Please see Holiday Information Sheet for this holidays individual departures itinerary (located under View Departures & Book tab)
Depart on an overnight flight to Bangkok from London Heathrow with Thai
Arrive Bangkok and continue on Thai Airways flight to Ho Chi Minh City. On arrival we will transfer to our hotel to relax before we take a tour of the city.
We will take a stroll toward the Saigon River along Dong Khoi Street, which figured prominently in Graham Greene’s famous Vietnam novel, The Quiet American, to the Saigon Opera House, a commanding building completed in 1901. Shelled during World War II, it was used to shelter French citizens fleeing North Vietnam in 1954, the year Vietnam earned its independence from France. The tour continues with a stop at the Reunification Palace, where a North Vietnamese tank crashed through the gates in 1975 to end a war that killed an estimated 58,000 Americans and 3 million Vietnamese. We continue with a visit to Tan Dinh church and nearby Tan Dinh market. Tan Dinh church is a complete contrast to traditional Notre Dame Cathedral, but equally impressive with its high steeple and distinctive pink design. It is one of the most beautiful and unique churches in Ho Chi Minh city with its dazzling architecture and sculpture patterns, and inside is just as dramatic! Wrap up your day with a wander through the vibrant Tan Dinh market next door, where you can haggle for a bargain. Our evening will finish with a culinary adventure in the heart of Saigon in Nguyen Dinh Chieu alley, a place well known for its abundance of street food. We’ll observe the small pop up restaurants, a nightly feature that disappear during the day. We may even try some of the local food such as a Vietnamese sandwich, Banh Xeo, shellfish, broken rice and even rice paper pizza!
Today we visit the Cu Chi Tunnels. The cramped tunnels were central to a few of the war’s strategic operations, including the famous 1968 Tet Offensive, and they didn’t escape damage. American B52 bombers dropped hundreds of missiles leaving huge tell-tale craters behind. The tunnels served not only as living quarters, but as supply routes and hospitals for thousands of guerrilla fighters. Many died there from malaria and other diseases, and a few were also born or married. Today they are viewed by some as a testimony to the Vietnamese people’s resiliency.
Today we fly from Ho Chi Minh City to Danang and travel by road to Hoi An.
Today we’ll explore the breezy Hoi An Ancient Town, a former trading port that welcomed Chinese, Ditch, French, Japanese, Portuguese and Arab merchants from the 16th to the 18th Centuries. Now one of Vietnam’s most charming coastal towns, Hoi An is home to some of the country’s most beautiful ancient architecture inspired by Portuguese, Chinese and Japanese culture.
We walk through streets lined with honey-yellow buildings, and arrive first at Chua Ong Pagoda. We visit the Japanese Covered Bridge - one of Hoi An’s most iconic structures. We will enjoy a tasty lunch accompanied by a cooking demonstration at a restaurant specialising in traditional Hoi An delicacies.
Afterwards, head out toward Cam Thanh Village, a small community located in the outskirts of central Hoi An. Take a short walk to a small village home to meet a local family, and take the opportunity to interact with them and learn about their home. On the nearby river, hop in a bamboo basket boat to visit a water coconut forest and then board a larger boat bound for central Hoi An.
We visit My Son, the former capital of the ancient Cham civilization. The Cham people ruled central Vietnam from the 2nd - 13th centuries, and their kingdom once stretched into what are now Laos and parts of Cambodia. Most of the ruins have decayed over time or have been looted. There are a few headless statues in place and one of the temples has some decorative stonework.
We transfer by road to Hue. This afternoon we will visit Minh Mang and Khai Dinh tombs.
We discover Hue, the Vietnamese capital during the Nguyen Dynasty 1802-1945 and ruins of the city’s regal past can still be seen inside the Citadel and the Imperial City. Created in the 19th century, the Imperial City was modelled on the Forbidden City in Beijing and holds many palaces and temples inside its giant walls. Many of the buildings have been damaged by war over the years and are now being restored to their former glory.
We spend some time wandering through the citadel before taking a boat trip along the Perfume River, visit Thien Mu Pagoda.
We explore Hanoi, we visit the Temple of Literature, an ancient collection of courtyards, gardens and architecture built in homage to the Chinese scholar Confucius. Considered the oldest university in Vietnam, the Temple of Literature dates back nearly one thousand years! We walk through some of the Quarter’s 36 streets named for the products historically sold here. Along the way, we pass by some of the only remaining streets that continue selling the goods of their namesake, including Tin and Bamboo street. Head through labyrinthine back alleys well off the tourist trail and see Hanoi at its authentic best. We peer into temples and traditional houses, and hear the stories of the ancient city and meet the people who call this fascinating city home. Our final stop is at Ngoc Son Temple on the tiny island on the lake.
We spend the day exploring the ancient Pagodas and villages of northern Vietnam, seeing firsthand the unique culture of the Red River Delta. Next we visit the ancient village of Duong Lam - the only village in Vietnam listed as a national heritage monument. We take a walking tour through the village, passing by ancient temples and through narrow winding alleyways. We enjoy a traditional lunch at a local home, and spend some time talking to the villagers whose life has changed little over the years.
Later we continue on to Tay Phuong Pagoda, dating back to the 8th century, but rebuilt in 1632, the Pagoda is the perfect example of Sino-Vietnamese architecture. Hear the story of the ancient Vietnamese people of the Delta and discover the intricately carved wooden statues depicting the 5 stages of man. Then we visit Thay Pagoda - the Pagoda of the Heavenly Blessing. Sitting at the foot of Sai Son Mountain, the complex is dedicated to the Thich Ca Buddha, and dates from the 11th Century. It remains one of the most important sites for pilgrims in Vietnam and is famous for its connection to the ancient art of water puppetry. We spend time exploring the ornate chambers and ancient courtyards, before making the short climb up the hillside to enjoy commanding views over the countryside.Tonight we are entertained by the Tonkin Show with dinner.
