Explore the cities of Hanoi and Ho Chi Minh City with your local leader who will help to uncover the vibrant mix of influences, from the French to Asian traders, settlers and indigenous peoples.. Experience the best of Vietnamese and Cambodian cuisine during meals at social enterprises in Hanoi and Phnom Penh, eat at Cambodia’s first farm-to-table restaurant and enjoy a privately catered breakfast on the shores of the Srah Srang Lake in the temple district.. Soak up your surroundings during two feature stays – an overnight cruise in Halong Bay on a traditional junk-style boat and a 3-night stay at a resort in Siem Reap, offering a tropical oasis escape.. Enjoy two days of fully guided temple tours in Siem Reap, with in-depth insights into the history of these extraordinary structures and plenty of time at Angkor Wat, plus a morning accompanied by a private photography coach to help you capture lasting memories.
Immerse yourself in the rich historic and cultural heritage of Vietnam and Cambodia on a 13-day Premium adventure. Uncover the oriental influences of the historic Asian traders, settlers and indigenous people that have made this part of the world a cornerstone for empires and colonies. From navigating the various fusions of east and west in Hoi An, Hanoi and Ho Chi Minh City, to cruising the natural UNESCO World Heritage listed wonderland of Halong Bay and exploring war time monuments, and experiencing one of the world’s great archaeological treasures at Angkor, this journey will share the best of these countries’ history, nature and tradition.
Breakfast Included: 12 Lunches Included: 3 Dinner Included: 4
Xin chao! Welcome to Hanoi, Vietnam’s vibrant capital city. You’ll be met on arrival at the airport and transferred to your hotel. Your adventure begins with a welcome meeting at 6pm where you’ll meet your tour leader and fellow travellers. If you arrive early, Hanoi offers plenty of enticing experiences. Perhaps head to the city’s colourful old quarter and explore the charming jumble of shops and cafés, or check out the Vietnam National Fine Arts Museum, showcasing ancient through to contemporary Vietnamese art. This evening, join your leader and small group for a welcome dinner at a beautifully decorated restaurant resembling an old-fashioned Vietnamese house. Dive into the exciting world of Vietnamese cuisine as your leader introduces you to a range of classic dishes made with the freshest local ingredients.
Depart Hanoi and travel to Halong Bay, one of the great natural treasures of Vietnam. Board your feature stay accommodation for the evening, a gloriously beautiful and traditionally decorated junk-style boat featuring modern conveniences. Set sail in total comfort as unforgettable views of scattered islands and towering limestone outcrops slowly unfold in front of you. Explore the bay while enjoying a pleasant seafood lunch onboard. Learn about the fascinating geography of the region and its importance to the Vietnamese people, visit Surprise Cave where your leader will point out interesting rock formations, and in the warmer months you can choose a swim from Ti Top Island Beach or take an optional kayaking tour. Sit back with a drink on the upper deck and face out to the spirit-lifting view that will be stamped on your memory of Vietnam. Soak in the stunning surroundings with a candlelit seafood dinner on deck before settling in for a night of stargazing and swapping stories.
Start your day with a peaceful breakfast and perhaps take part in some Tai Chi on board the boat before returning to Hanoi. This afternoon you’ll take part in a once-in-a-lifetime experience and sit down to a soul-stirring traditional Hat Xam performance. Hat Xam is an art form of Northern Vietnam dating back to the Tran Dynasty. Originally, this was performed by blind performers, and was enjoyed by local working-class audiences, right up until the late 1950s, when a wave of communism deemed all art forms to be corrupting influences. Today these performances are rare, but you and your group will be taken to a private club house and treated to an exclusive performance in one of the few places where artists still sing acoustically. The performance takes around 90 minutes, and includes possible interaction with guests, so be ready to get involved!
This morning you’ll get to know Hanoi’s charms on a half-day tour with your leader. Discover a captivating city where traditional and modern sit side by side as your leader shares knowledge on the Temple of Literature, One Pillar Pagoda, and the former residence of Vietnam’s most famous revolutionary, Ho Chi Minh. Today’s lunch is extra special as you will visit the fantastic KOTO café, a social enterprise that provides hospitality training and experience while empowering at-risk and disadvantaged youth in Vietnam – not to mention a creative menu of food made with local ingredients. This afternoon you’ll say goodbye to Hanoi and fly south to Danang. Drive on to Hoi An and take in views of lush scenery along the way. Arrive in Hoi An in the late afternoon and check into your boutique accommodation. The rest of the day is yours – maybe make the most of your hotel’s fabulous pool.
Set off on a tour of Hoi An’s Old Town and discover a blend of traditional treasures and cultural influences from historical traders. Your leader will discuss the city’s history as you wander the pagoda lined streets, visit a Chinese assembly hall, cross the Japanese Covered Bridge, enter the ornately decorated historic house of a former trader and check out a local museum. A significant port of the Champa Kingdom for centuries, many Cham descendants are still living in Hoi An today. This afternoon you will have the unique opportunity to visit the home of a Cham local for a special insight into their origins and way of life. Be welcomed with a warming cup of Cham tea, try some traditional sweets and desserts, enjoy some folk singing and chat to your host about the history of the Cham people and how the culture lives on today.
