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Relish the warm embrace of Vietnam and her welcoming people, who will touch you with their humility and entrepreneurial spirit throughout your journey across this intoxicating land. Upon arrival, transfer to your hotel before meeting your Travel Director and fellow travellers for a Welcome Reception with drinks and local appetisers.
This morning is dedicated to the revolutionary leader who fanned the flames of Vietnam's independence. We begin our day with a visit to the final resting place of "Uncle Ho", the imposing Ho Chi Minh Mausoleum. A short walk from here, we'll find Ho Chi Minh's house on stilts, where we'll 'Dive Into Culture' exploring the grounds surrounding the humble abode of Vietnam's most famous son. We'll continue to the Temple of Literature, the first university for the sons of Mandarins, to gain insights into Hanoian culture. This afternoon, we'll embark on a cyclo tour, weaving through the lively Old Quarter past colourful shopfronts and street food vendors. Enjoy an evening at leisure or consider joining one of our recommended Optional Experiences to watch a show that uses the ancient art of water puppetry to story-tell the daily lives of Vietnamese people.
We leave the busy streets of Hanoi behind, bound for the serenity of Halong Bay where we'll board a traditional-style Vietnamese Junk boat. The limestone karsts and tropical islets rising up from the emerald waters provide an ethereal backdrop for our leisurely cruise. After lunch on board, we'll take a small boat transfer to the Tien Ong Cave and Cua Van Fishing Village, whose residents still live in traditional floating houses. We return to our Junk boat for a cooking demonstration with the chef or enjoy a mesmerising sunset on the top deck before dinner and a peaceful overnight stay in this UNESCO-listed natural wonder.
The graceful practice of T'ai Chi eases you into your day as is the local custom. Join a 'Local Specialist' on the deck of the Junk boat for a morning class in exquisite natural surrounds. You'll have time for an early morning swim at one of Halong Bay's quiet beaches and, if you're feeling energetic, a brisk walk to catch one last view of scenic Halong Bay before your drive to Hanoi Airport to catch your flight to Danang. On arrival, transfer to your hotel in Hoi An.
'Dive Into Culture' this morning, embarking on a walking tour around the ancient town of Hoi An. Embrace its charm of yesteryear - the narrow lanes, colourful marketplaces and ancient temples providing insights into the Vietnam of old. See the old merchant houses and 400-year-old Japanese Covered Bridge, before visiting Thanh Dong Organic Village where you'll spend some time helping local farmers and learning about their daily working routines. Kick back and enjoy a relaxing foot massage that will set the pace for the rest of the day and evening at leisure.
Enjoy some free time this morning to explore Hoi An further or simply relax at your hotel. Your choice of activities this afternoon could see you learn how to craft your own colourful lantern or gain insights into life as a local fisherman (subject to weather conditions). Create a work of art to bring your home luck and happiness, or cast your net wide for the catch of the day - the choice is yours.
The healthy flavours of Vietnamese cuisine take centre stage as we travel by boat to the Red Bridge Cooking School to learn about the traditional ways of preparing and cooking Vietnamese food. We'll have an opportunity to savour the dishes we've prepared for lunch before returning to Hoi An. This afternoon, our journey takes us over Hai Van Pass en route to Red Beach, where the American Marines first landed in Vietnam during the decades-long war. We continue to Danang for a visit to the Cham Museum before arriving in Hue, the former imperial capital of Vietnam, for our overnight stay.
We'll navigate the busy streets of Hue on the back of a cyclo en route to the UNESCO-listed Imperial Citadel, once home to Nguyen emperors. From here, we drive to Thien Mu Pagoda, Hue's best-preserved religious monument. Boarding a local dragon boat next, we cruise along the Perfume River to the house of the former Princess Ngoc Son where we'll 'Connect With Locals' and meet a family member for a 'Be My Guest' lunch to gain a glimpse of their life in this historic house. The afternoon is ours to enjoy at leisure or consider joining one of our Optional Experiences.
