets with tracks sometimes less than a meter away from the entrance doors of houses and shops; and in Bangkok, take Tuk Tuk driving lessons and try your hand at driving one of these unique vehicles

Day 1: Bangkok, Thailand
Welcome to Bangkok. You will be met at the jet way by a hostess and porter. The porter will display a sign with your name and hotel. You then will be escorted to the Fast Track Immigration counter where your entry into Thailand will be expedited. The hostess will handle all airport formalities with immigration and customs officials. Next, both will assist you in obtaining your baggage and escort you through customs and to your awaiting guide and transport in the arrivals hall. Your guide welcomes you and transfers you to check-in at the hotel. Set on three acres of premium river frontage, the privately owned and operated 39-room luxury retreat. Priceless antiquities, oriental allure and contemporary comforts recall a bygone era. Conceived by Krissada Sukosol Clapp and globally acclaimed architect and designer Bill Bensley, The Siam features Bangkok’s most spacious suites and is the kingdom’s premier urban resort offering intimately private pool villas with rooftop terraces. An irresistible array of cultural activities await you at The Siam such as exploring Bangkok by boat from the private pier. You can also indulge in pampering at the spa; or simply unwind with a sunset cocktail at the riverfront bar. The Siam – Riverview Suite

Day 2: Bangkok
This morning, travel back in time to explore Bangkok during a half-day discovery by boat of the 19th-century canals that lace Bangkok, earning the capital the designation ‘Venice of the East’. Surviving canals and the Chao Phraya River (River of Kings) provide memorable vignettes of a traditional waterborne way of life that has remained essentially unchanged. The river and canals may be conveniently explored by public transport or via a traditional long-tailed boat. Finally end at Wat Arun (Temple of Dawn), a famous Chao Phraya riverbank landmark, diagonally opposite the Grand Palace. It is best known for a porcelain encrusted 79-meter/259-foot central pagoda sparkling in the sun. You return to your hotel with the balance of the day at leisure. To explore on your own, the river and canals may be conveniently traveled by public transport or via a traditional long-tailed boat.  The Siam – Riverview Suite (B)

Day 3: Bangkok
Today after breakfast you are in for an experience like no other.  Throughout the city, as in other Southeast Asian cities, you spot the three-wheeled ‘auto rickshaw’, otherwise known as a tuk tuk. This modern incarnation of the rickshaw can be seen dashing through seemingly impossible, impassable traffic congestion. The ride is often thrilling, but if you think that being a passenger is not exciting enough, why not try to drive the vehicle yourself? That's right, throughout your lesson, you will be assisted by your guide as well as by an experienced driving instructor. After learning the theory part, you get to the most exhilarating part of the experience - driving this unique vehicle by yourself. Needless to say, you will be rewarded by your Tuk-Tuk Driving License at the end of this most original excursion.

Relax this afternoon. Early this evening, you hop on a gastronomy tour with our local expert. There are thousands of street food stalls in Bangkok that contribute to Thailand's fabulous food scene. This is an amazing opportunity to discover some of the greatest tastes and flavors of Bangkok’s Chinatown. You have the opportunity to taste a variety of local dishes, some of which will vary according to season. Try Hong Kong noodles, Chinese buns and Thai tropical fruits. Return to your hotel.  The Siam – Riverview Suite (B,L)

Day 4: Bangkok / Chiang Mai
This morning, you transfer to the airport for your flight to Chiang Mai. On arrival, you are met and transferred to your hotel, 137 Pillars Hotels & Resorts. This luxury boutique hotel has been based on the historic Baan Borneo, which was the Northern Headquarters of the East Borneo Trading Company built 125 years ago. Surrounded by 125-yeear-old trees, the hotel’s 30 suites, the spa, and two restaurants - Thai and Western were restored. In the heart of Chiang Mai at Thanon Nawatgate. The luxurious suites are named after founders of the East Borneo Trading Co., including Louis Leonowens, William Bain, and Rajah Brooke. This legendary resort is now in its 5th year of operation. It also features Jack Bain’s Bar, a wine cellar, piano and lounge. Spa & Wellness, a state-of-the-art gym and a 25-meter lap pool set amid beautifully maintained gardens and original trees complete the picture. 137 Pillars - Rajah Brooke Suite (B)

