Discover five ancient and modern capital cities, in this two-weeks tour of Vietnam and Cambodia.
At a glance
|DAY||SUMMARY OF ACTIVITY||LOCATION|
|1||Arrival – and introduction to Vietnam’s capital city||Hanoi|
|2||Full day Hanoi tour including The Old Quarter, Temple of Literature, Ho Chi Minh complex, Hoan Kiem Lake and more||Hanoi|
|3||Transfer to Halong Bay and overnight cruise on a traditional junk||Halong Bay|
|4||Continue cruising Halong Bay and late afternoon flight to Da Nang and Hoi An||Hoi An|
|5||Gentle cycle to Tra Que village and informal cooking class. Afternoon walking tour of Old Hoi An, including Japanese Bridge, Assembly Hall, Tan Ky and the local market||Hoi An|
|6||Drive via Da Nang and the stunning Hai Van Mountain Pass, to the former capital city of Hue.||Hue|
|7||Explore Hue Citadel, the Emperors Tombs, local villages and sunset cruise on the Perfume River||Hue|
|8||Morning flight to Saigon and visit to the wartime tunnels of Cu Chi.||HCMC|
|9||Full day city tour including Notre Dame, Central Post Office, Reunification Palace and War Remnants Museum||HCMC|
|10||Overland express coach drive to Phnom Penh||Phnom Penh|
|11||Full day city tour including Wat Phnom, Independence Monument, Royal Palace and Silver Pagoda, S21 Genocide Museum and Choeung Ek Killing Fields.||Phnom Penh|
|12||Short domestic flight to Siem Reap and introduction to rural life||Siem Reap|
|13||Full day tour beginning with Sunrise at Angkor Wat, Angkor Thom, The Bayon and Ta Phrom (Tomb Raider Temple), Dinner and Phare Performing Arts Circus.||Siem Reap|
|14||Visit the unique stilted houses and floating villages of the Tonle Sap Lake and Beng Mealea ‘Jungle Temple’.||Siem Reap|
|15||Choice of local activity or free time before your outbound flight|
ARRIVAL IN HANOI
Meet you outside of the arrivals hall and private transfer to Hanoi city, which takes around 45 minutes.
After your hotel check-in, you may wish to take a late afternoon or evening stroll of 2.5km around Hoan Kiem Lake. The lake is considered the center of Hanoi, not only physically but also symbolically. Peaceful and quiet, the lake surrounds Ngoc Son Temple, a pagoda sitting in the centre on a small island.
Hoan Kiem means “Lake of the Returned Sword”. The legend was that a famous and victorious king who drove out the Ming army lost his sword when a turtle came up and took it when he was on a boat in the lake. The legends also say that he originally received his magical sword from the turtle god of the area.
From early morning exercise, to courting couples at night, Hoam Kiem Lake is a pleasure to visit at any time.
Overnight accommodation in Hanoi
PRIVATE GUIDED TOUR OF HANOI
This day will take in the highlight sites and sights including: Streets of the Old Quarter, Ho Chi Minh Mausoleum complex, One-pillar Pagoda, Temple of Literature and museums of interest.
Depending on time available, some museums may also be visited – notable are: Hoa Lo (Hanoi Hilton), Museum of Ethnology and the Vietnamese Women’s Museum.
This is a flexible full day of touring and you can discuss specific sites / sights and locations with your guide, depending on your own personal interests and pace.
OVERNIGHT CRUISE ON HALONG BAY
This morning, join with your other cruise companions for the three and a half hours drive, through the Red River Delta to Halong.
Here you’ll board your cruise junk for your two-days cruising on this unique UNESCO World Heritage site. Begin with lunch as you cruise through the bay and marvel at the Karst outcrops and islands.
You’ll have time for visiting some of the caves and local fishing villages, before returning to your junk for a splendid dinner and evening entertainment.
Spend overnight on board
HALONG BAY TO HOI AN
Wake to the sights on the bay. There’ll be time for some short excursions before breakfast, while cruising back to the mainland.
After disembarkation from your cruise, private transfer direct to Hanoi Noi Bai airport, for your late afternoon domestic flight to Da Nang. Met by your guide and driver at Da Nang and it’s around 40 minutes transfer time to your hotel in Hoi An
Overnight in Hoi An
IN AND AROUND HOI AN
Start after breakfast for a 30 minutes gentle bicycle ride through the flat country lanes to Tra Que, which is a charming little village located just a few kilometres northeast of Hoi An. The village is famous for growing many kinds of vegetables and herbs including: lettuce, salad, houttuynia, flagrant knoutwed, basil and coriander.
We will learn about the planting and growing of vegetables and herbs. Enjoy a herbal foot massage before taking a short informal cooking class with a local family, to learn how to make (and then eat) some local delicacies.
