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Indochina's Ever-Changing Faces (2017)

Cities: Home City, Bangkok , Bangkok, Chiang Mai, LuangPrabang, Siem Reap, Siem Reap , Hanoi, Halong Bay Cruise, Hoi An, Hue, Saigon
24
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$4,049.00
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Day 1 ( Home City )
Your exotic journey to Indochina begins as you board your international flight.
Inflight Meals
Day 2 ( Bangkok )
Set on the Chao Phraya River, Bangkok became Thailand's capital in the 18th century. Its importance has expanded and it is now home to almost a fifth of Thailand's population. It is a city of contrasts, with peaceful temples and frenetic markets, modern mega malls and traditional villages. It is one of Asia's most dynamic cities and truly offers something for everyone.

Upon arrival, transfer to the hotel and enjoy the remainder of the day at leisure.

Inflight Meals
Royal Orchid Sheraton Bangkok ( or similar)
Day 3 ( Bangkok )
Today we discover the flavor of day-to-day life in Bangkok. A vast city of more than eight million people and an international economic powerhouse, it is home to royal palaces, gleaming five-star hotels, and eclectic markets. Bangkok's vibrant, cosmopolitan feel will impress at every turn.

After breakfast we head to Wat Po, the site of a giant reclining Buddha, and witness the monks' ritual morning chants. We then ride tuk tuks (the three-wheeled taxis so ubiquitous in Bangkok) past Pak Klong Taland Flower Market. The flower market explodes in tropical colors, and flowers play a vital role in Thai culture in temples, hotels, restaurants, and homes.

The Grand Palace, an extraordinary example of an ancient Siamese court, first housed Thailand's kings. Early Siamese built several palaces for assorted purposes and rituals, including the Funeral Palace, Reception Palace, Throne Hall, Coronation Hall, Royal Guest House, and the temple of the Emerald Buddha.

Next, we travel by longtail boats along the "klongs" of Thonburi. Klongs are canals which once traversed most of the city and led to its nickname as the Venice of the Orient.' Alas, most have become roads for automobiles, but the few that remain still offer a rare and exotic ride past family homes and colorful floating shops and kitchens. Before lunch at a riverside restaurant, we'll head to the imposing Wat Arun beside the Chao Phraya River, and continue to Chinatown where a thriving local community congregates to shop for familiar foods, fruits, herbs, and medicines.

Enjoy the afternoon at leisure or book a World Spree Optional for a traditional Thai massage.

Breakfast, Lunch
Royal Orchid Sheraton Bangkok ( or similar)
Day 3 Thai massage Optional Tour ($35.00 per person), Bangkok
Thai massage is an ancient practice combining elements of acupressure, Indian Ayurvedic principles, and assisted yoga postures. It uses no oils or lotions; instead the masseur pulls, stretches and compresses you in a process designed to improve posture, breathing, flexibility, digestion and circulation. Those seeking a gentler introduction can opt for a foot massage.
Day 4 ( Bangkok )
This busy full-day tour takes you first to the rural yet world-famous floating market of Damnoen Saduak, situated around 60 miles west of Bangkok. This is one of the iconic images of Thailand with vendors in small boats maneuvering around the canals to sell their assorted wares. There are actually three floating markets here: A narrow canal flanked with food stalls and souvenir shops forms the principal market at Ton Kem; further south are the rarely visited markets at Her Kui and Khun Pitak. Photographers at Ton Kem will get their best shots from the bridge, which crosses over the canal, and from the produce shed on the right. Nowadays, the market is bustling with activity from very early in the morning until about 11 a.m.

The tour continues to the world-famous bridge on the River Kwai, built by prisoners of war during World War II. The bridge is located near the town of Kanchanaburi. Here, we visit the well-kept cemetery of Allied Prisoners, which contain the graves of an estimated 9,000 Allied soldiers who lost their lives while building the bridge and constructing the notorious "Death Railway" which the Japanese had hoped to stretch from Thailand and into Burma. We will pay a visit to the JEATH War Museum (the name "JEATH" is derived from the countries involved: Japan, England, America/Australia, Thailand and Holland), a thought provoking site where the past has been created and relived with pictures and artifacts from the time.
Breakfast, Lunch
Royal Orchid Sheraton Bangkok ( or similar)
Day 5 ( Chiang Mai )
The morning is at leisure to enjoy the myriad attractions of Bangkok.