Day 5: Chiang Mai
Enjoy a special half day culinary experience at a Thai kitchen. Most cooking classes in Chiang Mai take place in hotels, but this class is designed to get you closer to the traditional rituals that are just as important as the cuisine itself. The class is set on an acre of land with the classroom designed as a private house. Most of your ingredients are sourced from the herb and spice gardens located on the grounds. The Lanna-style classes view cooking as an art form. Begin your day in the garden gathering spices and herbs for the meal. In the kitchen, your instructor begins by demonstrating what you will be preparing. After enjoying the meal you helped prepare, you return to your hotel, where the rest of the day is at leisure. 137 Pillars - Rajah Brooke Suite (B,L)

Day 6: Chiang Mai
One of the most unique experiences in Thailand is a visit to a monastery and offering alms to the Buddhist monks. The food is not seen as a donation, but rather an offering to Lord Buddha so the monks can obtain enlightenment. You are picked up early this morning around sunrise and transferred to the streets near the monastery entrance to join the many locals who may be lining to await the monks’ blessings. The monks quietly approach in their bare feet, repeating chants. As they pass, you fill their alms bowls with boiled rice and other condiments that your guide provides. After this remarkable encounter, you return to you hotel in time for breakfast. The balance of the morning is at leisure. Late afternoon, you explore historic Chiang Mai and enjoy a memorable sunset visit at its most stunning landmark - Wat Doi Suthep. See the old city sights and visit the historic temples of Wat Suan Dok and Jet Yot before heading on to Wat Doi Suthep, perched majestically above the city. As the crowds depart and dusk falls, you will enjoy a private blessing as you take in the magical evening chanting of the monks with the glittering lights of Chiang Mai below. Return to your hotel this evening. 137 Pillars - Rajah Brooke Suite (B,L)

Day 7: Chiang Mai / Chiang Rai
Depart overland this morning on a four-hour drive to Chiang Rai. En route, stop for a brief visit at Rong Khun, also called “The White Temple,” a privately owned art exhibit designed in the style of a Bhuddist Temple. Arrive late this afternoon at the Anantara Golden Triangle Resort. Perched on a ridge overlooking the hills of Thailand, Myanmar and Laos, and the convergence of the Ruak and Mekong Rivers, the resort’s on-site elephant camp opens a window onto breathtaking nature. The camp is designed as a traditional mahout village. The camp works alongside the Golden Triangle Asian Elephant Foundation to perform street rescues, provide employment and a comfortable lifestyle for the elephants as well as mahouts’ families, and to participate in other projects. The camp supports more than 25 elephants and 60 people, and is fully funded by Anantara Hotels, Resorts & Spas and guest donations. The camp offers guests unique opportunities such as learning to command elephants through specialist mahout training courses. Your camp features a combination of crisp Thai silks, teakwood floors and romantic terrazzo tubs big enough for two. All rooms come equipped with spacious balconies, a king bed, down duvets and stunning views across the Mekong River and out to Myanmar and Laos or across the resort’s impeccable landscaped gardens. Anantara Golden Triangle Resort – Deluxe Three Country View Room (B,L,D)

Days 8 & 9: Chiang Rai
Spend these days enjoying the included activities at the camp that include watching a skilled mahout guide his elephant using some 70 commands and light touches behind the ear. While such a strong bond and mutual understanding takes years, anyone can learn the basics. As a mahout trainee, you learn to drive an elephant, trek along beautiful nature trails on the elephant’s back and take part in the river bathing ritual. Discover fascinating facts about elephant biology, behavior and conservation with a fun, educational and interactive activity conducted by resident elephant experts. After the elephants have finished playing, you take them to the bathing area for a cool drink and well-deserved shower. Journey into the jungle with the elephants and their mahouts on their daily walk, and watch as these gentle giants splash in the river or play in the mud, snack on leaves from nearby branches and socialize with the herd. While you meander together through the forest, you will learn more about elephant biology and behavior from our resident veterinarian or biologist and discover more about the past, present and hopeful future for elephants in Thailand. Please note that this program does not include riding the elephants. Anantara Golden Triangle Resort – Deluxe Three Country View Room (B,L,D)

