Day 1 - Arrive in Phnom Penh
On arrival in Phnom Penh, you will be welcomed by your English speaking guide and then transferred to the hotel for check in.
After a relaxing break, you will set out to discover the most remarkable sights of Phnom Penh in a Cyclo, an original Phnom Penh means of transportation and a very fun way to explore this lively city. First, head to the Royal Palace. This palace dates back to 1866 and was the last palace built during the French colonial period. The same complex houses the Silver Pagoda, named for the over 5000 heavy silver tiles that cover its floors. Its original name is Wat Prakeo, meaning Temple of the Emerald Buddha. In this temple you will view a collection of Buddhas in gold, silver, crystal, and bronze.
Continue to the National Museum, which was built in traditional Khmer style. It houses the world"s foremost collection of ancient Khmer artistic, archaeological, and religious artifacts from the 4th to the 13th centuries. Over 5,000 pieces are on display, constituting the repository of the Kingdom"s cultural wealth. In addition, the roof space is home to a large bat colony!
Your sightseeing concludes with a visit to Wat Phnom temple, the founding place of the city on a small hilltop and a great place to people watch as the locals come to pray for good luck.
Overnight in Phnom Penh.
Day 2 - Phnom Penh - Siem Reap (B)
After breakfast, transfer to the airport for your flight from Phnom Penh to Siem Reap. On arrival in Siem Reap, your local English speaking guide will greet you and accompany you to the hotel for check in.
This afternoon, start your visits to Angkor by visiting the ancient city of Angkor Thom. Angkor Thom was the last capital of the Great Khmer Empire under the reign of Jayavarman VII. This city is surrounded by an 8 m high wall, with each side of the city being 4 km long, drawing a perfect square. You will enter the city through the ancient South Gate, an impressive stone gate carved with Elephants and four giant. On each side of the entrance path a row of 54 gods or demons is holding the sacred Naga snake.
From here, continue to Bayon Temple in the exact center of the city. The particularity of this monument is the 54 towers with four faces representing the 54 provinces of the then Great Khmer Empire. The Terrace of the Elephants and the Terrace of the Leper King are also must-visits as they are both known for their intricate bas-reliefs. Return to the hotel.
Overnight in Siem Reap.
Day 3 - Siem Reap - Tour (B)
After breakfast this morning, explore the temples of the Small Circuit by ‘remork’ (similar to the Thai ‘tuk tuk’). Start your tour with a visit to Ta Prohm temple, built in the mid-12th to early 13th centuries. Ta Prohm is unique in that it has been left largely as it was found: overgrown by jungle trees and vines, with many parts of the temple crumbling to the ground. This makes Ta Prohm one of the most picturesque and memorable of the Angkor temples. Your visit will also include Banteay Kdei, a Buddhist monastery from the late 12th Century, and Srah Srang, also known as the “pool of ablutions”. Return to the hotel for a relaxing break during the midday heat.
After a rest at your hotel, depart on a very special sightseeing tour of the famous Angkor Wat. Built during the reign of King Suryavarman II in the early 12th century, Angkor Wat is constructed following the model of the temple mountain symbolizing the Mount Meru, home of the gods. The divine residence of Vishnu, the King himself was to reside here after his death. Inside the temple, the walls are covered with stone carvings and bas-reliefs depicting Hindu mythology and the wars Suryavarman II fought during his reign. Moreover, Angkor Wat is well known for the more than 2,000 Apsara dancers decorating the temple. Construction is thought to have taken around thirty years of intensive labor. Today, Angkor Wat is figured on Cambodia"s national flag as the temple symbolizes the soul of the Khmer people. Return to the hotel.
Overnight in Siem Reap.
Day 4 - Siem Reap - Ho Chi Minh City (B)
After breakfast, free till transfer to the airport for departure flight from Siem Reap to Ho Chi Minh (Saigon).
Arrive in Ho Chi Minh City and transfer to hotel. The rest of the day is at leisure.
Overnight in Ho Chi Minh City.
Day 5 - Ho Chi Minh City (B)
Depart your hotel for a full day Ho Chi Minh City tour. Head to Cholon, the Chinatown district, to discover the area’s markets, shops and the Cantonese Thien Hau Pagoda - dedicated to the goddess of the Sea. Visit Vietnam"s first traditional medicine museum, the FITO Museum, with an amazing collection of 3,000 items relevant to the development of traditional Vietnamese medicine. Implements used to prepare indigenous herbs and objects commonly found in traditional pharmacies can be seen in the galleries as well as ancient books and documents on traditional Vietnamese medicine.
Head back to the city centre to visit Ben Thanh Market where an incredible display of fresh produce is offered. Simply stroll through the market exploring the variety of goods for sale.
This afternoon visit the War Remnants or History Museum (choose which one you would most like to see) and the former Presidential Palace. Stroll (your vehicle will be available at all times) to the major sights of colonial Ho Chi Minh City: the Old Saigon Post Office, Dong Khoi Street (formerly Rue Catinat), Continental Hotel, Opera House and City Hall. At the end of the afternoon head back to your hotel.
Overnight in Ho Chi Minh City.
(Note: History Museum is closed on Mondays).
Day 6 - Ho Chi Minh City - Mekong Delta - Ho Chi Minh City (B,L)
This morning, leave bustling Ho Chi Minh for the 2 hour drive to the delta town of Cai Be.
On arrival board your boat for a cruise of Cai Be floating market. Traders work the river and some have been living on these waters for generations. Produce at the market are hung on a pole in front of boats to attract customers and make it easier for people to see from afar what is on offer.
