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Lively, welcoming and fun, you'll know you've arrived in Hanoi as soon as you see your first scooter carrying an entire family whizz by. This is a city that's constantly on the move, heartily embracing its new era of liberation and speeding towards the future with gusto. Yet while the modern world has very much arrived in Hanoi, the past is never far from sight. Glimpses of unique architecture give a nod to periods of French and Chinese occupation, whilst the streets of the Old Quarter are still reminiscent of Hanoi of old. On every street corner you're tempted by steaming bowls of pho or fragrant summer rolls, while the opportunity to re-caffeinate is never far away - coffee is a big deal in Hanoi, as it is in all of Vietnam. Arriving today you'll transfer to your hotel and this evening meet up with your Travel Director to learn the lay of the land and sample your first taste of Vietnam's cuisine at a Welcome Dinner. You'll get to know your fellow travellers and get a glimpse of what's to come on your Asia value tour.
Dive into Hanoi's complex history this morning on a guided sightseeing tour of the city's famous highlights. Starting off at Ho Chi Minh's Mausoleum, learn about the legendary 'Uncle Ho', Vietnam's revolutionary former leader who is embalmed and forever remembered here, then head on to visit his humble and traditional stilt house where he lived periodically from 1958 to 1969. Next up will be the beautiful One Pillar Pagoda, a stunning symbol of purity that has been masterfully designed to resemble a lotus blossom and is believed to hold magical healing powers. From here, you'll then head on to Hoa Lo Prison. Once nicknamed 'Hanoi Hilton' by US prisoners of war, the museum paints a vivid picture of how the French built prison was used up until the mid-1950's. Likely in need of an iced coffee after a busy morning, this afternoon will then be free to tailor your visit to Hanoi your way. Foodies, why not opt to join our walking tour of Hanoi's best bites. Led by a Local Specialist, you'll sample delights such as Pho Ga and Banh Duc while exploring the sights, smells and flavours of the Old Town.
Swapping concrete jungles for shimmering seas, today you'll travel to the UNESCO World Heritage site of Halong Bay. A true vision of beauty, the soaring limestone pillars, countless tiny inlets and dazzling emerald waters are arguably the biggest crowd pleasers in all of Vietnam, and for good reason. Boarding your traditional junk boat you'll set sail for Bai Tu Long Bay, the laid back neighbour of Halong Bay that is every inch as beautiful. Dropping anchor at Thien Canh Son Cave, just one of about 59 discovered caves in the region, you'll have time to admire the incredible stalactites that hang from the cave ceiling, then it will be back to the boat for an on-board cooking demonstration by the chef. School up on traditional Vietnamese cooking methods, then as your reward tuck into a fragrant dinner feast that will taste all the better given the backdrop of the bay twinkling under the night sky.
Waking up to the sound of gently lapping waves, you'll start today with a rejuvenating on deck Tai-Chi session. Feeling entirely refreshed and after a tasty breakfast you'll then visit the floating fishing village of Vung Vieng, one of four floating villages that lie in Halong Bay. Utterly charming, you'll take in the beauty of the boats, the smiles of the fishermen and the quiet culture of the community who live and work on the water. From here you'll journey back to Halong Bay and say a somewhat sad goodbye to your little junk boat home and friendly crew, before heading back to Hanoi to catch your flight to Danang. Landing here, you'll then transfer on to your home for the next 2 nights, the very peaceful, historic and beautiful Hoi An.
A far cry from the hustle and bustle of Hanoi, little Hoi An has a laid back, easy going vibe that's made all the better by its prime riverside setting. In the Old Town, Japanese merchant houses, Chinese temples and tea warehouses all add to the allure, whilst the lush countryside is within easy reach. You'll start off today with a guided sightseeing tour that will visit the pretty 400-year-old Japanese Covered Bridge, the Assembly Hall of the Chaozhou Chinese Congregation, and the colourful market. Here, you'll find all manner of fragrant herbs and spices, exotic fruits, bright silks and local products tempting you to buy! With an afternoon free for you to explore your way, perhaps get on two wheels and join our optional cycling tour to experience Hoi An's delightful countryside. Travelling along inland trails, you'll pass by quiet country villages, discover how local wooden boats are made and learn the art of weaving the traditional 'Hoi An' sleeping mats. Alternatively, if you are keen to further perfect your Vietnamese cookery skills, you could join our optional cooking class led by a local chef, where you'll shop for ingredients in the lively market then cook up a storm back at the school before sitting down to taste the fruits of your labour.
From one idyllic setting to the next, this morning you'll be jetting off to the golden sands, tropical islands and turquoise waters of Nha Trang. Surrounded by hills that frame the six kilometre arc of sweeping beach, this much-loved beach resort is busy enough to be constantly entertained, and big enough to find your own little patch of secluded sand. After settling in to your hotel the rest of your day will be entirely free to relax on the beach with a book and towel in hand or take a stroll along the promenade. This evening, tuck into dinner at a local restaurant while feeling happy and relaxed at your paradise beachfront location.
Pack your suncream and your sense of adventure this morning as you'll be heading out on a cruise to Mun Island, otherwise known as Ebony Island. This stunning island boasts a series of looming black rock formations that contrast perfectly against the turquoise ocean. But it's not just the rocks you're here to see; underneath the water's surface lives Vietnam's first Marine Protected Area where up to 1500 species of fish, sea turtles and other rare marine life can all be found. Grab a mask and snorkel from the boat crew and dive in to explore this beautiful underwater world, then cruise to a nearby island to enjoy a leisurely lunch at a local restaurant. Once back at Nha Trang, the rest of the afternoon is all yours to enjoy as you please - and will likely see you claiming a little patch of golden sand for an afternoon snooze.
