This itinerary is for a past tour program.
Check out our new Best of Vietnam & Cambodia tour program.
Discover Vietnam, among the most fascinating and stunningly beautiful natural settings on earth. Our 13-day fully escorted tour takes you from south to north—with stops in Ho Chi Minh City, Hue, Da Nang, Hoi An, and Hanoi—to show you the very best of this engaging country. Enjoy Superior First Class & Deluxe accommodations, fully escorted touring, lots of included meals, and the very best in service, all at prices that are downright amazing!
To maximize your visit to Southeast Asia, take advantage of your already-included airfare by joining one—or both—of our optional extensions. Before your tour, join our pre-tour extension to Cambodia, where you can explore the massive and amazing Angkor temple complex. After your tour, take advantage of a truly exotic extension to fascinating Sapa, in the heart of Hill Tribe country, including a chance to explore the fantastic Bac Ha Sunday Market!
Day 1: Depart USA. Your exotic journey to Vietnam begins as you check in for your wide-body jet flight bound for Saigon via Taipei.
Day 2: En route. Cross the International Dateline and lose a day. (You'll recover this day on your return trip.)
Saigon Equatorial Hotel
Day 4: Ho Chi Minh City & Cu Chi Tunnels. After breakfast, drive to the Cu Chi Tunnels, begun by the Viet Minh in the 1940's. The incredible network of tunnels once stretched for 210 miles and contained extensive Viet Cong infrastructure including tactical quarters, storage rooms, kitchens, a school and even an underground hospital. Most entrances were so well disguised that only a small portion of the system was ever discovered during the war, despite the fact that some 125 miles ran under a U.S. military base.
This afternoon, explore dynamic Ho Chi Minh City (still called Saigon by many locals), including the former Presidential Palace, Notre Dame Cathedral, Old Saigon Post Office and Thien Hau Pagoda in the city's bustling Chinatown. Join your fellow travelers tonight for dinner at a popular local restaurant. Breakfast & lunch provided.
Day 5: Mekong Delta. Depart this morning for Cai Be, deep in the heart of the Mekong Delta. En route, stop at Cao Dai Temple to witness firsthand a fascinating fusion of Buddhism, Confucianism, Taoism, native Vietnamese spiritualism, Christianity & Islam.
Continue to Cai Be and embark on a private cruise to the colorful Cai Be floating market. Transfer to smaller boats for a ride through the beautiful canals of Tan Phong island, then enjoy lunch at Anh Kiet ancient house.
Day 6: Ho Chi Minh City, Da Nang & Hoi An. After breakfast, enjoy some free time for shopping, then transfer to the airport for your flight to Da Nang on the coast of the South China Sea.
Hoi An Trails Resort. Breakfast & dinner provided.
Optional Tour to My Son: Enjoy an optional half day trip to visit the capital and religious center of the former Champa Kingdom, My Son. Here, 40km southwest of Hoi An in a lush green valley, are dozens of red brick towers and sanctuaries dating from between the 7th and 13th centuries.
On the way back to Hoi An stop to visit Tra Kieu, formerly known as Simhapura or the Lion Citadel, the capital of Champa between the 4th and 8th centuries. Some of the finest sculpture in Da Nang's Cham Museum originated from here. $35 per person; requires a minimum of 3 passengers to operate. Hoi An Trails Resort Breakfast & lunch provided.
This afternoon, explore Hue, former imperial capital of Vietnam, seat of the Nguyen Dynasty that ruled Vietnam between 1802 and 1945. Visit the walled Citadel containing the Imperial City, modeled on the Forbidden City of Beijing, and the Purple Forbidden City within, former home of the royal family. This great sprawling complex of temples, pavilions, moats, walls, gates, shops, museums and galleries is Hue's prime attraction.
A boat trip on the Perfume River takes you past Hue's best known religious site, the Thien Mu Pagoda where, according to legend, an old woman appeared on a hill where the pagoda now sits and predicted that a great leader would one day build a pagoda in that spot in order to bring peace to the country. Lord Nguyen Hoang visited the area in 1601 and upon hearing of the legend, he ordered the pagoda built, naming it Chua Thien Mu, the Heavenly Lady Pagoda.
Morin Hotel Breakfast & dinner provided.