Later in the afternoon, we transfer to the airport for our flight to Chiang Mai in Northern Thailand. Nestled amid the foothills of northern Thailand, Chiang Mai is Thailand's second largest city and an important cultural hub famed for its cuisine and handicraft. This historic city was at its peak in the 14th and 15th centuries when it served as the capital of a strong Lanna Kingdom which ruled across much of the region. The Lanna Kingdom created a strong cultural heritage which can still be seen today in the food, language, art, music and architecture of the region.
Breakfast, Dinner
Siripanna Villa Resort & Spa ( or similar)
Day 6 ( Chiang Mai )
Today, in the morning, we will visit Chiang Mai's most renowned temple: Wat Doi Suthep. Situated on a hill overlooking the city, this temple is home to a holy relic of Lord Buddha and is considered by many as one of the most sacred temples in northern Thailand. Constructed in 1383, at the peak of the Lanna Kingdom, it is a fine example of the era's temple architecture. Look for the protective statues depicting the Hindu mythical serpent Naga, which line the 300 steps up to the beautiful golden stupa. After this visit, we will drive through the most historical areas of Chiang Mai, including the old city walls, city gates and moat. We will then pass by some of Chiang Mai's most popular areas including local markets, foreign consulates and government buildings, 'Tapae Gate' and more.

Time permitting, we will visit the cooperative at Sankhampaeng where locals make colorful hand-painted paper umbrellas from delicate "Sa" paper. Witness firsthand how the paper is made, dyed and then transformed into colorful and delicate umbrellas.

Breakfast
Siripanna Villa Resort & Spa ( or similar)
Day 6 Chiang Mai's Night Market with Tuk-Tuk ride and Kantoke Dinner Optional Tour ($38.00 per person), Chiang Mai
In the evening, head out to Chiang Mai's lively night bazaar. One of the main attractions of the city, we will travel by Thai Tuk-Tuk - a colorful 3-wheeled, motorized rickshaw that are seen throughout Thailand. Exploring the many stalls, you will have the chance to barter for traditional souvenirs, as well as pretty antiques and handicrafts. Afterwards, we will continue for a traditional Khantoke dinner, a delightful exhibition of Lanna culture. We will enjoy a fine meal of local specialties while being entertained by a selection of cultural performances.
Day 7 ( Chiang Mai )
Today we visit the Mae Tamman Elephant Camp; an uncontested high spot of the tour. The Elephant camp is an ecotourism park and wildlife sanctuary dedicated to the survival and development of Thai elephants. These majestic creatures are one of the symbols of Thailand and have long held an important role in Thai culture. However, sadly with habitat loss impacting wild elephants and poor treatment of some domesticated animals, life for some is difficult. This park provides a natural environment for the elephants to be rehabilitated while offering visitors a chance to learn more about these grand animals.

Continue on to a nearby orchid farm where lunch is served. After lunch, there is time to explore and learn about the exquisite blooms at the farm. Then enjoy an afternoon visit to the village of Baan Tong Luang, where you can visit different ethnic groups in the north, such as Karen, Lahu, Palong, Hmong and Padong. Females of the Karen tribe are known as female giraffes - a metaphor because of the multitude of brass rings they wear around their long necks.

Breakfast, Lunch
Siripanna Villa Resort & Spa ( or similar)
Day 7 Thai cooking Class Optional Tour ($38.00 per person), Chiang Mai
In the evening, enjoy a special Thai cookery class. Set in a small family smallholding on the outskirts of Chiang Mai, this is an opportunity to immerse yourself in an important part of Thai culture. We will stop off at a market en route to shop for ingredients and pick fresh vegetables and herbs from the garden before learning how to craft exquisite Thai dishes, which of course we will be able to enjoy as dinner.
Day 8 ( LuangPrabang )
In the afternoon, we transfer to the airport for a flight to Luang Prabang, Laos. The landlocked country of Laos does not share the wealth of history that many of its neighbors can boast. Much of the country is covered in dense jungle and tourist infrastructure is poorly developed. The exception to this is Luang Prabang, a small gem of a city located at the confluence of the Nam Khan and Mekong Rivers. World Heritage listed by UNESCO, the city is circled by mountains and its streets are lined with a seemingly endless number of Buddhist Temples, whose saffron-clad monks make a colorful spectacle each morning as they receive alms.