A short flight this morning brings you to Ho Chi Minh City, where you'll enjoy some time at leisure before lunch at KOTO restaurant. Your visit will 'Make A Difference' to this non-profit social enterprise that provides training to disadvantaged young people in the hospitality industry. The iconic sights of Ho Chi Minh are revealed on a walking tour of Dong Khoi Street next. See the Opera House and the former Hotel de Ville. Then, wander up to Notre Dame Cathedral and the Central Post Office, designed by the renowned Gustave Eiffel. Continue to the War Remnants Museum where you'll have a vivid glimpse of the war through the eyes of the locals. Your final stop today is Ben Thanh market, one of the earliest surviving structures in old Saigon, before arriving at your hotel.
The mighty Mekong beckons today, as we take a day trip to My Tho, a nearby Delta market town. We'll transfer to a small sampan boat and navigate the maze of small canals before stopping for a lunch of delicious Mekong Delta specialities. After a short walk along village roads, we'll visit the house of a former soldier, a 'Local Specialist' who survived fighting the Khmer Rouge. Indulge in the family's colourful stories and learn how they make a living crafting rice paper, before returning to Ho Chi Minh City for an evening at leisure.
We'll delve into Vietnam's turbulent history from the previous century with a visit to the Cu Chi Tunnels, an immense network of connecting underground tunnels built to protect the Viet Cong guerrillas from the French air and ground sweeps. We'll explore the underground compounds with a VC veteran and gain an understanding of the history of the tunnel, which once served as living quarters and housed hospitals, food and weapons caches. Returning to Ho Chi Minh City by private speedboat, we'll enjoy some free time this afternoon. Later, we'll 'Dive Into Culture' during a visit to the home of the former American Ambassador to South Vietnam in the 1960s, Mr. Henry Cabot Lodge, followed by a Farewell Dinner.
Our gateway to the magnificent temples of the lost city of Angkor Wat is Cambodia's cultural heart, Siem Reap. On arrival, you'll be transferred to your hotel. This evening is at leisure.
Today, we venture deep into the Cambodian jungle, through a pyramid-shaped gateway into an ancient world. Serene stone faces watch over us as we cross the causeway suspended over a moat into the spiritual heart of the ancient lost city of Angkor. A 'Local Specialist' and renowned Khmer scholar brings to life the stories behind the intricate carvings and murals of celestial nymphs and mythical serpents along the abandoned hallways of Angkor Wat. Our next stop are the terracotta-hued walls of Banteay Srei Temple - the "Citadel of Women" dedicated to the Hindu God Shiva. We'll have time to admire the 10th century carvings of women, said to have been too delicate to have been carved by a man, hence its name. This afternoon, we'll return to Siem Reap and embark on a walking tour. We 'Make A Difference' to the lives of rural youths during our visit to Artisans d'Angkor, where we'll witness the revival of Khmer arts and crafts. Later we'll visit Wat Damnak and participate in a private blessing ceremony during which a sacred thread will be tied around our wrists to protect against evil spirits. Our final stop today is to the labyrinthine Old Market, where the locals spend their early mornings shopping for fresh fruit, vegetables and spices. Wander past the busy stalls and smell freshly baked baguettes, a remnant of the country's French heritage.
Our intimate encounter with a lost empire continues today, as we uncover other iconic sites of the ancient abandoned city of Angkor that have been devoured by the Cambodian jungle. We explore its ancient ruins in the company of saffron-clad monks and monkeys that clamber up and over the roots of centuries-old trees that have carved their way deep into the Great City's walls. Our first stop today is a visit to the fortified Angkor Thom, where we'll see such iconic sites as the Terrace of Elephants, the Royal Enclosure and the Temple of Bayon with its giant smiling faces of Buddha. We venture underneath the dense tree canopy to the crumbling, moss-covered ruins of the Buddhist temple of Ta Prohm, which featured as the location for the film 'Tomb Raider', exploring its towers courtyards and corridors to uncover the intricate stone reliefs that are shielded by the surrounding foliage. Enjoy an afternoon at leisure or consider joining an Optional Experience to learn the secrets of Khmer cuisine.
We begin the day in the company of local Khmer villagers and 'Make A Difference' with a visit to their local school for an opportunity to chat to some of the children who will join us on our walk through the village to see how they spend their day-to-day lives. We'll 'Dive Into Culture', gaining insights into their time-honoured craft traditions, such as weaving Cambodia's national hats made from palm leaves, or folding Lotus flowers into delicate works of art. After the rest of the day at leisure, we'll join our Travel Director and fellow expeditioners for a Farewell Dinner with Apsara dance show.
Transfer to the airport for your onward flight.
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