After visiting the market continue to a cottage factory where ‘pop-rice’, rice paper and coconut candies are made. Return to the boat for the cruise to Dong Hoa Hiep Island, along the way admire the scenery and the daily life of the local villagers. Lunch will be local Mekong style serving specialties of the area. Following your cruise drive back to Ho Chi Minh City.
Overnight in Ho Chi Minh City.
Day 7 - Ho Chi Minh City - Danang - Hoi An (B)
After breakfast transfer to Tan Son Nhat Airport for the short flight to the central port city of Danang. On arrival in Danang transfer to Hoi An, a major Asian trading port in the 17th and 18th centuries whose architecture and relaxed lifestyle has changed little over the years. Take a walking tour of the ancient town centre to visit the former merchants’ homes, the 400 year-old Japanese Covered Bridge and the colorful market.
Rest of the afternoon at leisure.
Overnight in Hoi An or Danang.
Day 8 - Hoi An - Hue (B)
Leave Hoi An for Hue, the former imperial capital of Vietnam. Its mesmerizing tombs and mausoleums of the last emperors of Vietnam reveal fascinating insights into the lives of the imperial families and their subjects. The ancient citadel reflects the pomp and ceremony of the dynastic rulers as well as the scars of many years of turmoil, both ancient and modern (the Royal Citadel was badly damaged in the latter stages of the war) but retains a sense of grace and majesty even today.
Drive through Danang and visit the Cham Museum, which contains the finest collection of Cham sculptures in the world before climbing over the Pass of Ocean Clouds and dropping down to the wonderfully photogenic fishing village of Lang Co.
In Hue visit the Imperial Citadel where the Nguyen Dynasty ruled between 1802 and 1945.
After exploring the ruins of this wonderful monument depart for Thien Mu (Celestial Lady) Pagoda overlooking the Perfume River. Constructed in 1601, the 21-meter tower is the centerpiece of the pagoda and represents seven reincarnations of Buddha. On the pagoda grounds is the famous Austin car a resident monk drove to Saigon in 1963 to protest against the southern regime. The photo of his self immortalization is one of the most well known images of the war.
Overnight in Hue.
Day 9 - Hue - Hanoi (B)
Start your day with a visit to the city’s vibrant Dong Ba Market to see it’s abundance of fresh produce. After exploring the market take a cyclo through the ‘Old City’ to Tinh Tam Lake where the Emperors used to come to relax, full of lotus flowers in summer there are many local style coffee shops around the lake where university students come to study.
Continue to former emperor Minh Mang’s tomb located in a tranquil setting of gardens and ponds.
Journey on to Khai Dinh’s Tomb designed in traditional Vietnamese style with a European touch making it unique from the other tombs in Hue.
From here transfer 30-minutes to Hue Airport for the 1-hour flight to Hanoi. On arrival transfer to your hotel.
Overnight in Hanoi.
Day 10 - Hanoi - Halong Bay (B,L,D)
Following breakfast leave Hanoi for a 3hr30mins drive to Halong Bay including a 20-minutes stop on the way. Arrive at your jetty in Halong City towards noon and proceed with check-in formalities. After your welcome onboard, a lunch will be served while cruising towards the bay itself. In the afternoon, enjoy some visits and/or activities (depending on each boat’s itinerary) or just spend some time relaxing on board. Towards the end of the day the boat sets anchor for the night among the karst formations. Dinner is served on board.
Overnight on Halong Bay.
Day 11 - Halong Bay - Hanoi (B)
Enjoy your fresh morning in the middle of the bay, the sun rises on Halong in the morning and breakfast is served (brunch on some boats) while the vessels cruises slowly through the magnificent rock formations and back towards port. Disembark and transfer back to Hanoi.
As an optional extra visit one of the oldest pagodas in Vietnam ‘But Thap’ on the way back to Hanoi.
In Hanoi, in the afternoon, visit the fascinating Ethnology Museum (closed Mondays), a research centre and public museum exhibiting the ethnic groups of Vietnam.
Next, visit Hanoi’s Old Quarter, also known as the ‘36 streets’. Take a walking tour through charming Hang Be Market and around Hoan Kiem Lake. This bustling area of narrow streets and alleys is home to literally thousands of small businesses and shopkeepers. It"s a great place to explore with plenty of photo opportunities all around you.
Finish the day with a Water Puppet show. This is a uniquely north Vietnamese art form depicting scenes from rural life and episodes of national history.
Overnight in Hanoi.
Day 12 - Hanoi - Departure (B)
This morning depart your hotel for the Temple of Literature. In 1076, Vietnam"s first university Quoc Tu Giam, was established within a temple to educate Vietnam"s royalty, mandarins and members of the elite. The university functioned for an incredible 700 years and its gardens and well-preserved architecture offer a fascinating glimpse into Vietnam’s past.
Visit The One Pillar Pagoda, founded by King Ly Thai To in 1049, next. This structure is one of Vietnam’s most iconic temples. Close by is the mausoleum of the historic father figure of modern Vietnam, Ho Chi Minh, and the former presidents house on stilts where he lived from 1958 to 1969. His former home illustrates the modesty of this Vietnamese revolutionary. (viewed from outside; closed Mon and Fri and from Oct-Nov)
Continue to picturesque West Lake and the sixth century Tran Quoc Buddhist Pagoda. From here transfer (or stroll along the lakeside) 700 meters to the nearby Taoist temple of Quan Thanh dedicated to Tran Vu, one of the principal deities in Taoism.
At leisure for shopping until your transfer to Noi Bai Airport for onward flight.