Explore the fascinating heritage and stunning landscape of South East Asia on this amazing adventure featuring the highlights of Vietnam and Cambodia. Vietnam opens her arms to you as you travel from romantic Hanoi through the surreal landscape of Halong Bay. Dine on seafood on the coast of the South China Sea and float through the water markets of the Mekong Delta. Finally, Cambodia’s fabled temples of Angkor Wat will leave a lasting impression on you before you bid farewell to the spirit of South East Asia. An intoxicating combination of old and new, spiritual and communal, sleepy and vibrant, every aspect of Vietnam and Cambodia will inspire you for years to come.
Day 1: Arrival
After meeting your Vietnam guide in the arrival area, you’ll be privately transferred to the world-famous Sofitel Legend Metropole Hotel. Accommodation is in a Prestige Suite with ensuite facilities, and includes breakfast.
Days 2 – 3: Sofitel Legend Metropole Hotel, Hanoi
This morning, meet your guide and driver with a private vehicle for a full-day tour of Hanoi. You’ll visit the Ho Chi Minh home and mausoleum, the Hoa Lo Prison Museum, otherwise known as “the Hanoi Hilton,” One Pillar Pagoda and the Temple of Literature. Enjoy lunch at Hoa Sua Restaurant. Then tour the Old Quarter aboard a bicycle rickshaw called a cyclo. You will be pedaled among the quaint French buildings along Shoe Street, Silk Street and Banner Street (to name just a few), ending at historic Hoan Kiem Lake, the social center of Hanoi. Here you’ll attend a water puppet performance.
The next morning, you’ll have a special day exploring villages and the countryside around Hanoi. Start with a drive to Tho Ha, one of the best preserved traditional villages left in Vietnam. Explore the maze of narrow alleyways and visit local families, the Pagoda of Quang Minh and the Tho Ha Communal House. Continue to the town of Bac Ninh, home to Quan Ho folk music, which has been performed by locals for nearly 1,000 years. Drive along the Duong River stopping to visit the village of Dong Ha known for its traditional painting and the village of Xuan Lao, which is known for its unique style of smoked bamboo furniture. Return to Hanoi and enjoy the evening at your leisure.
Day 4: Bhaya Legend Boat, Halong Bay
Following breakfast, depart on the 3-hour journey to magnificent Halong Bay, a UNESCO Natural World Heritage site. Upon arrival in Bai Chay, transfer to the Bhaya Legend, a wooden sailing junk, for a private chartered overnight cruise through the limestone cliffs and emerald waters. While on board you will be served a sumptuous fresh, local seafood lunch followed by an afternoon exploration of this amazing area by sea kayak. When the sun sets, your junk will drop anchor for the night near a remote island. Accommodation is in a Suite Cabin with ensuite facilities, and includes breakfast, lunch and dinner.
Day 5: The Nam Hai, Hoi An
Cruise to Surprise Cave, and tour the cave by kayak or small row boats. After breakfast, disembark and drive back to Hanoi. On the way make a stop at Bat Trang, a village famous for its ceramic pottery. Then head straight to the airport to check in for your 2-hour flight to Da Nang. Upon arrival you will proceed to Hoi An and The Nam Hai. Resting on a tranquil stretch of the pristine China Beach, near the ancient trading port of Hoi An in Vietnam, this luxury resort boast views of the South China Sea and Cham Islands. Accommodation is in a 1 Bedroom Beach Front Villa with ensuite facilities, and includes breakfast. After settling in, enjoy an exclusive visit to a private museum housed in the historic, nineteenth century home of a Chinese merchant whose former patrons included Emperors of the Nguyen Dynasty. The evening is at your leisure.
Day 6: The Nam Hai, Hoi An
This morning, you will be met and transferred to the Morning Glory Restaurant to participate in a private cooking class in Miss Vy’s Cooking Academy. Your lesson will start with the purchase of various ingredients at the nearby riverside market. The menu will include: fresh spring roll with shrimp, crispy pancakes, green mango salad, and grilled chicken lime leaf. Instructions and recipes will be given while each dish is prepared. After lunch, drive to the fourth-century Cham religious sanctuary of My Son. Arriving here later in the afternoon will help avoid the morning crowds of tourists at this small site and also provide wonderful, soft light for photography.
My Son, recently classified as a World Heritage site by UNESCO, is located in a beautiful, green valley surrounded by impressive mountains. The ruins at My Son are the largest and most intact remaining in Vietnam. It is also the home of the Museum of Cham Sculpture. The passable road ends about 1.5 miles from the actual site. At this point you have the option of taking a 4WD jeep or hiking the remainder of the distance to the ruins. Late in the day return to Hoi An and enjoy the evening at your leisure.
