Day 1: Arrival at Hanoi (D, GP). Arriving at Noi Bai airport in Hanoi, you’ll be met and driven to your hotel. You’ll have time to relax after your journey before a ‘Welcome’ dinner at a restaurant in a restored French colonial building. In the evening, you’ll have tickets for a performance of traditional Water Puppetry, an art form unique to northern Vietnam, and a good, light-hearted introduction to its rural culture. You’ll spend the night in Hanoi.
Day 2: ‘Secret Art Tour’ (B, L, G). In the morning, you’ll visit Hanoi’s Fine Art Museum for an overview and historical perspective of Vietnamese art. Then you’ll call in on two or three of the better commercial galleries in the city. If there are any good exhibitions running at the time, they could replace one or more of the gallery visits according to your preference. After lunch, you’ll visit the stilt house of a famous Vietnamese artist to view his antique collection and restoration work. Next, you’ll visit the home of another talented painter to enjoy his lacquer and oil painting artwork. You’ll spend the night in Hanoi.
Day 3: Exploring handicraft villages around Hanoi (B, L, G). After breakfast, you’ll visit Bat Trang. On arrival, you’ll be able to stroll in the small alleys of this old village to watch local people producing their fine products and visit some of the houses used as workshops and showrooms. You’ll then drive to Dong Ho village - famous for its traditional paintings. After a picnic lunch, you’ll drive to Tam Tao village to hear traditional Quan Ho music performed by villagers in the commune house. The singers have recently been officially designated as part of Vietnam’s ‘living heritage’. In the late afternoon, you’ll return to Hanoi for your overnight accommodation.
Day 4: Hanoi cooking class (B, L, G). In the morning, you’ll be met at your hotel and driven to a cooking class where you’ll be taught to prepare typical Vietnamese dishes representative of northern Vietnam cuisine. The class begins with a visit to the local market accompanied by your Vietnamese Chef to buy the ingredients. As the class is a participatory activity, you’ll do the purchasing – it’ll be a good opportunity to sharpen up your bargaining and haggling skills! Back in the restaurant, the Chef will help you to prepare and cook your lunch. In the afternoon, your time will be your own. You’ll spend the night in Hanoi.
Day 5: Hanoi/Ha Long/Hanoi (B, L, G). After an early breakfast, you’ll leave for Ha Long Bay, one of the most spectacular UNESCO World Heritage Areas and the world’s largest marine limestone ‘karst’ landscape. There you’ll board a traditional-style boat for five-hour cruise on the bay to visit some of the less well-known grottoes and caves. Weather permitting, you’ll be able to swim, visit one or two of the Bay’s many caves and take photos of the fascinating seascape and floating villages. You’ll be served a seafood lunch on the boat. In the late afternoon, you’ll return to Hanoi for your overnight accommodation.
Day 6: Hanoi/Hue and the Citadel (B, G). Your time will be free until a car and driver arrive to take you to Noi Bai airport for your noon flight to Hue. When you arrive, you’ll be met by our guide and driven to your hotel. After a break for refreshment, you’ll visit Hue’s ancient citadel, once the seat of the Emperors of the powerful Nguyen Dynasty that ruled Vietnam from approximately 1800 to 1945.
You’ll begin with a stroll around the area between the Citadel’s massive walls and the defensive moat, now filled with lotus flowers. You’ll then enter via the Noon Gate to wander around the Thai Hoa Palace, the Pavilion housing the Nine Urns of the Nguyen rulers, and the remains of the Royal Palaces. After that, your guide will take you round the Museum of Antiquities, and then back across the river to modern Hue and the bustling Dong Ba market. You’ll spend the night in Hue.
Day 7: Hue (B, L, D, G). After breakfast, you’ll be met by our guide cruise upstream on the Perfume River to visit Thien Mu, a tranquil riverbank pagoda. From there, you’ll be driven to Emperor Minh Mang’s mausoleum. In the afternoon, you’ll visit one of the city’s ‘garden houses’ where you’ll have your next cooking class. This time, you’ll be cooking Hue dishes. As well as preparing and serving a traditional meal, the owner will also explain the distinctive characteristics of classic Hue ‘royal’ cuisine.
When you finish cooking, your dinner will be served in the pleasant surroundings and comfortable atmosphere of the garden house. You’ll spend the night in Hue. Each Royal mausoleum reflects the personality of the Emperor it commemorates. The most majestic is that of Emperor Minh Mang, a staunch follower of Confucianism with many wives, concubines and a small army of children. Planned by the Emperor and built shortly after his death, the tomb is opulent and exotic in formal Chinese style - a good example of classic Sino-Vietnamese architecture.
The garden houses are a unique feature of Hue. The houses are traditional, privately owned, and set in attractive formal gardens. Some have connections with the old Royal Imperial Court. Hue traditional architecture has long had close associations with the natural environment. The garden houses reflect this association. Each is highly individual - house and garden, people and scenery, plants, clouds and water co-exist and blend with each other in a harmonious context. The narrow streets and abundant flora give the garden house area a country village feeling.
