- See the highlights of Hanoi and try delicious street food
- Enjoy a luxury cruise on the jade waters of Ha Long Bay
- Travel to the ancient river city of Hoi An and take cooking classes
- Tour the former Saigon and take a trip to the Mekong Delta
- Visit the temples of Bangkok and take a street-food tour at night
|Arrive in Hanoi (Vietnam), Optional Activities
|City Tour, Water Puppet Show & Street Food
|Transfer to Ha Long Bay, Overnight Cruise
|Ha Long Bay
|Morning Cruise, Transfer to Hoi An
|Hoi An Cooking Class & City Tour
|Transfer to Ho Chi Minh City, Vespa Tour
|Ho Chi Minh City
|Day Trip to Mekong Delta
|Ho Chi Minh City
|Fly to Bangkok (Thailand), City Highlights & Food Tour
|Day Trip to a Floating Market
Day 1: Arrive in Hanoi (Vietnam), Optional Activities
Welcome to Vietnam! This relatively small Southeast Asian nation has captivated travelers for generations. This is due in no small part to its rich culture, amazing food, and long and storied history, which dates to the third century BCE. Walk the streets in any of Vietnam's cities today, and you're as likely to pass elegant French colonial buildings as temples dating to the ancient dynasties. Outside the major cities, Vietnam offers some of the most sublime and unspoiled natural beauty anywhere in the world.
You'll arrive in the capital of Hanoi, a bastion of culture and energy. From the airport, your driver will take you to your hotel, and after checking in, you'll have the rest of the day free to explore at your own pace. Maybe start with a self-guided walk in Hanoi's Old Quarter to browse the street vendors and silk shops on Hang Gai Street. Then take a stroll around the city's central hub, Hoan Kiem Lake, and visit the Temple of the Jade Mountain. This landmark was built in the 18th century to honor Tran Hung Dao, a military commander who famously repelled two Mongol invasions.
Day 2: City Tour, Water Puppet Show & Street Food
Meet your guide this morning for a half-day tour of Hanoi's highlights. It starts in the Old Quarter with a visit to the Presidential Palace. Once the official residence of the Governor-General of French Indochina, this three-story, French-colonial landmark was one of the most luxurious buildings in the country at the time of its construction in 1906. In contrast to this ostentatious landmark is the nearby Ho Chi Minh Stilt House, the unassuming wooden residence where President Ho Chi Minh lived between 1958 and 1969.
A few minutes walk leads to the 11th-century One Pillar Pagoda, a Buddhist temple with a lotus-flower design perched on a stone pillar rising out of a pond. Afterward, continue to Hoan Kiem Lake, which is always abuzz with activity. Nearby, you'll enjoy a traditional water puppet show, a type of theater dating back over 1,000 years. The stage is a small pool (mimicking rice paddies), and the puppeteer stands behind a screen while manipulating intricately carved wooden marionettes.
Day 3: Transfer to Ha Long Bay, Overnight Cruise
After an early breakfast, your personal driver will pick you up at the hotel for the three-hour transfer north to the legendary Ha Long Bay. Located on the Gulf of Tonkin, over 1,500 karst islets rise above jade waters, resembling the spine of a mythological creature ("ha long" translates to "descending dragon"). The unique beauty of this region is unlike anywhere else and thus has earned UNESCO World Heritage status.
Upon arrival at the marina, you'll board the luxurious Athena Royal cruise ship for an overnight tour. After settling into your cabin, head to the dining room, where a delicious lunch awaits. Then, relax on the sun deck as the ship sails across glassy emerald waters to secluded corners of the bay. Later, you'll stop at a secret cove for a swim and a kayak trip to explore hidden beaches and grottoes.
Return to the ship in time for a cooking demonstration during which you'll try some famous Vietnamese dishes. Your appetite primed, you'll head back to the dining room for a decadent buffet dinner. Afterward, you can spend the remainder of the evening relaxing or grab a pole and cast a line off the rear of the boat to try and catch some squid.
Chat with a local specialist who can help organize your trip.
Day 4: Morning Cruise, Transfer to Hoi An
Start the day with an early morning tai chi session on the deck surrounded by beautiful bay scenery. After a light breakfast, the ship will cruise to a karst cavern, which you can explore in a traditional boat. Afterward, you'll return to the ship and cruise to the Ha Long Bay pier, enjoying a late brunch as you go. Then, hop in a vehicle for the 3.5-hour ride back to Hanoi, arriving around 3 pm.
Once back in the city, you'll transfer to the airport by private vehicle and catch a 1.5-hour flight south to Da Nang, located on Vietnam's central coast. At the airport, another driver will pick you up for the one-hour transfer south to colorful Hoi An, located on the Thu Bon River. This historic city was a major trading port with the West from the 15th through the 19th centuries, and many well-preserved buildings remain in its riverside Ancient Town. Upon arrival, you'll check into your hotel and have the evening free.
Day 5: Hoi An Cooking Class & City Tour
This morning, you'll meet a guide for a half-day cooking workshop. It starts at a local market in or around Hoi An's Ancient Town, where you'll pick up meat, fresh produce, and other ingredients for use during the class. Then, you'll head to the workshop, where a professional chef will guide you through preparing famous Vietnamese dishes. This includes regional cuisine and popular staple dishes like green papaya salad, spring rolls, crispy pancakes, and clay pot chicken with lemon grass. Everyone will sit down for lunch when you're done cooking and enjoy your creations.