Day 10: Chiang Rai / Bangkok / Kanchanaburu / River Kwai
This morning you transfer to the airport for your flight back to Bangkok. On arrival, you are met and transferred to your elegant floating boutique hotel. The Float House River Kwai Resort aims to be the world’s best floating resort.  The only way to reach the resort is by boat as it actually floats on a flowing river surrounded by thick green jungle. Each luxurious and spacious floating villa is totally private and rich in custom-tailored teakwood furniture with thatched roofing. The design is delightfully impressive with exotic decorations including natural materials and ropes. The design concept for the resort is known as “Contemporary Boutique Folk Style,” for a smooth blend of local artistic traditions with the natural environment, yet different from anywhere else in its characteristic rope designs that convey an oriental air. Enjoy amazing panoramic scenery from the swing chair on you private outdoor veranda on the River Kwai. The remainder of the day is free. The Float House River Kwai – Floating Villa (B,L,D)

Day 11: River Kwai
Set out this morning to see the world famous bridge on the River Kwai, built during World War II by the Allied prisoners of war. The bridge is located near the town of Kanchanaburi. During WW II, Japan constructed the meter-gauge railway line from Ban Pong, Thailand to Thanbyuzayat, Burma. The line, known as the Death Railway, passes through the scenic Three Pagodas Pass and runs for 402 kilometers/250 miles. Following your visit, return to your “floatel” in time for lunch, where the balance of the day is at leisure. The Float House River Kwai – Floating Villa (B,L,D)

Day 12: River Kwai / Bangkok / Siem Reap, Cambodia
Return to the airport today for your flight to Siem Reap, home to one of Cambodia’s priceless heritage sites. On arrival, you are met and transferred to your hotel, an intimate retreat on the banks of a tree-lined river. Belmond La Résidence d’Angkor beautifully captures the region’s rich history while offering every modern luxury. Anticipate an authentic Cambodian experience at this hotel in central Siem Reap. The inviting architecture showcases traditional Khmer style with elegant teak and basalt accents that echo the ancient temples nearby. Located close to Angkor Wat, Angkor Thom and Tonlé Sap Lake, it’s an ideal base to explore the wonders of the region. Siem Reap’s lively markets, galleries and thriving restaurant and nightlife scene are also just moments away. The hotel's peaceful gardens, an inviting swimming pool and a luxury spa are the perfect place to relax at the end of the day. This afternoon begin your exploration of the crown jewel of Khmer architecture, Angkor Wat. The national symbol and the highlight of any visit to Cambodia, this is the largest, best preserved, and most religiously significant of the Angkor temples. It impresses visitors both by its sheer scale and beautifully proportioned layout, as well as the delicate artistry of its carvings. To approach the temple, first cross the vast moat, continuing along a broad causeway lined with naga balustrades. Upon entering the main structure, ascend through a series of galleries and courtyard before reaching the central sanctuary, which offers beautiful views back over the causeway and across the surrounding countryside. On the way, stop to enjoy the intricate stone carvings that adorn nearly every surface of the temple, with some 1,700 Apsaras, or celestial dancers, sculpted from the walls. Along the outer gallery walls run the longest continuous bas-relief in the world, which narrates stories from Hindu mythology, including the famous Churning of the Ocean of Milk. Angkor Wat is stunning at any time of the day, but sunrise and sunset are especially beautiful times to watch the play of light on the stones. Belmond La Residence D’angkor – Deluxe Gardenside Room (B)

Day 13: Siem Reap
On a full-day excursion, you travel to Koh Ker* and Beng Mealea. Koh Ker was once capital for King Jayavarman IV, and features the pyramidal Prasat Thom. Beng Mealea is a 12th-century temple the size of Angkor about 40 kilometers/25 miles from the Bayon. Beng Mealea is enclosed by a moat and the temple is currently being reclaimed from the jungle. Years of conflict in the region left it neglected and nearly forgotten. It is now one of the most popular remote temples owing to its wealth of classical bas reliefs. This evening, enjoy dinner at Cuisine Wat Damnak. The restaurant, built from a traditional Khmer house, is anything but traditional. The menu is not typical Khmer, rather a fusion that boasts fresh local ingredients, some so rare you may have never even heard of them!