Day 8: Hue’s Royal Tombs (B, L, G). Your guide will meet you at your hotel to take you to the mausoleums of Emperors Tu Duc and Khai Dinh. After lunch, you’ll visit some of the handicraft villages surrounding Hue. The tomb of Tu Duc, the ‘poet Emperor’, is set in an elegant garden with a magnificent lake and pavilion complex. The simplest of the actual tomb (a monument – he was buried elsewhere to thwart grave robbers) is at odds with the lavish opulence of his reign.
In complete contrast to Emperor Tu Duc’s stylish creation, the tomb of Emperor Khai Dinh is an unprepossessing concrete construction. Its interest lies in the uneasy combination of Vietnamese and European features, and the use of fragments of ceramics and glass for decoration.
Day 9: Hue/Danang/Hoi An (B, L, G). In the morning, your car will arrive to drive you to Danang. On the way, you'll cross the high mountain pass of Hai Van. The views from the top are excellent – you should be able be able to see Lang Co beach, village and the lagoon far below, and Danang spread out before you to the south. Your next stop will be the Marble Mountains and a nearby stone carving village. From there, your vehicle will take your Hoi An hotel with time to spare for a preliminary wander round the old town to choose one of the multitude of restaurants.
Hoi An town is a UNESCO World Heritage area. An ancient trading port, once the largest in Indochina, the town was a meeting point for many cultures that left their mark in the different architectural features of its wooden buildings. The original traditional street pattern still exists, as does the quay that once welcomed ships from all over East Asia and beyond. Many remained there for months at a time, waiting for favourable trade winds to carry them home. There are plenty of good restaurants offering a variety of cuisines and price levels. The town is also a good place for shopping for silk. You can have your clothes tailor-made within a day or two at reasonable cost.
Day 10: Hoi An (B, L, G). After breakfast, your guide will meet you to show you the Ancient Town and explain its considerable significance in the history of Vietnam. After lunch, you’ll cruise upstream on the Thu Bon River to visit Thanh Ha pottery village then downstream to Kim Bong village, famous for its carpentry skills. You’ll spend the night in Hoi An.
Day 11: Hoi An/Danang/Ho Chi Minh City (B, G). You’ll be free in the morning until your car and driver arrive to take you to Danang airport for your flight to Ho Chi Minh City. When you arrive, a private car will be waiting to take you to your hotel in the city centre. After checking in, you’ll be free for a preliminary wander around District 1. Your overnight will be in Ho Chi Minh City.
Day 12: Ho Chi Minh City orientation (B, L, G). After breakfast, your guide will arrive to show you around Ho Chi Minh City. You’ll visit the Fine Arts Museum and the Reunification Palace. Next is the huge Ben Thanh market, one of the liveliest areas of Ho Chi Minh City. It’s packed with every conceivable commodity. You’ll also call in at the Jade Emperor Temple. It’s one of the best Taoist temples in Vietnam, with superb effigies, remarkable carved panels of the descent to Hell and somewhat incongruous terrapin and tortoise sanctuaries. You’ll finish your day with a visit to a lacquer workshop to see the complex processes and meticulous workmanship involved in this traditional Vietnamese craft product. You’ll spend the night in Ho Chi Minh City.
Day 13: Ho Chi Minh City cooking (B, L, G). Your third cooking class will be held in the morning at Ho Chi Minh City’s Cookery Centre. You’ll learn how to cook five traditional Vietnamese dishes representative of the all three regions in Vietnam. The programme includes a visit to market to purchase ingredients, followed by a chat over a pot of Vietnamese tea about Vietnamese cuisine and traditional kitchen. You'll be given demonstration and instruction by the chief to cook Vietnam's popular dishes.
After consuming the products of your morning’s work, you’ll be awarded a certificate of competence (assuming you are!) and a souvenir gift. In the afternoon, you’ll call in on two or three of the better commercial galleries in the city. If there are any good exhibitions running at the time, they could replace one or more of the gallery visits according to your preference. You’ll spend the night in Ho Chi Minh City.
Day 14: Ho Chi Minh City departure (B, GP). Your time will be your own until your private car and driver arrives to take you to Tan Son Nhat airport for your departure flight. Trip ends.
- Breakfast and accommodation sharing a twin or double room.
- Pick-ups and transfers by private air-conditioned vehicle as specified in the itinerary above.
- Road travel in an appropriate private vehicle.
- ‘Welcome’ package - fruit, flowers, champagne, etc.
- Massage and therapeutic treatments in Ho Chi Minh City.
- The services of experienced English-speaking guides as indicated in the itinerary
- Where necessary, entry fees for all visits as mentioned in the programme.
- Lunches and dinners, as specified, in the best local restaurants, picnics where suitable restaurants are not available.
Prices vary depending on level of accommodation and dates of travel. Contact us to customize a vacation itinerary and price to meet your needs and budget.
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