Cruise the sea of the limestone karst studded Halong Bay. Spend a day in Hue, touring the city’s sights on a motorbike, cruising down Perfume River and eating lunch at a serene nunnery. Confront the sobering but important Khmer history in Phnom Penh, with included visits to the Tuol Sleng Genocide Museum and Choeung Ek Memorial. Enjoy the guidance of a local expert as you temple-hop at the dazzling Angkor complex, one of Southeast Asia’s premier sights
Vibrant Vietnam, charismatic Cambodia, beguiling Bangkok; this journey covers the very best of Indochina. From the graceful elegance of Hanoi, across the serene beauty of Halong Bay, to the quaint charms of Hoi An and the frenetic energy of Ho Chi Minh City, experience ancient customs and delicious cuisine while travelling through the heart of Vietnam. Embark on an exciting tour down the Mekong river to Phnom Penh, and spend several days exploring the enigmatic temples of Angkor Wat. The bright lights of Bangkok are the ideal way to cap off this Indochina Discovery adventure.
TRIP CHANGES FOR 2018:
This trip has had a name change for 2018 and was previously published as “Indochina Discovery”
Breakfast Included: 19 Lunches Included: 5 Lunches Included: 1
Xin chao! Welcome to Vietnam. Your adventure begins with a welcome meeting at 6pm tonight. Please look for a note in the hotel lobby or ask the hotel reception where it will take place. We'll be collecting your insurance details and next of kin information at this meeting, so please ensure you have all these details to provide to your leader. In free time, step out onto the streets to explore the chaotic capital of Vietnam. Hanoi is an alluring city of contrasts, best discovered on foot. Tonight perhaps get to know your new travel buddies over a glass of fresh bia hoi. This is a foamy, light beer made fresh each day and served in basic, open-walled ‘brew halls’. Take up a brightly coloured plastic chair and sip your tasty brew.
Notes:You may wish to arrive a day early so you're able to attend the group meeting and have time to explore Hanoi. We'll be happy to book additional accommodation for you (subject to availability). If you're expecting to be late, please inform the hotel reception or your booking agent in advance.
This morning we visit the Ho Chi Minh Mausoleum complex the resting place of Vietnam’s most famous revolutionary. The Complex also includes the One Pillar Pagoda and the Ho Chi Minh Museum.
The afternoon will be free for you to maybe explore the ancient ‘36 streets’ and discover an amazing selection of shops that sell everything from souvenirs to exquisite silk clothing, jewellery and beautifully embroidered tablecloths. Otherwise the Vietnam Fine Arts museum is also well worth a visit. Walking or riding a bike is the best way to explore this town. The shopping is fun and the many lakes and parks provide enjoyable escapes from the city.
In the evening, you'll sit down to a unique water-puppet performance.
Notes: If your trip starts on a Wednesday, your included breakfast hosted by the Blue Dragon Children's Foundation will be this morning, before commencing the day's activities.
Enjoy breakfast hosted by the Blue Dragon Children's Foundation, and learn about the work of this organisation, which supports over 1,500 of the most vulnerable children throughout Vietnam every year. You will then leave Hanoi and drive north (approximately 4 hours) to the famous Halong Bay. You can leave your luggage behind at the Hanoi hotel and pack an overnight bag for staying on the boat.
Halong Bay is listed as a World Heritage site and is one of Vietnam’s most spectacular natural wonders. The views of sailing junks navigating past thousands of limestone islands with rocky outcrops in Bac Bo Gulf are nothing short of spectacular. You’ll visit a cave in the area and, in the warmer months, you can enjoy a swim from Ti Top Island Beach. Spend a peaceful night on board, beneath a night sky alive with stars. There's also a dining room and bar where you’ll enjoy a sumptuous lunch, dinner & breakfast. The boat has twin-share cabins with air-conditioning and private facilities.
Hanoi / Overnight Train
In the morning you will sail back to the port, disembark and drive back to Hanoi (approximately 3.5 hours). Stop on the way back at the Dong Trieu Factory to watch locals working on the traditional art of ceramics. There will be free time to explore the city when you arrive back in Hanoi. There will be shared hotel rooms available this afternoon if you would like to freshen up or organise your luggage. In some free time perhaps do some shopping on Hang Gai Street or seek out some delicious Hanoi street food.
Tonight you’ll board an overnight train bound for Hue (approximately 12 hours). Although conditions are basic, overnight trains are a rewarding experience. It's an efficient way to travel long distances and a great way to get a sense of the country.