Hoi An Walking Tour
Located on the banks of the poetic Thu Bon River, Hoi An ancient town is an Eastern oriental classic captivation. Between the 17th and 19th centuries, Hoi An was a prosperous trading port, with a number of foreign occupations.
Today, this UNESCO World Heritage listed ancient town is home to well-preserved buildings, pedestrianized streets, a quaint riverside and unique cuisines. The narrow lanes are ideal for a 3 hours walking tour to give you a glimpse of an ancient town with its illustrious past.
Overnight in Hoi An
ONWARD TO HUE CITY
TAKING THE MOUNTAIN PASS
Following National Highway 1 to Hue City is around 4 hours drive. We’ll stop at Da Nang Beach, followed by a scenic drive over the stunning Hai Van Mountain Pass. This is the highest pass in Vietnam (500m above sea level). The rugged pass is the final section of the Truong Son Range stretching to the sea.
Hai Van is translated “Sea Clouds”, since the peak of the mountain is in the clouds while its foot is close to the sea. The views over Lang Co Bay are stunning. We’ll make stops along the way for photos and refreshments as required.
Overnight in Hue
THE HISTORY AND CULTURE OF HUE
We begin with a discovery of Minh Mang tomb, which is 12km from Hue, on the west bank of the Perfume River. Begun in 1840, construction was not complete when Minh Mang died. His successor, Emperor Thieu Tri continued this task according to his father’s plans.
Returning to the city, we’ll visit the private gallery and workshop of Mr Do Huu Triet to discover the ancient art of Phap Lam, an art-form that uses ceramic enamel to cover laminated copper.
Enter the ancient Hue Citadel and the Forbidden City.
The poetic and beautiful Hue of Vietnam was chosen to be the capital of the Southern Kingdom under Nguyen Lords’ Dynasty, and officially became the nation’s capital under Tay Son Dynasty, King Quang Trung.
The rule of the last Vietnamese Emperor lasted until the mid-1900s. At the time, the Purple Forbidden City had many buildings and hundreds of rooms. It suffered from termite and cyclone damage, but was still very impressive. Many bullet holes left over from the war can also be observed on the stone walls.
Conclude this splendid day with a visit to Thien Mu Pagoda, which overlooks the Perfume River and is the official symbol of the city of Hue. Thien Mu means “elderly celestial woman”, and refers to an old legend about the founding of the pagoda. From here, cruise back to Hue centre on the legendary Perfume River.
Overnight in Hue
EXPLORE CU CHI AND SAIGON
HUE TO SAIGON
After breakfast, check our and private car transfer to Hue Airport for your morning domestic flight to Saigon, taking approximately 90 minutes. Meet your guide at the arrivals hall and continue to Cu Chi.
The Cu Chi Tunnels are an elaborate underground community made up of about 250 km of tunnels and chambers below the city. The tunnels were dug with simple tools and bare hands during the French occupation in the 1940s, and further expanded during the Vietnam War in the 1960s to provide refuge and a defensive advantage over the American soldiers.
Despite all the bombings in their town, the Cu Chi people were able to continue day-to-day living beneath the soil, where they slept, ate, planned attacks, healed their sick, and taught their young. Some even wed and gave birth underground, but over 10,000 lost their lives here.
Return to Saigon by late afternoon and your evening is free to enjoy this energetic city.
SAIGON NOW AND THEN
We’ll begin with a short orientation tour (walking / driving) of Old Saigon Streets and Iconic Buildings. Appreciate the splendidly restored exteriors of the Opera House and the former Hotel de Ville which are still two of the finest buildings in Saigon.
Drive a short way to Cholon (China town). Nowhere epitomizes Cholon’s vibrant commercialism like Binh Tay Market. Cho Lon translates as “big market” and this is the areas biggest, covering a huge 17,000 square meters. Exteriors display one of the finest examples of early 20th-century Chinese-French architecture: multitier roofs adorned with dragons, mixed with mustard-hued halls and a central clock tower.
Walk along to Thien Hau Pagoda. Cantonese founders dedicated this temple-pagoda in 1760 to Thien Hau, Goddess Protector of Seafarers, thanking her for safe passage across the South China Sea. One of Cholon’s most important pagodas, Thien Hau is also known as Women’s Pagoda because the Goddesses of Fertility and Mothers are worshipped here. It’s noteworthy, too, for its fine friezes, murals and glazed ceramic rooftop figurines.
We begin this story with a visit to The Reunification Palace (former Presidential Palace), the headquarters of the Saigon Government during the American war and reveals the history of Saigon during its turbulent recent past.