Later, you and your guide will embark on a walking tour around Hoi An's historic streets, which are lined with ancient shrines, modern art galleries, charming restaurants, teahouses, and quaint boutiques. Along the waterfront, you'll see old merchant buildings combining Chinese, Japanese, and Vietnamese architectural elements. One highlight of Ancient Town is the 400-year-old Japanese Covered Bridge, built by the Japanese community as a link to the Chinese quarter located across a small stream. Nearby is the Assembly Hall of the Chaozhou Chinese Congregation, which dates to 1845.
Day 6: Transfer to Ho Chi Minh City, Vespa Tour
In the morning, transfer to the airport for the 1.5-hour flight to Ho Chi Minh City. Formerly known as Saigon, Vietnam's largest metropolis is steeped in history yet is also on the cutting edge of modernity. After checking into your hotel, you'll meet a guide for a half-day city tour. 19th-century landmarks you'll visit include Notre Dame Cathedral and the Central Post Office. Another highlight is Reunification Palace, the headquarters of the Saigon government during the Vietnam War. Continue to the War Remnants Museum, stopping at Ben Thanh, one of the city's biggest markets.
Later, continue discovering Ho Chi Minh City, this time on a vintage-style Vespa. Meet your guide at the hotel and hop on the bike for a memorable exploration of Saigon after dark. The first stop is a rooftop bar for drinks amid panoramic views of the city's stunning skyline. Then, continue zipping along the streets and alleys, following the tantalizing aroma of Saigon's famous street food. Speaking of which, you'll stop at two restaurants to try some beloved Saigon dishes washed down with a beverage. The final stop is at a café or bar to cap to enjoy live music while sipping a cold beer.
Day 7: Day Trip to Mekong Delta
After an early breakfast, you'll transfer to the waterfront in Ho Chi Minh City. There, you'll board a boat for the ride to the waterfront province of Ben Tre. There, you'll hop on another boat for a one-hour ride down a tributary of the Mekong River.
As you travel amid the thick mangrove forests of this waterway, you'll see the morning hustle as fishing boats and coconut cargo ships pass back and forth, going about their daily business. You'll also travel down canals lined with towering coconut palms and stop to see a coconut preparation workshop. Here, you can look at the various stages of coconut processing, from removing the husk to peeling. The coconut theme continues with a trip to a nearby candy mill.
Disembark the boat at a waterfront market, then hop in a tuk-tuk (auto rickshaw) for a ride around the countryside. One stop is at the rural home of a family who will welcome you inside for an informal cooking lesson. They'll show you how to prepare some traditional rustic dishes, and you'll enjoy them for lunch before transferring back to Ho Chi Minh City later that afternoon.
Day 8: Fly to Bangkok (Thailand), City Highlights & Food Tour
Transfer to the airport in the morning for a 1.5-hour flight across the border to Bangkok. After transferring to your hotel for check-in, you'll meet a guide to discover the historic palaces in this country's dynamic capital, which sits on the Chao Phraya River. It begins at the Grand Palace, a complex of intricate palaces and temples built in 1782, which served as the royal family's home for 150 years. Highlights include the Reception Hall, Coronation Hall, and Wat Phra Kaew, which houses the sacred Emerald Buddha, a 26-inch (66 cm) jade statue of a meditating Buddha.
After a break for lunch, you'll hop on a traditional long-tail boat and cruise a short distance along the river to Wat Pho. Dating to the 13th century, this temple is famous for its massive Reclining Buddha statue that measures 49 feet (15 m) high and 150 feet (46 m) long. Finish the tour with a trip to Wat Arun, known for its towering 259-foot (79 m) central spire. Dating to the 17th century, War Arun is also known as the Temple of Dawn since it's named after the Indian dawn god, Aruna. Then, return to your hotel and spend the rest of the afternoon relaxing.
Later, when the sun goes down, you'll climb into a tuk-tuk for a half-day evening food tour of Bangkok. It's the most efficient way to hit up as many of the city's most beloved eateries as possible. Throughout this tasty trip, you'll savor authentic Thai cuisine that includes authentic pad thai, mango sticky rice, and popular Thai snacks, all while learning about this nation's rich cultural heritage. The final stop is a rooftop bar to enjoy a drink while enjoying views of the Chao Phraya River lit up at night. Afterward, you'll transfer back to your hotel.
Day 9: Day Trip to a Floating Market
Get ready to experience Thailand's famous markets. Leave in the morning on a 1.5-hour private transfer from Bangkok's urban center to the rural province of Samut Songkharm. Here you'll visit the Maeklong Market, a narrow lane of merchant stalls sitting on railroad tracks. Whenever a train pulls in or out of the station, the vendors quickly clear their stalls, only to set them up again moments later when the train has passed.
After browsing the stalls at Maeklong, you'll continue on to Damnoen Saduak, a paradise for food lovers and the most popular floating market in the country. Plying its maze of canals are vendors in traditional wooden boats selling fresh produce, snacks, and other delicacies. Here, you'll board a long-tail boat and travel around the market with your guide. Learn the art of haggling as you browse fresh fruits and handicrafts. Later, you'll transfer back to Bangkok.
Day 10: Depart BangkokIt's time to say goodbye to Bangkok and Southeast Asia. Enjoy one last leisurely breakfast at your hotel before transferring to the airport to catch your flight home. Safe travels!
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