Day 1 En route to Vietnam
Fly Cathay Pacific from London, Vancouver, New York, Los Angeles, or San Francisco to Hanoi, Vietnam (add-on segments can be arranged). Optional pre-tour stopover in Hong Kong en route to Vietnam (or following trip). Explore this vibrant metropolitan port city that grew from a small British colony to a thriving city-state that served as the crossroads of Asia’s trade for decades. Bustling markets, busy boulevards, and tall buildings and mountains afford sweeping views of all Hong Kong. The perfect place for a short stopover of one to two days.
Contemporary gallery options in the Central include Hanart Tz, Grotto (featuring Hong Kong-based artists), Plum Blossoms (also carrying early Chinese textiles), and Shoeni, which is currently exhibiting “Destiny,” a solo exhibition by Zhou Jin Hua. Further afield, in Mid-Levels on the quiet Prince’s Terrace, are three up and coming galleries, including Korkos, 5 O.P.T Studio, and Chouinard. Antique textiles, including Tibetan, are featured at the Teresa Coleman Gallery (and subsidiary The Tibetan Gallery), and the Hanlin Gallery has a collection of antique Chinese and Japanese textiles.
Day 2 Arrive Hanoi
Hoan Kiem Lake Tour, HanoiArrive at the rustic, war-era Noi Bai Airport outside of Hanoi where you will be met by our local representative who will take you to the historic Metropole, our hotel on Hoan Kiem Lake, featured in Graham Greene’s The Quiet American.
After check-in in, introductions over refreshments and lunch orientation, followed by a cruise around the lake area by pedal-powered cyclo (pedicab), soaking up Hanoi’s stoic atmosphere along busy streets and lively Old Quarter. In the evening, delightful water puppets theater, a magical puppet show where the puppets emerge from the surface of a small watery stage telling tales of old Vietnam, a performance art unique to Vietnam.
Dinner at Green Tangerine, a lovingly restored 1928 colonial in the center of the Old Quarter featuring French-Vietnamese cuisine.
Hanoi Guide Escort: Mr. Lam Nguyen, Mobile: 0913 222 158.
Hanoi Guide Tour Manager: Hien Truong, (84-91) 324-8542 (mobile, 24 hours)
Hanoi Dining Green Tangerine
Hanoi Hotel Metropole, 15 Ngo Quyen Street (84-4) 3826-6919 (Classic Wing Deluxe)
Hanoi Hospital International SOS, 1 Dang Thai Mai, Tel: (84-4) 3934 0666 (Medical evacuation coverage included)
Day 3 Hanoi to Halong Bay
Transfer by private van. On the way, we will stop at Noodle Village, the childhood home of our culinary escort, Diep Leto, where we will meet the residents and see the delicious noodles being made for the famous traditional soup, Pho.
The Gulf of Tonkin was once the haunt of Vietnamese and Chinese pirates, and in Halong Bay the romance of old Vietnam still lingers, with scenic karst islets randomly scattered and the odd red-sailed junks lazing across the languid waters. With 3,000 limestone and dolomite islets sprinkled over an area of 1,500 square kilometers, this UNESCO World Heritage Site is a geographic wonderland.
Arrive Halong port and board private traditional wooden cruiser (replica junk) for a private tour of Halong Bay with a seafood lunch banquet prepared on board. Exploration of Sung Sot Cave, the largest grotto in Halong. Afterwards, optional assisted kayaking — paddling Halong Bay and exploration of the bay by kayak, including floating villages, hidden beach coves, caves and lakes. Dinner banquet prepared on board. Overnight in private cabin.
Day 4 Halong Bay to Hanoi
Savor the opaque sunrise on misty Halong Bay and be warmed by Vietnamese coffee, noodle soup, and omelettes. You can leisurely explore grottoes, cragged coves, inland lagoons, and white-sand beaches before returning to Halong City port. After farewell lunch with crew, return to Hanoi, stopping at an interesting crafts center en route.
After arrival back in Hanoi, late afternoon and dinner will be on your own. We will provide a list of wonderful choices, such as Wild Lotus, a popular restaurant with pleasant decor offering delicious Vietnamese fusion.
Day 5 Hanoi
My Feelings Detail II, Nguyen Thi Chau Giang Morning tour of this charming capital city, visiting the tranquil stilt house residence of Ho Chi Minh and his Mausoleum, Quan Thanh temple, Hanoi Hilton Prison site (Hoa Lo), and the Temple of Literature.
Luncheon with special guest Ms. Suzanne Lecht, art consultant who has lived in Hanoi since 1992 and manages the Vietnam Art Gallery in Hanoi featuring the most comprehensive collection of works from artists throughout Vietnam.
Evening cocktail party at the home of internationally-renowned artists Mai Hien and Anh Khanh and hosted by artist and PBS journalist Nguyen Qui Duc, who has retired to Hanoi after 20 years in San Francisco. Duc has intimate knowledge of the arts community in his native country and is fascinating lecturer on culture.
Dinner at Wild Rice, featuring traditional Vietnamese cuisine and contemporary fusion. Accommodation at the Metropole.
Day 6 Hanoi
In the morning, transfer outside of Hanoi to explore typical villages of Northern Vietnam including the Noodle Village, the childhood home of our culinary escort, Diep Le To, where we will meet the residents and see the delicious noodles being made for the famous traditional soup, Pho. visiting a popular Noble family whose house is still well preserved followed by a short visit to the home of Mr Loi, the village herbalist. After lunch, we visit Cay Son Gallery to learn the unique Vietnamese styles of lacquer and silk painting as well as descriptions of techniques used. Stop to visit the Vietnam Art Gallery featuring the most comprehensive collection of works from artists throughout Vietnam.
