Sail through Halong Bay’s limestone karsts and island caves and spend the night checking out the stars on an overnight cruise.. Travel like a local on a motorbike tour, riding pillion and taking in the historical pagodas, bridges and villages of Hue.. Angkor Wat. Need we say more? As well as a guided tour, you’ll also have a pass to cover your whole time in Siem Reap, so you can explore this incredible temple complex at your own pace.. Discover Kampong Luong and the countryside around Battambang with a visit to a floating village and a bike ride around rural farms to meet with local producers.
Take an unforgettable adventure through two of the most colourful yet contrasting cultures in South East Asia. Starting off in Vietnam, cruise through dramatic karst scenery on a boat tour of Halong Bay, step back into the world of the country’s last emperors in Hue, soak up the old-world charm of Hoi An and be awed by the endless energy of Ho Chi Minh City. In Cambodia, discover the country’s fascinating history and culture in Phnom Penh’s heaving streets and in the awe-inspiring temples of Angkor. This is a journey that draws you away from the crowds and into heart and soul of this captivating region, and its equally enchanting people.
Breakfast Included: 14 Lunches Included: 3 Dinner Included: 2
Xin chao! Welcome to Hanoi! Your adventure begins with a welcome meeting at 6 pm and is followed by a group dinner at KOTO restaurant. This organisation is dedicated to developing the hospitality careers of disadvantaged youth.
If you arrive before your tour begins there’s plenty to see and do. Consider booking the Hanoi Morning Highlights Urban Adventure, a wide-ranging tour with a local expert guide. This optional tour visits the Temple of Literature, stops by a traditional tea house, and takes you through the Hoa Lo Prison Memorial before concluding at Hoan Kiem Lake. Or maybe take it at your own pace and wander the Old Quarter to admire the city’s French-colonial architecture.
Travel by private minibus to World Heritage-listed Halong Bay, which is dotted with sandy coves, grottoes and 1600 limestone islands formed over millennia by wind and water erosion (approximately 4 hours). Board a private boat and cruise the bay, exploring Surprise Cave and perhaps even enjoying a swim from Ti Top Island Beach during the warmer months. Access to Surprise Cave is via staircases. Once inside the cave the pathways are a little uneven and slippery. To end the day, spend an evening aboard the boat beneath the night sky. What better way to get to know your fellow travellers than an old school sleepover in an unforgettable location?
Hanoi – Overnight train
Return by boat to Halong Bay. At approximately midday, return to Hanoi by bus. Arrive late this afternoon and enjoy free time until tonight’s train voyage. Be sure to grab a bowl of pho while you’re in town and slurp down this local specialty made from broth, noodles and meat. Maybe chill by Hoan Kiem Lake until you board an overnight train to Hue this evening.
Arrive in Hue at approximately 11 am and transfer to the hotel. Once the imperial capital of Vietnam, Hue holds the treasures of the country’s royal past. Enjoy free time in the morning to rest or explore. If you choose the latter (and who can blame you) the bustling Dong Ba Market is a great place to sample some of the specialties that once graced the Nguyen emperors' tables like banh khoai (royal rice cake). Reunite with the group to visit the war-damaged ruins of the Imperial Citadel, a sprawling city-within-a-city which contains the remains of temples, state houses and the emperor’s palace.
See Hue like a local – from the back of a motorbike! Straddle the saddle and whiz around town with a local guide, taking in historic and contemporary sights along the way. Stop at Thanh Toan to see the 18th-century covered bridge and villagers shopping at their local market. Visit the 17th-century active Buddhist monastery of Thien Mu Pagoda and see the car that belonged to Thích Quang Duc, the monk who self-immolated in 1963 in protest against the treatment of Buddhists by the South Vietnamese regime. For lunch, savour a vegetarian feast in a nunnery. Finish at the lakeside royal tomb of Emperor Tu Duc before heading back to town.