Sneak in a final early morning dip this morning before catching your flight to the bright lights and big city antics of Ho Chi Minh City. Formerly Saigon, Ho Chi Minh is a place that throbs with life and gives you little option but to come along for the ride. In just one generation the city has purposefully moved on from its war torn past, emerging as a commercial capital that enthrals and delights visitors in equal measure. But as modern as Hoi Chi Minh is, you don't have to look far for glimpses of the past. Beautiful traditional pagodas and incense infused temples pepper the city while museums paint a vivid picture of past troubles. Upon arrival you'll settle into your hotel, then this evening head out with your fellow travellers for a tasty local dinner in a traditional restaurant.
Driving to the Cu Chi Tunnels this morning, you'll be given a real-life history lesson that moves the soul as you visit just a small portion of the 250km network of underground tunnels that were built by Vietnamese fighters in 1948. Incredibly, the tunnels you'll see have been widened from their original state, a fact that will become even more remarkable as you learn about the history of Cu Chi. Heading back to the city, your guided sightseeing tour will then tick off some of the most famous sights including the Neo-Romanesque Notre Dame Cathedral, the striking Central Post Office built in the French style complete with gorgeous tiled interiors, and the former Presidential Palace, a feat of classic 1960's architecture. Finishing up with a hit of Vietnamese caffeine and a quick language lesson to cover the basics, you'll head back to your hotel to enjoy a free evening to explore the city your way.
Today's your last day in Vietnam, so be sure to stock pile spring rolls and drink iced coffee whilst making the most of an entirely free day. History fans will find a visit to the War Remnants Museum utterly fascinating, where the atrocities of war and the long-lasting effects are told through stories, photos and exhibits. You could also pay a visit to the Jade Emperor Pagoda, one of the most atmospheric and beautiful temples in the city, while those looking to swap city scenes for lush rice paddies and sedate local life could choose to join our optional trip to the magical Mekong Delta. Pass by stilt houses and fish farms and taste locally made coconut candy, then hop on board a rowing sampan to slowly weave through the network of small canals. Lunch will also be included - a real feast of local specialities.
Wave goodbye to Vietnam and say hello to Cambodia this morning as you catch a flight to Siem Reap, the famous gateway town to the ancient city of Angkor Wat. Many people arrive here imagining Angkor Wat will be the main attraction, and while that is true, Siem Reap also caters to foodies, adventurers and art lovers in abundance, boasting a wealth of tasty restaurants and a lively cultural scene that will keep you entertained well after dark. After checking in to your hotel, head out to explore the lively market scene. We'll be making a bee line for the historic Old Market, located in the Phsar Chas that dates back to the 1920's. Browse the stalls selling textiles, paintings, carvings and sculptures, then head on over to the Made in Cambodia Market, where local artisans sell their own wares and will happily chat about their production process. This evening, enjoy your first taste of Cambodian cuisine as we tuck in to dinner at a local restaurant.
Today is the day! Few travel experiences on earth can match the first time you lay eyes on the UNESCO World Heritage listed Angkor Wat. A true expression of Khmer mastery, this inspired creation represents the very heart and soul of Cambodia and is one of the most important religious monuments in the world. Built in the first half of the 12th Century by King Suryavarman II using techniques that will have you scratching your head in amazement, you'll learn about the great Khmer Empire as you explore the intricately carved hallways and admire the impeccably preserved carvings, then head on to the walled city of Angkor Thom to explore the Bayon Temple, the Terrace of the Elephants and the Terrace of the Leper King. This afternoon, movie fans will be in for a treat as you have the chance to join our optional visit to Ta Prohm Temple, the UNESCO listed site that is perhaps best known as the filming location of Angelina Jolie's 'Tomb Raider'. Very much emulating the feeling of a lost city, many of the temples here are literally being swallowed by the surrounding jungle and are a real sight to see. Alternatively, with the afternoon all yours, a relaxing afternoon by the hotel pool could be on the cards after a truly memorable morning.
Your last day in Cambodia is free to explore your way, so be sure to make the most of it! Perhaps head back to the markets for some last-minute gift shopping, sample the delicious street food offerings on pretty much every corner. Or get to know Siem Reap's artistic side on an optional tour of the town's best workshops and galleries including a visit to Artisans d'Angkor, where training and job opportunities are offered to disadvantaged young people who specialise in preserving traditional Khmer skills including silk making, wood carving and painting. Those looking to explore beyond Siem Reap could join our trip to Tonle Sap Lake, where you'll board a traditional wooden boat and cruise past floating villages, keeping an eye out for wildlife along the way. However you choose to explore today, you can celebrate your final night with our optional dinner and Apsara dance show. Enjoy a tasty dinner while watching this beautiful 7th Century dance bring to life the ancient Khmer culture before your eyes.
You've explored ancient temples, snorkelled in waters brimming with marine life, woken up surrounded by the enchanting beauty of Halong Bay and eaten lots of delicious Vietnamese food, but today your adventure holiday in South East Asia will finally come to an end. After saying your goodbyes to your new travel friends, you'll transfer to Siem Reap International Airport and travel on to your next destination.
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