Day 7 Hanoi to Hue
Morning tour of Vietnam National Museum of Fine Arts conducted by Nguyen Qui Duc. A highlight of our trip, the pleasant colonial-era museum features impressive work of the 20th century, including unique Vietnamese styles of lacquer and silk painting as well as descriptions of techniques used.
Afterwards, lunch at Café des Arts de Hanoi, a popular expatriate cafe with changing exhibits of paintings by local artists. Afterwards, transfer to airport for a one-hour flight to Hue, the ancient Imperial Capital and arguably Vietnam’s most pleasant city set on the languid Perfume River. Afternoon tour of the waterfront by traditional pedicab (cyclo).
Dinner at the tranquil private home/restaurant, Y Thao, featuring delicious Hue specialties, including Banh Khoai, a Vietnamese-style crepe.
Day 8 Hue
Khai Dinh Tomb Tour, HueAfter breakfast, venture into the scenic hills around Hue for exploration of two of the finest examples of 18th century Imperial architecture: the tombs of Tu Duc and Khai Dinh. Return by traditional dragon boat, while our onboard chef prepares Hue delicacies for lunch.
Afterwards, sightseeing along the misty Perfume River and through the high-walled Imperial Citadel, where Vietnam’s kings once ruled and a familiar sight from television images during the Tet Offensive in 1968. We will also visit to the Thien Mu Pagoda, Vietnam’s most important Buddhist site overlooking the river. Enjoy traditional live music while having dinner at Tropical Garden Restaurant.
Day 9 Hue to Hoi An
Four Seasons – The WinterAfter breakfast, we depart for Hoi An pausing to take in picturesque beach views at Lang Co Lagoon and the spectacular coastline panorama of the Hai Van Pass. We will also visit the Cham Museum, with a private tour of the world’s finest collection of Cham sculpture that dates from the 2nd to the 15th century, the only signifant collection in the world.
Much of the country was destroyed during wars, but Hoi An survived intact, even through the traumatic 1960s and 1970s. Hoi An has a flourishing custom tailoring trade and the artist community has successfully established itself in the last few years. Afternoon exploring this charming arts and crafts town and its mix of Japanese, Chinese and Vietnamese architecture.
Accommodation at the exquisite Nam Hai, Indochina’s premier beach resort, a a massive property with a pool, massage and beauty treatments. Here, you can also learn about Chinese medicine and have a tai chi session.
In the afternoon, meeting with craftsmen and artists in their home galleries in the old quarter area along the riverfront where we’ll also spy locals at leisure, playing Chinese checkers and lighting lanterns.
Dinner overlooking the Thu Bon River.
Day 10 Hoi An
Catch of the Day by Te PhamSightseeing on foot, including Hoi An’s bustling riverfront market, decorative pagodas, art studios, crafts shops, and colorful temples. Lunch of Cao Lau Soup, a specialty of Hoi An.
Afternoon free for relaxing. Go beach combing at Cua Dai beach, take a boat cruise, and pickup your custom tailored made clothing or footwear, ordered the day before! In the evening, we have a cooking demonstration and dinner at the Cargo Club Restaurant overlooking the Thu Bon River.
Day 11 Hoi An to Ho Chi Minh City (Saigon)
Following breakfast, early morning drive to Danang for our one-hour flight to Ho Chi Minh City (Saigon). After arrival in Ho Chi Minh City, we will transfer to our hotel, the new Park Hyatt, in the center of the bustling city.
After lunch and coffee tasting, we will visit historic landmarks including the Art Deco colonial-era post office, Notre Dame Cathedral, the former Presidential Palace, and the spellbinding War Remnants Museum (formerly the War Crimes Museum). Dinner at Nam Kha — Saigon’s finest Vietnamese restaurant.
Day 12 Ho Chi Minh City (Saigon)
Morning visit to Cholon — Saigon’s Chinatown — including busy marketplace and Quan Am Pagoda. Lunch at Quan An Ngon, an outdoor restaurant featuring food stalls with live cooking.
After a brief visit to Ben Thanh Market, afternoon spent exploring artist studios and galleries including Mr. Son’s Tu Do Gallery, the first private contemporary art gallery in Vietnam. Dinner at the Temple Club, where almost all the furniture, antique and reproduction, is for sale.
Day 13 Ho Chi Minh City and the Mekong Delta
Morning drive to the Mekong Delta — the “rice basket” of Vietnam — to witness its thriving agrarian economy, river culture, and spicy cuisine.
Upon arrival in Cai Be, board a motorized boat to visit a local family and nearby floating market. Continue by boat towards An Binh Island through small shade-lined canals, stepping ashore to visit an orchard farm. Learn about cultivation and nursery of longan trees while enjoying a lunch served with the local specialties and exotic delta-grown fruits. After lunch, we will visit a pottery factory and candy making cooperative. Afternoon return to Ho Chi Minh City. Dinner free, with our providing a list to explore the wide range of culinary offerings.
Day 14 Ho Chi Minh City (Saigon)
Depart Ho Chi Minh City for USA or Siem Reap for the tour of the temples of Angkor, or travel to Hong Kong or Bangkok.