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Welcome to Phnom Penh, the capital city of Cambodia and a place once called the Pearl of Asia. The Mekong River is alive with fishermen. The town holds keys to the country’s contemporary and ancient history. Independence Monument stands like a tower in the city center and was constructed in the late 1950s. The tower rises over 60 feet tall and is modeled after the country’s best-known monument, Angkor Wat. When night begins to sweep across the city, the fountain is lit with blue, red, and white floodlights. Check in your hotel. The rest of day is at your leisure.
Overnight in Phnom Penh
After breakfast, meet your local guide at the hotel and start your exploration in Phnom Penh with the visit of the jewels of the Silver Pagoda with its floor made of silver and Buddha’s studded in diamonds, then visit The National Museum of Arts contains the largest cultural collection in the country. In the morning, visit Toul Sleng and hear the moving stories of the prisoners and end your day on a lighter note as you shop for trinkets at the central market.
Overnight in Phnom Penh
After breakfast, your private transfer meets you at your hotel and escorts you northward to Siem Reap, the city known as the “Gateway to Angkor.” Soon you will come to the treasured history of Angkor Wat. A forceful bridge connects the mainland to the courtyard. You venture through the entrance gate and feel like you have stepped back in time. Angkor Wat is the best-preserved example of Khmer architecture in the country. The afternoon sun brings a wash of light to the surrounding jungle trees. You will be guided through the enclave of the royal city finding the bulging stones and delicate detail along the way by first visiting the impressive stone structure of Angkor.
Overnight in Siem Reap
Explore the incredible temples of Angkor on a full day greatest hits tour from Siem Reap. Be awestruck by Angkor Wat, marvel at the smiling faces of Bayon and the tree entwined temple of Ta Prohm, that featured in the Hollywood movie Tomb Raider. Ta Prohm is filled with a sense of discovery as if you have stumbled upon the remains of a lost city that has been forgotten for centuries. This time your guide takes you to the grand city of Angkor Thom. The entire complex is over a mile long and surrounded by five huge gates that stand 60 feet tall. Then, you’ll also see the Terrace of the Elephants and the Terrace of Leper King, the pyramid-shaped Phimeanakas and watch the sunset from the top of Pre Rup.
Overnight in Siem Reap
Breakfast at the hotel, this morning you might like to pick up some last minute souvenirs at the market before you transfer to the airport for your flight to next city. Welcome to Ho Chi Minh City, previously known as Saigon. The city has a dizzying effect of energetic streets and stretching skyline. It is considered the commercial capital of the entire country. You begin your exploration with a quick visit to the neo-Romanesque Notre Dame Cathedral built by French colonists in the latter half of the 19th century, the bricks were imported from Marseilles, and the window was made in the Chartres Province of France, then Central Post Office and Ben Thanh market.
Overnight in Ho Chi Minh City
After breakfast at the hotel, you will visit Cu Chi. Cu Chi Tunnels are a powerful network of subterranean passageways that extend over 75-miles. When you come to the Ben Duoc site, you find a measurement of the network. Your guide explains to you the history and efficiency of the tunnel system that dates back to the late 1940s. The walls are narrow and dark. You can feel the cold air emanating from underground. A portion of the tunnels at Ben Dinh has been enlarged for you to more comfortably make your way into the earth and find the command center waiting. The command center has been recreated to display what life and times were like during the Vietnam conflict. Maps are pinned and marked. Signs hang on the walls. You can imagine soldiers sitting around the single long table and eating their rations.
The remainder of the afternoon, you will explore the Reunification Palace. The palace was completed in the 1870s with a façade that extends over 240 feet. When you enter the palace, and come to the basement, you are intrigued by the décor that recreates an old war room, from the desk to the walls. Old communications devices remain intact and in working order, which adds an ambiance to the place that is more than just decoration. Maps surround the room, each marked with positions of various regiments. It’s as if you have stepped back in time and left behind the modern city.
In the evening, you can venture to the famous Com Nieu Sai Gon restaurant which provides an experience that goes beyond the flavors and edges of cultural exploration. Taste the clay pot backed rice that is dressed in scallions and a savory sauce.
Depart from your hotel, it takes two hours of a pleasant drive to Ben Tre Province. On arrival in Hung Vuong Pier, hop on a motorized boat on Ben Tre River – one of the tributaries of Mekong River while sight-seeing vigorous activities along the river such as fishing or water transferring. Our first stop is at brick kiln to see how bricks are traditionally made by printing and baking. Continue to visit one of the many coconut processing workshops located along the canal. Return to the boat and go through natural scissors creeks to a village to enjoy some local fruits and to see how locals produce sleeping mats. Take a motorized cart (tuk-tuk) or bicycle on shady paths, with beautiful green rice fields and vegetable plains on two sides. This gives you a chance to be able to get close to the local lifestyle and find out about the typical culture from interacting with the peasants. Have lunch at a local riverside restaurant. After lunch, we take a rowing-boat along the beautiful water palm creek before returning to the motorized boat and head back to the pier where you will be transferred back to Ho Chi Minh City.
Overnight in Ho Chi Minh City
Breakfast at the hotel, your private transfer takes you to the airport to fly to the imperial city of Hue, Vietnam’s first political capital under the Nguyen Dynasty.
After lunch, visit the Imperial Citadel where Kings of Vietnam’s last feudal dynasty ruled from 1802 to 1945, including the Flag Tower, Nine Holy Cannons, Ngo Mon Gate, Thai Hoa Palace, Nine Dynastic Urns, Forbidden Purple City.