Day 7: Park Hyatt Hotel, Saigon
This morning you will be transferred to the airport for your one and a half-hour flight to Saigon. There you will begin with a leisurely walking tour of downtown. View some of the impressive colonial era structures including Notre Dame Cathedral and the General Post Office, designed by Gustave Eiffel. Then continue to the Reunification Hall, and tour the former nerve center of the war for South Vietnam. End your tour with a visit to the Fito Museum, a museum of Vietnamese traditional medicine. Return to the Park Hyatt Hotel with time to rest and freshen up before going to the Truc Mai House to visit a family of local artists. Hear a musical performance, while enjoying snacks and refreshments. Learn about traditional Vietnamese instruments through conversations with the artists and hear performances from each family member.
Afterward enjoy dinner at Mandarin (on own expense) where reservations have been made for you. This is gourmet Vietnamese cuisine at its finest. Superb dishes, an upscale ambiance and traditional music make it a must for foodies. Accommodation is in a Park Suite Room with ensuite facilities, and includes breakfast.
Day 8: Park Hyatt Hotel, Saigon
This morning, meet your guide and drive approximately two and a half hours to board the Mekong Delta junk, Cai Be Princess. Enjoy a full day’s excursion on the water. Start with a visit to the colorful Cai Be floating market—cruise amongst the local sampans coming from all over the delta to sell their fruit and vegetables. Discover the natural beauty and splendor of the Mekong, stopping to observe life in a typical Mekong town. Cruise through canals and disembark to visit an ancient mandarin house dating from the nineteenth century where the local family will welcome you with a cup of tea. Continue cruising, making other interesting stops along the way.
Stop for lunch at Le Longanier, a superb Indochinese villa located in a lush tropical garden by the river, surrounded by fruit orchards. After a short walk along a beautiful canal, board your private car for the drive back to Saigon. Return to your hotel with the evening at your leisure.
Day 9: La Residence d’Angkor, Siem Reap
Early this morning after breakfast, you will be met by your driver and transferred to the airport for your 2-hour flight to Siem Reap, Cambodia. Upon arrival you will be met by your Cambodia guide, and transferred to La Residence d’Angkor. Accommodation is in a Deluxe Pool Side Room with ensuite facilities, and includes breakfast. Located on the river in the center of Siem Reap, this boutique hotel is surrounded by majestic old trees and built in the Khmer style. It is a haven of tranquility, comfort, artistry and beauty—just minutes away from the ruined city of Angkor.
After a chance to get settled, relax and freshen up, you’ll head out and spend the late afternoon and sunset hours at Angkor Wat, the largest and most breathtaking monument at Angkor. The complex is approximately the size of Manhattan. Climb to the top of the central sanctuary for the fine views of the temple and surrounding jungle, paying particular attention to the incomparable bas reliefs that line the walls of the first-level gallery. Late this afternoon, ride an elephant to the top of Phnom Bakheng (Bakheng Hill). From the temple’s upper terrace, enjoy a beautiful sunset with views over the rice paddies and the Western Baray.
Day 10: La Residence d’Angkor, Siem Reap
Rise very early this morning for a special experience to join Buddhist monks for chanting and meditation followed by a simple breakfast in their company. This experience is often commented on as a singular highlight of a visitor’s experience in Cambodia. Then continue exploring the temples of Angkor, which cover an area the size of New York’s 5 boroughs. Focus on the Angkor Thom complex, including Phimeanakas, Baphuon, the Terrace of the Elephants, the Terrace of the Leper King and finally the Bayon, with its mysterious towers and beautiful bas reliefs. You’ll then return to the hotel to sit out the hottest part of the day and perhaps have lunch on your own.
Later in the day, visit Ta Phrom in the soft afternoon light and when there are not too many tourists around. Built in 1186, Ta Phrom was dedicated to the mother of Jayavarman VII. Its atmospheric dark gray sandstone towers and courtyards exude an aura of reverence and mystery. Unlike the other temples of Angkor, Ta Phrom has been left to the elements and looks very much like the other temples must have looked when discovered by Henri Mouhot in the 1860s. Navigating through its narrow passages, immense kapok trees and its jungle-covered ruins is an unparalleled experience, one of the highlights of Angkor.
At sunset, enjoy a boat trip on the Tonle Sap, Cambodia’s “Great Lake” and the largest lake in Southeast Asia. This gentle ride is a wonderful opportunity to observe the life of the transient Vietnamese fishing people whose floating homes and gardens line the shore.
Day 11: Depart from Siem Reap
Your guide and private chauffeur will escort you to the airport and assist you with check in for your onward flight.