Vietnam, Angkor Wat & Bangkok

Hanoi, Halong Bay, Hue, Danang, Hoi An, Ho Chi Minh City, Phnom Penh, Siem Reap & Bangkok

This itinerary is for a past tour program.
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Discover Vietnam, one of the most fascinating and stunningly beautiful natural settings on earth, where ancient civilization, a welcoming people and dramatic history await.Our 16-day fully escorted tour includes the best of Vietnam, north to south, plus a visit to the massive and amazing Angkor temple complex in Cambodia and a stop in Bangkok, one of Asia's most beloved cities. Enjoy First Class accommodations, fully escorted touring, lots of included meals and the very best in service, all at prices that are downright amazing!

Detailed Itinerary

Day 1: Depart USA.Your exotic journey to Vietnam, Angkor Wat and Bangkok begins as you depart on your wide-body jet flight bound for Hanoi (via Taipei).

Day 2: En route. Cross the International Date Line and lose one day.

Day 3: Hanoi. Mid-morning arrival in Hanoi, a city of lakes, shaded boulevards, public parks, and the capital of Vietnam. Meet your guide and transfer to your hotel to check in. This afternoon, enjoy a tour of Hanoi that begins at Van Mieu (Temple of Literature), the oldest school in Vietnam and one of its most important temples, representing Confucian thought and behavior. Continue to Hoan Kiem Lake (Lake of the Restored Sword), which geologists believe was part of the Red River thousands of years ago, before it reversed its course. Return to your hotel and prepare to enjoy your "Welcome to Vietnam" dinner at Au Lac Restaurant. Sofitel Plaza Hanoi Dinner provided.

Halong Bay Day 4: Hanoi, Ha Long Bay & Emeraude Cruise. After breakfast, drive from Hanoi to Halong where you'll board the deluxe rated Emeraude, a wonderful replica of one of the classic steamships of the colonial era of French Indochina. With 37 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 as an optional extra. You'll enjoy High Tea, served on the sun deck in the late afternoon, a sunset cocktail served on the sun deck followed by a delicious Vietnmese buffet dinner. Overnight on board the Emeraude Breakfast, lunch & dinner provided.

Day 5: Emeraude Cruise, Halong & Hanoi. Wake up to fresh coffee and a wholesome breakfast before cruising back to Tuan Chau quay. If you're an early riser, you can take advantage of an optional Tai Chi class on the sun deck from 6–7 a.m., before breakfast. After disembarkation from your replicated French Colonial steamer board your touring coach and drive back to Hanoi.

Chauffeur pedaled
Chauffeur pedaled "cyclo", Vietnam
This afternoon, you'll visit one of the most notorious sites in Hanoi from the "American War," Hoa Lo Prison, which US POW's nicknamed the Hanoi Hilton. Later on, you'll enjoy a tour by cyclo, a chauffeur-pedaled tricycle, through the Old City, also known as the 36 streets. This bustling area of narrow streets is home to literally thousands of small businesses and shopkeepers. It's a great place to explore, especially by cyclo, with plenty of photo opportunities all around you.

Water Puppets, Hanoi Continue to the theater to enjoy a unique, ancient form of Vietnamese entertainment known as Mua Roi Nuoc, or Water Puppets, where puppeteers control their puppets using long bamboo rods and string mechanisms hidden beneath the water's surface. After the show, you'll transfer to a local restaurant to enjoy dinner. Sofitel Plaza Hanoi Breakfast, lunch & dinner provided.

Ho Chi Minh Mausoleum, Hanoi Day 6: Hanoi & Hue. 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. On this morning's sightseeing tour, you'll further explore the highlights of this fascinating city. Visit the Ho Chi Minh Mausoleum, one of the most important and visited sites in Vietnam and 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. Drive to Hanoi airport for a short flight to Hue, the former imperial capital of Vietnam. Upon arrival, transfer to your hotel to check in.

Hanoi Citadel
Hue Citadel
This afternoon, visit the Imperial Citadel, the seat of the Nguyen Dynasty which ruled Vietnam between 1802 and 1945. The former imperial seat of government and Hue's prime attraction, this is a great sprawling complex of temples, pavilions, moats, walls, gates, shops, museums and galleries. 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.

Outdoor Market, Vietnam End the day with a visit to the popular Dong Ba Market, one of the must-see sites in Hue, where fruit, vegetables, fish, rice and other staples of the traditional Vietnamese diet are sold along with foods made from these ingredients. Join your fellow tour members at Y Thao Restaurant for dinner this evening. Morin Hotel Breakfast & dinner provided.