It is recommend to wear comfortable shoes and clothing and to cover your knees and shoulders when visiting pagodas.
Today we travel to Mai Chau, the drive from Hanoi to Mai Chau takes about four hours, and the lush scenery will keep us entertained. This afternoon, visit a military cave opposite and take a gentle trek to Lac and Pom Coong, two villages of the Thai ethnic group. We meet the villagers and enjoy a chat over a cup of tea to learn about their culture and traditions. Total walking time: 1 ½ – 2 hours
Tonight, enjoy a dinner of Vietnamese and international dishes, followed by traditional dancing by members of the local ethnic-minority group.
Today you'll visit villages of the local ethnic-minority group to learn about their lifestyle and farming methods. You'll enjoy lunch before spending the rest of the afternoon relaxing at the lodge’s pool or sauna, or just reading a good book on the patio.
After breakfast we drive to Ninh Binh. We visit Trang An, a UNESCO World Heritage site known for its outstanding natural beauty and the scenic karsts formations which contribute to its reputation as being the “Halong Bay on land”. We board a small boat and meander down the peaceful river while passing through a series of caves. While enjoying the sounds of soaring birds overhead and paddling along the crystal-clear waters of the river, jagged limestone hills jutting skyward out of electric green rice paddies.
Today, we drive to Halong Bay as you board your traditional junk boat and set sail through UNESCO World Heritage Halong Bay. We can admire the endless islands and jungle-clad limestone pillars as you sit down to a delicious lunch and a cruise briefing. Pass by the distinctive formations of Chicken Rock, Finger Islet and Frog Islet on your way to South East Halong Bay.
In the afternoon, visit the aptly named 'Surprise Cave' and admire the stunning stalagmites and stalactites. There is plenty of time to relax on the junk's sun deck, take advantage of the Spa services and sip a cocktail or two, before a cooking demonstration in the evening. Learn to create traditional Vietnamese dishes with the boat's own chef and try more delicacies at dinner. Later, you can even decide to use your time by taking the opportunity to try your hand at squid fishing before the day is done!
Tonight we stay on the Bhaya Classic boat.
Wake early to start your day with Tai Chi on the sundeck, as the sun rises over the bay. After a light breakfast, visit Bright and Dark Cave by rowing boat or in a kayak. Enjoy a final extravagant brunch before sailing back to the harbour, where you will continue to on Hanoi. The weather in northern Vietnam can be slightly cooler with a higher possibility of rainfall so please pack appropriately for various weather conditions.
Today we drive to Sapa (around 5 hours). On arrival we will have lunch, and then visit the small Giay village of Ta Van, in the breathtaking Muong Hoa Valley. Here we can enjoy a scenic walk through the tranquil rice terraces towards the Black H’mong village of Lao Chai. Marvel at the cascading paddy fields that cling to the mountainside and take in one of Vietnam’s most breathtaking views before arriving at the home of Ms Moo, a local Black H’mong lady. Soak in the view whilst learning more about the traditional life and culture of the Black H’mong people and enjoying a traditional H’mong herbal foot bath! Afterwards head over to nearby Lao Chai village where you will learn the art of Batik painting.
The beautiful textiles of the Black H’mong are famous around the world and Batik is a traditional part of H’mong culture. Under threat from modernization, Batik is now only practiced by a handful of villagers. Join a hands-on master class led by a local expert and take your creation home! You will be supporting a sustainable tourism project that supports local women and ensures this amazing art form is handed down to the next generation. The tour concludes with a stroll to the main road before transferring back to Sapa town.
Approximate walking time is 1 ½ hours.
Please ensure you have sturdy and comfortable walking shoes as mountain trails can become slippery in wet weather.
Today we travel north of Sapa town to the quiet valleys and gorges surrounding the village of O Quy Ho. The shallow winding valley sits in the shadow of Indochina’s highest peak, Fangxipan Mountain, and on clear days you can enjoy superb views of the range. We pass by oolong tea farms before joining a local footpath that clings to the contours of the rice terraces and takes you gently down the valley past grazing buffalo and working farmers. We walk along ancient stone paths and hear the story of the Black H’Mong migration to these mountains centuries before. We travel back to Sapa town in the early afternoon and enjoy lunch at the Hill Station - sampling traditional mountain dishes from Vietnam's far north.
Approximate walking time 2 1.2 hours.
Please ensure you have sturdy and comfortable walking shoes as mountain trails can become slippery in wet weather.
You'll have a chance to visit one of Sapas famous markets. After we travel to the northern edge of the town to Hoang A Tuong’s palace, otherwise known as the outlandish Vua Meo. Constructed by the French in 1921 in an unusual ‘oriental baroque’ style, it resembles a hybrid between an exotic church and a French chateau, and was used to entertain the Flower H’mong chief Hoang A Tuong. And afterwards, head to Trung Do Village, home to the Tay ethnic minority group, and wander around this rustic yet charming hamlet. We settle down for a tasty lunch prepared by a local Tay family and get a glimpse of village life. Then, enjoy breath-taking views as you take a boat trip down the Chay River before heading back to Sapa Town.
Today we bid farewell and transfer straight to Hanoi airport for our international flight.
We arrive back in the UK.