Street vendors in Hanoi
Sunset at Halong Bay
Bicycle Taxi, Saigon
Phnom Penh street
Angkor Wat temple complex
Angkor temple ruins with overgrown roots
Day 1: US to Hanoi
Depart San Francisco or Los Angeles around noon and fly across the Pacific to Vietnam. Crossing the International Date Line you will arrive two days later.
Day 2: Hanoi
After changing planes in Seoul, continue to Hanoi. After your arrival in Hanoi this evening, you will be met at the airport and transferred to your hotel. Spend the first night in Hanoi.
Day 3: Hanoi to Halong Bay
Meet the other group members this morning at breakfast. Then depart Hanoi for Halong Bay, en route we have a short stop for break. Transfer by tender to your comfortable junk and enjoy a welcome drink aboard. Begin your cruise through majestic Halong Bay while lunch is served. Enjoy the magical bay where thousands of sculpted limestone islands rise from the waves like dragon's teeth. The junk continues cruising through the fishing village on the bay and pass the spectacular limestone caves dotted around the bay, soak up the sun on the top deck. In the evening the chef will prepare a meal comprised of fresh seafood and other traditional dishes. Overnight onboard.
Day 4: Halong Bay to Hanoi
Greet the day with a morning Tai Chi exercise with an opportunity to view the sunrise over the bay. After breakfast, visit a beautiful limestone grotto then back to the boat for a final glimpse of the Halong Bay while cruising back to the dock. We then return by bus to Hanoi for some sightseeing. Hanoi, the Capital of Vietnam, is a blend of long established traditions and modern imprints of Western colonization. Tree-lined boulevards and colonial buildings give the city a touch of Western elegance, while crowded blocks of tiny old houses and narrow lanes full of daily life bear the charms of the past centuries. Take 35 minute ride on an electric car to explore the Old Quarter famous for 36 streets of craftsmen. The tour passes by well-known landmarks including Hoan Kiem Lake and the Dong Xuan Market. Spend the night in Hanoi.
Day 5: Hanoi to Hue
After breakfast transfer to the airport for your flight to Hue. Hue served as the capital of Vietnam for more than 140 years. It houses ancient temples, imperial buildings and French-style edifices. It was established in the 17th century. Venture into the countryside around Hue to the Imperial Tomb of Tu Duc. Take some time to soak in the tranquil atmosphere, wandering among the gracefully proportioned pavilions, courtyards and lotus ponds. Afterwards visit the Imperial Tomb of Khai Dinh, dramatically located on a hillside. Located in the heart of Hue is the Imperial Citadel, a vast complex built in the early 19th century and modeled after the Forbidden City of Peking. The original walls stretched for 10 km and were surrounded by a wide moat. Today, most of the buildings have been destroyed due to bombing during the Vietnam-American War, but the monuments that remain provide a fascinating glimpse into the court life of the Nguyen Dynasty. Enter into an area of spacious courtyards and serene lotus ponds, and visit Dien Tho palace, where the Queen mother lived, as well as Thai Hoa Palace, the magnificently decorated reception hall, among other sites. Overnight in Hue.
Day 6: Hue to Hoi An
At 8am, embark on boat cruising the Perfume River. Stop at Dong Ba market where you can buy necessary foods for your cooking class with our chef. Arrive in Thuy Bieu, an authentically village representing the countryside of Hue with the clear notion "garden-home". During a cooking class you will learn about Vietnamese dishes and prepare your own lunch. Afterwards, enjoy a nice bike ride or walk around the quiet Thuy Bieu village. Visit the gardens and homes for a chat with local people and walk past many ancestral temples. Visit homemade incense production and learn about the hard life of farmers. Later return to a local house at the Perfume River border and relax your feet in medicinal herbs water - a traditional therapeutically practices. Then drive from Hue over scenic mountainous roads with spectacular views over the coastline. Continue southwards passing Lang Co, a lovely stretch of beach curving outwards between a clear blue lagoon and the East Vietnam Sea. After arriving in Danang, tour the Cham Museum, an elegant colonial building which now houses the finest collection of Cham sculpture in the world and briefly pass Non Nuoc Beach, a famous spot for American soldiers during the Vietnam-American War. Continue south to Hoi An, stopping enroute to visit the Marble Mountains, five stone hillocks, once islands, that now rise sharply from the surrounding rice fields. Riddled with caves and shrines, they are said to each represent one of the five elements of the universe. Overnight in Hoi An.
