Begin your luxury custom tour with a departure from the United States, crossing the International Dateline to arrive the next evening into Bangkok, where the innate friendliness and hospitality of the Thai people await you. After a night of rest, the golden temples of Thailand are left in the distance as you wing your way to Hanoi. Upon arrival, begin your tour of the city with a visit to the Temple of Literature, Hanoi’s best-preserved site. Dating back to the 11th century, it is Vietnam’s oldest institution of higher learning. Your morning tour begins with a visit to the Ho Chi Minh Mausoleum, his private home and the Ho Chi Minh Museum. Continue with your exploration of the city by riding through the famous “36 streets” by cyclo, a bicycle driven cart, which allows the rider a first hand look at the narrow lanes and colorful shops that line the streets. Thereafter, drive to Ha Long Bay, arriving in time to enjoy a magnificent sunset on the bay. At early morning, you will cruise the waters of Ha Long, while the soft shades of emerald from grass and vine, while tethered to their stately monoliths, project a sunlit glow across the calm waters of this peaceful bay. Return to Hanoi and enjoy an evening performance of the famous water puppeteers.
A morning tour of West Lake completes your touring of the north and you will fly to Hué, considered by many to be the most beautiful city in all of Vietnam. Upon arrival, drive into the city and visit the local market, where you will find a wide and varied selection of unique merchandise. Next morning, board your private launch and cruise up the Huong Giang (Perfume) River to visit the Thien Mu Pagoda, perhaps the most famous in all of Vietnam. Continue up-river on your private boat to visit the Ming Manh Tomb. Completed in 1843, its design has elaborate bridges that link the various ceremonial halls, each surrounded by the magnificence of a beautifully landscaped natural setting. Return to the city for a leisurely lunch and thereafter visit the expansive Citadel, the Forbidden City of Vietnam.
A morning drive takes you south along the coastal highway to Danang. Lunch in the city of Hoi An, originally a seaport for all of the Champa Kingdom as well as a trading port for all foreign merchants. Upon checking into the Furama Resort, located on the shores of the South China Sea, plan to enjoy a stroll along the beach to observe the fishermen as they test the local waters. Breakfast now complete, you will visit Marble Mountains. Set along the South China Sea, they depict the harmony between mountain and sea, forming a splendid display of natural color. Thereafter, visit the Champa Museum, where you will find an impressive display of statuary dedicated to the former Champa people who held vast territories with the expansive Champa Kingdom.
A morning flight wings you to fly to Saigon, a city like no other, which always welcomes you to partake in all of its offerings, be they a beautiful temple in Cholon, a stroll through the city or simply the purchase of a silk garment as a memento of your tour. A morning drive into the countryside brings you to the Cao Dai Cathedral, representing a blend of Confucianism, Taoism and Buddhism in a unique style of worship. Nearby, visit the region of Cu Chi, where you will be amazed at the size and breadth of the tunnel system used by the North Vietnamese to hide their weapons and forces during times of conflict.
Begin your day with a private boat cruise on the Saigon River, followed by a flight to the wonder that is Angkor. Upon arrival at Siem Reap, begin your luxury tour at Angkor with a visit to the main temple complex at Angkor Wat. A full day of touring is next in store with visits to Angkor Wat, Bayon, Ta Phrom and Banteay Srei. Angkor has long been considered one of the most impressive architectural ruins in the world. The next morning, enjoy a private boat cruise on Lake Tonle Sap, one of the most biologically rich and productive lakes in the world. Its floating villages and fish farms provide a sharp contrast to the ancient ruins at Angkor, just kilometers away. An afternoon flight wings you to the capital city of Phnom Penh, where you will enjoy the remainder of the evening at leisure.
The morning tour begins with a visit to the National Museum, the Presidential Palace and the “Silver Pagoda.” This afternoon, fly to the beautifully adorned provincial capital of Luang Prabang. Its sheer remoteness, together with its native villagers and colorful hilltribes, results in a charm and innocence that is relished by all who choose to visit the region. The next day, board your private launch up the Mekong River to the caves at Tam Ting, where you will find scores of Buddha images overlooking the brown waters of the Mekong. Enjoy a leisurely lunch at a private bungalow, prior to making your way back to the town for an evening of rest and relaxation.
Your last morning in Luang Prabang offers a reward for the early riser who ventures to the river bank to witness lines of saffron clothed monks in stately procession as they walk along the narrow lanes of the town to receive daily offerings from the local residents who consider it their duty and their pleasure to present the monks with offerings of food. A visit to the silver market completes your stay at Luang Prabang. An afternoon flight takes you to the city of Bangkok and the stately Oriental Hotel. Come morning, all too soon, it is time to board your return flight homeward taking with you an abundance of pleasurable memories to enjoy over a lifetime.
The territory of Vietnam, occupying more than a thousand miles of coastline and the fertile Red River Valley, has been coveted through the ages by its neighboring countries. Several times over past millennia, China has conquered the region, and been repeatedly driven out by the will and tenacity of the Vietnamese people. France and Cambodia have also briefly held Vietnam.
For decades now, Vietnam has enjoyed peace as the unified Socialist Republic of Vietnam. After so many years of conflict, Vietnam is now blossoming, sharing its natural wonders and unique culture with the world.
Vietnam’s bountiful waters: rivers, deltas, and the sea, have given rise to a culture as at home on the water as it is on land. Boats on the river congregate into floating markets; and some residents live in floating houses. Unique to Vietnam is its beautiful water puppetry, in which puppeteers stand waist deep in a pool, hidden behind a floating stage, and use underwater levers and pulleys to manipulate elaborate, waterproof, puppets.
The jewel of Vietnam’s coastline is Ha Long Bay, which means “Bay of the Descending Dragons.” Artists over the ages have tried to capture the beauty of its mists and towering spires of stone, but this is one sight that has to be experienced to be truly appreciated.
The city of Hué, half-way down Vietnam’s coast, contains many architectural treasures: The Citadel, a huge complex modeled after China’s Forbidden City; and many imperial tombs, such as the one built for Ming Manh in 1843, in which elaborate bridges connect each of the ceremonial halls to a manicured garden.
Saigon, now called Ho Chi Minh City, welcomes visitors with several points of interest: the fascinating labyrinth of temples in Cholon, the Cao Dai Cathedral with its unique blend of Confucianism, Taoism and Buddhism, and Cu Chi, an amazingly elaborate and far-reaching system of tunnels used by the Vietnamese to hide weapons and soldiers in times of conflict.
Neighboring Cambodia contains the wondrous ruins at Angkor Wat. Built in the 7th and 11th centuries, these terraced temples are wonderfully ornamented with bas relief carvings which are amazingly well-preserved. Other archeological sites of interest include: Ta Phrom, Bantreay Srei, and Bayon. Bayon contains bas-reliefs depicting over 10,000 figures in scenes from all walks of life. In Ta Phrom, trees grow among the ruins, creating a panorama of man’s art amidst nature’s implacable force.
North of Cambodia in Laos, a traveler encounters the villages of the colorful hill tribes. The innocence and enthusiasm of these native people, and their amazing silver jewelry and handicrafts are sure to delight.
The experienced guides at First Cabin Travel stand ready to show you the wonders of Vietnam and its neighbors, ensuring you see all the best sights and smoothing your way with expert translation and descriptions of local culture and customs.