Day 9: Hue & Hanoi. Transfer to the airport this morning for the short flight to Hanoi. Transfer to your hotel for check in. Hanoi's rich history is closely tied to French colonialism as well as the Chinese era, both evident in the city's architecture, cuisine and culture. After lunch at a local restaurant, visit the Maison Centrale, Hoa Lo Prison, also known as the Hanoi Hilton during the Vietnam War.
Melia Hanoi Breakfast & lunch provided.
Day 10: Hanoi, Halong Bay & Emeraude Cruise. After breakfast, drive from Hanoi to Halong. This amazing bay, a UNESCO World Heritage site, is dotted with thousands of limestone karsts and isles.
Local legend has it that long ago, when the Vietnamese were fighting Chinese invaders, the gods sent dragons to help defend the land. The dragons spit out jewels and jade, which turned into the islands and islets of Halong, forming a great wall against the invaders.
Here you'll board the deluxe Emeraude, a wonderful replica of one of the classic steamships of the colonial era of French Indochina. With 36 luxurious air-conditioned cabins, a restaurant, two bars and a sun deck, this is the ultimate Halong Bay experience. Lunch is served on board at 1:00 PM. While cruising on the emerald green waters of the bay, try a traditional Vietnamese massage (optional extra, prices vary). Then, join your fellow shipmates for a beautiful sunset on the sun deck followed by a delicious Vietnamese buffet dinner. Overnight aboard the Emeraude Breakfast, lunch & dinner provided.
Note: Passengers traveling on the September, October, and February departures will board the Emeraude cruise one day later (on Day 11).
Day 11: Emeraude Cruise & Hanoi. Wake up to fresh coffee and a wholesome breakfast before cruising back to Tuan Chau quay. After disembarking from the Emeraude, board your touring coach and drive back to Hanoi. After lunch at a local restaurant, the afternoon is at leisure to shop, stroll and enjoy the city on your own. Melia Hanoi Breakfast & lunch provided.
Day 12: Hanoi. On this morning's sightseeing tour, you'll explore the highlights of Hanoi. Stop first for a visit to the Ho Chi Minh Mausoleum and his "house on stilts" where he resided during the later years of his life, one of the most important and visited sites in Vietnam. Continue to the One Pillar Pagoda, built on stilts over a lake in 1049 by King Ly Thai Thong. A prayer here is said to bring fertility and good health. (Mausoleum is closed Sept-Nov. Departures during those months only view the Mausoleum from the outside.)
Continue to the Temple of Literature, Vietnam's first university constructed in 1070 by King Ly Thanh Tong to pay tribute to education and to those of high academic achievement. Today, art students sit on the grass and try to reproduce the traditional Vietnamese architecture on paper while enjoying the beautiful and well-preserved gardens of this quiet retreat into Vietnamese educational history.
If your schedule permits, join us on a fabulous 3-night optional extension to Sapa, center of the Hmong aand other Hill Tribe people. Departing by train after dinner this evening, this extension is a cultural experience not to be missed. Breakfast & dinner provided.
Day 13: Hanoi. Enjoy a leisurely breakfast. Later today, transfer to the airport to check in for your return flight to the USA. Breakfast provided.
Take advantage of your already-included international airfare by joining our pre-tour extension to Cambodia for a special opportunity to visit Angkor Wat, a massive complex of temples that ranks among the most fascinating religious sites in the world.
Day 2: En route. Cross the International Dateline and lose a day. (You will recover this day on your return trip.)
Day 3: Siem Reap, Cambodia. Siem Reap is the gateway to the Angkor Archeological Park. A UNESCO World Heritage Site, the park contains the ruins of more than 1000 stone temples dating from the 9th to the 13th centuries. Late this afternoon drive to Angkor Wat for an unforgettable sunset view of the world’s largest religious temple. Borei Angkor
Day 4: Siem Reap/Angkor Thom. Built by the Khmer civilization between 802 and 1220 AD, the temples at Angkor and the great city that surrounded them represent one of mankind's most astonishing and enduring architectural achievements. The structures you see today are the surviving remains of a grand religious, social and administrative metropolis whose other buildings—palaces, public buildings, and houses—were built of wood and are long since decayed and gone.