Ho Chi Minh City
The morning is free for you to enjoy more of delightful Hoi An and the surrounding area. Perhaps browse the market for silk and other materials or collect any garments that you might have had crafted by the efficient tailors, or hire a bicycle and ride along the lanes and out to a nice nearby beach. Your leader will have great recommendations for places to eat and drink. In the afternoon, transfer back to Danang and fly to Ho Chi Minh City. Check into your hotel and enjoy a free evening – the bustling food stalls at Cho Ben Thanh market might beckon you over with the sweet and savoury aromas of pho and bun mam. Delicious!
Ho Chi Minh City
Head out of the city to the nearby Cu Chi Tunnels, an extensive underground network dug by the Viet Minh and later expanded by the Viet Cong. Enter a widened section of the tunnels with your leader who will help you imagine what life underground must have been like and explain how the tunnels contained hospitals, accommodation and schools, and were used for refuge, storage and as a military base for the Viet Cong. Return to Ho Chi Minh City for a tour of the dynamic city where daily life plays out on the streets. Your leader will take you to the Reunification Palace, formally the Presidential Palace and the site of South Vietnam’s surrender in 1975, before visiting the War Remnants Museum. In the evening, perhaps spend some time with your fellow travellers and enjoy a final dinner at a local restaurant. Your leader will know of some wonderful options.
Today you will depart Ho Chi Minh City and catch a flight to Phnom Penh, Cambodia’s lively capital city. On arrival, you will be transferred to your hotel where a meeting will take place at 6pm to welcome any new travellers joining you on the next part of your journey. After your meeting, join your leader and small group for dinner at the wonderful restaurant run by Friends International, which provides training and sustainable employment skills to at risk youth. Enjoy a creative range of Cambodian inspired tapas, then perhaps cap off the night with a cocktail at the Foreign Correspondents' Club.
Today your leader will introduce you to the sights of Phnom Penh during a full day city tour. The private quarters of the Royal Palace are home to King Sihamoni and closed off to the public, but you will be able to visit the sacred Silver Pagoda that lies in the palace complex. Your included visits to the Tuol Sleng Genocide Museum and the Killing Fields of Choeung Ek will tell the story of the tragic legacy of the Khmer Rouge. There is an optional visit to Wat Phnom, the temple that gave rise to the foundation of the city in the 15th century. Later you will head out of town to a working monastery to gain a special insight into the life of a monk and Theravada Buddhism. You will get to meet the monks, enjoy a sacred water blessing for good luck and prosperity and have a red band tied around your wrist to keep you safe in your travels.
After breakfast this morning, set sail in style and begin the journey to Siem Reap on a comfortable riverboat. A world away from the hustle and bustle of Phnom Penh, sit back and relax as you float peacefully down the Tonle Sap river. This unique form of transport exposes you to a side of Cambodian life most tourists don’t get to see. Pass by rural villages and watch quiet moments of daily life play out in front of you on the water. After disembarking, you will continue the journey to Siem Reap by road, with plenty of interesting stops along the way. Arrive in the late afternoon and check in to the Navutu Dreams Resort & Wellness Retreat, your feature stay accommodation in Siem Reap. Hidden away on the quiet fringe of the city, this tropical oasis boasts three pools and an excellent restaurant with a focus on wellness. Bright and spacious rooms are in harmony with the lush grounds, and feature a veranda, private garden and rain showers. After settling in, visit Cambodia’s first farm-to-table restaurant for dinner and enjoy a wonderful menu of new Mekong cuisine. The restaurant is run by a talented local chef with a passion for sharing sustainable and seasonal food using organic ingredients grown on site. The rest of the evening can be spent exploring the bars of Siem Reap, or relaxing in laidback luxury at your resort.
Siem Reap – Angkor Wat
Spend a full day visiting the amazing temples of Angkor on a guided exploration with your leader. The memories of seeing some of the world’s most important ancient sites are ones you’re going to want to preserve forever, so for the first half of the day you will also be accompanied by a private photography coach who will teach you how to take that one-in-a-million shot. Begin at Angkor Wat, the largest and most complete structure, and the only one of Angkor's temples that has its entrance facing west – the others face east. Then there is Angkor Thom, the 'Great Royal City', a temple famous for its series of colossal human faces carved in stone. Of all the temples visited today, Bayon temple is the centrepiece, with over 200 smiling carved faces and more than 50 gothic towers. Your leader will let you in on the secrets of the temples and share their remarkable stories. For lunch you'll visit the Sala Bai Hotel School where underprivileged local youths learn skills that enable them to find gainful employment in the hospitality industry. Here you can enjoy a meal prepared by students at the school. After lunch it’s off to the Ta Prohm temple, which has large trees embedded in the stone foundations of the structure – powerful symbols of nature.
Siem Reap – Angkor Wat
Embrace a very early start today if you wish to experience a sunrise visit to the Angkor complex (this is optional). After sunrise this morning, head to the shores of the Srah Srang Lake. Here you will be treated to an incredible private catered breakfast – take a moment to soak in your stunning surroundings and enjoy a meal as wonderful as the landscape itself. After breakfast, you’ll continue your explorations of the temples of Angkor. Visit Banteay Srei to snap some enviable pictures of the temple’s intricate stone carvings. You can head back to the resort or use your ticket for the Angkor ruins to continue exploring the site and try out your new photography skills. The vaulted corridors of Preah Khan are well worth a visit, or you may prefer to spend the afternoon getting to know the town. Tonight you will enjoy a final dinner at a great restaurant in town serving local cuisine.