Upon arrival into the small airport and clearing immigration, we will transfer to our charming hotel set in the heart of the city where there will be a chance to freshen up before a traditional dinner is served.
Breakfast, Dinner
Sada Hotel ( or similar)
Day 9 ( LuangPrabang )
Enjoy a day exploring the charms of Luang Prabang with our expert guide. Visit the former Royal Palace. Built in 1904 during the French colonial era, this ornate building is set amid beautifully manicured gardens. The Palace is now a museum as the country's monarchy was overthrown by the communists in 1975.

Our tour continues with visits to the Buddhist temples of Wat Sop and Wat Xiengthong. Monks in Laos are generally not religious ascetics who give their whole life to the religion. In fact, most Laos men spend a period as a monk studying and learning about the Buddhist religion. Many of the monks you will meet at the Wat Sop will just be boys and young men doing this for a short period. Wat Xieng Thong, which translates to - the Temple of the Golden City, and originally dates from the 16th century, was completely remodeled and redecorated in the 1960s.

The rest of afternoon will be for your leisure or you can join our optional tour to Kuang Si waterfall.

Breakfast
Sada Hotel ( or similar)
Day 9 Tour to Kuang Si Waterfall including lunch Optional Tour ($40.00 per person), Luang Prabang
Following lunch served at a local restaurant, we will travel by road for 40 - 45 minutes through scenic countryside and rural villages to Kuangsi Waterfall. After a gentle walk of about 10 minutes, you will have the awe-inspiring view overlooking the natural turquoise pools which have formed between the cascading layers of the falls. If you wish, you can enjoy a refreshing swim in the natural pools. Next, we visit the Kuang Si Butterfly Park, which is nestled just below the Kuangsi Waterfall. Dedicated to the preservation and protection of butterflies, the park has a breeding program and volunteers are happy to explain the life cycles of the various species. Before we leave, you might like to visit the bear sanctuary which is a bit down from the falls and ran by Free Bear Fund Inc.
Day 10 ( LuangPrabang )
Spend a full day at leisure at your own pace or you can join our optional tour to Pak Ou Cave.

Breakfast
Sada Hotel ( or similar)
Day 10 Tour to Pak Ou Cave including lunch Optional Tour ($65.00 per person), Luang Prabang
Board onto a leisure boat trip on Mekong River to Pak Ou cave. This holy cave is the most respected site in Luang Prabang. There are still hundreds of Buddha sculptures laid out on the walls and shelves inside. The holy cave is especially important to the locals who go there to pray for their health and prosperity. As we leisurely cruise along the river, you will be able to enjoy the peace and beautiful scenery as we wind our way through the jungle and past small rural communities. We will stop to visit a small village that is famous for making Laos Rice Whisky. If you'd like, you can take the opportunity to taste the rice whiskey and then take a short stroll around the tiny village to experience local handmade souvenirs. After about an hour's cruise, we will reach Pak Ou caves - an important religious site in a spectacular setting. This group of caves, set against towering limestone cliffs, is home to hundreds of statues of Buddha in different sizes and poses that were placed there by pilgrims over a number of centuries. After some time to explore and photograph this captivating site, we will return to the boat for a typical Lao lunch served on board.
Day 11 ( Siem Reap )
We wake up early this morning to see an incredible ceremony known as Binthabhat - a must see when visiting Luang Prabang, the spiritual capital of Laos. Every morning in Luang Prabang, hundreds of monks walk barefoot in single file through the streets, carrying their alms bowls to receive alms from the people. The donors offer sticky rice, snacks and fruit to the monks in order to gain merit, which they believe may lead to a better next life or lessen the number of times they must be reincarnated before achieving nirvana.

Morning market is a must to find local food supplies. Located at the foot of the mountain, the market is the best place to find all of the tasty ingredients needed to make local dishes. If you're lucky, you will have a chance to see giant Mekong fish, or in dry season, you can taste grilled honey bees - delicious! Be sure to leave the market to go to your hotel at around 7:30 a.m. for breakfast.

In the afternoon, transfer to the airport for our flight to the small Cambodian city of Siem Reap. The town is the gateway to the famous Angkor Wat, built during the Angkor period when Angkor formed the capital of a Khmer kingdom that stretched across much of South-East Asia.

The Angkor period began in 802 AD when King Jayavaraman II declared himself "god-king," and lasted until 1431 when Angkor was sacked and looted by raiders from Ayutthaya. At its peak it was the largest pre-industrialized city in the world, with more than 1,000 temples spread over an area of almost 400 square miles and a population close to 1 million. The end of the Angkor Period led to the region losing prominence and the temples became hidden by the jungle for many years. The temples were rediscovered in the late 19th century by French archaeologists and have now become one of the major tourist attractions in the region.