*The Spirit of Big Five Foundation partnered with the nonprofit Heritage Watch organization in preserving and protecting these important ruins from looting and vandalism while helping the local community realize benefits through sustainable tourism. Belmond La Residence D’angkor – Deluxe Gardenside Room (B)

Day 14: Siem Reap
Today, you set out on a half-day adventure by quad bike. This enjoyable jaunt passes through villages and along country roads and you begin to get a sense of rural life. Head off the beaten track into the forest to reach a temple that few tourists ever visit as the trail is impassable for anything but quad bikes. Savor a peaceful picnic lunch at the temple before returning to your hotel. The balance of the day is at leisure. Belmond La Residence D’angkor – Deluxe Gardenside Room (B)

Day 15: Siem Reap / Phnom Penh
This morning, you transfer back to the airport for your flight to Phnom Penh. On arrival, transfer to your hotel, where the rest of the day is at leisure. Today is planned as a pre-night before boarding the Aqua Mekong tomorrow. Raffles Hotel Le Royale – State Room (B)

Day 16: Phnom Penh / Mekong River
This morning, you are transferred to the dock to board the Aqua Mekong for your three-night river sailing in Vietnam and Cambodia. The 62.4-meter/205-foot Aqua Mekong was designed by Saigon-based architects to embody the aesthetic of a sophisticated five-star hotel. Local sustainable materials and artisanal touches of the Mekong’s multifaceted cultures round out the generous interior spaces that welcome you. Along this fascinating river system, encounter flooded emerald forests and bamboo stilt villages accessible only by boat; flocks of painted stork and spot billed pelicans in their last Southeast Asian refuge; Chinese wing-tipped pagoda temples and remote Buddhist monasteries. Spacious and indulgent, yet intimate enough to feel entirely exclusive, the Aqua Mekong incorporates relaxed yet refined lounging and dining areas, and can accommodate a maximum of 40 guests plus crew. Modern navigation technologies and the highest cruise ship standards as well as an experienced river pilot and crew insure smooth travel and safety on the water. The crew welcomes you on board with custom sundowners like the salted watermelon crush with Thai basil. Together you celebrate the onward journey towards the heart of this mighty river with a Khmer Apsara performance, an indigenous tradition memorialized on the temple walls at Angkor Wat. Aqua Mekong – Design Suite (B,L,D)  *Please Note: All itineraries are subject to change, due to weather and other conditions.

Day 17: Mekong River – Ka´Om Samnor-Vinh Xuong, Vietnam Border Crossing / Tan Chau / Chau Doc / My An Hung
Sail into Vietnam through the Ka´Om Samnor-Vinh Xuong Border Crossing, and head to Tan Chau, where you take the local rickshaw around the town or to the peaceful island of Long Khanh. In the afternoon, visit My An Hung, a typical Mekong Delta village, where you will walk through verdant plantations, visiting a local home to taste indigenous fruits and listen to traditional folk songs performed by villagers. See a performance of the unique unicorn dance. You can also opt for an excursion by bicycle to explore the area. Aqua Mekong – Design Suite (B,L,D)

Day 18: Mekong River – Binh Thanh / Sa Dec - Cai Be
Begin the day at Binh Thanh mat weaving village or choose to visit Sa Dec to discover the vibrant market and see the house of noted French writer Marguerite Duras' legendary lover, Huynh Thuy Le. Continue downstream to Cai Be, zigzagging in a sampan past lone fishermen on their long tail boats. Later, the skiffs moor at a wooden pier. Here in Cai Be, walk or bike ride among high-roofed open courtyard houses, some dating back more than 100 years. The current generation who occupy these dwellings graciously invite you to into their homes. Aqua Mekong – Design Suite (B,L,D)

