Vietnam and Cambodia, both countries that have been largely affected by recent history- At the mid of the 2nd millennia, both countries were the base for some of the largest empires South East Asia have ever known. With the decline of these empires, the French have settled their colonies over here, bringing Christianity, modernization and rapid development. Both countries were then heavily affected by the US led Vietnam war, which resulted in counter-revolution, and brought to life the Khmer Rouge monster in Cambodia, and the communist regime of Vietnam. Join us on a 14 days trip to explore these ancient cultures, the impact these major events have had on the people of Vietnam and Cambodia, to learn about the current Buddhism dominated culture, and the amazing landscapes of these countries, locked between the Mekong River and the South China Sea.
Day 1. Arrival in Hanoi
We arrive in Hanoi, the national capital and the heart of Vietnam’s growing economy. At 14:00, after dealing with immigration formalities at the airport, we meet our driver and guide, and drive to the city center to check in at our hotel. If time permits, we take a first orientation tour around the city. We travel atop a traditional cyclo for a tour of the old city, then walk by the picturesque Ngoc Son Temple (the Temple of the Blue Mountain) built over a small islet at the heart of the Hoan Kiem Lake (Lake of the Returned Sword). We then enjoy a welcome dinner before transferring to our hotel for the night. Overnight in Hanoi.
Day 2. Hanoi – Tam Coc – Ninh Binh
Leaving Hanoi by road, we take the two-hour ride to Hoa Lu, the 10th-century capital of the former kingdom of Dai Co Viet. We visit the temples dedicated to the two most prominent kings of this small kingdom and continue to Tam Coc, also known as the ‘Ha Long on land’ because its limestone formations resemble those at Ha Long. We take a small boat and cruise among the caves and stunning formations. In the evening we drive back to Ninh Binh, the provincial capital, where we stay for the night.
Day 3. Ninh Binh – Ha Long
Leaving Ninh Binh in the morning, we drive towards the Gulf of Tonkin. On arriving, we board our boat for a relaxing 24-hour cruise and exploration of the magical Ha Long Bay, which has been recognized by UNESCO as a World Heritage Site for its landscape, geology, and geomorphology. During the cruise, we shall be served with mouth-watering fresh seafood. We visit famous sites such as Dinh Huong Island, Ga Choi Island, Dog Island, and others. Overnight in a private cabin aboard the ship.
Note: Visits and activities of the cruise might slightly differ depending on each ship’s itinerary. Our tour guide will be replaced by a local guide on board during the cruise.
Day 4. Ha Long Bay - Hanoi
After breakfast out at sea, we continue to explore the bay and its unique natural treasures. We visit Man’s Head Island and Tortoise Island, take a bamboo boat to explore Luon Cave, and visit Bai Tu Long Bay. Around eleven o’clock we leave our ship, and drive back to Hanoi. On arriving, we go on an afternoon tour round the city. We visit the Mausoleum of Ho Chi Minh—better known to the Vietnamese as ‘Uncle Ho’, the leader of the counter-revolution against the French and widely accepted as the Father of the Nation (closed on Mondays). We continue to Uncle Ho’s residence and the One Pillar Pagoda. In the afternoon, we pay a visit to the Temple of Literature, Vietnam’s first university, with a history dating back to 1070, which has an interesting display of traditional gardens and architecture that has inspired generations of Vietnamese scholars. In the evening we attend a traditional water puppet show, an art form unique to Vietnam. Overnight in Hanoi.
Day 5. Hanoi – Lao Cai - Sapa
We begin the day with a short visit to the Museum of Ethnology with its striking exhibition on the diverse ethnic groups inhabiting the country, their rich cultures, traditions and unique customs. We then leave Hanoi as we take the 5-hours’ ride over the new highway connecting the Vietnamese capital to the northern region of Lao Cai. Prior to 1912, when the French built a sanatorium for sick officers, this area was solely inhabited by hill tribes, mainly the H’mong, the Yao, the Tay, and the Giay. Nestling at the foot of Fansipan, Vietnam’s highest peak, the Sapa region enjoys a very agreeable climate unlike that in the Vietnamese lowlands, which are hot and humid. This northern area attracted French people of all walks of life, among them missionaries and biologists. Over time, the growing presence of the French army stabilized the political borders with neighboring China, which made Sapa into a major trading city. We arrive in Sapa in the early afternoon, and after checking into the hotel, we take an afternoon hike to some nearby villages, where we get to visit the locals in their homes, and enjoy a marvelous vista over the splendid rice terraces so typical to this region. In the evening we return to Sapa, where we spend the night.
Day 6. Sapa - hiking excursion to hill tribes villages
After breakfast, we leave Sapa for Ban Khoang commune, home to the Black Hmong & Red Zao tribes, who continue to preserve their unique way of life and traditions. We then proceed along the road for about 10 km to Ta Giang Phin valley. The valley is inhabited by the Black Hmong, who live in several hamlets scattered along a peaceful stream. We enjoy a roughly 2 hours stroll along the village path, which stretches between one hamlet to the other, as we witness the daily chores of the locals, such as ploughing and harrowing the fields, or maintaining their dwelling. Late in the afternoon we ride back to Sapa. Overnight in Sapa.