After breakfast, begin your explorations at the mysterious royal walled city of Angkor Thom. Its 54-tower temple is an awesome sight that most visitors never forget, with each of its surreal towers topped with four giant, barely smiling faces, staring out in the directions of the four points of the compass. The faces, which depict a Khmer royal ruler as a Buddhist deity, are identical, but the staggered height of the towers and the different viewpoint of each keeps the design from appearing repetitious. You are engulfed by the silent, heavy, enigmatic gaze of those faces, through half-closed eyes, staring out from a remote time in history.
Other sites you'll visit in this complex include the Baphuon, Elephant Terrace, Leper King Terrace and Royal Palace area, from which the Khmer kings ruled over a vast domain that reached from Vietnam to China to the Bay of Bengal. Enjoy lunch at a local restaurant and the rest of the afternoon at leisure. Breakfast & lunch provided.
Day 5: Angkor Explorations. This morning, continue your exploration of the ruins of Angkor. Among the spectacular, carved-stone buildings you'll visit is the beautiful Banteay Srei, small in scale but considered to be a jewel in Angkor's crown because of its well-preserved, highly detailed carvings.
This afternoon, visit the intricately carved ruins at Angkor Wat, built during the early years of the 12th century to honor the Hindu god Vishnu. Consisting of an enormous temple symbolizing the mythic Mt. Meru, its rectangular walls and moats represent chains of mountains and the cosmic ocean. Hundreds of fine carvings and scenes from Hindu mythology can still be viewed here. Breakfast & lunch provided.
Day 6: Cambodia/Ho Chi Minh City Transfer to the airport for your short flight to Ho Chi Minh City (Saigon), Vietnam. (See Day 3 of Vietnam itinerary above for the continuation of your touring program). Breakfast provided.
*Passengers taking the pre tour extension will depart the U.S. 3 days before the scheduled tour departure date. Passengers departing from JFK will depart the US 4 days before the scheduled tour date and will stay one additional night in Siem Reap before the start of the extension.
Why not take advantage of your already-included international airfare and visit pictureseque Sapa? Tucked away in the mountains near the Chinese and Laotian borders in northwest Vietnam, Sapa, a former French resort town, is a wonderful place to mix with some of the indigenous people. While some tours to Vietnam offer "Hill Tribe" options, they typically visit communities near Hanoi that were once considered hill tribe areas, but no longer are. On Friendly Planet's extension, you'll visit numerous different tribes in mountainous Sapa that preserve their traditional culture. On weekends, especially on Sundays, the tribes go into Sapa town for the market. Discover this exotic and gorgeous part of Vietnam on our very special 3-night extension.
Day 12: Hanoi/Overnight Train. After dinner at the Au Lac Restaurant, transfer to the train station to board your first class sleeper to Sapa in the "Tonkinese Alps." The train features private sleeping compartments and all the amenities you'll need to travel in comfort. Fanxipan Train
Victoria Sapa Hotel Breakfast, lunch & dinner provided.
After lunch, set out through beautiful gardens and a lush pine forest before arriving at the Black Hmong village of Matra. The Hmong group is believed to have migrated from southern China into Vietnam only over the last 300 years and today they live extensively throughout the north of the country. You can distinguish the various subgroups of Hmong by the colors of their clothing—for instance, the Black Hmong typically wear black clothing.
Day 15: Hanoi/USA. Arrive in Hanoi this morning and transfer to your hotel for breakfast. Your rooms will be ready for you to freshen up, rest a little, and prepare for your return flight to the USA. Later, transfer to the airport to board your return flight, arriving later today. Breakfast provided.
**Passengers taking the post tour extension will return to the U.S. 2 days later than the scheduled return date.
For quick answers to Frequently Asked Questions about Cambodia, click here.
For quick answers to Frequently Asked Questions about Vietnam, click here.
In Cambodia, we've seen this first-hand. We were amazed to discover that it takes as little as $200 to dig a well and install a pump that provides clean water to several dozen families. Friendly Planet has been funding the construction of wells in villages for the past three years. Several of our passengers have volunteered to fund wells themselves. Together, we've built over 200!
You can too! Learn more and donate towards a well yourself. $200 buys a complete well and pump, which will bear your name!
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