Day 7: Hoi An to Ho Chi Minh City
After breakfast, enjoy a stroll through Hoi An. It was one of South East Asia's major international ports during the 17th, 18th and 19th centuries. Now, this beautifully preserved historic city is best seen on foot. The walking tour includes the Japanese Covered Bridge Pagoda, the Sa Huyn Museum and the Tran Family Chapel. The architecture of the building reflects the influence of Chinese and Japanese styles. See the Chinese Pagoda and visit a lantern workshop. Later return to Danang Airport for your flight to Ho Chi Minh City, where you will spend the night.
Day 8: Ho Chi Minh City
Begin your tour into modern history with a tour of the Reunification Palace. Formerly the Independence Palace of the South Vietnamese president, this 60s style building was famously stormed by tanks on April 30, 1975 signifying the fall of South Vietnam. It has been preserved in its original state, and the original tanks remain on display near the entrance gates. Afterwards driving to the historic center to visit the Emperor of Jade Pagoda, proceed to pay a quick visit to the neo-Romanesque Notre Dame Cathedral and the historic Central Post Office. Pass by the classic European-style landmarks such as the ornate City Hall and the old Opera House (both may only be viewed from the outside). Finally, end up at the central Ben Than Market, where vendors display a vast array of goods and handicrafts, appealing to every taste. Spend your last night in Vietnam here in Ho Chi Minh City. Say farewell to your fellow travelers tonight.
Day 9: Ho Chi Minh City to Phnom Penh
The morning is free, and you will be transferred to the airport for your afternoon flight to Phnom Penh, arriving in the evening. After clearing customs and immigration, you will be met by our representative and transferred to your hotel. Spend two nights in Phnom Penh.
Day 10: Phnom Penh
Meet your new group members this morning, before heading out for sightseeing. Graceful tree-lined boulevards and riverfront promenades are reminders of bygone eras; today they teem with life and activity, as motorcycles weave in and out of traffic, vendor hawk their wares, and pedestrians go about their business. Start your tour with an insight into Cambodia's cultural heritage with a visit to the Royal Palace and the adjacent Silver Pagoda. Continue to the elegant National Museum, which contains a comprehensive collection of Khmer Art. Finally, explore the modern-day city, visiting one of Phnom Penh's two great markets, the Central Market, located in a distinctive domed Art Deco building), or the sprawling RUSSIAN MARKET, a labyrinth of stalls selling everything from CDs and DVDs to silks, crafts, jewelry and more. Just outside Phnom Penh, in a peaceful rural setting, the Killing Fields provide a stark reminder of the atrocities under the Pol Pot regime. Thousands of people were killed here between the years of 1975 and 1978 and buried in mass graves. Learn about a chapter from Cambodia's more recent, tragic, past at the Museum of Genocide. Formerly the Tuol Svay Prey High School, in 1975, this became the interrogation and torture facility for the Khmer Rouge regime. Kept largely unchanged, this prison now showcases photographs and exhibits about the thousands of victims that passed through these doors - only seven of whom came out alive.
Day 11: Phnom Penh to Siem Reap
Depart Phnom Penh after breakfast and travel overland by bus to Siem Reap. The journey takes approx. 5 to 6 hours. Enjoy the ride and let the Cambodian countryside pass by your window. Upon arrival in Siem Reap you have time to relax at your hotel, where you will be spending the remainder of your stay.
Day 12: Angkor Wat
The crowning jewel of Khmer architecture, Angkor Wat is the national symbol and the highlight of any visit to Cambodia. The largest, best preserved, and most religiously significant of the Angkor temples, Angkor impresses visitors both by its sheer scale and beautifully proportioned layout, as well as the delicate artistry of its carvings. You will visit this and other temple areas like Angkor Thom with a knowledgeable guide. Continue to the famous Terrace of the Elephants and the Terrace of the Leper Kings, former spaces for public ceremonies, both adorned with dramatic bas reliefs. Visit the mysterious Bayon Temple, explore the galleries of beautifully preserved bas reliefs and ascend narrow stairs to reach the central sanctuary, where you will find giant stone faces smiling enigmatically down at you from every angle. Then watch the sun set over the Cambodian countryside.
Day 13: Angkor Temples
Continue your visit to the vast temple complex today. Visit Chau Say Tevoda, built during the second quarter of the 12th century opposite of Thommanon, it was dedicated to Shiva and Vishnu, the Temple of Mirror, and Banteay Kdei Temple surrounded by four concentric walls. Later return to your hotel.
Day 14: Siem Reap to US
Enjoy a free day today for some last minute shopping, saying farewell to your travel companions over the past few days or simply relax before your transfer to the airport, boarding your overnight flight back to the US.
Day 15: Arrival in the US
After changing flights in Seoul, continue across the Pacific and arrive back in the US on the same day.