This evening, enjoy a dinner accompanied by a traditional Aspara dance show.
Breakfast, Dinner
Angkor Palace Resort & Spa ( or similar)
Day 12 ( Siem Reap )
Today we are exploring the temples, including two of the most impressive and famous sites: The Bayon and Ta Prohm. Our expert guide will give invaluable insight into the history and context of these incredible ruins.

Take an exciting tuk-tuk to explore the remarkable temples. Dating from the 12th century, the Bayon stands at the center of Angkor Thom, which served as the capital of King Jayavarman VII and was the center of his building program. The temple's most distinctive and captivating features are the massive stone faces with a curious smiling image, which many historians believe to be a depiction of the King himself. There are more than 200 of these faces in various sizes looking out in each direction of the compass from the temple's 54 towers.

Ta Prohm has been allowed to remain largely as it was when it was rediscovered - semi-shrouded by the jungle that surrounds it. This makes it especially photogenic as the roots of giant fig trees grow around and through the crumbling stonework.

We also visit the other important sites of Angkor Thom: Its West and South Gates; Bauphon and Phimeanakas (which both pre-date Angkor Thom but were incorporated into the city); The Elephant Terrace; and The Terrace of The Leper King.

Next, we visit the magical temple of Angkor Wat. This is the most famous of all the temples and is believed to be the largest religious building in the world. Arguably the most breathtaking of all the Angkor temples, it has become a symbol of Cambodia and is probably the main draw for visitors coming to the region. Built in the early 12th century by Khmer King Suyavaraman II, it was dedicated to the Hindu god Vishnu and served as the Khmer capital until Jayavarman VII built Angkor Thom. The enormous three-tiered temple, crowned by five lotus-like towers, is meant to symbolize the mythical Mount Meru. The steep steps up to the upper galleries can make it feel like climbing a mountain. The temple is decorated throughout with hundreds of ornate carvings of figures from Hindu mythology. Be sure to watch the sunset as it paints the sky a vivid purple.
Breakfast, Lunch
Angkor Palace Resort & Spa ( or similar)
Day 13 ( Siem Reap )
Free day for relaxing or joining our optional excursion to explore more of Angkor temples.
Breakfast
Angkor Palace Resort & Spa ( or similar)
Day 13 Tour of Angkor complex Optional Tour ($45.00 per person), Siem Reap
This morning, we visit Banteay Kdei, which translates to "A Citadel of Chambers," and is known as "Citadel of Monks' cells." It is located southeast of Ta Prohm and east of Angkor Thom. Built in the Bayon architectural style, it is similar to the style of Ta Prohm and Preah Khan, but smaller and less complex. We will continue on to visit Preah Ko, one of the oldest funerary temples. Bakong Temple Mountain is next on the list, with its beautiful and intricate carvings on the false doors and lintels. Both temples are from the ancient Khmer civilization site of Hariharalaya, which flourished in the late 9th and early 10th centuries. Today, they are located in the Rolous area, which is about eight miles from the town.

In the afternoon, we depart to visit the temple of Banteay Srei. Built largely of red sandstone in the 10th century, this is an earlier example of Angkor architecture on a significantly smaller scale than the grand architecture of Angkor Wat and Angkor Thom. It is this contrast that makes it particularly popular, especially as it has been very well preserved and is highly regarded for its elaborate wall carvings. On the way back, visit Grandma's House for some local flavor.
Day 14 ( Hanoi )
This is a free day for you to enjoy at your leisure, or consider joining us for an optional excursion to Tonle Sap lake and visit Apsara School. In the evening, we take a flight to Hanoi, Vietnam's charming capital city. Upon arrival, meet our guide and transfer to our hotel in the heart of the city near major shopping malls, upscale restaurants, and tourist attractions. Enjoy the remainder of the day at leisure either to recover from the flight, enjoy the hotel's extensive facilities and prime location or explore the surrounding area.
Breakfast
Sheraton Hanoi Hotel ( or similar)
Day 14 Tonle Sap lake and Apsara Dance School Optional Tour ($60.00 per person), Siem Reap
After breakfast, we drive out of the city to visit Tonle Sap Lake - the spirit of Cambodia. This lake is one of the most unique ecological water wonders in the world. It is the largest lake in South East Asia and changes in size and dimension every wet season. Today, we board a traditional boat to discover the floating villages and fish farms of this legendary lake. Afterwards, we take an ox cart ride to experience life at the local villages and enjoy the natural beauty of Cambodia countryside.