This morning travel by bus through coastal rice paddies and the spectacular Hai Van Pass (approximately 3 hours). After a photo stop en route, arrive into Hoi An. Recently declared a World Heritage site, Hoi An was a major international trading port during the 17th, 18th and 19th centuries. Today, parts of the beautifully-preserved town retain the feel of centuries past. It's also a shopping mecca, famous for its plethora of tailors. On arrival your leader will take you on a sightseeing walk through the Old Town to visit a handful of the city's major attractions. You’ll also be given a sightseeing pass so you can further explore select attractions at your leisure.
Today is a free day to explore Hoi An. Maybe browse the cobbled streets and art galleries or hire a bike and cycle through rice paddies out to Cua Dai Beach. Maybe browse for paintings, ceramics and colourful cloth lanterns in the town’s markets and preserved Chinese shophouses. If you’re craving a new look, you could pay a visit to one of the hundreds of tailors and get something special made. Hoi An is also known for its delicious regional food, so be sure to enjoy a meal at a riverside restaurant or perhaps partake in a cooking class.
Ho Chi Minh City
Today take a short, early morning flight to Ho Chi Minh City (approximately 1.5 hours). Formerly known as Saigon, Ho Chi Minh City has a fascinating history and is arguably Vietnam’s capital of commerce and culture. After landing, take a sightseeing tour around the city by bus. Pass the Reunification Palace, Notre Dame Cathedral and the Opera House, then stop in at the War Remnants Museum to discover some of the sobering stories of the 20-year-long Vietnam/American War.
Mekong Delta – Ho Chi Minh City
This morning head out on a day trip to explore the Mekong Delta. Board a private boat to Ben Tre to visit the coconut gardens and stop at a local home to sample tropical fruits and coconut jams. Afterwards, paddle in sampans (small rowing boats) past coconut trees along the Mekong Delta. Take a tuk-tuk tour around the villages and learn about rural life and the industry created around coconut products like brooms and coconut fibre mats. Eat lunch at a restaurant in the heart of the Delta, sampling regional specialties such as the famous elephant ear fish. Cruise the major waterways to Ben Tre boat pier, then return by bus to Ho Chi Minh City. This evening, perhaps head out to sample some local specialties as a final farewell with your fellow travellers and leader.
Ho Chi Minh City
Enjoy a free day in Ho Chi Minh to get out and discover the city at your own pace. Alternatively, why not get an up close and personal history lesson on guerrilla warfare during an Urban Adventures tour to the Cu Chi tunnels. This underground network in the middle of the jungle was used by the Viet Cong during the war. Take the chance to climb into the tunnels and imagine what it would’ve been like to eat, sleep, work and cook – even go to school underground as conflict raged above. Return to Ho Chi Minh where there will be a meeting at 6 pm to welcome any new travellers joining you on the next stage of your adventure. Afterwards, perhaps get to know your new travel buddies over an optional group dinner.
Travel by public bus across the border, through rural Vietnam and Cambodia and onto Phnom Penh (approximately 10 hours including two border crossings and lunch). Cambodia's capital city is set on a major junction of the Mekong and Tonle Sap rivers and boasts some fine examples of French-inspired architecture. If you're looking for a tasty beverage on arrival, head to the Foreign Correspondents' Club for a mojito on the rooftop or if you're in the mood for shopping, stop in at the art-deco Psar Thmei (Central Market) or travel out to Psar Tuol Tom Pong (the Russian Market) for the best range of local souvenirs.
Today, confront Cambodia's tragic past on a guided tour of the Tuol Sleng Genocide Museum (S21), a former school which served as a Khmer Rouge torture centre. It's estimated that more than 20,000 people were held and tortured here. You’ll also head out to the Killing Fields of Choeung Ek, where a stupa made up of some 8000 human skulls marks the execution ground for the torture victims of Tuol Sleng. Afterwards, you may wish to learn about a brighter period in Cambodian history from an optional visit to the Royal Palace and Silver Pagoda. Wat Phnom, shrouded in myth, is equally worth a visit, as is the National Museum with its excellent Khmer collection. Cyclo tours around the city are a great alternative to walking and generally include the Central Market, US Embassy, Wat Phnom, Mekong riverfront, Independence Monument and Royal Palace.