Arrive in Hue just after sunrise and proceed to the hotel to refresh. Hue is the hub of Vietnam’s historic past. This former imperial capital is an eclectic mix of busy streets and peaceful beauty. The rest of the morning is free for you to relax; perhaps pick up a classic Hue breakfast of bun bo Hue, a popular Vietnamese soup containing rice vermicelli (bun) and beef (bo). After lunch you will visit the Imperial Citadel, a sprawling complex of temples, pavilions, moats, gates, and walls. The Ngo Mon Gate, Thai Hoa Palace and the Ancestral Altars are still impressive, and the complex must have been awe-inspiring during its heyday in the 19th century. In your free time you might like to visit to Dong Ba Market, which offers locally made goods, fresh produce and tantalising street food. This is a good place to try the specialties enjoyed by Emperor Nguyen such as the banh khoai royal rice cake.
Today’s adventure will be taken on the back of a motorbike. You’ll have your own driver who will take you first on a drive around the Imperial Citadel, including the Forbidden Purple City. The latter was almost completely destroyed during the Tet Offensive in the Vietnam War, but its humble, foliage-covered ruins remain a testament to its proud history. Here you'll gain some insight into the horrific damage endured during the war. Then it's on to the Thien My Pagoda, the unofficial symbol of Hue. This site dates back to 1601 and is still an active Buddhist monastery. Here you’ll also see the car left by a monk who set himself alight to protest the treatment of Buddhists by the South Vietnamese regime. Hop off the motorbike for a bit and go on a dragon boat cruise along the Perfume River. After the 40-minute cruise get back on your motorbike and ride to a special lunch spot at a convent or Buddhist monastery. After lunch, drive to the royal tomb of Emperor Tu Duc, set amid a lake, frangipani bushes and pine trees. This evening, perhaps ask your leader for the best place to try imperial street specialties.
Travelling by bus, head south through coastal rice paddies before stopping in at Lang Co Beach. Then traverse the dramatic Hai Van Pass, a sometimes bumpy but incredibly scenic stretch of highway with views back to Lang Co Beach and beyond. The spectacular Marble Mountains will be your backdrop as you arrive at Hoi An (approximately 4 hours).
Declared a World Heritage site, Hoi An is being beautifully restored and preserved. Known as Faifo to early western traders, it was one of South-East Asia's major international ports from the 17th to the 19th centuries. Today, parts of Hoi An look exactly as they did more than a century ago and it retains the feel of times past, making it the sort of place that grows on you the more you explore it. On arrival, a walking tour will take you around the major sites of Hoi An’s charming Old Town, including an historic house (formerly home to a prominent trader), the Japanese Covered Bridge, a Chinese assembly hall and a museum. You will notice a distinctly Chinese appearance to the pagodas and assembly halls scattered along the small streets. A sightseeing pass is included in your tour for you to visit a selection of the major sights as you wish.
If you feel like getting active on your free day today, why not hire a bicycle and tour the surrounding countryside. This is one of the best ways to get an insight into rural Vietnam. Other optional activities include a day trip to My Son Cham (elaborate World Heritage-listed temples that reflect the rich cultural traditions of the Cham civilisation), a cruise along the Thu Bon River, and a trip to the nearby Cua Dai Beach. Your leader will be able to help with suggestions on activities in Hoi An.
Enjoy another free day in the world heritage listed Hoi An. You may like to wander the Central Market and the street stalls selling paintings, woodwork, ceramics, lanterns and much more. Hoi An is also famous for its talented tailors who can make beautiful items to order within a few hours. Bring your favourite piece of clothing, or even just a picture, and you'll be able to have it copied. You might like to visit a local workshop to learn how to make your own rice paper, while a Vietnamese cooking class too is a great way to familiarise yourself with some age-old culinary techniques, not to mention being able to feast on the fruits of your own labour.
Transfer to Danang (approximately 30 minutes) and board the SE1 day train to Nha Trang (approximately 10 hours). Although long, it's an interesting journey, as well as a chance to check out the stunning countryside and befriend local travellers. Arrive in the idyllic coastal town of Nha Trang this evening and check into your hotel for the night. If you have the energy, after the sun sets experience Nha Trang’s vibrant restaurant and bar culture - home to all manner of weird and wonderful cuisine options and an extremely high standard of food.
Once referred to as the 'Cannes of the Orient', Nha Trang’s sandy palm-lined beach and island-dotted bay still make a pretty idyllic picture. This morning you’ll hop on a boat as you head out to explore the nearby islands. This excursion is often the highlight of the trip for many travellers, as you’ll get to know some of the locals and indulge in the beauty of the place. Starting on the main boat, you’ll then take a small basket boat to shore and visit a fishing village, snorkel in the turquoise waters and feast on a fresh seafood lunch. You can then enjoy this rest day by lazing in a deck chair or going for another swim.
You have a full free day to spend on the sweeping beaches of this tropical bayside playground. Perhaps treat yourself and soak in a natural mud bath at one of the nearby spas or, for a dose of culture, climb the steps up to the temples of Po Nagar or Long Song and appreciate views of the coastline from above. Po Nagar Cham Tower dates from AD 817 and is still an active place of worship. Tonight you’ll depart by the overnight train to Ho Chi Minh City, which leaves late in the evening (approximately 9 hours).