Back to the city for lunch. Early afternoon, we will visit the School of Art, which trains children in various Khmer Arts such as classical dance, folk dance, Pin Peat Music and Yike drama. Upon arrival, you're greeted by a representative from the organization. Then you will be guided to each class which will offer you an opportunity to interact with the trainers and the children to learn how they preserve the traditional performance arts. Your visit will wrap up after watching the children in a performance. Photos are allowed, making this a great opportunity to add to your memories with visual mementos.

Note: During the dry season (from late February to July), when the water level at Tonle Sap is low, we will visit Lake Pearang. Responsible Eco-Tourism is an amazing and incredible place for bird watching. The birds are mostly Painted Storks, Spot-billed Pelican, Chinese Pond Heron, Night Heron, Intermediate Egrets, Black headed Ibis, Oriental Darter, cormorants, and terns, but we also see Grey-headed Fish Eagle and Lesser Adjutants and some smaller herons. This is a form of responsible tourism that supports local communities and improves livelihoods. It is managed and run by the community members themselves. All of the management decisions are made by, or in consultation with, the community, and all of the profits directly benefit the local community. When we return from the lake, you will have a chance to interact with a local farming family who owns a vegetable plantation nearby their home. This is a great opportunity to experience the culture and family life on a farm.
Day 15 ( Hanoi )
Situated on the banks of the Red River, the city of Hanoi is a fascinating blend of Asian vibrancy and French colonial elegance. You will need to wake up early to enjoy the activities in Hanoi. Most of the activities occur during the morning hours. Our local connection is simple: Do what the locals do. You can exercise with Tai Chi lessons or join in on an aerobic workout. Take a short walk to the local market where you can find the most beautiful flowers and luscious fruits.

We will stop at Ho Chi Minh's Mausoleum for great photo opportunities. Ho Chi Minh Mausoleum is an imposing monument lavishly built using marble and granite. The mausoleum is situated where former president Ho Chi Minh read the Declaration of Independence in 1945 and now holds the embalmed body of "Uncle Ho. Then we visit the "house on stilts,â ‚¬  located on the grounds of the Presidential Palace where Ho Chi Minh resided during the later years of his life. Built in a traditional style, the house is small and spartan reflecting his egalitarian views.

One Pillar Pagoda is our next stop and only a short walk from the mausoleum. An 11th century wooden temple built resting on a single stone pillar emerging from the water, it was designed to resemble a lotus bloom. A prayer here is said to bring fertility and good health.

Return to your hotel for breakfast and refreshment before starting a city tour.

From the hotel, we will then visit the Museum of Ethnology, which offers a fascinating insight into Vietnam's ethnic minority groups. The object of the museum is displayed as centerpieces because they reflect the everyday lives of the people. The Museum's consistent point of view is that the display should be simple so that visitors can admire the beauty and finesse of each ordinary and simple item. The outdoor exhibition area presents the most popular architectural styles.

We will continue to the Temple of Literature, Vietnam's first national university. It was constructed in 1070 by King Ly Nhan Tong to pay tribute to Confucius, academics and scholars. Today, its pleasant gardens make an enjoyable spot to relax and watch the local art students sit on the grass and sketch the buildings.

The remainder of the afternoon is at your leisure. You may want to consider joining our optional tour to Hanoi's Old Quarters.
Breakfast
Sheraton Hanoi Hotel ( or similar)
Day 15 Half-day Hanoi "Old Quarters", "Hanoi Hilton" and Water Puppet show Optional Tour ($50.00 per person), Hanoi
Enjoy our optional tour for an unforgettable opportunity to explore the narrow, chaotic streets of Hanoi's Old Quarter on electrical cart. Also known as 36 Streets, this maze of streets dates to the 13th century and the street names, such as Tinsmith Street, Silk Street and Dried Fish Street, are indicative of the original trades that flourished here. There are plenty of photo opportunities as you pass street vendors selling various foods and produce.

We then visit the infamous Hoa Lo Prison. Originally used by the French to hold political prisoners, it gained the ironic nickname the "Hanoi Hilton" during the Vietnam War due to its harsh and unsanitary conditions. While most of the prison has been demolished, the old gatehouse remains and is now a museum housing exhibits from the two eras.