Day 19: Mekong River – My Tho / Ho Chi Minh City
This morning, disembark the ship and set out for Ho Chi Minh (formerly Saigon). Take time to visit Vinh Trang Pagoda, one of the largest Mahayana Buddhist temples in the region. Notice the mixed architectural style and the three large Buddha statues. There is also an impressive collection of bonsai trees. On arrival in Ho Chi Minh City, check into your hotel, just a 30-minute drive to Tan Son Nhat Airport. The award-winnng Park Hyatt Saigon is one of the premier city hotels in a prime location overlooking Saigon Opera House on the city’s most famous square. The elegant, French colonial-style hotel is within walking distance of the most popular cultural and historical attractions including Saigon Notre-Dame Basilica and Reunification Palace. In 2015, Park Hyatt Saigon underwent an extensive renovation of its guestrooms and public areas, upgrading all amenities and introducing the latest technology, while maintaining the building’s timeless charm. The hotel hosts world-class bars and best restaurants in Ho Chi Minh City, including Opera, offering authentic Italian cuisine; Square One, serving both Vietnamese and Western dishes; Park Lounge, specializing in afternoon tea; and 2 Lam Son, one of the city’s top nightlife destinations. Park Hyatt Saigon – Deluxe Room (B)

Day 20: Ho Chi Minh City
This morning, your private tour of the city begins by showcasing the art district. Visit the ochre-colored Fine Arts Museum (closed on Mondays) to learn more about the past, present and future of the arts movement in Vietnam. Head to Ben Thanh Art & Frame gallery to admire contemporary works. Then, drive to the private museum of the art collector Duc Minh. Explore the striking works of young artists and the flourishing Vietnamese arts scene. Drop by Gallerie Quynh, founded in 2000 by Vietnamese American Quynh Pham to promote a selected group of young artists. It also exhibits international artists art, allowing the local community access to a diverse range of contemporary art. Later this afternoon, drive to the studio of a celebrated artist in Saigon’s suburban District 2. Being inspired by the lights, shadows and colors of Vietnam, artist Helene Kling has lived in Vietnam since 1996. Learn about her work and grasp her inspiration on each piece of art. Helen also supports Operation Smile charity by painting to raise funds for children needing cleft surgery. It is the art of healing. After a bit of downtime (time permitting), head out this evening to enjoy the city like a local, beginning with a sundowner drink at the new Skybar, which offers panoramic views of the city, followed by a walk along the 23/9 Park to see the brand new A O show the first of its kind – using bamboo in ways you could never imagine. From here, you transfer to dinner by vintage Vespa scooters at the 3T Quan Nuong Rooftop (BBQ Restaurant on top of temple Club) before going next door to Fanny's for ice cream. Return to your hotel. Park Hyatt Saigon – Deluxe Room (B,D)

Day 21: Ho Chi Minh City
This morning, you discover the famous Cu Chi Tunnels, which were never discovered by American forces. These tunnels were an important Vietcong base during the American War. Stretching over 200 kilometers/124 miles, this incredible underground network, dug by hand from hard laterite, connected command posts, hospitals, shelters and weapon factories. Today, you can walk through the area and learn about the day-to-day life of the VC, see the disguised entrances and elaborate booby-traps, and even venture inside the tunnels, some of which have been modified to accommodate tourists. Return to Saigon this afternoon. Return to the city and continue with a visit to see the Emperor of Jade Pagoda, one of Saigon's most interesting pagodas. End the day at the War Remnants Museum, which comprehensively documents the travails of the long Vietnam-American War.  Inside are detailed photographic exhibitions; outside is a collection of tanks, planes and weapons. A powerful experience, this museum is guaranteed to provoke strong emotions. Return to your hotel. Park Hyatt Saigon – Deluxe Room (B)

Day 22: Ho Chi Minh City / Danang / Hoi An
Transfer to the airport this morning for your flight to Danang. On arrival, you are met and transferred to nearby historic town of Hoi An where you will check into your luxury resort. Along a seemingly infinite stretch of sand, amidst Vietnam’s richest cultural heritage, a strand of sophisticated, visually striking villas lines the dramatic beachfront. Inspired by 2,500 years of history, The Nam Hai’s architecture and interior design present a dramatic play on wind and water inspired by ancient feng shui philosophy and the grandeur of the Tu Duc royal tombs of Hue. Explore the nearby UNESCO World Heritage Sites of Hoi An, My Son and Hue with its Buddhist pagodas, royal tombs and historic citadels. Return to your calm, tropical shore on Ha My Beach to relax around three expansive swimming pools, in the spa on a lotus pond, over gourmet Eastern and Western cuisine or in the privacy of one of the 100 private retreats, elegantly finished with Vietnamese lacquer and diaphanous silk. Some are served by a most attentive butler. The Nam Hai – One Bedroom Pool Villa (B)