China Beach  Photo by Donald Huxtable
China Beach   Photo by Donald Huxtable
Day 7: Hue, Danang & Hoi An. Depart from Hue this morning for the coastal city of Danang in Vietnam's Central Region, whose coastline is among the most lovely and scenic in the country. En route from Hue, you'll see spectacular views from the Hai Van Pass as well as the crystal clear blue lagoon of Lang Co. Just south of the city are the Marble Mountains, actually five marble hills, each said to represent one of the five elements of the universe—water, wood, fire, metal and earth. One of them, Thuy Son, is honeycombed with caves containing Cham, Buddhist, and Confucian relics, pagodas, and temples. On to China Beach, a former U.S. recreation base, well known for its sparkling white-sand coast and excellent views of the nearby Marble Mountains, and finally, the Cham Museum, containing the finest collection of Cham sculptures in the world.

Next you'll drive to picturesque Hoi An, known as Faifo to early western traders. Settled on the banks of the Thu Bon River, the colorful market town of Hoi An is an exceptionally well-preserved example of a major Southeast Asian trading port from the 15th to the 19th centuries, with ships arriving from all over the world to obtain silk and other fabrics, sugar, tea and ceramics. Hoi An's traditional Vietnamese architecture has been preserved, and there are many historic temples and pagodas in the area.

Japanese Covered Bridge, Hoi An Enjoy lunch at a local restaurant then set out on a walking tour of this World Heritage Site. Along the way visit the Japanese Covered Bridge which features a Buddhist pagoda attached to one side and the town's most famous landmark, a beautiful Chinese Assembly Hall built in 1740 as a meeting place for all Chinese residents of the town. The hall is lavishly decorated with murals and a replica of a Chinese ship, and Phuoc Kien Pagoda, also called Kim Son Pagoda, built in 1697 by Chinese Phuoc Kien merchants at Hoi An.

End your day at the Central Market where you will find everything from fruit and flowers to tailor-made clothes and silk lanterns, whose flexible bamboo frames are designed to collapse, so they're easily transported home as a souvenir. This evening, take a stroll around town after dusk to see the streets beautifully lit with these lanterns. Ancient House Hotel Breakfast & lunch provided.

Temple at My Son
A Sanctuary at My Son
Day 8: Hoi An. Explore Hoi An on your own with a full day at leisure. Time for a swim in the China Sea, shop for wood carvings from Kim Bong village for which Hoi An is famous, or take advantage of Hoi An's world-famous tailors. Anything you might want to wear can be made for you in Hoi An, all at bargain prices and with expert workmanship. You will have an opportunity to take a 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 Danang's Cham Museum originated from here. Breakfast provided.

Ho Chi Minh City, Vietnam Day 9: Hoi An, Danang & Ho Chi Minh City (Saigon). Transfer to the airport for the short flight to Ho Chi Minh City which Vietnamese also call Saigon or simply HCMC. But regardless of what name you prefer, it's most certainly the economic center of the country. You'll see the hustle and bustle of Vietnamese life everywhere—in the street markets, blocks of colonial houses, sidewalk cafes, sleek new hotels, trendy restaurants and pubs and high fashion shops.

Enjoy lunch at a local restaurant then head out for a tour of the city. Visit the former Presidential Palace, now known as the Reunification Palace, where the South Vietnamese government officially turned over power to the North in 1975. It's a trip back in time, particularly the "strategy rooms" in the basement and the upper-floors filled with 1960s furnishings.

Thien Hau Pagoda, Saigon Visit Notre Dame Cathedral, the lovely red-brick church that was built using bricks from Marseilles and stained glass windows from Chartres, then continue to the Old Saigon Post Office, the largest post office in Vietnam, built between 1886 and 1891 by the great architect Gustave Eiffel. Complete the day with a visit to the Thien Hau Pagoda in the bustling Chinatown section of Saigon, dedicated to Thien Hau, the Chinese goddess of the sea. New World Hotel Breakfast & lunch provided.

Cu Chi tunnel entrance Day 10: Ho Chi Minh City (Saigon) & 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 mi/200 km ran under a U.S. military base. Return to your hotel and enjoy the rest of the day at leisure for shopping, strolling or touring by "cyclo" along the busy, bustling streets. Breakfast provided.

Day 11: Ho Chi Minh City (Saigon) & Chau Doc. After breakfast, depart from Ho Chi Minh City and head southwest to Chau Doc, on the Cambodian border, deep in the Mekong Delta. En route, stop at Sa Dec, a delta town famous for its cultivation of exotic fruit and flowers, to visit the orchards and gardens of Mr Tu Ton, a local farmer.

Mekong Valley residents
Mekong Delta residents
After lunch, continue to Chau Doc, located at the junction of a tributary linking the Bassac and Mekong Rivers and the Bassac River itself. An incredibly friendly and bustling little city whose locals are known for being very warm and approachable, Chau Doc is charming and colorful, with bright shades of green, blue and purple adorning many of the newer shop fronts. In the late afternoon drive up Sam Mountain to watch the sun set over the Cambodian border and the pagodas which surround the Mountain's base. Victoria Chau Doc Breakfast, lunch & dinner provided.