The tour concludes with a water puppet show. This traditional Vietnamese art form dates to the 11th century where it developed in the paddy fields of North Vietnam. Today, the water of the paddy field is replaced by a large pool which acts as a stage for the puppets who are expertly guided by puppeteers hidden behind a bamboo screen. Accompanied by music, the puppets depict rural tales and historic stories.

The popular half-day tour includes the private tour, entrance fees and lunch. Approximate tour duration is 4-5 hours.
Day 16 ( Halong Bay Cruise )
After breakfast, we transfer by road through the fertile farmland of the Red River Delta to the city of Halong. This is the starting point for our overnight cruise through the beautiful waters of Halong Bay. As we drive through the scenic countryside we will pass landscapes of lush rice fields, water buffalo and farmers adorned with the iconic conical hats to protect them from the sun.

On arrival at Halong, we embark our traditional style junk and set sail on our cruise amid the spectacular scenery of the UNESCO World Heritage listed Halong Bay, considered one of the most breathtaking places on the planet and declared recently as one of the "New Seven Wonders of Nature.

According to local legend, it was here that gods sent dragons to assist the Vietnamese against attacks from invaders. Halong, which translates to "where the dragon descends into the sea,â ‚¬  offers a dramatic seascape of striking limestone outcrops and islets, which the legends say were created by the dragons spitting jewels into the sea, forming a magical barrier to protect against invasion.

Lunch will be served as we cruise through this enchanting area, offering the opportunity to appreciate the incredible scenery before stopping off at local islands. You will have the chance to swim, relax on the beach and explore the incredible limestone caves with their stalactites, stalagmites and many other bizarre rock formations. Returning to the boat, you will have the opportunity to watch as the sun sets before a delicious dinner is served. Overnight on-board.
Breakfast, Lunch, Dinner
Sealife Cruise ( or similar)
Day 17 ( Hoi An )
Wake up to the sunrise on the South China Sea before we further explore the beauty of Halong Bay.

We board small sampans and pay a visit to one of the traditional floating villages that date back to the early nineteenth century. These communities are comprised of hundreds of households that live on boats and floating wooden houses in the core zone of Halong Bay. Their livelihood depends on fishing, pearl farming and aquaculture. The distinctive traditional lifestyle of the villagers is a unique component of Vietnamese identity. The residents are inextricably linked to their setting, forming an integrated cultural landscape and living tradition. We then continue to Luon Cave, where we transfer to a small boat to travel through the cave taking us to a lake completely surrounded by small waterfalls and limestone cliffs.

Upon returning to the boat, we continue our cruise back to port, disembark and transfer to the airport for our flight to Da Nang on the coast of the South China Sea.

Upon arrival we will transfer to Hoi An. En route, you will pass Danang Beach. Hoi An was once a significant and prosperous port, with trading ships arriving from around the world to procure the local silks, tea, ceramics and other goods. However, with the emergence of nearby Da Nang as a center of trade and the silting up of the river mouth, Hoi An declined in importance. The result is that the city has avoided much development and, therefore, the traditional Vietnamese architectures, temples and pagodas remain exceptionally well preserved. This historic charm combined with a relaxed ambiance has made it popular with the travelers who come to explore its narrow streets and shop for bargains from the expert tailors who inhabit many of the old shop houses.

NOTE: The Halong cruise itinerary is subject to change depending on circumstances beyond our control such as adverse weather conditions.
Breakfast
Allegro Hoi An ( or similar)
Day 18 ( Hoi An )
This morning, enjoy our included guided walking tour through historic Hoi An, a protected UNESCO World Heritage Site. You will learn about the town's history and see the different architectural influences that resulted from the different nationalities that settled here.

We will cross the Japanese Covered Bridge. Constructed in the early 1600s, it was built as a symbol of peace to connect the town's Japanese community with the Chinese quarter. Continuing into the old Chinese area, we visit one of the lavishly decorated Chinese Assembly Halls, which were built as a meeting place for the local community. The tour concludes with a stop at a local market, where you can shop for souvenirs and handicrafts or watch as the locals purchase exotic ingredients.