Day 23: Hoi An
Head off this morning on a half day walking exploration of this picturesque riverside town south of Danang. Known as Faifo to early western traders, it was one of South East Asia's major international ports during the 17th, 18th and 19th centuries. This beautifully preserved historic city is best seen on foot including the iconic Japanese Covered Bridge. The first bridge on this site was constructed in 1593 by the Japanese community of Hoi An to link the town with the Chinese quarters across the stream. The bridge was provided with a roof so it could be used as a shelter from rain and sun. Visit the nearby Sa Huynh Museum, which contains exhibitions from the earliest period of Hoi An's history. Stroll to the Tran Family Chapel, a house for worshipping ancestors that was built about 200 years ago. The Tran family traces its origins to China and moved to Vietnam around 1700. The architecture of the building reflects the influence of Chinese and Japanese styles. See the Phuoc Kien Assembly Hall, a Chinese pagoda built around 1690 and then restored and enlarged in 1900. It is typical of the Chinese clans that were established in the Hoi An area. The temple is dedicated to Thien Hau Thanh Mau (Goddess of the Sea and Protector of Sailors and Fishermen). Finally, visit a lantern-making workshop, one of many in Hoi An. The framework for the lanterns is made beforehand and clients can observe locals adorning silk cloth on the lantern. Return to your resort later today where the balance of the afternoon is at leisure. The Nam Hai – One Bedroom Pool Villa (B)

Day 24: Hoi An / Danang / Hanoi
Return to Danang airport where you board your flight to Hanoi. On arrival, you are met and transferred to your hotel. Step back into history at Hanoï's most storied 5-star hotel. A Grand Dame of Southeast Asia, Sofitel Legend Metropole Hanoi welcomes guests to experience her colonial grandeur and timeless elegance. Located steps from the Opera House in Hanoï's French Quarter, this legendary property brings guests into intimate contact with the opulence of another era. The remainder of the day is at leisure. Sofitel Metropole Legend Hotel – Premium Room (B)

Day 25: Hanoi
In the morning, begin the day exploring the capital, including the Ho Chi Minh Mausoleum, where the remains of the national hero, the father of the nation, rest (closed on Mondays and Fridays), and his former residence. See the historic One Pillar Pagoda, a Buddhist temple built of wood on a single stone pillar; and the 6th-century Tran Quoc Pagoda, regarded as the most ancient pagoda of the city and a cultural symbol of Vietnamese. Then visit Huu Tiep Lake, a small lake that contains the wreckage of a crashed B52 from the Vietnam War. Enjoy lunch at a local restaurant.

This afternoon, visit the Temple of Literature, Vietnam’s first university, founded in 1070 by Emperor Ly Thanh Tong. The Temple of Literature is dedicated to Confucius (Khong Tu) and honors Vietnam’s finest scholars and men of literary accomplishment. Experience the former Hoa Lo Prison, known as the ‘Hanoi Hilton’ by US prisoners of war (POWs) during the American War. Most exhibits relate to the prison’s use up to the mid-1950s, focusing on the Vietnamese struggle for independence from France. There are also displays focusing on the American pilots who were incarcerated there during the war, include Pete Peterson (the first US ambassador to a unified Vietnam in 1995), and Senator John McCain (the Republican nominee for the US presidency in 2008). This is often a powerful experience for many who visit here.

Travel on to the Old Quarter to explore on foot the district of 36 Corporations, a maze of streets composing the old town center of the capital, bringing together several traditional crafts such as making and selling votive papers and bamboo products. Enjoy the street foods with Mr. Vu The Long, who is a gastronomy expert and the secretary of Vietnam Gastronomy Culture Club. Mr. Long will introduce Vietnamese gastronomy and, depending on interest, you are able to sample the best street foods under his expertise guidance. Return to your hotel. Sofitel Legend Metropole Hanoi – Premium Room (B,L)