Day 7. Sapa – Minorities Market – Hanoi
After breakfast at the hotel, we drive to one of the villages surrounding Sapa, where a weekly tribal market takes place. The locals, from different ethnic groups, gather to trade mostly agricultural produce but also a variety of handicrafts, and to purchase their own supplies. This is a unique opportunity to see in one place a great variety of ethnic groups, some of whom live up in the mountains, where it is nearly impossible to visit them. We walk through the bustling market amid the colorful booths, and see the locals as they sit for a cup of tea and exchange information on who has married whom, whose child has left for the city, and other important items of news. In the afternoon, we leave the area of Sapa and take a 5-hour drive back to Hanoi, arriving in the capital city rather late in the evening. Overnight in Hanoi.
Day 8. Hanoi ✈ Danang – Hoi An
We drive again to Hanoi’s airport as we take a flight to Danang, the ancient capital of the former Champa kingdom of the 7th century AD. From the airport we drive to the local Cham Museum, featuring a permanent display of Cham sculptures. It is assumed that the Cham people originated from the Indonesian Islands, from where they brought over their Indic native culture. And thus, the sculptures tells the story of how the early Indic culture has slowly assimilated into the local culture, with the theme of the sculptures gradually adopting local themes and religious iconography. We then go for a short and easy hike to the Marble Mountains, passing by several Hindu and Buddhist grottoes. Late in the afternoon we take off to Hoi An. Overnight in Hoi An.
Day 9. Hoi An- excursion to My Son
From Hoi An, we have an approximately 2-hour drive to My Son, where we explore the ruins of an ancient Champa city. In a lush green valley stands dozens of red brick towers and sanctuaries, dating from between the 7th and 13th centuries. We then drive to the city of Hoi An. En route we stop by Tra Kieu, formerly known as Simhapura or the Lion Citadel, the capital of Champa between the 4th and 8th centuries. From the 1st century AD, Hoi An played a major role as a trade center as boats had easy access to its port, which was then the largest in South-East Asia. From the 7th to the 10th century, the city became a strategic point on the Spice Trade Route. With such a significant role in the ancient trade routes, the city attracted traders from the all over the world, among them Japanese, Chinese, Indians, and even Europeans from Holland, France, and Spain, who settled there and brought their cultural and architectural influences with them. In 1999 the old city of Hoi An was declared a World Heritage Site by UNESCO. In the afternoon we embark on a walking excursion through Hoi An’s old town. We visit sites such as the Japanese Bridge, built by the Japanese community of tradesmen in the 16th century, the Fujian Congregation Hall built as a community center by the Chinese community, also in the 16th century, the Hoi An Museum, with its detailed display on the rich history of the city and its international inhabitants, as well as visits to various typical buildings throughout the old town. Overnight in Hoi An.
Day 10. Hoi An – Danang ✈ Ho Chi Minh City
We leave Hoi An and drive back to Danang, from there we take a flight to Ho Chi Minh City, sometimes better known as Saigon. After meeting our guide and driver, we embark on a day of exploring the city that once served as the capital of South Vietnam, the American allied, anti-communist state. We quickly check into our hotel, and go on to visit the former Presidential Palace, or as it is known today, the Reunification Palace. Its current name hints on the historical event when a North-Vietnamese tank broke through the palace's barricades, signifying the end of the US led war, and the victory of the communist North Vietnamese. We then head to the beating heart of the city, where we visit the Notre Dame Cathedral. The bright red color of the cathedral walls comes from the bricks, which were brought from France after being taken from the Marseilles palace in Paris. From there, we take a short walk to the old Central Post Office, and then off to the central quarter, which preserves the colonial ambience of the city, with the Opera House and Hotel de Ville serving as living evidence to this vivid period in the city's history. In the afternoon we visit the War Remnants Museum, which tells the story of the U.S. led war from a different angle than the the people of the West know. Overnight in Ho Chi Minh City.
Day 11. Excursion to the Mekong Delta
After breakfast we drive to Cai Be, the heart of Mekong Delta. Boarding a small boat, we head to the Cai Be colorful floating market, cruising amongst local barges full of fruits and vegetables. We stop at local home workshops to observe the traditional procedure of making rice paste, coconut candies and other specialties. We have lunch at "Le Longanier", an Indochinese villa located by the river, in a lush tropical garden surrounded with fruit plantations. After lunch we travel to Dong Hoa Hiep Island, located between Vinh Long and Cai Be, on to an ancient Mandarin House before proceeding to Vinh Long. We then cruise past Dong Phu canal, Binh Hoa Phuoc and An Binh, all islands famous for their prosperous fruit orchards. We will stop at An Binh ancient church or Tam Ho’s nursery garden on our way back to the dock. Late in the afternoon we disembark from our boat, and drive back to Ho Chi Minh City. Overnight in Ho Chi Minh City.