The remainder of the day is at leisure to enjoy the town or relax back at the hotel. You may want to take advantage of Hoi An's world famous tailors during your stay at this colorful market town.
Breakfast, Lunch
Allegro Hoi An ( or similar)
Day 19 ( Hue )
Following breakfast, we travel north over the Hai Van Pass - an old highway that winds through the mountains, offering breathtaking views along the coast. We will pass the beautiful Lang Co Beach to the impressive town of Hue, home to a wealth of royal palaces, temples and gardens. Located on the Perfume River in the center of the country, Hue was the imperial capital of the Nguyen dynasty. The Nguyen dynasty was a feudal dynasty that dominated much of southern Vietnam between the 17th and 19th centuries. One of the most significant cultural and historic centers of Vietnam, the former imperial city of Hue is celebrated for its tradition of intellectual thought, Buddhist piety, and sophistication of its cuisine. The city is also famous as the site of a major battle during the Vietnamese War, evidence of which is clearly visible from the pock marks that scar many of the buildings.

This afternoon, we visit the "Forbidden City" to explore its impressive Imperial citadel, from where the Nguyen Emperors ruled. This vast complex was not just a palace, but also a fortress surrounded by thick defensive walls and a moat. Although some of the citadel has been irreparably damaged during the conflicts with the French and Americans, much remains well preserved or restored and as we wander around the ruins we will learn about its history. Set on the riverside, the citadel's Flag Tower (which now flies the country's red flag with gold star), has become an important symbolic point of control in the city as power has shifted hands during the various conflicts. We enter through Ngo Mon Gate, one of 10 entrances into the Royal City and perhaps the most beautiful of the remaining structures. It actually has five gates; the central gate reserved for the emperor; the adjacent gates for mandarins; and the outer gates for servants. Atop the gate is Five Phoenix Pavilion, from where the emperors proclaimed significant events, including the abdication in 1945. We then visit Thai Hoa Palace, the emperor's coronation hall, elaborately decorated in gold and red lacquer and featuring two dragons on top of the yellow tiled roof. The Purple Forbidden City is at the heart of the Imperial Citadel and was reserved solely for the personal use of the Emperor and his concubines with only servants, who were eunuchs, allowed to enter.

Our particular highlight of today's tour is the opportunity to explore the old town of Hue on cyclos (three-wheeled cycle rickshaw, pedaled by a driver, with passengers sitting in front). The cyclo is a very common mode of transportation in Vietnam. We will ride through Hue and on its cobblestone streets with an intimate view of the colorful ancient town, the attractive French Quarter, and its bustling local markets.

We start from the French Quarter with French colonial style architectures and old houses. Pass by the school where Ho Chi Minh was educated. Continue along the colorful markets, where the locals shop and bargain, to a local restaurant inside the Citadel. Hue, is renowned for its cuisine and tonight we enjoy a special banquet with traditional Nguyen Royal Cuisine.
Breakfast, Dinner
Saigon Morin Hotel ( or similar)
Day 20 ( Hue )
Spend a full day at leisure exploring Hue at your own pace.
Breakfast
Saigon Morin Hotel ( or similar)
Day 20 Full-day Hue In-depth Tour Optional Tour ($60.00 per person), Hue

After breakfast, we will enjoy a boat cruise up the scenic Perfume River to visit the seven-story Thien Mu Pagoda, set atop Ha Khe Hill. Local legend says that an old woman foretold a great leader would visit and erect a pagoda to bring peace and prosperity to the country. Upon visiting the site in 1601 and hearing this story, Nguyen Hoang, the first of the Nguyen dynasty, ordered the construction of this temple, naming it after the woman who foretold its construction. The temple's name translates to "celestial lady". On our return to Hue, we visit the tomb of Khai Dinh. This elaborate tomb is interesting as it combines a mix of Asian and French influences. Khai Dinh ruled from 1916 to 1925, by which time the Nguyen dynasty only really retained symbolic power as much of its real control had been ceded to the French colonialists. This close relationship gave him the opportunity to visit France, and it is clear from the design of his mausoleum that he was influenced by the architecture he witnessed on this trip.

Then we visit the tomb of Tu Duc. The "Poet Emperor" is set in an elegant garden with a magnificent lake and pavilion complex. In complete contrast to Emperor Tu Duc's stylish creation, the tomb of Emperor Khai Dinh appears at first to be an unprepossessing concrete construction. Its interest lies within in an uneasy combination of Vietnamese and European features and the use of fragments of ceramics and glass for decoration.

Day 21 ( Saigon )
We take the morning flight to Saigon, now officially known as Ho Chi Minh City, Vietnam's largest metropolitan city.