Overnight in Hue
Breakfast at the hotel, you are taken to the riverbanks. The Perfume River winds around the sloping mountains and bisects the city into north and south. The water catches the early morning sunlight. You can see boys paddling shallow wooden boats on the water. A thin fishing line dangles into the water. Then find the impressive stone walkway that leads to Emperor Khai Dinh’s tomb. The complex was completed in 1931 after 11 years of construction. The tomb is a rectangular structure that leans against the mountainside and stands atop 127 steps.
After your perusal of the emperors’ tombs, you will make your way to Hoi An, a charismatic town outside of Danang.
Overnight in Hoi An
In the nearby city of Danang, you start your day with the visit of the Cham Museum which houses over 300 sandstone sculptures dating back to the 4th century. The museum is located inside of a building embellished with traditional Cham elements. The intricately sculpted statues and reliefs are remnants of a devout and powerful kingdom once found in central Vietnam. Then, we have a walk through historic Hoi An. The streets are lined with Chinese paper lanterns that light up the dim early mornings and nights. Hoi An is a collection of cultures from around Asia that were collected from the 15th to the 19th century during the town’s heyday as a trading hub. The architecture and the culture are harmonious and quaint. The Thu Bon River flows gently alongside the city. Visit the Japanese covered bridge, Chinese assembly hall, a typical Vietnamese merchant’s house, a fascinating museum and a local market. There are numerous art galleries, souvenirs and tailor shops where you can get some express made-to-order clothes. The next stop is to a lantern craftsman's home in the old streets. Here you will have a brief introduction to the history, shape, and color of the lanterns as well as stages of making them. You can then try to make and decorate one on your own, and keep it as a souvenir of your time in Hoi An.
Overnight in Hoi An.
After breakfast and check-out, you will be escorted to Danang airport for a 1-hour flight to Hanoi city. Meet your guide and head to your hotel.
This afternoon, you will visit the iconic sites of the city: Explore Van Mieu - Quoc Tu Giam (Temple of Literature & Vietnam’s first university). Constructed in the 11th century, Van Mieu - Quoc Tu Giam, with its colorful gardens and well-preserved buildings, offers a historical glimpse into Vietnam's past. Continue to visit One Pillar Pagoda is a historic Buddhist temple that was constructed in the 11th century. It hovers over the serene waters of a lotus pond. The temple is quaint but impressive. It feels so far removed from the movement of the city even though you are in the city’s center. Next up, we walk slowly through the narrow and busy Hanoi Old Quarter. It is where each street is named after the specific goods it once sold.
Then, enjoy a Water Puppet show - a uniquely Northern Vietnamese art form depicting scenes from the rural life and episodes of national history.
Overnight in Ha Noi.
Early morning, you will make your way out of the city to the treasured shores of Halong Bay. The magnificent UNESCO World Heritage Site covers over 1,000 square miles filled with emerald waters and many islands. Limestone karsts slope down into the water and are dotted with lush greenery. Beaches stretch back into the tree line where dense forests begin. The beauty of the cave speaks to the legend of the grotto’s namesake. Stalactites catch the light and beam a rainbow of colors along the stone. The water current drifts slowly. The interior looks like a palace made of natural stone and has been polished by time. The only sound you hear is the trickle of the water. The only sight you see is the endless shining shapes of the mountain’s interior.
Overnight on boat
It is hard to miss a sunrise like the one over Halong Bay. You can see the colors resting on the horizon, slowly lifting above the karsts, bringing a glare and a glow to the day while bouncing off of the emerald water. Enjoy the morning on the ship and continue your cruise through the 1000's of limestone islets rising from the bay. You will visit the impressive Cave of Halong Bay – Surprising Cave (Sung Sot) with your tour guide, an awe-inspiring and fantastic cave experience. Brunch is served on board during cruising towards the harbor. Upon your return to the pier in Halong, you will be transferred to Hanoi city.
Overnight in Ha Noi.
The morning passes you by as you make your way from Hanoi to Luang Prabang. The city is considered to be the best representation of ancient Southeast Asian architecture. On arrival at Luang Prabang International Airport, you will be met and transferred to your hotel. After you have had time to rest and freshen up, we will head off to see some of the highlights of Luang Prabang. This includes a visit to the Royal Palace Museum, which hosts a range of interesting artifacts from the Royal period in Luang Prabang. Then visit the city’s oldest temples, the magnificent Wat Xiengthong with its roof sweeping low to the ground, representing classical Lao architecture, the impressive stupa of Wat Visoun and the shrine of Wat Aham.
From there we will climb to the top of Mount Phousi to explore the sacred, gilded stupa and to enjoy the panoramic view of the city and the sun setting over the Mekong River.
Overnight in Luang Prabang
This morning we board our private boat for a pleasant and scenic cruise up on the Mekong River to the mysterious Pak Ou Caves. These caves are an ancient pilgrimage site and contain thousands of gold lacquered Buddha images left there over hundreds of years. Returning to Luang Prabang, we disembark our boat and have the option of taking a short drive to Ban Phanom, a village famous for its hand weaving.
Your evening is free to explore on foot or by bicycle and treat yourself to a spa treatment or massage or just enjoy a few drinks by the riverside.
Overnight in Luang Prabang
Breakfast at the hotel, this morning you might like to pick up some last minute souvenirs at the market before you transfer to the airport for your onward flight.