Day 12: Chau Doc, Phnom Penh & Siem Reap, Cambodia. After an early breakfast, board the "Blue Cruiser" speed boat for an enjoyable morning trip to Phnom Penh, the bustling capital city of Cambodia, located on the banks of three rivers—the Mekong, the Tonle Sap and the Tonle Bassac. Arrive around noontime, and after a box lunch, board your touring coach to visit some Phnom Penh's sites. Begin at the Silver Pagoda in the Royal Palace complex where you'll encounter the dazzling site of a green crystal Buddha and a life-size Buddha made of solid gold and encrusted with 9,500 diamonds, sitting on a floor covered with 5,000 silver tiles.

Continue to the National Museum which has a wonderful collection of Khmer art and sculpture. Then transfer to the airport for your late afternoon flight to Siem Reap. Upon arrival transfer to your hotel, located just a short drive from the temple complex of Angkor. Borei Angkor Hotel Breakfast, lunch & dinner provided.

Angkor native, Cambodia Day 13: Siem Reap. After breakfast, begin your exploration of two of the largest religious sites in the world; Angkor Thom and Angkor Wat. The temples of Angkor, built by the Khmer civilization between 802 and 1220 AD represent one of humankind's most astonishing and enduring architectural achievements. From Angkor the Khmer kings ruled over a vast domain that reached from Vietnam to China to the Bay of Bengal. The structures you see at Angkor today, more than 100 stone temples in all, 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.

South Entrance, Angkor Thom, Cambodia
South Entrance, Angkor Thom
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 that stare out in the directions of the four points of the compass. The faces are identical, depicting a Khmer royal ruler as a Buddhist deity, and 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 Baphoun, Elephant Terrace, Leper King Terrace and Royal Palace area.

Angkor Wat, Cambodia This afternoon, visit the intricately carved Khmer 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. Later on, enjoy a spectacular view of the sun setting at Angkor Wat. Breakfast & lunch provided.

Day 14: Siem Reap & Bangkok. This morning you will continue your exploration of the incredible ruins of Angkor, which consists of more than 30 temples and ancient buildings. All of the spectacular, carved-stone buildings were built between AD 800–1400, the height of the Khmer empire.

Bentry Srei Temple, Cambodia
Bantey Srei Temple
Visit the 10th century Bantey Srei, also known as the Citadel of the Women, whose pink sandstone walls are covered with delicate bas-reliefs. Continue to Ta Prohm, the jungle temple of dreams which the forest has moved in to reclaim, with huge fig trees, tangles of vines and creepers winding in and around the sanctuaries and passageways. Ta Prohm gives visitors a sense of what it must have been like for the archaeologists who first rediscovered this fantastic, ancient lost temple.

This afternoon explore Preah Khan, once a monastery and training grounds for monks whose buildings, now in ruins, housed Buddhist, Hindu and ancient ancestor-worship religions and view the former water bath at Neak Poan. Late this afternoon transfer to the airport for your evening flight to Bangkok. Upon arrival, transfer to your hotel, conveniently located on the banks of the Chao Phraya River. Millennium Hilton Hotel Breakfast & lunch provided.

Reclining Buddha, Bangkok, Thailand
Reclining Buddha, Bangkok
Day 15: Bangkok. Temples, along with the monarchy, are the fabric that binds together the national identity that is Thailand, and some of the most interesting of Thai temples are found in Bangkok, including Wat Trimitr. Here you will view the 700-year-old Golden Buddha, the largest in the world weighing approximately 5 tons. At Wat Pho, founded in the 17th century and the oldest temple in Bangkok, you'll view the amazing Reclining Buddha, whose face depicts the attainment of Nirvana and whose feet are inlaid with mother-of-pearl. Wat Pho is also Thailand's first university housing a wealth of art. It remains an important center for traditional medicine and massage.

"Marble Temple", Bangkok
Continue to Wat Benchamabophit, also known as the "Marble Temple", one of Bangkok's most beautiful temples and a major tourist attraction. It was built of white Italian marble and is a wonderful example of Thai temple architecture. This afternoon is at leisure to explore on your own. An optional canal boat ride gives you a close up of traditional Thai life as you explore some of Bangkok's waterways. The network of canals (klongs) branching out from the main Chao Phraya river still follows an old lifestyle that leaves the modern face of Bangkok behind ($29, optional). This evening, join your fellow travelers for a farewell dinner at Silom Village, including traditional Thai dancing, and hosted by your friends at Friendly Planet. Breakfast & dinner provided.

Day 16: Bangkok/USA. After breakfast, transfer to the airport to board your return flight to the USA via Taipei, arriving later this evening. Breakfast provided.

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