Day 26: Hanoi / Halong Bay
Set out for tranquil Halong Bay, where you board your vessel for an overnight journey on the incredibly scenic UNESCO World Heritage Site. The bay’s most remarkable feature is a dense cluster of more than 1,500 limestone karst monolithic islands rising spectacularly from the water. Each is topped with dense jungle that looks like a fitted cap. Several of the islands are hollow with enormous caves. Sail to Da Chong islet so see a century-old lighthouse built by the French. Enjoy lunch as you continue sailing past the islets of Con Vit and Gia Luan. This area is untouched since not many cruise ships use the route that includes Cat Ba Island, Thoi Quyt, Coc Ngoi islet and Cua Van. Reach the Ba Trai Dao beach area of Lan Ha Bay, which is a separate area of Halong Bay. This is a quiet paradise in Vietnam. The region is known for its pristine beaches and spectacular beauty of some of its 400 islands. Unlike the most of Ha Long Bay, the islands of Lan Ha Bay are forested, and most are small. You have the opportunity to go kayaking or simply just enjoy a swim in the crystal-clear waters of the bay. Back on board you ship, catch the magnificent sunset over the Gulf of Tonkin. If you like, you can join in a traditional cooking class, where the ship’s chef will instruct you in making some classic Vietnam dishes. You can also opt to have a massage (Please book with Cruise Manager directly). After a deluxe dinner, take a stroll around the deck to take in the landscapes of the bay at night, relax with drinks from the bar, try your hand at night squid fishing, or watch a movie in the restaurant. Overnight Orchid Cruise – Balcony Suite Cabin (B,L,D)

Day 27: Halong Bay / Hanoi
You might want to rise early this morning capture the bay at its very best with the sunrise. You can enjoy an invigorating Tai Chi session on the sundeck if you are up to it. Then, have a light breakfast before you head out in canoes to explore the bay in the area of the Sang Toi Cave. Return to ship by mid-morning boat for check-out procedures followed by a delightful brunch. The ship returns to the dock around noon and you depart for Hanoi.

This afternoon visit the National Museum of History, formerly the home of the École Française d’Extrême Orient, built between 1925 and 1932. This architecturally impressive museum exhibits include bronzes from the Dong Son culture (3rd century BC to 3rd century AD), Hindu statuary from the Khmer and Champa kingdoms, jewelry from imperial Vietnam, and displays relating to the French occupation and the Communist Party.

Tonight, savor a gourmet dinner of Vietnamese specialties combined with French gastronomy. Didier Corlou is a renowned chef and member of the French Culinary Academy. His restaurant is settled in a beautiful ancient converted colonial house where you will enjoy an authentically unique culinary experience. Sofitel Metropole Legend Hotel – Premium Room (B,Brunch,D)

Day 28: Hanoi
Today visit Hanoi train street which is as interesting as it is terrifying, located between Le Duan and Kham Thien street. The street is so narrow that all residents must ensure their bikes and precious personal belongings, as well as their roaming children, are all safely inside the house before the train passes. Lunch at a local restaurant.

After lunch, head to Dao Thuc village nestled in Dong Anh District about ten km/six mi from Hanoi center. It is famous for its 300-year-old water puppetry. A villager named Dao Dang Vinh, who fell in love with water puppetry worked tirelessly to pass down the art to the next generation. Enjoy the private water puppet show at Mr. Phan Thanh Liem’s house. Mr. Liem was born in a family with seven generations that have been preserving water puppetry in the northern province of Vietnam. His father, the famous puppeteer Phan Van Ngai, made chu Teu (a humorous farmer) puppet, which is displayed in France’s Louvre Museum. And right now, Liem’s younger son has been showing his early talent by following his father’s passion for puppetry. Talking with Mr. Liem, watching his show and seeing how locals’ live in this area of the city is certain to be a highlight of the day. During the show, taste Vietnamese tea and peanut candy, which is made from roasted peanuts, sugar and malt. This is a traditional candy and a part of culture to the people of Vietnam, especially the North. It is interesting to note that the history of tea planting tea in Vietnam goes back more than 2,000 years, making the country one of the oldest tea-producing countries in the world. Return to your hotel to enjoy some free time this afternoon. Sofitel Metropole Legend Hotel – Premium Room (B)

Day 29: Departure Hanoi
This morning, transfer to the Hanoi airport in time to connect your international onward flight. (B)

 

Land price, per person, double occupancyFrom US$500 per person per day.  Cruise and internal airfare are additional.

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