We’ll continue to visit the site of the wartime offices of the US Information Service (USIS). This is now The War Remnants Museum (formerly known as the Museum of American War Crimes). This museum is a disturbing experience. It graphically recounts the Vietnam War from the perspective of the victors.
Overnight in HCMC (Saigon)
OVERLAND TO PHNOM PENH
EXPRESS COACH TO PHNOM PENH
This morning, we’ll transfer you to the bus station for your 08.30 (tbc) express bus service to Phnom Penh. The journey will take around 7 hours including time taken at the international border between Vietnam and Cambodia.
There is an on-board courier who will assist with immigration and customs formalities. Depending on your nationality, you will most likely require a visa for Cambodia and this can be obtained at the border or online (visa cost not included).
On arrival in Phnom Penh, meet your guide and driver who’ll introduce Cambodia’s capital city on the way to your hotel
Overnight in Phnom Penh
PHNOM PENH ROYALTY AND THE KHMER ROUGE ERA
We explore “the hidden pearl of Asia” with a guided tour of the city stopping at sites of interest along the way, including the spectacular Royal Palace, Silver Pagoda (Emerald Buddha), the pagoda at Wat Phnom, the Independence Monument and the newly erected statue commemorating the late King Father (Sihanouk).
After lunch (included), we continue our tour of Phnom Penh by taking a sobering walk through Tuol Sleng Genocide Museum (S-21). Here there are stark and moving reminders of Cambodia’s recent tragic past.
Then continue on to Choeung Ek Memorial -one of the infamous Killing Fields, where the Khmer Rouge executed around 17,000 of the estimated 2 million Cambodians who perished under the Pol Pot regime.
Overnight in Phnom Penh
RURAL VILLAGES AND LIFESTYLES
After breakfast, you have a private transfer to Phnom Penh Airport for your short domestic flight to Siem Reap. On arrival, you’ll be met and it’s a short transfer to your hotel.
At at time to suit you, we take a Village Walk and Talk. This takes you through a local village that we support and out to the rice fields. Learn about Cambodian stilt homes and life in a typical Cambodian village. This tour includes a visit to the active Pagoda and Ancient ruins. As you wander slowly through the village your guide will show you about the way of life for the local people and answer any questions that you have.
This is a wonderful tour for anyone who would like to learn about the real Cambodia and is ideal for photo enthusiasts. The tour takes around 2 to 2.5 hours and covers around 2 kilometers.
Overnight in Siem Reap
The day begins early with an unforgettable and awe-inspiring site – Angkor Wat at dawn. Marvel as the sun rises over the spires of the largest religious structure in the world.
We’ll return you to your hotel for breakfast and then continue our discovery of the temples.
After exploring Angkor Wat in all its splendor, at the quietest time of day, we take a break for a local lunch, before returning to the ancient walled city of Angkor Thom and the beguiling, smiling faces of the Bayon Temple.
Late afternoon, visit Ta Phrom, when the light is at its’ most magical. See how the massive root tentacles from the towering trees have grown through the temple, binding the ancient stones to the jungle. It’s an evocative sight.
Overnight in Siem Reap
FLOATING VILLAGES AND DISCOVER A JUNGLE TEMPLE
Today we visit the remote stilted village of Kampong Khleang, on the floodplains of the Tonle Sap Lake.
During the dry season the 6-metre stilted homes tower above the low water line, exposing the various livestock of the villagers, including chicken, pigs and dogs.
The villagers are fishing folk with shrimp harvesting their primary source of income. Giant sheets covered with pink shrimp drying in the sun can be seen on the lake shore and along the main street.
In the afternoon we venture out to visit one of the larger, but further afield temples of the Angkor region, deep in the jungle at Beng Mealea. It has been described as “unquestionably one of the most beautiful Angkorian sites,’ and possibly served as the direct model for Angkor Wat itself.
Overnight in Siem Reap
LOCAL ARTISANS AND OLD MARKET
For your final morning in Siem Reap, our guide will escort you to Les Artisans d’Angkor, where you’ll see local crafts being made.
Since its creation at the end of 1990s, Artisans Angkor has strived to offer good working conditions and social advantages to its employees. It has now opened 42 workshops in Siem Reap province and it provides employment to over 1300 people, including more than 900 artisans.
Afterwards, visit the oldest section of Siem Reap where you will explore the famous Old Market (Phsar Chas), situated by the river at the south end of the Old French Quarter.
The Old Market is the most popular of all Siem Reap’s markets and offers a large selection of vendors selling local handicrafts, textiles and curios. The area around the Old Market is an artsy, hip scene, bursting with individually-styled boutiques, intimate art galleries, good restaurants and bars.
We’ll transfer you to Siem Reap Airport which is around 20 minutes drive from the downtown area.
Sights you’ll see
Need to know
Locations for this tour
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