Day 12. Ho Chi Minh City ✈ Siem Reap
We drive to the airport, leaving Ho Chi Minh behind as we fly to Siem Reap, Cambodia. Siem Reap, once the center of the vast Khmer Empire that ruled the majority of the southern part of South-East Asia, is home to countless temples and palace complexes. From the airport we leave for the fishing village of Chong Kneas. On our arrival, we board a boat for a trip on Tonle Lake, to see the floating villages and the traditional fishing techniques. The boat trip amongst these basic dwellings is a strong reminder of the major transition the country is going through. We then drive to the major temple complex, heading to its undisputed jewel in the crown, Angkor Wat itself, the largest and for most people, the most impressive temple in the complex. As dusk nears, a walk to the summit of Phnom Bakheng Hill will afford a panorama view of the whole complex, lit by the rays of the setting sun (weather permitting, of course). We then drive to our hotel in Siem Reap, where we spend the night.
Day 13. Siem Reap
We begin our day touring with Angkor Thom, better known as the ‘Temple of Faces’. We then proceed to the Bayon, a bizarre structure with several architectural styles, reflecting a switch from Hinduism (the foundations) to Buddhism (the superstructure). We next visit the Elephant and Leper Emperor Terraces, followed by the Baphoun Temple, which is now nearing the end of an eight-year multi-million-dollar restoration program. After lunch, we visit Ta Prohm, strangled by massive tree roots and typical of the condition of the whole complex, when it was discovered in 1860 by French naturalist Henri Mouhot. Our guide will then show us the Prasat Kravan (also known as the Cardamom Sanctuary) and Srah Srang Lake, from where there is a wonderful view of the Angkor complex at sunset (again, given the weather permits it). In the evening we enjoy a farewell dinner in a traditional Khmer restaurant. Overnight in Siem Reap.
Day 14. Departure from Siem Reap
On our last day of the trip, we drive out of the main temple complex for a visit to Banteay Srei, “The Citadel of Women”. This temple, made of red stone, has the deepest and clearest carvings, and is considered to be the most decorated temple of all the Angkorian temples. After this visit we take a walk at Kbal Spean. Located 25 kilometers away from Angkor Wat complex, this is a site of manmade and natural wonders. Along the banks of the Stung Kbal Spean River, the Khmer emperors have carved stunning figures into the surrounding sandstone. After our short hike along the river bed we head back to Siem Reap airport for our international departure flight.
Dates & Pricing
Trip rates valid for two confirmed travelers and above. If you are booking this trip for a party of four travelers or more, please contact us for our special rates.
Note: Trip rates are valid all year round, but are not valid for trips that occur (in whole, or in part) during Chinese national holidays: May 1st to 3rd, September 15th to 17th, or October 1st to 7th, and Vietnamese Tet Holiday: February 7th to 13th. Some surcharges might apply on December 24th to January 1st due to high demand, or compulsory dinners in the hotels.
[email protected] reserves the right to change tour prices and programs due to changes in flight schedule, changes in airfares, and other local circumstances.
Prices are based on twin share occupancy.
Discounted rates for groups of 4 travelers and above:
4 travelers- US$2101/ person
6 travelers- US$2006/ person
8 travelers- US$1972/ person
- Applicable only for travel groups of 4 people or more booking their trip together.
- $2,510 Per Person (From 2 people)
- $704 Single Room Supplement
- 3 Domestic and regional flight: Hanoi/Danag/Ho Chi Minh City/Siem Reap
- Accommodation at selected hotels
- Transfer by private A/C vehicle
- Bottled drinking water
- Meals as indicated in the program
- Overnight cruise in a private cabin aboard a junk in Ha Long
- Boat for cruises in Mekong Delta and Tonle Sap
- English speaking guide for each area as per program
- Entry fees for all sightseeing as mentioned on the program
- All shows as per program
- International travel to Hanoi, and travel from Siem Reap
- Travel insurance
- Vietnamese Visa
- Cambodia visa
- Excess luggage
- Expenses of personal nature (food and drinks beyond those provided, laundry, etc.)
- Anything not clearly mentioned in the program
- Hanoi- Boss Legend 4-star
- Sapa- U Sapa 4-star
- Ninh Binh- Emeralda Resort 4-star
- Ha Long- Pelican Cruise 4-star
- Hoi An- La Residencia 4-star
- Ho Chi Minh City - Paragon Saigon 4-star
- Siem Reap- Viroth Hotel 4-star
Note: the listed hotels are tentative. Final hotel list shall be confirmed upon placing a booking and paying a deposit.
This is just to let you know that we arrived safely home yesterday night after a riveting trip that was organized with the precision of a Swiss watch. In a hurry, thanks very much again for your efforts, one huge problem that remains is how we will ever be able to lower our standards again after this most pampering experience.Dr. David Hamburger, Holland
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