This vibrant, fast-fast paced city is booming economically, and just wandering through the streets you can see the rapid change as glass sky scrapers are erected beside ancient temples and ornate French colonial buildings.

Our tour of the city visits Dong Khoi Street, home to many of the city's most important sites from the French colonial period, when the city became known as the Paris of the Orient and this street was known as Rue Catinat. Appreciate the splendidly restored Opera House, the ornate facade of which is based on the Petit Palace in Paris and grand Hotel de Ville, now formally re-branded as the People's Committee Hall. See Notre Dame Cathedral and its red brick edifice with twin spires based on the original in Paris. Across the square, you can see the impressive Central Post Office, designed by the architect Gustav Eiffel, who is most famous for the Eiffel Tower in Paris. End the day at China town, the most bustling part of the city.
Breakfast, Lunch
Hotel Majestic Saigon ( or similar)
Day 22 ( Saigon )
After breakfast, you are at leisure to explore Saigon on your own. Or, join our optional tour to Mekong Delta.
Breakfast
Hotel Majestic Saigon ( or similar)
Day 22 Full day Mekong Delta tour and cruise Optional Tour ($85.00 per person), Saigon
Enjoy our optional cruise and land tour to the Mekong Delta. Known as Vietnam's "rice basket.' The verdant landscapes of the Mekong Delta offer an enjoyable excursion away from the busy streets and bustle of Saigon.
Our tour starts with a drive out to the town of Ben Tre, situated in the heart of the Mekong Delta and being well-known as "the land of coconut".
Upon arrival, we board a traditional boat for a short leisure trip on the river, enjoy the Delta's amazing scenery while being served some refreshing fruits on board.
Next, we stop at a brickwork to get to know how the locals make the bricks by their traditional handy method. We continue our boat trip to visit a coconut workshop which is located along the canal; here we can sample some fresh coconut and see how every single part of the coconut could be turned into the other products such as food, daily utensils, musical instruments...
Following, we arrive at a tranquil village for a short walk to experience the daily life of the villagers in the Mekong Delta area. We stop at a local place to see how the local wave the mat by hand, this traditional way has been remained since the old time. We can give a try, weaving by ourselves while enjoying the seasonal tropical fruits and tea, chatting with local people.
We then hop on the moto-cart for a short ride, passing by the green gardens, the fields or the vegetable plains. We stop at the local restaurant for our lunch, served with the local specialties. Afterwards, we walk to the nearby pier and getting on the sampan for a short rowing boat trip till we arrive at the meeting point, where the driver is waiting and ready to take us back to Saigon.

Unlike most other Mekong cruises offered by our competitors, our comprehensive people-to-people program features both a cruise on the Mekong River and the visits around the less touristy areas for a complete insight about the real life of the locals - a genuine experience for an eye-opening journey.
Day 23 ( Saigon )
After breakfast, we will travel out from the center of the city to explore the famous Cu Chi tunnels; an immense network of underground tunnels.

Originally built by the Viet Minh during their struggles with the French, they were the location of several military campaigns during the Vietnam War and the base of operations for the Tet Offensive in 1968. Some 75 miles of the complex have been preserved by the government of Vietnam and turned into a war memorial park. Our excursion allows us to enter this once secretive complex of tunnels. A testament to Vietnamese ingenuity, the tunnels housed an incredible infrastructure including kitchens, a school and even a hospital, and served as protection from enemy intrusion by secret entrances and booby traps. Travel back to Saigon.

Breakfast, Dinner
Hotel Majestic Saigon ( or similar)
Day 24 ( Home City )
Free time until time to transfer to the airport for your connecting flight back home. Arrival home today.

Breakfast

Basic Tour Summary

Day 1 (Home City)
Day 2 (Bangkok )
Day 3 (Bangkok)
Day 4 (Bangkok)
Day 5 (Chiang Mai)
Day 6 (Chiang Mai)
Day 7 (Chiang Mai)
Day 8 (LuangPrabang)
Day 9 (LuangPrabang)
Day 10 (LuangPrabang)
Day 11 (Siem Reap)
Day 12 (Siem Reap)
Day 13 (Siem Reap )
Day 14 (Hanoi)
Day 15 (Hanoi)
Day 16 (Halong Bay Cruise)
Day 17 (Hoi An)
Day 18 (Hoi An)
Day 19 (Hue)
Day 20 (Hue)
Day 21 (Saigon)
Day 22 (Saigon)
Day 23 (Saigon)
Day 24 (Home City)